The lights burned brighter than they ever had before, like little suns lacking the flames but consuming everything anyways. The interstellar ruler watched whatever was left of the capital world. He had been a fool to think this rebellion could ever have been suppressed. He had made horrible choices, he knew that, yet he couldn’t think of better ways he could have done things. Always had he been calculating and weighing his options. Now that everything had turned out for the worst, he barely managed to feel any remorse. That’s what he hated most about himself.
The ruler could hear voices bellow on the streets. The glass fibre on the pavements was reflecting the angry neon orange lights. They were crying for his blood, but then again people had been doing that for centuries. This was the closest they were ever going to get into tasting it. He wasn’t planning on making it easy for them.
‘Let’s put a stop to this,’ he said to himself before shouting behind him, ‘Assemble all the remaining galactics. This is their endline,’ pointing beneath him, ‘I won’t let the Capitol burn.’
The two imperial guards that had stood behind him started barking orders in their audiosystem. They both had their Kryptonslicers out in the open. The white light that radiated from them was one of death, not life.
Methodically the galactics massacred everything in front of them. Orange and grey lights diminishing as the owners of the Neon and Xenonslicers died. White was flashing around, killing everything in its path. The armour of the rebellion was new, but he had equipped his personal guard with the best of the best and even though the metalstring material sissed when it came in contact with the slicers of the rebels, it held its own.
They were with so many, the hatred visible in their eyes as they tried to push through to put a slicer in the ruler’s heart. He wondered what would happen if he did die tonight. A lot would change. Xefarion wouldn’t be the capital anymore, the smaller planets would flourish and war would be inevitable for the coming decades. Not that anyone was thinking about the latter. As if sheep could ever realise why they were being herded in the first place.
Maybe I barked too loud, the ruler thought when he saw the raw determination in the way the Neonslicers desperately tried to reach his throat, but if you’re too silent, you might never get heard.
Suddenly a sole light appeared amidst all the chaos. It was a wolf among sheep. His former general and friend, a man he’d loved more than his wife, ever wise and powerful… A traitor nonetheless.
Jixon stepped forward and slashed down four of the ruler’s guards with a single sweep. For the first time that night fear started to circle the ruler’s heart and mind. The mightiest man of the Universe turned around and started running toward his escape shuttle.
‘Fight me!’ echoed across the fighting men, ‘This is the path your tyranny led you to, accept your faith!’
The interstellar ruler didn’t answer but couldn’t resist looking behind him. The light Jixon’s Kryptonslicer emanated, grimly lit his face in dark shadows. With his grand posture and armour covered in blood the man looked like one of the Farrna, the beasts that populated the lavaplanet Teret.
The ruler’s eyes grew big from anguish and distress. Terror filling his legs with power that urged him to run faster away from the battlefield than he had thought possible. He heard yelps of surprise behind him as he left the rest of his army behind. His galactics had been loyal to the core, but the thing about loyalty is that it’s not necessarily reciprocal.
When he reached his ship, he started the ignition and let the thrusters push him toward open space.
He only looked behind him once and saw that the Capitol was alight. Flames eating away at his legacy, until nothing but ash would remain.
When the man pushed through the wormhole to a different side of the Universe, he realised some part of him was glad he had to leave everything behind. He had only wanted peace, but in a Universe like theirs that was but a futile dream that he had chased for over centuries. Maybe the rebellion could try better. They still had their hopes and believes and he envied them for those. He’d never been able to see what the Universe could become, only what it really was. To achieve greatness you need dreamers, not realists.
Jixon was sitting on the remains of what he once had called his home. He was looking at his hands. They were wrinkled and hardened with callus from all his practice. Warrior’s hands. Now they were all brown from the blood and mud and he barely recognised them as his own. What had become of him? He never liked the fighting, but he had done what he had to. At least that’s what he kept repeating to himself. The truth, he knew, was quite the opposite. Killing had been his sole purpose this last year. Sometimes he cursed the gods for making it so easy for him.
He had managed to assemble the rebellion and convince them to strike at the heart of corruption. Xefarion had always been at the centre of every deal that involved cheating, extortion or even slavery. Not that slaves were allowed anymore according to imperial’s law, but the ruler had always closed one eye for his close friends. His many allegiances had eventually turned him blind. Jixon had never known about it and when he confronted his old friend, the ruler simply waved it away. Jixon will never forget his words: ‘When shaping a new world, sacrifices are at its foundation.’
