In fabled Ebonshire, deep in the continent of Eurasia, Nathan Christopher Dayspring seeks something that should no longer exist. Ebonshire, where genetically-enhanced vegetation runs amok – so much so that it is believed to be uninhabitable. Nate is accompanied solely by the techno-sentient being he calls “Professor,” a veritable treasure trove of knowledge. It is here that Dayspring hopes to find the last secret stronghold of the Clan Askani, the mysterious sect of telepaths who will guide him on his path of destiny. A destiny upon which all depend.
Ebonshire currently stands tainted with dozens of human dead bodies, amidst the wreckage of an airship. Nathan questions the omniscient Professor: when it says bad, how bad? “Very bad,” Professor clarifies. However, since Nathan insisted on investigating the wreckage of this transport ship, Professor has accessed records indicating the vessel’s christened title: “Gender Splay.” Registered owner designate: “Columbus.” Although the Professor’s scanning indicates that the vessel was being used as a salvage ship commandeered by the buccaneer “Marmelzat.” Nathan asks where this “Marmelzat” is now. Professor reveals he’s dead – as is 99.9 percent of the crew. Nathan hates it when Professor is right.
Professor suggests Nathan finally listens to it and abandon this place. Nathan refuses: not as long as that .1% is still alive. While Professor believes Nathan’s intentions to be well meaning, this unscheduled stop hampers their journey to… “Oath!” Nate hushes it. Does Professor want to make itself useful here? Of course, Professor replies. Nathan asks it to give him a fix on whatever the thing is that killed all those people. As Nathan wishes, the A.I. complies. According to its sensors, the being designate “Daegon” has no weaknesses whatsoever. “That’s pipe! Everybody’s got a bloody weakness!” Nate yelps and, arms in hand, jumps down to engage the monstrosity that slaughtered the crew of the pirate ship.
“Fresssh meat!” the red-skinned abomination hisses upon spotting the last survivor of the massacre – the woman known as ‘Strator Umbridge. Before the abnormity gets its hands on her, Nathan intervenes, assaulting it with plasma bursts. Professor reports to Nathan that the plasma burst was one hundred percent ineffective against the creature! Unless Nathan’s intention was to give away his position and, in doing so, anger the beast, then he was quite successful.
Indeed, Daegon abandons Umbridge and now turns against Dayspring. Nathan argues that maybe he was just testing the beast, setting it up to see how it could handle a full barrage of telekinetically accelerated debris! Nate hurls the debris against it, but Professor reveals that the creature seems to handle it effortlessly. Still chanting “Fresh meat” incessantly, the monster grasps Nate’s throat. “Okay, I heard you. Fresh meat!” Nate grumbles. Professor reports to Nathan that his pulse blaster is destroyed by the monster. Choking in the beast’s grapple, Nathan realizes he’s got to risk it all here; push past the pain. He decides on full-out telekinetic burst: up close and in the face!
Unfortunately, Professor reveals that this was ineffective. Nathan has, however, aggravated his own Techno-Virus, as evidenced by the exposure of his left arm. Nathan’s estimated time of death is in forty seconds. “No!” Nate unleashes a terrible cry of agony. He vows he’s not going to die here! Not when he’s so close! “Nathan…” Professor interjects. It informs him that help has arrived.
A woman – Aliya – jumps down and confronts Nathan. Rather aggressively, she asks him to understand this: she has no use for pirates. Particularly those who find their way here to the hidden place. The intruder lives, for now, because she acts upon Milady’s every wish. “Nice to meet you, too,” an awestruck Nathan replies. He telepathically asks the Professor to give him a fix on her. Professor replies that Nathan is on his own here.
With a swift, single move, Aliya rips the monster in half with a psimitar. Nathan gets up on his feet and insists he’s not a pirate. Aliya is incredulous: she finds a gutted ship, full of dead pirates, and he’s the only one left standing. It’s undeniable that he’s both a pirate and a coward. Nathan exasperates: is there no speaking to her?
Without paying attention to his remark, Aliya discovers another one who still lives, though barely – Umbridge. Holding the unconscious woman in her arms, she remarks that the gods themselves must be watching over the pair of them. The Daegon that attacked their ship is virtually unstoppable. Nate mumbles that he kind of found that out for himself…
Before he proceeds further, he collapses from the strain of his fight with Daegon. “Pirate!” Aliya addresses him. She prays that he does not prove more trouble than he is worth. About to lose consciousness, Nathan studies Aliya’s face. He asks the Professor: is it his imagination, or is she not beautiful? Professor respond that on this they can agree. “Thought… so…” Nate remarks, before the world turns grey.
A city on the eastern coast of the American continent, its name lost in the dust of antiquity. Legend tells that it was once the center of an empire and a place of power and fear. Now, it is only one of many cities broken beyond repair. It is said that Apocalypse – the High Lord En Sabah Nur himself – destroyed the city and took delight in its destruction. Since Apocalypse’s passing, a new shadow looms across the land – “Canaanites” they call themselves, the self-imposed rulers of the land.
