Antikas sat in front of a cluster of consoles attempting to decipher a cosmic wave pattern. He had been trying to unlock its secrets for some time now, but due to the present circumstances that he and the rest of the Eternal Legacy were suffering, he hadn’t had much time to work on this project.
Professor Kasimirov, you should be asleep. It’s quite late.
The aged scientist turned to face the woman who had entered the room. He had been in the Echo Project facilities here in Solrain Core for a few days. He was weary from combat but had not allowed himself to rest. He still had so much to do.
Unfortunately I have little time to rest, Dr. Hayakawa. I need to decode this pattern in order to help kingmonkey.
When was the last time you made contact with monkey?
Over two weeks now. This energy wavelength was all over his comm signal; I believe it has to so with the artifact portal he claims to have found.
You know you can simply enter the information into our computers, you’ve never lacked faith in Mainframe before.
The life of a friend was never dependent on Mainframe’s calculations before.
Professor … Anatoly … I do understand. But believe me, you do him no benefit by depriving yourself of sleep. And when was the last time you ate?
I… don’t remember. Before I left the Gyre yesterday… the Black Wind…
With a whisper of metal slipping along magnetic paths, the door of the astrometrics lab slid open. The light of the hallway shone like a beacon on Antikas, who had been sitting in only the dim glow of the computer monitors for hours. He simply turned back to the screen and rubbed his red eyes. His head hurt, and his stomach was in pain from stress and lack of food.
Well, Doctor, he seems intent on killing himself slowly. I wish I could help him, but I have other matters to attend. Can you talk some sense into him?
Into Kas? Hardly.
Dr. Hayakawa shook her head and left the room, disappearing into the hallway. Antikas closed his eyes for a moment. He felt that all his efforts were now tearing him in different directions.
Kas? You look like hell.
Antikas smiled briefly, a wan smile with little hope of humour beneath. He turned his heavy head to look at his old friend who now was sitting in the chair next to him. Unlike Dr. Hayakawa, a woman so young and full of life, this man was old and full of the remnants of a life of broken dreams.
Kwan… I can hardly keep it all straight nowadays.
That’s because you’re old. It happens to all of us. You have to go with it, fighting it is like swimming upstream.
It’s more than that Kwan, I… I’m trying to help kingmonkey, I’m trying to survive attacks from the Black Wind, I’m trying to figure out the whys and wherefores of conflux space… it seems like I’m reaching my limit.
Dr. Kwan Tetsuo leaned back in his chair and laid his cane across his lap. He breathed a neavy sigh. The two had been friends for so long that often they didn’t need to say what they were feeling. Each knew the other’s thoughts as well as his own.
Look, Kas… let me look at the data you received from kingmonkey’s transmission. I can do as much good with it as you can, if not more. I’ve always been more proficient with this sort of analytical work than you. I’ll take over and you can get some rest.
Thank you. That takes care of one of my problems.
Again the door shot open, bathing the occupants of the lab with the heavy lighting of the corridor. This time a figure came in wearing a flight suit, carrying a helmet under her arm. Shadowhart, the leader of the Eternal Legacy, stood behind Antikas and gently rested her hand on his shoulder.
Are you ready to head out, Anti?
Antikas tried to stand but found that he lacked strength. His legs trembled and collapsed under his own weight. As he twisted and fell, Shadowhart dropped her helmet and caught him. She sat him back in his chair.
Whoa, are you alright, Prof.?
It seems to me that your problems with the Black Wind will be fine, Kas. You’ve got the support of a good squad, and true friends like that can see you through anything.
So, maybe that’s two of my current problems about which I needn’t worry. Now all I have to do is figure out how to end the conflux menace.
Still obsessed with your crusade to single-handedly destroy the pink menace, eh? Just get some rest and you can fight the flux tomorrow.
Shadowhart helped Antikas to his feet and lead him to the door. As they walked down the corridor to the dormitory, they passed many of the labs in the Echo Project Headquarters. Each one seemed to house more complex machinery than the last. Despite the awesome sights of some of the equipment at work, which was even startling to a pilot as experienced as Shadow, Antikas never looked up once… until they reached the Conflux Theoretical Study Lab. Kas lifted up his head and stared at the door as the sounds of a recorded conflux battle drifted out into the hallway.
It sounded like so many battles to him. The frantic voices of pilots panicking as they fought, the mad sirens and alarms screaming in the cockpits of the fighters, the jolts and shudders as the ships reeled from conflux blasts, all finally ending as, one by one, the sounds from each ship died off leaving only an emptiness behind.
Shadowhart saw the look in his eyes.
It’s all about the Outer Third isn’t it?
I’m sorry if it’s personal, but I’ve heard you and Dr. Tetsuo talk about it before. Whatever happened to you in the Outer Third… that’s why you fight them so hard, right?
He didn’t answer aloud. There was no need, Shadow could see it in his eyes. There was a burning hate lingering like red embers after a conflagration. She knew that fire well enough. He simply looked forward down the hall, and they continued to walk. They finally arrived at the dormitory and Shadow opened the door to Anti’s room. He sat down on his bed as she turned to leave. She paused outside his door.
Whatever happened to you out there, Prof… don’t let it ruin your life. We need you here and now, not in the past. Get some sleep okay? We leave tomorrow at 0600.
. . . the tails continue . . .