The Cordoban Clones

The Cordoban Clones

image A native of Zenon, Kyren Montaeryn Cartheisian Zenon was born in the mid-AZH years, during an era known as the Reckoning. He was gentle by nature, a true dreamer who wanted nothing more than to write poetry, find a mate and raise a family of his own. But Kyren had never had the luxury of becoming who he truly wished to be. All of his family had been powerful members of the Watchmen for generations and could not abide the thought of him being "an innocent," as they referred to the general population. As long as they had a say, Kyren would not simply cruise through existence, he would have an impact on it and would be of universal importance like everyone else in their line. Although the unwilling youth could think of nothing he'd rather do less, at the insistence - and, one might say, bullying - of his parents, three siblings and other relations, he found himself committed to a soldier's life from birth.

Despite it not being his chosen path, Kyren tirelessly played the good son, attending the Thalin learning center for young warriors, working hard to make his demanding family proud. In spite of his lack of interest in the profession, he completed his studies at the top of the class and went on to the renowned Raxxus institute for advanced training. But in his heart, he remained a romantic, spending much of his free time alone in the fields of Terra Firma, daydreaming and composing beautiful songs that no one else ever heard. He reminded himself that there were far worse fates than protecting the universe, but Kyren was depressed by the thought that no one would ever know the real him.

image Upon graduating from Raxxus with high honors, Kyren was inducted into the ranks of the Guardians. For eleven long lyren, he served the ancient society of protectors through predominantly menial assignments that he carried out with detached efficiency. While his family fought one cosmic war after another, Kyren was content to take on smaller, less exciting missions that left him more time for his own private endeavors. An easy routine was what he preferred and he never attempted to move beyond it. But the universe had other plans.

One day, Kyren was called to the Council's headquarters and informed that his next job would be of immense importance and would be a huge step up from his current position. Although inside, the young warrior was screaming discontent, he kept himself together and accepted the promotion with forced diginity. He was to leave at once for the planet Dylactris, a futuristic, highly advanced parallel of Earth in Universe Qar, the home world of an evolved cromagnon-like species called the Dalactyns. His assignment was fairly ordinary as undercover missions went, but it would be no joyride. He was to discreetely ensure the safety of a group of young Dalactyns from the capitol city.

Kyren departed immediately for Dylactris, already anxious to return home from the moment he cleared the Aeradisphere's exterior. Being sent away for an indefinite length of time to protect a group of primitive beings was a stressful thought for the artist. But he distracted himself by thinking of the mission specifics, designing a complex scheme to befriend his charges once he arrived.

image Dylactris was, at the very least, an interesting planet with interesting people. The Dalactyns were far more advanced than their Earth human counterparts, mentally, technologically and best of all, socially. Their culture was one of peace and friendship, with a strict moral code that all natives adhered to, and to which Kyren was immediately endeared. Violence and crime, even in the larger cities, was rare and came entirely from the other six worlds that, along with Dylactris, made up the Qar Sol system. Unfortunately, unlike the Dalactyns, their planetary neighbors consisted of less civilized species whose landscapes were full of dystopian metropolises, overpopulated, dirty and dangerous. Two and a half worlds in the system were dominated by the Cordobans, a far more advanced culture with sciences beyond that of the Dalactyns, and as vicious as their neighbors were peaceable. Kyren's job was to find and protect a group of seven young men and women who were not only among the planet's most brilliant minds but also destined to one day lead a powerful peace movement that would change the Sol system. If even one of them were to die, the results would be catastrophic.

Upon reaching Qar Sol, Kyren touched down inconspicuously on a quiet street in Sal City. He found a small shop and picked up suitable local attire, which he was quite thrilled by. The Dalactyns had a fascinating retro-grunge culture that made their fashion sense, among other things, fairly distinct. Within moments of donning his new outfit, Kyren felt that he might never go back to the traditional Xilon garb.

