I had seen in Duncan great promise for a warrior that would have the ability to outstrip any of those who stood in his way. I knew his father somewhat well, and I knew that if he had inherited even half of Lathains ability in a fight, combined with just half of his mothers knack for prescience, hed be able to give just about anything in the Multiverse a run for their money.
What ended up happening was that he was not just half the warrior and half the prophet, but perhaps twice the warrior and twice the prophet. Given the right training, there would be nothing that could bar his path, save Pyriorias herself. He would be an unstoppable machine, capable of mowing down Lavoids with the ease of a Tritanium Arc-wave Generator through cardboard.
So who is Duncan McKlane? He is a particularly powerful Planeswalker, heir to the Exterminatorum Adeptus, and possessor of enormous prophetic talent, gifted with amazing skills in the arts or war, and the caretaker of the stores of knowledge of the LEA; the semi-infinite knowledge database collected by my brother and sister Eternals and bestowed upon Lathain of Zeal.
Duncans undoing will not be one of skill. Duncan will suffer from the same mental instability that his father once did, until he too is able to kill off much of his emotions. It will be over-analysis that eats at him and self doubt that destroys him. Similar to his father, the only thing that will be able to kill Duncan McKlane will most likely be Duncan himself.
-From the Memoirs of Lucia the Warrior
Duck, spin, up, parry! Duncan whirled around and caught Lucents blade as the Eternal brought it down, then sidestepped to the left and lunged forward. Lucent easily parried the blade and swayed back to avoid Duncans continuation.
They fought in a simplistic arena with a brown and gold tiled floor. The outside of the fighting area was open to a seemingly endless stretch of grassy hills. In reality, nothing here was actually real. It was an illusion generated by the magical fluxes in the Nexus, which is where Lucent often took Duncan to train.
The blades had been clashing for hours, neither combatant giving in. The sharp clang of metal on metal resounded through the halls of their training room, just as it had since the beginning of the day. Lucent, the master, and Duncan the student, had been locked in this session that was supposed to have ended hours ago. Or at least, it could have if Lucent wasnt going slightly easy on the boy. Most spectacular of all, though, was that young Duncan (possibly only fifteen or sixteen at the time) was wearing a blindfold over his eyes. His entire end of the fight was being conducted by hearing.
Why am I wearing this stupid thing again, Lucent? young Duncan asked, making another swipe and setting up for a riposte as Lucent countered.
Fighters rely too much on their eyes, kid, the wise eternal said, slowly stepping back as he allowed Duncan to persist with a string of attacks. In order to truly master the fight, the warrior must be at one with the battle. Cut, swipe parry.
Basically, Lucent continued, you need to learn to feel out with senses other than your eyes. You need to be able to feel the flow of the battle.
Ive been rocking your flow all day, Duncan said arrogantly. Lucent let out a grin. When do I get my vision ba before Duncan could finish his sentence, there was a flurry of blades and a whipping sound as Lucent picked up his pace, got completely past Duncans defenses and had the hilt of his sword pressed up against Duncans neck, breathing heavily on the young mans face.
When you grow up, maybe, Lucent said, a cocky saunter returning to his voice. And learn to use your powers for more than just show.
Well, Duncan said, grinning widely. I may be showy, but at least I still have my balls he motioned his head downward to where he was holding a knife tentatively by Lucents crotch, having slipped it by Lucents defenses in their close-quarters flurry.
Hmph, Lucent said, frowning for a moment, then tipping the corners of his mouth up in a slight grin. He withdrew his sword and stepped back, saluting Duncan. After removing the blindfold, Duncan did the same.
Dont get cocky, Lucent said. Maybe I would have been castrated, but you would have been dead.
Well, at any rate, you wouldnt have ever been able to be cocky again, Duncan joked. They both chuckled.
Youre too much like your father was when he was your age, Lucent said, sheathing his sword.
Is that a bad thing?
It eventually got him killed, of course.
But that was when he was much older, was it not?
You Planeswalkers you dont seem to age like humans. Once you stop growing, its almost as if you lock into a state of maturity that doesnt change. Sort of like being eternally twenty as far as personality goes. Your dad may have been fifteen hundred years old when he died, but he still acted like a kid when he wasnt killing Lavoids. Maybe its the Chaos energy that keeps you people acting so young.
