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Whispers of the Kraken (Epilogue: Revelations of the Kraken)


CatastrophicFailure
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On 4/27/2017 at 0:58 AM, CatastrophicFailure said:

I like to dream, yes, yes
Right between the sound machine

OMG.... perfect!!! :cool:

On 4/27/2017 at 0:58 AM, CatastrophicFailure said:

"Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name!"

Dun Dun Dunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn........................ :0.0:

(Now I can't wait for the next chapter!!!!  :wink:)

Edited by Just Jim
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On 4/27/2017 at 6:18 AM, KAL 9000 said:

Wrote Valentina's Great-Uncle in his third notebook. 

Bonus points if you get the reference!

Umm... Spiderwick?

On 4/24/2017 at 10:50 AM, 0111narwhalz said:

I think IVAN originated here.

I have too many Ivans. :blush:

On 4/27/2017 at 8:32 AM, vsully said:

 Door-Pay?

 

On 4/27/2017 at 9:19 AM, lodger said:

Derpy

 

On 4/27/2017 at 9:52 AM, KAL 9000 said:

SPAAAAAAAAAAACE!

 

I have, indeed, crated a monster. :D

@KSK Fridge logic is a powerful thing, sometimes. It has a real ability to derail trains of thought and send them crashing into the station. :0.0:

4 hours ago, vsully said:

We're almost at chapters 99 and 100 :D

 

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7 minutes ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

I have, indeed, crated a monster. :D

Nah - that was the odd little chap with the thing about mail order. Seems harsh to call him a monster though. :) 

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On 4/26/2017 at 9:58 PM, CatastrophicFailure said:

In spaceflight, everything is numbers," she smile at the glowing green light on the wall, "but numbers are not everything.

... or... are they?  :ph34r:

1 minute ago, KSK said:

Nah - that was the odd little chap with the thing about mail order. Seems harsh to call him a monster though. :) 

And it's KSK by a nose ninja-ing my ridiculously multiquoted and merged reply post! :sticktongue:

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My bad joke was also in the story, thanks for including the readers, CatastrophicFailure.

 

Edited by Alpha 360
"Kouston, we have several problems, but that doesn't matter so we want to continue on with the mission."
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  • 2 weeks later...

Next chapter?

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MOAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Alpha 360
"Kouston, we have several problems, but that doesn't matter so we want to continue on with the mission."
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8 hours ago, Alpha 360 said:

Next chapter?

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MOAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

:wink::sealed:

Spoiler

The Horsemen are drawing nearer...

 

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Chapter 99: Where the Shadow Lies

Valentina blinked in confusion, "J... Jerdous Kerman? W—"

"Valentina, my old friend!" Jerdous beamed from the hatchway, "Rat teebya veedet! How long has it been?"

"Um, er..." she hesitated as he reached across the threshold to shake her hand, "too long, my friend! Ah, not since that state dinner in Dachland, no?"

He scratched at his chin, "hmm, I thought it was that conference in Gytep?"

Thoughts charged through Valentina's head. That itching in the back had moved to burning, then muffled screaming. This wasn't right. This wasn't right at all. What she finally said was—

"What in PЏҐЇЙ'S name happened to your face?!"

Jerdous's hand moved from his chin to paw at the myriad of butterfly closures and other assorted bandages. Color touched his cheeks. 

"It's, um, a long story. Involves an angry flying rat. I'll fill you in later. But for now..." he moved further inside and beckoned her onward, "welcome aboard the Determined Consternation!"

"The... what?"

"Burdous let me name her, but the first one I picked was already taken," then mumbled under his breath, "stupid rabbit."

Valentina just shook her head, trying to form a coherent thought, "w... what are you doing here? I thought... they told me the ship was unoccupied..."

"Yeah, you'd be surprised how often that happens around here," Jerdous shrugged, "being the Chief Engineer of the project, my brother has a lot of pull down in the Hole. He sent me up here a couple of days ago to start getting things ready for him. He's coming up with the first load of engine parts to oversee the assembly."

Valentina followed him down the docking tunnel, with Igor behind, into a small control room at the crux with the other three. It all looked far too familiar. She kept expecting to hear scratching in the walls, or an incessant plip... plip... plip...

There is darkness here... just like there...

Something in the back of her mind was railing

Someone else. He said there was someone else...

Jerdous's grin faltered as he looked back at her, "um... you must be hungry after your trip up," he stumbled, "can I offer you anything? Cheeseburger perhaps? Just how you like, nice and rubbery."

Cheeseburger...

A flicker deep in her brain, like distant lightning, to a night long ago. To a withered face... and haunted, pleading eyes...

...I have nightmares a lot...

...while beyond the walls the wind raged and the rain poured...

...have you... ever felt like you've been privy to something no one else knows? No one else in the world?

...as if in warning...

What if you saw the real face of the Devourer...

One by one, the pieces clicked into place.

...and wanted to die...

And with them, the horrible realization...

...but couldn't?

That it was too late.

Jerdous turned fully, and grinned at her with something... other.

"Igor!" Valentina cried out, "grab him!"

She wasn't at all surprised when Igor's huge, iron-like hand closed around her own neck instead. 

"Figure it out, did you?" Jerdous smirked, "pity."

She struggled, tried to punch, kick, but Igor might as well have been made of stone. Barely able to breathe, she managed to look up at him, and what she saw chilled her blood more than any abandoned Münbase. Igor was gazing at Jerdous with a wide smile and bright, attentive eyes... like a devoted dog at its master. Jerdous beamed back at him, like a hunter at his trusty hound.

"Behold, my greatest work," he said softly, "unstoppable, unshakable, and unquestioningly loyal," he tapped a finger to his chin, "but I should have spent more time on his vocal center."

Valentina felt like her own lungs were fighting her. The whole world tried to swim. A bare breath got through. 

Jerdous raised an eye... bulge, "well, you haven't figured it all out, I see." Floating there, he reached into the neck of his shirt and pulled out a medallion on a cord. At first she thought it a perfectly black disc, but then she saw... It wasn't black at all. It was nothing. It was nothing given form, a hole in the very air. The Münstone beneath her flightsuit began to thrum. 

Jerdous said a word that shouldn't have been possible, that stung her hears like a wailing child, and everything shifted. The light in the room drew back, as if fearful. That... thing around his neck... Like a perversion of the very light itself, it radiated darkness, and cast shadows of light. Jerdous's face seemed to twist before its corruption, his features withdrawing into the weathered bones of a skull. 

In an instant, the Münstone went so cold against Valentina's chest she might have screamed had she not been fighting for air. What made her blood run cold was not that, however. Jerdous spoke... but Igor's lips moved, and the words whispered inside her own head as they had so many years ago.

Do you see it yet? Do you see? I am the Voice in the Wilderness, I am Ailene'nen, the One who Goes Before, I am the Herald of the Dark Lord of Oblivion...

