Warning: Mature Content
Nova: The Next Generation
The Shi’Ar Conflict
Written By: Timelord ”¢ 9.13.09
Chapter Four: The Warlord of the Sky and Sea (Part I)
Vas’Nur was quartered next door to Rich. Her duty station was a desk in an alcove outside her quarters. Rich left her at her desk giving her strict orders that he was not to be disturbed and praising her for her devotion to duty. He was happy to see her swell with pride in response to his compliments; and he hoped that this new strategy would result in her relaxing a bit.
Rich entered his quarters closely followed by the Worldmind avatar. “PRIME, seal the door.” Rich turned to the Worldmind avatar. “So, how do we do this?”
The Worldmind gestured for Rich to be seated on his bed. “Richard, you are about to undergo what the ancients called ”˜Deep Communion with the Worldmind’ or what is now commonly called ”˜Direct Interface with the Worldmind.’ You will directly interface with my gestalt consciousness. From the gestalt, I will select the individual consciousness of each of three of the greatest warriors in modern Xandarian history. You will meld with each consciousness and experience their memories of combat in such a manner so that you will be aware of their thoughts, have access to their knowledge base, and experience their sensations; but they will, of course, not be aware of your presence. In a sense, you will live their lives and retain some of their wisdom, knowledge base, and military genius as a result. This experience is required training for all career military officers in the Xandarian Star Corps. I must warn you that it can be a disconcerting experience to suddenly find yourself present in the ”˜mind’ and ”˜body’ of another; but know that you will not lose your individuality at any time; and you can end this training at any time simply by asking. Do you require further clarification?”
Rich shook his head negatively. “No. Let’s get started.”
“Very well. Your first training experience will be with Captain Antonius Mer, nicknamed by generations of Xandarian military cadets ”˜The Warlord of the Sky and Sea.’ This first experience takes place on the planet Xandar approximately 2000 years ago. Please lie down and we will begin.” The Worldmind paused, waiting for Rich to comply with its request.
Rich reclined on his bed. As soon as his head hit the pillow, he found himself standing in the infinite white void of pure thought, accompanied only by the Worldmind avatar. The next instant, he found himself alone in an aircraft cockpit flying at high altitude over a vast azure-colored ocean. For a moment, Rich felt disoriented. He heard the voice of the Worldmind in his head saying, “Open your mind Richard. Relax and become one with Captain Mer’s thoughts.” Rich relaxed and became aware of the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the man whose body and mind he was now sharing as they flew through banks of clouds above the azure-colored water of old Xandar’s great Northern Ocean.
Mer looked at his reflection in the aircraft’s windshield. It was disconcerting to Rich to look into a ”˜mirror’ and see someone else staring back. The reflection was of a handsome, 30-ish young man with short-cropped blonde hair, blue eyes, and a days growth of stubble. Rich could ”˜hear’ Mer’s consciousness – Mer’s internal dialogue – just by concentrating. Taking the Worldmind’s advice, Rich relaxed and allowed himself to become one with Mer’s thoughts.
I need a shave. Sure hope this mission is a short one. I need some more time off to do more of what I did last night. A sly smile flashed across his face and carnal images flashed through his mind. Let’s see. Where are the controls for communications? D’ast! Can’t get used to flying like this! With the nanite neural web just implanted in my brain a few weeks ago, I don’t need to fly manually anymore; I just have to mentally tell the ship what to do. Uh – ship? Give me a heads-up display of the positions of the rest of my squadron.
A HUD appeared in his field of vision. D’ast! Did it again! I don’t need this! All I have to do is open my mind and I can know everything the ship knows about its functioning and surroundings. Disappear HUD. Locate the rest of my ships. There. In my mind I can see my five ships flying in stealth mode in perfect formation. Beautiful Mark VI Trans-fighters. They can fight in the air or reconfigure to fight on the ocean surface or as submarines. Perfect for we Navy Special-Ops types. This new tech is amazing! Once the Defense Department’s ”˜Project Worldmind’ Quantum Super-Computer is finished, we’ll see even more amazing tech. Maybe this super-computer can even figure out why so many of our people are contracting this strange neurological disease. Maybe it can even find a way to cure it. Time to check in with my squadron. Ship-to-ship encoded quantum radio – audio only.
“All right you slackers – let’s break radio silence a moment and sound off to show me you’re still awake and ready for this mission.” Mer smiled – proud of his squadron.
“Azi here Captain – awake and ready.” Feanus Azi. Newest member of my squadron. Right out of the academy. Self-confident to the point of arrogance. Hasn’t had enough humbling experiences to get rid of the cockiness. Best in his class though. That’s what got him here. He’s a good entry level operative who just needs some seasoning; and it’s my job to keep him alive long enough to get that seasoning.
