Template:Writer Template:Fiction Shadows of the Great Beings is the first installment in the Gigas Magna storyline. It focuses on the Dwarf Rotaxian Scythe, former member of the Great Shadow, as he infiltrates the rebellious Breakaway Council and attempts to end a deadly conspiracy.
In the time before time, the Zormacht, lords of reality, roamed the galaxy. Their sole purpose, born from obsession, was to help create new life in any and all forms, and encourage that which had already sprung up to grow and prosper. They planted its seeds on many worlds, creating biomechanical beings in their own image that worshiped them as gods; they connected this universe to others, and even built the mysterious pocket dimensions that branch off from ours.
At one point, we know, they came to the planet which in the language of the Agori is called Spherus Magna. Their first creations' original names were lost to time, but they were afterward known as the Great Beings by the other inhabitants of the world. Wise and noble lords of the fundamental powers of the universe, they were viewed as great leaders—but their greatness paled in comparison to those whom they were modeled after, from whom they also inherited a desire to create.
For a time the Zormacht remained unseen to watch them, capable of using amazing technology indistinguishable from magic (which the Great Beings copied to a lesser degree, and has been used ever since) to observe the growing civilization on the world they had made to support life and make sure that all was well.
They made plans to depart for another region of the galaxy, but were delayed when a member of their order became power-hungry and suddenly rebelled. He gathered a legion of his followers and made war on the Zormacht, taking the name of Baterra, or "silent death." War between the opposite sides ensued, until the skies above Spherus Magna were lit with the lights of battle, and its inhabitants looked to the stars in wonderment.
Baterra began to grow mad, and it became clear even to his allies that he only sought destruction of all that the Zormacht had worked for. As a result, he was betrayed and left at the mercy of the Zormacht lords. They took pity and chose not to kill him, but instead encased him in a prison that no being of matter could ever hope to breach. At the end of time, when matter itself had deteriorated into nothingness, the prison would open, so that Chaos can be alone in the oblivion he desires.
Trusting in the wisdom of the Great Beings to keep the citizens of Spherus Magna safe, the Zormacht left for unknown space. No one knows what truly happened; some say that, in order to prevent any more chaos and destruction, they constructed a great city of diamond in another world, where they could remain in peace to contemplate the cause of the "imperfection" in their grand plans that was Baterra. Others say that they left this plane of existence entirely, ascending to new levels to become gods in substance as well as deed.
Whatever the case, the Creators were wrong about one thing: the wisdom of the Great Beings did not save Spherus Magna...
Another day dawned on Gigas Nui. On the horizon lay a small half-circle of white, mostly obscured through through the piercing rain and icy mist that turned the morning air into a dreary gray that shrouded the city's silver spires in a cloak. There was no wind to dispel it, but there were rainclouds in abundance, which seemed to have settled stubbornly above the city and become unwilling to move.
Such an occurrence as heavy rain would would have seemed perfectly normal in almost any other metropolis in the Solis Magna system, save the fact that Gigas Nui was completely climate-controlled. Fog and rainstorms were something the city had not seen since before the Great Beings had colonized it, thousands of years before, long before the Shattering that had forced their Order away from their homes.
It was an unwelcome disturbance, and once they figured out that there was nothing wrong with the climate systems—he wouldn't be surprised if they already had—they would become suspicious. And then, no doubt, someone would get a Toa to undo the damage and rectify the peculiar situation.
And there was where they would find a problem, the first giveaway. No Toa alive could possibly hope to undo what a Great Being had done. They would realize that soon enough, and once they did, it wouldn't take long to find out who was at fault and what he was trying to do. They would go looking for him.
If all went well, he would be long gone by then.
A pair of narrow orange eyes glanced nervously over his shoulder for half a second. He took the visual data, analyzed it, and his half-mechanical mind formed a conclusion: no one was following him. Satisfied, he returned his attention to the path in front of him as he raced through the alley at top speed, his feet already half-underwater as they came down heavily on the puddles.
Luckily, no one could hear the noise over that of the storm, but it would hardly have mattered anyway: there was no possible way that the Order of Great Beings could be looking for him this early. And even if they were, the sight of a Great Being passing through the street on urgent business was hardly unusual, though seeing one actually running was a rarity.