Tetherblood mixes with crowd of impoverished, abject people meandering about the stairs of this half-demolished building. Canaanite officials, in their armors, supervise the crowd. Tetherblood thinks that, with each passing day, these Canaanite blood suckers grow bolder and bolder. He hopes Dayspring is all right. Although, thinking their last, best hope lies with his friend Nate is a slim hope at best.
Despite his common dress, Tetherblood is a vital link to the resistance. He alone knows of Dayspring’s plans and, while he may not believe in destiny, his faith is virtually unshakeable. Even now, Tetherblood’s attention is focused toward the future. For it is not often one can eavesdrop on Tribune Haight, a high-ranking official in the Canaanite regime.
Standing very close to Tetherblood, Tribune Haight is having a rather heated discussion with a stout blue-skinned individual called Columbus. Columbus snarls that Haight has still not answered his question. Haight warns not to take that tone with him. Or he’ll tossed back with the huddled masses from which he plucked him. Columbus agrees that no one could forget Haight’s kindness to him, but he cannot hide his unhappiness at Haight’s surreptitious hiring of his ship. The Gender Splay is now lost. Bridge-link went down on Ebonshire of all places, and he wants to hear about restitu…
Impatient, Haight grapples Columbus’ throat, almost choking him in the process. “You want…?” Haight repeats, almost in disbelief. Does Columbus think Haight gives the slightest degree of thought to what he wants, in light of a chance to rid the world of the last remaining member of those hated witches, the Askani?! “Oath!” Tetherblood spontaneously exclaims upon hearing this.
Just then, half a world away, Nate is hopping a ride on Aliya’s air skid vehicle. He asks her if she has any idea where they’re going. To safety, she replies. “And that’s…?” Nate insists. “Near. Pirate,” she still gives him the cold shoulder. Nate sighs. He swears he is not a pirate. He happened upon that ship and went looking for survivors. “You swear!” Aliya sneers. Then, what reason brings him to Ebonshire? Hesitating, Nathan retorts that’s none of her business. Aliya lets out an exclamation of triumph, as if Nathan’s unwillingness to reply confirms her allegations.
“What about you?” Nathan asks her. “What about me?” she snaps back. Nathan wonders what she’s doing with an outdated psimitar lance, driving an air skid that she couldn’t possibly have found fuel for in this region. In similar fashion, Aliya retorts that’s none of his business. “Women…” Nate demurs.
Speaking in Nathan’s mind, Professor has an observation. Nate assures him anything could help. Professor reveals that the air skid upon which they ride is not fuel-powered; it is being driven telekinetically. Nate is surprised: how is that possible?
Aliya telepathically intervenes in their chit-chat. Will they refrain from making noise back there? It is difficult enough to pilot this without their endless psi-prattling! Nate is aghast: she… she can hear them? How? Amused, Aliya haughtily replies there are things in the universe which she doubts he can comprehend. “Like… this?” Nate proposes as he grabs the psimitar. Incensed, Aliya demands he put it down! He asks him to hand it over to her – gently. He will only wind up hurting himself.
Professor notifies Nathan that its sensors indicate hostile life forms in this area. “Already on to them, Professor,” Nathan excitedly replies and stands on his feet, still refusing to hand the psimitar back to Aliya. Aliya protests that he does not understand. The psimitar is a sacred weapon. It takes years of study just to…
Nate decides they just give it a shot, shall they? He focuses his psionic energy on the psimitar and fires with it. Confused, Aliya contemplates this should not – cannot – be! None, but one who has been tutored in the ways of the Askani, can fire the psimitar. Who is this boy?
Nathan lunges at their enemy ahead – a crèche of enormous insectoids. Nate, without thinking twice, attacks them with the psimitar. Simultaneously, he asks the Professor to give him a fix here. Professor explains that he is being hopelessly outnumbered by an insectoid species known as the Loci. “But who do I appear?” he asks the Professor. The A.I. replies that Nathan’s bodily functions seem to be… “Not to you. To the girl!” Nathan clarifies.
A bit behind, still addressing him as “pirate,” Aliya now begs him, for the last time, to return her psimitar, so that they may escape this place! Nathan has a deal for her: she stops calling him “pirate” and he will give her back her harpoon. “Fine!” Aliya wearily accepts. Anything to set this battle straight. Handing her the psimitar, Nathan returns to the fight. He urges her not to worry about him, either; he’ll muddle through. With just his cunning, his daring skill, his… Joining the fight with her psimitar, Aliya grumbles if he must speak throughout the entire battle! Professor informs Nathan that it has analyzed the data with regards with “how he appears” to the young lady. Nate rebuffs him: they’re trying to win a battle here!
She was one of the mightiest rivers. A force of nature that could not be tamed, but only respected. But Apocalypse respected nothing. Least of all, nature herself. Thus, what was once an artery of life for an entire continent, became little more than a toxic sewage dump for the former despot. Only a madman could wreak such havoc for so little concern for the consequences… and then build an underwater laboratory for some unknown purpose.