Jixon had just stood there, taking the message and not quite understanding the implications. When he eventually had, he started campaigning against it, making alliances of his own and trying to convert big players in the grand scheme. Eventually there had been a noble who spoke to the ruler about his actions and he got imprisoned for ten years. Ten years dwelling on rebellious thoughts of revenge and justice. Now that he was victorious he didn’t feel the satisfaction he had expected. As if the wound was closed, but the stitches could spring any moment.
Around him everyone was busy tending their wounds or celebrating the overthrow in their own way. All of them were tough people, hardened by loss and dire environments. That’s what had given them the edge. The imperial guards and galactics had been trained to be the best, but none of them had lived on the planets these people came from. In the outer rim it was kill or be killed and that scars a man. It makes them strong and resilient. Makes them aware that death can hide even in the brightest of places. Some can’t handle the never-ending threats and go insane, but the ones that overcome these emotions are as unbreakable as steel and as sharp as Lightslicers.
And it makes them angry. Angry at the world for enslaving them or demeaning their humanity like they were nothing but beasts. Even though the victory was evidently clear, hostility and hatred were still visible in their eyes. It would’ve been naive for Jixon to expect anything else. People cast away from society always tend to focus on a scapegoat to direct their anger toward. Now that the corrupt capital was conquered, the uncatchable ruler would be their new focal point. Jixon still hoped some would turn to rebuilding a new society instead of continuing on a path of destruction. He knew he lacked the competence for the former. Jixon was good when it came down to tearing things apart. The repair was meant for more gentle souls. However that didn’t make him dream any less than the common man. He yearned for a new order of hope replacing oppression.
‘You finally achieved the impossible. The question is: what happens now?’ Jixon instantly recognised the soft voice coming from behind him. Aline always moved with such grace and managed to sneak up behind him. Something nobody else was capable of.
‘Am I happy to see you…’ He gave his voice a sarcastic undertone but the words carried more truth than he would have let himself believe. Aline had always been special. One that would carry on even if the whole universe was striving toward self-destruction. Jixon himself was a lot more sceptical, perhaps that’s why he made such a terrible leader.
‘You know you’re happy to see me. I’m here to relieve you from your duties. From here on out, it’s my job to protect the world we won.’
He expressed a sour face but all would know he was happy for this. The girl was the best his or anyone else’s world had to offer. She would bring peace even if war seemed an inevitable and justifiable cause.
‘So what are your plans?’ He asked her, already knowing the answer but pretending he was as ignorant as only a bloodlust warrior could be.
She didn’t answer immediately and sat down next to him. Her eyes were focused on something in front of her and even though there was so much rubble of glass on the pavement, Jixon knew she was looking beyond all that. Alina had always been a visionary. Someone who could see beauty in the ugliest of things. Even now, when Xefarion was destroyed and resembled the former root of all evil, he knew she saw opportunities no one else could envision.
He looked at her hands, all pink and soft. Untouched by the cruelty of this world. He could almost imagine them caressing his cheeks, sweet and tender. Nothing a man like him deserved. He cherished the thought nonetheless.
That’s what the Universe needed as a leader, he realised. Someone who had seen hardship, but never committed any. Someone who had seen anger and oppression, but could only feel pity when confronted by them. Someone who could see the world for what it really is and not be discouraged by its ugliness. Even now, just looking at this woman, he could feel hope returning to his heart. As long as she was here, everything would turn out okay.
Finally she looked away from the rubble and settled her eyes on his.
‘So many plans in so little time…’ She didn’t sigh however. It wasn’t an attempt to express pessimism. More like a fact she didn’t quite manage to keep to herself and felt like sharing.
‘Are you up for it?’
She laughed. A beautiful sound resonating in a terrible place and making everything more appealing.
‘I always like a good challenge.’
Together they sat there until the second star slowly disappeared behind the horizon and covered them in darkness. The only lights visible were the ones radiating from Alines eyes, twinkling with life. Jixon would’ve held her hand, but he knew it wasn’t his to take.