“First off, is there anything you already know? So I don’t have to repeat anything.” Krestean felt strange talking to the empty spaceship, but Drakians voice in her head quickly reassured her she hadn’t gone crazy. I may have been around since the beginning of time, but I never paid much attention to the mortal affairs, so assume I don’t know anything. Krestean nodded and looked around the room. There wasn’t much to see, but her eyes settled on the camera embedded above the screen on the opposite wall, allowing her to trick her own mind into thinking she was making a recording, and not talking to an empty craft.
“I guess some background first then. In the past, the galaxy wasn’t as united as it is now. It was separated into many sovereign sections, each controlled by a single race. With time, stronger and more advanced races claimed ownership over the weaker ones, exploiting them for free workforce and resources. But there’s only so much of the galaxy to conquer, so a stalemate was reached when there were no weak civilizations left to enslave. The entire Milky Way was still split, but by then each part was bigger and more varied. Big enough to hold their own ground, but not big enough to have a decisive victory over any of its neighbors.”
“With no more fighting going on, alliances started to form in case war broke out again. Some systems had more allies than others, but most had at least one other race to help them if the need would arise. The only exception were races from mineral-rich parts of the galaxy, which turned to trade. They had their own military of course, but with time an unspoken rule of sorts spread, where the territories of trade nations were considered to be, and stay, neutral; as any attack would not only be met with the defense of the nation itself, but also hatred from all of those that traded with it.”
“One such nation was the nycombs, who lived in Neastia within the primary arm of the galaxy. It was leading the usual trading life under a monarchy, with a king that, whilst already of age, did a fair job at growing his interstellar kingdom. Then, one day, a broad-band SOS signal came from his main station in their home star system. It was strange, as nobody would attack a trade nation like that, but that wasn’t the only strange thing about that day. Shortly after the first signal, a second one came from the planet the king’s station orbited. Then another one. Soon, on all maps across the galaxy, the center of Neastia was a pulsating red orb of dozens of signals. Nobody stepped forth to claim to have attacked them, and so everyone assumed it was an internal revolution of sorts, liberal beings sick of their ruler, wanting to take their nation into their own hands. It wasn’t unheard of, and it was an excuse to not do anything, so other races went with it.”
“But the signals weren’t limited to their home star system. Soon afterwards they started spreading like wildfire throughout all of Neastia. Every single planet, space station, mining operation and even small colonies – all sending distress calls out for the whole galaxy to see. When analyzing the order they appeared in after the fact, it became obvious that whatever caused them was going along a single path, spiraling away from the center; but at the time, it looked like the signals were radiating away from where they started, like a ripple in a lake, just red and made out of distress calls, visible on all universal maps. News stations were instantly on it, estimating how long it would take for it to reach another race’s domain, and what could’ve caused it. Theories ranged from a bomb on an unprecedented scale, to a virus that somehow was spread through all of their systems. Nobody, however, dared to send anyone to actually check it out for themselves. Some people that lived near the border started to evacuate in panic, whilst others held ‘end of the world’ parties. But then the most peculiar thing happened. The ‘ripple’ stopped at the edges of Neastia and didn’t continue past its border. It still spread throughout the yet unaffected areas, but didn’t continue elsewhere out to the galaxy. Before long, every map had a red blinking shape in place of what used to be one of the neutral trading zones.”
“News outlets started to lean into the idea that this must’ve been an error in the system, but nobody could give an explanation as to why nobody was shutting them down. Or, after the signals life-cycle ended, why no other forms of contact came from the nycombs. By the time a search party was sent in, the last red dot on the map has already disappeared.”
“The team sent out were mostly tarieks, such as myself, and they ventured deep into the trade territory. It must’ve been a horrible sight, as they reported the space was filled with debris: bits of metal that used to be ships, ripped apart like they were paper cut-outs. Planets were scorched and devastated, asteroid and moon bases all crumbled with barely any signs of life. Within mere days, the majority of Neastia, and the nycombs along with it, were gone, just like that. There were only a handful of survivors found – one, on rare occasions two in any of the places they checked. They were hiding under rubble, lucky to have survived the collapse of their bases, or were floating around in space inside of damaged escape pods. And despite having been found few and far between, they all shared a story of how a humongous beast came, destroying ships with an effortless swipe, crushing buildings with a single mighty stomp, and setting the very air they breathed ablaze.”
