“The Ancients being haughty and full of grim purpose had set in their hearts a rule herein that they, as masters of all they saw, were the pinnacle of creation. Having written this upon the coding of their minds they could wander no further under the harsh gaze of any superior. They abandoned the Divine. But for all their achievements, fate found them a poor fit for the mantle that it left behind. Despair set in at the Closure of the Worlds. And yet the Divine did not leave them, entirely.”
Azir of Amarr, Book of Tendancies. The Lost Scriptures
“Hurry up Stringbean, move your stern! They’re coming!”
The pilot, floating in a suspended bioliquid within a pod was talking to either himself or his ship. To differentiate was to split hairs. Tom Servonaut’s Helios frigate “Stringbean” was automated enough to require no other crew. Exploration crews were hard to find, anyway. The missions were all too often suicidal, and few mortals were quite so desperate to go exploring with a capsuleer. Anyone who would sign on to a cov-ops frigate was not someone a Tom would prefer not to ever hire.
Still, a bit of company would be nice. The pilot bifurcated part of his consciousness to keep working on the scan probe protocols “hop to it, Alt.” he said offhandedly to himself while he scanned around looking for rats or other no-good low down dirty people who wanted to interrupt his serious work ethic.
Low-sec. Why did it have to be Low-Sec where his search led him. “I just finished paying for this ship.” The cloaking field was holding, but if the locals knew he was here and what he was doing, well, the cloaking field would not be enough to save him a rather brief but expensive death.
97% scanned. It was there. His scan radius was 25 astronomical units. If he could only find the right final combination of probes to find whatever was out there, what he hoped was out there, all the risk would be worth it.
The craft was spidery thing. Slim metallic trusses of salvaged Terran alloys stretched out for hectometers, trussed by a rigging of stranded fullerine fibers. If it were all compacted together, the gossamer thing would be very compact for the crew of less than one hundred it carried.
JXR714B, for that was its only name, was alive by some definitions. The organism fed on equations from imputed quantum changes at the sub-molecular level of the crew’s linked brain matter, and thence stretched its fullerine muscles to gravimetric harvesters. It rode the universe like an ancient kayak at sea surfing frigid waves, waiting for the right combination of stars and planets in sequence, focusing its gravimetric pull until warping space itself, reverberating the crew’s thoughts back as feedback that could be consumed as pure joy.
To fly with one’s crew, no greater happiness could exist for those brief moments of fantastic acceleration. And when the movement ceased and the ship was deposited into another system to wait again for better tides, the crew could only look at one another and silently acknowledge that they needed More. Their needs were simple, but all devouring.
The boy pulled a black shroud over the man he’d called father. His eyelids were weighed down with obsidian pebbles, and his beard had been oiled and braided with fine beads, as befitted a chief of the Amarr people. There were few of the True People here today. The elders stood watching nervously, as a shaman stood forth at the body’s left side, gently shooing the him out of the way. The ancient chanting began as another shaman strode to the right, each one chanting lines from languages dead for so long no one could have even remembered their name, let alone their meaning.
“Aum bhūr bhuvah svah”
“In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen” “Tat Savitur vareniyaam”
“Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem”
“Bhargo devssya dhimahi”
“Creatorem caeli et terrae”
“Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat”
The lines were repeated back and forth with shaking of human bone rattles and sprinklings of incense upon the body by the elders and his youngest concubine, until both shamen finished with the final line together. All present repeated the statement, whatever it meant. Then Azir buried his father, Ushta, chieftain of the True People of Athra, son of another chief, and so on in a line going back unto the breaking of the sky and the message of Dano Gheinok.
The True People were no longer many. It was said that once, when Dano Gheinok strode the world, that no man or woman could count them all or recite all lineages. Living among them were many who had seen the light of the first star. Stories were told of these folk, These were large people, tall, strong, crafty and fecund; often as vigorous in acts of lust and evil as they were in doing good deeds. This confused Azir. He liked the stories of the starfolk, though. Much of Amarr life was now based on the Idle, the never-ending path and search.
The True People had to live by their wits and the remaining gifts of the past. They were surrounded by False People, those who had abandoned the teachings. They no longer searched for relics. They no longer tended the remaining machines. None of them knew the sacred codes. Instead they farmed with their own hands, or the aid of animals. They fished and hunted. When the harvest was good they praised their imaginary spirits. When it was bad they blamed the same spirits and often invented new ones. When they were VERY upset they blamed the True People, and hunted them down across the barren wastes where the True must walk. The Amarr in turn defended themselves when they could, fled when they must, but always hid their sacred knowledge and treasured items. They did not falter. The Amarr would possess Athra one day; that and more. It was foretold. God made easy what was difficult.
