The Kyramine Siege

The Kyramine Siege

image Near the end of her life span, the warrior Carthea Xhefr Jzeran Geminius was sent to the mid Expansion Era, to monitor the battleground planet Zreda Minor in the Lost Galaxy. One of the most violent worlds in the universe, frought with neverending civil war and unimaginable levels of crime, the dangerous region was home to a number of individuals who would one day be of great importance but had not yet come into their own. Near the end of her mission in the Alpha Chain, Carthea was charged with the task of protecting a Cepheid male named Kryl.

Having evolved from the mor'kri, a vicious beast resembling a mutated hybrid of wolf and dragon, the Cepheids were highly intelligent, biologically unparalleled for their era, and one of the most advanced, powerful life forms in existence. But they were essentially born mad, their biological makeup being heavily comprised of kreichan, a substance resulting in the equivalent of gallons of adrenaline constantly being pumped through their bodies. While this gave them enhanced strength, speed, agility and other gravity-defying physical attributes, it also left them constantly on edge, confrontational and full of insatiable rage, primarily accounting for their psychotic, warlike ways.

Cepheid hearts were located in the middle of the chest, with large, twisted holes in the torso where the birth cord was attached. Their skin was a rich dark bronze or copper, and brown or jet black hair was common. Carthea found them interesting to look at and was intrigued by the fact that the species was the only one of its kind to develop thatches: rough patches on the back of the hands, palms and soles of the feet that functioned as gravitational adhesives, allowing them to climb straight up or down a vertical surface or to jump from one location to another with impossible skill. They were truly incredible beings.

Although Kryl was under the impression that his friend was merely an alien from one of the neighboring worlds, and had no knowledge of her true purpose for being there, he and Carthea became inseparable and lived together in the heart of Kyramine City for over seven years. Kyramine, like the rest of the Lost Galaxy, was a hellhole, every inch of the city filthy and decaying from the individual rundown flats to the crumbling streets and rotting parks.

image The people lived in perpetual darkness from the impenetrable levels of black smog overhead, and every journey outdoors might easily become a death sentence, although staying inside offered no guarantees either. The entire planet was one large battlefield, with each inhabited area functioning as a separate warring faction. There were no stores or jobs or schools; there was only chaos and a primitive code of personal survival at any cost.

Kyramine had long been in conflict with its equally barbaric neighbor, Nochturn City, both groups struggling for control of the Ar'shelvry coastline. About sixty percent of each city's population made up the army, with the remaining locals trying to not get caught in the fallout. There was no law or order, and most survived by stealing, scavenging, self-prostituting, manufacturing weapons, or working the black market. Carthea and Kryl, along with Kryl's cousin, Sephlin, and their leader, Jedrick, fell into the latter category. The pack made a skilled team of thieves and traders who worked well together and got the job done. Jedrick also made extra currency on the side by running back alley hits for the Kyramine soldiers. His companions didn't care for it, but there wasn't much they could do. The only law of their world was that anything went.

One afternoon, Kryl found himself racing through the empty streets of the downtown region, desperately trying to outrun the coming storm. Pollution had an especially nasty effect on the water and anything that fell from the sky burned with a substance akin to acid. While the chlorine-breathing, ammonia-drinking Cepheids' biochemistry allowed them to tolerate and even thrive in highly acidic environments, Zreda Minorian rain was another matter entirely. Vaulting over the high walls of the winding back alleys, Kryl felt the first drops begin to fall just as his building came into sight. A faint stream of light could be seen through the cracks of the boarded-up window, which meant that Carthea was already home.

By the time he entered the rundown flat, the skin on Kryl's hands and arms was sizzling slightly, letting off steam as the burns from the rain cooled. He'd beaten the worst of it and the flesh wounds would heal as they always did. Cepheid cells regenerated exceptionally fast. Carthea was standing in the kitchen, concentrating hard. She had already begun the tedious process of melting down pieces of precious metal into long, thin rods and small spheres. An array of valuables lined the table, waiting to be traded off. They had done well that week.