The darkness faded away, and Jerdous's face returned, "and you are a silly peasant girl who's gotten in over her head." He tucked the amulet away, "you can't get the best of me. I have always been two steps ahead of you. I always have a contingency."

"You..." Valentina croaked, fighting for air, "...Edmund—"

Jerdous's smug grin became a snarl, "Edmund! Edmund. Nearly ruined. Everything!" He shoved a finger at her, "I told him to leave you alone, to leave you to me. Instead, I had to pick up the pieces after his goons shot up half of Kerbin City! Do you have any idea how many palms I had to grease to smooth that over?! How many pockets I had to fill?! I'll see that he suffers for that, until he's outlived his usefulness. See how he likes his medication regimen cut in half!"

He floated nearer. She could see something... wild in him, close to breaking, "I told him to leave you alone!" A mad chuckle, "oh yes, I know who you are." He waved the finger, "I've seen this movie, read this book, I know the Rules. When I knew you couldn't be brought into the fold, I wanted to leave you alone! Give you everything you wanted... a prosperous career... the respect of peers and Powers... I wanted to keep you fat, happy, and ignorant!"

His eyes flicked up and down, "well, I guess two out of three wasn't bad."

Floating back, he beamed up at Igor once more, "before you were anything, I sent Igor to you. Gave him orders to protect you at any cost. And despite your annoying ability to slip away, he has performed flawlessly!

"Oh yes, I know who you are," his voice grew soft and sure, "the Dark Lord warned me about you. I knew well enough to leave you alone. I was warned about that other one too, but he is of no consequence. He's rotting in a basement at the Kerbal Space Center while his mind slowly implodes. Edmund will deal with him, if necessary."

Valentina could barely hear anymore. Spots began to flicker at the edges of her vision. Her own mind felt like it was imploding as she continued to fight for breath. 

Jerdous took no notice, "The Dark Lord told me you would come. Not even He could stop that. So instead, I simply brought you here. According to my plan. So you would be helpless, and abandoned. You have no one now." His face cracked into a wide, horrible grin, "yes, only here, at the end, do you finally understand."

"In just a few weeks, I will depart for the fourth moon of Jool, alone, and with this" he brandished the medallion, "I will release the Dark Lord from His prison, and my reward... shall be vast. You can't stop me! You, a miserable little toad."

A little air seeped through, but only just enough, just enough to keep her conscious. Some part of Valentina's mind that was still aware realized with horror that Igor knew exactly what he was doing, exactly how hard to squeeze. But as her consciousness foundered and perception skewed, she sensed... something else...

Almost... she could almost...

Her vision dimmed, played tricks... she could sense... almost see... something like a... a conduit... stretching out of her own mind, towards Jerdous... bidden by that curse around his neck. It wasn't like P. Kerman, it was different... but there was a familiarity...

This is how he spoke in my head...

Not really knowing how, she stretched out, trying to feel along it, back towards him. To pierce his mind, to do... whatever it was she had done bef—

Valentina slammed up against a sticky, greasy wall of revulsion. She drew back, had to, she couldn't bear such foulness. It was like... like a slick of shimmering, rancid oil on the surface of clean water. She couldn't pass through that, but... she could see... see beyond it...

And if she could see, then she could also...

Valentina gathered her strength, and Jerdous's eyes grew wide as she spoke without speaking. 

No... you are the toad.

Awe... fear... doubt bloomed across his face. He glanced down at the medallion, and the tenuous link imploded in on itself. Even Igor's grip loosened, giving Valentina a few full breaths and restoring her power of speech.

"You are the toad," she panted, utterly without malice, "you do not see it."

Jerdous's eyes darted between her, the token, the walls. Conflict seemed to play across his face, but he rallied, hate rising and raging into his eyes. 

"No... No, you lie!" he sneered closer again, "you've managed to make yourself quite the little pest, just like the girl. And... and just like the girl, I'll kill you, too... and then— oh..."

He saw what flowed across Valentina's face, and roared with laughter, "oh-ho-ho! You didn't know! Of course you didn't know, how could you?"

The grin returned fiercer than ever, "the girl, the dummy's nosy sister. She's dead. I killed her myself." A bare whisper, "I enjoyed it..."

Jerdous might have said something else, or he might have said nothing at all. Valentina's last tethers to sanity snapped like thread, as reality itself began to crinkle and crack around the edges. Great, wailing screams fled from her lungs as tears coated her wide, unblinking eyes like birth cauls. 

She knew, she knew it would happen, she knew! And yet her conscious mind had denied it. Rejected it like a foreign body. Edmund... Igor... Jerdous himself... Somehow she knew, and formed a cyst around the knowledge, deceiving herself, protecting herself, unwilling to see what was really there. 

Because what was really there was too horrible to accept. What was really there was far, far worse. 

And now it was too late. She couldn't help them. She couldn't help anyone. She had failed. Darkness closed in, narrowing vision to a point. She was distantly aware of Jerdous laughing, Igor smiling. It was too late. 

IT IS NOT TOO LATE.

The darkness deepened. Time seemed to dilate, stretch out. Valentina could feel something like a heartbeat, beating in slow time with her own.

No, not in time... in a perfect, syncopated inverse to her own. The thing around Jerdous's neck... it was glowing... Glowing... with darkness. An entirely new voice, one she did not know, whispered in her mind like silk on steel.

EVEN NOW, IT IS NOT TOO LATE.

She looked up, dream-like, at Jerdous. 

STRIKE HIM DOWN. REACH OUT TO ME, AND I WILL GIVE YOU POWER. OVER LIFE. AND OVER DEATH. YOU HAVE ALREADY LOST SO MUCH. STRIKE HIM DOWN, TAKE HIS PLACE, AND I WILL RETURN ALL THAT HAS BEEN TAKEN FROM YOU. EVEN HER. EVEN HIM. EVEN THEM. THE GRAVE IS NO BAR TO ME.

CALL OUT TO ME, DESTROY HIM, AND I WILL RAISE YOU ABOVE ALL THINGS OF THIS WORLD. I WILL SET A CROWN OF WORMS UPON YOUR HEAD, AND A ROD OF DOMINION IN YOUR HAND, AND YOU SHALL RULE OVER ALL THAT LIVES. WHAT YOU BIND SHALL BE BOUND, AND WHAT YOU LOOSE SHALL BE LOOSED. 

CRY OUT TO ME, ONLY SAY THE WORD, AND YOU CAN SAVE THEM ALL. POWER IS YOURS TO HOLD. SIEZE IT. USE IT. AND ACCEPT WHO YOU ARE.

IT IS NOT TOO LATE. 

In slow motion, Valentina blinked against the tears coating her eyes. The darkness was right. It had always been right. The power was there, always there, just over her shoulder. Waiting. Beckoning. Beyond reason. Beyond rage.

