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Cost of Sacrifice

Written 1 month ago

Dates: 352.491 - 352.494 PGST
Saga: Destiny's Call

Race slowly faded in from unconsciousness, the familiar sounds of medical equipment beeped around him. He kept his eyes closed as his ears evaluated his surroundings. He could distinctly hear two sets of breathing, one on either side of him. The one on his left was close, which probably explained the warm feeling grasping his hand.

Outside his room, he caught at least two others walking around, most likely the medic staff. One pair of footsteps made their way to his room. Its source was most likely Chief Medic Tenaway; his medical stats must have alerted her to his awakening.

“You can stop pretending you’re sleeping,” the voice of his long time friend threatened.

Race opened one of his eyes to peek at her. “Did you really know, or have you just been saying that every so often just to see if I was really awake?”

“What do you think?” Illandra’s eyes scolded him from under her black bangs

Race rolled his head over to the left to find a look of relief and his fire-haired partner.

“Every hour on the hour,” Annette ratted her partner out.

“Hey!” Illandra shot, offended at her betrayal.

As weak as he was, Race managed a smile. “How long this time?”

“Four days,” Annette answered.

That was the longest Race had ever taken to recover from using his powers.

“Sitrep?” Race moaned, looking for the controls on his bed to elevate himself.

“Planet is clear of Cenari, and their ships are in full retreat,” 

Race chuckled as he squeezed Annette’s hand. He had pushed himself a lot harder than he had planned to, but his strength was coming back. “What’s the verdict, Doc?” He caught Tenaway just before she opened the door.

“I hate when you do that,” she said, looking over her pad.

“I told you to stop admitting me, and you wouldn’t have to hear it anymore,” Race joked.

“Stop pushing yourself to exhaustion, and your friends will stop bringing you in,” the medical chief scolded Race.

“If these two would stop getting in trouble,” Race defended.

“Hey!” Annette and Illandra squawked in unison.

Tenaway dropped what little playfulness she had. “Seriously, though. I’ve seen you exhausted, but this is a whole new level. You had organs close to shutting down. Can you tell me what happened?”

“Well, after pushing the ship through space…”

“You said you were boosting the systems with your powers,” Annette interrupted.

Race rolled his head back over to Annette. “I take it now is a bad time to tell you there wasn’t enough tech to boost us that much?”

Annette was rendered speechless. The medical chief cleared her throat, forcing Race back on topic. “Anyways, I think I passed my normal limits near the end of the air battle. The adrenaline kept me going for the rest of the fight. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have even made it to the surface battle. I guess my body shuts down for a reason when it hits its limits.” Race found Illandra in the back of the room. “But I wasn’t going to let them get you, or let the Nankaer go extinct.”

Tenaway let out a long sigh; she had done this dance with Race enough times. “It’s hard to argue with you when you’re trying to be so heroic. But I’m serious, Chief, you almost died. If it hadn’t been for Tso getting you back to the ship so quickly, you wouldn’t be here anymore. No more using adrenaline to cheat extending your powers.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Race conceded, trying to recall how many possible futures he’d seen where he might require the need. There was a good chance he wouldn’t have to break that promise. “How long are you keeping me for this time?”

“At least another twenty-four hours. If everything looks good, I’ll discharge you then.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Race repeated sourly. He wasn’t a big fan of the beds in the medical bay.

The doctor gave a smile to the two ladies before leaving. She grabbed Illandra’s arm near the door. “It’s good to see you again.”

Race turned his attention back to Annette, waiting for whatever scolding she had in store for him.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” she said.

“Me, too,” Race agreed.

“You scared me for a minute there.” She gave his hand a gentle squeeze. “I thought you were trying to get out of that date you promised me.”

“I’d never,” Race scoffed. “What do you think pushed me to survive?”

Annette did her best to hide the rosy color filling her cheeks. Race thought it looked good on her, though. “When were you going to tell me you could pew-pew fireballs?”

The blush abandoned her face. “I thought you knew? You were the one that helped me unlock them.”

Race searched his memory for when that might have happened. “Rastion?”

Annette nodded her acknowledgment.

Race moaned. “Thanks for sharing, Blue. Anyway, I’ve been waiting for those powers to surface so we can finish the Cenari for good. You’re the key to finishing this war.”

Annette straightened in her chair, shocked by the revelation. “Me?”

“Yup. When I get out of here tomorrow, we’re going to put an end to all this.” Race turned his attention to Illandra. “That includes you.”

Illandra growled her disapproval.

Annette stood up to leave them. “I’m sure you two want to talk. I’ll go get us something to eat. I’ll be back in a little bit.”

“Won’t you just hear it all through the link,” Race said, refusing to let go of her hand.

“Semantics,” Annette chuckled. She tried to tug her hand away once again.

