*This story references ‘The return of Rick Lupaine.” It’s not necessary to read but provides some more context for the beginning.
The office was awash with light from the floor-to-ceiling windows opening more than half of the walls in the circular room to the landscape of GU Central. Sitting at her desk on a platform near the windows, Bridgin focused on the video projecting up from the holo-beam embedded in her desk. Urala, her assistant, stood at attention beside her. He wrinkled his nose as Bridgin waved her hand and rewound the clip to the beginning, then started playing it again.
The clip had been captured by a passing Cosmic Energy Monitoring (CEM) Drone, and despite zooming and enhancing several times, the figure in the video was just the size of a thumbnail on the projection. Their face was only recognizable because of how accustomed they were to it. The figure, Rickandel Lupaine, was floating in front of a blue and brown planet, somehow surviving in the vacuum of space with no visible protections. Both the figure and the planet were surrounded by ships with engines flaring green. Bridgin saw only three ships in the projection, but based on the reports, she knew that there had been ten of them. In the video, the ships fired sickly yellow-colored lasers toward the planet. Rickandel Lupaine raised a hand to halt them in place.
Despite how small he was in the frame, Bridgin could almost feel the power emanating from him. Her pupils narrowed to slits, and she began to clink her long black nails against the table. In the next few seconds, she watched Rick obliterate the world-destroyer ships. The image dissolved into static, and the video ended. The CEM drone’s receptors had been overwhelmed by the immensity of mana Rick had expelled. She rewound the clip again and let it play for the seventh time.
“How many casualties?” She asked as she watched the ships fire on the planet again.
“On the planet?” Urala, her assistant, asked. He glanced at the small projection from his personal auto-comm. “None.”
Bridgin flicked a finger over a glyph on her table, and the projection turned off. “No, from the world-destroyers.”
Urala brushed his pink hair back, and his large blue eye quickly scanned the document again to make sure he had the correct information. “Eight in total.”
“Only?” Her brows shot up as she waved another glyph to pull up the information on her desk projection. As she read through the documents, Urala continued.
“Yes, based on the accounts of the surviving crew, the eight that were killed were the captains who activated the weapons. Two of the ten ships chose not to fire on the planet. There were no casualties on those ships. All the surviving crew was found in….” Urala scrunched his eye.
“Well… I’m still having trouble believing it, but while all the ships were thoroughly destroyed, each crew member was encased in a life support system designed specifically for their species. Even if they had not been rescued immediately, they would probably have survived for a few weeks. No such equipment was on those ships.”
Bridgin Scoffed and leaned back in her chair. “Well, that’s Rick Lupaine for you.”
“It’s incredible…. I hate to say it, but it would have been easier to just kill them all.”
“And what a PR nightmare that would have been. Fortunately, I don’t think there’s much difference for him.”
“What do you mean?” Urala tilted his head.
She waved her hand, long black nails glinting in the bright sunlight. “Killing hundreds of people in an instant, or saving them all by instantly creating life support systems, unique to each species, and able to withstand the vacuum of space. For Rickandel Lupaine, I imagine the additional effort for the later option amounts to less than the wave of his hand or flick of his finger.”
She glanced up, and her piercing eyes followed the movement of Urala’s throat bobbing up and down. She smiled, revealing her long canine. “Life or death in the wave of a hand. That is Rick Lupaine.” She blinked slowly, then glanced out the window and up to the sky.
The artificial atmosphere of GU Central was a bright blue today. The horizon of the small artificial planet did not stretch far into the distance, like that of her home world, Bist, so from the height of her office, she could see the planet’s curvature. Soft clouds hung heavily in the sky.
“What is the general reaction?”
“It depends on who you ask. Most citizens, as expected, find no fault with Rick Lupaines’s actions. He is the hero who saved an oppressed planet without incurring excessive casualties. From the governments, the reaction is mixed. Many hope to petition the Lupaine to intervene in their disputes, while others seem wary of the power displayed. Those who were on the receiving end of his system-wide telepathic message are especially on edge.”
He swiped his hand over the projection and exhaled slowly as the image of a man with piercing pink eyes and deep green skin appeared. He was on a stage, fist raised in outrage, his long ears, tipped with fluttering iridescent membranes, were flipped behind his head. The white suit he wore shimmered as if covered in glitter. Urala sighed and continued. “Sof. Maggenta Yil had a lot to say about the incident.”
“Of course he did.” Bridgin leaned back and rubbed her hand over her face. Her long black hair fell in waves behind the chair, and her blue fur seemed to glow in the light. “Let’s hear it.”