“Van here.” A little terse. Wonder what’s up with Van? Sunilius Van – House Van’s contribution to the Royal Navy. He tries to downplay his royal background. Comes across as falsely modest. An accomplished pilot and a communications specialist second to none. Been with me a year now and I’m always happy to have him alongside me cause he knows how to fight a way out of any mission gone bad.
“Caal reporting.” Lios Caal. She’s been with me three years now. My demolition expert. So far, haven’t found a thing she can’t destroy.
“Sol here Captain Mer.” Mmmmmm – can’t keep the smile off my face just hearing her voice. The lovely Felana Sol. My warrior woman. Never met a better or tougher fighter. Been my Executive Officer for four years and more recently my lover. We’re bending the rules but not actually breaking them. Yeah – I’d like to believe the Admiralty would see it that way. Let me indulge myself a minute here and think of our time together last night. I can feel the Frammi Charm she gave me hanging from its chain against the skin of my chest. I can still imagine her touch, her scent, her taste – even hours later. A mental picture flashed through Mer’s mind – beautiful nude body, ebony skin, black hair, lovely face, green eyes——
Rich Rider sprang bolt upright in bed covered in cold sweat, gasping for breath, and looking about wildly. He saw a horribly disfigured ebony-skinned, black-haired, green-eyed young woman lying on the floor wearing a tattered Millennian uniform. She was pleading with him, “Kill me Richard! Please, please kill me!”
Rich pressed against the headboard of his bed, trying to turn away or get away; taken aback by horror and revulsion of what the once beautiful woman had become. She was transforming into something horrible right before his eyes. “No! No I can’t! I won’t!”
It was effortful for her to respond. “You must! The pain’s unbearable! Please! I — I can’t control myself much longer! If you don’t kill me, I’ll soon kill you and everyone else!
Tears streamed down Rich’s face. His voice rising an octave, he pled with her. “Please don’t make me! I care for you! I could never hurt you!”
“The pain! Richard! I’m barely me anymore! I’m not the Derana Sol you knew! Kill me now! I’m going to die anyway! The pain! Richard please – I beg of you – end my suffering now!” Derana screamed as her body violently spasmed and transformed into something no longer recognizable as humanoid. The look in her eyes turned from pleading to malevolent. She moved to advance on him.
Rich screamed in grief, rage, and anguish; building his most powerful gravimetric pulse to destroy the malevolent creature his beloved Derana had become. He pointed his hand at the creature to fire the pulse, tears streaming down his face and bile choking his throat.
“RICHARD! IT IS CRITICAL THAT YOU PAY ATTENTION AT THIS TIME!”
Rich blinked and shook his head to clear it as the image of the Worldmind avatar replaced the vision of the creature Rich was about to destroy.
Rich stopped the pulse just a nano-second before firing and then leapt in front of the Worldmind avatar angrily demanding an answer. “What the fark was that? I thought you said this was safe! What the fark is going on?”
The Worldmind replied in a matter of fact manner. “Richard – you nearly fired a gravimetric pulse that would have breached the hull and disabled if not destroyed the ship.”
Rich was dumbfounded with shock – he had only a vague memory of being terrified of an ebony-skinned girl who resembled Captain Mer’s XO. “What? Why?!”
The Worldmind hesitated before answering. “I am still analyzing.”
Rich had the distinct impression that the Worldmind was holding back something; but before he could further question the Worldmind, he noticed the sounding of the red alert klaxon and the sound of someone pounding on the door of his quarters.
Rich could hear Yeoman Vas’Nur’s voice. “Sir! Sir! Please open the door or we will be forced to break it down.”
Rich shot the Worldmind avatar a dirty look and turned to the door. He realized his face was wet with tears. What the fark? I’ve been crying? He wiped the tears from his face. “PRIME! Open the door!”
The door slid open and Yeoman Vas’Nur rushed into the room, side arm drawn, concern and worry clouding her face. She was closely followed by six bulls from the Tauron Marine squad assigned to the ship. The bulls were covered head-to-hoof in Tauron Battle Armor; and their plasma rifles were glowing hot with deadly charges primed to fire. Commodore Che’Noth entered after the marines, her hands clasped behind her back, facial expression a mix of concern and puzzlement.
Rich fixed Che’Noth in a stern stare. “Commodore. Sit-rep. Why is the fleet at Red Alert?”
Che’Noth snapped to attention as did the rest of the Tauron. “Sir! Screaming was reported emanating from your quarters and ship’s sensors detected a massive build-up of gravimetric energy in your quarters. We assumed you were under attack and Vice-Admiral Ga’Noth ordered the fleet to Red Alert.”