Carthea scoffed as Kryl rubbed his scabbing knuckles and informed him that Seph and Jedrick were waiting downstairs. As his friend turned off the laser torch and stored the stolen items in a compartment under the floorboards, Kryl dug through the cabinets until he found a fresh bar of nyklane. On Zreda Minor and in the Ar'shelvry region in particular, nyklane was the primary source of sustenance. All of the proteins, vitamins, minerals and chemicals imperative to maintaining the Cepheid body, including synthesized hydration, were packed into a dark red bar that pulled apart like taffy and could keep an individual going for weeks. Cepheid soldiers lived on it but it was harder to come by for most civilians. Of course, in their line of work, Kryl's pack was able to trade for it whenever they liked.

image Carrying a stack of the bars, the two made their way to the basement of the broken-down complex. There, they found Sephlin and Jedrick waiting for them, lounging lazily in the derelict common room. Collapsing onto the ratty couches, Carthea and Kryl passed around the food and went through their potential workload for the month. According to local informants (civilians who were interested in making a profit on the underground, but not tough enough or skilled enough to do the field work themselves, keeping their eyes and ears open for targets instead), there were a number of possibilities that week. It was decided that Kryl and Carthea would handle the usual exchanges while Jedrick and Sephlin picked up the most valuable object on the list.

The oldest of the bunch, Jedrick was Kryl's longest lasting companion and a trusted friend. But as Alpha, he was also a bully, particularly towards Sephlin who was younger and significantly smaller. The abuse was never out of line, just enough to establish Jedrick as the one in charge. Sephlin never complained, and the others didn't think much of it. After all, hierarchies and pack structure were a standard part of Cepheid life. And in their pack, Jedrick was usually the one running the show. Carthea could have put him in his place any time that she cared to, but part of her assignment was to remain covert, which included keeping with the Cepheid social order.

It was just past midnight when Jedrick and Sephlin arrived at the abandoned warehouse. Jedrick told his partner to have a look inside while he circled around to sweep the perimeter. Sephlin quietly crept into the warehouse and discovered that the exchange was already in progress. But these were not typical underground traders. All four were soldiers from Nochturn - two spies who had infiltrated the Kyramine ranks and two connecting from behind enemy lines. More importantly, the object that they were handing over was the trehkde, a powerful source of energy that Kyramine had recently developed, which could make or break the outcome of the local war.

As the soldiers packed the object away, Jedrick slipped into the shadows of the warehouse and Sephlin filled him in, insisting that they leave at once. But the elder pulled him back, knowing that such an opportunity would not come again.

image On Jedrick's command, Sephlin vaulted over the crates that were sheltering them and shot down the two soldiers who had taken the trehkde. The other two turned their weapons on him but he dodged the bullets, jumping up into the rafters as Jedrick caught them from behind. Kicking the guns out of their hands with the skill of a trained assassin, it took him only a moment to snap one soldier's neck. The other took more work, and Jedrick received a few solid blows to the face and ribs before kicking his opponent's feet out, grabbing him from behind and cutting his throat.

Dripping in tar black blood, Jedrick wiped off his face and turned to look behind him. Sephlin was holding the trehkde with a hypnotized gaze. Jedrick snapped in his face, breaking the trance, and ordered his companion to hand it over, but Sephlin tightened his grip and backed away, insisting that they return to the others before doing anything else. Eyeing him with irritation, Jedrick reluctantly backed off.

They returned to downtown Kyramine as fast as they could run, rejoining Kryl and Carthea. The others seemed to agree that the only option was to hide the energy source and hold onto it until the Kyramine soldiers could be informed. No doubt, they would be well rewarded for their loyalty. It was one of the rare battles that Jedrick lost, but he seemed to take it in stride, allowing a very determined Sephlin to maintain custody of the invaluable item until they could find a way to safely return it. It would be a delicate mission; if word got out, they would quickly become targets for every gang in the city as well as soldiers from both sides. So for the moment, per Kryl's suggestion, they settled on the wait-and-see approach, telling Sephlin to take the weapon home and to hide it well.

The following day, Sephlin was called to help haul nyklane for the soldiers. While he was gone, Jedrick broke into the boy's flat and tore the place apart, looking for the object. But after hours of fruitless searching, he had to accept that it wouldn't be found and gave up. When Sephlin returned, he was not surprised to see his flat turned upside down and didn't bother to confront the elder. This was Zreda Minor, after all. Seph himself had once stolen an entire shipment of nyklane from his own cousin, selling it on the underground for a large profit before Kryl found out and beat him half to death for it. Things were what they were; everyone made mistakes. Jedrick would get over his loss and move on.