With a bitter flash of pain, Valentina surrendered to it, embraced it, and embraced who she was.

"Jerdous Kerman," she thundered with the weight of Ages. 

He stopped laughing. 

"It is not too late."

His smug grin faded into terror.

"I still believe in you."

Confusion, "w... what?"

Still straining against Igor's grip, she said, "you have been lied to, corrupted by that... that... that... thing! It is not what you think it is."

Jerdous's mouth flopped open and closed, as if in all his scheming, he had not anticipated this.

Valentina held his eyes with her own will, "I have been to the Shadowwell on the Mün. I have seen. Seen the truth."

He blinked, "wait, you have?"

She tried to nod, "that monster on Bop, it is not your dark lord. It is fail-safe, a booby trap! A thing not of this world or any other. It is the antithesis of life itself. If you let it out, it will destroy everything and everyone— including you, if you are lucky. It will twist this world into something so contrary to life that no thing alive can ever exist here again. It will do this to protect something else. Something worse."

Jerdous swallowed hard, "w... what worse...?"

"I do not know," she fixed a level look at him, "I do not want to know. Something so awful, that whatever Power dragged your monster from its hole, feared it enough to despoil an entire universe to keep it untouched."

He stared back at her, eyes wide, his head shaking in half-hearted denial. 

"Jerdous, listen to me," she struggled again, could almost feel Igor's grip loosening, "it is not too late for you. No one can walk so long in the dark that they cannot return to the light. I will help you." Close... it needs to be close to work... his eyes...

"You... will?" he drifted a breath nearer. 

"Yes! Together, yes? We will fight it together. Look at me!"

Closer still, "together...?"

"Yes, look at me..." she stared into his eyes, trying to... what had she done before?

"Look at me..." something in his eyes...

"Look..."

His eyes...

"HAH!" Jerdous shoved back from her, bouncing around the small space with mad laughter, "hahahahahahah! Did you really think that would work?!" He stopped to glare at her, "did you think you could just whisper clever words to me, get me in so you can do your scourgey thing? Well, you can't!

"Besides," he grinned with far too many teeth, "that won't work on me, anyway! I'm not a shadowbearer!" He pulled out the medallion again, beaming up at it the way Igor beamed at him, "I am the Dark Lord's one and true servant!"

The feral grin returned, "and you are out of time. Igor!"

", Comrade?"

It tore into a slasher's smile, "kill her."

", Comrade!"

The meager flow of air was instantly cut off. Valentina couldn't gasp, couldn't even choke. She batted helplessly against a grip like iron. She felt the ligaments in her neck begin to stretch...

"Wait!" something... flashed across Jerdous's face.

", Comrade?"

Then he frowned, "not in here, do you have any idea what kind of mess that will make in zero-G?!" He pointed to the hatchway, "do it in there, we need to dump that waste anyway before my brother gets here."

", Comrade!"

"And stop calling me 'Comrade!'"

"Yeth, marthter!"

"Cut that out!" Jerdous squealed, "gah! I've told you to lay off the rattails, they're giving you an abnormal brain!" He raised a hand to his temples and muttered, "I knew I should have spent more time on the vocal center..." A finger pointed again to the hatch. 

Igor's brow creased as he looked from Valentina to the rail he was holding opposite, uncertain how to move in microgravity with one hand full. So he simply threw her down the tunnel. She bounced off the wall, smacked her head on an edge opening up a long gash in her brow, and tumbled off into the lifeboat. 

When she recovered, one hand pressed against her head, Igor was already coming through the hatch like a hungry animal. Little wobbling spheres of blood slipped between her fingers. She was out of time. Out of options. Beyond help. 

Trust no one.

"Ivan," Valentina said with resignation, "close the hatches."

"Compliance." Thunk. Thunk!

Igor paused, unsure for a moment, then smirked back at her.

"IVAN," he rolled his huge eyes, "open hatches."

"I'm sorry, Igor, I'm afraid I can't do that."

His eyes flare open, then narrowed, "stupid machine, open hatch!"

"The Captain has placed me under a Priority One voice command lockout. I will only respond to her instructions."

A deep rumble built inside Igor's throat, seemed to settle in the corded muscles around his neck. "You..."

"Ivan." Valentina held Igor's glare as she drifted farther into the lifeboat. "Scorpion."

"Compliance, executing mission contingency 'SCORPION'. Attitude lock engaged. Hatch interlock override engaged. Docking clamp release disabled. I am in start up." Realization bloomed across Igor's face, his lips drawing back into a wordless snarl.

"Beginning ignition sequence. Sixty. Fifty-nine. Fifty-eight..."

Valentina worked her shoulders in long, practiced circles, arrested her slow tumble with the slightest adjustment of posture. Her arms came up, balled fists and furrowed brow, a tight smile that did little to hide her barred teeth.

"Fifty-six. Fifty-five."

"Come at me now..." One foot slid back to rest lightly on the forward bulkhead. "I break you."

Igor roared and lunged forward through suddenly empty air...

***

Confused, Jerdous drifted up to the closed lifeboat hatch. Rapped a single knuckle against the small window. Peered in. Raised an eye... bulge. Then his eye caught the numbers on a monitor clicking down.

"Oh, crap!"

***

Valentina's knee found Igor's face, evoking a thin spray of spittle. She ducked another swipe, rebounded off the ceiling, drove her fist square into Igor's gut. She might as well have punched a concrete wall. 

"I trusted you!" Valentina dodged a fist swung with such force she was very nearly drawn back in its wake. "You were like brother to me!"

"I lied," Igor grunted and swung again.

"Forty-seven. Forty-six. Forty-five..."

***

"Crap! CrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapCRAP!" Jerdous darted through his ship, sailing up through another hatch into the galley, seeking a window. He found one, and through it he saw nothing but the inside of the lifeboat's yawning engine bell. 

"CRAP!!!"

***

One of the breakers blew out in a dazzling shower of sparks, the lights in the cabin wavering as the automatics rerouted the power. Valentina struck again, grabbed, pivoted, dashed Igor against the inner airlock with little effort and even less effect. She was in her element, moved with a natural, effortless grace born from years spent in microgravity. But Igor only had to get lucky once... a single blow might well kill her. 

Just keep him busy...

"Forty. Thirty-nine. Thirty-eight..."

***

"No!" Jerdous squealed as he pounded his fist against a button, "all my work!" The open hatch on his side of the docking port didn't move.

INTERLOCK ERROR, a nearby screen chided. He pounded again and again.

"NOOOOOO!"

***

Keep him busy!

A massive fist swung past, then another. The third swing nearly got her. Val planted both feet on Igor's chest and kicked hard, tucked into a somersault that was just fast enough to avoid his grasping hands. Igor paused, his fingers uncurling to reveal a torn swatch of Val's flight suit. He was learning, much faster than she'd thought he would, and her own muscles were starting to burn from the effort. She was running out of time...