Rich shot the Worldmind avatar another dirty look, his anger building from both embarrassment and the feeling that the Worldmind was not being completely forthcoming. Rich nodded his head sharply. “PRIME – cancel Red Alert. Send word to the Vice-Admiral that Commodore Che’Noth will explain this mishap to him shortly. Marines – stand down and dismissed.”
Rich waited until the marines left and the door slid shut behind them. “Che’Noth, Vas’Nur – at ease.” Rich watched as the Commodore and the Yeoman visibly relaxed. “The Worldmind and I were conducting an ancient Xandarian –.. ritual when a mishap occurred. You both did good work. There should be no further such mishaps. My orders prior to this incident still stand. Dismissed.”
Che’Noth and Vas’Nur snapped to attention and saluted. “Yes sir!” they said in unison before turning and marching out the door.
Rich angrily turned to the Worldmind avatar. “All right god-dast-it, what the fark is going on with me? These bad dreams I’ve been having and this last little incident are connected somehow aren’t they? I’ve never been so scared before. I nearly schlagged myself! Who was that girl who looked so much like Captain Mer’s XO? Why did I react like that? Why did I have such an emotional connection to that girl when I don’t remember ever meeting her before? I think you know the answers to all these questions and I want the god-d’ast truth from you right now!”
The Worldmind avatar paused a few nano-seconds to consider the options. The modifications of Rider’s brain at the quantum level had created some new unanticipated pathways to some long suppressed memories. There were no good options. Rider would have to overcome this problem as best he could; and for that to happen, he would have to know the truth. Unfortunately, he would almost immediately forget the truth. The Worldmind settled on a course of action. “Richard – you had what your species calls a ”˜flashback’ to a traumatic event from your participation in the Second Xandar-Skrull War.”
Rich’s brow furrowed in puzzlement. “What the fark? I don’t remember any incident like that from that war!”
The Worldmind avatar nodded. “I know. Tell me, what do you remember from your participation in the Second Xandar-Skrull War?”
Rich looked away as he struggled to remember. “I fought in the war for about a year and then I came home to Earth.”
The Worldmind held Rich in its steady gaze. “Yes, but tell me some specific events you remember from the war.”
Rich rubbed his chin as he struggled to remember. “Sure. Well —-.. I —- uh –.. can’t seem to think of any right at this moment.”
The Worldmind pressed for an answer. “Take your time and make an effort. Can you think of any incidents from that war at all?”
Rich shrugged his shoulders. “I remember fighting along side the Spaceknight, Rom, and The Champions of Xandar to defeat the Skrulls; then I came home.”
The Worldmind avatar shook its head affirmatively. “Astonishing that you remember even that – the last military event of the war before you departed for Earth. Do you not think it curious that you remember nothing else that happened over the course of that year?”
Rich’s eyebrows arched in surprise. “I’d really never thought about it before; but now that you mention it, I guess it’s strange that I don’t remember much and strange that I’m not upset over not remembering.”
The Worldmind was satisfied. “Precisely. There is a reason for your amnesia and your lack of concern about your amnesia. Your genetic structure contains a small flaw that renders you vulnerable to a certain type of Anxiety Disorder that your species refers to as ”˜Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.’ Your experiences during the war caused you to begin experiencing PTSD symptoms. You were the only non-Xandarian member of the Nova Corps at that stage of Nova Corps history and we had no experience treating alien physical and psychological disorders; so with your informed consent we addressed the problem as best we could. It seems, however, that we made mistakes. We sought to erase the memories causing you distress. We succeeded only in erasing the ”˜filing system’ localized within your frontal cortex allowing you to directly access these troubling memories in an orderly fashion. The memories themselves still exist; but are not directly accessible. Now, when you have an experience similar to a prior wartime experience, it can cause formation of a temporary indirect pathway to these otherwise inaccessible memories and can trigger a recurrence of PTSD symptoms. When this happens, a second, subsequently added intervention process is triggered and an anti-insight and amnesia circuit is activated. Essentially, your brain is tricked into believing that your Xandar-Skrull Wartime memories are unworthy of further analysis or assignment to accessible memory.”
Rich stood in stunned silence for several minutes considering the implications. “Can’t you genetically re-sequence me to remove the flaw causing PTSD; and then create new pathways to the suppressed memories?”
The Worldmind shook its head negatively. “If we had access to the resources of our Adanacian allies or had available the resources of pre-Annihilation Xandar, genetic re-sequencing of that magnitude might be possible; but we lack the proper resources in our present situation. Without genetic re-sequencing, if I remove the memory and insight blocks; and help you establish new pathways to the suppressed memories; it is likely that incapacitating symptoms of PTSD will return.”