Later that week, an anonymous tip sent Jedrick and Sephlin on a last minute job to an old downtown factory. As they made their way to the center of the decaying building, it became clear that no one else was there. Sephlin suddenly heard a click behind him and whirled around to see Jedrick holding a pulse pistol to his face. "There's no trade, Seph. I set up the informant and had him contact us. I needed to get you here alone. Now tell me where it is." There was no response. "Tell me where it is, NOW!" Jedrick thrust the gun into the youth's face, but his response was a resounding "NO."

image Jedrick looked murderous. "Don't make me do this, Seph. Just tell me where the damn thing is. What do we care who's in charge? The Kyramines, the Nochturns, it's all the same, our lives won't change." Sephlin stubbornly shook his head. "I won't betray my own city by helping them lose the war." Jedrick laughed. "But you'd steal from them? Take money for your loyalty, is that it?" His fingers tightened on the trigger as Sephlin took a step back. Kryl and Carthea would've heard from the informant as soon as they got home; they could show up at any time. He felt himself growing anxious. "I don't have time for this. Tell me what I need to know." Sephlin again refused and Jedrick pulled the trigger, shooting him in the knee. The boy hit the floor with a pained cry and the Alpha stepped forward, kicking him in the head to knock him out.

There was a sound from the other side of the large room and Jedrick saw a shadowed figure dodging past the stacked crates in the back. They'd been found. Without thinking, he swung around and fired a few rounds at the wall, but Kryl was too fast and disappeared into the darkness. Jedrick cursed to himself, then put away his gun and reached down to grab the unconcious Sephlin from the floor. Moving as fast as he could, he carried him out of the city, across the abandoned stretch of land to Nochturn. He found the nearest stronghold, burst inside and was greeted by a large group of heavily armed soldiers. Dropping Seph against the wall, Jedrick raised his hands in surrender, slowly walking towards the captain in the middle of the room. "I'm from Kyramine," he said loudly, addressing the troop as a whole. "I've come with information for you. The four soldiers you lost in a trade earlier this week were killed by a civilian, not by soldiers. And he has the power source that you're looking for. The Kyramine army is looking for it too. This boy has what you want. He's hidden it somewhere. All I ask is a fair reward when you get it back."


image Meanwhile, Kryl had finally made it home. One of Jedrick's shots had grazed his leg, so he had run with a limp for most of the way. Carthea had been sitting, waiting, and jumped up with concern when she saw him. She knew at once that something was wrong, and was disturbed but not surprised when Kryl filled her in on what he had seen at the factory. His cousin had been taken and their best friend had betrayed them. True, a key part of the Cepheid social order was deceit and personal gain, but at the cost of someone close was considered by most to be crossing the line. Jedrick had always been a loose cannon but they had never expected him to go so far. Carthea assured her friend that they would find the trehkde before the Nochturn soldiers got their hands on it, and would make the traitor suffer horribly.

The following morning, Sephlin woke up to find himself strapped to a table. His knee had been crudely patched up and there was dried blood caking the side of his head. Four soldiers were standing around him, with Jedrick watching from the corner. The Nochturns began to question the boy, asking him over and over where the object was hidden, how he had managed to kill their men, and if anyone else knew. When the young man didn't answer, Jedrick quietly tried to coax him into giving up the information so that they could safely return home. Sephlin merely spit blood into his face and remained silent. Shaking his head, Jedrick backed away as the soldiers moved in to amp up the interrogation.

Back at Sephlin's flat in Kyramine, Kryl and Carthea were tearing the dingy room apart. They had even broken in a few of the decaying walls, but the object remained hidden. At a loss, Kryl collapsed into a chair, but Carthea had not been trained to accept defeat and yanked him back up. "The device isn't here, that much we know. So it's somewhere else, somewhere that Seph knew no one would think to look. You know him better than anyone, you practically raised him. So stop feeling sorry for yourself and THINK! Pretend you're Sephlin. Where would he have put it?" A look suddenly came over the Cepheid's face. "There was a place...I remember once when we were kids..." He grabbed Carthea's hand and pulled her towards the door.

image Over in Nochturn, Sephlin was barely holding out against the torture. He had been beaten, cut and burned, but had not yet given in. After a while, the soldiers let Jedrick again approach the young man, but all he got for his sugar-coated words was an ugly rant about betrayal and the waiting fires of the underworld, along with a nasty spatter of blood when Sephlin spit in his face a second time. So the soldiers resumed their work and the painful interrogation continued. Sephlin held out for as long as he could, but by the time they flayed the skin from part of his right arm, he couldn't take it anymore and screamed out the location of the hidden power source.

