Soul of the Progenitors – Act 11

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Soul of the Progenitors

A Homeworld Fanfiction

by Crobato

Originally posted October 26, 2004 – 4:47AM

Act 11

Aboard the Naasha, Taal-Shia System, Tarim Sector

The lights dimmed as the ship shook under the jaws of the Junkyard Dogs. For a moment the lights turned out and so did the instruments. The screens turned dark, and Radal stared at the ceiling, his ears the only connection to what was happening outside. The ship groaned as the Dogs pulled.

“What’s going to happen to us?” Gursal asked. “Are these robots cannibals? Do they eat us? Recycle our bodies along with the rest of the ships?”

Mani laughed, taking advantage of Gursal’s predicament. “You heard the stories in these parts, spoken by the Vaygr and the Raiders. Strange monsters in the deep of space that suddenly ensnare you and your ship, so they can recycle you for your nutrients and your ship for parts.”

Gursal appeared upset. “How can you be calm like this? How can you be laughing at our predicament? We should have gone down fighting. At least we die like Hiigarans and not like animals being readied to be eaten.”

“Calm down,” Mani said. “Our captain is cool. Let us be that way too. He knows what he is doing.”

Radal was in deep thought, staring at the ceiling of the inactive ship, the bridge of whom was dimly lit by the panel lights under emergency power. “Yes, calm down, Gursal. We shall be all right. This happened to me before, the science ship Daisan being pulled by the Dogs. But the Dogs didn’t eat us or recycle the ship. Instead, they brought us out of the system. For all you know that is what they could be doing. They will not attack you if you are not hostile. If we have attacked them we will surely be dead. This way, we have a chance to survive.”

“But…” Gursal interjected.

It was Iisha’s turn. “Believe my father. I felt it too. These Progenitor machines, they may be machines, but their creators were not random killers. Everything they do has a purpose, a goal, and that goal is always towards the greater good.”

“If the Dogs wanted us dead,” Mani added. “They would have killed our life support. When those jaws grasped our ship, they took immediate command of the ship, including all its computer and power systems.”

As soon as Mani ended his sentence, the lights came on. “See? Power’s back.”

“Back to positions,” Radal ordered. “Give me some status.”

“Life support is now full to the max. We still don’t have control of the thrusters,” Mani said.

“Nor our weapons,” Gursal said.

“Our sensors are still all operational,” Iisha added.

“On screen then, find out what is happening to us and where they are taking us,” Radal ordered.

“On screen,” Iisha confirmed.

The monitors showed the ship moving slowly but smoothly across the derelict field. On the background was monstrous pieces of broken, ancient ship, some of whom appeared to dwarf the Naasha. The derelicts dared dwarfed and eclipsed the ancient reddish sun, and the ringed nebula around it, created from the gases ejected from the massive star. As the ship moved, slivers of light shone through. The rays of light indicated that space in the graveyard was not a complete vacuum. Gases leaked from the derelicts, and mixed with that of the nebula’s gases to create a low density atmosphere.

“Iisha, do we have access to the camera drones?” Radal asked.

“It appears that the drone bay is functional. The drones have self contained power,” Iisha replied.

“Launch them,” Radal ordered. “Let’s see what is happening outside the ships.”

“Launching four drones,” Iisha affirmed. “Putting them in stationary positions. Displaying cameras on screen.”

Radal stood up and walked to the monitors. “By Sajuuk,” he exclaimed. The screens showed four Junkyard Dogs grasping the Naasha like overgrown salvagers. The Naasha was by no means a small ship; it was based on the hull of a full sized Lord Class carrier. The Dogs were like large corvettes, and yet they pulled the massive Naasha with ease.”

“Look at the corner of the screen,” Iisha said. “Aligning the camera.”

“Yes, I can see it,” Radal said, staring eyes, at the parade formation of Movers above and below the ship.

“It appears we’re being escorted,” Gursal said. “What gives us the honor of this escort formation?”

“That’s not all,” Radal added, pointing to more entities in the screen. “Various autoguns in arranged formation, positioned to protect something. Maybe this path, like a gauntlet.”

“Autoguns?” Gursal asked, staring at the floating turrets whose guns turned and aimed menacingly at them.

“Yes, not seen since the Exodus of the first Mothership, when it entered the Karos Graveyard. We must be getting close to something.” Radal admitted.