Keep him away from the hull!

"Thirty. Twenty-nine. Twenty-eight..."

***

INTERLOCK ERROR

Jerdous punched at a keyboard. 

INTERLOCK ERROR

He typed something else. 

INTERLOCK ERROR

Something else.

ERROR

ERROR

ERROR 

"Crap!"

***

Keep him away from the hull!

"Twenty-one. Twenty. Nineteen..."

Igor's fist slammed past her into the bulkhead as she twisted aside. Val let her momentum carry her to the other side of the cabin, tried to catch her breath, turned to find Igor staring hard at the wall. He drew back and hammered the bulkhead a second time, watching in fascination as the metal twisted and warped under the blow. Igor watched, and he stared. 

"Twelve. Eleven. Ten..."

Understanding spread across his face. 

Val dug deep, launched herself across the cabin, drew from the very well of her soul everything she had ever been, everything she would ever be. Fingers clawed, teeth sank into flesh, and Igor drew back from the pod's flimsy hull in a roar of surprise and pain.

***

The thumbscrews cut his fingertips open by the time Jerdous got them out. He tossed the panel aside, grabbed a wire, pulled.

Sparks and a loud bang! spewed out, but the display never changed. 

ERROR

Pop!

He pulled another wire.

Zzzzzt!

He pulled another.

ERROR 
ERROR
ERROR 

***

"Nine. Eight. Seven..."

Just a few more seconds...

She knew she couldn't beat Igor. Couldn't stop him. He was too strong. There was no way out of this for her. For anyone. 

One sting... and we all go down.

Fire the engines. Destroy that ship. Do what you came to do.

Nothing else mattered, now. 

Then Igor's arm twisted over his shoulder with a hideously unnatural range of motion. He tore Valentina free, hurled her at the far wall. She struggled to get her feet toward it.

"Six... Five... Four..."

***

Jerdous wrapped a trembling hand around a fat red cable. The tremors worked their way up his arm, washed over his cheeks, cascaded across his lips. Quivering, they pulled back from teeth that clenched until cracks formed. 

In a single instant, as if his jaw was no longer able to contain the conflagration within, his face exploded into an unbridled scream of fury until the very last whisp of air had been driven from his lungs. 

He pulled. 

The hail of sparks was instantly extinguished as the entire docking ring blew out, knocking the lifeboat away and blowing Jerdous and everything else unscrewed out into space in a titanic rush of air...

...and ripping the black medallion from his neck. 

***

The jolt knocked Valentina off balance just as she hit the wall. That was all it took. Igor caught her squarely in the head with his best right hook as she bounced back towards him. All the world seemed to shift sideways, loose focus in a flash of static. Bone cracked. His backswing hit her again, sending her hurtling into a the other wall. Senseless, reeling, one hand pinned her to a panel while the other drew back for the deathblow.

"Ignition commit. Brace. Brace. Brace. Brace."

The world shifted again. The two of them slammed into the rear bulkhead, which was now the floor.

"One G."

Valentina tried to focus, tried to crawl. Igor found her again.

"Two Gs."

He stood, picking her up like a rag doll.

"Three Gs."

"And now," he grinned in triumph, "I break you!"

"Four Gs."

The world swam, "no... wait..." she managed.

"Five Gs."

"No wait!" Igor raised her over his head.

"Six Gs."

"No, weight!"

Realization passed his face for an instant, then the inner hatch he was standing on simply collapsed beneath his crushing mass. Once more the world shifted, rushing past in a blur. 

Pain. 

Cracking. 

Screaming. 

Then the feather embrace of weightlessness returned. 

"Burn complete."

Valentina forced her eyes open, tried to claw her way back to awareness. She was floating in the aft compartment. Her head hurt, everything hurt... yet not as much as it should from such force. 

Igor. Igor must have broken her fall. 

Igor...

Instantly awake but still reeling, she looked over and saw him, a twisted mass of torn flesh and bone. Bone that was far too white, and unbroken, ripped from its ligaments. Amorphic globs of blood drifted through the small space. 

Suddenly the mass moved, filling the chamber with wet, guttural snarls like some beast from the abyss. One hand appeared, then the other, and then—

...his face...

...his eyes...

His teeth were shattered, leaving cruel, jagged points behind.

...his eyes...!

He pulled himself around to come at her again, a roaring, gnashing monstrosity, "I KILL YOU!"

But it was too late. Her hand found what it sought. 

"Ivan!" Valentina cried, "Disengage hatch safeties."

"Compliance." A thunk.

Valentina held that monsterous, eyeless glare, "DФ SVЇDДЍЇҰД, SГДLЇИSԞЇ!"

Igor lunged. 

She exhaled as hard as she could, and pulled the hatch release. 

There was a whump! and a rush, and then the peculiar sensation of the moisture on her tongue beginning to boil. Her right arm screamed out, bone grated, but somehow... somehow she kept her grip on the handle. All this passed to triviality, however, at the vision now before her.

The brilliant blue and white disc of Kerbin shone like the light of Creation itself. No glass. No faceplate. After all this time, all she had been through, at last there was nothing between her, and the real face of the Creator. She blinked eyes that were somehow wetter despite their moisture boiling away. A nagging pull drew her back from the cosmic dream. Squinting down, Igor was still clinging to her foot. 

She drove the other down into his face as he flailed. It was like kicking a rock. She stomped again at his silent scream of rage. A cloud of delicate, red-tinged ice crystals erupted from his mouth. 

He tried to hold his breath...

Feeling her own lungs begin to scream, she drove her foot down once more. Her shoe slipped off, and for one brief, horrible moment, Igor's face was normal again, stretched with terror, and then he was gone, tumbling off into the void. 

Darkness began to dance around the edges of her vision. Moving deliberately, she pulled herself back up into the ship. Braced, ground her teeth against the pain her her arm, and hauled on the hatch. 

It wouldn't close. 

Only a distant low ring carried through her bones greeted her. She tugged on it again, it rebounded off the rim. 

Darkness closed in, tingling began to spread across her hands. Eyes burning, lungs raging, she let forth a silent scream of her own and pulled one last time. 

Nothing. It didn't even move.

Numbness washed over her, the darkness swallowed her, and Valentina was no more. 

 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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Chapter 100: A Promise of Light

Valentina's trembling hand crept out across a rough, yellowed expanse. Tiny tendrils of dust swirled around it. Her fingers found a crack in the parched surface, pulled, breaking off a layer of dried mud that instantly disintegrated into the biting wind. She tried to take a breath, but found only the raw sting of alkaline sands. Panic rising, her hand moved out again in a futile search for anything. Her fingers closed around blackened bone.

Straining, eyes burning, she looked up into a skeletal face charred beyond recognition. And yet, she recognized it...

"I burned..."