The soldiers moved out at once, calling for spies to lead them into Kyramine undetected. Not one to idly stand by, Jedrick pushed for permission to go along but the soldiers ordered him to instead assist one of their guards in moving Sephlin to the dungeon. Though bitter, Jedrick had little choice but to comply, so he pulled his battered companion to his feet and dragged him downstairs. "This could've been so much easier, Seph," he said, throwing him into the darkness of one of the dingy cells. Sephlin shook the hair out of his eyes, sending drops of blood flying onto the dirty walls. He glared up, his face showing nothing but rage. "You won't get away with this. You know that, right? Kryl and Carthea will get me out. And they'll find you. And when they do, I'll be the one to kill you." The guard slammed the door shut and Sephlin sank to the floor. But as Jedrick walked towards the stairs, the words haunted him more than he cared to admit.

Hours later, the Nochturn soldiers stormed back into the base and informed the captain that the item had not been found. Jedrick insisted that the boy had been telling the truth, and that he knew who had gotten to it first. It took some work to convince the soldiers to let him go alone, but they finally agreed. Jedrick returned to Kyramine and staked out Kryl and Carthea's home. He waited until they had left, then broke into the flat and began his search. It didn't take him long to find the object; it had been hidden in the same compartment that they used for all of their valuable trades. As he removed it from the floor, Jedrick heard a gun power up behind him and felt a barrel press into the back of his head.

Minutes later, the former Alpha was strapped to a chair in an empty room on the other side of the building. His friends no longer, Kryl and Carthea tortured him mercilessly until he gave in and agreed to assist them. They told him that he would return to Nochturn and inform the soldiers that they were willing to set up a trade - the power source for Kryl's cousin. If he managed to arrange a successful swap, they would not come after him. Carthea calmly explained what would happen if he double crossed them again, then cut him free and shoved him out into the night. Once the traitor had disappeared from sight, she and Kryl went to work on their end of the deal.

image Jedrick had no trouble convincing the soldiers to make the exchange. An invaluable source of energy was infinitely more important to them than a young thief. So they sent an informant ahead to Kyramine, to tell Kryl and Carthea that they accepted the deal. Shortly thereafter, the entire troop moved out, Jedrick and Sephlin with them. They took an underground route into the city and emerged in a downtown neighborhood near the designated warehouse. Inside, they found the pair waiting. Kryl was casually armed with a rusty blade while Carthea held onto the trehkde. The Nochturn captain sent Jedrick forward, helping Sephlin along with him, until the young man was safely in the arms of his friends. With a look cold enough to freeze the blood, Carthea handed the object to Jedrick, who walked back and passed it on to the captain. The moment he had the device, the captain motioned to his men and the entire troop trained their weapons on the three Kyramines. Carthea rolled her eyes. "Well, that was a surprise." A sudden shuffle of feet filled the warehouse as a large detachment from the local army stormed inside, putting down the Nochturn intruders with ease. "Or maybe you're not as original as you thought," Carthea retorted, turning away to check on the injured boy.

Jedrick had tried to slip away in the scuffle, but the Kyramine soldiers grabbed him before he could escape. They swiftly disarmed and chained up the Nochturns, took possession of the trehkde and began to escort the offenders out. The Kyramine leader walked over to commend the thieves and handed over a sizeable reward for their troubles.

image As the pair thanked the captain, there was a sudden burst of yells and gunfire from across the room. Sephlin, who had until that point been sitting on a crate near the back, quiet and unmoving, had grabbed one of the soldier's guns and let off the entire round into Jedrick's chest at close range. Kryl quickly grabbed the gun away from him and returned it to the soldiers before they had a chance to react. The captain leaned over to check on Jedrick, who was in agony but miraculously still alive. With an amused glance at the youngster, the captain ordered his men to move out.

Once the troops had departed, Carthea and Kryl got Sephlin back to their home and patched him up as best as they could. There was little they could do to ease the pain, but at least he would not suffer from infection or worse. At the end of the day, life went on. On a planet like theirs, it had to. Sephlin soon got over his ordeal and was back in the game by the end of the month, although he did adopt a more cautious attitude when it came to working with others. The scars covering his body were a constant reminder to trust no one but himself. They had barely begun to fade when he died two and a half years later, shot in a break-in when a fellow scavenger came looking for valuables of his own.

Jedrick was never heard from again. It was said that he eventually recovered from the laser wounds and spent the rest of his days in the Kyramine prison, dying from malnutrition five years later. Kryl, however, went on to serve a far greater purpose, ultimately setting into motion the salvation of the Cepheid species, as chronicled in Carthea's Last Battle.

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