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Cause [1.5.11]

Ephra did eventually leave her room later, and she and Joseph spent the rest of the afternoon training. However, Joseph’s intrigue at what Vasa wanted to discuss with him that evening meant his concentration was off, and Ephra noticed.

“You’re not performing as well as you did this morning.” she said as he was thrown back, dropping his spear. He nodded.

“Sorry, my mind’s on other things. I’ll try again.”

Eventually, by the end of the afternoon, as the lights of Zion began to fade away to leave a black canvas in the sky, Ephra knocked Joseph back and nodded curtly.

“I think we’re done for today. You’re progressing extremely quickly, though, even with your fencing in school taken into account.”

“Thank you.” Joseph said, genuinely impressed at the high praise.

They strolled down the stairs on the outside of the building, heading for the flat. Joseph admired the lights that he could see on the streets below, leaving Zion suffused in a warm golden glow.

“This place is really beautiful.”

“I suppose so.” Ephra replied. “People often describe it as pretty, and yet I find the night disturbing. For every light you see bringing an alleyway into brightness, there’s another dark corner somewhere that isn’t lit up. There’s another hiding place for the shadows of darkness.”

“Shadows of darkness?”

“They come in many different kinds. Petty thieves to criminals to spies. The worst of the worst are the King’s Shadows. They’re the three spies of King Malak, and they can be anywhere. Powerful, too. Stronger and more skilled than even me.”

“They sound dangerous.” Joseph said.

“The King rarely leaves his palace, so they’re his eyes and ears, acting on his behalf. If you get a writ telling you to do a job, it’s a virtual certainty that a Shadow left it there. They’re supposed to act on the side of good, but Malak’s spies are no different to any other criminals lurking in the darkness.”

“Huh.” Joseph replied. “Why only three?”

“Three is all the King needs.” Ephra replied darkly.

Ephra reached the door and unlocked it, allowing them both to enter. It was quiet; the lights and viewport were off. Vasa was in his room, judging by the crack of light under his door.

“I’m going to get a shower.” Ephra said. “You can relax; you did well.”

Joseph nodded, watching the morose Zionid walk away. He spent a few minutes relaxing – making himself a coffee and watching a medieval battle on the viewport – but eventually, his curiosity could hold him no longer, and he walked over to Vasa’s door, knocking on it twice.

“Come in.” came the Zionid’s voice.

Vasa’s room was dark, but well-kept. There were a number of books piled next to his bed, and several on the desk where his personal computer sat. The only sources of light were the bright computer screen and a soft lamp on his bedside table.

“Hey.” Vasa murmured.

“You alright?”

“Yeah.” Vasa said. “I’ve informed everyone who needed to know. Uh… sorry, I don’t have another chair… feel free to sit on my bed.”

Gingerly, feeling a little awkward, Joseph sat upon the bed and turned to face Vasa. The Zionid looked tired, and for a moment, Joseph felt his heart ache in pity.

“So, what did you want to discuss?”

Vasa gestured to the screen behind him, where Joseph could see large amounts of writing; it looked complex and confusing, but highly detailed.

“You seemed quite interested in the lore of our world and the deal with Antumbra, so I wanted to show you my research on Seeds and Shadows. This is the book that’s going to help us prevent the end of your universe.”

“I see…” Joseph breathed. “So, what exactly has the book told you?”

“A common belief amongst Zionids and Voidians is that a universe requires a Universe Seed in order to be created. Of course, some disagree that it exists, but we have the logs of the legendary explorer Netzach that claim he discovered it, somewhere in the Reaches.” Vasa explained. He hefted the book over to Joseph, who took it and scanned the pages Vasa had marked with pencil.

“I see… the argument between you guys and the Officials, then..?”

“That’s not quite to do with the Universe Seed, but it is certainly part of it.” Vasa replied. “You see, we believe that the incubator is a sub-dimension in the void where infinite energy – the energy that powers the universe – can be found. Now, if Antumbra is capable of destroying the universe, then they must have equal or greater infinite energy, right?”

“Than the universe? I suppose so.” Joseph said.

“The Officials wanted to use the incubator to hatch the Universe Seed, so that when Antumbra destroys the universe, they can replace it with a near-perfect copy immediately. We had a better plan – defeat the Kings to open the incubator, then use the infinite energy inside to make some kind of weapon capable of killing Antumbra.”

“Ah. I suppose the Officials didn’t want you to fight the Kings?”

“Precisely.” Vasa said. “However, regardless of what plan we do, we’ll have to fight the Kings anyway. That’s what’s been so irritating about this whole debacle.”

“I understand.” Joseph replied. “The incubator… it must be a powerful place if it has the same energy inside it as the universe itself.”

“Yeah, and I’ve yet to figure out how it does that.”

“What’s this bit about?” Joseph asked, staring at the book. Vasa looked at him quizzically, and he began to read. “It says ‘in order for the incubator and the Universe Seed to be imbued with enough energy to create a new universe, it must be struck with a psychic surge that would be powerful enough to destroy a universe.’”

“That’s odd.” agreed Vasa. “I don’t understand what exactly it means, so I can only assume that when it is opened, it releases that powerful surge.”

“Why not search for the term ‘surge’ in the rest of the text? Maybe there’s something you’ve missed.”

“I’ll give it a look.” Vasa replied, tapping on his computer. He searched the term, and some paragraphs came up. ‘The Kings’ powers, and the way that they are exercised, is inextricably linked to the ultimate purpose of the incubator.’ The ultimate purpose…”

“Of an incubator? I guess it’s to incubate.” Joseph said. Vasa was already several steps ahead of him, and he had a shell-shocked look on his face.

“Incubator. INCUBATOR. How did I not see before? It’s in the damn name!”

“What is?” asked Joseph.

Vasa was tapping away hurriedly, too busy to talk. His wrist phone dialled a tone as he waited for Denneb to pick up.

Cause [1.5.10]
Cause [1.5.12]

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