“I don’t really like the looks of that something,” Gursal said. “Is that something really big? That’s because I am getting something immensely big in my scanners, and we seem headed to it.”

Iisha quickly put her eyes in her scanners, her hands nimbly dancing on the control buttons. “Yes I am getting something immensely big in my scanners too. Turning camera drones to it.”

The screen turned from looking at the Dogs grasping on the hull of the Naasha, then to the Movers escorting in formation above and under the ship, to the Autoguns lining up the flanks in a massive long gauntlet, and then to the monolith unveiling in front of them from the mists of the nebula.

“By Sajuuk’s name…” Radal exclaimed, slowly sitting down as his eyes remained transfixed on the screen.

“I…I can’t believe it…” Iisha said as the monolith transformed slowly to the model she studied over a thousand times before. “It can’t be…”

As the mists continued to clear, she zoomed the camera drones to the inscriptions on the slab sided face of the monolith. They were exactly the same as that of the model. She uttered the words. “Beware, for this is the Keeper of Souls.”

“It’s the Ark…the Ark of Geddon…”

“It’s a lot bigger than what your model suggests…” Gursal said. “And we were supposed to bring that home?” He pointed to the monolith in the screen. “Radal? Can you explain that?”

Radal smiled and his hands gestured in a surrender. “Maybe my memory playing tricks on me. I always thought it was big, but in a still manageable way.”

Radal turned to Iisha. “The camera drones. Scan the thing end to end.”

“Right.” Iisha replied. From its bow to its end, it appeared like one giant slab. The hull structures must be on the other side. At the end, appeared to be the exhaust nozzles of the massive engines. Around the side of the ship, beams protruded, like an unfinished construction project. As the drone scanned to the center of the ship, something appeared to be moving.

“Looks like docking doors.” Gursal said, pointing to the screen. “And it’s opening… Didn’t you say this ship is dead?”

Radal stared at the opening doors with incredulous eyes. “Yes, that is what I thought. If this is so, then the ship may be in a more functional condition than we thought.”

“That’s not the only thing to consider, Captain, we’re being pulled into it and we can’t do anything about it,” Gursal said.

Radal switched his eyes to the instruments, showing the changes in velocities and direction. Gursal was right; the Dogs were towing the ship into the opening of the docking bay, big enough to hold an entire carrier. Under normal circumstances, he would have felt terrified, and yet at the same time, elated at the opportunity and wonder at the event that no one has ever gone before. History was at the making, and he was in the forefront of it. The gape of the Ark lay before him; the greatest archeological discovery in space ever, the key to the power of balance in the galaxy. One man standing in the tide of history, in the event horizon of the unknown.

Radal smiled. “Looks like we have no choice but to ride the entire thing through.”

“They want us inside,” Iisha said. “I know they want us to go inside.”

Radal took a deep breath. “Maybe that explains the escort. If they want us inside, then we should oblige them. Prepare a landing party. Get the suits ready. We’re going in.”

***

The Naasha went down through five decks the size of its own height before the Dogs settled the ship into a docking port. Radal watched tentatively as the door closed above them, the light from the nebula beyond dimmed till it cannot be seen, and there was darkness about them.

“There is some kind of gravity,” Iisha said. “Exactly right at one G.”

“This must mean the ship’s artificial gravity generators are functional,” Radal replied. He watched from the windows, as the ship slowly descended into the dock.

“The dock is being pressurized,” Iisha said from her space suit, watching the instrument readouts in the airlock of the Naasha. Radal discovered to his surprise that this was the first time she ever donned a suit before, and she clearly wasn’t used to it. But her desire to go through this journey overcame such minor inconveniences, and the feeling of whatever danger out there. Her hand fumbled looking for the helmet flashlight, but she found it and clicked it on, as she slid the visor down. Satisfied that she was getting the hang of the suit, Radal slipped down his visor and turned on the head light.

“Ready?” Radal gestured.

Iisha gave her thumbs up and so did Gursal, Mani and Banaan.

“There goes, one small step for me, one giant step for Hiigara,” Radal uttered as the door slowly opened into the darkness, spotlights from the ship laying beams across the floor. Radal made the first step down the ramp, then the next, then finally, laid his step on the solid floor that was the Ark.

It felt like any floor should be, solid and unpretentious.

He could hear his footsteps echoed as his feet walked the floor. So there was definitely an atmosphere. Radal looked around the space they were enclosed in. The dock appeared like a large hall, and he could see the faint luminous inscriptions on the walls, inscriptions of some kind that he could never understand but hinted of what may be on this ship. The entire thing felt like entering an ancient temple.

