The StormKeepers Chronicles
Volume IV "Masters of the Galaxy"

Copyright (c) 1998 by Low Ee Mien
All references to Hercs and the StarSiege Universe (c) 1998 Dynamix Corporation

Chapter 9 : Voices in the Darkness Beyond

... deep darkness of space beyond the Galactic Plane
... indeterminable time and location

The name Darkstar was a misnomer. The Darkstar itself, a massive, incomprehensibly gargantuan construct rotating slowly in the infinite night that made up the vast, hollow emptiness of space in between galaxies, was not absolutely dark. It pulsed with enormous, unseen energies, radiating brightly in ways unperceivable by all of Humankind's senses, in-born, technological, or otherwise.

The Darkstar only appeared dark to those who were unable to behold its luminosity. It appeared dormant only to ones who could not peer into the complexities hidden below its calm, unperturbed surface. It appeared lifeless, even, to those who could not tell it was a living entity, filled with the energies of Life, steeped as it was in the Mystic Law that bound all the Forces of the Universe together.

And the Darkstar spoke. It spoke to itself - if only for the fact that there was no one else near to hear its words - if not for the fact that no one else could fully comprehend its true meaning, the depths of comprehension required to gain a truthful insight into its words would have required an Entity equal to itself. And the Others were gone - for now.

Words, images, emotions. Crashing, overlapping, echoing, flitting deep beneath the surface, a storm churned up by a star-spanning Mind, lightning-quick thoughts flowing in fashions designed by its creators, and later, keepers who were even now still ever-present in the vast mind-scape, ever watching, ever experimenting, ever... discussing.

" time, they might yet pass...", one of the voices remarked, seemingly to itself.

From far down the deep gravity well, there was an answer : "...the Tests have not borne themselves out yet..."

"but the situation is changing...", that much, at least, was obvious.

There was a query : "in probability - new... directions may be cast... shall a Gathering be held... the Masters must have consensus.."

There was disagreement, "... the Others, they who have not yet returned, they who have initiated..."

"they shall be of lesser consequence..."

"... because they left", the latest remark carried with it a sharp sting of distaste, travelling at speeds significantly higher than that of Light itself, rippling throughout the brooding consciousness.

It was going to have been a colossal experiment - a laboratory a hundred thousand light-years across. In Human-comprehensible terms, a chess game, that spanned millenia, whose multitude of pieces included entire star systems, entire races of living beings of all classes, sentient and otherwise. A game whose purpose was to settle an intellectual dispute of titanic proportions, whose results would take eons to complete.

And whose major players have since left for other places, other dimensions, seeking greater goals, planning new experiments, disputing over ever-more arcane aspects of the Universe.

And just as many far smaller experiments go, once initiated, it began to take on a life of its own. The Masters of the Galaxy had left their living subjects running, former automatons released from the Realm of Order and allowed to pursue their own growth and development, or perhaps reaching towards ultimate self-destruction, in the swirling uncertainties of Chaos. While all of them, even the Masters themselves included, were bound to the same Physical Laws, chief of which was the Mystic Law, that kept the Universe together, and most importantly, gave it Life. And Death. And which also gave the universe the Ultimate Law of Cause and Effect.

The Darkstar had kept watch over all these gaping chasms of time, using its own far-reaching senses to observe, to keep track, to record down its results, to predict the course of its own, by comparison, micro-tests.. to make minor adjustments... though from the point of view of the subjects involved, those adjustments were destiny-altering changes, some for the better, some cataclysmic... but, as always, there were reasons. What the living subjects did, what they sowed, they truly reaped. They deserved exactly what they got, most of the time arriving at the conclusion all by themselves. Sometimes it took a helping hand to help them make quantum jumps, to advance in leaps and bounds seemingly by fortuitous accident. And sometimes what was to come was utter destruction...

"The projections..."

"... have been inaccurate. The circumstances require... adjustments..", not even the Darkstar was all-knowing, and all-omnipotent. Not with an Experiment running over a span of millions of years, with variables running into the tens of trillions. That was why it was called... an Experiment.

"Our Advocates shall be so entrusted", of which there were many, but there was only one such group being referred to, in this instance.

"Their mythic Pandora would have been proud", there was a sense of colossal irony, and deep amusement behind the words.

"Destiny awaits them."

The voices dropped back into the background, as formless as the storms of living Forces they came from. The Darkstar lapsed into observance mode, as it continued to keep watch again, as it had done for millions of years. And would continue to do so - until the Others returned to Gather again - or until these Humans passed their pre-defined Tests or their own creations usurped them instead and took their place in the Grand Scheme of Things - or until one or more of the growing Sentient Races managed the leap into Masters-hood.

Whichever came first.

The Darkstar waited.

The Darkstar watched.

And then the voices continued to speak, of other things...

... continued