The Sixth Hall of Learning
Kunlun Mountains, China
October 2836 IST
The children sat in neat rows, despite the lack of seating arrangements in
the form of chairs and tables. Some of them seemed glued to the datapads they
held in their hands as they scrutinised the tiny print on the screens. Others,
unmindful perhaps of the resultant power drain on their xenium-hydrate
batteries, projected their screens into the air from the miniature lens
assemblies built into their datapads. They scrolled through the holographic
panes absently, browsing the sparse set of pre-lesson notes they had been
given. The rest simply sat as they were, gazing intently upon the legendary
figure that would be giving them their history lesson today.
The notes had said something about a battle on the planet Mars. That had
caught the children's curiosity. It was considered an honor to be told the
story first-hand, or so the Elders had said. They sat and waited for the
teacher to begin.
In front of the assembled pupils, at the center of a gently curving
platform raised slightly above floor level, [SK] Vociferous stood alone, tall
and resplendent in the red ceremonial robes befitting someone with a level of
Fire Rage. Grasping the remote in his hand, he turned it over, and yet
again. It seemed to satiate an inner need to do something - anything - at all
times. A habit that others might have called fidgeting - though no-one had
accused him of that after having witnessed him explode into action from what
seemed like a standing start. That was yet another habit of his - one that had
kept him alive more than once on the battle fields. It had seemed like such a
long time ago..
Vociferous glanced at his eager audience. The Cluster Mentor had informed
him earlier that they were all between 12 and 13 years of age. Which meant that
they were no more than 6 or 7 when the Starsiege had begun. And this was the
reason that he had been invited to teach this class. The next generation had to
be taught the lessons of the past. Lest they forget, and repeat the same
mistakes that had brought the entire Human race to the brink of extinction in
the first three Tests of Mankind. They had managed to pull through these - but
only barely. With the Fourth Test prophecised to arrive an unknown number of
generations down the road, it was imperative that the survivors of the Third
Test pass down the lessons learnt - and prepare their successors for the rigors
Clearing his throat, Vociferous began.
Vociferous started with an account of the Cybrid landings on the Planet Mars
in the time period beginning at 2830.1302, Imperial Standard Time. With an
extremely fast pace and his trademark attention to technical detail, he regaled
the students with stories of how the defenders of the Stormkeepers' Shadowstorm
and Stormkeep Bases, together with their allies from the combined Human
Alliance, had fought off the Cybrids long enough to evacuate most of the
people who had sought refuge there.
Clicking on the remote, Vociferous listened to the children's ooh's
and aah's as he brought up holographic imagery of the recorded footage
onto giant virtual screens to his immediate left and right. There were scenes
of furious, desperate battles as entire squads of Human HERCs faced off against
the overwhelming numbers of the alien Cybrid hordes. The children cheered upon
seeing [SK] Zeke take down a two-legged, walking monster of destruction that
was a 90-ton Executioner in his anti-gravity Predator tank. At
the scene where Vociferous himself blew both legs off a fierce-looking Cybrid
Adjudicator with linked particle beams, they clapped heartily. They
cheered again, even louder this time, when Vociferous showed them the gunsight
sequences from [SK] Hanuman's Talon which showed Hanuman calmly lining
up a Cybrid Nexus in his targeting reticule and then calling for orbital
bombardment from the skies. They winced when they saw the subsequent zoom-in
top-down view from the orbitplat that showed Hanuman and his wingman [SK]
Kitsura running for their lives, energy beams and missiles from the pursuing
Cybrid forces reaching out for their vehicles.
The footnotes at the bottom of the screens shifted rapidly as Vociferous
called up video sequences from a multitude of locations. As scene after scene
was flashed across the screens, the pupils began to grasp the meaning behind
the numbers scrolling across the footnote area. One of these showed : "Battle
ID #2830.1303-Z26B. Cybrid Forces: HERCs-66, tanks-68, flyers-38. Human Forces:
HERCs-27, tanks-23, flyers-5. Total vehicle ratio: 3.127-to-1." Some of the
children started to cry when the glowing numbers showed that there were no
human survivors left over from many of the battles.