So his mentality was always the same?
Yes always hasty, always reckless. To be honest, he was my kind of guy. That ballsy attitude I could respect. I could always take him in a fight, though Lucent chuckled to himself. Duncan pondered it for a moment.
Am I condemned to that? Can I fight whats in my genes?
You can fight whatever you want, kid, Lucent said. Its what you can beat thats different. Theyre two very different things. I wouldnt get your hopes up about beating what your genes tell you. Its what makes your people less than well, less than the Eternals, he laughed to himself.
Then I use what you teach me to fight what I can?
You can use what I teach you to beat what you can, if youve been paying attention, Lucent said. But I dont remember ever teaching you anything about fighting your genetic code.
So I accept what Im given?
You accept what you want to accept. Sometimes you have a choice. God, why is this so damned complicated? Did I make you dizzy or something?
No, Im just
Youre thinking too hard. You people arent programmed for that.
Hey, Ill have you know that a Planeswalkers can
Oh, can it, kid, Lucent said. Im just yanking you chain. Take a joke. Duncan crossed his arms and gave Lucent a dirty look.
Fine, Duncan said, throwing aside the dagger that was still in his hand. Now, lets get back to what we were doing. No swords this time. Ive still got another seventeen styles that I was indoctrinated with last week and I need to practice them. Or, are you tired? he egged on, raising his fists.
Never tired enough, Lucent said with shrug, sliding his trench coat off, throwing it aside and raising his fists. Now have at you!
The Order of the Planeswalkers typically gathered once a year to discuss maters pertaining to the species in a formal setting. The Order has also been known to be called together, though, in certain times of pressing need. A new Crystain weapon new results with Chaos Magic experimentation the world teetering on the edge of destruction things like that.
Duncan, being one of the eldest (and certainly the most powerful) normally ran the meetings. They were typically held in a Safe zone, that is, an area towards the base of the Nexus where the proceedings were not susceptible to the meddling of foreign powers from within the Multiverse. In this safe zone they had actually constructed a fortress for their dwelling during the meetings of the Order. The Citadel of Black Wings -as it was sometimes called- was also the proverbial home to all Planeswalkers that wished to seek refuge there.
It hung in an area of empty space, the swirling energies of the Nexus hovering above it when one looked past the third dimension. Also around its planar location were the mists and space of the Beginning of Time, the observation point where the Marda took custodial care of the timelines. The citadel was some hundred stories high, the tallest tower culminating in a giant spire which acted as a hyper-powered magnet for Chaos energy used in the experiments that were often conducted there. There was an individual stateroom for each of the members of the Order, numbering some 150 Planeswalkers, as well as quarters for anyone that they were traveling with. These companions, however, were not allowed in the Central Chamber.
The actual assembly was held in this Central Chamber: a large ornate room on the forty first floor of the Citadel. The room, its architecture dating back to the time before the Second Fall, seated all the members of the Order comfortably (and in expensive leather, none the less) in a semicircular chamber that surrounded a central speaking podium, as well as the chairs for the leaders of the Order.
While the congregation had no real government to it, there were several Planeswalkers that were either appointed or elected to hold a certain semblance of moderation over the meetings. These officials sat in this central section on slightly raised platforms. The rest of the chamber itself was set in flights, each row of seats slightly above the one before it. The room itself had been designed to hold more Planeswalkers than were members at the time of its construction. Even when all of the Order was in attendance, some seats remained vacant.
Calling the Order together was never so difficult, as in 3789 ES they had established a communication system allowing every Planeswalker to be contacted when a meeting was being called. It had only been two days since Duncan had originally called the Order together, and already most of the Brotherhood had gathered at the Citadel of the Black Wings. The docking bays towards the based of the Citadel were already beginning to fill up with the ships of those who had arrived.
The collection of ships was quite a display. Spaceships, in an age of mass production and interstellar travel, were purchasable by any middle-class family. Many of them had been made cheap enough to completely replace what humans once called cars (since most transportation on a given planet was public). Like cars, though, they came in a wide array of shapes, styles, colors and price ranges.
Some ships were smaller, cheaper, and not as fast, maybe being likened to a Honda or a Saturn from Old Terra. Then, they ran up the line until you reached the most expensive ships owned by an individual. These, the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the modern age, were not only incredible performers, but symbols of status.
