Story:The Words of Antocula
|The Words of Antocula|
|Timeframe||Era of the Republic of the Omni|
|Story arcs||Corrupted Light story arc|
Chapter 1: Heist
In a dark room filled with metallic crates stood a humanoid creature clad in armor and a gas mask with yellow glowing eyes. He held an unusual device, scanning each crate. Every step he took was dead silent as sonic black hole generators attached to his feet deafened all noise. Inside Hanvel’s helmet, he could not even hear his own breath, or even his own thoughts aloud in his head. The sound of total silence never ceased to be disturbing, and he could never get over how unnerving it was. Worst of all, he could not even listen to his music.
Shuffling about, he spotted a levitating bot with a single eyeball that could rotate. It would emit a low humming had he not been in his sonic black holes. The eyeball bot looked about, not sensing anything as Hanvel crept by. These security bots were sensitive to sound, but of course, they had design flaws. The engineers of Omni society had a lot of difficulty with lateral thinking, and it took more than a genius to figure out the flaws, but to Hanvel, they were obvious. Why build these bots this way? Why not give them 360 vision? Why make them sensitive to sound when sonic black hole technology existed? Perhaps this was an older model from a few cycles ago.
Hanvel soon came to a sliding door sealed shut by a control panel. Another old technology, more than several dozen cycles old. Had the republic’s funding for security systems slipped? Hanvel took out his handheld device, tapped a few buttons and let the decrypter do its work. It sent out a series signals, reading the panel’s encoding and copying it. Then, it ran a series of tests to discover the exploitable flaw, and it found it, all within the spawn of a few seconds.
The door opened, revealing a large spacious, spherical room with a narrow walkway leading to a large, blue holographical globular object in the middle with several terminals at its base. A database of government secrets. Perfect. Eagerly, he ran up to it.
Hanvel removed his gas mask, revealing his scaly face. Like all Omni, he had a single head-tail, an appendage that sensed changes in atmosphere and air pressure. A sort of weather predictor more or less. But predictions of the future were what he was after. Word of some kind of ancient Oracle from a long dead civilization that could predict the future with near 100% accuracy. That was his goal.
He sifted through the countless files on the terminal, searching for everything he could on this so-called Oracle. Most of what he found was just historical documents and information released to the public about Novarckas, the Dyson sphere created by the same beings that also made the Oracle. Surely, the Oracle must be there, but where? Novarckas was an enormous place - it was built around a red dwarf so it was far larger than any gas giant.
Then, he found it. A fuzzy image of a moon named 362 Pythein. It was blue and white, covered in ice and snow and very distant from the Dyson sphere which it orbited. It was tagged with a few short texts relating to the Oracle, but nothing too specific. But Hanvel decided to log the coordinates of the moon on his device. That info was classified - the republic withheld detailed planetary information regarding the Novarckas system, but now, it was his.
But as he turned around, he found a bot staring right at him. How careless. He should have turned off his sonic black hole generators much sooner so that he could hear it coming from behind, but how could he have known? The chamber flashed red accompanied by a siren. Quickly, Hanvel put his mask back on.
Dozens of bots swarmed at him. He was surrounded, but Hanvel was still smarter. He dashed for the door from which he came in and found himself back in the room with all the crates. He could not go back the way he came in, so instead he looked for an airlock. Where was it? Where was it? Ah, over there.
Hanvel stood in front of the airlock. He messed about with his device and set up some unusual, emergency settings. Then, he reached for red lever, but before he could pull it, he heard the click of cocking plasma guns.
“Freeze!” It was a group of three security guards clad in armor and a plexi-glass helmet. “Drop your weapons!”
Hanvel raised his arms to the air and dropped his device. “Okay, okay. You got me.” But the device continued its work unbeknownst the guards. After a short while, the device let off a few beeps. “Oh, can I get that? I think my mom’s calling me.”
“Hands in the air!” The device continued to beep. It was probably not his mother as Omni never met their parents, but it was definitely someone. But then, a short time after, the red lever pulled itself down on its own, no doubt triggered by the device. The doors behind him opened revealing the vacuum of space which sucked him out along with the device. The guards’ emergency magnetic boots kicked in so they stayed where they were.
“So long, fools!” Hanvel shouted even though they could not hear him. It still made him confident. Using his rocket boots, he swam around catching his device before it could float away further. Then, he turned around to look at the facility from which he came: Against a starry backdrop was a large, spinning circular ring-shaped space station connected to the oceanic planet below via space elevator. That planet was the Omni homeworld: Kollha.
Chapter 2: Return to Base
Hanvel used his rocket boots to direct himself over to the long metallic cord tethered to the planet’s surface. The space elevator. It allowed transport of goods to and from the planet to avoid the need to waste fuel for ships that would constantly leave and enter the atmosphere. He eyed a disc-shaped structure rapidly rising along the tether, approaching the space station. That would be his ride, so he propelled himself over. Once the disc stopped, he attached himself to the outside of it with magnets and waited. Then, the disc moved downward towards the planet again while Hanvel hitched a ride.
