THE STONE SEEKERS
You value knowledge above all else. There is not a time in your life that you were not trying to obtain more of it. Even in the early years of your life, you astounded your teachers with your drive and intellect.
This dive is what led you to join the “Knowers”, a sect held both in awe and fear for their possession of knowledge forbidden by the God-kings of Caeus. You quickly rose through their ranks and have recently been elected as their leader. This new position has provided you access to the only current complete repository of the Saga.
But you and your cult have knowledge that could harm the God-kings, which forces you to hide your identities. As much as most of the Knowers fear the wrath of these kings, you know there is a far greater danger. Together with the complete repository of the Saga came the knowledge of the Dream. This dream, dreamt by an omnipotent sleeper, is the true nature of the world. If this dream is not steered onto a golden path, civilization will crumble or worse, the sleeper might awake.
So you thread on a dangerous path; You try to shape the dream in order to save everyone, all the while hiding this truth as it would lead the very people you try to save astray and into damnation.
"Corrections must be made to the Golden path before the Saga is askew. Failure is inconceivable"
"Inconceivable? I can imagine death at the hands of the warlord's hordes very clearly."
"It is worse than destruction. If the sleeper stirs, it will be as if the world never was. Our past and future selves will have no more roles to play in the saga."
-The Sage and the Paladin.
Your enemies have tried to discourage more followers to join your banners by dubbing you the Warlord. Little did they realise that this moniker actually drove more and more men and women to join your ever growing horde of warriors. Most of these troops come from the oppressed underclass created by the Divine Hierarchy that is imposed by the God Kings. These wretches might not inspire much fear on their own, but with the training and leadership you provide them, they have grown in a formidable army indeed.
Those that still dare to oppose you claim that you are as bad as the very God Kings you have sworn to defeat. There have been atrocities committed in your name, but these things simply happen in wars. These actions disgust you, but have not diminished your march towards the victory over your hated foes.
"You fool, the magic of the God-kings have been dwindling for years. Why would Hailus send you in her stead? Why does she need a stone that grants Godhood if she already wielded such power?
Join me, or stand aside. I share no hatred for your kind."
-The Warlord, to the Paladin.
You have heard and answered the call of the divine at a young age. Since you were a young child, you have trained to become a holy warrior in the name of your Goddess and Queen, Halius. Your faith and zeal have burned bright enough to catch her direct eye. She has given you the arduous task of braving the conquered lands of Teres and enter the blight that surrounds the Stone.
Honoured and humbled by this quest, you gladly accepted. As if that alone was not enough, you have been promised Ascension as equal of Halius should you return the Stone to her.
Your initial elation regarding this honour and the potential reward have diminished since beginning this quest. Where your heart used to be filled with the complete certainty of unwavering faith, small cracks have begun to weaken your resolve. Slowly you have begun to realise that your black and white view of the world was the result of your sheltered upbringing that was the result of the monastic training you received during your youth.
Still, you cling on to your faith as best you can, knowing that once you return the stone, you can remove the suffering that you were forced to witness as part of this journey.
You can still remember what it was like before, when you were frail and weak. A pawn to be used and abused by any and all who desired to do so. But those days are things of the past. They will never hold sway over you ever again.
Why others fear the Blight is a mystery to you. Why fear something that helps those that need it? After all, it was the very Blight that gave you the strength to stand up to your tormentors and finally give them a taste of their own medicine.
But for all the strength, it does hurt. Your body was never intended to wield such magic. Yet you press on, driven by the dark whispers that haunt your sleep. What else can you do? You promised yourself that you would never, ever go back to the way things were.
Some call you a Wizard, others call you a Prophet. You don’t care much for either names or titles, but you can see why lesser men would see you as such. The ideas you spread regarding enlightenment and the “Gospel of Man” seem to have a way to inspire people to become more than they are. Something better. Something greater.
As master of the gospel you preach, you have access to certain “gifts”. You’ve tried to spread your teachings without relying on these too much, but every use of them just further bolsters the rumours that surround you like ticks on a dog.
You hope to find the stone before others do, even though you know it does not really exist. Your dreams have shown you that it is merely a “window of wisdom” embedded in a “sea of doubt”.
While the Paladin is the most trusted servant of a God Queen, the Prince is the son of another. The stone represents an opportunity to come into his own power without the immortal yoke of his father's rule. Immortality is a curse, he would be doomed never to succeed as a king in his own right, eternally dwelling in the shadow of his divine father. He secretly intends to use the stone to end the endless - giving number to the years that all God kings are to live.