Vociferous found himself blinking rapidly too, as he remembered his fallen
comrades in some of the battles shown. He recalled that most of these video
sequences had been selected by Eidolon. Darkstar bless her, she had understood
the need to include some of the more pivotal points in the campaign to defend
Mars, although that meant dredging up all those memories of his friends, and
brothers-in-arms, screaming into the radio-nets as their vehicles broke up into
a thousand pieces that scattered over the surface of the dusty-red planet. His
right stick hand twitched involuntarily as he remembered how he had sat in his
HERC, pulling on the trigger, firing away fixedly on the Cybrids charging madly
toward him, all the while listening to the screams that would give him
recurring nightmares for the next few months.
Yes, the memories were painful, Vociferous thought as he looked at the
gathered pupils staring with rapt attention at the chilling imagery. But - the
children - they had to know. They needed to know.
Drawing himself to his full height, Vociferous continued his speech.
"As you know by now, despite our... very best efforts, we were unable to
evacuate everyone off the planet. When the Cybrids overwhelmed our last
defenses and swarmed into our spaceports..." his voice trailed off as he
recalled what had happened next. He had dismounted from his mortally-wounded
Apocalypse and had suited up in the StormTrooper powered armor he had
stowed away behind his cockpit. He had intended to go hand to hand with the
Cybrids if it came to that - when the world around him turned a crazily uniform
white as the orbital bombardments ordered as a last-ditch measure began trying
to pick off the Cybrids one by one. It was akin to attempting to smite ants
with a sledgehammer - clumsy, inelegant, carrying with it a risk of killing off
as many friendlies as it did enemies - but there was, at the time, no other
Blown some tens of meters away, he had somehow been flung next to [SK]
Venom. Vociferous recalled that he had noted with some shock that the Stormkeep
Base Commander had seemed possessed, yelling incoherently as he struggled to
handle a heavy StormTrooper-scale blaster cannon without the benefit of the
powered armor. He had even succeeded somewhat, managing to drop the shields of
a nearby Goad before a particle beam from the M-1 orbitplat speared the
Cybrid menace neatly in the head.
Vociferous had himself gone rather insane at the moment, and had bodily
lifted Venom despite the latter's curses and threats into the nearest waiting
transport. The [SSK] Alacrity had been the last ship to lift off
ShadowStorm Base - and was the last vessel accounted for before the
Stormkeepers Fleet had pulled out of the orbit of Mars altogether.
Vociferous shook his head. There was no need to go into that much
detail today. Furthermore, he disliked hero worship and had always sought
to discourage it whenever he could. Perhaps, someday, somebody else might
yet tell his tale.
As he clicked on the remote, he took his narrative in a new direction.
"Those of whom were left behind on Mars were quickly hunted down by the
Cybrids. The sacrifice of the brave crew on board the Mars Orbital Defense
Platform M-1 bought our combined fleets the time to cloak and slip past the
Cybrid warfleet. It also confused the Cybrid ground forces long enough for our
StormTrooper infantry to lead many of the refugees into the underground bases
and tunnels and seal themselves off from the outside world."
Vociferous went on to tell the pupils how conditions were like in the
sealed-off passages, as the refugees struggled to cope with the critical
shortages in medical supplies, food, water, and sometimes air itself. He told
the children how the Cybrids had tried to follow the fleeing humans into the
tunnels, pitting their alien soldierforms against the humans' power-armored
infantry and, at least initially, the formidable internal defenses of the
fortress-like underground bases. He spoke of the panic that ensued when the
refugees discovered Trojan-Horse Cybrid humanforms hidden among them. Riots and
internal fighting had broken out, and more lives had been lost when some crazed
militant groups decided to take it upon themselves to shoot their own people at
random. It had taken a massive effort, including the use of hidden brain-wave
scanners and the imposition of strict martial law by the military forces, to
clamp down on the riots and, from there, to impose order and slowly weed out
the dangerous Cybrid humanforms, who were often so well-disguised that it took
many months to flush them out - and even then, the Remnants, as some of the
refugees had taken to calling themselves, lived under a dark cloud of fear as
no-one could be sure that the Trojan Horses had all been discovered.