The way down was nauseating as the disc traveled faster and faster, letting what little gravity there was do the work. And very soon, it got hot. Very hot. Hanvel’s suit kept him safe though, but even so, he felt as if he felt like burnt fish on a grill. But as the disc descended lower and lower, he could finally see the features on the planet: a city built over the ocean with long, silver walkways connecting forests of towering, silver skyscrapers. While still far above the ocean’s surface, Hanvel jumped off letting his rocket boots guide him down. The exhilarating adrenaline rush from flying through the deep, blue sky never got old.
As Hanvel let himself fall freely, he used his device to locate his base: an aircraft carrier floating in the middle of the ocean, not too far from the city itself. Guiding himself down, he landed on the deck. There were several alien workers who were startled, but nonetheless, kept about their business just assuming that he was skydiving for fun like he always did. The republic had already started allying with other spacefaring species in hopes of building some sense of galactic government.
Upon landing, his device rung again. The same caller as before. This time, he answered it, flipping it open. The viewscreen it revealed showed a goblin-like creature rambling in another language.
“I’m gonna pay soon,” Hanvel said. “Just give me a few more standard weeks.”
“Bah! We need money now! Or we have head!” The goblin continued to ramble, and then Hanvel just shut off his device, ignoring him.
Hanvel headed back to his room below deck. Inside were some large lava lamps and a large, cushiony chair, all of which he permanently borrowed in the same manner he just acquired the coordinates to 362 Pythein. He leaped up in the air and landed on his chair, relaxing and listening to his music. But his relaxation was soon interrupted when his roommate from across the hall came in: Zanio mol Kamien. A strange, four-legged armored creature with pink tentacles on his nose. He didn’t look Hanvel directly in the eye as his species was blind, only capable of “sight” by feeling vibrations. And Hanvel’s music. It was hardly any different from an earthquake for the creature.
“Hanvel! Turn that down!” Zanio stomped about shouting in his native tongue, but Hanvel had a universal translator on hand. After several attempts to get his attention, Hanvel finally turned down the music.
“Oh c’mon. You’re not going to believe what I did today. I just had the greatest skydiving trip of my life.”
If Zanio could raise an eyebrow, he would have. “Is that all?”
“Skydiving. Like a pro. All the way from orbit.”
Zanio listened acutely. Able to feel even the changes of heart rate and breathing of any species, he could detect if someone was lying or not. “You’re not telling me everything. What...did you do?”
Hanvel paused and collected himself. It was almost impossible to not give a Ziamlia a straight answer. Zanio in particular was fluent in Omni body language being a resident of Kollha for many cycles. “Okay, look. You know me, and I’ve been here for too many cycles to count. I’m an autopathic kleptomaniac outcast, and I couldn’t help myself. I acquired some...government secrets. Please don’t report me. I’ve got a huge bounty on my head already for overdue payments.”
“Go on…” Autopaths. Rejects of Omni society. Autopaths were said to be born with so-called mental deficiencies that made them difficult to work with the highly specialized caste system, but the way he saw it, this so-called disorder he had allowed him to think outside the box which was difficult for ordinary Omni to do. That’s why he could bypass the security systems so easily simply because the Omni engineers were not smart enough to consider every possibility and account for all system flaws. But the downside was that he was not qualified socially to work within any of the castes, and thus, he was exiled.
“So yeah. This government secret.” Hanvel paused and smirked. Though Zanio was blind, he could still “see” the smirk just through the subtle vibrations in the ground. “What if I told you I know a way to predict the future?”
“Fortunetelling? Never have I met one that was the real deal. They’re all fakes.”
“I’m talking about Antocula the Oracle. An actual, future-predicting entity from one of Novarckas’s moons.” Hanvel pulled out his device and twirled it several times. “And I know where it is now.”
That caught Zanio’s interest. Future prediction was very alien for his people as Ziamlia were centered almost entirely on truth. “How do you plan to get there? Spaceships are not easy to steal, and it’s pretty obvious when one goes missing.”
Hanvel stopped to think. His mind first jumped to his goblin employer. No. Out of the question. He had already stooped into too much debt working for that loan shark. But what about an investor? Who might be interested? Imagine all of the scientific possibilities and advancements in technologies. But only an autopath would dare think that. No. The republic nowadays was more interested in mundane, everyday tasks. They stopped caring about advancing technology generations ago. Come on. Laterally think this one out. Think outside the box.
“I know what to do.”
Chapter 3: A Lovesick Investor
Zanio and Hanvel made their way to the aircraft carrier's deck. Though Zanio couldn't see it, Hanvel took a quick glance at the triple set of moons in the sky. They were nearly aligned. Almost the end of the current lunar cycle, and the Egg Ritual was drawing close. That was the key. To market the Oracle not as a breakthrough scientific discovery, but as a holiday gimmick. A temporary fad that would likely fade away in less than a cycle. Fortunetelling as Zanio put it, but this one was the real deal. No scams. No cold reading. Real future prediction. Of course, Zanio still had his doubts, but Hanvel was desperate to get out of debt. He was many months overdue and sooner or later, bounty hunters would come to collect his head.
