The relationship between Chaos and Order has been one of the most
controversial issues in the study of extra-planar forces since the field
was developed. Even amongst the beings that actually function through the
use these forces (planeswalkers and lavoids being the most prevalent in terms
of Chaos, with Eternals being their only comparable counterpart with regard
to Order), the available data is insubstantial at best, as planeswalkers
and lavoids born with their established connections to their respective energy
sources (and no Eternals have been born since the dawn of the
Multiverse), eliminating the possibility of a control group. Ironically,
the best subjects for study would have been the soldiers of the LEA, having
been slowly infused with Chaos over a period of time, but of course,
theyre all dead.
-Chaos and Order, a dissertation by Duncan McKlane
Upon hearing from Ranagorn that Duncan was planning on formally agreeing to help, Cyrius quickly invited him and Kyrie to join him for dinner in his suite near the peak of the Tower. Contrary to Duncans room on the Vendetta, which was a plain, Spartan affair, Cyrius penthouse showed a great deal of taste and a soft spot for luxury. It had an open design, with the kitchen, dining room, living room and study all flowing into one another with little in the way of dividing walls (a very common theme among elven home designs). The floors differed slightly as one moved throughout the apartment, though, changing from polished hardwood in the sitting areas to a grey slate in the kitchen. To the right of the entry way, three red couches were arranged around a sleek black coffee table and a dark marble fireplace. Further right was the kitchen area, a small island being its only separation from the living room and the dining room (which was further towards the rear wall). The far wall was made up of a seemingly single pane of glass that provided Cyrius with an expansive view of both the plains and the mountains. To the left was a hallway that presumably led to the bed chambers.
As a small chime indicated that his guests had arrived, Cyrius told the apartments computer to open the door as he walked into the main room. Duncan and Kyrie then stepped into the room, gazing around and getting their bearings.
Welcome, Cyrius said as he approached them. He was wearing a simple white robe with a gold waist band and his hair was still damp from the shower he had just taken. Please, come and have a seat. Kyrie moved in first, sniffing the air.
Smells great! she said, her nose entangled in the aroma of the cooking meal. What are we eating?
Steak, Cyrius said plainly.
Steak? Duncan asked, a bit surprised.
Its my favorite, Cyrius said with a simple smile. But dont worry, he continued. Itll be the best steak youve ever had. Theres a breed of livestock here that was originally a gift of the Dominion. They make for simply the mo st fantastic red meat. Plus, my chef is an absolute wizard. Her tiramisu will make you weep. Isnt that right, Shana? he called over to the kitchen. A female elf with a round face spun around from the food she was preparing to face the visitors.
Its what you keep me around for, sir, she said with a heavy accent.
Shes one of the most talented culinary artists on the planet, Cyrius said. She also manages the cadre of chefs that keep this place fed.
Still, I wouldnt have pictured you as a steak kind of person, Duncan said. For some reason, I thought wed be dining on something more ethnic. Maybe something more specific to the region?
Im not trying to impress you folks anymore. At the moment, its simply my opportunity to feed you well, he said. Please, come this way. He led them to the dinning area where a decorative mahogany table was set for three. He waited for the others to take their seats before sitting down opposite Duncan.
Wine? he asked.
Of course, Kyrie said. Duncan gave her a poignant look as if to say One glass only. Kyrie rolled her eyes at him.
Since you staying around, now, would you like for me to arrange transport back to Escillith so that you can gather your things from your ship? Cyrius asked.
I can take care of that tomorrow, if you want, Duncan, Kyrie said.
Thats fine, Duncan said. I want her to have access to the network here. And I mean legitimate access. She works with me on all of my ops, too. The computer stuff is her department but shell tell you what she needs.
That can also be taken care of, Cyrius said. As he said this, another elf, this one male, appeared from some unseen location (the wine closet was back behind the kitchen, but that was sealed off for preservation reasons) with a bottle of red wine. Pouring generous glasses for the trio, he then placed the bottle in a bucket of ice next to Cyriuss chair and walked over to help Shana with the food. Duncan slowly took a sip and processed the flavor.
This is from Miranda III, he said finally. Cyrius couldnt help but be impressed.
Thats incredible, he said. How did you know that?
Its one of my favorites, Duncan admitted, his encyclopedic knowledge of wine perhaps not matching his apparent encyclopedic knowledge of hard alcohol. Duncan took a whiff of the air. Your chef is cooking with another wine from that planet, too.
You have a keen sense of smell.