“Well, it was more of the usual rage against The Ancients, calls to have the Lupaine dismantled. There were some new talking points that you should know.”
Urala met Bridgin’s eyes and smiled at her raised ‘get to the point’ brow. “He has also called for the GU to force Rickandel Lupaine and Great King Marviel to ensure that Prince… Sol sleeps forever.” The latter part of his sentence was said in a whisper.
“According to him, that is the only way that they can prove that they are still on the side of the common people.”
“An obvious provocation.”
“Yes, but it’s definitely not targeted at Rickandel Lupaine. The Nexus has been filled with people chiming in and agreeing. The Prince has been asleep for a while now, but no one has forgotten the events that took place before then. In fact, it seems a concentrated effort is being made to ensure the footage is circulated around… Most are from the most recent incident, about 4000 years ago, where one of Colony Planet Yurin’s mountain ranges was flattened. But, there are also some…
difficult to watch footage from Awana.”
“Drown it out with something else,” Bridgin said and leaned forward, placing her chin on her clasped hands.
“He is calling for the eradication of the Colony-Parent planet system, as well as decentralization of power held by the GU… We are apparently ‘The Ancient’s puppets .’ There is a lot of focus on Ouit and Juntia right now.”
Bridgin sighed and felt the ever-present knot in her stomach tighten. Of course, she didn’t agree with most things the radicals said, and she shuddered to imagine the type of hell they’d bring upon the galaxy if they ever took power, but there was often a fine thread of truth in the garbage they spouted. While she wouldn’t consider the GU a puppet, she was all too aware of how easily the GU’s governance over the galaxy could be overturned if The Ancients willed it.
She became aware of the loud clinking of her nails on the table and came out of her thoughts. Glancing down, she saw the pinprick indents her nails were making on the table. She calmed down and brushed her palm over the damaged surface, then turned back to Urala with a distant look as she tried to recall what they were talking about… Ah, Ouit and Juntia.
“I’m less concerned about Juntia. King Garon knows what he’s doing, and if they want to be independent, then they should do what they can to achieve that goal….”
“Even if Marak is involved.” Urala blinked. “My apologies for cutting you off, Coordinator.”
Bridgin waved her hand dismissively and smiled. “Yes, even if Marak is involved. At the end of the day, their independence or lack of it will not affect the galaxy in any significant way. Many planets are already taking steps towards independence. Sure, Drekar will throw a tantrum, but they will not go to war for it. To put it bluntly, Juntia has nothing worth going to war for. Ouit, on the other hand, is a different story.”
She nodded. “Cajara and Iclax really might go to war, and that… that has the potential to pull in several powers that I would prefer to let lie.” She began listing them off on her fingers. “Dreakar seems to be breaking away from the rest of the Fuze system and leaning towards Iclax. Bist will probably stay neutral. Marak is the wild card here.”
“Marak? Why would… Ah! Are you worried about the relationship between the third prince of Cajara and the World-Saber of Marak?”
“Of course. Prince Alexil will no doubt join the war…” Her fur stood on end, and she let off a short breath. She shook her head slowly as she spoke. “Don’t let that lackadaisical attitude of his fool you. He is a monster that we do not want unleashed. Though it’s unlikely, I think Marak could be convinced to act, and that would mean World-saber Tari joins the fray. So we have two, albeit young, ancients getting involved.” She shook her head. “And that wouldn’t even be the worst-case scenario. If ever Marak moves, we would have to be wary of Zental as well.”
“It will be a disaster. Perhaps… I mean, if you think about it, with World-Saber Tari and Prince Alexil being two key figures in the Lupaine…the Lupaine is practically involved already. Maybe we should ask Rickandel Lupaine to intervene before the situation escalates.”
“As you said, ‘Practically’ involved, but not officially, and I will split as many hairs as needed to argue the difference.”
Urala wrinkled his forehead. “But Coordinator, I honestly do not see either Cajara or Iclax backing down. For Cajara, the planet has been under their protection for thousands of years now. The people are considered Cajaran citizens. As for Iclax, they will never let go of the planet now that a valuable resource like lycron has been discovered there… the planet is still officially their colony planet. It might be easier to just have Rickandel Lupaine make a judgment with The Order of the Lupaine or at least act as a mediator.”
Bridgin frowned, and her eyes had a sharp glint in them. “Never that, Urala. Never that.” The sharp clink of her nail on the desk accentuated each word.
“Look, even with the Pilan situation, the Lupaine… Rickandel Lupaine should have never gotten involved.” She raised her hands and weighed them like balancing scales. “Rickandel Lupaine must always be kept in check. If we keep allowing him to intervene in the galaxy’s politics, at some point, we will find ourselves beneath his feet as the puppets we’ve been accused of being.”