“Did they say anything specific about the shape of the ‘beast’?” Drakian’s voice chimed in but before she managed to answer, Krestean took notice how the voice didn’t seem to be in her head anymore, but rather came from the space in front of her. She took her eyes off of the camera in the wall and almost immediately noticed a mass of amber energy, lying down in front of her, with a hardly distinguishable, yet very clear form of a dragon. This derailed her train of thought enough so that all she said was “Pardon?”
“The shape, form, however you’d like to call it. If it was a being such as myself, it has a pre-defined form it sticks with, especially when acting out. For me it’s this,” he stood up, sprawling his wings and tail slightly to give a good view of them for Krestean. “You saw Syre’s snake form and Jayren… well, she’s a little complicated, but the point is that each of us has a unique base form, which we cannot change. Do you know, perhaps, what the form of the ‘beast’ was?”
“Ah yes, those. Well, the exact form isn’t clear thanks to all the additions to it over the years, but I believe even the original outline of the foe was rough and inconsistent. It’s hard to pay good attention to something that appears, destroys your home and disappears. From what I gathered, the only certain thing is that it had wings, so I’m guessing it has a phoenix-like shape, but it’s as good of a guess as any.”
“I see…” Drakian paused, folding his wings as he looked at the floor, consumed by thought. “Sorry for interrupting,” he muttered after a minute, “continue.”
“Well, at first everyone thought these were hallucinations, stories of old legendary beasts re-imagined to explain whatever happened. However, it became clear that something attacked the entire nation, and for some reason only that nation, so an omnipotent enemy of the people was as good a hypothesis they could get, especially considering that destruction of such magnitude had been unprecedented. Researchers started looking into it, and before long `The Classification of Beings` was created and spread to every scientific journal in existence.”
“In it, Harthon Clorn described his mixed studies from various fields, all circling around the idea of various types of beings. You’ve seen the variety in races on Acro, but all of them are fueled by the same energy, their spirit so to speak. We’ve known about those for a while, but have always assumed they’re more or less identical – they most certainly seemed like it, which is why nobody ever had problems with their consciousness being transferred to another body.”
“What he did was notice that there are recurring themes throughout the mythologies of isolated species, oddly enough much more common than similarities in themes between different mythologies of the same species. This lead him to propose that gods and their pantheons – things we saw as nothing more than legends from our uncivilized past, could be an odd reality.”
“He labeled the ‘gods’ as Type 1 beings – something with immense energetic potential that allows it to bend reality and – well – pretend to be a god. He then went ahead and classified the very prominent demigods as Type 2 beings, and the non-gods as Type 3 beings. This classification made sense: an extreme on one end, normality on the other, and then a transition state of sorts in the middle. It almost made sense, that is.”
“You see, after Harthon’s work was published, some Type 1 and 2 beings started to come out, mostly in secrecy as to not draw attention of the public. And after tests it turned out the gap between gods and demigods was disproportionately small compared to the one between demigods and mortal beings. More importantly, no Type 1 being seemed anywhere close to the power level required to eradicate an entire nation. And so, another Type 3 classification was added, pushing normal mortals such as myself into the Type 4 category, and a higher, Type 0 category was added for those elusive beings of immeasurable power. It only took a couple of years to find one; playing with the native populous of a planet.”
“The different governments grew wary at this point. They suddenly had proof that the Universe held things they had no control over, things that could wipe them out of existence in a flash. That idea, this common threat, allowed them to put the cold war behind, uniting in the first Galactic Council session. They established some primary rules, very generic ones, with gaps meant to be filled in by more localized laws for each species. But the first rule they made says that all Type 0 beings are to be contained and kept under control, as to prevent another ‘Neastia Incident’ from happening.”
