We often use the language of war when talking about the great Enemy, but that struggle has rarely involved the actions of combat. The enemy does not think of conflict in terms of territory gained or lives lost, because this fight takes place at a level deeper and wider than mere mortal concerns.

The human world of Illaria is the most striking example so far of how the Enemy defeats its opponents. Had the controlling minds been spared from my destructive beams, this world some ten years on would have been unrecognisable. Even so, the life forms that live here have become warped and disfigured as they follow a distorted set of genetic instructions. Subverted from within by the dust, they have become hybridised with a form of life entirely alien and toxic.

This enemy does not seek to kill you; he makes you become him.

In failing to complete their plan here, the Enemy has also unleashed another invasion, the colonisation of plants. They should have been destroyed and reformed along with the higher orders of animals and birds, but the obliteration of humanity has left them a world empty and untended in which to flourish. Nourished by the decaying matter of their unlucky forebears, and growing in soil and sand blown in from barren fields, they have rapidly encroached on the towns and cities.

It was my plan that we would make the first of several hyper jumps away from the Candor district towards our distant home worlds, but the Clan Mother Zylyra insisted that she inspect the most badly affected world for herself. I suspect my daughter and her comrades prompted it, since their passage through the star gate had lasted ten years in real time, but only a few days in local time. In the twinkling of an eye their universe had changed, greeting them with the deaths of untold millions and the near destruction of their economy and way of life. It was only natural that they wanted to see what had unfolded in those vanished years.

While the Storm Crow of the Dark Sister watched from orbit, we travelled to the surface in Zylyra's private yacht and a town in the more luxuriant equatorial region. When it seemed safe to do so, we ventured out into the unnatural silence of the central district. Weeds and shrubs burst through cracks in the roads in neglected abundance, yet there was no animal or bird life of any kind.

Until that point, our human guests had accepted the historical facts we had given them with stoic resignation, but the ghastly silence that spoke of unimaginable loss of life broke that resolve. They moved into little groups and consoled each other, trying to hide their grief from us as best they could.

Clan Mother Zylyra and I walked a short distance from our landing point, giving us the privacy to discuss our route and the future trial of Clan Mother Kyraenia, but our conversation was interrupted by a shout from one of my clan sisters. She pointed up towards the horizon where we could see a dark cloud moving towards the ship. At first we could hear nothing, but as the cloud approached the air was filled with the sound of screeching and flapping wings. I grabbed Zylyra's arm and we ran back towards the ship, only stopping when the sonic crack of the ships force field snapped behind us.

The shield hummed and snarled as untold thousands of diseased and warped birds hurled themselves against its luminous glow, a wall of burning beaks and feathers vying to attack us. It was only when we retreated within the hull of the ship that we began to feel safe again, to watch wave upon wave of birds dying under the irresistible might of our force fields and disintegrators.

-- Alisandra hept Zilaerion aboard Clan Mother Zylyra's yacht, "Spirit of the Deep River".


Original space craft model created in Cinema 4D R11.5. V4 figure with Nabia Hair and Xurge Cybersuit.

Scene assembly and final rendering in Vue 8 Complete. Post processed in Photoshop CS2

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Updated: 01 October 2010

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