The traitor slowed down not in the slightest as he reached for the small communications device magnetically attached to his hip, a simple radio wave transmitter, his robotic index finger pressing against a tiny button on the side. “Hex here,” he spoke. “I'm fully aware I confirmed earlier, but I need to be sure you haven't taken off without me. Over.”
As the words left his mouth, the voice-recognition and amplification algorithms recognized the fact that he was talking, singled out his voice, and transmitted the audio data over to its counterpart. The response was almost immediate.
“Very funny, Hex,” was the answer. The pilot in charge of taking him away, whom Hex knew to be a young jungle Glatorian, had a brisk but calm manner that made him seem both strange and familiar at once. “We couldn't possibly leave you. The commanding officers would kill us, especially considering the nature of this mission.”
“I suppose you're wondering why I just relay the data to you.” Hex paused for just a second, but before the pilot decided to answer, he continued: “Well, I need to know I'm getting out of here. If I were to give it to you right now, then you don't necessarily have any use for me, and I might not get my free ticket. I want that free ticket, understand me?”
“Yes, sir.” Clearly, the pilot was too disciplined a soldier to inquire further. That was a good thing, he quickly decided; if his escort got too curious as to the nature of the data, there could be trouble. “We'll be waiting at the airship dock for you.”
“Excellent,” said Hex, glad that such an issue had been resolved so quickly. He quickly deactivated the comm so the pilot didn't get the idea to make some sort of smart retort, then cast one final glance over his shoulder, just for safety, before making the final sprint out of the alley.
He had nearly reached the airship dock, a shining metal structure that only stood out against all the shining metal structures around him due to the fact that it took up more space horizontally than vertically. This was, like many of the things to be found in the city, for convenience; specifically, that of the air-and spacecraft pilots, who would have a much easier time landing their vehicles. Unsurprisingly, there were no guards of any sort visible by the structure—the Order of Great Beings, foolish and arrogant as they were, didn't believe that there was anyone in the universe who could in any way threaten them, especially not inside their own city—which meant that once he had given the Council's airship the codes to get though the energy field, they could touch down without being noticed.
If by any chance someone were unlucky enough to be in the dock at the wrong time, they would quickly be silenced. That much he knew about the Breakaway Council and their myrmidons.
A flash of white nearby caught his eye, but when he turned his head to look he found it was gone. By then, though, he had lost his concentration, and the damage had been done. Hex tripped and fell, rolling over as his back landed on one of the puddles on the metal pavement. He got back up immediately, cursing, then stopped as he looked at what was in front of him.
“Rotaxian ghosting powers actually are useful sometimes, I suppose,” said the white-armored being mildly, twirling his long scythe and getting into a battle stance, looking like he was poised to jump. He tipped his wide hat with his free hand, nodding to the Great Being before him as though it were a proper business occasion
“We're not stupid, you know,” Scythe answered, not moving from his stance. “The Order pays us to do our jobs, so we do them, and I must say that we do them well. We know what you're planning, Hex. We know what the Breakaway Council is up to, and the Great Beings refuse to stand by and watch it happen.”
Hex did not move. “Are you genuinely foolish enough to threaten me? I may have no weapons, but I assure you, a Great Being is never unarmed. A single Dwarf Rotaxian poses no threat to me at all.”
“That's the first thing Sacho taught us, Hex,” Scythe hissed, maintaining his stance. “A Great Being is never unarmed. After six hundred years working for your people, we know that all too well.”
Hex watched as Scythe raised his finger ever so slightly, and tensed as he waited for the inevitable response. He did not have to wait long; immediately, half a dozen Rotaxians deactivated their ghosting powers, revealing themselves behind the Dwarf.
Unsurprisingly for a species whose society revolved around violence, every one of them looked ready, willing, and eager to kill. Each wielded a long staff or a scythe, which Hex supposed was a good thing; Rotaxians were primitive creatures who despised the thought of killing someone with anything much more advanced than a spear, which probably meant there was not a single energy weapon among them. Of course, considering that these were not just Rotaxians but members of the Great Shadow as well, he doubted that would impede them in the slightest.
Scythe grinned maliciously and tilted his head ever so slightly. “Tell me, Hex, are you feeling lucky now?”