Seeing that Krestean was done, Drakian spoke up. “That does explain why people see us as monsters, but doesn’t it seem wrong to judge an entire ‘Type’ of beings by actions of one?”
“Yes, it does, but it’s only natural to seek safety, is it not? They were scared of the unknown, so they combined forces in an attempt to control it. You were never labeled as monsters, the description just… grew over time I guess…”
The two sat in an uneasy silence before the dragon broke it. “So is that why you went to the lab on Acro? To help in protecting everything from a non-existent threat?”
“In a way,” she said in a guilty tone “but you don’t really ‘go’ to Acro. You get brought there after the higher-ups find you. The lab is super secret after all.”
“So, how did they find you?”
“I was really intrigued by the infamous accident. It’s horrible how much of it was swept under the rug – despite it being the starting point of the Council, it’s barely ever mentioned by now. Not only that, those that survived the event were given no help whatsoever. Their homes were ruined, livelihood devastated, yet no aid was provided. It was obvious that whatever attacked them was attacking specifically the nycombs – other species had their ships flying through Neastian territory when the event started, but none of them saw anything. Because of that, everyone was scared that if they gave refuge to the survivors, the ‘beast’ would find them somehow. This lead to the nycombs being shoved away from the new-founded Galactic Council, which caused them to spite all of it. They turned away from trading, and into piracy. Their zone would forever stay theirs, even if it meant raiding every ship that came within their borders.
“I hoped that my work could help in regaining their trust, a way to prove to them that it wasn’t all in vein. I attempted that, by creating a way which allows to analyze the energy waveforms of a being in order to figure out its ‘pre-defined form’ as you call it. And I succeeded, discovered it works on any type of being and could be done quite efficiently. That was my ticket to the secret project ET0B, or ‘Eradication of Type 0 Beings’. It turned out that the Council actively tracked down and imprisoned your kind, keeping them in labs such as the one on Acro, only showcasing a selected few of their catches to the public. As the name suggests, initially their plan was to exterminate Type 0 beings, but they quickly realized you’re immortal in every sense of the word. So instead they just kept you in prisons and used your energy to power various large-scale ships.
“But as I was saying, I wanted a way to check the shape of beings to prove that one of the few we were aware of and had contained was the one that attacked Neastia. Imagine my happiness when I realized that, instead of just a handful of subjects, the Council actually tracked down and captured hundreds of them. Now imagine my disappointment when none of them were anywhere close to the descriptions we had from the event. Wings are, surprisingly, an uncommon trait and you were the closest we had to a phoenix-like creature, which is why I stayed on Acro, despite never being much of a fan of the station.”
“Are you sure your method is proper? A fair few of us have wings, they shouldn’t be uncommon.”
“Yes, we made sure it worked on a couple different Type 0 beings, and my method was always close to, if not perfectly representative of reality for many different shapes. There was the green bi-pedal lizard-looking one, a pink one that looked as if a flower came to life, a yellowish orb that was a perfectly round sphere; and all of them looked exactly as expected.”
“Wow, you caught Ornasthia? Wouldn’t have expected her to be imprisoned, did she put much of a fight?” Drakian’s voice seemed impressed with the feat, as if ignoring what being caught meant for the being.
“I don’t know which one you’re talking about, but I hadn’t been around when they caught any of the ones I mentioned,” Krestean paused to scan the dragon. “You don’t seem too upset with this, how come?”
“Well…” Drakian scratched the back of his head as he looked off to the side. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with trapping us for the sake of trapping us, but she does deserve it, at least in my opinion. Then again, we all have some grudges against other Type 0’s, so I’m sure someone can say the same for me…” he paused with a sigh, “it’s just a thing that happens when you live for so long. But enough about me, you mentioned you wanted to help the remaining nycombs, right?”
“I mean, I still want to, but I don’t think I’ll have a chance to do anything from the planet we’re heading to.”