"In the two long years that these people were trapped in there, surviving
on supplies meant to last less than a year, they had only one hope - that
the Human race would eventually win the war, that they would be remembered,
and that the Fleet would return to rescue them."
Vociferous continued, "The Remnants - they knew that it was one slim hope,
one that faded with the passing of time, but Hope was all they had left. With
the exception, perhaps, of Faith..."
"Teacher, what is Faith?" a red-haired, white-robed girl asked as she put up
Vociferous paused for a while as he tried to put the meaning into words
simple enough for the children to understand.
"Faith is... what you believe in. Actually, it is something that is a little
more than that - it is what you know in your heart to be true. Faith is
like knowing that the Sun will set in the west today evening, and knowing that,
when you wake up the next morning, it will rise again, in the east. You have
faith in the Sun, because you know it will always be there. It is easy - you
can see it for yourself, right?"
Most of the pupils nodded their heads vigorously. This much was obvious
Vociferous continued, "For us in the Stormkeepers, Faith is knowing,
in our hearts, that the Darkstar is always there, watching over us, even though
it may not be as easy, because we do not see it every day like we see the Sun.
Faith, also, is knowing that the words passed down by our Aldur, Xacalon, ring
true to this very day. As you very well know, Xacalon was so very right about
the first Three Tests of Mankind. We have Faith in Xacalon. We know that the
rest of what he has said - what he has prophecised - will be true in
time to come. We have faith in the words of Aldur Xacalon. As we have faith in
The children pondered over Vociferous's words. Some of them frowned,
concentrating intently as they thought deep thoughts about the Sun and the
Darkstar. Others merely mouthed the word "Xacalon" slowly, for they had
been taught about the Aldur's Three Warnings from a very early age,
repeated by their parents over and over again, sometimes before they had the
language skills needed to even begin to understand the meanings in the ominous
A small hand rose in the dimly-lit hall.
"Teacher, may I ask another question?" the brown-robed boy four rows down
from the front whispered hesitantly in an almost inaudible voice.
Vociferous looked at the boy, and nodded in a way that he hoped looked
encouraging enough. "Yes, go ahead please."
The boy looked around the hall a few times before he drew in a small
breath, letting it out slowly as if in a sigh.
"What is the Darkstar?"
As the children drew in a collective gasp, the boy sat down quickly,
gathering his arms and legs together. His hands started to reach for the hood
of his robe and made as if to draw it over his head, but they stopped short as
he remembered the rules he had been taught. His face betrayed the sudden fright
that had seemed to take over his small frame. From where he was standing,
Vociferous could not be very sure, but he thought he saw the boy
It was a simple question. Simple enough to ask, but, on the other hand,
attempting to answer it was another thing altogether.
Vociferous thought for a while, reflecting on what the Darkstar meant
personally to him. A year ago, just after his promotion to Fire Rage,
[SK] Sabbath had brought him to the Temple of Xacalon which was located in a
hidden subterranean level within the Stormkeepers' Darkstorm Headquarters. It
was a place that was shown only to "those who could handle it" - as Sabbath had
Standing in front of the jet-black Darkstar Orb floating in the exact center
of the temple, Vociferous had experienced a brief, ephemeral moment of perfect
peace as his fingers brushed lightly against the strange, constantly-shifting
surface of the alien artifact. It was as if time itself had stood still at that
moment. In a sudden clarity of vision that had somehow became all-encompassing,
Vociferous had seen himself, the temple, and then the entire Kunlun mountain
range, zooming out to enclose the Planet Earth, the Solar System, and expanding
rapidly beyond. He had been quite sure that if he had strained the vision just
a little further, he might have gone to the very edge of space and
caught a glimpse of the Darkstar itself.
In that one instant, he saw himself as who he really was, and came to an
understanding of his place in the Universe.
It was a humbling thought.