The caravan of land skiffs moved on greased wheels and outriggers over soil only now losing the chemical poisons that had nearly made the world unviable for centuries. The Amarr were not ignorant of change. Their roving scribes counted the weeds and plants each year, took note of differences that had at first seemed only a dim hope. Athra was coming back to life, not just in the enemy farmlands. The caravan used ancient sails, lateen rigged, to capture well known seasonal breezes to propel them from one place to another. Their skiffs tacked across prairies and sped in downwind reaches across sandy deserts. When the spirit moved them, they would dig, and once on awhile they would find something good. Or God would reveal it, personally, some outcropping that at first seemed a rock would be a relic of the blessed ages, and with it maybe useful gifts, or at least good metal.
Azir sat on the prow of the caravan listening to the play of wind in the sails, watching the starlight and nebulae of New Eden. A day before his mother would have told him to go to bed, and he would have obeyed and swung by ropes to the berthing skiff. But Ushta was buried now, his body unmarked along the path of the Idle. The boy was now the chieftain, and he was on the cusp of what counted for manhood among his people. He navigated the stars as his father had taught. Something in the sky moved, and the boy noted the object with a fixed gaze. He calculated in his head.
“You have good peepers, boy. The light shines from a new Wanderer.” an old man at the tiller told him, “We’ve been watching it for awhile, Chief Ushta God Bless Him, before he took ill, and I. It was his work, really. I helped. It is new. Seek, but you will find nothing in the charts regarding it.”
The boy looked at the treasured charts he held in his lap, as they glowed faintly upon his gaze, and saw no sign of this Wanderer’s noted progression. “Will it stay awhile, do you think?”
The old navigator gave a deep belly laugh, the first sign of humor anyone had dared give during this mourning time, “Ah young chief I can tell you better than that! Your father worked it out. More brilliant than a star shone he. He was better at the maths than anyone. It is not just going to stay, he thinks, that is to say he thought, but even now it descends little by little. And I would not disagree with him. A new untouched starfall, Chief Azir: your father’s gift to you. In his last days, he even deciphered where it would land.”
“We go to where it will land then?” Azir asked, but he needed no answer. Young and old eyes both set on the wanderer as it progressed across the sky. Then it was gone. Ninety minutes later it returned and cut a path across the early morning, once more. Azir had been taught the mathematics of the sky. It was arcane knowledge only the True Amarr knew, and though useless now, it was the greatest of their treasures. God had bid them keep it for a reason. God was always right.
“Voila! Stringbean, I love the hell out of you.”
“Did Tom just proclaim love for his Helios?” Oh no. Was he think-talking on open channel?
“Gettin cozy out there!” someone else chimed in.
“You need some downtime, Tom. I know this citadel in Arant where you can..”
“Ha ha. Shut up.” he closed of corpchat.
Relic sites gave a good impression of being standard data hack sites until you got deep into the subsystems. Sometimes they were simple standard affairs, bits of old factional items no more then a few centuries old, somehow still overlooked in high sec systems despite being combed over untold times. Tom knew the drill . He had a dislike for the sleeper sites of course. Not just the life and limb. Dying gets easier with practice. There was something about robbing the dead of actual sleep. Who knew what never-ending reveries he might be interrupting.
“Faction punks make this life bad, Tommy, you see, no? A little badder than it already is, no more, no more.” a bald Minmatar explorer that went by the name of Thunderhair once told him over overpriced drinks at a Jita IV station bar.. “Killing and stealing. That ain’t nothing, my friend. People like you and me, we steal people’s heaven away. We just steal it away from them.”
No sleepers were on the directional scan now. That was a relief. This hacking puzzle was four dimensional. Traps he’d never seen before, pathways that depended on all the ordinal directions plus time plus… something else.
In his bifurcated consciousness he heard proximity alarms. Reds showed up on the scope. “Damn my Gallente luck!” he cursed, “Blood Raiders.”
He reached out in his mind to deploy drones and cursed his thinking, remembering this ship didn’t have any. It was going to be an interesting time. The Helios went evasive even while orbiting the construct at dazzlingly close range with its micro warp drive leaving a hot blue trail of distorted reality in its wake.