It only took a few days of clever planning before the Guardian became a fully accepted member of the Sal Initiative. In spite of his rough training, he was still a softspoken, kind hearted artist and for the first time in his life, he was finally able to play the role of his true self. The entire peace corps embraced him at once and it wasn't long before he felt drawn to them as well, not just as assignments but as friends. He found himself especially fascinated by their unofficial leader, a female named Nila. At first, he was intrigued by the fact that she had the most stunning eyes he had ever seen. He had never bothered to study the features of his charges before but something about her made it hard to look away. As they got to know each other and became closer, he found that he could be himself with her and relate to her in a way that he had never experienced. They spoke with ease and passion, and never ran out of things to say. She shared his love of art, music and poetry, and the hope that one day, all beings would live in peace and mututal content.

image As time passed, Kyren protected the seven great minds from threats that they never even knew were there. The principle danger was the Cordoban scientists, who had been abducting high profile Dalactyns for experiments in genetic engineering. Their fearsome work had been going on for decades but they were too strong to be opposed even if their victims had wanted to forsake their values and fight against them. It was an ongoing battle to keep track of and protect all seven, but Kyren managed. He did, however, spend far more time with Nila than any of the others, growing more attached to her every day. It wasn't until three years after he'd first arrived that the young Xilon realized that he was in love with her, and that the feelings were mutual. The discovery was made after he thrashed a trio of off-world thugs who had tried to mug them as they walked home from the theater one night. He had turned around quickly to make sure that Nila was all right and discovered her mere inches from his face. Although he escaped the situation and brushed the moment off, he could no longer deny that a forbidden emotion was there. And one week later, when Nila confronted him about it, he gave in and kissed her. It was the first time that he had ever kissed anyone and the result was explosive. Nila felt the unusual energy burning through him as they embraced, but didn't question it. She was used to the mystery that surrounded her friend. He never spoke of his home world and would always change the subject when asked about his species, so she had finally given up and respected his privacy, simply appreciating that he was different.

As much of a relief as the revelation was, the feeling of love was also confusing for Kyren, who was torn by the situation. It was wrong for him to love her, not just because he was her protector, not because he would be leaving when the mission was over, not even because his family would disapprove of him loving anyone but a fellow Watchman, but because - aside from their cousin species, the Athalites - it was simply not right for a Xilon to feel that way about any other life form, since all other beings were so much lower on the evolutionary chain. To their species, it was akin to a human falling for another type of primate. In short, it was a crime. But he couldn't help it, nor could he explain to Nila why they should not be together, so she refused to take no for an answer. He tried to dissuade her with a vague and awkward explanation that even if they were together emotionally, they could never be fully intimate with each other due to "anatomical differences." Yet try as he might, he could not push her away any more than he could break himself of the feeling. Kyren fell hopelessly more in love with Nila every day that they spent together and for two more years, life was bliss. But it could not remain that way for long.

Five years into his term on Dylactris, Kyren found himself in the middle of a massive Cordoban raid on Sal City. Four of his charges were with him at the time and he managed to get them to safety with relative ease. He then jumped through space, finding and rescuing the other three one after another, reuniting them with the rest of their group. The last one he found was Nila and by then, he was close to panicking. The raiding party was huge and even as a skilled warrior, Kyren struggled to hold his ground. The fight seemed to be going well enough until he glanced over and saw one of the raiders approaching the Dalactyn girl. Momentarily distracted, he swung around and threw a knife, killing the Cordoban closest to her, which gave her enough time to disappear into the underground - a maze of tunnels where off-worlders never ventured. But that one moment of weakness was all the rogue behind him needed. Kyren turned back just in time to see a blinding flash of blue light speeding towards him before his mind went dark.

Hours later, Kyren awoke to a sharp, throbbing pain in his head. He blinked, straining to focus his eyes as he considered what sort of weapon could have floored him that way. Not many things in the universe could affect the Xilon that strongly. If anything hurt them, it was usually an exceptionally sharp object straight through the more vulnerable parts of the chest, not a little energy blast to the head. Raw energy was what they lived on, what their bodies were made of, and could rarely damage them. As Kyren thought it over, his senses slowly returned to him and he became aware of a loud buzzing sound. He was in a spherical glass cage, the outer ribs of which were spinning around and around. He was also strapped to one of the inner pieces of the structure, but easily ripped himself free of the restraints. His attempt at leaving the scene, however, was not so successful. The instant he tried to warp, Kyren felt an unnatural surge of energy overwhelm him and doubled over in pain. Something was terribly wrong with his throxin levels.