While some Planeswalkers chose to live modest lifestyles, it was much more frequent to see a Planeswalker in a position of wealth and power. They were a species that was, on the whole, faster and more intelligent, as well as more effective with manipulating people. Also, there were Planeswalkers like Duncan who made lifetimes worth of fortunes in the Lemange trade. With more money than he knew what to do with, he often simply gave finances (or even ships that were given to him as gifts) to other Planeswalkers. Ships like the Vendetta were some of the most expensive creations that an individual could own, save for Vacation Worlds sold to the ridiculously rich. All things considered and given the general wealth of the Order of Planeswalkers, the ships that filled the docks of the Citadel of the Black Wings represented an extremely pricey selection of exotic Super-Ships.
The Council would be meeting in a day or so, once the remainder of members arrived. Those who were early were able to take advantage of the luxurious facilities and gourmet meals prepared by a small army of mechanized master chefs.
It was designed to be this way for a reason. If the Order was ever being called with exception to the yearly gathering, it was in a time of problems. Properly furnished rooms to sleep in and hand-to-foot service sometimes alleviated the heavy hearted feelings that whet along with these problems. A normal human may never have wanted to leave the citadel, as it could be likened to an expensive resort. Planewalkers, though, were not normal humans. Some of them had grown to hate the Citadel in fact, as meeting there typically meant realizing bad news or impending war and death. It was here that bad news came out, and no one, human or Planeswalker, ever liked bad news.
Duncan currently rested in his own private room, his trenchcoat hanging haphazardly off of a chair worth many thousands of credits, his boots tossed aside, dirtying the silken carpets, and his form sprawled across the seven hundred and fifty thousand credit bed. His eyes were closed and he didnt appear to breath.
In a chair facing the fireplace that was set twelve feet from the foot of the bed, Kyrie sat with her legs crossed. In her hand was a portable computer which she used to go over the purchase of new weapons and repairs for the Vendetta. She wore a casual, close fitting brown tank-top and a pair of jeans that were ripped off three inches above the knees. She all but hated the extensively decorative robes and other garments that elves normally wore. A pair of mechanics goggles hung from her neck and her hair was tied up in a loose bun.
Do you have an estimated draw from the Lemange, yet? she asked him she examined the price listings for parts that her computer was offering her.
Not yet, Duncan said. But try to keep the spending under the five hundred grand line. I dont know if itll be more than that, yet.
Got it, she said. And by the way, you ever consider how much money was used to construct this place? she asked Duncan offhandedly. The Planeswalker opened his eyes.
Far too much? he asked. Im not actually sure. I wasnt responsible for designing the original plans. I suspect that the opulence of the place has only increased over the last millennium, though. To be honest, its quite a waste of material.
This from a man that sunk over fourteen billion credits into the ship the he flies around?
Yes, but that has a purpose, Duncan said, his face stiff. I hardly consider myself a man who flaunts status when it is unneeded. Its not like I kept any of the luxury features equipped. I ripped them all out to fit bigger engines, remember?
I remember, Kyrie said. I have been the one thats been maintaining them for the last few months. She smirked.
You suppose its the most expensive one here? he asked.
Probably, she agreed passively. And she hit a few buttons on her computer. When Im done with this latest order, I think youll be pleased.
New goods on the market?
Vector came out with a new energy conduction-type weapon, she said. Theyre about half the size of our current batteries, but with by using microtubules, theyve actually kept the power the same.
So Ill use the extra space for new power couplings and generators, which could effectively double the punch. That is, unless youre still opposed to linking a Chaos drive to the weapons she raised a hopeful eyebrow.
And create warp distortion cannons? Duncan asked. I think not. Lets keep away from Chaos weaponry. I like to even keep that drive silent if I can help it and you know that.
Fine, Kyrie said, slightly defeated. Other than that, Im just refilling our stocks of missiles, image recognition, heat seeking, homing and atomic, ordering new converters because the ones on the front left pulse cannons are burnt out, and looking into new forms of ammo for the vulcans. She hit a few more buttons, confirming the order, then closed the computer. Heavily, she rose from her seat and took one that was more close to the bed. She stared at Duncan for a few moments.