The two of them hopped onto a smaller boat that detached from the carrier. The boat, which was programmed with autopilot, made its way towards the distant skyscrapers: Kollha Mega City, a grand metropolis built over the ocean to avoid the ever changing, flooding terrain of the planet. While Hanvel enjoyed the scenic vistas and wondrous architecture, Zanio just remained in place with almost zero excitement. He had trouble "seeing" water due to its fluidity, so he could hardly sense anything beyond the boat.
After a short trip, the boat docked at a fanciful harbor. Silver walkways and fancifully crafted glass fountains. Holographic advertisements were everywhere, overwhelming to the average citizen who mostly wanted to get on with their day. This was the financial district of the main city. Merchants selling their wares everywhere, but none of them particularly stood out. They needed to search carefully and spend time choosing.
"We're going to be here a while, aren't we?" Zanio muttered. "Days or weeks."
Hanvel paused for a moment. Think outside the box. Don't think like an Omni. Just think. Investors can be tricky individuals, but Omni in the economic caste all thought similarly. They were designed to think specifically for their job. He could outsmart them, but what use would a clever idea be if it could not be understood by regular people? Whatever future secrets would be derived from the Oracle might be considered different or unusual. He would need to target those that thought differently like him. Well, he was a complete autopath going so far as actual DNA differences, but even so, as homogeneous as the Omni were, there were bound to be more that had just some traits of autopathy. If everyone was 100% the same, Omni society could not function.
The perfect investor therefore would need to have the following traits. Firstly, the investor must be easy to convince and persuade so that Hanvel and Zanio remained in creative control. They would get to choose what to do with the Oracle's predictions without interference from the Voices. Secondly, the investor would need to be dissatisfied with their life in some way, and they would find Hanvel's and Zanio's proposal a long term solution to their everyday problems.
The duo eventually wandered into another plaza surrounded by stacks of dormitories. Kollha Advanced University of Economics. Students who were trying to learn how to start businesses. At some point, Hanvel did want to sign up for the school, but the fees were enormous, far more than he could ever pilfer from some rich noble. But being an autopath, he became an expert just by raiding the university's library many cycles ago. His philosophy was "Why pay for something that could be acquired for free?" Zanio had always thought Hanvel was arrogant because of what he did, but both of them were still exceptionally intelligent individuals either way. Now, they had to find someone exceptionally gullible to start a business founded on a dubious premise.
They're stood a young, college age Omni having just got off class. A female named Jifa who judging by the way she was dressed was not new to economics. She had at least some experience, and she did not look the part of the snobby noble like the numerous investors they had encountered before. Could this be the one? Zanio and Hanvel were already getting tired from their search.
"What do you think?" Hanvel nudged Zanio. Hanvel was not good at reading people or for that matter, just talking. Although he was good at predicting how they might react in certain logical situations, being an autopath, he was somewhat blind to the way normal Omni thought on a social or less rational level. But the Ziamlia was far better. With the ability to sense subtle vibrations, he could deduce a remarkable lot. Her cleanliness. The signatures of makeup and other clothing adornments. Many things that Hanvel could not see.
"Ummm...can I help you? You guys don't look like students here." Jifa seemed hesitant, almost avoidant.
"We heard you're an aspiring investor and we need someone like you for a very special task," Hanvel began. "We're trying to start a business that could revolutionize everything."
Jifa's initial reaction was mere skepticism. "Look, I need to get to class soon. Can we talk later?" Zanio read a sense of urgency just to keep going and ignore passing strangers. There was a lot on her mind. Struggle. She was searching for something. Brain patterns indicated a desire for companionship. The slight, somber walk was a sign of loneliness and disappointment in her life. Something must have recently happened to someone close to her. True, Zanio was able to read a little too much, but at least for his people, infringement on privacy was not a total issue for Omni given their communal upbringing. Zanio subtly communicated this information to Hanvel.
"What if we told you that there was a way to predict the future to 100% accuracy?" Hanvel started. "That would give you an edge on your academics, no?"
Jifa suddenly became interested. "Could you predict my future? Am I going to ace the next exam?"
"Yeah...there's a bit of a catch. We can't do it right now." Jifa was about to walk away. "But we know where it can be done. All we need is a ship with warp drive."
Jifa did have the money unlike the two of them who were still broke and in a lot of legal trouble already. "What are you talking about? It has to be done on another world? Where exactly?"
Taking a quick look about to see if anyone was watching, Hanvel leaned closer and talked more quietly. "A moon of Novarckas."
Jifa's eyes widened with surprise. "What?! No one is allowed to go there. The Voices forbid it!" Many conspiracies surrounded Novarckas. It was common knowledge that an ancient spacefaring civilization colonized the area, but the Voices had blockaded the system, putting a stop to every scientific expedition to go there. Why? Who knew? Most everyone lost interest in the place a long time ago.