image As the glass ball began to spin faster and filled rapidly with a charged liquid that Kyren had never seen, a Cordoban male in a lab suit appeared on the other side of the glass. "Don't worry, son. It will be over before you know it." Kyren wasn't worried for himself. These creatures had no idea who or what he really was. But he was concerned about Nila and the others in his absence. "Where am I?" he shouted through the glass. The alien smiled. "You're on Thedera Major, in the government testing facilities." The strange ooze was filling the sphere faster now, rising up past Kyren's waist. "This is a very special device; one of our most prized creations," the scientist continued. "It is undoubtedly our most impressive technology at the moment." The liquid began to move rapidly over Kyren's chest. "What does it do?" the Xilon inquired, genuinely curious. The Cordoban smiled again. "Well, first that nasty slime will fill up the sphere and you'll lose consciousness." Kyren leaned through the sludge to get a better look at the haughty creature on the other side. "So you kill people in here?" The man shrugged. "Death is incidental. You'll be recreated." Kyren had no idea what he was talking about, nor did he care as the liquid had started to cover his face, making conversation impossible anyway. Of course, breathing wasn't an issue for him. It wasn't something the Xilon were required to do. They used air to speak, smell and taste, not to keep their hearts beating. His body didn't even have lungs - air was processed in other ways, so being submerged was hardly an issue, although he wished he knew what the barbarians were up to.

It didn't take long to find out. The moment the glass ball was full, a warm glow washed over Kyren and it felt like he was being pulled in two different directions. This went on so for long that he lost track of time and began to lose focus on the activities of the aliens on the other side of the glass, although he had a vague impression that something was wrong. Whatever their technology was, it was designed for experimentation on carbon-based life forms, not Xilon. Far off in the distance, he thought he heard the sound of something exploding, followed by screams and a terrible commotion as bodies went flying, ripped from limb to limb. Then, it was over. Kyren was able to focus again and when he did, he realized that the energy that had powered the machine was gone. His throxin levels were back to normal and he was able to jump through space once more, which he did immediately, anxious to reach his friends in Sal City. But before he did, Kyren caught a glimpse of what had caused so much chaos in the lab. As they creature tore past him, they briefly locked eyes and a thrill ran up his spine. He could have sworn he was staring at himself.

After checking in on the seven Dalactyns and making sure that they were safe, Kyren returned home to report what had happened to the Council. As far as he could tell, the Cordoban's pride and joy was an advanced cloning device, but the energy within Kyren's body had caused a short circuit as it built up, preventing the process from safely completing. K2 was violent, rabid and as dangerous as anything Kyren had ever seen because it was pure Xilon. A raging, psychopathic Xilon. The implications were unthinkable.

The Council was in an uproar. Kyren was reprimanded for negligence, caused by unnatural feelings for a native. His behavior was unacceptable. Not only had he endangered the lives of the seven Dalactyns by growing shamefully attached to one of them, but now a monster was rampaging through the very orbit system that its counterpart was supposed to protect. Kyren was instructed to return to Qar Sol immediately and to repair the damage or face the consequences.

image On his way out, Kyren was accosted by his eldest sister, Kadhra, who went off on a furious rant about the shame he had brought down on their entire family. Kyren put up with it for as long as he could but eventually lost his temper and struck out. Getting into a fist fight with his warrior of an older sibling was a poor choice, however, and Kadhra thrashed him with little effort. Leaving him lying on the ground, she stormed off, swearing that his troubles were far from over and asking if the cromag was truly worth it. Only then did Kyren remember that, with his doppleganger on the loose, no one on Dylactris was safe. He rushed back to Universe Qar.

By the time Kyren returned to Sal City, chaos had broken loose. His maniac double had trashed the region, using its internal energy like a bomb, and was physically tearing apart anyone that crossed its path. Convinced that it was a full scale alien invasion, the Dalactyns weren't even moving to pick up the pieces until they knew exactly what was going on and when it would be over. Kyren was relieved to find that, miraculously, six of his group was still hidden in the safe zone where he had left them. But his hearts sank when they informed him that Nila had grown anxious for his safety and had gone out to try to find him herself. Another fault of his own. If he hadn't allowed his relationship with the Dalactyn girl to develop so strongly, she would never have left the group in the midst of such danger.