“We can take a little detour,” Drakian smirked as the monitor showing how much longer until the destination flickered, lowering the number of hours down from 173 to 14. “I want to propose to you something that will help them,” he paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts and continuing shortly afterwards, encouraged by Krestean’s perplexed look. “You mentioned they used to be merchants of sorts, but have turned to piracy after the event. We could group them back together to, once again, form a group of traders. They won’t join the Council, but at least they can be better off than they are now.”
“That’s a good idea, but I don’t think it’s manageable. For one, I don’t think they’ll abandon their pirate lifestyle for a possibly harder one-”
“But see, I never said they would,” Drakian cut her off before she managed to finish. “Using your knowledge and my energy we could create a station for them, something reminiscent of Acro, but more accustomed to trade in general. As pirates, they’ll definitely have a variety of goods to sell off, and being in the neutral zone will allow other unfortunate souls from around the galaxy to come in and offer their own goods.”
“So, to be clear, you’re proposing we create a black market, and hand it over to the nycombs to do whatever they please?”
“Yes, but not quite. They’ll need some order, someone to lay the ground rules. I think one of the reasons they turned to piracy is the lack of this someone telling them what to do, lack of a monarch.”
“I don’t know any nycombs to put on a ‘throne’ though, and neither of us would be accepted. I’m just some weak alien to them, and you’re extremely reminiscent of whatever it was that caused their collapse in the first place. How do you plan to make it work?”
“That’s where my proposal comes in,” Drakian lifted his paw and a blob of energy started to hover above it, slowly spinning and growing larger. “I can grant you power, near equal to that of a Type 1 being. It will be more than enough for you to hold the New Neastia in a firm grip,” The energy above his paw took form of a vertically stretched octahedron, and stayed hovering in the air between them as he put his paw back down.
“So my choice is to either go and be stuck on Earth with you, or become a goddess and rule the species I always wanted to help?”
“Precisely.” Drakian smiled as he sat back down on the metallic floor. “Although, I have to warn you, I have never done this. I know it’ll work, but that’s about it. I don’t know if it’ll hurt or not, if you’ll be conscious by the time we arrive, or what other side effects may happen – it’s all out of my control.”
Krestean looked at the floating crystal hesitantly. She didn’t like the idea of going in blind, but she liked the idea of being stuck on some rocky, insignificant world even less. With the options being bad, and bad-but-possibly-good; the choice was obvious. She stood up and took a step forward, grabbing the crystal. For a split second it’s energetic surface felt hard yet smooth, like a glowing diamond polished to perfection. Then, it instantly split itself into quarters, each flying towards one of Krestean’s limbs, crumbling into powder as it made contact. The amber dust enveloped her arms and legs, and then set itself on fire. She stared down at it with terror mixed with amusement. The fire didn’t hurt, but she could feel it burning. Not only that, despite the fire itself staying at the ends of her limbs, there was a disconnected sensation, as if they were filling with dense, liquified flames from the inside, slowly making their way up her elbows and knees. When that internal wildfire reached her head, her vision turned amber before she lost consciousness and fell down onto the floor.
In the meantime, Drakian watched the process with awe. He’d heard of how it happens many a time, but never tried to do it himself, and Krestean’s new look turned out to be much more personalized to him than expected. Thankfully she didn’t sprout any dragon-like wings, as it could’ve caused problems down the line, but she did grow a lengthy, scaly tail that somehow fit her body shape. The amber coloring of the scales paired well with the snow-white fur, both here, and at her hands and feet where the parts that used to be covered fully by the flame were now covered fully by scales, topped with short claws at the fingertips. Going up her arm, the scales were gradually replaced by more and more fur, giving the impressions of scaly gloves embedded into her hands and scaly shoes on her feet. On her legs, aside of the gradual change from amber scales to white fur, there were also strips of amber fur, shaped like flames going up the side of her legs, giving away into the natural whiteness half-way through. To Drakian’s surprise, the long triangular ears were still pointing proudly up, unchanged, as was most of Krestean’s face. The only other difference was around her closed eyes, which also had the colored fur surround them. I guess you’re family now… I should take care of you, he thought to himself, lifting Krestean up, to gently lay her down on the bed that expanded from the side of the wall. Hopefully you won’t be out for long…