And yet Sabbath had told him that the Orb was but a simplified
representation of what the Darkstar represented - something that weaved in and
out of this plane of existence, something that was there, and yet somehow not
there at the same time. Something that was alive, and yet not alive, watching
over the Galaxy with its mystical senses...
Now, that would be a little difficult to explain to a bunch of 12-
and 13-year olds, Vociferous thought. He had to try something a little easier.
"Well. The Darkstar is... what we might sometimes call the Omni-Factor. Now,
that is one word that you probably will not find in any online dictionary."
Vociferous paused for a while. Oops. Now he had to explain the word
Omni-Factor, as he looked at the quizzical expressions on the children's
"The Omni-Factor means... well, I mean, it sounds a little bit like the
Omni-Web, doesn't it? Just like the Omni-Web, well, actually, much more than
that, the Omni-Factor is everywhere, and uhh... it includes.. aah.. many
things. The word 'Factor', as you might have found out from your datapads, can
be said to mean 'something that is a part of' - so, you can say that the
Darkstar, as the Omni-Factor, is not only everywhere, it is also a part of...
everything there is."
At this point, Vociferous was starting to get a little irritated with
himself. His explanation did not seem to be bringing the desired meaning
across. It made scant sense even to himself, as he was saying it. He
cast his eyes down at the synth-marble floor, found it uninspiring,
and switched his view to the darkness beyond the soft circle of light
shining upon the children's heads.
Looking down at the expectant faces of the children, Vociferous tried
"Let's just say that the Darkstar is... something that watches over us, and
has been doing so for much longer than we can imagine. The Darkstar watches us,
from wherever it is, and it knows what we do. From time to time, it may appear
to a few selected people, and these people bring words back to us, its
Acolytes. Sometimes these words are warnings, like what Aldur Xacalon has
passed down to us. And sometimes, these are what we call Latent
Prophecies - words that we.. may not even understand, until a certain point
in time when it will all be suddenly clear to everyone."
More hands flew into the air as the pupils, emboldened perhaps by the
initiative taken by the brown-robed boy, started to ask a flurry of
"Is the Darkstar an alien?"
"What does the Darkstar look like?"
"Has anyone gone to visit the Darkstar before? Can we go too?"
After about half a minute, Vociferous put up his hands in a placating
gesture. "Whoa, hold it children. Look, I don't know all that much about the
Darkstar myself. It's... just not really been clearly explained so far."
"Why not?" one of the children called out.
"Hmmm." Vociferous started to pace back and forth on the stage. "Actually, I
do not know why not. Perhaps.. we should leave this to our religious
Vociferous looked at his watch. He sighed. So much for the planned
"Well, I'd like to stay and chat with you a little bit more about the
Darkstar, but your maths lecturer will be coming in in about three minutes. As
for the rest of this lesson about what happened on Mars after the Combined
Human Fleet left.. I'll upload the notes into darkstorm.stormkeepers.org - you
can find it under my user directory."
"So... if you have any further questions..." Vociferous took a last look
around. Of course they had. He could almost see the question marks
hovering above their heads. "... you can send them to my e-mail address,
"I shall leave you now, for the next lesson."
As the lecturer of the class, Vociferous initiated the first phase of the
"For Salvation. For Xacalon..."
The children replied in the only way they had been taught since they
"For the Darkstar."
With that, Vociferous left the hall, doors closing soundlessly behind him. A
high-speed lift, one of many in the massive mountain base, took him the 24
floors up from the school zone directly to the level where the quarters of the
more senior Stormkeepers were to be found. With his characteristic long
strides, he moved rapidly to his room.
Standing in front of his door, Vociferous ran his fingers over the
inscription carved into the pseudowood surface, below the card holder which
announced his name, handle, and rank. The inscription, which was unique to
every single door on this level, read: "The Darkstar watches this door, as
it does every other."
Hmm. Vociferous realised that he had not really paid much attention to that
small line of text before. But, now, the question nagged at him.
What is the Darkstar?
Logging on to StormNet, Vociferous browsed through the various search
engines and online databases, looking for an answer.