It didn't take Kyren long to track down the clone. All he had to do was follow the path of destruction through the city and up into the mountains of Lithia where he finally caught sight of his other self on the edge of the cliffs. But the clone was not alone. Nila must have found him on his rampage and tried to calm him down. He held her now, arms wrapped around her torso, shuffling her towards the edge of the cliff step by step. Kyren raced forward far faster than he knew he could move and screamed for the impostor to let her go, but before he could reach them, the clone threw Nila over the edge, laughing with a childlike passion as he watched her fall. Without thinking, Kyren dove down after her, ripped out his wings and made a short range leap through space to appear just beneath her, seconds before she hit the ground. In a movement so fast no naked eye could have processed the sight, he grabbed her out of the air, spun around and took the force of the impact against the ground, somersaulting with his wings encased around them to cushion Nila as they tumbled over the jagged rocks.

After a few feet, he flipped back into a standing position and released her, falling against the cliff wall to cradle what was most certainly a shattered ribcage. The tough skin near his waist was torn, with sharp pieces of margelian sticking out and plasma leaking out around it. It hurt, but at least Nila was safe. Before she could ask questions, Kyren jumped back up to the clifftop, where his other self had started to walk away. Taking a running start, he tackled the doppleganger, throwing it across the clearing. But the clone matched him in strength, endurance and technique, and jumped to its feet, unscathed and infuriated.

As his injury began to throb with agonizing levels of pain, Kyren realized that he would not be able to beat this creature in direct combat. They thought too much alike and could predict each other's moves. He could never kill it unless he stepped outside of his training and did something unexpected, something immensely risky. Dodging a powerful blow, Kyren seized the clone's arm in a death grip and, in one smooth motion, yanked it through time and space, back to the Aeradisphere, through the vortex and straight to Daxxus. Before the abomination could even register what was going on, Kyren hurled it towards the abyss. By the time it realized where it was headed, it was too late. Powerful cosmic currents had taken hold and it could not teleport out of range. The tide quickly swept the clone into the depths of the Final Sanctuary. Kyren stayed for a long moment, staring at the swirling mess of cloud and rock to make sure that his double was truly gone, and only then did he turn away to warp back to the safety of Dylactris.

While retrieving Nila from the base of the cliffs, Kyren received word that the Council's timeline scholars had determined the period of threat to the Dalactyns to have passed. With the central Cordoban facility destroyed, his seven charges would be fine on their own from there on out. The mission was over and he was to report to Hydra in the Lost Galaxy at once, to join a battle raging against a Terelian army, after which he would appear before the Council to face the consequences of his actions.

Kyren was devastated but knew that there was no choice. The universe had to move on in its own way and he had a lot to own up to back at home. The sooner it was over with, the better. Nila, however, was less accepting of the situation and refused to let him go. In the end, he was forced to shove her away. With a final, sad smile, he stepped back and into a warp. But as he did, Nila leapt forward and flung her arms around him, holding on tightly as he moved through time.

image When they reappeared under the blood red skies of Hydra, it was hard to tell who was more shocked. But his confusion quickly cleared as he realized just how dangerous the situation was. It was pure luck that she was able to breathe, even if just barely, on a world so different from her own. "You don't know what you've done!" he said in horror. "You have to go back. Right now. You can't be here!" He stepped forward but Nila jumped back. "No! Not unless you come with me!" Kyren grabbed her arm. "This is not negotiable. We're leaving." But before he could make the jump, a massive explosion went off nearby, the shockwave blasting them across the rugged terrain. As Kyren staggered to his feet, a massive army of Terelians stormed through the broken wall along the Blood River, streaming straight towards them with furious war cries. Behind him, an army of Xilon ran to meet them. They clashed in the middle, waging war in a gruesome, barbaric dance reminiscent of the ancient tribal days. In the chaos, Kyren lost track of Nila and was forced to fight his way through the crowd to find her. When he finally caught up and killed the Terelian about to skewer her, he grabbed her and once again tried to jump them back to Dylactris. But the attempt was again interrupted by an enemy maneuver that knocked both of them off their feet. One of the savages grabbed Nila and dragged her off into the fray with incredible speed.