I guess it sort of comes with the whole planeswalker bit, he said, tapping his nose.
So tell me, Doctor McKlane, Cyrius prodded. Is there anything you cant do?
Use Chaos, Duncan said with a chuckle. Though Ranagorn tells me that this wont be a permanent problem.
Very good, Cyrius said. And if everything else as I understand it is true, you should still be very well suited to the jobs for which I need you. A moment later, the elf who had served their wine came back with bowls of soup that he placed on top of their plates.
Thank you, Lyles, Cyrius said. The servant elf gave the High Swordmaster a nod and returned to the kitchen.
So lets talk about that, Duncan said. This job you have planned for me, that is. You havent filled me in on the specifics, yet.
Well, I told you that I need to you to break into the Dominion Senate Complex, I believe, and kidnap one of our confederates.
Yeah, Duncan said. Thats about as far as you got, though. I need more specifics than that before I run a mission.
Of course. Well, first off, we have the schematics of the building on the network here. Youll have access to those later tonight. Second, the place is ether-negative. That is, its wrapped in an anti-ether field, so you wont be able to draw on Order energies.
What about Lifestream? Does that energy still function?
To the best of my knowledge, Duncan said. Most forms of bio-energy should work in there. There arent too many effective ways to counter that kind of energy, which is why the Swordmasters here study it so in depth.
And Chaos energy? Duncan asked.
It would work, but I dont see how that would matter.
Does this job have to be pulled off solo? Duncan asked, processing some alternatives.
You have someone in mind?
Yeah, Duncan said. A couple people actually. If I can assemble a task force, what kind of size limits are we looking at? Cyrius considered this for a moment.
For this job it might be better if it were only you, he said. For future operations, though, if you wanted to call in three or four of your own contacts, that would be fine.
Great. I would like to bring in some of my own people to work with.
You have people whod come fight a war for a nation they have no connection to?
Night, I have people whod come fight a war for the sake of fighting, let alone killing some Dominioners. Plus, some of them owe me a favor or three. Cyrius looked a bit confused for a moment.
Itll be elves in the Complex, Duncan, Cyrius said, as if he had forgotten to point it out. I hope that doesnt change anything. Kyrie suddenly looked a bit distressed as Duncan considered this. Killing neutrals or innocents while getting something done had never bothered him before, so it shouldnt start to bother him now. There was a slight twitch in the back of his neck when Cyrius said this, however maybe the slightest hint of apprehension, but it wasnt worth worrying about.
You want to have people actually killed, right? He confirmed. Cyrius nodded.
It needs to look like a Dominion job. Theyd have no reason to spare lives, so we have no reason to either.
Fine, Duncan said, stiffening up again. I dont see why I should have a problem killing a few if you dont. They are your people, after all.
Theres a greater good at stake, here. Obviously, we want you to minimize the bloodshed, but whats being done has to be done.
I understand completely, he said. They had soon finished their soup and Shana was bringing out the steaks. The meals were served with a grainy substance that was somewhere between rice and couscous, and some green vegetables.
What kind of time frame are we looking at to gather equipment? Kyrie cut in. Were going to need some time to go over the schematics before we even know what we need.
Five days? Cyrius suggested. Theres a slightly lighter guard contingency on the weekend, and five days from now is a holy day in the Ishian Church, the largest religious sect on Escillian. There will probably be even fewer personal there, then.
Yes, five days should be fine. The uh steak is very good, by the way.
Thank Shana, not me, Cyrius said, biting into his as well. Next to him, Kyrie was beginning to become flush.
Im sorry, but could I be excused to use the restroom? she asked.
Sure, Cyrius said. Its around that way, past the bedroom, he said, pointing past the entranceway and down the hall.
Thank you, she said, getting up from the table and trotting off where he had indicated.
Is she okay? Cyrius asked. Duncan wasnt sure. He took another bite of his meat, swirling it around in his mouth. His tongue soon gave him the answer.
This was prepared with rosemary? he asked.
Shana? Cyrius called. The chef came up to him. Is he right?
About the rosemary? she asked. Duncan nodded. Yes, sir. Theres rosemary in the sauce and I used some of it to season the meat. Duncan couldnt help but laugh.
Kyries allergic, he said, taking another bit. Cyrius looked horrified.
Duncan, Im terribly sorry, Cyrius said. Is there anything she-
Shell be fine, Duncan said. Shes just too embarrassed to cast any detoxification spells at the table. Then, he yelled over to the bathroom, Honestly, Kyrie, I cant take you anywhere!