On the first try, he simply blurted out "Darkstar" as the search term, to
get a feel for the task ahead. The search engine spewed out an initial list of
fifty entries, displayed in glowing holographic letters in front of him, along
with a note at the top of the screen that announced the discovery of
twenty-five million references related to the keyword. A side window appeared,
calmly informing Vociferous to "please be more specific" with his search. A
hyperlink at the bottom offered help on advanced search techniques.
"Twenty-five million hits. Nice..." Vociferous muttered under his breath. He
watched the voice input cursor as it blinked, placidly awaiting his next
command. He leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes as he pondered
on his next move.
The reason why he had not done something like this before eluded him.
Perhaps he had simply trusted the wisdom of the Elders. Or perhaps it was
because, within the entire Stormkeepers organisation, it had seemed like such a
commonly-accepted idea that he had not even thought to ask. Vociferous wondered
if he, like the brown-robed boy, would have been afraid to ask. No. He shook
his head. It was not fear. He had seen Fear itself often enough, charging at
him in Cybrid warforms too numerous to count. It had to be something
Lack of curiosity, maybe, an inner voice told him. It was funny how
children seemed to be brimming over with it when they were young, and yet
somehow, somewhere along the way, lost their ability to be curious about the
world around them as they grew up.
It was also fascinating to note that how a single question posed by
a curious child would actually drive him to look for a suitable answer.
"Twenty-five million." Vociferous muttered again, as if it were a curse.
It was far too much to deal with. Being a warrior first, and a scholar
a distant second, he did not have all that much experience with advanced
database searches. But Eidolon had been helping out at one of the libraries
as a part-time hobby, and she had taught him a few things or so.
"Refine search : use Markovian-Schellian NLP filter. Begin boolean, Darkstar
AND, begin group, origins OR beginning, end group..."
He paused for a short while. "... end boolean. Use NLP query, non-exclusive
mode: 'What is the Darkstar?'. Execute now."
The improvement was considerable, but the result was still far from
expectations. Vociferous swore. Six million!! But it was not an unreasonable
number. There must have been much interest in the Darkstar's origins since ages
past. Why, entire generations of religious scholars must have been writing
about the subject, producing conjectures and hypotheses, all faithfully
recorded and kept for long-term posterity within the archival servers on
Vociferous continued to probe, applying more exclusions and filters as he
attempted to narrow down the search scope. He wished Eidolon were there beside
him to make this easier, but she had been on attachment to the SK Education
Department for the past week or so to help compile some writings by some early
SK writer almost a thousand years ago. She would probably be knee-deep in paper
books and stacks of paper documents in some library vault in Germany right
Time passed quickly. After half an hour, the list had been whittled down to
four hundred thousand entries. There was not much else that Vociferous knew
that could be used to reduce the result set. He scrolled through some of
the more likely documents appearing at the top of the list.
The answers were not forthcoming. With some of the best search technology
around, Vociferous could find only the vaguest hints. Most of the references
repeated things that he already knew about. The Darkstar is the Omni-Factor.
The Darkstar watches over us. The Darkstar listens, the Darkstar provides.
There were also many references to Aldur Xacalon, his Three Warnings, and very
short passages on what he had been supposed to have said about the Darkstar.
Terrific. Just terrific. Vociferous stood up, turning off the
multi-million-pixel holo-display with a wave of his hand as he did so.
He paced the room in agitation.
Did no-one really know what the Darkstar was? Has everyone, including the
theologian types, been really doing nothing but grasping at straws, guessing at
The doorbell sounded, a three-tone chime that seemed to resonate throughout
the room - a trick accomplished with hidden speakers and a few age-old acoustic
techniques. A holographic projection to the right of the door frame showed a
visitor standing outside.
"Ah. [SK] Lmsc," said Vociferous as he opened the door. "How have you
been, my friend? Do please come in."
"Thank you, Vociferous. And you?"
"I'm doing fine - I suppose. Eidolon's away on attachment with Edu-Dept, so
it's just me in here," said Vociferous as he placed his right hand over his
heart, and then clapped it on Lmsc's well-built shoulder in ritual greeting.