THE SIMBULAN PENITENTIARY
Although the place was built by the disgraced and exiled Nassim family in order to redeem for the mistakes of their ancestors, it did not take long for their gesture to become as corrupted as the crimes that forced their ancestors into hiding. Numerous attempts were made to resolve the blatant corruption and outright decline, but for some cursed reason, these simply failed to improve matters. So slowly and steadily, things got worse. Not only for those that were sent there as inmates, but even the guards started to complain about the poor working conditions and even began reporting a few of their own to go missing.
Caught in a downward spiral, the Warden did the one thing he could to preserve his luxurious position; He sold out even more. Year by year, he cut back on human wardens to replace them with EXA guard drones, especially around the dreaded upper levels of the complex. The steady shift toward robotic guards opened the door for the warden to go another step further. In the deepest and most secure part of the prison, the dreaded 44th cell block, he began selling the inmates as science experiments. Oh, it started out innocent enough. A few trial runs that tested experimental medication or slightly improved neural computer interfaces, but the world being what it is, it didn't stop there.
The final decline took far longer to truly begin as if the Warden was somehow clinging to the last bit of decency he had buried deep inside his corrupted soul. But he eventually gave in to the temptation of even more "easy" money and began the "Black Cell" project. Here, the inmates were subjected to illegal and experimental Virtual Enhanced Interrogation technologies. This VEI technology enabled his sponsors to forcefully "question" their subjects in a simulated environment of their choosing or even use time dilation to make them serve years of imprisonment in the timeframe of mere months. But the technology was far from ready to be tested on sane humans and the people that were trapped in cell block 44 were far from sane. The experiments pushed most of them far over the edge of what little sanity they still had. The virtual environments kept them sedated, but only barely.
Years of budget cuts and lax guards proved to be the last spark needed to explode the powder keg created by the Warden. Oddly enough, the riots didn't even start anywhere near the highest levels. But despite not starting there, the blood-crazed prisoners didn't take long to reach the supermax area. Sure, the defenses there were far greater than anywhere in the prison, but most of the prisoners had already managed to obtain weapons from the guards they killed.
The things they found were enough to rattle even the most hardened blood crazed gangbanger that stormed in over the corpses of friend and foe alike. Dozens, if not hundreds of men and women, clad in black jumpers in the same style as the standard orange inmate uniforms they wore, each of them hooked up to a myriad of complex and archaic machines. Some of them were twitching from the horrors that the machines were inflicting to them.
It would be a stretch to say your hands are clean but they are by far not dirty enough to warrant the kind of imprisonment they gave you. Sure, a few of the campaign "contributions" had more strings attached than technically legal, but that's just the name of the game in San Miguel. After all, if you want to change things, there are always sacrifices to be made.
You never realized that those sacrifices would mean the kind of things they do in the black cells. It’s not like they originally sent you there. You arranged to be moved there. For someone like you, there is no protection with the general population, especially not with all the major political hotshots out for your blood. But being with the misfits subjected to all kinds of simulations? That’s something you can work with.
So how did you get here in the first place? Well, somewhere down the line, someone got really pissed about what you did, or really, really scared. You knew that taking on Panuan, the current major of the city, was a bad idea. But your pride didn’t let you back down. Whichever the case, someone set you free and you're not going to lose another term.
You should have known that no good deed ever goes unpunished. You had seen it happen many times already after all. Cops that stuck out their neck always ended up dead or worse.
So what made you think you could be the exception to the rule? Why did you have to tell the ICBI about the slush fund operated by the captain of your district? Was it petty jealousy? Righteous anger? Not that it matters now, your tormentors made sure of that. The only thing that matters now is getting out, no matter where to.
You still wonder why you got sent here of all places. Sure, you messed with the wrong people. But that usually ensured you got a one way, all expenses paid trip to a shallow grave behind the precinct. There must be more going on that meets the eye, if only you could put your finger on it.
"Truth will set you free". Those were the words your mentor imprinted on you when training to become the journalist that you are. Or well, used to be. For a time, you actually believed those words, but those days are past. They made damn sure of that.
Some things are best left locked up. He should have led with that and not with the righteous crap he used to sprout after a few drinks. Some truths are simply not meant to be free. If he would, it might have made you pause when you found out that certain things were going on in the prison. It might have even have made you second guess your own plan to investigate in person. It sure as hell would have prevented you from disappearing into the black hole you went out to investigate in the first place.
Now that you are free, you can still hear that nagging voice of your mentor, just like he sounded after the fifth drink. “Now you did all the work, you can’t let the story walk. Just wouldn’t be right”.
You always knew it had to end like this. How could it be any other way? Not that it stopped you from doing the things you did. It's not like you had a choice. You had these... Urges. They could be pushed away for a while, but never for long.