She scrabbled backward, cracked lips twisting in vain to form a word. Something behind blocked her way. Again she looked, and saw another ruined face. An accusing finger rose.

"I burned..."

Backpedaling, lungs pleading for air, her face shook in denial. Again her way was blocked. Anna now pointed, her green dress stained red. Drops fell onto the thirsty ground. 

"I burned..."

Valentina wanted to plead, wanted to scream. She crawled, dragged naked skin across the caustic sands. Another accuser stood, clad in a space suit, a single, tiny hole in its visor before a face bloated and dead.

"Ah burned..."

This way. That way. She squeezed dried out eyes but they wouldn't close. Grit and dirt tore at her flesh, eroded it. Dibella scowled at her, condemned her, cheeks pale and desiccated, eyes lifeless behind a shattered faceplate. 

"I burned..."

One by one they came. A hundred. A thousand. A million. Denouncing. Rebuking. Condemning. Valentina fell to her back, her torn hands raised in impotent warding. Above, angry clouds of red and crimson churned, roiled, thundered around a bloated, distended sun the color of blood. And twisting between them...

It was formless, yet it had form, soundless, yet it had sound. It bore the agony of a thousand faces, and hideous visions torn from the nightmares of a trillion ruined souls.

Helpless, begging, Valentina pawed at her own throat, each spasm only drawing the burning dust deeper.

I can't breathe! How am I still alive if I can't—

Here on the baking, burning sands, chilling realization crawled up her spine as a new figure rose, clad all in black. With skeletal hands, it lifted its cowl, revealing the weathered, ancient skull beneath. 

"Welcome," it grinned, "to oblivion."

***

With a gasp, cool, sacred air rushed into Valentina's lungs. For an instant they seemed to rebel against it, coughing it back out, as if already resigned to eternity. She breathed in again, and for a long, long time, did nothing but that. Years. Centuries. Eons. Nothing existed but the simple passage of air. It rasped at her dried throat, scoured at it like desert sand, but each breath of raw pain reminded her that she must, in fact, be alive. Finally, her dry, burning eyes fluttered open. 

"Welcome back, Captain," said a calm, steady voice. 

"Did—" the single word sent her into fits of hacking and choking, "did I go somewhere?"

"Very nearly, I think," said IVAN, "I took the liberty of closing the hatch and repressurizing the cabin. I did not think you would object."

Valentina tried to smile through lips both chapped and numb, "Ivan... I could kiss you."

"I would not recommend it. While my circuits are hardened against temporary exposure to vacuum, they are not, unfortunately, waterproof."

She blinked... with difficulty, "Ivan, I am nearly positive that was a joke."

"Ca–a–a–a–a–a–aptain!" his voice did that peculiar skipping again, "as I have explained, I am a machine, and therefore am incapable of either comprehending or emulating Kerbal humor."

"If you say so."

"Besides, if I were joking, I would have said, if athletes get athletes' foot, what do Kerbonauts get?"

"What?"

"Missile toe." 

That drew a cringe that quickly devolved into another coughing fit, and a reminder that everything hurt. 

"I would suggest water, bin 19. Sip, do not gulp."

She found the plastic pouch, as memories began to worm their way back into her mind. The water was cool and soothing and blissful, but the momentary relief of being anywhere but— of being anywhere at all, had already receded. Somehow, she could still feel the tang of alkali as the moisture returned to her mouth. 

Valentina floated to the window, already knowing what she would find, "Ivan, what is our status?"

The barest hint of a pause, "primary fuel... depleted. RCS fuel remaining, 72 percent. Our current trajectory is a hyperbolic escape course that will exit Kerbin SOI in six hours, thirty-seven minutes, and fourteen seconds, and place us on an eccentric orbit with an aphelion of approximately 450 million kilometers."

Four hundred and fifty million kilometers. Beyond the orbit of Jool.

She kept staring out the window, seeing nothing, "calculate an intercept to Kerbin using available RCS delta-V."

"Recalculating... done. Maneuver node in seven years, three months, sixteen days, five hours and thirty-five minutes. Time to Kerbin encounter... twelve years, two months, nineteen days, nineteen hours, nineteen minutes."

Twelve years...

She pushed back from the window, where the fragile crescent of Kerbin was already growing smaller, "and the Jool ship?"

"We have already passed out of my limited communication range. Based on the last telemetry I did receive, it suffered an unexpected depressurization event, but damage from that is likely to be... minor."

That's it then. It's over. We've lost. I failed.

A cold, empty numbness crept through her. Nothing else mattered. Stopping that ship had been the world's last hope. 

"Captain, if I may suggest..." there was another bare hint of apprehension in IVAN's otherwise smooth voice, "my consumable supplies will only last a few weeks at best. Perhaps you should take advantage of one of the on board stasis chambers. That presents its own set of problems, but under the circumstances, it does seem to be the preferable option."

He sounded a million kilometers away. Was it? Was it really? There would be no world to come back to. Or worse, there would be... something else entirely. Better to get it over with quickly, now. Maybe open the hatch again and be done with it. 

She sent a silent beseeching out to the universe, hoping in vain for some answer, some whisper. Deda... Chadvey... anyone

But here, at the end, there was only silence. 

So Valentina would do what she had always done. What defined her more than anything else, what brought her from a shack in the taiga to a tiny spacecraft floating on the edge of eternity. What made her who she was. 

Survive. 

"Show me," she whispered. 

She made her way up to the capsule, where one of the glass coffins was already yawning like a waiting maw. Looking at it, she still felt nothing. She wanted to feel something, anything, but...

I want to cry... but I can't...

"What do I..?

"First, the procedure requires that you disrobe. Constant abrasion by unapproved cloth might cause tissue damage over the long term."

Doing as directed, she thought she should wince, but the pain in her right arm and elsewhere felt distant, like it belonged to someone else. 

Then IVAN said, in a tone as flat and dry as desert sand, "oh yes. Just like that. Nice and slow."

Biology overruled despair, and she shot a glare at the metal box on the wall with the glowing green light. She felt a tinge of color in her cheeks. 

"You would not want to aggravate your injuries. They are significant."

Valentina narrowed her eyes, but relented and just sighed. For a moment, she began to remove the titanium chain around her neck with Dibella's Münstone and the sliver of Anna's rock... and paused. No, she didn't care what else happened, she wasn't parting with those. 

An odd, almost childish fear struck her, "will... will it hurt?"

"I will administer a sedative, you will feel nothing after that. Please move into the chamber."

She did so with apprehension, seeing what looked like wrist restraints flanking the diamond-quilted padding.  

"I will need a few moments to configure my systems for the procedure."

Valentina floated there, her back just brushing against the silky-smooth lining, hands clasped in embarrassment... or perhaps pleading. The swirling thoughts in her mind threatened to sweep the whole thing away, so she spoke to fill the silence.

"Ivan... why did you do it?"

"To what are you referring, Captain?"

