deucexm deucexm at gmail.com
Tue Apr 12 09:17:48 PDT 2016

And here we are again, back in the Nameless arc, with a Nameless chapter of...

SYSTEMIC: A DiVerse Alpha Chronicle
by Colin Stokes 


It was another peaceful morning at the Polaris Foundation's headquarters building, 
just like it had been for the past few weeks.  And then the announcement gong rang, 
ruining everything.

John Peter Polaris lifted his head from his desk with a long-suffering sigh. Not 
again, he muttered internally.  It hadn't even been a month since last time, and 
the Dryden space station was still missing a good two thirds of its structure, 
thanks to that damnable pirate cartel's superweapon.  The time before that, it was 
an infestation of massive tunneling worms that had all but disintegrated the world 
they were eating.

For an organization supported by the gods themselves, there never seems to be a 
moment's peace around here, John mused darkly.

He rose from his desk slowly, not particularly wanting to, but eventually made it 
to his feet and straightened his coat and tie.  One had to be presentable for one's 
benefactors, after all.  John wasn't an athlete by any stretch of the imagination - 
pursuits of the body had never interested him much - but the rejuvenation 
treatments and generally healthy living conditions here had kept him a much younger 
man than his 183 years would otherwise have allowed.  He expected no less, of 
course, since the Foundation was located on the Nilium Collective's capital world - 
if that was even the right term for it.  First among equals, perhaps.

John didn't have to walk far, one of his privileges as the CEO.  The announcement 
room was situated down the hall from his office, in the center of the building; 
more accurately, the Polaris Foundation headquarters had been built around it to 
begin with.  It was the sole reason the company existed, at least initially.

The founder, Nero Wendell Guy Polaris, had boldly - so it was said - bargained with 
the Pantheon for the eternal prosperity of his lineage, in return for the equally 
eternal security of their connection to the mortal world.  The Polaris family 
certainly had prospered over the centuries, no one could doubt that; but some days 
- including today - John found himself wondering whether the stress of these 
interstellar escapades was worth it all; and, frankly, whether anyone else shared 
his opinion.  His sons and daughters certainly seemed to enjoy themselves while 
gallivanting about the known universe, brushing up against - occasionally butting 
heads with - danger of all kinds.

Well, perhaps their enjoyment is enough, after all, John thought with a tired 
little smile as he pushed open the solid metal double doors and strode into the 
announcement hall.

Apart from its scale, the hall wasn't very impressive at first glance.  It had been 
carved from the naturally occurring rock in the area - something igneous with a 
hard, brittle shine to it - in the rough shape of a cylinder, with twelve pillars 
supporting the arched roof.  Nine of the pillars had statues of the Pantheon 
standing before them, worked in a light, creamy marble; the other three had short, 
bare pedestals of the same material.  In the very center of the room, the 
announcement gong rested - a plate of darksteel twice as tall as he was, covered by 
runes and immovable by mortal means (as the documentation clearly stated).

John was no caster, and certainly no hand with rune magic, so he had never tried to 
operate the gong himself; it brought him quite enough trouble on its own.  Like his 
predecessors, he had tried to analyze the floating metal circle - who wouldn't be 
curious, after all? - but it defied all attempts to be measured or observed by 
instrumentation, as though it wasn't there.  And yet it most certainly was.

Standing straight and tall before the gong, John took a breath.  "The gong has been 
heard, and the line of Polaris stands ready."  Such a simple phrase, yet one that 
never failed to remind him of his weighty commitment.

Immediately, the air took on a different quality, a kind of thickness flowing 
outward from the gong, noticeable by the tiny golden scintillation effects it 
produced.  The floor beneath the gong took on a similarly golden hue that began to 
spread outward toward the walls, the room's rough and rocky surfaces smoothing into 
a single flat sheet as the machine of the gods prepared the bridge between two 
planes of existence.

John stood motionless as the entire hall was gilded, bottom to top, turning from 
roughly-shaped rock into a dazzling, gleaming display of flawless perfection - not 
a line crooked, not a curve marred.  As the resurfacing reached the apex of the 
arched ceiling, a bright flash briefly overtook his senses - and when he could see 
again, he was not alone.