The passage had taken its toll. A local village had seen the True Amarr passing though an area not normally part of their passage, and demanded tribute in metal tools. They had no knowledge of metallurgy, themselves. Amarrian knives and other tools demanded a high trade value, what little existed in the wider world. For the True People such trades were distasteful, but often necessary. Today though held no time for such delays with long attempts at bargaining, translating, and the mock threats constituting ritualized trade.
Azir knew his father had been on a mission from Heaven. Heaven was sending a gift: his gift, and that of the True People. He bade them camp outside the village of the farmers as ritual demanded before trade the following day. At night he sent all his fighters out, men of fighting age, and women who were not raising children. They took not the crude knives they offered sometimes for trade but compact complicated devices that sometimes took a lifetime to repair and construct, and which could only be used sparingly, if ever.
Small compact crossbows, atlatls that hurled springy-knives that cut and slashed of their own volition, tubes that breathed fire, all were brandished, and such a collection had not seen its use together in many generations. These they brought, burning the stockade wall to cinders, and then entering the village already in panic and terror. They spared the live of not even one adult or adolescent. The young under a certain age were taken, along with any foodstuffs already prepared. The children would become True Amarr themselves, indiscernable from the tribe, or they would join their parents in the infinite sufferings of Hell.
In the morning the caravan sailed on across the grasslands unto its destination. They left bodies behind, and not all of them villagers. The tribe almost protested. They saw in Azir an untested boy who spent the first week of mourning in a cowardly attack, and then not even bothering to give their own dead the burial rights. As a compromise, he left behind a the two shamen and a grave digging slave for them to oversee, before sails rose on the masts. There were some words made about returning to pick them up, eventually.
Azir thought of the shamen shaking caducei and uttering nonsense over his father’s lifeless body. He hated their pointless murmuring and dancing about. They did not earn their keep. It was to the holders, like the Chief, the Smith, and the Navigator families that the true knowledge still persisted. Whatever the shamen had been taught by the ancients they forgot long ago, or failed to pass on. They were dead flesh rotting in the sun. He’d seen the way that one shaman had looked at him more than once, and he hated the man for it. He hated them both.
“I shall create a new class of priests as my gift to god, ere this gift from Heaven be truly divine.” he said out loud, standing beside the Lead Navigator. The old man at the tiller merely nodded in ascent.
He added to the Navigator, “This way we will not return.” ***
JXR714B was a living thing. Like most living things, it harbored other living things, smaller but essential to the makeup of the whole. These were, inasmuch as they could be said to resemble anything, descendants of the mighty Yan Jung and on some level still human. If the Yan Jung still existed in elsewhere, the shipmates neither knew nor cared. The Eve Gate closed and with it the Universe stopped making sense. World after world winked out like embers being doused by an unleashed river. Smoke particles containing survivors fled out above the current. Most never made it. Well beyond this area of the galaxy, there were signs of civilization, but that way had been shut to most. It was beyond the reach of these former Yan Jung.
The shipmates rarely spoke, rarely had need for names or to name new things, but they dreamed in communion. They also shared a common nightmare. One day the ship would find no tides to sail upon and bliss would not return. She was built from Terran flotsam and jetsam, and of this there was precious little left remaining when parts were damaged. One day soon it would not even be able to move or sustain them. That which was created would suffer dissolution. That which gave joy would lose joy.
The ship was deposited in the Athra system, tantalizingly close to the Eve Gate, not so many star systems away. Once when there were gates and proper starships, it would have been so easily done. But the spidery ship with no name had to travel by other means. And it was at last breaking down. The crew scanned. So few caches remained of the precious components ship needed to survive. But it found them. This was not yet the end. A small defensive satellite still orbited lowly over Athra, a Terran platform.
If not for its decaying orbit, it would have never been detected. Something was wrong. Its stock of Isogen 5 had long been removed, though by whom the Yan Jung neither knew nor cared. For all its technological wonder, it was powered by simple Lorentz drives, kept aloft by quantum vacuum flux. Having being disturbed from its point of stability, it could no longer remain cloaked and in station- keeping, waiting to defend a world that no longer needed defending. What it still held within would be useful if they could reach it before it deorbited.