Over the bathroom Kyrie was too busy chanting her detoxification spell to respond, but swore to herself she let some sort of pithy comment rip when she got the chance. Finishing her spell, she looked in the mirror and ran the water in the sink, splashing some of it on her face. The flush in her face was beginning to die down and she felt better. She found the mirror particularly intriguing, however. Something about the way the outer edge was decorated gave it an interesting feeling, almost mechanical. She ran a finger around the edge, catching it in a groove along the right side. With a light swish, the mirror slid to the left to reveal a small cabinet behind it with some of Cyriuss personal toiletries.
What a clever medicine cabinet, she said, her eyes scanning the soap, eye drops, toothbrush and shaving razor. Thats kind of odd she said, reaching into the cabinet towards the object in question, but stopped when she heard Duncan call again.
Did you forget the spell or something, Kyrie? he teased. She furrowed her brow, finding the groove that put the mirror back over the cabinet and marched back to the table.
No, I didnt forget the spell, you big blue-haired oaf, she said to him. Excuse a girl for wanting to take her time. She sat down peacefully and put a smile on her face. Turning to Cyrius, she asked if he had anything else on hand that she could eat. He quickly had Shana prepare something with a little bit of magic for speed and dinner went on with any further complications. Cyrius actually strayed from business for awhile and established himself as a rather charming character, getting a laugh even out of Duncan occasionally. By the time the tiramisu came around, Duncan didnt actually cry, but did admit it was some of the best he had ever had. Coffee came out with the desert, the same kind that Cyrius had offered him the other day, and they discussed some of Cyriuss past over it.
So tell me now, because I think I deserver to know, Duncan said. Were you in the LEA? Cyrius closed his eyes and nodded slowly. Looking around, he snapped his fingers, creating a sound barrier around the table so that no one around could overhear.
I was, Cyrius said. I fought with the Planeswalker Council and the Exterminatorum Adeptus for many a year.
As I thought, Duncan said. And what ship were you on?
The Weatherlight, actually, Cyrius said.
So thats how you knew my father. Cyrius nodded.
I was one of those who actually knew him as Jack, Cyrius said. I knew your mother, too. She was an incredible woman. She was a machine, like some sort of human battle calculator. I imagine you inherited a lot of your tactical knack from her, actually. She was the brains behind a lot more of the LEA than people would give her credit for. Everyone was quick to assume Lathain was responsible for most of it.
Then the real confusing question is, of course, why arent you dead? Duncan said. The Mera Flux that caused the Second Fall took out the entirety of the fleet, or so I thought.
I left the LEA several hundred years before the Second Fall, Cyrius explained. I had grown tired of killing Lavoids and I yearned for freedom from it. During that amount of time, the Chaos residue that most of the Adeptus were inadvertently infused with slowly deteriorated, so that is why I was not affected by the reaction that the Flux caused.
Then why wasnt your name in any of the LEA databases? Kyrie asked. I looked through them for indication of your service.
It was a favor that Jack did for me, Cyrius said. I knew that some day, I might want to avoid being connected with the organization. Jack deleted my personal record from the Raziel as per my request.
I lived in solitude for awhile after that, he continued. Until eventually I found my way back to the Eldar homeworlds. When I saw what the Dominion was doing to them, Ranagorn and I brainstormed the Swordmasters. What you are now involved in is the culmination of an eight century long plan to free these worlds.
So Ranagorn has been in on this from the start, Duncan said.
He, Ariana, Aurial Thorin, Valith Rathi, and now you two are the only people who know of my involvement with the Exterminatorum Adeptus. I would prefer if you kept it a secret. Duncan nodded his head.
I understand, he said. Mum is the word, as they say.
Agreed, Kyrie said.
Does that answer your question? Cyrius asked.
For now, Duncan said.
Good, he responded, snapping his fingers again and removing the barrier.
Shortly after, as Duncan and Kyrie were finishing their coffee, there was a beeping sound that came from above and Arianas voice came through an unseen speaker.
Eltharion and Imbrandir have returned, Cyrius, she said.
Excellent, he responded. Tell them Ill be with them in a few minutes.
The radio died off and Cyrius glanced at his two dinner guests. It looks as if that was good timing.
You do appear to have everything running like clockwork, Cyrius, Kyrie said.
I will give you the technicality of the briefing in four days, Cyrius said. In the mean time, feel free to contact me if anything comes up that you need my assistance with. Now, if youll excuse me, I have to put on something more proper to wear. Dont worry about your plates; Lyles will take care of them for you.
