Chapter 1: Hard Lessons

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Of the many certainties facing mortal creatures, there is one that plagues those with intelligence: confrontation and conflict.  No matter how 'evolved' they become, beings with finite minds and life spans will always find themselves drawn into conflict with either each other or another mortal species.

Of course the 'why' part of that certainty is variable.  There are many, often logical reasons for going to war.  Defense of home, or of an ideal like freedom, to obtain or defend a resource, or even to rescue members of one's people forcibly taken.  Regardless of the actual reason, inevitably every mortal species, every finite being is drawn at some level into conflict with another.

The primary species on this planet, the ones that call themselves 'human', are no different.  They have had many conflicts, fought many wars.  From tribe against tribe, to nation against nation, Humanity is no stranger to confrontation, conflict and war.  Philosophers have even argued it's so ingrained in our nature to fight, that it's in our blood.  We are born so we can fight against Death itself until that day that it comes and strikes us down in our old age and infirmity.

Some were born with the ability to fight better than others.  While others were born with the ability to fight better than anybody else.

Then there was one that died and left behind an echo of himself that could still fight better than most.  The question is: just how good of a fighter was this echo?

Hannibal Barca, once commander of the armies of Ancient Carthage and scion of his House and now an echo of his living self, slowly walked towards the other echoes.  As he did so, the former Carthaginian general carefully considered what had recently transpired with his new found mental stability, gained when he had accidentally possessed an alien bio-mechanical body what felt like forever ago.  

It was less than an hour since he had successfully engineered the possession of six more of the alien bio-mechanicals known as K'ethik, taking their insect forms during a raid on an alien base by willing echos.  It was the first step in an effort to produce six more warriors to add to the fight against the powerful alien invaders known as the velkin, who's base they had attacked.  

It was both fortuitous and coincidental that the attack on the base drew in the K'ethik, the alien bio-mechanicals also at war with the velkin.  It also presented an opportunity to expand his force by possessing more of their bodies or, as they were called, shells.  Now it was time that he brought these newly possessed shells up to speed on what was going on with regards to the war against the invading velkin aliens.  It was a promise he had made to the Risen commander Max Niekro, the juggernaut leading the resistance against the invaders with a force of undead summoned back from the grave by the power of the Earth Mother, the entity at the heart of their world.

It was the Earth Mother that gave life to the planet, granting all living creatures the energy and resources they needed to exist on its surface.  It was by her power that the undead were summoned back to create a force called the Risen, that she now used to battle against the invaders after they had all but wiped out the human race that called Earth home.  Not only that, but it was the psychic reverberation of violent death held in her mind that created the echos.

Six of those echos now possessed bodies like Hannibal's after agreeing to help fight the velkin invaders.  Yet who did they actually add to his growing force?

Raven, a Haida warrior, killed by European settlers during a failed raid on his village, was the first to fall into Hannibal's view.  Already the rough human shape of the insect form he had possessed was being altered by the echo's force of will to reflect his appearance in his former life, man-shaped with broad shoulders, muscular arms and legs and a lean body.  Following the ancient Native American was Adeesa, the Tutsi woman killed by ethnic violence, then Bridget Bishop, the accused witch hung in Salem for her supposed crimes, both female echos also busily altering their bodies to more suit their appearance.  A scan to her left found Rasputin, the former Russian monk.

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