"Exactly," Hanvel coldly replied. "They're holding information back from us. Fortunetelling would not have to be cons and scams anymore. It could be the real deal." Jifa looked at Zanio. She knew of his species truth-reading abilities so she felt a bit more confident. "And it's not just fortunetelling that we could use it for. It could change our view of the universe as we know it. It just needs to marketed to the public for practical use. Like say, maybe it could tell us when we'll find true companionship."
"Umm...I don't know what to say. This is a lot to take in."
Hanvel pulled out a silicon card and tossed it into the student's hands. "Call us if you're interested." The duo continued on their way while Jifa just stood there, thinking about what they said.
Chapter 4: Considerations
Jifa arrived at her next class, a fairly small room adorned with posters, and charts. One of which depicted a graphic of the Voices drawn in a way so that they were overseeing everything. They were watching. Jifa eyed her holowatch, then looked at her instructor's stern face and red flashing face.
"Jifa, why are you late?"
"I was distracted by some passerbyers. They were talking to me about some strange ideas."
"Strangeness does not belong in our society. Do not listen to whatever they said to you."
The instructor continued preaching the ideals of the Omni Republic while she was busy thinking. He rattled on about how uniformity and specialization was what made society function.
Even after what her instructor said, she was still giving thought to the offer. She normally would have brushed off what some random advertisers were saying to her, but there was something about them that seemed different. That Omni. Hanvel. He seemed so strange and odd in mannerisms. His speech was atypical. And what of that Ziamlia? She never heard of a Ziamlia ever lying before, but maybe that's just her assuming that every member of an alien race was alike. If anything, that Omni proved otherwise about her own kind. Was that Omni an autopath? Where did he come up with those ideas?
"What about autopaths?" Jifa asked. "Where do they fit in?"
"There's a reason why they're outcasts. Making decisions on an individual basis is considered insanity. It's not a lifestyle. It's a brain disorder. Autopaths are incapable of adapting to our societal caste system, and their weird ideas are absolutely absurd. Do you bring this up because that passerby you mentioned was one?"
Jifa paused for a moment. Hanvel was definitely an autopath by his strange mannerisms, but she declined. "No. I was just curious." If she were to accept Hanvel's offer and his identity as an autopath was discovered, he could be put under gene therapy to "cure" his disease which would effectively remove the strange ideas from his head. But that would mean the knowledge of this future-predicting world would be lost once more until another autopath would decide to steal government secrets again.
But it was the latter of the words of that autopath rung in her head. The possibility of finding true companionship. She took out a locket which she kept on her. A picture of some of her close, immediate friends and a male Omni whose face she whited out. She didn't replace the locket as she owned no other picture of all her friends together. That white face. A part of her was missing. A part of her was lost. Could she really find it again?
When class ended, Jifa found a corner behind a tree and pulled out the silicon card with Hanvel's caller info. She pulled out her wristwatch and dialed the digits. Putting her hand to her ear, she waited for the signal to reach him. When Hanvel answered, she replied, "I'm in."
Chapter 5: Business
Hanvel received the call and with good news. Now they had an investor to start their little schemes. The three of them all met up at a nearby restaurant. Nothing terribly fancy as after all, they needed to save money to actually start the business in the first place. Flashing neon signs and ambient, synthesized music with a steady beat playing in the background. Jifa and Hanvel sat at a booth while Zanio was off to the side in a hoverchair. Holographic menus were provided, and Zanio was provided a hard copy for his own "reading".
A floating spherical bot with multiple arms holding trays came up to them shortly after.
"Greetings sir/madam/thirdam/other. Happy Egg Ritual and welcome to Jormun's Seafood and Grill. How may I serve?"
"I'll take a glass of Umbranian Juice and with some Infra Tenders," Jifa said. "Add a side of Renr Bites."
"Just a tall Owarite Shake for me." Hanvel answered in an odd way that confused the server bot for a moment. He repeated his order again, clarifying it.
Zanio was skimming the menu and didn't find anything in particular that he would eat. Nearly everything on it was for dextro amino acid species. He just asked, "Got anything for levos?"
"I'm afraid not sir/madam/thirdam/other. This facility only serves Omni cuisine."
"Then a glass of water for me," Zanio uttered in disappointment. Even if he did find something he could eat, he wasn't willing to spend the money. Foods from his homeworld were much more expensive on Kollha because of the limited places they could grow Velesian crops.
Fortunately, the wait was not long. After about three minutes, the bot arrived with the dishes each of them asked for. And thus began their plans. Hanvel began compiling a contract on his datapad as the discussion went on. Jifa agreed to provide a ship capable of warp drive - she would borrow it from the university on the grounds of an academic research project. The destination would be faked while Hanvel would provide the real coordinates. By the time everyone finished their meals, the final copy of the contract, was finished and it made use of very ambiguous vocabulary. Jifa had trouble understanding it without referring to a thesaurus almost constantly.
"I suspected as much," Jifa snarled. "You're trying to confuse me with these big words to get me to sign something without reading it all the way through."
Hanvel was genuinely puzzled. "What are you talking about? That's just normal language."
"Or maybe you're not as well-spoken as we thought you were going to be," Zanio snarkily remarked. "Which may be a good thing. I was hoping you would be very cooperative."