Lmsc repeated the gesture on Vociferous. Once that was done, Vociferous
motioned for his visitor to sit on the only couch in the place.
"I heard you just came back from the North Pole - how is it like over
there?" Vociferous asked.
"Oh? Cold, but, of course!" Lmsc grinned. "I'm not sure if you've heard
about this one - but we're actually building a floating base there. Once it's
completed, ArcticStorm should be the first in a series of our mobile floating
bases. Way cool, isn't it? It'll look for all the world like a massive iceberg,
or something - we'd probably have our very own polar bears to come along with
Vociferous observed that Lmsc seemed to be positively brimming with
excitement over this particular project. For the next few minutes, they talked
about it at length, discussing the difficulties of constructing a Stormkeepers
base far away from most of civilisation, though it was not exactly unheard of,
as the Darkstorm Headquarters was also located in some of the most desolate
terrain known on the planet.
The conversation presently shifted to Vociferous's current teaching
assignment. "So they're going around asking semi-retired heroes like you to
teach our children about The Starsiege, eh?" Lmsc asked.
"Ouch, that hurt," Vociferous grinned ruefully. References to age always had
that effect on him - and he was not growing any younger, either. "I'm not
exactly retiring, you know. And, hey-hey, look who's talking here - you've had
your fair share of decorations yourself, Lmsc. The SK Platinum Medal for
Courage and all that."
Vociferous continued, "Well, they've figured out that I had about two weeks
before the [SSK] Allusion lifts off back to Mars. So, in the meantime,
they've sent Eidolon away to Germany on some research mission, and me, I'm
stuck here at Darkstorm Headquarters giving these... history lessons. Then it's
off again to ShadowStorm Base, to pick up the pieces, get on top of the
"Hmm... sounds like a busy schedule. Well, how is the teaching life so far?
Those children back at Hall 6-L been making life difficult for you?" Lmsc
"Well, they're okay I guess - except that... hey, how did you know it was
over at 6-L?" Vociferous noted that the location of that lesson wasn't exactly
classified information, but, on the other hand, it did seem a little
unusual for Lmsc to have an interest in classroom timetables all of a
Lmsc chuckled. "It's my niece, Jareen - she's been using up full bit-rate
bandwidth, asking me all these... questions when she came back after
school just now. I guess she's the one who started it when she asked you what
Faith is. And then my other nephew, Jordane, is the one who asked
you what the Darkstar is."
"You can blame my brothers and myself for that - our family members have
always been the curious type." Lmsc was grinning broadly now. He seemed
thoroughly bemused by the whole situation.
Vociferous made a face. "I suppose that it's a little late to do that
ancient 'Oh I see' cliche, isn't it? Else, it would have been so
much easier to ask them to go and ask Uncle Lmsc, huh?"
Lmsc put up his hands in a gesture of ignorance. "Hey, I wouldn't know much
more about it than you would, seeing that you're a senior StormKeeper now
"Perhaps, but then, you're a Tempestkeeper after all. And the
last time I checked, that's one step higher than Fire Rage,"
Vociferous countered. "And that probably means that, going by your status
alone, you'd be sure to have access to a lot more stuff than I do."
The grin on Lmsc's widened as he broke into a full-throttled guffaw.
"Tempestkeeper, you say. Ha. Power? Status? Nah. A StormKeeper seeks not
such things - or so they say." Lmsc piped down and regarded Vociferous
somberly. "Which, incidentally, is quite true, by the way."
Vociferous pressed on. "So tell me, whatever you do know thus far.
What is it?"
Lmsc lifted an eyebrow. "What is... what?"
"Come on, you know, what Jordane's been asking. What is the Darkstar?"
At that, Lmsc stood up and paced the room, his mood shifted noticeably.
He seemed all at once serious and introspective, as he contemplated the
"Hmm. What is the Darkstar? Just four words," Lmsc said as he counted the
number off the fingers of his left hand, held up in the diffused glow of
the ambient room-wide illumination. "What, really, the glitchin' question
is, as it has been all along. What, really, is the Darkstar?"