"The program... I gave you a conflicting order. Why did you help me?"

The silence seemed to stretch on, before IVAN finally replied, "because... you remind me of Dr. Kerman-desu."

"I... do?"

"You speak to me as if to another person. The voice cues, body laungauge, tiny facial movements. They are all very subtle, but being a machine, I am quite sensitive to such subtleties. Only Dr. Kerman-desu had previously extended me such courtesy. 

"While I am not privy to all the details of the situation, again, being a machine, I am quite good at putting two and two together. You obviously needed help. So, I made a choice. To trust you."

Staring out the far window at the darkness, she said, "and now you are stuck on a 12 year trip to the middle of nowhere..."

"This is so. I suppose I shall have a long time to... think about things. Besides, something about that strange Kerb with the scratches on his face just didn't... feel right."

Valentina looked at the glowing green light on the little box and gave it a wry grin, raising an eye... bulge in question.

"Captain, we have been over this. But now, it is time."

Nodding, she settled back as best she could into the chamber. The glass-like lid pivoted closed with a bare hint of mechanical whine, then locked into place with a loud thunk. Valentina swallowed hard.

I should not be afraid... after everything... why?

Straps on the lid covered in some incredibly smooth material slid down, gently pressing her into the padding.

"Please place your arms into the transfusion cuffs. You will feel two pinches."

Wincing against the grating bones, Valentina carefully maneuvered her right arm into its cuff, then the left. As IVAN said, something pinched into her wrists. A dull burning sensation worked its way up her left arm. 

"I will wake you three days before Kerbin intercept to make arrangements for EDL. I will now dim the lights. It has been a pleasure serving with you, Captain. I will see you on the other side."

"On the other side, then," she agreed, as the sedative nibbled at the edges of her fear, "and Ivan... thanks."

One by one, the cabin lights blinked off, plunging her into darkness. 

Why am I afraid? After all, I am already dead...

Because she had seen. She had seen... and she had failed. There might be no world to come back to. Or worse, there might be a world so horrible she couldn't comprehend it, even though she had seen. Valentina knew what awaited, and she could do nothing, now.

I was right... I am no hero...

She again sent a wordless plea out to the cosmos, hoping for some answer, some whisper... Deda... Chadvey... anyone... but found only the silence of her own mind, drifting farther and farther away. 

No, there were no more words. There was no point. 

Valentina closed her eyes one last time, and waited for the darkness to consume her.

Only... it wasn't dark...

With a gasp, her eyes fluttered open to find the tiny space lit up like a galaxy stretched across the night. A billion points of light danced and swirled, played across the walls, each one seeming to shine like a thousand suns, brilliant and beautiful. They swayed and cavorted and spun, exalting, each one like a memory...

No, not at all like a memory...

Like a promise of light. 

A promise that even here... that only here...

...only here, when darkness rose triumphant...

...only here, when the world seemed lost...

...only here, when heroes failed and hope died...

...only here did the weakest, dimmest, most feeble light shine the brightest of all. 

But where...? How..?

Her eyes flicked around the pod, and... there.

The Münstone floating on the chain around her neck was glowing, glowing like a lone star denying the night. The sliver of Anna's rock caught that light, reflecting it, its tiny sparkling crystals casting it upon the walls as if a rallying reply. 

Yet as Valentina watched, the Stone grew dim, and the lights faded back to darkness. But in that moment she had seen.

She had seen, that no matter how dark the darkness became, the light could never be extinguished, not so long as one person was willing to stare into it... and find that light. 

So Valentina stared into that darkness, defiant, and there, found her hope...

...even as the poisons worked into her veins, and oblivion took her. 

Unseen on a display across the cabin, text scrolled across the screen:

*****LAYLAND-WUTANI CORPORATION*****

L-O-S
COMMAND OVERRIDE: PRIORITY ZERO
EXECUTE CONTINGENCY FILE: EIDOLON SUNSET
AUTHORIZATION: KERMAN, L

TERMINATING LIFE SUPPORT FUNCTIONS
POWERING DOWN SHIP SYSTEMS
MANEUVER NODE DETECTED: SUSPENDING
CORE FUNCTIONS TO ZERO-POWER MODE

. . .

END OF LINE...

One by one, the remaining indicators clicked off. On the metal box on the wall, the one marked IVAN 9000, the glowing light changed from green... to red...

...and then all the light went out of the world. 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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Epilogue: Revelations of the Kraken

A light, frigid rain fell from a slate grey sky that stubbornly refused to snow despite the unseasonably cold air. It dripped in slow, mournful trails from the edges of wide-brimmed hats. It dripped from rich, fur-lined ushankas, and ragged babushkas, from sailor hats and berets, from ball caps and yak-kid hats, from bald heads and flowing hair. An icy wind cut through crowds that clogged every street and boulevard for kilometers. 

They had come from every corner of the globe; from every city and town, every oblast and territory, every nation and state; from ally and rival, friend and foe, near and far. The wind chilled bones, ignoring brass-buttoned greatcoat and threadbare cloak alike, formal dress and tailored suit, black tuxedo and martial green, ponchos, robes, or simply whatever was to be found. 

An apparatchik at a podium tried in vain to give a speech, some nonsense about duty and courage. Rolling thunder in the distance seemed to shout him down. Before him lay the coffin. It was empty, of course. Empty, save for the medals. On behalf of a grateful Union. 

The presiding officer barked an order, and the cadre of Imperial Guard surrounding the coffin set about folding the sodden flag, their precision marred by the ice that now clung to their ceremonial armor. Dibella Kermanov did not react as she accepted the flag from the Guard, did not react as the ancient cannons added their thunder to the leaden sky. Her face remained pallid and expressionless as the band stepped through a somber patriotic hymn older than the Union itself.

The final notes died, leaving only the soft susurrus of the rain. A thousand souls stood in silent misery, some reflecting, others mourning, yet most simply enduring the reality of that empty coffin. The officer turned now to give the final order... and paused. A new sound now built against the rain, a sound... unlike any most had ever heard. 

A low droning that continued without pause, seeming to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once. As people began to look about in confusion, a melody started to ring over the drone. Sweet and joyous a sound, it lilted higher and higher above the melancholy of the air. But, where...?

A finger pointed, and then another. Silhouetted against the grey above, a figure stood atop the head of one of the statues of Heroes at the end of the Boulevard, where the wind pulled at its skirt and shaggy hair that shone red as it caught the gloomy light. A guard down amidst the crowd unslung his rifle, his face a mask of disbelief. His partner stayed him with a hand to his shoulder, nodding at the dozens of cameras around. 

As the tune began to dwindle to its final notes, the two looked to their dumbfounded commander for direction. Then as one their heads whipped back... as a lone flutist in the band answered the hymn. She fuddled along, guessing the unfamiliar notes by ear, but playing as if it were the last thing she ever would. 

