The Junior Harvester Tales

By [SK] Furball

Part 4

Chapter XV

Fire-Rage Mexican Connection and Keeper Torm are standing at rigid attention. They are not having a good day...

"We had two breaches today gentlemen" comes a softly spoken voice from in front of them. Yet no person is visible there.

It is a remarkable voice. Like the gaze of a cobra...hypnotizing, haunting and riveting. Reminding the listeners of velvet over Crystalluminum. Right now, it has their full attention.

"I think you understand why we are having this conversation. Am I correct?" the voice queries.

"Yes Sir!" they fairly shout. Eyes locked straight ahead, not daring to so much as breathe.

"Unfortunate this is. Yes, yes. Unfortunate. I want no others. Is that Clear?"

"Yes Sir!"

"Then you may depart for your assignments" directs the disembodied voice.

Razor sharp salutes fry the air as M-C and Torm turn and depart.

Closing the door and walking away from the room, Torm glances at his senior officer, says "THAT was fun!" and grimaces.

Mexican Connection walking beside him, nods and says "..heard that brother!"

Torm looks sideways and says out of the corner of his mouth "And you were the one who spilled it and said it wouldn't leak through!"

Mex Connect just sighs as he walks. "I know, it's my fault. Okay!? Satisfied!?" He looks over at Torm and sees he's smiling.

MC pats his friend on the shoulder and says "Come on, we still have lot's to do tonight!"

They walk on down a dimly lit, seldom used corridor.

Behind them, in the darkend room they have just quit, the darkness seems to move and shift. As if someone is there...

Chapter XVI

Furball is contemplating his life. Coming from the life of a wanderer, a loner, a 'scavenger' (and thief at times past if the truth be known); he has never had so much as now.

Living in the Stormkeep, surrounded by his brother and sister warriors of the Order of Chaos and Calm, he knows for the first time what the word 'family' can mean. Accepted and cared for, trusted with responsibilities and duties, expected to be honorable and of high moral fibre; Furball is learning at last what it truly means to be 'Human'.

The Order of Chaos and Calm. Order. Chaos. Calm.

Could it be that The 'Order' denotes 'Ordering' OF Chaos and Calm? Could that be it? Structure to Chaos? Can such a thing exist?

Furball's mind is spinning with these thoughts and more as he waits in the Close for Services to begin...

"For Salvation. For Xacalon. For The Darkstar."

Earthmaster Sabbath has stepped up to the rostrum in the Center of the Close and begun the services. All rise.

Each Service begins and ends with the same intonation, recited by all, learned during Initiation -

"Our great Aldur Xacalon had a Vision. A vision bestowed upon by the Omni-Factor, The Darkstar.

The Omni-Factor revealed to our Aldur the Truth behind the Great Age of Strife, where those of flesh-born will be tested seven times. The Seven Tests begins with a dark being who came to be known as Prometheus.

Our Aldur foresaw the victories of humankind in the first five tests, but the final tests were to be judged by The Darkstar, something the great Aldur Himself was forbiddened to see.

The Omni-Factor warned our Aldur that a warrior-race from a distant galaxy whom The Darkstar had chosen will descend upon Terra Mater in the Test before the Judgement. We shall seek help from the Holy Warriors of The Circle. Only then, does humankind stand a chance against the new enemy.

The Omni-Factor warned again, "Beware those of flesh-born, yet are not of flesh".

And the final warning, "My coming ..."

With the Three Warnings, Aldur Xacalon created the Order of Chaos and Calm, The Stormkeepers.

We have come a long way, The Third Test has begun.

For Salvation! For Xacalon! For The Darkstar!" -

The Close fairly shook with the shouted ending of the Great Intonation. Furball couldn't repress the shivers that run up his spine every time he hears these words and participates in Service. Each time he hears and recites the words learned during his days as a Stormkeeper Initiate, he thinks he is beginning to understand a little more what they mean...and what it might REALLY mean to be a Stormkeeper.

The Order of Chaos and Calm. The Order. Some called them human renegade warriors. Others said they were some kind of 'Warrior Monks'. Some called their religious views 'extreme'. All respected them. Many feared them.

His mind travels back to his days in the Stormkeep as an Initiate. Just out of the med bay, an eye patch over the wound below his eye, his short-term amnesia troubling him, he felt so completely lost. Overwhelmed by the sheer physical presence of the building he now found himself in.