On hearing the sounds, Iisha noted that the room must be atmospherically pressurized. She clapped her hand to confirm by sound that there was no vacuum. With a portable atmospheric analyzer on her hand, she noted that the air pressure had been going up, until they attained a habitable level. This was no random occurrence. Whoever, whatever was on this ship, expected them to come and prepared a welcoming program.

She checked the atmospheric composition. Oxygen levels appear to go up hand in hand with the atmospheric pressure. Temperature was also steadily rose. She pointed to the analyzer with her fingers to her father, who nodded in affirmation about the results. The temperature stabilized, and so did the pressure and the oxygen levels, all to readings that to Iisha indicated a comfortable room environment.

“There is only way one way to find out,” Iisha said, signaling to her father. Then one of her hands went up to her helmet to open her helmet’s clear face plate.

“Iisha, what are you doing!” Her father exclaimed in horror. But it was too late; Iisha had already lifted her face plate.

She took a deep breath, and thought that the air felt dry, musky, and stale. But definitely breathable.

“It’s all right, father, it’s breathable.” With those words, she began removing her helmet and then her space suit. “See?” She smiled to assure her father, as he had a horrified look in his face that the face plate could ill conceal.

“I guess there is nothing to lose,” Radal said, opening his face plate slowly, then taking a deep breath of air. The air was breathable like what Iisha said, but it had the stench of the long dead.

Gursal, Mani and Banaan followed Radal’s lead, sliding their face plates up, taking their first breath, then removing the space suits.

“Leave the suits here, I don’t think anyone would bother with the suits,” Radal said. “Take the instruments. We got a lot of ground to cover.”

Banaan took the video camera, and started recording. He brought along more than twelve hours of recordable footage. Gursal brought weapons; he was the guardian for the group in case, hostilities should arise, which they all hoped would never come to that. Mani brought instruments, and Iisha brought a powerful spotlight, scanners and a portable computer.

Iisha lit the walls with her spotlight. There were inscriptions all over, glowing, lightly powered by a hidden source. The ship has to be functional if this is to happen, just as the presence of functional life support systems in the ship that activated on their presence. Then something must be running everything, some kind of legacy intelligence—which can be alive, or can be artificial.

“Anything special?” Radal asked, staring at the same inscriptions.

“No, it merely said this was the hanger and docking facilities. Warning signs and directional signs.” She seemed strangely disappointed that the inscriptions only meant for the mundane.

She paused for a deep breath. Dangers aside, she could not believe herself where she was standing now. This was the Ark itself, and she was standing right inside it, ready to probe its inner secrets. This was all she could dream, like this was the exact culmination of what her entire life was all about. Strangely enough, this felt like home like she was born to understand all this, to be a part of all this.

There was something alive, something scratching on the ground like some kind of animal. It unnerved Gursal enough to swing his blaster rifle around. “What in Sajuuk’s name is that?” He shouted, cocking his rifle.

“No wait!” Iisha shouted. “Don’t shoot!” With her spotlight, she lit whatever what the source of movement and sound.

It was a small robot, feelers for air sensors, compound eyes for sight. It had mandibles and claws, waving them around. Small lights blinked around the creature.

“What is that?” Gursal asked.

Iisha knelt down at the mechanical creature, waving her hand slowly around it. The creature appeared pacified at her actions, and relaxed its feelers. Iisha wiped the dust off the carapace to read the inscriptions on its back.

“It’s a maintenance robot, a Keeper.”

“A Keeper?” Radal asked. “Are they supposed to be those destroyer sized ships with drones that are so good in killing?”

“That’s only one kind of Keeper and there are many different kinds,” Iisha instinctively answered. “Those ships are Drone Sentinels. This Keeper here is an internal maintenance robot, keeping things inside the ship fixed and clean, while the Movers and the Keeper ships maintain the outside. There must be more of these robots inside the ship, in various shapes and sizes. So be careful.”

“Something must be controlling them,” Mani said. “There must be a central intelligence, a processing core somewhere, inside this ship that is still functional.”

“I bet it also controls the Dogs, the Autoguns, the Keepers and the Movers outside, like remote control.” Gursal lowered his rifle. “If we can access and control it, maybe we can control those drone ships as well.”

