My father’s eyes had changed; I had not noticed them before, now it was clear to me. He had aged, more rapidly than I had expected. Whatever torment these years had given finally grasped him and quickly had devoured his soul. He stared at me with the wisdom he had always held, watching and reading my reactions, waiting for the perfect moment to speak. As his breaths became lighter and his tone became pale he finally mustered up the strength needed to make those final words. “Darien, my son, you have always loved the Empire with the respect of a king, and for that I leave the war to you.” His eyes rolled back and body trembled with the final shudder of a weak and aged old man. My father was gone and I was king. King in an age of endless war, an age of hate and discrimination, and I would be nearly alone in searching for an end to the coming madness.
I knew nothing of war. I had been away for nearly fourteen years and my skills were more versed in the ways of peace. It was my mother whom had sent me away to Caldaria, far from the raging chaos. I was sent to a planet of peace, a planet cultivated and governed by some of the wisest citizens in the galaxy. I had learned to understand myself, to cool my rage and accept each person with respect and dignity, but upon my return home it was clear that my people had refused to do the same.
I had been gone so long, so long that I had nearly forgotten why the Endless War even began. I was only fourteen when it had started and the years had been far kinder to me than they had my father. I remembered when Chatom came to Caldaria; I remember he broadcasted his demands across the land. He had been a slave once, beaten and abused by my people, though long ago he had been granted pardon and release from slavery. He demanded rule, he demanded respect, but in the end Chatom wanted nothing but war. I remembered the day his forces overran our guards at Island Hold’s and the day that his insane followers butchered our villages at Glisanhown. Although, now the council assured me that the situation was far worse.
It was our empire that strived to maintain the old ways, the old purities and respects. While the other planets in the Ionosphere created machines and computers to replace themselves we strived to maintain our happiness through tradition. Though, now it had failed us. Chatom had great weapons, some unlike anything the council or our armies had seen before.
They had tremendous power and not only had they claimed the lives of many of our greatest soldiers, they had stolen their courage as well. Chatom’s great weapons contained such power that even our bravest men were afraid to go against them.
“There is an answer to our plight Darien, although your father would never allow us to unlock it.”
It was obvious that the council had become desperate in their attempts to end the struggle.
“Of what answer do you speak?”
“The Mackinaw!” His reply ended in a sudden silence as each member of the council glared at me with wide eyes.
Little was known about what civilization has existed on Caldaria before we came to cultivate it. Some argued that its former inhabitants were much like us while the remainder of the population believed they were far wiser and more advanced. One great link to Caldaria’s former population remained, the Mackinaw. They were gigantic, the size of great castles and they wielded what we thought to be weapons that were greater in size to any ship used to travel space. Their size alone could inspire fear in any warrior although my father would never allow our scientists to learn if they could be used, and what they could be used for.
He had always believed that it was the Mackinaw that had ended the existence of Caldaria’s former masters. That their own greed and anger had caused for the creation of such machines, and in imbuing those with such great power had caused for the cataclysmic downfall of their race. These though were different times then when my father held the throne. Now the once peaceful empire was being overrun by the ever growing forces of Chatom. Each village he entered seemed to turn him more soldiers and his men were mastering the cunning art of brainwash. If we did not act appropriately the empire would be overtaken and our honest and traditional rule decimated. It was decided that night among all members of the council and signed by I Caldaria’s new King that we would attempt to activate one of the ancient Mackinaw.
It was on the following night that I called into my chambers one of Caldaria’s great scientists, Jeeves Valerie.
“Tell me Jeeves everything that our science advisors know of the ancient Mackinaw.”
His expression proved that he had always desired to activate one of the great Mackinaw and his love of the ancient robots was apparent as he began his reply.
“Well for one we know that they are very old, greatly ancient. Likely they were created roughly five thousand years before we arrived on Caldaria. It is hard to say what the Mackinaw were originally used for but according to our translations of ancient text they were the wielders of a great power, used not only in war but interplanetary conquest. Your father always believed them to being machines created out of greed, although I believe them to be machines created out of desperation. You must admit Darien, these are desperate times.”
That night I gave Jeeves the order to activate Geisha what we believed to be the largest and most powerful Mackinaw ever built.
