A king has power, wealth, respect,
The latter which is not for sure,
He must feel his people’s pain,
And fight till death to find a cure.
The streets of Tzuziton crisscrossed in disarray, their white, stone faces blackened by layers of filth and trash, all of which piled and cluttered and robbed, callously, the streets of their purpose. On Drotrolia, free space was the commodity in highest demand, and no city demonstrated that dire truth as utterly as Tzuziton. Fifty-seven million inhabitants, 1100 square miles: nearly 52,000 greys per square mile.
To pack them in so densely meant that sunlight in the city was almost as rare as space. The housing complexes towered infitely into the sky, so high that every nook and cranny was cloaked in constant shadow and every object appeared even dingier than the dirt already had it. For only a brief period every day—the Zetid, they called it—did either Zeta 1 or Zeta 2 pass directly overhead and manage to shed some light on the darkness of Tzuziton. It was during the Zetid that the streets came to life with the greys of the city, each seeking to fulfill their body’s craving for life. The clamor of feet and movement filled the air, adults discussed important happenings or recent tragedies, and children ran freely through the bustling corridors and to the few city parks, with their sand and grass and valued space.
An hour had passed since Zeta 1 had descended from its highest point, and Zuron found himself amidst the town center, near one of the city’s 1000 supermarkets. He had, wrapped about his figure, a dark blanket and an artificial atmosphere of deprivation and insignificance. He was just another commoner: depressed and troubled and insignificant. It was his weekly stroll through the city, away from Zuron Isle to where the true state of his empire could be observed. He needed this reality check. It was important to remind himself who his people were, and how they were struggling, and why he needed to do what he was doing.
To his right, hunched upon the pavement, an elderly Zeta whistled aloud—strange to hear since most communication occurred telepathically—and stroked the mane of his miniature bullthrog. The creature was emaciated and clearly diseased, patches of its fur missing across its back, its body trembling uncontrollably as it lay with all fours outstretched and its tongue dangling from its panting mouth. Zuron reached out with his mind and felt the bullthrog’s pain. It wouldn’t live much longer. Neither would its master.
Both subjects needed medication, but such was in high demand and much too costly for a commoner. Zuron focused on the air before his face, on the mixture of molecules that composed it, invisible but undeniably present. He tried to change them, to morph them, to shift the frequency of their energy fields. It was true that all matter was nothing but energy, vibrations, waves. The frequency of these vibrations determined the identity of the object, and he needed only to translate the air’s frequency to that of the necessary medications.
It took him only a minute of concentration to realize it wasn’t happening. He’d expected nothing more. But why? Why, with his cognition and perception as high as any being in the universe, could he not complete a reaction so simple in concept? The answer, which stung him every time he faced it, was that the humans made it impossible.
He couldn’t yet see those molecules of air, nor distinguish their frequency by juxtaposing it with that of his thoughts, nor did he know the necessary frequency for the medicine he required. No, he needed to perceive more deeply to attain these abilities. He needed his mind to open up and the world to reveal itself and its secrets more openly. He needed the 12th density, and the humans, with their pathetic three, made sure that such a level was always just too far to reach. It was that universal balance of cognition—that maximal density disparity—and the humans, with their exceptionally weak minds, were the ones at the bottom holding all other life forms from further ascension.
The humans were the chains weighing his people down, keeping them from surfacing the waters of misery no matter how hard they swam. The humans were the sole reason why that old Zeta and his companion were sick and dying, struggling to find happiness in their final days of life. Zuron spat at the thought and watched his saliva splatter in three stretched spheres upon the dirty road. In his mind, those white spots were Earth’s remnants, where all his problems yet resided. He glared downward, his teeth grating and his fists clenched and shaking. Those problems would soon be gone, and his people would then ascend in consciousness and in happiness alike. This was a promise that his grandfather had made 5000 years before, and one that he would fulfill before his own dying breath.
“Old one, you are sick,” he said through thought, stepping toward the homely duo. He directed his gaze at the shuddering bullthrog. “And your cohort the same.”
“Yes, indeed. It is true. We haven’t long, I fear.” The thought was long and pained, sounding in Zuron’s mind as a groaning Tetroll at the beginnings of a roar.
“I can sense that, and I commiserate. What is it that you and your friend require? Is it simply food and shelter, or is there something more menacing at play than hunger and cold?”
“There are all the pains of this world at play, sir. So many, in fact, that I cannot distinguish one from the next. They’ve coalesced, and augmented, and become something I feel I cannot define, nor withstand, nor ever defeat.”
“Well, I wish to help. The first thing you must do is attempt to define it, no matter how vague, and you must ensure that your definition holds that this condition is entirely curable. Without that belief, and without the faith that it is true, you are right in what you said: you most certainly cannot defeat it.”
“And who are you to care for me? Who are you that your wisdom is mine to heed? It appears another common Zeta such as myself, one who may not be much better off than I. Your aura is nearly as dark as the night sky, sickly indeed. In my life, optimism has driven me, mournfully, to my current state, and now I’ve turned to its antithesis in hopes that it may have more to offer. Do you see my predicament? Do you see why your words strike me as a worn feather upon the breeze?”