“We will do that,” Radal said. “But first, let’s find out more about what we are exactly dealing with.” Looking around he saw his daughter not wasting any time and already studying more of the signs, and walking ahead of them.

“After you, my dear,” he said.

***

They don’t really knew where they were going, but followed only the largest and most obvious passageways. These ways themselves were lit dimly, suggesting that the ship did have it operative power systems, but were working only in minimal mode. To have the ship maintained like this, there must be an extensive network of maintenance robots, all controlled intelligently by a node or nodes.

That network manifested itself increasingly as more robots appeared in all sizes and shapes. Some just minded their business while others expressed a strange curiosity to the strangers in their midst. Some were small, scurrying across the floor with many legs, and then ran up the wall. Others were more spidery, with long delicate legs that took long strides. Some were alarming enough for Gursal to keep his blaster pointing at them, but Iisha kept assuring him and telling him to calm down. Some of the curious ones followed them from a distance, and they themselves grew to a small crowd, that kept Gursal both sufficiently paranoid and annoyed.

Their objective was to find a control room, a bridge, an engineering room, something that must serve as the nerve center for the ship. The inscriptions have been mundane so far, directions to passage ways, halls, and rooms, to warning signs on panels and to entrance and exit signs.

Until they reached this long passageway that appeared to ascend upward.

“The dock must have been close to the engine room,” Mani said. “And we have been fairly close to it.”

“Then this long passageway may lead to the center of the ship,” Radal said.

“Look!” Iisha pointed. “The inscriptions, now they tell something different. They—I think they’re trying to tell the history of the race, the Progenitors.”

The first picture was the image of one large galaxy. Iisha studied it carefully, and stepped back.

“Is that ours?” Gursal asked.

“This is not our galaxy,” Iisha said. “This is the galaxy where they came from.”

Then she stepped back. She waved her hand as her spotlight lit the walls of the passageway which turned into a kaleidoscope of images and color. “It’s a vast mural. This is their history. An entire history is conveyed here in a shell, by these pictures and art. From the beginning here, in this picture of the galaxy, to the end of their history, at the end of this passageway.”

“They were not the first to arrive to our galaxy, as it says here. Explorers from other galaxies have come here for many millennia, maybe in the millions of years.”

“But these early explorers only came to explore, but not to colonize and spread the Light.”

“That was the Mission. Their Mission.”

She gazed upon the other murals. One mural had a large choir in white singing to the heavens. It was much like in her dreams, the way she dreamt the Progenitors celebrated their life, their beliefs, and their Mission. Singing praise to the wonders of the Universe, to all of Creation and Order. From the spark of life to the spark of sentience, to the Enlightenment that brought forth civilizations, the Mission to spread the Light, to bring forth the next stage in the evolution of their souls. They prayed, they celebrated, but most of all they sang till their notes filled the fabric of space and spread the light across the great chasms of darkness. Was those dreams the souls of the Progenitors calling to her?

“Iisha, Iisha? Are you still with us?” Radal reminded her.

Iisha broke out of her tranced stupor. “Ah, yes.” She shook her head to wake from the cobwebs in her mind.

“The earliest travellers came to this galaxy, not on gates but on scout ships. From there, they built a gate that connected this galaxy to their own, and to other galaxies in an immense network that was built across possibly in millions of years. Then more travelers came, and they built up the gate to become bigger and bigger, until a vast fleet came through it.”

“This was the first gate of the entire gate network, the gate that connected this galaxy to their original galaxy.”

“This is the Gate of Karnak.”

She walked down the passageway, reading the story embedded in the murals. The others followed her.

“All this, is a celebration of their life. Through their Mission, they came close to living with the Divine.” Iisha waved her hand across the expanse of the walls.

“But for all their perfection, they had one flaw. As they spread the light, spread their genetic markers and taught the lesser races the power of civilization and space flight, they had dissidents that taught otherwise. Why teach the others the Power and the Light, when you can keep it to your own advantage? Teach not the Light, but become the Light itself. Teach not to worship, but to be worshiped instead.”

“The Progenitors were so powerful, that many of them saw themselves as gods. And as gods they should rule, create empires that span across the millions of stars.”

“That started the Heresy. The Ankhenatha—the Path to Darkness, the descent into hell.”

“There arose a civil war among the Progenitors, as the Elders declared the Arhat—the Purging, while the Heretics declared war to consolidate their power across the Heavens.”