"Three of you this time?" the Polaris patriarch remarked, dryly.  "Things must 
be /serious/."

The connection had been forged, and the Pantheon's Temple of Fortune now occupied 
the mortal realm, at least partially.  And in front of the gong stood - in the 
center - Tieria, the God of Knowledge, his brow furrowed and his gaze as hawklike 
as ever.  "Things are always serious when we call upon the house of Polaris," he 
returned gravely.  Or at least as gravely as Tieria ever managed to sound, which 
was more like a peevish university professor giving a lecture.  "This time, matters 
are somewhat... complicated."

"Such a /lovely/ word, that," trilled Hekel, God of Deception, on the right.  
"Complications are so /exciting/, aren't they?"  He removed his red-and-black-
checkered beret, and pulled a silvery cane out of it with the flourish of a 
practiced stage magician, placing the tip on the floor with a quiet ringing sound 
and leaning his weight on it.  "And yet this sort of excitement is, ah, /decidedly/ 
less than ideal."

"If you consider the destruction of an entire star system 'less than ideal', I 
suppose that's /one/ way of understating it."  This from the left, the Goddess of 
Design clad in shimmering light armor.  Rosewood tended to cut an impressive 
figure, and today was no different as she hefted her mace Worldbreaker, laying it 
easily across one shoulder.  It had a sharp tang of electricity in its scent, and 
also something... spicy.  John wasn't sure he wanted to know what.  "Let's get to 
business, shall we?  I know you're a busy man, Mr. Polaris, so I don't want to 
waste your time."

"I am at your disposal, my Deities," John returned evenly, with only a hint of 
insincerity - enough to draw a slight grin from Hekel, who was replacing his beret.  
"So tell me of this massive destruction you mentioned - an entire system?  I've 
heard nothing of this before."

Tieria nodded.  "You haven't, and you wouldn't.  The seeds of this disaster are 
only now beginning to sprout; we - and of course I mean you - must uproot them 
before they bear fruit.  Besides," he continued after a moment, almost as an 
afterthought, "it's not as though you monitor Imperial space that extensively."

John's expression went from neutral to just slightly sour.  "Ah, so we're cleaning 
up the messes of others now?  Some reason we can't simply let the galaxy's worst 
human- ah, sentient rights violators enjoy the harvest of their actions?  The 
pirates are cruel and callous bastards, but at least they don't have the oppression 
of the spirit down to a bloody /art/ like the damned Empire does."

"Innocent lives, John," Rosewood returned quietly.  "Countless innocent lives - not 
just lives, but /souls/.  If it's as bad as it looks... All of them, just /gone/-" 
and she snapped the fingers of her free hand, "-like that.  To say nothing of the 
worlds, the star, possibly the surrounding space too..."

-ALL IS DUST,- Worldbreaker chimed in from her shoulder.  John had never heard it 
speak before - that heavy, ancient, grinding sound - but it didn't come as a 
surprise to him.  The youngest Goddess made some of the most interesting toys.

Hekel simply smiled.  "You, dear boy, are the ounce of prevention to our five-
point-three tons of cure!  As for the 'why'..."  He tapped his chin lightly, and 
lifted the silver cane, twirling it.  "Dio said it was important."

The other two Deities turned to look at Hekel, whose smile widened the tiniest bit.  
"What, did he not /tell/ you that?  Or did you not ask?"

"It doesn't matter," John returned flatly.  "I'll cooperate, as honor and tradition 
demand - but I'll not be sending my own children on this mission, no matter how 
many innocents are at stake.  They deserve a better welcome and thanks than the 
Gray /bloody/ Empire will give them."

"Such a shame," Rosewood murmured.  "And here I was, looking forward to meeting 
young James and Theresa again; they show such promise.  But who will aid us, then, 
if not the brightest stars of the Polaris bloodline?"

The corners of John's mouth twitched upward just slightly.  "Let's just say I've 
got someone in mind."

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