“No kiss?” Race teased. “I came back from near-death for you.”

Annette’s chuckled turned into a full laugh. “You have to buy me dinner first.”

Race tried to look as pathetic as he could. “I’ll gladly buy you a hamburger on Tuesday for a kiss today.”

The pink returned to Annette’s cheeks. Race puckered up his lips and tugged her toward him. Annette was giddy with excitement. She slowly bent down to deliver. Just before their lips touched, she grabbed Race’s chin and tilted his head to the side, planting her kiss on his cheek.

Race was more than pleased with himself as Annette left. Annette stopped at the door. “It better be more than a hamburger.”

“You can pick,” Race said, watching her vanish. “I’m getting good at this flirting thing.”

“You were never that bad at it,” Illandra reminded him.

It also reminded Race they had been a lot more intimate at one time. “I’m sorry, that must have been awkward for you.”

“Not really,” she admitted. “Her emotions pour over the link, feels like you are flirting with me, again. It’s kind of euphoric, really.”

The statement caught Race off guard, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about it.

“I’m teasing,” she said, finally taking the seat next to Race.

Race didn’t completely believe her, but it was easier to ignore the possibility. “So, you had something to say?”

“Nope,” Illandra smiled.

“Not even, ‘Thank you for breaking the laws of physics to come and save my life?’”

“You owed me,” Illandra scoffed.

It hurt Race to laugh. “That’s what I’m supposed to say after you thank me.”

“Pfft.” Illandra folded her arms and sat back in the chair.

Race relaxed to ease the pain his laughter put on his ribs.

A couple of minutes passed before Illandra spoke up. “Thank you for coming to save me.”

“I owed you one,” Race said, trying not to laugh. “Now we’re even.”

“Next time, don’t put your own life at risk to do it.”

“How about we just don’t have a next time?”

“Fine,” Illandra agreed. “So, what’s this plan of yours to eliminate the Cenari?”

Race would have preferred to wait until tomorrow, but her curiosity would have just sent her searching through his mind to find it. “We’re going to take all the psychics, mush their powers together, and use them to weed out the Cenari. Boom. Universe saved.”

“That easy?” Illandra scoffed.

“That easy,” Race assured her.

“I assume I’m included in this?”

“I did say all.”

“And what exactly is my role in this grand plan of yours?”

Race’s brow scrunched up, confused as to how she hadn’t grasped it already. “You’re in charge of projecting people to target the Cenari.”

Illandra grabbed her chest as if her heart had stopped. “Throughout the galaxy?”

“Just this small little piece of it.”

Illandra choked on the air. “You can’t be serious? I can’t fly that many people around the planet, let alone the system.”

“Not with that attitude,” Race scolded.

Illandra’s shock quickly gave way to contempt.

Race did his best to sit up. “Listen, Illy. I’ve been working on this plan for three years. All the dominos have fallen into place for this one moment when the most powerful psychics come together. No more body snatchers. No more ghosts screaming. I wouldn’t be trying this if I didn’t know you could do it. You already know how, and we’ll be there to help you the whole way.”

“We?”

“Blue and I. He’s a psychic, too.”

“I forgot about him.” Illandra jumped to her feet. “I forgot about a lot of them.”

“Huh?”

“I need to go talk to someone,” Illandra said, heading for the door.

“Wait,” Race called, stopping her at the entryway. “No kiss?”

Illandra’s eyes burned with rage. “Excuse me?”

“I broke the laws of physics to come save you,” Race argued.

“What happened to ‘owed me one?’”

“You only created an Einstein-Rosen bridge to connect two points in space, that hardly compares. I could have figured that out if I had a little more time.”

Illandra’s face moved to amusement. Race had only planned to ruffle her up a little. Illandra considered Race’s argument, a devilish smile crawled onto her lips. Locking eyes with Race, she started to walk seductively toward him.

Beads of sweat started to form on the back of Race’s neck. He hadn’t expected her to call his bluff. She kicked a chair out of the way as she came to stand by Race’s bedside. The passion in her eyes made Race’s hands clammy, but he did his best to look serious. He would not be the one to back down, the guys would never let him hear the end of it.

Illandra bent over the side of the bed, drawing close to Race’s ear. Her breaths sent goosebumps down his neck. That’s when the sharp pain swelled in the back of Race’s arm.

Race let out a series of high pitched noises as he fought Illandra’s hand off him. “Ouch! Why are you pinching me?”

“That’s for waiting till the last minute to save me. I was already making my peace when you came crashing through the roof.”

“Geez, sorry,” Race said, rubbing the back of his arm. “Next time, I just won’t come.”

“You better or I’m going to haunt you,” Illandra ordered. She bent back down and gave Race a little peck on the cheek. “Don’t let it go to your head.”

