Author : Michael F. da Silva

It started with a minor skirmish in a conflict between minor universes. A third-world war on a cosmic scale. Those universes were already unfathomably older than this one at any pace. An absolute zero trooper was wounded trying to avoid a hunter-killer squad in high orbit above a small backwater.

The trooper was hopelessly outnumbered and outmanoeuvred. Distracted trying to select a dimension where the physics would play to his favour, he was shot through his fifteenth segment. The warrior’s tertiary frontal lobe lost hold of a psycho reactive nano-tool before he could make his escape.

So it came to be that a star streaked across the night sky and fell to the Earth. Following the beacon of flames, a curious native found the artefact and, summoning the courage to pick it up, kept it to himself and tried to discern its meaning.

The tribal elders thought it unwise to keep such a thing. The other tribesmen feared it would bring nothing but ill fortune but the warrior, headstrong as only the young and boastful can be, refused to climb the mountain and offer it back to the gods. They must have many such things and would not miss one they threw away so carelessly.

After hours of useless arguing the elders cast him out so that he would not bring ruin on them all. His pride became hatred for the weak old men.

Many months passed after that and many years passed after those. His beard grew long and his understanding of the orb grew by steady inklings. He did not perish for lack of food or disease or the weight of decades. The orb favoured him and protected him. This he knew. He became a legend to frighten young children into their beds and a tale of warning not to stray too far past the tree line.

At night, the orb would float over him to keep him safe and warm. He would reach at it with his fingers but would only really touch it if he extended himself through his mind’s eye.

One night it changed. The pulsating blue aura that was at once there and somehow remained unseen grew like morning light over water.

‘Select primary function’ it demanded of his mind in his mother’s voice.

Suddenly frightened by a voice from beyond the funeral pyre, the aged traveller could think of nothing else than to protect himself. The orb began to pulsate and realign itself. It took the shape of a defensive implement of familiar use to him, despite the gleaming gold metallic surfaces and the visible energy field resonating from its centre. Now it was a shield fastened to a short leaf-bladed spear.

Years of rancorous isolation meant that after a short period of reflection, the aged outcast could not be expected to reach any other conclusion than that this was a sign from on high.

It must be a gift from the gods, he thought. He would become a conqueror-king.

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