JXR714B used the very universe as a counterweight to pull itself towards the Terran satellite using every last bit of strength drawn the difference of entropy and existence. As a small shudder of acceleration occurred, leading the ship forward, a thing not heard in ages sounded within crew quarters. The proximity alarm rang, an actual elctro mechanical klaxon. A Talocan ship approached, bearing down on the same target, its momentum faster than the Yan Jung could achieve. There was no time to communicate, or to compromise. The prize was needed. And so the first space battle in centuries began. It would not be the last.
Corpchat was going on and on about Quafe Zero versus Quafe Ultra. Tom found it strangely reassuring, even if he was too occupied to respond himself. The Blood Raiders were almost on him and his weapons could not break through their shields.
“I should have spent more time studying targeting and less time getting my noggin filled with all the Social nonsense” he said to no one in particular. “Social Social. Tom you don’t even have a girlfriend. Oh well.. egg.. would have liked your yolk but I’ll just have to cook an omelette with you instead. That made no sense at all. Au revoir, treasure.”
He wasn’t getting anywhere with the hacking on this relic cache. There was still one more, however, and he was starting to understand how they worked. He waited until the Blood Raiders closed in, nearly tearing into structure. He hit every trap simultaneously and burned directly away from the cache. It exploded, taking out the two chasing destroyers as they passed close by in pursuit of him. He’d never seen a cache erupt that violently. The armor rep started doing its thing.
His chest pounded and if he had not been encased in neoamniotic fluid he would have tried to catch his breath. “That was close. Whew!” he said accidentally switching on corp-chat. “I mean definitely Quafe Ultra. I’m a Quafe Ultra man, all the way!”
Terran Colony AEGIS Defense Grid Satellite 714431
LOCATION: La Grange Point 3 between Athra III and 1st moon. LOCATION ADDENDUM: ORBIT DEGRADING
STATUS: Failing. Request Service. Losing orbital momentum. STEPS TO RECOVER ASSET: Unavailable. Fuel reserve depleted. STEPS TO REMOVE ASSET: Unavailable. Isogen 5 nonpresent. ALL ATTEMPTS TO CONTACT TERRAN HEADQUARTERS
NEW EDEN HAVE FAILED. 10 to the power of 25 broadcast messages sent. Final Report:
No response from other AEGIS grid assets.
No response from EVE Gate Station.
Unknown craft (2) sited on intercept course. Transponders Unknown. Identifing as 1st and 2nd.
1st craft overtaken by 2nd craft, hostilities engaged.
Both craft fight to standstill in orbit over Athra III. On closest approach AEGIS mitigated threat by both craft, damaging 2nd craft, and disabling 1st craft. 2nd craft engaged warp and no longer found in system.
1st craft is attaching to AEGIS. Yan Jung genetics detected but lifeforms do not respond to repeated security queries.
Crew mitigated. AEGIS 714431 deorbiting with 1st craft attached. Perceive possibility some Yan Jung persist.
Last transmission. Transmitting in the blind to Eve Gate Station.
AI Final note/Unauthorized Addendum: I did my best. I am so alone. Conduit Closing.
There were side glances at the boy. He saw flashes of deceit. He knew there were murmurings. His mother slept with a dagger under her pillow. He slept on the deck of the lead skiff where those he trusted most kept watch. Even with the surplus of youthful confidence, he knew that his own people would reject him, gut him and leave him, returning to the Idle if this business kept up. But the secret of the destination was held only by him and the Lead Navigator. He watched the old man recite his shaman given mantra on his beads. There was not much time left before the disloyal overthrew him and dashed the dream God gave Ushta to the poisoned ground. It was at this time he had nothing left and so he turned to a God that he had never prayed to, prayer being reserved for the shamen he’d left behind. He prostrated himself upon the deck, arms holding the jib rigging and begged God openly for a sign. He begged forgiveness for any sin he and his ancestors had committed. He begged for the True Amarr to either be saved at last or to be removed from the Law of Gheinok. As he prayed fervently and out loud the wind in the sails died. The other skiffs maneuvered to their nightly defense positions where they would soon be chained in a ring, that they called, for reasons no one could remember, the Gate. And all who could watched the boy chief praying, this sacrilege, this earnest pleading with a God who had seemed indifferent at most, to the sufferings of this world. Some felt anger. Others let pity display on their faces.
There was a flash of light. And another. Soon the light overhead was dazzling. No one had to say “look” but many did anyway. They did not know of the battle occuring overhead between the Talocan, the Yan Jung and the Terran satellite, but they knew God’s hand when they saw it. All fell upon their knees and prayed, even the children taken from their murdered parents could not deny the signs they saw.