Inside this laboratory, Apocalypse’s sole apprentice and heir – and genetically-twisted doppelganger of Dayspring – the Chaos Bringer known as Stryfe inspects some corpses. He orders the synthetic unit known as Zero to focus its attention on a particular body. Hard at work, Zero reminds him that is completing his previous instruction, with regard to another carbon-based life-form. Stryfe demands he do as he says – now!
Stryfe wonders rather desperately how it is that he should come to this. He was born to rule this world. Instead, he finds himself saddled with some ridiculous android as his sole ally. Sorely in need of these long-dead legions of Apocalypse reanimated, so that they may storm the forests of Ebonshire, and capture the very last Askani who hides there.
Ch’vayre, Stryfe’s aide and once caretaker, watches from a distance. How well does he know the width and breadth of little Stryfe’s schemes. Only now, as he stands cloaked from even Stryfe’s power, he wonders if he has the strength to do what he should have done years ago. May the High Lord forgive him, he ponders as he points his gun at Stryfe – but he is the one who raised Stryfe from a pup, who should now, at last, erase the threat of another dark one in the house of…
Dumbfounded, he suddenly realizes Stryfe doesn’t even register on the scope! “Shame on you, Ch’vayre,” Stryfe snickers, apparently aware of his intentions. The true Stryfe unveils himself, resting on Ch’vayre’s huge shoulders. Psionically hurting his tutor, Ch’vayre gloats how odd it must be for the teacher to now become the student; for the parent to become the child. And like an errant child, Ch’vayre must be punished. He should learn that he and Stryfe are now and forever psi-linked. There is no thought Ch’vayre has that Stryfe cannot read. No sight before his eyes that might not be some illusion Stryfe planted there. Ch’vayre asks him why he continues to torture him so. Why not end this charade and kill Ch’vayre now. Stryfe explains it’s because he likes him. He’s not going to let a little thing like an assassination attempt…
“Wha…?!” he suddenly notices something and tells Ch’vayre to hold that thought. He sighs. “Zero! You clamoring container of synthetic cells and arteries!” he puffs, seeing a reconstructed helmet. He puts the helmet on with a smile. If you want done something right… he remarks. He joyfully asks Ch’vayre to tell him the truth: does he think this is a little much?
In Ebonshire, Aliya and Nate continue their battle against the giant insectoids. Aliya will give him this: he fights well. Nate quips that she should him when he’s not handicapped by having to watch her back! Aliya glibly replies that he’d be twice as slow, then, since she is doing more than half the work. Nate confesses it was just a little while ago that he was thinking about stealing a kiss from her, but now he’s of the mind to…
He suddenly howls with pain, as one of the Loci skewers his shoulders. “No!” Aliya spontaneously exclaims, as she sees this. Enraged, she tells the black-hearted beasts to pray to whatever gods they know – for, if they’ve killed this young man, she’ll see to it the lot of them becomes extinct! She renews her attack with extra viciousness. The injured Nate quips that he didn’t know she cared. Aliya tells him not to flatter himself. She fights at the behest of Milady, and for no other reason. “Oh. Great,” Nathan grumps at the sound of this.
It is nearly dawn when Nathan and Aliya reach their destination. The locals and the merchants are still in their beds. Yet despite the avenues being empty, the view of Ebonshire is still overwhelming, even to one as jaded as Dayspring. Aliya notices he is quiet at last – or has he simply run out of things to say? “As impossible as that now seems,” she adds telepathically to herself. Nathan tells her he heard that. He asks the Professor if this is the place he thinks it is. Professor instructs him to simply proceed and they will get the appropriate information.
Nathan is admitted into the inner sanctum, where he encounters Madame Sanctity, the most adept of Mother Askani’s disciples, afloat in the air. Some say she is the most powerful among them; it is certain she is the most insane. Aliya asks her Milady to forgive her, but she did as requested. Aboard the fallen transport vessel there were but two survivors. A woman who needs medical attention – and this man. Professor tells Nathan that if he’s ever going to listen to it, now is a good time. It alerts him that he is the presence of a very powerful psion. Perhaps the last of her kind. Nathan realizes he… has arrived? Or, another way to look it, Professor suggests, is he that has just begun.
Nate kneels down with respect and asks Madame Sanctity of the Askani to teach him the way. Aliya is aghast with his blasphemy. She tells her Milady she had no idea. No male has ever dared… “What is… is, child,” Sanctity replies with a famous motto of the Askani. She confirms that their guest will learn the Askani teachings – but not from her. Sanctity has other concerns. He is going to learn from young Aliya. She reveals that Aliya’s charge is special. For he is the one foretold… the child of the first ones brought from antiquity through the currents of time by the Mother Askani herself to save them in these dark, deadly days. For in truth, he is the… Askani’Son!
“Oath!” Aliya gasps.