I had not dreamt since my return to Caldaria and my crowning as king. Though, that night I did dream. In my dream I was walking with my father and he inquired on my progress with the war. I told him that the war with Chatom would soon be over and the empire restored to its former glory. He then asked how I planned to accomplish such a great task. I chuckled as I replied and said
“You know the answer was right before you all of those years, and you were too stubborn to see it.”
His expression then changed as I revealed to him the answer. At that point he stared at me with all the wisdom of a king and said,
“Remember my son what can save us can also bring upon our destruction.”
It was far grander then any of the members of the council or even I expected. As Geisha rose up from its ancient holding beneath the rock crevices of the great canyon we all watched in wonder and questioned how anyone could create such a thing. Its height stretched far beyond the canyon walls and its extraordinary size made the ground of Athena tremble as it took steps towards us. It was one of our most respected soldiers given the task of piloting it and as he demonstrated for the council its many attributes Jeeves stood next to me explaining how the machine worked and what type of weaponry it wielded.
“There on the left is a cannon that delivers an energy based blast, what some may call a plasma blast. This energy explosion effects an eighty foot radius and we believe could be used to take out entire units of soldiers or tanks at once. Below but built into the cannon is an EMP emitter capable of knocking out any electronic communication thus frying the competitors electronic circuits and rendering their mechanical weapons useless. What is truly revolutionary is when the EMP is emitted the Mackinaw automatically is shielded with a blast protecting shield that makes certain that the EMP does not fry its electronic circuit To the right is an explosive cannon delivering a large mortar capable of a four hundred foot blast radius. These cannon can be used to completely eliminate entire divisions of soldiers and tanks or multiple craft at one time. This cannon can also be used to destroy enemy buildings and bunkers.”
Every weapon that Geisha wielded was truly amazing. Its uses were endless and it would hopefully prove to be an invaluable weapon in the war against Chatom. It was when Jeeves told me how Geisha was piloted that I was truly amazed. Its advanced artificial intelligence and guidance computer required no physical control. In fact one could even pilot Geisha and the other Mackinaw from a place far away from the battlefield. All control was done using the mind; Geisha could recognize the mind of its chosen pilot and through significant thought allow itself to be controlled. That day we awoke almost all of the ancient Mackinaw and I truly believed our war with Chatom would soon be over.
It was late that night when Jeeves entered my chambers in great distress that it was obvious that a new war was soon to begin.
“My king our science advisors have desperate news.” “Go on Jeeves what have they found, does it involve the Mackinaw?”
“Yes my king, the ancient inscriptions had been translated wrong the Mackinaw were not the machines of Athena’s former masters.”
“Go on Jeeves.” “They were Athena’s former masters, and they have been waiting to be awoken.”
10 years later:
For ten years the empire tried to fight a dual war – but in reality we were fighting two wars at once. One raged in the north against the ever growing population of Chatom’s followers and the other raged not but miles from out cities, the one that I was most dramatically involved in. I felt responsible for Athena’s impending destruction for being the one who gave the final order to awaken the Mackinaw. Some argued though that I was not at blame, that the scientists who failed to properly read the ancient inscriptions were truly at fault, although now after ten years of bloody war none of that mattered. The empire was soon to be a thing of the past, and we all assumed that our futures lied either in death or as slaves to the giant machines. I had already made my mind up, I would sooner be a corpse then a slave to something that lacks a soul.
Over three years ago our capital city had been destroyed and now myself and my generals led our armies from underground bases – deep enough that the Mackinaw could not bore into the ground and destroy them, and small enough that they could never fit threw the holes to gain access. The problem that was starting though was the Mackinaw in their mechanical wisdom were growing smarter and our scouts reported sightings of Mackinaw factory all across Athena.
Some were smaller and faster than Geisha, others bigger, they created planes and ports, all in what I believed to be a plan for conquest amongst the stars. All the while the human resistance, the prosperous empire my father led for over eighty years was quickly being phased out, a dismal shadow of its former self. It was on a Thursday night that Citron one of our greatest generals came to me with one last desperate plea. “My king our numbers have grown few, if the tide of this war does not change we will be beaten.” His tone reminded me that our desperation was not going to end. “You know as well as I Citron that the tide of this war will not be changing, it cannot change, we do not possess the power nor the strength to destroy the Mackinaw empire.” My reply had not even dented his composure, Citron knew like me that humans were not meant to beat the Mackinaw.