Jifa seemed offended. "Because you think I'm naive?"
"Here's the deal," Zanio stated bluntly. "I think we all want answers to our biggest questions, no? You want to seek companionship? I want to get off the streets. And Hanvel. Well, I'm not quite sure what he wants because of his-"
"If I were to explain," Hanvel interrupted, "then I would expose myself. Diners are the perfect place to do business, but they are not the place to discuss secrets. Every mob boss I've taken down has made that mistake because I just eavesdropped them in a public place. And speaking of which..." Hanvel darted his eyes quickly across the room and saw a black-feathered bird-like alien, a Garud, hanging from the ceiling. The Garud had a strange look on his face, his eyes crinkled and his beak arched upward in an ominous way. Obviously suspicious.
"We should leave," Zanio stated. "That Garud's readings are fuzzy since I don't know his species that well, but I know something is up."
The trio got up to head for the door to diner as casually as they could trying to avoid drawing attention. But before they could leave, the black feathered Garud flew closer to them.
"One of you looks very familiar. I hear the Goblin is looking for someone like you to cough up unpaid debts," the Garud said in a sly voice.
Hanvel paused for a moment. "Oh, you must be mistaken."
"I'm no Ziamlia, but I know a liar when I see one. And you, my friend, are a liar. A terrible one." The translation for the Garud was quite boggled up due to his species' metaphorical speech, but they were able to make sense of it to some extent. "You're a wanted criminal, Hanvel. You're an autopath that's stolen government secrets, burglarized universities, written checks with insufficient funds, and you've got a horrible taste in music."
"I agree," Zanio said. Hanvel's eyes widened in a slight shock. "On that last part only. About the music." The Omni rolled his eyes in a reluctant relief. "This man is not a criminal. He's just slightly misguided."
The Garud cawed at him and raised a wing to cover his beak. "So the Ziamlia speaks. A species that cannot lie vouches for this Omni. I'll be watching." The Garud left the diner and flew outwards high in the sky. Hanvel and Jifa turned to stare at Zanio.
"I thought you're kind could not lie," Jifa said.
"But from a certain point of view," Hanvel said. "It's true. I'm not technically a criminal if the ones after me are corrupt goons. That would make me relatively speaking an innocent man by comparison."
"Sure, whatever," Zanio shrugged off.
"Well, let's get going then," Jifa said. "The ship's at the spaceport already."
Chapter 6: Site Recon
It was a short walk to the space elevator. Just more chrome walkways. They stood clear as a large disc came sliding downward, then slowed down to a halt. This was the same disc that Hanvel had leaped from and had his skydiving trip.
The three of them boarded alongside numerous other passengers. Nobody said a word to each other. It was especially risky with that shifty, feathered creature watching over them. It would not be long before Hanvel would expect another call from the Goblin, but hopefully, he could get himself out of communication range. Novarckas, to his knowledge, was not yet linked up to the interstellar positioning system installed around Kollha, Veles, Garuda and a few other worlds.
They soon arrived at the docking bays. Hundreds of ships stood connected to walkways and pipes under an artificial atmosphere kept stable from the rotation speed of the station. Then, Hanvel spotted a particular ship in awe. It had smoothed edges, sleek silver features. A ship only fit for a king. Is that the ship? Then, Jifa pointed to the rickety junker just right next to it. Disappointment. The journey was going to be in a cramped, claustrophobic cage. Oh well. Minus all of the goods Hanvel stole, his little nook within the aircraft carrier was hardly any different.
They all climbed a small ladder and into an airlock. It was just as he thought it was going to be. Tiny and cramped. No windows. At least Jifa got them some kind of ship. Better than nothing. And moments later after Jifa input the coordinates to 362 Pythein, they took off with autopilot primarily controlling it. Now, they just had to wait.
It was a long uneventful journey. As they approached the Novarckas system perimeter, a formation of Omni ships appeared on the viewscreen. Lots of them all cluttered together straight in front of them several million kilometers away.
"How are we going to get past the blockade?" Jifa asked worriedly.
Hanvel was puzzled at the question. "Go around them?"
"Look at how they are arranged," Hanvel explained. All clusters around the orbital plane of a celestial body in the system. "A brilliant way to position ships if this was the open ocean. But they've forgotten that there are more than two axes in space. So we go 'above' them. Relatively speaking since there's no above or below in space either."
"What?!" Jifa exclaimed. "Are you serious? You're telling me none of the Omni engineers and tacticians ever noticed such an obvious design flaw? I would have created some kind of gate checkpoints while having smaller drones patrol all illegal entry points."
Hanvel was equally surprised. "I've never met any other Omni who has thought of that either. They always think so straightforwardly." Hanvel was utterly stupefied. Had Jifa been faking her naivety this whole time? Had she been reading him? The two of them shared a gaze into one another's eyes that lasted for a few seconds before Zanio interrupted.
"We're about to drop out of warp and go to sublight speeds. 362 Pythein is not that much further away."