She smiled and leaned back. “I’m loathed to sound like Maggenta Yil here, but you have to remember that it is easy to be lulled into a sense of ease because of Rick’s apparent casual nature and easy smile. Still, we must never forget what power lies beneath the surface. We are constantly striving for balance…We must remain outwardly aligned with him in order to continue using his presence as a veiled threat to keep the galaxy’s governments in check. In practice, though, the Lupaine should only be allowed to intervene in the most dire situations, graule, shimeshians, mana storms, higher creatures… and on and on… existential things, but never political.” She finished, then waited to allow her words to sink in.
Urala was silent for a moment before slowly nodding. “I see your point,” he said, then spoke in a quieter voice. “If that’s the case, then is there some credence to the words of Anti-Ancients and De-centralists like Maggenta Yil? Maybe it’s time to start looking for ways to reduce their power?”
Bridgin grinned. “Ohh, Urala, I didn’t know you had such thoughts in you. Please say more,” She said, laughing softly.
“No… I just, I…” Urala laughed as his brown cheeks colored slightly. He brushed his pink hair back and closed his eye. After collecting himself, he continued. “I’m not implying we prepare to turn against The Ancients, just… Well, as it stands, it seems like we are just skating along on their goodwill. It is wonderful that Rickandel Lupaine and Great King Marviel are such great people, but what if they were not?… what if their minds change? How would we, the galaxy, even defend ourselves?”
Bridgin was silent, and she stared at the indents her nails made on the table, brushing her hands back and forth over the now rough surface. She usually had a pad placed there to prevent her tapping habit from damaging her desk. She glanced around and noticed it on the ground.
She reached down and picked it up, then covered the damage with the purple pad. “Well, that’s the big question, isn’t it… What do we do when our overlords become less kind and more involved? To be fair, I don’t think as a whole the galaxy will be completely helpless, not at all, but we would be thrown into a turmoil similar to the likes of The Ancient Wars.”
She glanced up and met Urala’s large blue eye. “Perhaps I’m idealistic or naive, but I still believe in them, and on a personal level, I trust them deeply. I don’t believe Rickandel or Marviel… as a matter of fact, even Prince Sol will ever act in a way to deliberately cause the galaxy harm. As the GU Coordinator, though…” She nodded slowly, never breaking eye contact with Urala. “We will need to take more concrete steps to ensure we can maintain a favorable situation.”
“I will begin looking into it.”
Bridgin nodded, then turned to some new documents that had popped up in her workspace as they spoke. “Let’s end the updates here. Try to set up a meeting with the King of Laurim, as well as the Sigru of Bist. We might be able to have them act as mediators between Iclax and Cajara.”
“I’ll get it done.” Urala gave a comically sharp salute, to which Bridgin laughed at, and then he left.
Bridgin began tapping her fingers again as she watched the sky start to take on a more green color. She squinted and glared at the massive white orb of the sun, the central star of the Nol Galaxy, Nol-Sitra. Nol’s life force and fulcrum around which they all revolved. Her eyes lost focus as she felt the heavy weight of the galaxy on her shoulders. Her instincts were screaming to her that things were changing. Several small storms were brewing at the heart of Nol.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The things that had once seemed absolute were now shifting, and it was on her to ensure that the galaxy remained whole and unified through it all. She closed her eyes and focused on her pyscor, feeling as it circulated mana through her body. She clenched her fists and dug deeper within herself, focusing on her mana, pushing her mind to touch a place she shouldn’t be able to. She bit down on her lip, drawing blood, and finally reached what she was after. Her mind brushed ever so softly against her Hirak before immediately rebounding back into her body like the feeling of snapping a taunt rubber band.
“I am here, child. I am always here.”
Her eyes shot open, and she exhaled a shaky breath. She laughed as she wiped the blood off her lips. All that effort for barely a second of contact, but it was worth it. Now more than ever, she needed to feel the certainty that her pact with her hirak afforded her. Of course, she was always aware of Yuncitan’s power flowing through her, but feeling the psyche of a hirak could only truly be experienced in the Hiskar… for most people, anyway.
Bridgin leaned back. Her blue eyes glowed with an otherwordly light as she stared at the sun. She smiled widely, revealing her fangs, which had grown longer as she focused on her powers. As much as she hated and wanted to change it, the galaxy was still moved by power. Only the powerful had a say. The weak, whether they be individuals or colony planets, could only go along with the whims of the strong. So, even if there were some inherent hypocrisies in her actions, she would use any means to protect the interests of the galaxy as a whole.