“There is one final action I believe may be a last assist in this great war.” My tone became light and I listened to what Citron suggested, a suggestion I hoped would turn the tide of this war.
“An alliance with Chatom – not only an alliance with Chatom but an alliance with the Ancients as well.”
“Citron what you speak of is treason!”
The ancients were the race my father banished into the bad lands of Athena. They were like a religion, a cult of humans practicing the old ways of divinity, dark arts that had imbued them with unspeakable power. When they marched into our capital trying to demonstrate their “gifts” for my father he had them killed, and their remainders driven deep into the forests where no Athenian could ever go. As far an alliance with Chatom it was not possible. My scouts had not seen him for many months, and some argued that he had either allied with the Mackinaw or was killed by them. While I looked at Citron believing him a fool I knew that the mind of a general was more ready to win a war then the mind of a misbegotten king.
“I understand your desperation Citron, and for years you served my father and continue to serve me, although I cannot break a bond that is sacred in the minds of my people, although these are desperate times and I realize that if the old bonds are not broken we may not have any people left.”
I could tell from Citron’s expression that he saw the fear, loyalty, and tired desperation in my face. He was a man of Athena, he had led many of our greatest soldiers (including his only son into battle) and I knew in my heart that he would do nothing he thought would lead this empire to annihilation.
“I will go north and confront Chatom and you will go east into the dark forest of the ancients – I will meet you in sixty days and if there is an empire left to save we will unite to save it.”
We found him bunkered deep in the hills of Constantia north of the empire’s former capital city. Chatom had lost over half of his once magnificent fighting force and like us he was reaching a point of desperation. He looked at me with the hate I expected and I was certain if we were not enwrapped in the current war against the Mackinaw he and his followers would have killed me on site.
“Tell me why I should trust the son of my enemy – does my enemies son not become my enemy when he assumes the throne. Your father was a bigot and I assume that you Darien are no different. The same blood which was flowing in the veins of your father on the day he died now flows in you. True we are in a state of plight, but who is to say that if I went to the Mackinaw and offered an alliance with them against you they would not receive my offer with open arms.”
His little speech had gotten many of his followers excited and I knew if I did not choose my words wisely that I would not be leaving his council alive.
“The Mackinaw have made it clear to us that their goal is to destroy all humans that currently occupy this planet, some in my empire have recommended leaving and we would except the machines have captured all of our space craft and ports and now use it against us. We Chatom you and I while enwrapped in two lifetimes of hate do have something in common. Your followers and my army do have a common bond, and it is simple we both are human, we both are made of flesh and blood not metal and wire. Together your guns and my men could possibly run this plague from Athena and make a new day of peace and union dawn among the lands of Athena.”
Chatom had received my reply better than one would expect.
“You Darien were too young to remember how my people were received when we came to Athena. Not with the open arms of peace and unity but with the blazing screams of slavery. Your father executed our parents and made us, then nothing more than children slaves to his empire and you come to me now needing my help, my technology your father so strictly ban. I would love for him to see Athena now, wrapped in war and his weasel son begging his enemy to help save it. Though Darien in you I sense a force that your father never held. Seeing desperation first hand gives men strength and courage, and it is courage that you showed in coming to me today. I’m sure you dodged many a Mackinaw to reach these walls and for that you will have my assistance with once exception – I refuse to offer my services unless you have some secret weapon that will give me enough hope and will to fight again.
The secret weapon Chatom was asking for lye far to the east in the hands of the ancients. I knew nothing of what fate had bestowed upon the ancients, and if Citron had found them deep within the dark forest. I as kind was to never venture beyond that forests borders but it was clear that these were days when tradition’s rules had to bended and as I crossed through the trees stepping foot into the forest broken. As we trudged through the old forest we did not find the ancients that we were seeking, rather they found us. Their scouts and soldiers had been tracking us from the time we entered the forest and it was not long till they had intercepted us and we sat before their chief and high commander.
As king I decided it would be best that I do the speaking.
