By Tim ‘Draconi’ Cotten – originally posted May 23 2014
Cilinsi sent a surge through her kinship bonds with the fellow survivors, joining the torrent of despair echoing through each of the Wayun that emerged from the portal.
Fleeting moments of life experience collided with hundreds of others as every new refugee added to the emotional knowledge of the horrors being unleashed on the far side of the gateway. Visions of entire clutches and nurturing fields erupting in flame – dissipating in glaring particle streams – impinged on her sanity while she struggled to erect her mental walls.
The utter silence shocked her; individuality reasserted itself like a bursting dam suddenly frozen by some great unseen hand.
Her eyes blinked rapidly, trying to take in the wide field of view – singed and scorched bodies being tended to by the healthier survivors, medicine and compresses being applied on nearly a quarter of the injured.
More were simply dead already, their hearts unavailable for sharing.
Tentatively she opened her link again, this time to a nearby soldier, recognizing her caste.
Why had they been allowed to flee? Again?
They were being herded by the enemy through the gateways they themselves had created.
Cilinsi shut down the link quickly, considering the pulsing gateway still spitting out the injured and dying. The rate of exit now dwindling dramatically; perhaps more survivors had escaped through other gates than this one.
A remote possibility, but unlikely. The attack had been as brutal and sudden as each that had preceded it. Of the thousand worlds that the Wayun had once connected together, only a dozen remained accessible.
The enemy was implacable.
The first attack on the motherworld, Talith-rahm, had been preceded only by a ripple of emotional messaging that penetrated the emotional bonds shared by the Wayun.
It was an indescribable feeling – the Wayun had never dealt with insanity except when listening to the anecdotes of other races and species. They were themselves immune to it at some fundamental level, no doubt due to their ability to share their being with each other.
For the first time, a Wayun had shared a previously unknown experience, that incomprehensible insanity. Nothing could convey the terror that erupted across the motherworld as the brutal assault began.
Their children and egg clutches had been targeted first – an immeasurable crime, unthinkable, unsharable.
The Wayun had never participated in a war before, the entire concept as foreign to them as breathing underwater. Such a hostile and uncompromising attack on their people had not been foreseeable.
Millions of her beautiful sisters had fled through the gates seeking refuge on their colony worlds or the worlds of their allies, only to live a short while in peace before the pattern of destruction and flight resumed.
World after world had died in the centuries that had since passed. The Wayun were now vagabonds, desperately creating new gates and hiding their connections throughout the shards, hoping they would eventually find sanctuary from the Nameless Ones.
And now Rayath-mur, Our Last Stand, had been destroyed just as easily as every other world.
She lifted herself off of her knees and launched towards the gate, calculations running rapidly through her mind as she considered the insight of the soldier caste. As an engineer she was supposed to follow the governance caste, but she found no reliable linkings with which to merge.
Steeling herself, Cilinsi landed on the platform and pivoted away just in time to avoid being hit by yet another badly burnt survivor stumbling from the liquid-like portal.
Her hand had just brushed one of the control panels when she found a thinning-blade leveled securely at her exposed neck, instantly causing her plumage to ruffle in a fight or flight response. She tapped in her own codes while turning to face the concerned soldier guarding the gateway.
Her leg smashed downward suddenly, startling her sister at arms. The thinning-blade sliced a gash through Cilinsi’s skin even as she pointed downwards at the alien creature that had just crawled from the gateway, squirming in its death throes beneath her taloned heel.
Closing her eyes for a moment, she prepared her message carefully. With a vocal cry of anguish she broadcast as loudly as should could in the mindspace.
> Rayath-mur lost. Continued use of the gate an extreme danger. Must terminate. <
The soldier-member backed away in understanding as heads lifted up from the field to watch Cilinsi as her work progressed. With a loud shudder, the gateway’s hue shifted from sky green to a deep red before plummeting to inky black as the gateway began losing power.
Without warning, an eldritch arm of alien biology pushed through the darkness, the gateway pulsing anew with energy. The Wayun had never witnessed the greater forms of the Nameless Ones themselves. At once a terrifying surge rippled through the assemblage even as the soldiers hacked uselessly at the intruder.
Cilinsi despaired internally, recognizing that the gate was now powered by the Nameless One and beyond her control. This world they had reached was the final link in a chain that extended to the bounds of their explorations.
If this one were destroyed, they had no escape.
She called out to her sisters in one last gasp of sharing and being. For a short moment, every single survivor opened their links to each other and turned control over to the warrior-engineer fighting for their lives on top of the platform.
A possibility emerged from the assembled thought. Cilinsi used the gift of her race to rapidly alter the structure of the gateway itself rather than destroy it. With a flare of energy, the gateway turned a brilliant silver and the creature’s arm vanished.
The keening sound that had been piercing their ears from beyond the gateway ceased.
Cilinsi considered the new gateway briefly, letting her hand settle on the liquid surface to trace the silver ripples shimmering in the starlight. They had been given more time; she could feel that the gateway had connected successfully to a new destination.
She faced the crowd, raising her fist in a salute of victory.
> From the ashes we will rise! <
A great cry returned her invocation. Relief, celebration, and cheer invigorated the survivors as Cilinsi turned and stepped through the silver surface of the portal.