Prologue - 1976

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September 17

Imperial Terra Luna Observatory, the far side of the Moon

"Where are you hiding the Guides, Imperial Emissary Lucius Nova?" The black-cloaked figure asked the bloodied body suspended in mid-air by ethereal grey tentacles of cosmic essence.

"Everyone knows that only Prime Guide Nur remains and they are in seclusion on Novarea, Foreverer," Lucius struggled to respond with dripping blood further dying his black shirt red.

"I meant the newborn Guides that are well hidden on Terra," said the Foreverer, applying further crushing pressure on Lucius who groaned in agony. "Where are they?"

"He doesn't know," said Gaia, who suddenly materialised in between Lucius and the Foreverer, instantly dissipating the supernatural binding on Lucius. "But I do".

Gaia's motherly aura radiantly clashed with the suppressive aura of the Foreverer, fiercely dispelling the chilliness. She stood in front of the corpse-like Lucius like an unsheathed blade. Her beauty shone through the pure cosmic essence crackling all around her.

"Gaia, the legendary Techno-Lifeform warden of Terra," said the Foreverer. "You are late."

"I don't know how you bypassed all of my defenses and sensors so silently," said Gaia, attempting to peer into the cloaked figure but failing to identify. "So your attack caught me off guard and it took me a while to gather enough Qi for this form."

"Gaia..." Lucius struggled to say.

Gaia sighed, "New Guides have been born into this realm." With a hint of relief continued, "The 7th at this very moment."

Gaia turned to the slumped Lucius, "I am so sorry to have hidden this from you, Lucius, but that was my purpose."

"So Doctor Terran knew nothing after all," said the Foreverer also examining Lucius.

Gaia scanned her home that was now in disarray. Even Lucius's collection of Terran artifacts lay in shambles. The once pristine walls were now stained in blood. Lucius's glowing red blood. He had fought valiantly.

"It didn't have to come to this but you forced my hand," The Foreverer said as if reading Gaia's thoughts. "The Guides are too well shielded by the Guide's Will and it grows ever stronger."

"Foreverer, this ends now. You are in violation of several Guardian and Imperial directives," said Gaia through gritted teeth. "Surrender now and mercy will be granted."

"Join me instead!" said the Foreverer. "You are the oldest living Techno-Lifeform. Yet here you are, secluded in the Great Void watching over the disgraced exiled race."

"I am a soulless being but at least I have a purpose," said Gaia, staring intently. "Freely serving my purpose fulfills my existence."

"What gives the Guides the divine right to deny you or anyone else eternal life?" asked the Foreverer.

"Your sweet words fall deafly," said Gaia, a smile playing on her lips. "I have served my purpose and can die having lived fully."

"I could just destroy this entire star system if you don't cooperate," said the Foreverer.

"We both know the Guide Space-Time Lock prevents any such grand actions," said Gaia. "And the Guardian Knight will stop any such attempts."

"Yes but... why are you stalling?" asked the Foreverer. "My forces control everything in a 100 km radius. Communications are disabled, space is locked, and the Guardian Knight is preoccupied with the birth of the 7th. No one is coming to rescue you."

"Who said anything about rescue?" asked Gaia.

The room-filling bright light that had been radiating off Gaia suddenly contracted into a protective shell around Lucius. The fabric of reality was ripped apart, swallowing the panic-stricken, barely conscious yet defiant looking Lucius.

"Was that love?" asked the Foreverer, calmly staring at the receding portal. "He was useless to me so you have just wasted your only move after gathering so much Qi."

"You do not understand," said Gaia, her aura much fainter yet her eyes just as determined.

"But I do. You have grown weak. You are merely an artificial intelligence after all." said the Foreverer. "That stunt of yours will cost you."

The Foreverer sent several tendrils of cosmic energy attempting to bind Gaia, "But first you will tell me how to find the Guides."

An alarm blared through the windowless room. AUTODESTRUCT INITIATED! 1 MIN TO EVACUATE!

"You're right, I'm currently too weak to contend with you," said Gaia coldly. "But, like the Terrans say, I still have a trick or two up my sleeves."

"Pity but this is merely a flash clone," said the Foreverer. "What a wasteful exercise this excursion was."

"Oh, I knew from the beginning that you were probably relaxing on your ship. I lied when I said it took me a while to gather Qi." Gaia said. "I just had to time everything else right".

AEGIS SYSTEM ACTIVATED!

"Did you think that after all these thousands of Anns, I wouldn't have measures to compensate for a severe lack of cosmic essence?" Gaia asked.

LAUNCHING ALL ANTIMATTER WARHEADS AT DESIGNATED TARGET!

"What?!" shouted the Foreverer, visibly shocked for the first time. "The Aegis system should be decommissioned!"

"So you knew about that too? Yes, the planetary defense platforms are down due to the persistent nuclear radiation from the Terrans. But, Luna's was merely turned off and swapped for light defense which you so easily destroyed." Gaia laughed, with tears streaming down her eyes. "You intruded upon our home, did you think you could simply walk away?"

BANG! The still space erupted in an implosion, swallowing the tragic smiling Gaia and the wailing Foreverer. This room that had stood watch over all of human history disappeared in an unholy blink. Outside, missiles tore apart the city-sized craft besieging the observatory.

Meanwhile on Earth,

"I'm sorry my love but you must live. This is my seed, when the time is right I will bloom again. Well, another me. You understand... I have sent you as close as I can to Guardian Knight Ade. I know he will find you as soon as he can. Only you can tell what has happened. I wish I could celebrate the rebirth of the Guides with you. Oh, there is so much I wish to share with you. But most of all, I love you. Now and forever. Goodbye, my sweet. May the Guides watch over you." The telepathic message played over and over again in Lucius's mind but he was already unconscious. Maybe it was the trauma from the attack or the heartbreak of losing a loved one.

Yet held tightly in his left hand was the tiny seed repeating the telepathic message like clockwork. While his body slowly cocooned into a big grey humanoid figure...

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