“Lucky enough,” said Hex, but his tone was no longer mocking. No doubt, Scythe realized this too, judging from the way he was looking at him.
“You could always surrender.”
“The same goes for you, my little friend.” Hex could literally feel the heat of his powers gathering within him, and sensed that the confrontation was near. “I will not give in to you.”
“Good, then,” said Scythe. He raised his finger again, and the Rotaxians launched themselves towards him.
Hex reacted quickly. Before either of his six attackers could reach him, he launched bolts of white lightning from the tips of his fingers, slamming into two of the more unlucky Rotaxians and severely electrocuting them. He ignored their dying screams as he activated his weather control power and created a small cyclone in between him and his foes.
“First one to go after me is shredded to pieces by freak winds,” he growled, backing slowly away down the alley, being sure to keep the tornado in front of him.
“Oh,” said Scythe, who had barely moved during the confrontation and was still grinning at Hex wickedly, “I almost forgot. The second thing we learned is that a Great Being is always overconfident. Ghosting powers on.”
Hex barely had time to react as the five attackers vanished in thin air, then reappeared half a second later right in front of him. Hex was so shocked that he lost his concentration, and the tornado dissipated into the fine mist. He barely had time to worry about that before they were on him.
All four of them attacked at once. While he kept the other three at bay with more lightning blasts, the first released a blast of acid. In another situation, Hex could have batted it away with the wind, but his attention was still focused on the lightning storm. He reacted just in time to jump away, and turned that jump into an attack as he reached out with a powerful kick. Even the Rotaxian's reflexes couldn't save him, and the force of the blow literally launched him backward across the alley.
The other three, he now noticed, had taken advantage of his momentary distraction to collect themselves. They were now holding their electro-staffs out into the energy storm to use them as lightning rods, slowly stepping forward as the electrical energy was harmlessly absorbed. Recognizing the danger, he increased the electrical energy, focusing his power on one specific Rotaxian, the one closest to him. She growled at him in a show of bestiality, which was extinguished a moment later as she was hit in the arm by a lightning bolt. His enemy fell to the ground, clearly in severe pain, but he had already forgotten about her.
That proved to be a mistake. She growled once more as she raised her staff into the heavens, grinning that villainous Rotaxian grin at him, and she released a single burst of elemental power. Hex didn't know what he had been expecting — perhaps he had expected to be encased in a block of ice, which, of course, wouldn't work very well — but what happened next was something he could not have foreseen. The two Rotaxians that remained standing, members of a proud warrior race, were suddenly running away.
Then, as the thrill and fear of battle faded, he looked up, saw the building-sized frozen block of white coming down in his direction, and realized why.
Desperately, he tried to blast it away from him with a burst of wind. But either the burst was too feeble or the ice was too strong, because it continued to come down towards him. It seemed like he would need a hurricane to get that away, and he couldn't summon a hurricane in the time he had left...
Hex took the only course of action available to him, one that was sure to lead him right into his foes' hands. In resignation, he began to run down the alley, away from the falling ice block, as he increased his speed substantially with his wind power. In the back of his mind, he realized that the ice Rotaxian was trapped where she lay, and he considered helping her for one moment before he pushed the thought away.
As it impacted with the ground behind him, the ice block seemed to explode, shattering into thousands of pieces as it landed on top of the alley, caving in the roofs of the two buildings on either side. Probably, someone would come out to find out exactly what was taking place outside in this weather. But he didn't care; the Rotaxians had known what he was going to do, and they were were waiting for him.
Accursed beasts, he thought, just before the two of them almost literally leaped upon him.
He was forced on the defensive. He created another small cyclone, only this time with him at its center. They couldn't have used their ghosting powers — they would have been swept away — so he believed himself to be safe, for the moment at least.
Once again, he had failed to account for his fallen enemies. The fire Rotaxian whom he had blasted with lightning was slowly standing back up. He noticed what was taking place too late, and even as he launched another lightning burst, the damage was done. With a flick of its wrist, twin pillars of fire were launched from his hands, directly in Hex's direction. Then the lightning arrived, striking him down for good, but by then the Great Being was more worried about the fire.