See you soon, Duncan said as he rose and moved towards the door
Thank you for dinner, Kyrie said. Im sorry you had to rush off.
Dont be. Im more upset that Im being rude. It is difficult, sometimes, to be responsible for so much. He managed a small sigh before giving them a farewell wave and heading off to his bedroom.
I guess we see ourselves out? Duncan said. The door was already open, so they shrugged and moved through it, letting it slide closed behind them.
When they got back to Duncans room, he walked over to the bar and poured himself a drink, sitting down in one of the chairs by the window. Hows the allergy? he asked Kyrie.
Better, thank you, she said, a little sneer in her voice, sitting down across from him. But now that were back in private, Ive got a question for you thats been itching at me.
Whyd you hesitate when he said youd be offing elves instead of Dominion soldiers?
I hesitated? he asked, not thinking she had noticed.
Didnt think I caught it? she asked. Your eyes faulted for a moment when he said it. Ive seen you take enough contracts in the past to know that your eyes never fault.
Never? he asked, still avoiding the question. The truth was it had been bugging him. It had been bugging him since Cyrius mentioned it, in fact. Why did he hesitate? Why should that minute fact matter now, after similar facts havent mattered after fifteen hundred years?
Never, she reiterated. Then, looking leaning back in her chair, Do you remember when you told me on the roof of the Citadel that its never mattered who you killed if it was getting a job done?
That you wasnt in there tonight. Are you going to admit that you dont quite like that fact that youre going to have to kill a few elves? A few people who arent connected to a political body youre trying to subvert?
Duncan felt a bit cornered by his partner. She read him pretty damn well, though. Maybe shed have some insight as to this sudden change in his perception of contract killing. It couldnt hurt to tell her it was bugging him, could it?
Okay, fine, he admitted, taking a sip of his drink. It did bug me. Something about it didnt seem right. Whats bothering me more, though, is that I can never remember caring about something like that before. I always did what I needed to do to achieve my goals. Thats been the story of things for almost my entire life. The fact that elves die instead of Dominioners seems trivial, or at least, it should seem trivial.
Interesting Kyrie said, stroking her chin with a hand. Do you want to hear my hypothesis?
You have a hypothesis already?
Of course! she said.
Fine, then. Whats your hypothesis?
I think your lack of connection to Chaos is the reason.
I think youre changing because you dont have Chaos in you anymore. I think thats the only logical explanation for the sudden birth of a conscience.
Surprisingly, this almost made sense. If it hadnt been scientifically proven, it had at least been historically proven that Chaos warped perceptions on things. People who harness it tend to become power mad, which explains why situations regarding Lavoids on civilized worlds are almost always accompanied by a ruler bent on world domination or eternal life or something of that nature. Civilizations that harness Chaos have a history of going the way of the dinosaur, and even the LEA was no exception.
I suppose that makes sense, Duncan admitted slowly.
So now comes the bigger question. Is this a bad thing? Kyrie asked, happy that for once, she actually seemed to have helped Duncan figure something out beyond what missiles to order or where the nearest Lavoid to kill was.
No he said. Just a bit disconcerting. Again, this is a bit different from what Im used to. Im still going to do the job; that much has stayed the same. But there is that little bit in the back of my head that says that theres something wrong because Im not killing the bad guys.
Maybe that little bit will get bigger in time, Kyrie said, raising an eyebrow. Youve only been disconnected from Chaos for a week. Who knows how youll see things a month from now, or a year from now. Youll have to keep me informed of any other differences that you feel in your perception of things. I want to try and help you through this.
Yeah, Duncan said with a slow nod. Id like that. Kyrie smiled and he quickly furrowed his brow. Not a word of this to anyone, though! he said. If word gets out that Duncan McKlane has lost even a bit of his edge, I dont know what would become of me. God, Lucent would never let me hear the end of it.
Fine, fine, she said with a smirk. Dont worry. No one will know that the precision battle machine that is Duncan McKlane might actually have some humanity in him. She sprung to her feet and bounced across the room to grab a bottle of soda pop from the refrigeration unit.
I was happy when I found out they had these, she said, holding the bottle of dark liquid up. Theyre not exactly the most elven drink in the world, but I do like them ever so much.
I didnt think steak was a particularly elven thing to eat, either, Duncan said. Thats why I was surprised when thats what Cyrius served us. Kyries eyes suddenly went wide with remembrance.
Oh, yeah, that reminds me. I found the strangest thing in Cyriuss medicine cabinet
Cyrius was still in the process of fixing his robes as he appeared from the teleporter on Floor 53 where Ariana was waiting for him.