Initiation is a wondrous time! At once terrifying, merry, sacred, mystifying, comforting and familial. New friendships begin to form, a sense of family and protectedness surrounds the new men and women brought into the Stormkeep. Like a child newly forming in it's mother's womb, Initiates are kept within the 'Keep during their formation days. In this manner, they can be watched over, steeped in lore and observed as to their progress. During this time, Initiates are started down a lifetime of instruction about The Stormkeepers that never ends.

"For violence is easy. It is Calm that requires a lifetime's worth of training."

"It is only when a warrior is Calm, and his life is Ordered; that he or she may apply Chaos in required measure".

He could still hear Sabbath reciting these words to him and his fellow Initiates during those first few days. Each day newer and more exciting than the last as he was shown around the Stormkeep. Instructed in Order Heirarchy, Order history and lore, proper respectful behavior towards senior officers and for Services in the Close. Enough to make his head swim!

During Initiation, each new member is instructed on the basic physical hand to hand combat moves that the warriors of Chaos and Calm continue to practice. They practice these moves for the physical strengthening they impart, to keep themselves strong so may continue to protect the Order and their fellow Stormkeepers. And to practice the contemplation that only comes from physical exertion.

"You must learn that Chaos and Calm are required for perfection in battle" Furball remembers hearing Sabbath recite over and over during their sessions. Some times, it would be basic hand-held weapons instruction, sometimes it would be hand to hand combat practice; and others would be exercises in contemplation and Calm.

"Clear your mind young man!" Sabbath commanded him.

"Hear the sound of the Universe!"

"What?" he thinks! Furball was always confused by this one statement. "How can I hear a whole Universe Counsellor?" he queried Sabbath during one session.

"Furball, the sound of the Universe ITSELF is Chaos and Calm. We find our way through life with the help of the Darkstar, but it is up to us to hear the Universe on our own!"

"But Sabbath, what is the sound of the Universe? I still don't understand?" Furball replies to his Counsellor as he shakes his head.

"Chaos and Calm Furball.... Chaos and Calm." he smiles at his young charge.

"In time, you'll begin to understand. For now, it is enough that you know the Universe HAS a sound. It is up to you to learn how to hear it."

Furball shakes himself out of his reverie and realizes he has missed the opening discussion of Combat Tactics and Contemplation by Tempestaldur Hanuman.

The Order, during it's services, stresses the balance of violence and peace, Chaos and Calm. The practice of controlled violence to achieve balance in any tactical situation. All Furball knew was that what he was hearing was WAY over his head.

"And remember ' is through the controlled and precise application of the Alpha Strike, both on the Battlefield and within our own minds and hearts, that we can achieve balance and Order!" Hanuman was saying.

"WHAT?" thought Furball. "What the Darkstar does that mean" he thinks.

The Service continues on in this vein, readings of tomes on Contemplation juxtaposed by readings on particle physics.

Until finally the Service concludes and the assembled Stormkeep personnel rise to recite again the Great Intonation.

"For Salvation! For Xacalon! For The Darkstar!" the Close resounds again as the Service concludes.

Furball, sitting near the front of the Close, behind the Initiates, begins to file out with his fellow Harvesters. In the Stormkeeper assemblage, the newest members are placed closest to the Close Center.

Walking out behind the Keepers, Furball glances over at the Harvester next to him. Harvester Vortex has the same confused, bewildered look that Furball is sure is on his face.

He takes a little comfort from that and squares his shoulders.

Chapter XVII

The Stormkeep is a mammoth structure. No. Mammoth is not ENOUGH of a word to describe it.

A combination of Fortress, Cloister, City and University.

Consisting of living quarters capable of housing all the members of the order and more. Refectories, shops, offices, classrooms, laboratories, simulator facilities, exercise rooms, libraries and more.

As an Initiate and now Harvester, there are many places in the 'Keep that Furball is not permitted to enter. This suits him just fine. As it is, there is more to the place than he feels he could learn in three lifetimes!

Below ground are the Herc bays. Protected from direct assault by meters of ground and rock, the real might of The Order lies below, hidden from view. But not quiescent.

Radiating outward from below the sub-levels of The Stormkeep; access tunnels large enough for Herc's to move through lead outward from the main Herc bays. Circular tunnels, connecting the main access thruways, also radiate outwards from the central core of the Stormkeep. The main Herc bays lie at the end of each main access tunnel closest to the 'Keep. In this manner, with Herc bays facing outward, the Stormkeepers can respond to any threat from any direction.

Numerous access venues leading to the surface are available from many points in the tunnel complex. Additionally, should any enemy manage to penetrate the tunnel complex, the numerous junctions, curves and corners provide excellent killing zones and ambush points.

To say that the Stormkeep is a fortress well protected and surcharged with power would be just barely describing what lies within...

To Be Continued...