Karo-Pik landed the one-man shuttle in a clearing, high in the mountain chain that crossed the largest continent on Kymera but below the tree line. He exited the craft as the sun rose, casting an orange glow to his golden eyes. Eyes that could spot a beetle in a moonless night adjusted to the increase in light. The sun glinted on the scales that covered his powerful bi-pedal body. The only evidence that remained of his humble origins, before the gen-gineering age and mutagenesis was a byword for progress, was that he still had four limbs and a nominal sex that was no longer visible. The human shell had been modified and improved so that no vulnerable spot remained, like the ridiculously fragile neck documented in pictures before the Gen-Esis movement took hold. Colour still signalled your role in life and Karo-Pik’s bottle green scales signalled him as a member of the ruling elite.
If Karo-Pik’s perfectly symmetrical features had been capable of movement, he would have been frowning. He did not understand what had called him here. But the call was real, pulling him to the stream at the edge of the clearing and then down the slope following the singing, silver ribbon. The call, like a blinding beacon in a featureless void, pulled him to the mouth of a cave, then deep inside the body of the mountain until he reached a cavern lit by the luminous purple lichen on its craggy surfaces. In the centre of the cavern was a pool, its surface slick and glistening like oil.
Strands of black shadow collected over the liquid’s surface and coalesced to form the shape of – a rider on a horse? Karo-Pik could only base himself on memories of ancient records, as no horses remained in his time. A voice echoed in his head, cold, cruel, and contemptuous:
– So glad you could spare me some time, little lizard.
– What are you?
– Ah, you probably won’t remember my brothers: war, famine, pestilence, and death. They have, after all, been eradicated in your brave new universe.
– I don’t understand.
– Hmph! You have forgotten your own mythology. In any case, it was inaccurate, there were always five of us: war, famine, pestilence, death, and hubris.
– Yessss, your mythology turned me into a snake in a garden with a tree of knowledge at its heart. But it really had nothing to do with good and evil.
– It didn’t?
– No, the real hubris was when you turned yourselves into infant gods, playing with the building blocks of life.
– Why am I here?
– Oh, you are here as a historian. I am giving you a chance to leave a myth behind you for those that will follow when you have been eradicated and creation begins again. The end will come with a whisper, not a bang. Consider it a chance to leave a warning that there were always five of us.
Karelian yawned and tried to keep awake as Professor Bardel droned on about myths and legends. He had always found the Legend of Karo-Pik and the Fifth Horseman particularly boring. Nothing happened, just lots of talking. What the fuck were horses anyway? Legends were just an attempt to find an explanation for the unexplainable. No one knew why the Mosa-Ikans had disappeared throughout the known universe in the blink of an eye. Karelian yawned again, just ten more minutes then he would be able to leave the lecture on Origin Myths and head off to the class that mattered, Reverse Genetics.