Yes? he finally asked.
You dont look well, she said. You look burdened. He managed a laugh.
Any more than usual? he asked.
I dont know, really. Ive just noticed it a lot these few weeks. Its more than just the Eldarion, Duncan. Somethings dragging you down, isnt it?
I think Ive always been burdened, Kyrie, he said, half-seriously. I cover it up better sometimes, but its the burden of these damnable genes. Its the burden of one hundred and fifty men that have come here today, and its the burden that our children will all have as well. Kyrie waited a moment before answering.
Youve .been working too hard, maybe, she said at length. Youve been through three Class As in the last two weeks alone. If it wasnt a day that you were traveling, you killed at least one Lavoid every day for the past month. You need a vacation. Dont you think you deserve it?
Ive never tried to take them, he said. Its because the fight is never over. Theres no time for me to take a break. Its become like a lust, though. The need to keep fighting them always pulls me back before I can get away.
Has it always been like that? He thought about it for a moment.
For as long as I can remember, he admitted. There was a pause. Duncan passively rose from the bed and walked over to a cabinet on the eastern wall. Opening up a draw, he drew out a bottle of liquor and procured a glass from the shelf above the countertop. He poured the liquor into the glass and took a few ice cubes from a container, dumping them into the glass as well. Slowly, he tossed back the glass and drank half of the liquid in glass.
You know, you still havent told me what youre going to discuss in the meeting. she said, making conversation. And since I dont get to go in there
You sure havent had this discussion with you, yet?
Nope, she said honestly. You came back up to the ship and pretty much went immediately to sleep, you remember. You just told me to call the meeting. Ive hardly even heard you speak these last few days. Youll have to excuse me if I worry about you, sometimes. You are, after all, my partner.
You really shouldnt, Duncan said. Im not worth it.
Are you getting manic-depressive on me? What makes you think that?
All I can do is fight he said. He threw back the glass, finishing the liquor, and rolled his neck around to look at her. All my life, thats all Ive been able to do. Its not like Im unable to do other things, it just seems like I cant get away from this fight. Its like some sort of bloodlust I just keep coming back.
You never tried to get away?
You know me, Kyrie. Time wasted in vacation is time that could be better spent. I dont believe in trying to get away. He refilled the glass with a slightly larger quantity than before. He put it on the counter top and took a second glass out of the cabinet.
Because my father tried that, he said, pouring another glass. He tried to get away. It was before he believed in Destiny. He tried to fight what the timelines were telling him to do. He tried to fight what Fate was insisting upon. It ended up nearly driving him insane before he finally accepted his role. I, on the other hand, dont have the luxury of trying to escape. Do you know what I mean? Its because I see things. I already know that theres a way and a flow to things. Why fight it? Combating the Lavoids has been something that not only was I born to do, its something Ive been brought up to do. I can see the timeline, Kyrie. I know thats all there is for me. He handed her one of the newly poured glasses
You never dream of something more? she asked, taking a sip.
I dont know, she admitted. I certainly never expected my life to take me where it is now, but I always manage to hope for something more. I sort of hope for freedom from what were doing now. You know, that someday we dont have to fight anymore, and I can grow old somewhere? I have to settle down eventually, you know?
Have a family? Duncan asked in slight disbelief.
Sure, she said. Meet someone, maybe. I dont know. Something different than fighting all the time? You say that the only thing you know is fighting, but its just because youve never tried anything else.
And where have your travels taken you, Kyrie? Hadnt you been searching for a way to fight them before you met me?
Ive been all over the place, she said. Ive seen the sights of the galaxy, after all. I didnt so actively fight the Lavoids before we partnered up.
And what did you do before you met me? he asked, half not believing that there was anything outside of fighting against his foresworn foes. Youve had it out for them since I met you when you were little. Destruction of your homeworld can do that to you, so its understandable, but what did you occupy yourself with before you found someone to use the weapons that you make to fight them?
Moved around a lot, I guess, she said, somewhat dispassionately. Trying to get away from home? I never liked my home much. Too many bad memories there.
Have you gone back since? he asked.
Once, she said, after a pause. And even then I went back under false identity. I didnt want the homecoming celebration, you know? I just wanted to check up on people, not have them welcome me back. I knew I wouldnt be staying. That was .nearly a thousand years ago.
