I had many things to consider. How were we going to ultimately finish Vortech? What about those universes that had their original history altered? Will the Vortex Riders keep their belts? If so, what will happen to their home universe? I had scurried into my office at After Academy. I say office, but it was more of a bedroom with a desk than an office. A bit crude of me to hide, since it was near the end of the month-long Halloween Festival at the school, but I needed the privacy. My office was done up in the skeletal motif I’m associated with. I heard the door open but was so deep in thought. “Death?” asked a voice. “War was asking after you. She wanted to know about the construction of…”
“A secret ship…” I muttered.
“Considering all staff and students know about the ship,” replied the voice, “and that wasn’t what I was talking about being built, I don’t think it’s a secret.”
“No,” I mused in a lower whisper than usual, “I think we should make one.”
“Death?” asked the voice.
“We have the technology and magic,” I whispered, “we just need the resources. Maybe I should detail some mining operations, see if we can get some things.”
“Death, what are you talking about?!” asked the voice harshly. I was snapped out of my reverie to see Lacey and Scorpainia at the door. Lacey was in a navy blue walking mermaid tail, a red tutu and leotard with black tulle, a pair of devil horns with a halo in the center, and a set of black angel wings. Scorpainia was in her usual armor, on a visit. “You don’t usually go all bony unless you’re thinking deeply about something,” observed Lacey. I looked at my hands to see that I had, indeed, adopted the look most cultures associate me with, a skeleton in a black cowl and robes.
“Sorry, sweetie,” I whispered as I put flesh back onto the bones and changed my robes for my dress. “I was just thinking.”
“About?” asked Scorpainia.
“Things,” I whispered, vaguely. I elaborated on that as I moved to sit on my bed. “Specifically, what we have and DON’T have.”
“I don’t follow,” commented Lacey as she and Scorpainia followed me. Lacey sat on a bench while Scorpainia sat backwards in my desk chair. I rested my chin on my hands.
“It’s been a while since War visited Foundation Prime,” I whispered. “Oddly enough, he never really made a move against us, even when we freed Scorpainia. Nothing new, nothing different, nothing out of the ordinary that would normally get my attention.”
“I thought we wrote that off as a lingering after effect of the Foundation Saber,” recalled Scorpainia.
“I know,” I whispered. “It’s just…there’s something Vortech’s playing at. The fact that I don’t know worries, concerns me about the future.”
“I don’t see much point in dwelling on it,” mused Scorpainia. “Future predictions tend to be wrong anyways. It’s good to have a plan, but some things aren’t foreseen.”
“‘The chessboard is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe’,” I started quoting. “‘The other player is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair and patient, but we also know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, nor makes the smallest allowance for ignorance.’”
“I think you forgot a bit of that quote from Dr. Thomas Huxley,” reminded Lacey. “After the ‘phenomena of the universe’ bit, he said, ‘The rules of the game are what we call the Laws of Nature,’ and then he goes into the other player.”
“And against a force of nature like Vortech, the last of the Vortonians, we’re woefully unprepared,” I sighed. “It feels that way to me, at least. We’re trying to get new people to help and whatnot, but…it’s not shaping up to be enough. Not when the BIG fights come. Some of them, the Vortex Riders can hardly call them fights. The only reason they’re alive right now is because Megumi found help and put aside her pride. What happens when one of Vortech’s flunkies does something completely out of left field, who doesn’t care about a greater plan and just feels like stomping them?”
“By that same admission though,” countered Scorpainia, “why should they care about bothering Megumi if it’s beyond revenge or the like?”
“Tell that to Hiro,” I whispered. “He’s considered a hired gun in Vortech’s plan. One part of the Rogue Driver’s legend suggests that it can make its host ascend to godhood. And, even at THAT level, Megumi is still capable of getting her rear handed to her! Hiro tricks people in so many ways. And it’s not just him. The Daleks have pestered us more times than I can count. Shocker and its splinter group, Shocker Nova continue to take us completely by surprise! Then there was that whole fiasco with the Sontarans in the universe you were commanding before, Scorpainia. That was a defective clone batch! Imagine what a perfect one could have done!” I sighed. “We try to develop new weapons, train new fighters, plan something the enemy wouldn’t expect, but…I don’t know. Maybe we’ve lost the knack for it.”
“But we still win through,” observed Lacey.
“And that’s even MORE terrifying, though,” I whispered. “The Sontarans were robbed of their prize when Scorpainia made a last-ditch effort to stop them. The Omega Protocols are a last resort and defective Sontarans suppressed the Tarlaxians enough that they needed to move from that universe. That’s not something Scorpainia does willy-nilly!”