Zuron felt the grey’s hopelessness but didn’t share it. “In a moment, I will reveal to you something that will fill you with a joy the likes of which you have not felt in many suns. At that moment, if it is to pass, you must maintain your placid composure and make no movement to react. Is this a promise?”
The wrinkled Zeta widened his eyes like two black holes opening upon his face. He felt strangely hopeful. He felt wholly intrigued. He nodded.
Slowly, Zuron straightened his hunched body and let fade the artificial gloom surrounding his form. He dropped his black cloak to his feet, revealing the bright silver aura of wealth and abundance just beneath. The black holes upon his subject’s face expanded yet further in recognition, and intuitively, the elderly grey began to lean forward for a revering bow. Immediately, remembering his promise, he halted the gesture and resumed his previous posture. The smile on his face had been short-lived, but the happiness and awe yet surged within.
“My lord, is it you?”
“It is, but do not think too loudly for I have a gift for you which others would much like to have as well.” Zuron’s aura shifted to a vibrant turquoise, signifying his emerging compassion. “It is this coin,” he said, pulling from the pocket of his pants a golden piece, “which is a voucher bearing great value in all corners of Reticulum. On one face is the Zuron seal, and on the other is my personal emblem.” The old one reached a trembling hand forward to accept the gift, and Zuron dropped it into his palm. “It symbolizes my blessing and my command, and whoever presents it will receive whatever good or service it is that he desires. It is not an item of currency, so is not to be exchanged. It is yours to keep, and keep safe, for as long as you wish. I suggest a trip to the nearest hospital as soon as you can make it. They will take care of you and your friend, and they will do it as if treating their king himself. This is the power of that item.”
“My lord, I’m at a loss for what to say. What have I done to deserve such an honor?”
“You’ve fought hard yet suffered, and I know inside myself that it is ultimately my failures that have translated to yours. I am king, and it is my duty to ensure the well-being of my people. If I cannot do that, then I am not fit to bear the seal and represent the Zuron line.”
“My thanks cannot be amply expressed, my king. I will use your gift wisely in your honor, and pursue endeavors that will help to further this admirable cause of yours. But I am just one man. How is it that you intend to save the others? There are billions like me.”
“Your gratitude is much appreciated and your pledge cherished. As for the others, I’m in the process of something grand that will tend to them all. In the meantime, worry for your own welfare, and rest soundly in the fact that our world will be renewed soon enough.”
The old Zeta bowed his head ever-so slightly and stuffed his new treasure into the pit of his ragged shirt pocket. Zuron turned to leave the city. He had a meeting to attend. As he walked, he thought of how bad things were and how great they’d soon become.
He clenched his cloak tightly with both hands, cowered over slightly to appear frail, and assumed a phony hobble to top off the charade. He hadn’t the time to deal with other commoners recognizing him. His ship was waiting at the outskirts of town: a good 20-minute walk, and the other kings were due to assemble in his hall within 10. As he retraced his steps, his foot found its place upon the three globules he’d previously spat, flattening them into the dirt until nothing but his footprint was left in its wake.
“What do you mean Luzako’s been killed? He was one of our best shamans. This cannot be.”
Zuron fumed from his throne at the head of his assembly table, his fingers nearly breaking beneath the furious grip he forced upon the arms of his seat. The 10 other kings—excluding the late Viteroy Gosh—turned their eyes away from their leader, pretending they weren’t present. Zuron, when angry, could be an impulsive Zeta, and none of them wished to be the impromptu outlet of his rage.
“The fine details are unclear, my lord,” General Kruxor responded. His image was nestled within the walls of their heads, originating light-years away where he transmitted from Hitra. “Two nights ago, after failing to report back to me, I sent a reconnaissance team to his location on the planet called Fraq. They followed his tracker to a highly-guarded facility that they were not prepared to infiltrate. From afar, though, they did manage to see Luzako’s body get transported from a vehicle to a building within the compound. It was clear to them that he was not alive.”
“Deplorable! Unacceptable! Unforgiveable! Who did this? Tell me your team recovered his short-term memory frequencies.”
“Yes, my lord, they did. I had given them a fluctusanimus ray in case the situation were to turn out grave. In that it did, they utilized the tool and brought me back the recording. From what I saw, it appears that—”
“Show it to me!”
Kruxor flinched at the interruption and bowed his head. “It’s coming to you now, my lord.”
In moments, the kings were no longer in the great Zuron assembly hall on Zuron Isle in Drotrolia’s Bedlam Sea. They were no longer looking through their own eyes, but rather those of Reticulum’s most skilled, and now most dead, shaman. A human, large and bearded, lay sleeping beneath them. The room was dark save for a soft, blue glow to the left.