“So I’m farked?” Rich was angry. “I can’t lead the resistance forces like this! Hell, I nearly destroyed the ship! If I had a flashback during battle, I could endanger everyone and everything!”
The Worldmind knew it needed to calm Rich. “Granted – it is a risk. However, for Xandar’s future and the future of the local group of galaxies, you must remain in command. There is an alternative. I have accessed your planet’s database in the past and your species has developed one promising treatment for PTSD. It is called ”˜Exposure Therapy.’ Basically, it involves training to remain calm and controlled in the face of anxiety provoking stimuli. War College training gives us the perfect opportunity to conduct ”˜Exposure Therapy.’ While you are participating in the memories of past battles with the Skrulls; you will be at risk for additional flashbacks. I will monitor your cortical activity and at the first sign of flashback triggering anxiety, I will administer endorphins to calm you and give you a sense of well-being. In this manner, we will train your brain to control symptoms of PTSD.”
Rich paused to consider his options. “All right – let’s do it. When I’m participating in Captain Mer’s memories, I understand how and why he makes his military decisions. I need that knowledge of air and sea tactics.”
“Very well; let us resume training. I will, however, buffer the intensity of the meld with Captain Mer. You will still be privy to his innermost thoughts and history of experiences leading to the reasoning behind his decisions; but you will experience these things more from the perspective of an observer than from the perspective of the Captain himself.” The Worldmind avatar motioned for Rich to lie down.
Rich hesitated. “Fine. One last question before we start. The girl – Derana – who was she?”
A holographic image of a beautiful ebony-skinned, green-eyed young woman wearing a Nova Corps Millennian uniform appeared next to the Worldmind avatar. “Millennian Derana Sol was killed in action during the Second Xandar-Skrull War. She bears a strong resemblance to her ancestor, Commander Felana Sol.” A hologram of Felana Sol appeared standing next to Derana. “Their resemblance was the trigger for your flashback.”
Rich stood close to the hologram of Derana. She seemed very familiar; but he could not remember ever knowing her. He feared the answer to his next question but was unable to stop himself from asking. “How did I know her?”
The Worldmind hesitated – only continuing after Rich flashed it an irritated look. “The two of you participated in several missions together and became lovers.”
Rich clenched his jaw. “How did she die?”
The Worldmind avatar looked away from Rich and quietly said, “Her personality was killed by a Techno-Organic Virus the Skrulls were developing for use in biological warfare. She was therefore ineligible for download to Mindworld upon her death. You then terminated her body before it could become the vector for infection of the remainder of the Novas under your command.”
Rich sat heavily down upon his bed. “My God – I killed her just like in the flashback.” He put his hands over his face and drew a deep ragged breath, tears stinging his eyes. He felt like he was on the verge of remembering the incident.
A hint of earnestness entered the Worldmind’s consensus voice. “No Richard – the Techno-Organic Virus killed her. You avenged her by killing the virus infecting her body. It is an important distinction.”
Rich felt as though he had just been punched in the stomach. His heart ached and he was drawing short, ragged breaths – nearly overcome by feelings of guilt and regret. “Yeah. Whatever you say.” He stood and approached Derana’s hologram – standing only inches in front of her and looking into her lovely face. For a moment, he almost remembered how it felt to hold her in his arms. He wanted to talk to her, comfort her, learn from her about what they had once had together – but he knew she was just an inanimate matrix of photons; and if he tried to touch her, his hand would merely pass through all that remained of her – her ghostly image. He blinked tears from his eyes and pushed back the sad realization that he would never know what he had once shared with the beautiful woman whose image stood before him.
Rich took a deep breath and clenched his jaw. “Discontinue the holograms.” He watched as Derana faded into nothingness. Stalking back to his bed, he reclined and stared at the ceiling, almost grateful that he would forget about Derana in a few seconds. Through clenched teeth he tightly said, “Let’s get on with this. Give me a shot of endorphins and put me back into Captain Mer’s memories.” Rich felt a sense of well-being flowing through his body and alleviating his grief. He found himself in the infinite white void once again. Momentarily distracted, his mind blanked and he was merely left with a vague, lingering feeling of sadness. What was I upset about just a minute ago? Can’t remember. Ah well, must not have been important. He re-entered the world of Captain Antonius Mer.
End of Part 3
Of the serial
Pinnacle of Light – Abyss of Darkness
Tale from ”Nova: The Lost Years Saga’
And Part of
Annihilation: The Guerilla War (Part 2)