As Kyren tried to process what had just happened, a hand clapped down on his shoulder. He spun around to find himself face to face with Kadhra. "You seem to attract disaster, brother. Do you know how important that girl is to the future of her galaxy?" Kyren shoved her away. "I need to get her back." His sister scoffed. "Of course you do, but since you seem to be incapable of doing anything, I'm forced to help." Without a moment's hesitation, she grabbed her brother by the arm and together they threw themselves onto the core of the enemy troops. With impressive skill, the two fought their way through the enemy lines, defeating one Terelian after another until they had reached the heart of the army. When the last of the barbarians had fallen, leaving a clearing around them, Kyren saw a body resting against the banks of the red river. "No!" It was more of a gasp than a cry. He rushed over and dropped to the ground, cradling the lifeless Dalactyn as the battle raged on around them. From the burns, he knew that she must have broken free and been caught in one of the bombs the Terelians were throwing about.

image Kyren had endured a lot of unpleasantness in his life, but he had never felt true grief until then. He looked up to see Kadhra staring at him with a mix of curiosity and - something he had never seen in her face before - sympathy. She acknowledged his attachment to the girl and the resulting pain of her death, and felt bad about it, even if she did not quite understand it herself. Yet for that one brief moment, Kyren felt more connected to his eldest sister than he ever had before. The moment was short lived, however. A brief rush of wind was the only warning they got before Kadhra jerked forward and went rigid. A stray arrow had gone clear through her chest. Before either of them could react, Kadhra let out a heavy sigh and burst into particles of light that slowly drifted off into the air and faded away. Kyren couldn't think, couldn't move, couldn't feel, staring at the spot where his sister had been only seconds before, unable to tear himself away for fear of facing the death that surrounded him on all sides. The world seemed to go dark around him.


The hearing took place one week later. Kyren was brought before the Council and a mob of witnesses to be sentenced for his unthinkable negligence and disgraceful behavior, which had resulted not only in the death of his own sister, but also the destruction of a highly significant timeline due to the loss of one of its central figures. The Council leader stood up to address the crowd and was stopped halfway through reciting the offender's name by Kyren's own father, who stepped forward with an expression of stone. "The Montaeryn clan denounces this individual. He will no longer carry the family name." Kyren lowered his eyes and looked away. He hadn't expected anything less, not after Kadhra. Losing the Dalactyn was bad enough but his actions had led to his sister's demise. They would never forgive him for it and he couldn't blame them. He would never forgive himself.

The spokesman resumed his speech. "As we all know, punishment in our culture is never handed out lightly. We do not wish to be harsh but the responsibility of our species is enormous. That is one of the first lessons that each and every Xilon learns. Order and control of existence must be maintained at all costs, because the price of the alternative is high. Very high. Failure is unacceptable, especially when it results in senseless destruction. Due to the offender's mistakes, our people will struggle for generations to correct the damage that has been done to Qar Sol. And for that, this soldier must be held accountable. It is the will of the Council that Kyren Cartheisian Zenon be dismissed from the Watchmen, fitted with a throxin catalyst and thereby be confined to the central planets for the rest of his life span." A wave of murmurs ran through the crowd but Kyren felt his hearts leap. How could it be? He had endangered an entire galaxy, caused the death of his sister and an innocent life form by way of his own stupidity. He had expected a terrible sentence - banishment to Qar Sol, perhaps...any number of things, but this? This was a gift.

image A throxin catalyst was a specially engineered device, surgically implanted into the zaelek, the heart responsible for time/space movement. Depending on the strength, it either limited or prevented jumps entirely by blocking the heart's access to throxin. If the individual tried to remove it, all three hearts would fail. To the Xilon, most of whom spent their whole lives traveling and relied so completely on the ability to move through time and space, this was an unthinkable fate. But all Kyren had ever wanted was to stay on the central worlds and to live his own quiet life. Being freed from the Watchmen, his own family and the need to travel abroad was a much needed relief after all that had transpired. There was a hole in his chest where his love for Nila had been. An empty, sinking feeling that grew stronger with every moment that he had to consider the fact that he would never see her again, and that her death was his doing. Time to face those demons and deal with them was the only way that he could hope to move past it. Eventually, time healed everything. And for the first time in his life, Kyren had it all to himself.

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