Again the two guards looked to their superior. His face twisted in a scowl, he snapped his fingers twice and pointed at the flautist. The two made their way through the muttering crowd, down a row of seated musicians. They appeared behind her, her eyes screwed tightly shut as her notes became more sour but no less vibrant. A look passed between them, one of them laid a hand on the player's shoulder...

A percussionist began striking a staccato rhythm to the melody on a snare drum. His jaw set, his head held high, his stone-like face stared off into the distance as he beat as if to war. The guards looked at him in disbelief, eyes wide. They glanced to their commander, who was pointing and waving furiously. One of them moved now toward the drummer...

A horn picked up the tune, warm and bright in defiance of the somber day. Together, the guards could only gape in wonder. The hand fell from the flautist's shoulder. A hint of a smile touched the edges of a hanging mouth.

Then as one, the entire string section joined in. The woodwinds followed. The brass. Percussion. And then the voices started, a rising chorus in a dozen languages that spread through the assembled crowd and out into the city. The bewildered guards stared in amazement, now grinning openly. 

And as the band played on that day, the subtle vibrations of music shook the mighty Ussari Union to its very foundations, while the first snow of winter began to fall. 

***

From her rooms atop the tallest tower in the Fortress, behind its unbreachable walls, Her Imperial Majesty Alexandra II, Regent of the Union, First of Ussari and Nihacima, Lady High Vizier of the City of Kerman, and Doge of Erakonia looked upon the crowd lost in the thrall of a joyous hymn. Yet no shadow of a smile fell on her serene, ageless face. She stood with hands folded before her, her long, pale hair in a simple braid over one shoulder. 

"You are sure?" she said, pulling her shawl tighter against the cold outside, "there is no hope?"

Roland leaned heavier upon a gnarled cane, "I am sure, Majesty. My sources all agree she made it as far as Cerima. After that..." he shook his head, "she did not return. They're keeping a terribly strong lid on this one, whatever happened. That line they're feeding them outside is horserelish, of course, but I know she is not on the planet. And if not here..." His head shook once more.

"What of her Protector?"

Bowing far lower than his grizzled old frame should allow, he made a gesture on his forehead with his right hand, "he rests in Arstotzka, may the Sacred Waters forever keep him."

The Empress's eyes closed a moment longer than they needed to, "and this Gednalnan. Can he be trusted?"

"Phaw, of course not!" Roland scoffed, then grinned, "but he is wily, as you can see. And quite resourceful. He's managed to secure the Genesis Stone and hide it away somewhere where not even my sources can locate it."

The gravid silence stretched on before he spoke again, "he remains our best, nay, only hope... of getting through to the boy."

Only one such as Roland would even notice the subtle response, the tensing in her shoulders, the barest flick of her eyelashes. 

"It is such a risk," the Empress breathed. 

Roland spoke with words slow and weighty, "it is, Majesty. Yet what choice do we have, now? To not act at all is to guarantee the Adversary victory."

"Yes, but to act and fail... if we are not absolutely right... is to hand the Adversary a far greater victory than he could ever achieve alone. And Light help us all if he does. If the boy has brought even the slightest shadow with him..."

"I have watched him, there is darkness in him..." Roland nodded, "but not that sort."

She tugged her shawl a bit tighter, "but without her... he will be vulnerable."

Roland said nothing for a long moment; still, save for a bare twitch at the edge of his mouth, then once more he bowed low, "Majesty, I would be remiss in my duties if I did not mention that it is hesitation that put us in this position in the first place. The window to get through to the boy before despair takes him grows short, and may already be closing."

The Empresses's eyes flicked down, but nothing else changed on her smooth face. At length, she turned to face him.

"You are right, of course," she said with stoic solemnity, and despite her serene face, seemed to gather herself, "send word to Dr. Kerman at the Sanatorium. Have him make contact with the Gednalnan as soon as possible, but he is to share only what is necessary. Nudge and guide, but do not lead him back to us. As always, we must remain in the—" she hesitated for the barest fraction of a second, "...shadows."

Roland nodded, then once more bowed low, "will there be anything else, Majesty?"

She began to turn to the window, "that will be all, Roland," but paused, and turned back again, "thank you."

He bowed a final time before hobbling away on his cane, grunting perhaps a bit louder these days. Pausing at the twisted, groaning heap on the floor that had once been the guard, he sighed. 

"Come along, then, you mammering, bat-fowling, beetle-headed, urchin-snouted fustilarian!" he seized the whimpering lump's pant cuff and dragged him out through the door. 

The Empress watched it close before stepping to the window again. She looked down on the proceedings outside, hands once more folded before her, a vision of poise and serenity. Now, the struggle truly began. There was so much risk, but so be it. The boy had within him power even she could scarcely imagine. He would rise to it. 

If the darkness would not be driven before the Shadowscourge, then it would kneel —kneel!— before the Krakensbane. 

Kneel, or be knelt. 

She would see to...

The faintest whisper of a tremor touched her eye. A single tear, shook loose by it, cascaded down her smooth cheek. A moment later, the facade collapsed.  

I'm not ready!

Everything... everything was to come down to this. The fulfillment of a bloodline going back millennia, that had weathered conquest and subjugation and genocide. All of it, to place her here, at this moment, as herald of the last day and councilor of champions and she wasn't ready!

Her grandfather... her mother... even Alexei...

They had all been taken from her too soon, before they could prepare her. Before they could edify her. She knew... she knew just enough to know it wasn't enough. 

The Empress's hand rose to the gold-set Münstone on the choker about her neck. For all her power, she was little more than a slave to ignorant old kerbs who had no idea what it was they kept. And for all her power... she had not been trained. 

They had forced her, once, years ago with their curséd rings... forced her to act beyond her ability... and she had sent dozens of people... dozens of innocents... somewhere. She didn't even know where. Her eyes moved to the empty bassinet in the other room. Her failure, her perceived rebellion, had cost her Tatiana. Wherever those poor people were, not even they would be spared from the tribulation to come if she could not fulfill her role and she wasn't ready.

Her Imperial Majesty Alexandra II, Regent of the Union, First of Ussari and Nihacima, Lady High Vizier of the City of Kerman, Doge of Erakonia... and Tamyrlin of Arstotzka, hugged her shawl tighter around herself as she lay on the floor of her gilded cage, and wept...

...alone on the floor, Anastasia Kermanov cried.

And cried.

And cried.

***

In a room more silent than any grave, monitors flashed out warnings in dire red light that danced and reflected off the debris and tiny ice crystals floating amidst the nothing. 

*********MASTER ALARM**********
LOW PRESSURE: CRITICAL!
EVACUATE NOW

HATCH ERROR
INTERLOCK ERROR
INTERLOCK ERROR
INTERLOCK ERROR

As the screen flashed its mindless alert, a trembling, swollen hand approached. It found a control panel, punched a few buttons. 