“Well, sitting and examining a battle down to the tiniest detail, even though we won with honor,” declared Scorpainia, “isn’t going to help us win. What do you suggest we do?”
“We need…information, knowledge,” I whispered.
“I think I know one place we can start looking,” helped Lacey. “It’s the reason I came here in the first place.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“It’s about the Foundation Saber,” explained Lacey. “I think it’s trying to say something. Whenever I pass by that room we’re keeping it in, I hear something like a very soft, low voice trying to say something. I already told War and Scorpainia told Pestilence and Famine.”
“How long has this been going on?” I asked.
“About a couple of days,” replied Lacey. “I checked with the nurse to make sure I wasn’t going crazy, but she found a psychic aura around it. That was when I told War.”
“Good thing you told us,” I whispered. “We’ll look into it after the Halloween Festival is over. Scorpainia, I need you to look into something else.”
“At your disposal,” assured Scorpainia.
“When you inherited the Eye of Tarlax,” I whispered, pointing to the jewel in her armor, “you said there was an underlying message in it. A message of reinforcement. We haven’t done a lot of study of it, but I think it’s time we learned what it means. Get your scientists and mages on it. In the meantime, I’ll see what War wants to make. Something to do with the Foundation Saber?”
“Bingo,” confirmed Lacey.
“I’m on it,” called Scorpainia. She opened a rift and returned to her new universe, Tarlax 14.
“In the meantime, I think we had better rejoin the festivities,” I suggested to Lacey. I helped her up as she got herself steady in her tail. We then walked out the door as I changed my dress into a costume of a Black Chess Queen.
“Time to move some pawns,” quipped Lacey. I chuckled softly at her joke. As we walked, Lacey got an idea. “I just need to do a written portion of Pestilence’s Apocalypse final, right?”
“Right,” I confirmed
“I think we can use our examination of the Foundation Saber to be that bit!” said Lacey. “I write down what we’re doing, what my theory is, and what the results are, and use that!”
“A lab report!” I whispered. “She will love that!” I then heard a rustling noise. “Lacey,” I whispered.
“The plants behind us, I heard it too,” confirmed Lacey. We both cautiously crept towards the plants, moved our hands toward them, and shoved them aside to see five students, Lacey’s friends. They had all gone the path of gothic angel, devil, sea creature tutu-wearing ballerinas, one of them being a male. The young man was Brendan, whose sea creature was an octopus mermaid, a Cecaelia. The tallest girl was Amelia, whose sea creature was an eel mermaid, an Anguillimer, as she called it. The short and stocky girl was Sophie who was a seahorse mermaid, a Hippocamini, as she called it. The third one, a shy girl by the name of Flora who was an Orca based mermaid, an Orcimy as she called it, was hiding behind Brendan. The last one, the spunky Ms. Charline, was a shark based mermaid, a Selayne, as she called it. “Eavesdropping, are we?” hissed Lacey.
“We weren’t dropping any eaves!” yelped Brendan. “We were just trimming the plants!”
“They’re office plants,” I whispered. “They don’t need trimming. How much have you heard?” No one said a word. “All right, let’s do Sir Terry’s method,” I then deepened my voice. “HOW MUCH HAVE YOU HEARD?” I said in my Discworld voice.
“We didn’t understand much of it!” cried Amelia. “All we heard was a sword giving Lacey some mental problems, some fiasco with Sontarans, a fight with Vortech, that’s all, we swear!”
“You went to the beginning of that conversation!” snarled Lacey. “I don’t believe it!”
“Please, Ms. Death, Ms. Lacey, don’t hurt us!” whimpered Flora. “Don’t turn us into anything…unnatural!”
“…No?” I whispered. “Well, I think I know something for you five. Lacey’s going to be our Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse. She needs a herald and I think the rest of Horsemen need one each. You will be our heralds.”
“We won’t disappoint you! We swear!” called Sophie.
“I don’t think you will,” I whispered. “Now, no more eavesdropping. Clear?”
“Crystal clear!” gulped Charline. “It won’t happen again!”
“Good,” I sighed. “Now, don’t you have a play to rehearse?”
“Come on, you guys,” directed Lacey. “We’ve got work to do.” As they walked away, Lacey asked Amelia how her character was getting along. I sighed with a grin as I headed to Pestilence’s lab. She needed to know what Lacey was planning.