So McKlanes in? Ariana asked as they quickly began pacing towards a debriefing room where Eltharion and Imbrandir would be waiting for them.
Yup, Cyrius said with a satisfied look. Were a go for Stage 3 in five days. We may even be able to persuade Miss Kyrial to hack us the information on the Dominion Garrison for the subsequent storm.
How is it possible that we dont already have those blueprints on record? she asked, surprised by what looked like a rare lack of preparation on Cyriuss part.
We have the blueprints, he said. I want to see if we can get information about guard postings and shift changes. Im not so worried about the kidnapping going off without a hitch. Whats trickier is invading a garrison without giving away the fact that its the Swordmasters doing the invading.
Why not use Duncan and his men for that? Ariana asked.
We need more men than that. I estimate itll be about a dozen. Hallas has also requested to be on that squad.
Getting antsy for some action? she asked.
I think hes finally coming to terms with the fact that Siria isnt going to actually get hurt, but he probably wants to blow off some steam. He might still be a bit pissed at me, but I was going to put him on that mission anyway.
You have a lot of faith in him.
Hes young, but hes gifted. Hes going to make a hell of a Swordmaster someday.
As he said this, they approached a door with the words Briefing Six emblazoned in grey, blocky font. The door slid open with a hiss and revealed two elves in white robes looking at the video wall in the back of the room. A pair of swords hung across each of their backs.
High Swordmaster! they said in unison as they turned to the door. Bother crossed their hands over their chest and bowed deeply.
Welcome home, Swordmasters, Cyrius said, approaching them and putting a friendly hand on each of their shoulders. Give me news from Nova.
Emperor Cain did not take kindly to our disinclination to acquiesce his request, Imbrandir said. He claimed he was simply protecting his interest.
Of course he did, Cyrius said, beginning to pace around the room. He was aware of the law that hes violating in making said request, though, correct?
Yes, Eltharion said. He implied you were threatening him. We told him, for lack of better words, to blow it out his ass.
You told the Emperor of the Sol Dominion to blow something out of his ass? Ariana asked, a bit confused.
Well, not quite like that, Imbrandir admitted. But the point was conveyed pretty well, in my opinion. They go through a lot of unnecessary protocols to try and intimidate those meeting with him, but they were mostly childish and uncreative human ploys. He turned to Ariana. No offense.
None taken, she said. Theres a reason I dont work for him anymore.
Did he look pissed off? Cyrius asked with a hopeful glance.
Absolutely furious, Eltharion said with a thin smile.
Fantastic! Cyrius said, nearly jumping into the air. This is great. Your conversations were recorded properly, I hope?
Crystal clear, Eltharion said. The anger in his voice is apparent. It should be reasonably simple to convince the Senate that Sirias kidnapping was an act on his part to leverage against us.
I certainly hope this all works out, Cyrius said. With any luck, the kidnapping alone will piss the Senate off enough so that when Cain accuses us of attacking one of his garrisons without any evidence that Eldar forces were behind it, theyll be ready to fight. If not, theyll be ready when he starts applying more pressure.
Is there anything else you need us for, sir? Imbrandir asked.
I dont believe so, he said. In fact, feel free to take tomorrow off, if you like. If everything has happened like I hope, your dealing with this situation so well may have been more helpful than I could have hoped.
Thank you, sir, they both said.
But, Imbrandir continued. Can I ask something?
Rumors are about that theres a planeswalker in the Tower, he said. Some say hes a pretty powerful one. We wanted to know if you were hiring outside agents.
Duncan McKlane is one of the most brilliant minds in this Galaxy, Imbrandir, let alone the single most accomplished lavoid hunter in the last thousand years. Cyrius said. So yes, there is a planeswalker around and he is a pretty powerful one. Hes going to be working with us, but when you see him in action, youll understand why Ive enlisted his help.
Aye, sir, Imbrandir said. High Swordmasters will be done. With that, they repeated the bow that they had greeted him with and left the room.
. Youre a goof sometimes in front of the men, Ariana said coldly. You jump around like a kid occasionally.
Ariana, if you had been planning something for the last eight hundred years and it was finally beginning to unfurl, you would jump like a kid, too. Were going to embarrass the Sol Dominion, Ariana, and were going to make Cain look completely incompetent.
Theres a war brewing between them and the Union, too, Ariana said. Things could become very chaotic.
Chaos Cyrius mused. Well, how brutally ironic.
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