“Talocan cruiser blueprint? Is it? No. What? What?!” Tom become more incredulous as he looked over the loot of the cache. There were other things. Nothing he understood or recognized, except of course, to realize he was suddenly about to be very, very rich. If he could make it home, anyway. Those social skillpoints might finally come in useful. He idly considered salvaging the Blood Raider wrecks but realized that it was out of his league now. Better to destroy them and leave no trace. Then he realized there was a subcache within that. It was as if the wreck he had been prying data from had been attached to part of another equally old ship.
He focused every last bit of his attention on getting whatever could be obtained from that wreck. ***
The shipmates of JXR714B were family. They thought and worked as a hive. In community there was bliss. This separation was a prolonged agony. His sister worked elsewhere, still alive, frantically trying to control the ship, to break free of this death trap, but it was no use. The rest of the Yan Jung, the family, were dead the moment they had pried the service entrance open to the Terran artifact. At least it had been quick for them. He and his sister would slowly roast alive as the satellite draw itself and JXR714B down to the world below. He thought he wanted to die. But life remained in him. His sister remained strong, trying to free their ship. He would be strong too. He called to her with his mind. He was alright. She could let go. They could still live. Chance remained. Hope beckoned.
They donned environmental suits and entered past the bodies of their kindred into the service entrance of the Terrran satellite. It no longer tried to kill them. Perhaps it recognized them. Perhaps it simply did not want to die alone. JXR714B was not designed to enter atmosphere. Without fail, it would burn. But the Terrans were powerful men and women. Perhaps they built some last saving mechanism. The siblings looked for neural inputs to access the satellite’s AI. It was a one in two chance as to who found it first. It was an unused device, untested with these minds, uncalibrated to their needs. But their needs were urgent. The AI read the Yan Jung male’s mind like a black hole devouring a world, destroying information and matter, converting it to something unknown.
AEGIS had a new purpose. “Save my sister.”
Fire trailed across the sky, scattering debris for miles in the light of morning. The renewed faith of the True led them to follow it, no matter how far it went, no matter what the difficulty. As it would happen, they did not have to travel so far as Ushta had calculated. The craft, a bulky cylindrical thing this size of a chieftain’s counsel tent, blackened on its edges, swung wide in the air, creating a firey arc, while the last of its debree trail created another smoking art counter to it. This was deemed a holy symbol from this time on.
Fire shot from its belly and it came to land very still in the rocky plain before them. Rough vegitation smoked and burned here and there. The boy had already swung down by ropes from the prow of his skiff onto the ground, moving ahead of his warriors. They bowed low as the Terran Satellite groaned with the sound of exotic metal expanding from heat changes.
He never broke his stride. He never bowed. He turned once to his tribe and said, “This is not God. Verily it is his Gift. We shall praise and thank Him, but we shall not worship idols, no matter where hence they come.” Azir saw his people rise uncertainly. He turned to the artifact and said to it. “I am Azir, son of Ushta, Chief of the Amarr, Lord of Athra, Keeper of Relics, Holder of Knowledge.”
The station remained silent. Azir tried to remember anything he could think of use. So much pointless ceremony. It had all been so hard to remember. For once he regretted abandoning the shamen. Perhaps the only thing they were useful for was this one moment. He breathed in and out. The hatch remained closed, and he had no divine worth with which to open it.
The only token of office the chief of the Amarr wore was a small circlet of silvery metal, inscribed with markings that could not be translated. He had not yet deigned to wear it. When his mother removed it from his father at burial, Azir fastened it securely to his belt, instead. Now, in a gambit at gaining acknowledgement from whatever was inside, he unfastened the circlet, and held it before the hatch. He felt something like warmth from the circlet. The hatch began to open. A walkway descended. He walked bravely forward and into the satellite service entrance, placing the circlet upon his head like a crown. It felt right to do so.
Her brother died. But he did not lie with the corpses incinerated with their spidery ship. Instead he lived in the complicated quantum calculations of the AEGIS. Her upgraded mind ran vast calculations with him as together they understood the purpose of the craft, where it had come from. The Terrans were truly gone. This was known. But they now understood that their own kind were also extinct with the passing of the ship. Any other children of the Yan Jung, if they existed, they would never meet. In the blissful long flights of JXR714B, survival had not mattered. They lived, they saw, and they enjoyed.