Its a long time to go without being home, isnt it? Duncan asked.
Well, thats how Ive always been, too. Even here in this Citadel this isnt my home. I dont even know what planet I was born on. Were drifters, Kyrie. We just wander in search of the next adventure.
And those adventures had just happen to lead us to each other, I guess, she said, with a slight grin. Two equally lost people with two equally lost causes. They both chuckled and took sips of their drinks.
About your homeworld, Duncan said. Tell me about it.
It was very peaceful, she said. There were a lot of trees and water and the cities were amazing. All the cities in the Dominion look the same. They seem to only hold the goal of fitting as many people as possible. The cities on Ithilian were all made with the goal of architectural display. Youve never really seen beauty until youve seen an elven skyscraper
And your family?
Just as dead as yours, I guess, she said. He didnt respond, and there was an awkward silence.
Sorry Kyrie said after a few more seconds. That was cold. I forget that some people dont shirk it off like I do. Duncan didnt answer right away. He looked to the floor and swallowed down what was left in his glass. Again, he paused, closed his eyes for a moment, then looked at her.
Im used to the cold he finally said, reaching for his trench coat and putting it on.. Im going for a walk He threw his coat on and walked out of the room, not looking back at her. By herself, she sat in thought.
Swift, Kyrie, she thought to herself. Way to piss off the guy whos already under the stress of the entire galaxy. Whats eating him out? His family was killed by a Lavoid just like mine. I feel like theres more to this, though. Lord, there has to be shit that happened to him that I dont even want to know about
She shrugged and rose from her seat, exiting the room and following Duncan, hoping to get to the bottom of what was bugging him.
Thats always how she was. If there was something bothering someone close to her, she wasnt about to leave it alone. Talking was the best way to solve a problem, she always said, and she figured that her task as his friend was to try and get him to talk about what was wrong and attempt making him feel better. But, she sometimes wondered if she wasnt as close to him as she thought. Duncan seemed to push things away that got too close. They had known each other for so long, yet he shied away from ever opening up to her with what he was thinking. That was no reason to give up on it, of course, but it sometimes made things more difficult. Then again, maybe he didnt want to open up to her because he was afraid of what she might find
The corridor outside the room was long, so she could still see his figure down the way. She lightly jogged to catch up.
Duncan, wait, she called. He paused and spun halfway around.
Dont go, she said. Stay and talk. That was the first time weve sat and done something other than talk shop in months. We never talk anymore.
Sometimes its with good reason, Kyrie, he said. She pouted. Glancing briefly at her saddened face, he let out a sigh.
Dont do that, he said.
Do what? she asked, a smile creeping out of the corner of her mouth.
That pouting thing. You know I hate that.
Im not doing anything, she said again, reverting to her pout.
I swear, he said finally, shaking his head. He sighed again. Follow me, then. I know a good place to go
Duncan took Kyrie to a place where he always made time to come by himself while he was at the Citadel. It was up by the highest spire on a walkway below the giant magic conductor that channeled Chaos energy into the Citadels laboratories for experiments. The Chaotic energies were strong there, but the images of Chaos being conducted into the third dimension created an optical show that couldnt be matched by anything else in the Multiverse. And, speaking of the Multiverse, if one gazed into time-space, the swirling energies of the Nexus hovered above the spire, some of the light blending with that of the malignant forces of Chaos, creating an aurora borealis like none other.
I trained Lucent from the ages of fourteen till fifty, he said. Over thirty five years of instruction from the most complete collection of knowledge in the Multiverse. It was just a blink of an eye for him, sure, but my father had already killed over a hundred Lavoids by the age I was when I finally left my training.
What does this have to with anything?
Just think about it. My dad had been far on his way at the age I was still training.
But youre stronger than he was, werent you? Kyrie asked. Everyone that talks about you behind your back claims that youre stronger than your father was.
Perhaps I am, he said. But with that increased strength comes increased responsibilities. Or rather, should come increased responsibilities.
What do you mean?
Look at the Eternals. Look at Lucent. Hes probably one of the ten most powerful beings in the Multiverse, yet he shirks off whatever responsibility should come with that power. He could have gotten rid of all the Lavoids at this point, if he wanted to.