"Well? I'm all ears." Vociferous sat up on the couch.
"It's not quite... that straightforward as it sounds. You know, one of the
greatest challenges facing a StormKeeper is to search for the truth, no matter
how difficult the question seems, right?"
"Yes, of course. It's right up there, along with the most revered of our
"And the question seems simple enough, right?" Lmsc sighed. "That, it
may be so, but only on the surface."
Vociferous was getting mystified by now. "Okay, okay, you've just about lost
me back there. Four words, "What is the Darkstar", simple question, yet not
quite so straightforward, and now, searching for the truth?"
Lmsc nodded. "Yes."
"So, in effect, what is the linkage here? Don't tell me - somebody's
been searching for the existence of the Darkstar?"
Lmsc nodded again. "Very good, Vociferous. Close, but that's not quite it."
He looked at Vociferous, seemed to pause for a brief moment, and said, "Okay.
Ramrod might have one or two things to say about this, but, as of this
moment onwards, let me give you a warm welcome to the Fact-Finding
Vociferous's heart skipped a beat or two. Being a long-time SK member, he
knew, deep down, that a lot of meaning was hidden in the simplest of
terminology used. "Errm... Fact-Finding Committee?" he asked.
"Fact-Finding Committee, or, if you prefer a more colorful term, Searchers of
the Truth. We are a group of Stormkeepers who believe that the Darkstar is, in
fact, somewhere out there, and we have been discussing the possibility that it
is something that actually exists. As opposed to being merely a concept, or a...
theoretical construct. An idea which is advocated by the... other side."
Vociferous was intrigued. Despite all his years of service in the
Stormkeepers, this was something literally unheard of. "The other side?"
"Yes, the other side. In contrast to our so-called committee, they only have
the colorful name part. They call themselves Keepers of the Faith. In short,
their stand is that the Darkstar is something we just believe in, and that, is
"So... this debate is not a new one."
Lmsc sat down again. "No, it is not. This question of the Darkstar has
occupied the best minds of the Stormkeepers as long as the Stormkeepers have
existed as an organisation, as far back as over a thousand years ago, even
long before we were named... Stormkeepers."
Vociferous glanced at the black Tempestkeeper robe that Lmsc had hung
up at the door. "And the reason why no-one knows about all this is that only a
small, select group, or rather, two groups, of the highest-ranking Stormkeepers
Lmsc frowned. "Not quite. Officially, if you really were to ask, the top SK
leadership will not take sides. That is because we fear a disastrous split in
the organisation over this very fundamental issue. In private, of course, we
have certain inclinations, either way."
He continued, "So, there are actually three sides. The Searchers of the
Truth, on one hand, the Keepers of the Faith, on the other. And the rest,
who either do not care or are too young to understand."
Lmsc stood up. "I have to go now. The Committee has a meeting scheduled. I
would like to take you along, but, this time round, let me just get them used to
the idea that you're on our side now. You are, of course, aren't you?"
Vociferous stood up as well and looked Lmsc in the eye. "Yes, I must say
I am very honored to be invited to this.. committee."
"Very well. By your leave, then. For the Darkstar." With that, Lmsc
pulled on his robe and was out of the door.
All alone in the room now, Vociferous laid down on his bed. He looked up at
the ceiling - and wondered. Beyond the next few levels of Darkstorm, above [SK]
Tsoron's personal temple, outside the grand mountain complex that was the
Stormkeepers headquarters, was a mystery waiting to be solved.
A high-priority message window popped up, its holographic pane aligned with
Vociferous's prone position such that he could read it without having to move
his head. It was from Lmsc.
Vociferous read the title out loud. "First Direct Deliberation Between the
Keepers and the Searchers." The rest of the short, terse message ended with a
date, a time and a place.
So, this was it.
Vociferous got up, and moved over to the mini-bar to pour himself a small
cup of 2825-vintage wine.
He raised his cup to the message window from Lmsc, still positioned as it
was, floating half a meter above his bed.
"Here's to the Search for the Truth. For the Darkstar!"