Chapter Thirty-Three – Cydon
News of Shu and her planet destroying ship Kalki spread rapidly across the galaxies. Unaided by us, she carved a path through countless undefended systems in an orgy of destruction. Reports flowed in from the few remaining survivors, fleeing to the safety of Andromeda and the Milky Way. Akhen and Khan listened to the terrified former inhabitants’ transmissions as they told how the “she-devil with fire in her eyes” coldly went about her deadly business, leading her terrible army. According to Tuluk, from his hiding place on board Kalki, Shu had turned the hundreds of Neolithic men and women, kept in stasis, into a berserker army. She personally led them across each planet, savagely killing all. Then, once they returned to Kalki, the giant ship’s awesome destructive power was used against the planet itself, destroying it forever, leaving nothing but scattered fields of debris to mark the point in space where a vibrant world had once existed.
The brothers passed vast fields of new asteroid belts, which marked the graves of entire systems. The one Max stared at as they navigated their way carefully through the spinning and colliding masses of giant rocks, had been the home of Misakk, the Bhakturian pilot who ferried them many times across Kallorn.
None of the brothers slept much during the long voyage to Cydon. The mood among them was sombre as they remembered the friends and loved ones they had left behind on Kallorn. Five months after they had departed Janus Omega, the outer edge of the Andromedan galaxy and Cydon began to emerge at the extreme limit of the shuttle’s sensors. Three weeks later, Apis set the shuttle down outside Memphis, Cydon’s capital city, and home to Akhen.
Its ancient walls bore scars from many battles that had been fought over the countless millennia, protecting the Nephile against the Drana. Large sections of the outer wall marking the city’s boundary were breached. The brothers entered the once magnificent city through one of the breaches and wandered through the still smoking ruins of ancient Memphis. For several hours, Akhen, Khan and their brethren searched for survivors.
Eventually they found themselves on the steps of the ruined Great Central Library whose vaults contained the history of the Nephile people and their struggle for survival. Also stored here were the written reports of the many expeditions to find a new home, safe from the Drana and the Khaz. Buried within the many accounts was the history of the Human-Nephile’s struggle, and eventual victory, over the Drana commandos on a tiny blue planet called Earth, written seven hundred years before by Akhen’s great grandmother, the Lady Auset, curiously entitled ‘Turning Point’. Akhen briefly held it in his hands wondering if anyone would be left alive to write this latest tragic chapter. (If only Akhen and I could have met, I think we would have liked each other despite the hatred between our species).
Apis led the way through the rubble filled streets, past the ruins of marble clad buildings, whose roofs were suspended by massive stone pillars sheathed in burnished bronze that had variously housed seats of learning. They passed more great libraries and wonderful galleries, containing historical pictures and other representations of the Nephile and their many accomplishments over the millennia.
By dusk, the brothers had filed through endless suburbs where the people of this city once lived peacefully in their homes. Akhen stopped outside the ruined gateway of his father’s house. Climbing over the still smouldering piles of furniture and other assorted household items, he entered the house. Directly in front of him was the marble staircase that led to the upper floors. Bodies burned beyond recognition lay on the polished marble floor of the entrance hall, drawn up in hideous foetal positions by the flames that had consumed them. All ten of the berserker brothers stood in stunned silence, staring at the senseless destruction that had ended this happy household forever. Akhen sank to his knees, tenderly touching one of the charred bodies, not knowing which member of his family it was. His nine brothers knelt with him. With their heads bowed, their hands clasped the hilts of their upturned swords whose points rested on the floor in front of them.
For seven days and nights, Akhen grieved. Each of his brothers tended to one member of Akhen’s family by placing the beloved kin in a shroud made from the tattered remains of silk wall hangings, sheets, and curtains, dug the grave in the enclosed garden of the house, and gently placed the body into it. “It’s time to end this madness, brother, time to find Shu and kill her,” Khan said softly, with his left arm around Akhen’s shoulders. “One thing troubles me though. Why did she spare Cydon?”
Akhen’s face twisted and darkened as his anger rose to the surface. “I don’t know why, but I swear this, Khan. I won’t rest until I find her and send her into oblivion forever!” he snarled, smashing his fists together.
Returning to the shuttle, the brothers began a search of the rest of Cydon looking for anything which might lead them to Shu. The frightened messages of the survivors who had told of her savage path of destruction throughout the cosmos, ceased. It seemed there was probably no one left alive beyond the boundaries of the twin galaxies.
After months of fruitless dead end searches, they found themselves flying over the southernmost city of Luxor. Several days of exploring the ruined city finally turned up one precious clue. In the collapsed ruins of the Governor’s mansion was the one and only survivor across the entire planet, another of my cousins named Sechak, who had been caught spying by Shu and was imprisoned beneath the building. Sechak delivered the message she entrusted to him. Shu had left Cydon ruined but not destroyed as a warning to Akhen should he somehow survive and return there, “Never to search for her!”
After being prompted by the slow, agonizingly painful removal of his legs by Seti’s sword, Sechak told them that Shu was even now continuing her mindless quest from the opposite side of the Milky Way, deliberately leaving Earth till last. He could offer no explanation about her decision for the moment. The brothers returned to the shuttle for the long journey across the empty divide between Andromeda and the Milky Way. Three years later the shuttle passed the outer planets of Pluto and Neptune, on course for Earth.
Next time – Chapter Thirty-Four