“I sent a man Citron to council with you, where is he?”
The chief looked across the meeting room trying to match up my resemblance to my father, his former enemy.
“You are the son of a man that I once knew, a man afraid of change. When I showed this man the way that we were meant to exist on Athena he had my people run from his lands and tried to cut off any food supply we had. For years we have lived here ravaging the country side to live while your empire grows fat. The fact that your father was liar does not mean you are a liar, and I will listen to your words. As far as your man Citron is concerned he lives, although I have captured him and he was not given the right to speak without his king.”
“I was a boy when my father ran you from the lands of Athena into this forest, and I am sorry for the plight that became of your people. Your wisdom and power is still feared in my lands, even I respect your power. I am sure you have seen them wandering the countryside, felt them as they move, wondered what they could be. They are what was once the governing race of Athena, machines from where we do not know but we do know that they are self aware, they think, they act and they are extremely powerful. Surely you have wondered what event caused for the awakening of such creatures and I will tell you know the honest truth, I awoke them. In a desperate struggle to rid my lands of war I awoke them hoping that they would carry the answers needed to find peace, though they had answers and disputes of their own to settle. I ask now as a desperate man and a friend that we unite under the common bond that we are all human and with my army, Chatom’s guns, and your magnificent power run these bastard machines from our lands.”
It was an ancient power discovered by them, a way to harness hidden breaches of the human mind and make one’s body do incredible things. They could summon storms, read the minds of their enemy, hover and fly short distances, and jump to amazing heights. None of this though was more impressive then their skills with the sword, their speed in combat. They had the gifts capable of freeing Athena and I watched for weeks as my army trained under them, and a quaint irony of my Athena and my father’s Athena was flowing through the air. They first began teaching my men the history of their gift, how their former leader unlocked the natural powers hidden within every human. How he journeyed to Athena’s highest peaks, swam its deepest oceans all to perfect this extra-ordinary gift he had discovered. He then returned from his journey which spanned over ten years and began teaching his people what he had learned.
From there my men and I were taught the way of high speed hand to hand combat, how to fight multiple oncoming enemies at once regardless of their size. The weeks turned into months and the span of one year was quickly coming upon my men and I. It was then the ancients began teaching us the true power of the Valeria, the ability to bend mass, space, and movement all to your will. They taught us how to tear buildings down with a slide of the hand, and then rebuild them with the beat of an eye. To summon tornados and storms from above, and to command the sheer the power of electricity. By the time winter had fallen upon Athena my men and I were ready to battle the Mackinaw in a final onslaught that would decide who the new commanders of this land would be.
Tides of the Makinaw:
It was time for us to re-assess what we knew about the machines. Some of our men feared that we had taken the wrong approach in the war, and that there was some secret hidden beneath to how to truly destroy the Mackinaw. So I called into council all of my scientists, Chatom, and members of the ancient’s elder community. Together I hoped we could find the secret to ending the war.
“Consider what we know about he Mackinaw, and together with our gathered knowledge we can try to acquire new theories on how they can be destroyed. First it is apparent the Mackinaw are controlled in a unison force, in battle we have seen that they Mackinaw perform alike, like they are being manipulated by a universal program. Now it would be fair for one to consider that since the Mackinaw are machines that they are manipulated through programming, although I have a theory that would contradict traditional thinking. Say the Mackinaw are not controlled by a program, but by other Mackinaw a thinking Mackinaw. Remember when we first activated them our pilots were able to manipulate the Mackinaw’s actions through focused thought. Now think, is it not possible that other Mackinaw are manipulating the actions through the same focused thought, only the mechanical focused thought of a machine?”
“Tell me Jeeves what are you trying to say?”
“I believe that it is not necessary for us to defeat the entire Mackinaw army to destroy them, I believe it is only necessary for us to defeat the one Mackinaw that controls them to bring their armies to a sudden hault.
“Which Mackinaw do you believe controls these armies Jeeves?”
It had never occurred to me before, an entire race that moved only to the desires of one being, in this case a machine. What was Geisha? Who had created such a thing? These questions and more danced in my head, into my dreams and were quickly becoming my obsession. Although if Jeeves were right, our plight here on Athena may not be as desperate as we once thought.