Then why hasnt he? Why dont the Eternals fight with you?
Lucia once told me the reason he said, looking up to the Chaos magnet. She told me that if they were to kill off all the beings that thrived on the suffering of others and the destruction of worlds, they would have to come after the humans even before the Lavoids. Kyrie didnt answer.
It makes sense, Duncan continued. Look what humans do to the worlds that they live on. Look what they do to each other. Look at the Dominion, for Iluvitars sake. Theyve created nothing but a mess for themselves to live in, and whos to blame? Even the elves and the elijiaians are guilty of benefiting from the suffering of others. In truth, there probably isnt a single living creature in this universe that doesnt do so. So what do we do?
I dont know, she admitted.
Nor do I, Duncan said, speaking as if he just secured a point. Which is why all I can do is fight. The Lavoids and their actions have brought me nothing but suffering through my entire life. I fight them not for the benefit of the Multiverse. If I were a pure benefactor as my father claimed himself to be, I too would have to seek to destroy the humans as well.
I never looked at it like that, Kyrie said, looking down to the ground.
Its the only thing I know how to do, Kyrie. But consider that for a moment. Consider what it must feel like to know that the only thing you excel at is killing other living things. To know that the only thing you are good at is adding to the circle of killing? He asked the question with an eerie calm. No sign of emotional distress was visible.
But youre doing people a good service! You save people from the destruction that the Lavoids bring. You saved me.
Sometimes actions that are wrong have benevolent consequences, but do the ends really justify the means?
Do you believe they do?
The ends I achieve are different than how they appear. People think that my goal is to liberate planets and that I reach it by killing. No one considers that saving people is more or less just a side effect that comes from the killing. Granted, saving people is a good thing. I dont deny that, but I never feel like I kill to save. Every Lavoid I kill, ever bit of information that I get it leads me one step closer to finding a way to kill Pyriorias. Thats always been my driving force. If I help people in the process, thats wonderful, but for ever planet that I liberate, consider how many Lavoid underlings die. Is it fair for them to die because they follow the instinct that the one Lavoid instills in them?
Youve had a lot of time to think about this, havent you? Kyrie asked.
Hundreds of years, Duncan said. My individuality has had over a millennium to establish itself. I figured out what I think about myself years ago. He looked at her. Kyrie, youre very lucky in what abilities you have. You have the talent to design to create. He looked back towards the magnet. When the powers that you have been given are those of destruction, you cant help but ponder the destruction that you cause.
Do you ever feel remorse for what you do? she asked. He didnt respond. There was an awkward silence for a moment while he considered the answer or perhaps just pretended to consider the answer.
No, he said at length. Never. Even those underlings, those who are just following orders I feel no remorse. Too much time on the battlefield has bled me of my remorse.
How about the time you spent in the armed forces of the respective galactic powers? Kyrie asked. In that time, you were killing humans. Did you regret that? He paused.
Again, its the same original question. I was enlisted in order to gain information about the military structure of the galactic powers that I served. The fact that I ended up killing was a byprodect of the means I was using to achieve an ends She didnt respond for a moment.
Youre heartless she said finally, a look of grief coming over her face.
I know, Duncan said. He winced and a small tear came down his cheek. He turned to look at her. Now do you understand? Why I dont always want to talk? I cant help being how I am its my genes and my experiences. They made me this way. Kyrie looked at him briefly, then gazed back out into the nothingness.
Yes she said. I think I do understand. Its what you dont like about yourself. Its why you keep distant. Youre sorry for it.
I am sorry because I feel no sorrow, Duncan said, musing over the irony. And that is perhaps the biggest pain of all
But isnt just blaming it on your genes an excuse? Shouldnt you be trying to take control of your own feelings and figure things out for yourself, as opposed to just accepting genetic domination?
Another debate for another day, Kyrie, he said, grinning for the first time all night. For now, I have a meeting to attend to. He walked past her, heading towards the door. After a few steps, though, he paused.
Were not so much different, are we, Kyrie? he asked. When you boil things down to it we are more alike than it would seem.
Perhaps thats why weve ended up together in this awkward coalescence, she said, managing a smile. But, as you said, thats a different debate for a different day.
He nodded his head, and then walked back into the Citadel.
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