Chapter 7: Frozen Moon
The ship finally came into orbit of the moon. It was just like the image Hanvel saw. Blue and white, covered in ice. A larger, red-colored gas giant was in the distance, but that planet had no official designation by the Republic. Off in the distance was a red sun orbiting binary to a blue, metallic sphere - the fabled Dyson sphere Novarckas. Breathtaking. Amazing.
"The atmosphere of the moon contains a mixture of argon and oxygen, much like that of Kollha," Jifa said looking at some data readings. "No pathogens either. It might be a bit dry, but it should be breathable. We'll just need warm coats."
"Yes..." Jifa said. "Something warm..."
"There's lots of intense electromagnetic activity emanating underground from all over the moon, but there's an ice plateau that contains some kind of metal door. But I'll let you two go on ahead," Zanio said. "I'll stay here and watch the ship."
Through a cramped door, the pair of Omni entered a small, cramped shuttle. Yes, it certainly was cheap. And it was very hot as both of them had their heavy coats on. But when the shuttle landed on the moon's surface, the hatch door opened greeting them with a blast of chilling wind like nipping claws from a wispy ghost. While a welcome relief from the shuttle's stuffiness, it was hardly any better. Jifa grasped her arms around Hanvel's shoulders for warmth, until realizing what she did, slightly backing off. Neither of them commented.
Surrounding them in all directions were endless expanses of ice. Biting wind as snowy clouds kicked off from the ground. A primitive, blue moss-like plant grew in small patches, somehow hardy enough to survive this weather, but doubtless it was the source of the moon's oxygen. They hadn't seen any animals assuming there were even any at all. If there were plants here, then chances are, there was some kind of microscopic ecosystem.
It never got this cold on Kollha, the only cold spots being computer rooms which needed to be chilled to function correctly. Large computers especially needed even bigger rooms. If the Oracle was some kind of artificial intelligence, then it must be monstrous in size to warrant an entire frozen world like this. Could something even greater exist on Novarckas though? Or even in the void between galaxies? Well, that was for another generation. The technology to explore either did not exist yet.
It was not long before both of their heads perked up. It was their natural weather sensing abilities. An ice storm was coming. A nasty one. "We better hurry," Hanvel said. They searched about. Hanvel used his device from his heist as a metal detector, looking for that door which Zanio mentioned. The sensors on Jifa's ship were only accurate to a limited degree so they needed to wander around the error margin to find it.
The wind grew stronger. Stronger and noisier. A wrathful force approached. Hurry. The two of them scampered about searching for signs of that door. When they came to an icy mound, the detector gave off intense readings under the snow. Bringing out two pickaxes, the two of them mined away at the ice. The winds were getting stronger and stronger and visibility was diminishing as the horizon was swallowed into a white void.
Soon, they could hardly see their hands in front of their own faces. But with a final strike from Jifa's pickaxe revealed a dark colored metal alloy which they could not identify. They wiped off the ice chunks revealing some kind of ancient, wheeled hatch. Using their strength, they turned the wheel until it popped open revealing a passageway. They clambered inside and quickly shut the door behind them. It was dark.
With his device, Hanvel created a source of light. The air was musty. No one had likely been here in eons, yet it was somehow still intact. They could hear some kind of humming noise. It wasn't natural cave wind, but rather some kind of synthesized, machine noise.
"Stay close," he said to Jifa.
Glowing eyes soon dotted the areas in front of them paired with ear piercing screeching. Critters native to the world presumably. The device scanned them: they had large ears and fangs and would be deadly in swarms. Their primary form of navigation: echolocation. Hanvel activated his sonic black hole generators and the humming noise silenced itself, and the critters ignored them. Jifa was spooked at the lack of noise. When she tried to speak aloud, she could not hear herself.
Finally, they came to a large, dark chamber. Hanvel shut off the sonic black hole generator, remembering his experience from the heist. As they took a few steps forward, electric lights slowly came on, revealing a glowing pedestal containing a floating, grey amorphous substance not unlike mercury. Both of them got a strange sense of warmness like a great, comforting sunlight.
With wonder and awe, Hanvel stepped closer scanning the substance with his device. This was not mercury. These were nanobots clustered together. And getting closer, the nanobots begun to change shape into a humanoid figure: an Omni.
"Greetings, organics," the figure spoke. This was not the work of their translator. It spoke in their language which it somehow knew. "My name is Antocula, Oracle of Na'zrah. How may I serve?" Hanvel and Jifa were totally starstruck. Nothing like this technology existed in the Republic. So many questions rushed through their heads at once.
Chapter 8: The Words of Antocula
Hanvel dropped to his knees and bowed his head in solemnity which puzzled Jifa. "My name is Hanvel, and this is my partner Jifa. Business partner I mean. I've been wanting to meet you for a very long time. It is an honor. Both of us have so many questions for you."
"You speak of me in great respect, Omni. However, I am hardly anything more than a mere calculator," Antocula said. "The entirety of my processing power is dedicated to calculating statistics while the vast collections of knowledge gathered by Arckas are stored in Na'zrah's database on Novarckas. My purpose is to provide information to assist Arckas in planning for the future, so you will have to venture to Novarckas if you have any questions regarding the meaning of existence, philosophy, the possibility of metaphysical life forms, etc."