 

It was the middle of the night when the hissing of the main door woke Race. He looked down at his arm unit to check the time. Race had spent enough time in the medical center to memorize the staff’s shifts. The next one wasn’t set for almost three hours.

It was too late for visitors, and there were no other patients onboard. Something about this put Race on edge. He quickly found out why, when a blue face pushed through the curtain door.

“I apologize for disrupting you,” the alien whispered. “I was hoping you’d have a moment to talk?”

Race waved the alien in as he used the controls on his bed to sit back up. Unlike the golden armored Nankaer Race knew, this one wore a violet robe trimmed with gold and several pieces of jewelry for accessories. While as tall as Tranagra, this one didn’t have nearly the muscle mass, and the hair-like tentacles flowed down past the neck, almost to the creature's waist. This Nankaer was a woman, one that Race knew all too well.

She stood straight up in the room, nearly hitting her head on the ceiling. She gave him the customary Nankaer salute, lifting her hand to chest, palm up to show she carried no weapon. “On behalf of my people, I came to thank you for pushing back the Cenari and saving us.” 

Race wasn’t sure how to respond to such a formal thanks. He did the best to return the salute, although it was hard to bow in the bed. “It was no problem. It’s kind of my job to stand up to the Cenari. Wouldn’t be too good at it if I let them get away with genocide of an innocent race.”

“We are not as innocent as you may think,” the woman stated. “It was us that created the Cenari in the first place.”

“Your people were trying to create technology to extend life and cure disease, you didn’t expect them to go crazy and start body snatching. You fought the five hundred year war and dealt with the devastating consequences of their destruction. I think your people have more than made up for that mistake.”

The alien’s eyes widened as she looked at Race. “You’re very familiar with my people.”

Race silently cursed himself for slipping. He would have to be more on guard. “I’ve been working with the teams researching your people and the Cenari. I’ve come to have a deep appreciation for your people and culture. I’ve even seen the Pillar of Alarion.”

Mertralia’s doubt quickly gave way to surprise. “The Pillar still stands?”

“Not any longer,” Race cringed. “I had to destroy it to keep it from the Cenari. Not that it did much good.”

There was something angelic about the smile on her flat, featureless face. “I think you’ve made up for that mistake.”

Race returned the smile. “Thank you.”

The alien surveyed the room, looking for a place to sit. The chairs were far too small to support her weight, and it looked like she was planning on staying for a little bit. Race waved at the nearby wall, using his powers to pull out two neighboring seats. “Please, have a seat.”

“You’re quite powerful for a human,” the alien said, straightening her dress as she took the chair. “Even for us, a lartroniun is rare.”

“An All-Powerful?” Race asked, using the best translation he knew.

“Your research is extensive,” she acknowledged. “Although, that is not completely accurate. More like ‘those cursed with too much power.’”

The words gave voice to something Race had felt for a long time. “Why am I not surprised that it’s a curse.”

“Those with such power often go into isolation, fleeing responsibility. Others that stay to face destiny usually perish young. Often sacrificing themselves or using their powers to the extent that it eats them alive. I hear that you almost suffered this fate?”

Race suddenly found himself interested in the woman’s knowledge. “How would my powers ‘eat’ me?”

“Our research shows that all energy must come from somewhere,” the alien explained. “Just like when you exercise, your body burns calories. When using your abilities, they burn a similar source to provide power. The pool in an average person is much more substantial then they’d ever need, so they hardly notice. In a lartroniun, however, they have powers much greater than their supply. When they’ve exhausted their pool, the body shuts down. A failsafe if you will. This is where the lartroniun is weakest, and if he doesn’t eliminate his enemy beforehand, he will be exposed to retaliation.”

The alien continued to explain, “when a lartroniun finds a way around the failsafe, their abilities must draw power from somewhere…”

“So the powers start breaking down the body to use as a fuel source, much like someone suffering from starvation,” Race concluded.

“That would be correct,” Mertralia nodded.

“Stupid second law of thermodynamics,” Race pouted.

The alien had no brow, but Race could tell she was confused.

“Sorry,” he apologized. “The second law basically states that you can’t make something from nothing. Energy or mass can only be transformed. You can’t make something from nothing, or completely destroy something into nothing.”

“Ah,” the alien said, grasping the explanation. “That is our law of equivalent transposition.”

Race thought the ship’s copilot might like that.

“I know it is not nearly comparable in payment for all our people’s lives, but I hope the knowledge I’ve given you will be some benefit to you,” Mertralia said.

“I appreciate it,” Race thanked her. “I have a question, though. I know that your people have tech that can be powered by psychic abilities. Has anyone ever found a way to go the other direction? Feed their powers from an external source?”

“Theory shows that it should be possible, but our people never perfected the ability. There was fear that the wrong type of power might corrupt one's pool and self.”