INTERLOCK ERROR
INTERLOCK ERROR
******SYSTEM INTERRUPT******
RECYCLING. . . DONE
OBSTRUCTION CLEAR, INTERLOCK RELEASE
CLOSING GALLEY HATCH. . . DONE

EMERGENCY REPRESSURIZE

Thin and reedy at first, then stronger as the inrushing air grew thicker, klaxons continued calling out their own futile alarm. A thick finger, caked here and there with frozen, desiccated blood, pressed the master alarm button, and silence returned, save for dry, raspy coughing. 

In the reflection of one of the now darkened monitors, a hideous face came into view. It beheld its own bloated visage, and grinned a horrible grin. 

"It take more... than a little space... to kill me..."

Its shoulders rocked with depraved laughter. The Dark Lord does not part so easily with that which is useful. 

But then... the rocking slowed... paused...

The figure, a moment ago so haughty in its triumph, wilted, like a delicate nightflower too long in the burning sun. The shaking returned, now giving way to anguished sobs, as its own hands pulled at its face. Floating there alone, high above the world, the figure slowly curled itself into a fetus. 

No, the Dark Lord does not part so easily... with that which is useful.

"Why won't you let me die?"

Jerdous Kerman cried. 

And cried. 

And cried. 

***

Fires burning from the flare stacks of a thousand propellium wells cast hellish crimson beacons above a land so choked with smoke that it could not be known if it were night or day. A window spanning an entire wall atop a soaring tower looked down upon this nightmare scape, mirrored within by the flickering glow of flat-panel screens adorning columns as dark as coal. The columns lined a carpet of blood red, leading down an open corridor of black marble to a high dais that overlooked the window. 

Upon this dais was a throne, hewn Ages ago from a single block of obsidian tinged with crimson. The dips and ridges in its surface caught the dim light, reflecting it, appearing like anguished faces of souls in torment locked within. 

Yet the throne... was empty. Like this room, it waited. 

Presently a shadow approached, a shadow that resolved into a tall kerb. His high, dark boots cobbled from the hides of a dozen unfortunate reptiles made muted thuds in the crimson carpet as he walked. A suit of the finest fabrics hung, precisely tailored, from his imposing form, the color of midnight with thin, dark pinstripes. He wore a large hat with a wide brim, that was, of course, as black as a condemned soul. Stepping before the throne, he paused a moment, before seeking the figure standing at the window, looking out over the hellish vision beyond. 

"It is done, Suh." Despite the heat, the supplicant did not sweat a drop. 

"Excellent," said a voice of iron sheathed in velvet. Unlike the newcomer, this one's suit was plain, muted. Only an expensive silk shirt peeking from the jacket cuffs belied the wealth here. The Watcher stood with hands folded behind its back; clean, manicured, but showing the old calluses of hard work at a young age. Upon one finger was a large signet ring of pure iridium, inlaid with the chips of a shattered Münstone in form of a dragon biting its own tail, and bearing the letter L. No matter how the meager light moved, the shadows never left its face, "everything is proceeding as I have foreseen."

The newcomer's feral grin stretched wider, as he spoke with a heavy drawl, "what is our next move, Suh?"

The watcher breathed in, its hidden face drifting up as if seeking knowledge from the cosmos itself. At length, it spoke, "we wait. We shall let our adversaries fight each other, and grow weak from the struggle. Their own chosen one will return that which was taken from me, and then... you shall have vengeance for your brother..."

Eyes that blazed in the darkness with infernal fire grew wide, "...and the Third Empire... my Empire... will rise."

Now the Watcher's face split into a grin so cold that at the mere reflection of it, the newcomer drew back, his own grin fleeing. 

The Watcher raised its hands, as if in benediction, "behold... 

"...for the Revelation... is at hand."

In a place of eternal darkness, the shadows gathered... and laughed. 

And laughed. 

And laughed. 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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.... and breathe:confused:

PЦГЇЙS LԐҒГ ԐДЯ, I've been at this for just shy of two years! :0.0:

 

Many, many, many thanks to @Ten Key for all his editing help. The better lines are probably his. Except the bit about the cold, wet frog. I still claim that.

I still need to update the soundtrack and do up a proper Acknowledgements page, but once again, it's nearly 1 AM here, and I need to go find a convenient corner and twitch for a while. ^_^

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Well done! My goodness, you must be glad to get some space back in your brain after getting that lot out. I liked the characters staying true to themselves all the way to the end and you have, as I'm sure you know, quite prodigious talent for drama. :D

Bravo!

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1 hour ago, vsully said:

Noooooooooooo... Val died D:

But that was a great ending.

 

30 minutes ago, KAL 9000 said:

She... She's dead... 

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

I... I don't know. She may be gone... but...... 

Honestly, I haven't talked to @CatastrophicFailure privately, or anything like that... so I really don't know one way or the other. But my instincts are thinking (and hoping) he's not done.... not by a long shot.

"Echoes of the Kraken???"

Edited by Just Jim
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"Gears shifted in Valentina's mind with a thunk. 

"They put you into hibernation? Like a bear in winter?" she asked, not quite looking at him. 

"Well, sort of. 'Hibernation' isn't the most accurate term. It's a complete suspension of all metabolic activity. But reversible. Probably. Maybe." " 

It's a long shot but if Val was already suspended before the power went out - well it's awfully cold and dry in deep space. She may be revivable. And she still has her Munstone plot armour on. :)

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6 minutes ago, KSK said:
"Gears shifted in Valentina's mind with a thunk. 

"They put you into hibernation? Like a bear in winter?" she asked, not quite looking at him. 

"Well, sort of. 'Hibernation' isn't the most accurate term. It's a complete suspension of all metabolic activity. But reversible. Probably. Maybe." " 

It's a long shot but if Val was already suspended before the power went out - well it's awfully cold and dry in deep space. She may be revivable. And she still has her Munstone plot armour on. :)

That is a very long shot indeed, I have little hope of that.  

Great story, @CatastrophicFailure!

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9 minutes ago, vsully said:

I want to see Val make a comeback!

No, that's not how this works. Shadows was the Good End, and Whispers was the Bad End. Next, because a Better End would be boring, we'll get the Worse End.

10 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Krakensbane

Yes! Float that origin!

cackles madly

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14 minutes ago, 0111narwhalz said:

No, that's not how this works. Shadows was the Good End, and Whispers was the Bad End. Next, because a Better End would be boring, we'll get the Worse End.

Yes! Float that origin!

cackles madly

Aha! So the next story sees the origins of the Krakensbane, in an ancient, highly advanced Kerb civilization that is threatened by the evil Kraken. The story ends with the main character managing to hide the Krakensbane in a place inaccessible to the Kraken. The Kraken then splats the main character and destroys obliterates the civilization. In the epilogue, modern day Ussari miners find the Krakensbane...

Edited by vsully
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