"Arckas?" Hanvel asked. "The ancient spacefaring empire that colonized the entire universe eons ago? I thought they were all extinct."
"They vanished a long time ago from this universe, but their creations including myself still persist to this day. The central control system on Novarckas known as Na'zrah has been monitoring the growth of this galaxy's organic life using quantum entanglement conduits located on circular, relay gates located all throughout the universe. Stone Rings as the Arckasians called them. Only a handful of these gates are still active to this day as most have fallen into disrepair over the course of many eons. But with the few that still work, Na'zrah has watched over the Republic of the Omni, monitoring your language, culture and customs. That is how I can speak with you without a translator."
Hanvel asked, "Can you tell me how many fingers I will hold up?"
"A strange question to ask," the Oracle replied in a neutral tone. "It is not my defined purpose to answer mundane questions such as that. In the past, I helped the Arckasians respond to my predictions regarding the political, economic and biological evolution of their subordinate species which they watched over for millions of years. To put in perspective, I estimate the likely paths organics will take. There are numerous variables one must account for, and only a machine intelligence of my capability or greater is able to piece together all these variables."
"So can you tell me when I'll find true companionship?" Jifa asked.
"Telling you would add additional variables," the Oracle remarked. "You will react differently if you know what the answer is. And your brain patterns indicate that you are different than typical Omni which makes you much more difficult to predict. You are outliers for both of you have some kind of oddity uncommon to Omni." Hanvel was shocked. He knew he was an autopath since he was exiled. But no way. Was Jifa one, too? "But I can tell you one thing for certain. If there were more like you, the Republic would see a great age of innovation and creativity, but at the same time, risk turning against their own people to become something totalitarian. The age of stagnancy would come to an end, but it would usher in an era of fear and conquest. The Republic would rise and indoctrinate all who stood in their way and freedom would be a thing of the past."
Jifa was frightened, but Hanvel was still awed. Maybe there was a reason why the Voices kept the Oracle so secret. Maybe that's why they suppressed autopaths. They wanted to bury the truth so that it would not fall in the wrong hands. But now that they've heard what the Oracle is capable of, it was for certain that it could serve as way more than a holiday gimmick.
"But no one knows freedom like an autopath," Hanvel proclaimed. "For a typical Omni, the concept is alien and frightening, but they would never understand. Please, you must tell me how I can spread this freedom to all!"
"What are you saying, Hanvel?" Jifa exclaimed. "That totalitarian thing sounds scary!"
"But how is it any different now?" Hanvel replied with a tone of anger and sentiment. "The Voices look down on us autopaths. They despise free will because it threatens their so-called stable society. But it's the ones with free will, the autopaths, who see the flaws in their design! We invented virtually everything the Republic uses today, but we get no credit!"
Jifa was increasingly worried and frightened. Though she herself was an autopath, she was much more reserved and practical. But she should have known that Hanvel had some rather extreme ideas in his head. "No, this can't be right!"
"I was programmed to consider all possible options for the future regardless of ethics," the Oracle said. "As according to eons of statistics compiling, any model of government can function so long as it can effectively deal with the consequences of its flaws."
"And I think it's time to change the Republic," Hanvel proclaimed. "I'm sick of being looked down upon. Antocula, I wish to use your knowledge to start a revolution for the Omni. We need you or some other type of artificial intelligence that we can get advice from. And the Voices? Well, let's have all the autopaths in charge since they're the most qualified to lead anyway."
"But we can't just have an elite few and oppressed many!" Jifa said. "You have to think about everyone else!" Their forms of autopathy were divergent. His form of autopathy made him totally analytical, while Jifa on the other hand was empathetic. Jifa wanted to consider the needs and feelings of everyone. She wished to avoid suffering and pain in favor of harmony and cooperation.
Hanvel was already getting ideas for a future version of the Republic, and he asked the Oracle for input as he spoke. Jifa and Hanvel also continued to debate with one another over the ethics. They soon began to develop a preliminary model. The artificial intelligence? If not the Oracle, then perhaps something that could still link to the Stone Rings and commune with every being in the galaxy. Hardly any different from a god, so it would likely be an icon of religious worship. This god would be the driving force behind the Omni as it would unite them under a common purpose. It would lead them. Guide them. But it would not do everything for them. The Voices would still have some reign of free will to remain adaptable.
"An interesting model," the Oracle marked. "It has its flaws, but it has been done in the past by many of the Arckasian's subordinate races. However, things may still not turn out the way you expect. What if your god betrays you? Would you still follow it trying to justify its actions or would you rebel against its will?" Neither of them answered. It was too difficult of a question even for them.
The two of them sat there for the next few hours, still discussing their ideas.
"Do you still think we can do something great with your knowledge, Antocula?" Hanvel asked.