“Fair enough,” Race conceded. At least he had something he could work on.

The alien arose, almost hitting her head on the low ceiling. “I should let you rest,” she said, heading for the exit. “I just wanted to share the knowledge with you. I shall see you tomorrow, Illandra has advised me of your plan to eliminate the Cenari. Several Nankaer have offered to help you accomplish this task.”

“I’m sorry. What?” Race panicked.

“She said you needed every psychic,” Mertralia explained. “I am one of the strongest telepaths of my people. We have several others willing to contribute to your cause.”

Race repeated a curse word over in his head more times than he could count. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

“Illandra was positive that this plan of yours required more than she alone could do. Surely our assistance will only increase the success of your plan?”

She was right, the additional support from the Nankaer all but guaranteed their success. But there was a possible monkey wrench waiting to fall into the gears.

Race motioned back to the chair. “Please, sit.”

The alien returned to her chair.

Race rubbed his hands over his face several times, stressing over the right words to ease the predicament he was in. He finally decided it wasn’t his place to tell her. “I need a minute,” Race said. “But first, please believe that I never wanted to deceive you in any way. You’re right, though, we can’t do this without you, but there is something you need to know beforehand. Just one second, please.”

The alien nodded, curious of the secret.

Race closed his eyes and tried to search his mind for Tranagra. He found him in his usual meditation spot. “Hey, Blue,” Race greeted him.

The alien replied with his typical moan. 

“Your girlfriend is here,” Race mentally poked him.

“The dead have no girlfriends,” he replied.

“Well, you’re not a hundred percent dead, so whatever percentage of you is left still has a girlfriend. Well, ex-girlfriend.”

“There is nothing I can do for her. Go away before you alert her to my presence.”

“Well, she can do something for us. They’re offering to help with our Cenari purge tomorrow.”

“But they will surely discover my sin.”

“Yes, which is why you should tell her now.”

“I’m not ready to face her,” the alien said. It was the first time Race had heard any fear in the alien's voice.

“Well, you better get ready, because if you don’t go out there, I’m going to find a way to bring her in here. She’s a telepath; I’m sure she can make it work.”

The alien’s thoughts were frantic, but he quickly realized that it was for the best. “Very well. I will be there soon.”

Race let out a sigh of relief. He opened his eyes to find the alien waiting patiently. “Sorry about that.”

“I hope you will not keep me in suspense.”

“Very shortly,” Race said, preparing himself to explain. “We’ve had some extra help that we haven’t shared with you. Illandra told you about the ship we found in the nebula, correct?”

The blue woman nodded.

“Well, when I boarded the ship, there was an infected Cenari onboard, somehow feeding off the ship’s power, keeping itself alive. At the time, I didn’t even know I had powers. But I was in luck. The Cenari wasn’t the only thing that survived the war.”

Race clenched his fist, wishing Tranagra would hurry. “Something on the ship drug me to the bridge. When I got there, I found the corpse of one of your people. It’s fair to say you’re familiar with the Tu’rakmur? The forbidden ritual?”

Mertralia’s black eyes bulged with realization. “No.”

“I’m afraid it’s true, Mertralia,” Tranagra said in the alien tongue, fading in on the other side of the bed.

Mertralia lept to her feet and circled the bed to be with Tranagra. “Oh, T. Long have I wished to see you one more time, but not like this.” She lifted her hand to touch Tranagra’s face, but her fingers passed through his ghostly cheek.

“I am sorry. There was no other way,” Tranagra explained. “The prophecy remained unfulfilled. But I have found and trained the Run’hara. Tomorrow we complete his task, and I will submit myself to extraction.”

“I’ve only just found you, and you’re ready to leave me again?” the woman said, tears streaming down her blue face.

“You know our people will not let me continue like this,” Tranagra replied.

“But they will give us time. Surely, that must mean something to you?”

“You have no idea what I would give for one more day with you, Mer,” Tranagra replied. Tranagra placed his hand on Mertralia’s face, willing it not to pass through.

“Then let me fight for that day,” she pleaded.

“Do not fight for me,” Tranagra replied. “Let me go, for I died long ago. Let us get through tomorrow, then I will submit myself to the council for judgment.”

“No!” Mertralia yelled, even catching Race off guard. “You have no idea what you’re asking of me.” Before Tranagra could object, the blue woman fled the chamber, leaving the troubled alien behind.

Race couldn’t think of much to say. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

“As am I,” Tranagra mourned, fading back to Race’s subconscious.

About the author
Richard Ross

A long time fan of science fiction, I really wanted to share some of my inspirations with others, so I developed the Chronicles project. A fan fiction site where the fans work isn't just inspired fiction, it's actually a part of ongoing story.

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