“And so started the Age of Arhat, the Age of Purging, the Age of War, and the time of death. The Heretics, who so blasphemed the Mission, had their names removed from the Garaknar the great Citadel of Stone, of whom all the names of the Progenitors, the Missionaries, were recorded. From hence worth, their names were so vile that they will never be spoken. They became the Nameless Ones.”

“The Nameless Ones began to build a vast fleet, the Planet Killers or Planet Destroyers as they were called.” Iisha pointed to the murals of large five armed monster ships that appeared to fill the space of one wall. Below them were pictures of people in the midst of suffering, screaming, as death poured from the giant ships above. “The people of the Galaxy called the Shivakan, the Destroyers of Worlds, for that was their purpose, which they accomplished without remorse.”

“The Shivakan burned entire worlds, worlds filled with civilizations that had been taught the Light, and people refused to bow the Nameless Ones and call them divine. Billions of souls across the Galaxy died under their attack.”

“The Missionaries built a vast fleet of that included Battleships, Motherships, and Dreadnaughts to combat the Nameless Ones and stop their war of elimination. They seek to purge the Nameless Ones.”

Iisha pointed to a mural, depicting an armada of ships. Some of the ships were familiar, ships that were seen before in the Graveyards and recovered, ships like the Sajuuk and the Dreadnaught. But there were more than one of them; there were many. Such was the awesome power of this ancient armada.

The murals showed a great conflict in the stars, as two massive fleets of ships—numbers as great as the stars in space—engaged each other with beams of ion light. “The war led to now where. Both sides were tied, and both sides had the power to destroy each other. War burned across the entire galaxy, and worlds both to the side of the Light and those that followed the Heresy, worlds were destroyed. Even those who followed the Shining Path would have their hands stained in death and blood.”

“A great leader arose from the Missionaries, one named Sajuuk. He was a Missionary whose hand shaped many worlds, teaching them the Light, the Shining Path of civilization, science and faith. In the darkest hours of the Mission, he led the Shivakan away from the remaining worlds that followed the Path. He shut down the Gate network so the Nameless Ones could not use them, and imprinted the key code of the Gates on to his ship’s hyperspace cores and scattered the Cores into space.”

Radal interrupted. “They were a race of angels and gods at war with each other. They shaped this Galaxy, and yet they nearly destroyed it as well. Their legacy left us with our civilizations, Hiigara, Taiidan, the Bentusi, and many others, and they gave us gods like Sajuuk.”

“But that is not all,” Iisha added, pointing to more murals and inscriptions down the passageway.

“Sajuuk’s sacrifice did not stop the Shivakan, only delayed them. The war was going badly against the Missionaries, who while ancient and powerful, was never a warlike race. Eventually the Missionaries knew their time would come to an end. But if all of them die, the Mission would end, and the Universe would fall into never ending darkness.”

Iisha then walked to a figure drawn in the mural, a figure of white with long hair, her hands outstretched and beckoning, her eyes to the sky, her mouth open in song, singing in unison with the choir. It was like the woman in her dreams, the woman who sang with her choir in the midst of the storm and fires of war, and sang to her very end. Immediately, Iisha felt a strange affinity. “She was a woman, a priestess, a Maiden of Light.”

“Who?” Radal asked.

Iisha turned around. “She—this woman in the mural. She is Geddon, the Deliverer of Souls. She is the Key.”

“The Key?” Radal said. Where did he heard of this before? The Keeper who told him a long time ago, to return the Key. “But what exactly does the Key does? And isn’t the Ark of Geddon, the ship? So who is this person.”

Iisha continued. “She proposed a final solution to the survival of the Mission, the secret, the reason why this very ship was built. This, everything you see around her, this was all her vision. She is the Key to the Ark, to be Unbound from her body but Bound to this very vessel. Like Karan S’jet was to the Mothership.”

“The Ark of Geddon is a Mothership, one that was prepared to undertake a long journey.” Iisha stopped.

“Why did you stop?” Radal asked. Before he knew it, they had reached the end of passageway, and a gigantic door awaited them. Two figures, like gods, stood in sentry, protecting the door with their endless, timeless but lifeless gaze, both their hands clasped in prayer. Around them, in the arch that framed the gateway, were more of the inscriptions and drawings.

Iisha appeared lost as she studied the last of the murals and inscriptions. “The history ends here. Whatever they were doing, or planned to do, was never done. It all ended here, and beyond, whatever they were doing, lies past this door. The key of it all.”

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