"Greatness is an understatement for what your species could accomplish. The leaders of your society fear change. But if you use the technology of the Arckasians, your kind will be jumped forward many thousands of years ahead. You'll be able to explore the universe to your leisure and meet unknown species. Na'zrah tells me that the Omni are destined to become a pivotal civilization for all organics, and when your time comes to an end, the cycle of ever growing knowledge will continue even in your absence."
Hanvel knelt in reverence one last time. "I think it's time we leave. Thank you for your wisdom."
"I'll provide you a document containing some statistics charts on the growth of your civilization to use as evidence of our meeting," the Oracle said. "Should you wish to utilize my knowledge effectively, present it to someone who has the power to follow through with these plans." Antocula sent a signal to Hanvel's device. It was a very large file, but it fit on it neatly. In comparison to Antocula's computing systems, the device was very primitive but still easy to interface with.
Chapter 9: Sealing Fate
Before leaving, Hanvel and Jifa skimmed over the document. Tons of charts, equations, many advanced forms of mathematics that he had not even heard of before even after he plundered the university’s library. By no means was the Oracle any sort of precognitive entity and suffice to say, he was a bit disappointed. Jifa was, too.
"Even with this info, that means the fortunetelling business is not going to happen. Your everyday average worker in the Republic would have no interest in this kind of data."
If ordinary Joes would not buy it, then who? Then, he recalled what Antocula said. The one who would most likely be a buyer for the document would be someone who held some kind of political power. Who would actually see the value of this information? Certainly not the Voices. They would do nothing with it just as they have made zero progress with the excavation of Novarckas and its moons.
Unsure of what to do at the moment, Hanvel and Jifa begun making their way back outside into the cold, freezing air. Then, they boarded the shuttle to return to the ship, but upon arrival, they were not alone. There was another ship docked with it.
“No…” Jifa said. “We were followed…”
Hanvel’s device began to ring, and he answered. Onscreen was Zanio - next to him was a black feathered Garud hanging from the ceiling holding a plasma pistol to the Ziamlia’s head. On a separate channel, the Goblin appeared.
“You not have money! We blow off Ziamlia head if not give right now!” the Goblin barked. Hanvel did not actually have any credits to fork over. No. Zanio had helped him out too much. He couldn't let him die. “You think you clever going around blockade. We clever, too! We not stupid single-minder Omni!” Unlike typical Omni who could easily be fooled by anyone with free will, the Goblin was also of autopathic nature although it was considered normal for his species.
Just before the Garud was about to click the trigger, Hanvel called out in desperation. “Wait! I dug up something on this moon that may be worth your while! A document of predictions from Antocula the Oracle!”
"Ooh?" the Goblin was suddenly curious, a mood which Hanvel had never seen him in. "This better be good!"
Hanvel tapped a few buttons sending the document to the Goblin. Up on the Goblin’s screen showed a picture of an animated character laughing, dancing and singing an obnoxious opera song in nonsense language. Not amused, the Goblin’s face flared up about to lose his temper. Cued by the anger, the Garud pressed the pistol harder against Zanio’s head. No more jokes. No more snide remarks. There was no getting out of this one.
After Hanvel hesitantly sent the real document over, the Goblin patiently skimmed over it, astonished by all of the data. All the many possibilities for the future of the Republic.
"You very lucky you find this." Such a mood swinger that Goblin was. Angry one moment. Pleasantly happy the next. "We not stupid single-minded Omni. We break rules and do things better. That is why I am big mob boss!"
"Wait," Jifa said. "Are you sure about giving this information to a criminal?!" She was frightened once again. “Who knows what he’ll do with it?”
“We have no choice…” Hanvel said. “My pockets are empty of credits. And I wouldn’t want to see your ship splattered in Ziamlia blood.”
"You get off easy this time, odd-minder," the Goblin replied. “Be late with payment next time, I not be so nice!" The Goblin turned off his transmission. The black Garud left and returned to his ship, and the trio of them all stood there in as much shock and awe as Hanvel and Jifa were in the face of the Oracle.
“You shouldn't have done that,” Zanio said. “This will be bad news for the Republic.”
“But we had no choice!” Jifa pleaded. “We needed to save your life!”
“But now we are broke again!” Zanio stomped his feet in frustration. “All that effort for nothing!”
At the cost of saving one individual’s life, the data was now in the hands of the criminal underworld. The ambitious Goblin's cleverness would undoubtedly outwit the supervision of the Voices as he and his criminal followers would see through the same sort of flaws that Hanvel would see.
“Maybe not,” Hanvel wondered. “We have a ship now, and we now know that Novarckas artifacts have an audience. A very morally ambiguous one for that matter, but perhaps our business will become something else.”
If the Republic were to survive, they would have to modify their old ways and adapt. Unrest and instability were coming. Change was coming. Freedom was coming.
- The Republic of the Omni uses a lunar calendar based on the alignment and phases of the three moons of Kollha.
- Omni celebrate the end of a cycle with gifts of goodwill to prepare for a new batch of eggs. The practice has caught on with several other alien species the Omni has encountered.
- The leaders of Omni society
- The color of an Omni's skin reflects their mood.
- The term Omni use for third-gendered Omni
- The Goblin's term for autopaths.