It started out simple enough; hurting animals without there being a reason to do so. That quickly evolved into hurting people. How naive you were back then. How unsophisticated. You now realize that you wasted that time with mere hurting when it could have been spent on the true pleasures in life; killing.
The first kill made you realize this truth and nothing was ever quite the same afterward.
Being born as a Mob brat has its advantages. Sure, there is the danger and the isolation, but those sacrifices are nothing compared to how well they prepare you for the rest of your life. You quickly learned that in order to rule, others needed to fear. With years of experience gained from watching your family instill such fear, it didn't take you long to carve out a criminal kingdom of your own.
But there is a thing as too much fear. Now you know that there needs to be a balance of sorts; too little fear and ambitious underlings kill you to take your place. But the real danger is when they only fear. Then they don't even give you the decency of a proper hit. Oh no, then they do something far worse; They lock you up in the darkest hellhole they can find, hoping, praying that you will never, ever come out.
Why do people become colonists? There are many reasons, really. Some would say it's fear; Fear of missing out, fear of whatever they are leaving behind or fear of being bored. But those that do make the leap know better. It's about hope. Hope that whatever you find at the end of your journey is worth leaving everything behind.
Even those poor sobs that could only afford to have their brains shipped had hope. Hope that the other colonists would be successful enough on the new world to craft them the bodies that they needed for their new lives. You don't do something like that out of fear, only something as profound as hope can do that to a person.
It was full of that marvelous feeling that the "full" colonists awoke from their stasis. They even got to keep it for a few moments when they saw the beautiful green and blue globe, Gaia, that was to be their new home. At least they had those few moments. Most of the others didn't. Hundreds of thousands of colonists had already died inside their pods by then, unknowing of the fact that the ship had reached the planet years ago.
The bewildered colonists began to explore the overgrown corridors of their ark. Someone or something had released most of the flora and fauna samples that they brought with them. Why anyone would do something that stupid was beyond them. The chances of those samples surviving re-entry without proper protection were slim to none. But even that made little sense. It would take decades, if not more, for things to quite get so messed up. Had it truly been that long?
The survivors quickly realized that they needed to land the Ark as quickly as possible. Something had gone horribly wrong with most systems on the ship. With their supplies dwindling and radiation touched beings assaulting them, they had little choice.
Starting over has been a red thread throughout your life. You have done it so often on so many different levels that you wonder if you can do anything else but that. But there is something to be said for the new and novel. For starting out with nothing but the clothes on your back and build something new. At least, until the next challenge comes along.
That new challenge was exactly what convinced you to sign up for one of the Arks. What greater brave new enterprise could there be than to start a whole *world*? This should have been your Magnus Opus, if not for well, everything going wrong. But not all is lost just yet. It can be salvaged. You've done all of it before after all.
You spent most of your childhood taking things apart and putting them back together again. You usually made them work again and if you didn’t there was at least a valuable lesson learned. It really didn’t take you long to “graduate” from assembling and disassembling household appliances to the bigger and more complicated stuff. You even got kicked out of school for messing around with the air filtration systems. You still don’t get quite why they were so mad about that, you did increase the efficiency of the system by a few percent after all.
But your search for the next big intellectual challenge kept you going, drifting from one job to another. You didn’t mind being the loner, as long as you didn’t have to be bored. So when they offered you a job on board of an Ark, you jumped at the chance. After all, those ships contained more systems than a single human could hope to understand in a single lifetime. Not that that stops you from trying though.
You always had a knack for talking to people. Talking to people is about as natural as breathing is to everyone else. Even a silly thing like “not having a shared language” never stopped you from having a conversation. After a few hours of talking, you usually had a working knowledge of whatever language the other side understood. If they gave you a few weeks or in rare cases, months, you’d be able to pick up the language as if you were raised with it.
Even though there is only an extremely small chance that the ship finds life on the world it was sent out to colonize, it’s simply a chance you have to take. Even if nothing new was found, there would more than enough to do, seeing that there are colonists of hundreds of different nationalities on the ship. Even your formidable linguistic skills will be challenged by having to learn that much.
Nature was always something that facinated you. The way it’s able to overcome almost every change by adapting how it works, completely without intervention from any intelligence, is a thing of beauty to you. Just looking at the beautiful elegance of life proves this notion to you every time you see it.
But for all it’s elegance, you do feel that nature is a bit slow at times. Sure, given enough time, it can and will overcome even the insurmountable changes that life throws at it, but sometimes life just needs a little push. This is why your initial specialisation in biology slowly evolved into genetic modification.
With your help, nature doesn’t need to wait for certain changes to take place and adapt to them. You’re actually able to see the changes before they happen and combine and mix existing natural solutions into a pre-emptive evolution. Sure, you get it wrong sometimes, but nature always finds a way to fix those, even after you are long gone.