Knowing that a tornado wouldn't be enough to stop it, he focused his power on diverting the pillars' path, but he lost his focus on keeping the cyclone going, and it vanished. Then they attacked again, each one going for a different part of the body with their electro-staffs, and then he knew there was no way he could win.
Two of them. Three he had killed with lightning, one had succumbed to her own attack on him.
So where was Scythe?
As his strength failed and the staffs made contact with his body, he laughed out loud, his booming voice carrying through what was left of the street. He felt no pain as the acid Rotaxian slashed his hips in two, no pain as the Fire one thrust the point of his staff into his neck, no pain as the acid one blasted a hole through his heartlight with his elemental power, no feeling at all as the fire Rotaxian as he neatly removed one of his legs.
“Scythe,” he hissed, “stop this game. I will not be toyed with by you of all beings.”
The images of his attackers suddenly vanished, leaving his body as whole as it had been in the moment of his creation. The block of ice disappeared; the damage he and his attackers had wrought on the alley and square was gone. All that remained was the rain, pouring down as if nothing had changed.
Then the small white-armored warrior appeared before him, not even twenty bio away. He looked at the Great Being as if he were almost annoyed, tilting his head to one side, his traditional Rotaxian hat tilting in the other direction so that it looked like it was almost going to fall off.
“At what point did you realize it was an illusion?”
“When I realized you were missing,” Hex said coolly, taking a step towards him. “No Rotaxian in his right mind would ever back away from a decent fight, even if it meant their death, so long as they were being paid for it. And the Order is paying you well, aren't they?”
“So when I realized you were gone, your disappearance was a dead giveaway.” Hex took another step towards Scythe, cautiously. He didn't want his target to know what would come should he choose not to surrender — or at least until it was too late.
“I had expected you to figure it out earlier,” Scythe hissed. “You're more stupid than I believed you to be. I'm surprised you ever figured it out at all. I wish you hadn't; it was rather enjoyable watching you desperately attack empty air. You looked like you were insane.”
“It's just you and me now, Scythe,” Hex growled. Another step. “You know you can't take me on alone.”
“I can't?” Scythe tilted his head the other way, looking at Hex almost innocently.
Hex gestured to the spacedock behind him. So terribly close... but he had to know what other tricks Scythe had up his sleeve. He couldn't go until he was absolutely sure that he could do it without being impeded any further. Hopefully, the Council ship wasn't in too much of a hurry. “Yes, you can't. But what you can do is step out of the way.”
“I don't think I will.”
Something was definitely wrong. Scythe couldn't possibly be bluffing. “Why not?”
“You have a choice, Hex,” said Scythe. “I was going to have the illusion kill you, so you would believe you were dead and fall into catatonic shock. But now, since that's not an option, I shall give you two choices: Either you let me take you into custody, or you have to go through me.”
Perhaps he was bluffing after all. Yes, that had to be it. The little Rotaxian was stalling, waiting for backup to come. It was too risky waiting any longer. Either that, or Scythe was too stupid to know when he was outmatched.
“I take the second option,” Hex answered, releasing a massive electrical storm from the tips of his fingers, directly in Scythe's direction. Scythe vanished as the lightning blasted into the wall behind him, but by that time Hex was already advancing towards the hangar, a tornado formed around him in case the Rotaxian should reappear. There was no way that Scythe could stop him now...
And then he felt a sudden, overwhelming pain in his chest. The tornado around him vanished as he looked down and saw what was causing it: A long metal rod that curved at the end into a scythe had somehow come into existence in the middle of his body, spearing him neatly in the heart. Blood was dripping from the gaping hole and Hex sank to his knees, unable even to speak.
Then the electrical pulse from the staff came, and the pain increased. He roared as his body was set upon by hundreds of volts, the energy coursing through his body and amplified by his mechanical parts. He dropped to the ground as the shock ended. His vision began to blur from the pain and blood loss, but the figure of the Rotaxian standing over him was unmistakable...
“I was meant to bring you in alive,” he heard Scythe say, and saw the outline of his mouth open again, but he never heard what Scythe said. As the blur that was the ship that had come for him began to rise into the night and flee the city, the darkness came over him at last. He allowed it to come, welcoming the dark tendrils of the merciful blackness, and then he was gone...