Quite abruptly, the thumping of footsteps rumbled behind, followed almost instantly with the click of an opening door and an influx of white light. They turned in surprise to see, but for a moment, a great man within the doorway with a weapon raised. The world went black without a sound, and the kings found themselves within their seats, once again. They sat in silence for a short while, allowing their quickened heart rates to slow back to normal
“That man,” Zuron said. “His aura was so orange he appeared a fossil suspended in amber. I’m afraid he’s one of tremendous strength and courage: one that has proven himself troublesome, indeed. I want him found and exterminated. Only more ruin can come from him. I can feel it. This is to be a priority. Do you understand me, General?”
“Yes, my lord. I’ll retrieve his life energy readings from Luzako’s memories and assemble a team to track him down immediately. They’ll be on Fraq within a day’s time.”
“Good, General. But have them scan Hitra first. I have an inkling that this one won’t stay away from the conflict long. He’ll be there . . . if he isn’t already.”
“Understood,” replied Kruxor. “And in the meantime, what shall be done with the rest of our army? What should the next move be, my lord? It’s clear that the humans are onto us now. They’re mindless creatures, but not brainless. They’ll be figuring things out soon enough.”
“A point well made, General. It’s evident that our secrecy has been compromised, but our presence on Hitra is yet to be discovered. Soon, though, this may change, and then the fruitful element of surprise will have decayed with our procrastination. I do not intend to allow such a mistake. We must attack while the humans are still weakened by their own squabbles and while their disunity is still fresh in mind. Ready the troops for combat, General. The time has come to reveal ourselves.”
A voice from down the table interjected: “My lord, if I may, I think that our strategy should be more scrupulously deliberated.”
Zuron cast eyes upon King Milas of Ruvenoy, who looked down at his knees as if almost regretting his words. “And what is it about our strategy, Milas, that concerns you?”
“I’m just having second thoughts about our plan to fight the human armies on Hitra. The best of their warriors are all on Hitra, leaving the home planets quite vulnerable to invasion. I’m wondering if our initial attacks might not be better directed toward these easy targets. Strategically-thinking, planet-wide massacres upon their home planets would prove emotionally devastating to the warriors upon Hitra. The news could potentially demoralize them to such a degree that even our fight with them would be an easy one.”
His words evoked a chorus of approval from the others about the table. Milas smiled at their impressed expressions, feeling their support as a warm blanket against his skin. He looked to the high king to accept his praise.
“Ahhh, I do see your thinking, King Milas,” said Zuron, “and I see that it is well-received. Unfortunately, a rotten egg, endorsed by thousands, is still rotten. Your idea fails to see some truths and misinterprets others. For instance, it is true that the humans have amassed their greatest soldiers upon Hitra, leaving the home planets relatively defenseless, but this does not mean we should travel the intuitive path.
“Never have the Zeta Reticulans fought face-to-face with the humans. We have some good knowledge as to their strengths and weaknesses, but all of this can be considered but speculation or statistics, neither of which is indubitable. It is in our best interest to imagine them a more formidable foe than they truly are, as opposed to the contrary.
“We should use the full strength of our army against their strongest warriors on Hitra in order to ensure victory. It would be unwise to attack the home planets first and to take casualties and damages that may impair our ability to defeat their true force. Furthermore, as General Kruxor noted, the humans are not brainless. If the civilians, whilst fending us off, learned the workings of our weapons or the weaknesses in our methods of combat, that knowledge could be shared with the soldiers on Hitra to further hamper our ambitions.”
“I understand, my lord,” Milas said, “but what of the demoralizing factor that I mentioned? A beast without the will to fight may no longer be considered a beast. This effect may prove invaluable.”
“That may be true, but this is to assume that the human soldiers will be left without a will to fight. My understanding of the humans is that they are vengeful creatures. To kill one’s family may indeed hurt them deeply, but it is likely to lead you swiftly to your grave. A sad beast with nothing to fight for is harmless, but an angry one with nothing to lose can be devastating. We cannot risk the humans assuming the latter stance.”
“Your wisdom dwarfs mine, my king. Where I see but darkness, you see endless stars, and this is why I trust in you. With my new outlook, I must agree that our chosen course is, indeed, the finest.”
“Good. Your concession is well-taken. Do any others wish to voice concerns before our path is set in stone?”
The hall was silent.
“Very well. General Kruxor, as I said, prepare the army for battle, and position soldiers at all exits bordering enemy bases. Alert me when the task is done, and I will signal when it’s time for all forces to emerge in unison.”
“Right away, my lord. And what of the prisoners we previously spoke of? ”
“Ahh, yes, those two. Have you extracted the material I asked of you?”
“Yes, it’s been done.”
“Good. For now, hold on to them. They may yet serve a further purpose.”
“The tranquilizers did not affect one of them as strongly as we’d expected. He’s been quite disruptive thus far. It’s taken every ounce of my patience not to sever his head.”
“Yes, that is to be expected with humans. They’re a needy species, and quite indignant when cornered. They can’t quite grasp the importance of obeying the hand that permits life. Just keep your wits, General. Don’t let them test you. In time, you’ll get your chance.”
“I await the day with a mounting passion, my lord.”
“I as well, General.” As Zuron spoke, his massive head nodded and his mind drifted away to thoughts of his people and their pain, his guilt and his frustration. All of it would be behind them soon. “I as well.”