They did not dwell upon the loss that was so apparent wherever they traveled. But now mere meters away were the signs of that loss. The young leader of his people, so arrogant but driven by goals of survival for his people, a trait they did not understand until now. She and her brother could not dissuade themselves these nomads had made it here on purpose. There was no other reason for them to be in this barren plain. The leader held up a small metal hoop. AEGIS AI scanned it and immediately reported back.
“Identification, Colony Agent Headset Type 5, Rank 5. Inactive.”
The door opened on its own. The Yan Jung’s journey would end here. AEGIS was already faltering. It would eventually fail. But not before they would benefit these distant relatives, these human beings. What was left of brother had hope. His sister would survive. And so would these people. They had a lot to relearn. They’d start with this brash young leader.
This was a tougher hacking than all the previous jobs combined. Strange when all the relic consisted of were some fullerine strands embedded in a piece of monatomic hydrogen plate. His virus was routed at so many corners. Tom furrowed his brow inside the capsule. He was close. He was there. If only other people could see just what an amazing job he’d done. The seals broke. He had the data.
And all he got was a single transponder code. JXR714B. That and some worthless carbon. “Doesn’t matter,” he said to himself, “This trip has me set for life. For life! Tom Serv is buying a Silver Magnate. Hell with that. A Gold Magnate!” And then red appeared all over the scope. And then his ship disintegrated around him. There was no time to think about the losses, but he did just the same. His implants were worth a half a billion in contracts, easily. The value of what he’d transferred to the hold of that ship before it blew was harder to guess. A quick scan as he tried to flee showed at least the Helios was a good clean wreck with no loot left beyond salvage.
He ran for it, but was webbed. Tom knew well what Blood Raiders did to capsuleers. Those captured by them reported about it, eventually. Tom did not like to think about those stories. He took the suicide express, instead. It was over quickly.
And he woke up on a clone bed, surrounded by a few corp members at the station who had happened to be in the station at the time. “Tough break Tom.” said a familiar Minmatar voice. Tom’s thoughts blurred as he adjusted to the transition. The voice asked, “Were you out there stealing someone else’s heaven?”
Tom sat up, adjusting to his surroundings.
‘Welcome to Zoohen. Don’t Forget to tip your clone attendant!’ was glowing in big friendly letters on the ceiling. It was difficult to comprehend that the shockwave of his pod exploding was still reverberating in the debris field where he had found…
“ JXR714B” he said out loud.
Everyone looked at him, but he did not know how to explain. If he said he’d found possible Terran artifacts or some original blueprint for an unheard of Talocan ship no one would believe him. Stories like that were common enough, never proven. Explorer yarns were worse than miners’ tales. “Blood Raiders. Lost my haul and my implants AND the Helios. Well, that’s that. Guess its back to a Tier I for awhile. I guess, maybe I’ll ice mine for awhile. I still got the barge.”
“Don’t fly anything you cannot afford to lose,” Thunderhair sagely reminded him. “Yeah. Yeah. I’m gonna go get a Quafe Ultra or something.”
Azir watched the city that had begun to sprout where the satellite had landed. He rubbed a grizzled beard from the top of the framed tabernacle built around and shrouding the ancient device. He stood on the parapet.
He had not been within the satellite for years. The Priestess spent her time there. That was what the tribe called her. He had called her teacher, and eventually wife. Now he was old and he did not call her at all. He’d been her adoring student and fell in love with her as he became a man, only to find there was very little human within her, no common ground with someone who had never strode it. At times he felt the jealous machine she called her brother to be more human than she. And when the satellite died and was just cold material, something inside of her died too. They soured of each other’s company. She longed to return to the stars that were denied her.
He trusted her stories of worlds beyond, of levels of joy, of trust and ancient empires less and less over time. She argued against his conquests, she railed against the concept of slavery. All of this would be forgivable, for she was undeniably a gift from God. But she had little of practical value to teach him. It had been the satellite that had much of what he needed to know. But learning from it had been like drinking from a river. He could only imbibe so much, and he did not trust this knowledge to everyone.
It mattered not. Already the Amarr were growing strong. They had learned to irrigate this land, to purify it. Their numbers were returning. Their weapons were superior. The entire world would be theirs. Azir’s hunger was matched by his patience. The past centuries had made his people strong. He watched one of his children, a bearded man marching past the temple with a company of explorers heading for the wastelands. He looked up to salute his father, and Azir returned the gesture. He had his features, but also that of the Priestess. Her people were of the stars. That much he knew. One day their children would return to reclaim them.