Author : Jack Holt
No one knows why the Darkness came back to life that day, but Stron the Peerless was sent to deal with it. There were others who knew the ancient ways of commanding the power of the Darkness, but none had studied them so single-mindedly as Stron.
It was forbidden to use the power of the Darkness, of course. It was too dangerous. Too powerful. So Stron’s obsession brought him only poverty, chastity, and scorn. He was Peerless, for no one cared to be his peer.
Then the Darkness awoke unbidden.
Eight hundred years before, the Darkness had carved a gorge a mile long into the ground. Now Stron passed the point where shattered boulders gave way to slick, glassy stone. He didn’t even look at the words etched in obsidian–every child learned them by heart:
“We came from the Darkness.
“In the Darkness we slept for fifty centuries. We soared through blackest space undreaming, and the Darkness tended to us. It cloaked us. It preserved us. It nourished us. Until we reached a world full of life.
“The Darkness descended upon this world. It thundered through the skies. It gouged the earth. It boiled stone with tongues of flame. And when it ceased, we emerged from the Darkness and conquered this world.
We owe our lives and everything we have to the Darkness. And here, the Darkness now sleeps, as we once did.”
At the end of the gorge lay a labyrinth of metal, and beyond that, the Bridge to the Darkness. No one had been here in centuries, but Stron found his way through it with ease. He had studied every map and chart and historical record ever made about this place, until he had recurring dreams of wandering these pathways looking for… something. In the dreams he knew, but in the morning he could never remember for what, though.
Finally, he reached the Bridge. It was just as he had imagined. His heart raced, but his head felt clear and calm. Time seemed to slow down. He wondered, is that was something the Darkness can do? Then he breathed deep, and carefully enunciated each syllable of the words that even after a lifetime of study he only vaguely understood.
“Computer, emergency shutdown, all systems. Authorization code Romeo Charlie Sierra.”
Then Stron the Peerless felt his way through the now lightless room to the captain’s chair and spent the happiest moments of his life sitting quietly on the bridge of the once proud Interstellar Colony Ship ICS-3173, “The Darkness”.