Tales Post 17 has Ameryl Hypericum trade a micro-universe, invented by Reimi Soulstar, to Memnoch of Tartarus in return for possession of a Hell-domain named Dudael. An entire cycle of existence lasts just a single Earth day within the micro-universe and the souls of the trillions upon trillions of sapients would be consumed by Memnoch every day. Aboard the Remnant Fortress, which is built within the remnant of a supernova in the Tycho Nebula and is connected to The Energyplex, Ameryl meets with Gadreel, the Watcher, and tells him to speak to his daughter. She discusses uses for Dudael with Reimi Soulstar but she wants to use it as a prison, which it had served as before. She uses magic to take her and Gadreel away from a meeting with Astrid Kal'Vassemp where they could discuss his past privately. He reveals he had a half-grigori half-human daughter, which was prohibited by the WriterGod. The WriterGod punished these nephilim instead of the angels, meaning any fallen angel is able to control the nephilim. The angels rebelled against the WriterGod but were cast into Dudael as their prison. When the conversation is over, Ameryl discusses the emergence of the God-Monarchs and the movement of forces from the High Empire with Astrid. In the end, Ameryl relinquishes her role as Arm of The Imperium and leaves with the God-Killer to take part in the Time-Lock Event.
The Shades of an Empire
The War Room
Ameryl's magical orb glides towards Memnoch. The orb it little over the size of her head and within it Memnoch can see a great swirling, twinkling mass. He glances over the orb toward Ameryl who nods reassuringly;
Ameryl: "Look deep."
He does. His eyes are able to see unlike any normal mortal being, able to see things on unimaginable scales. Big or, in this case, small. First he can see that the swirl he can make out is made up of many smaller swirls. He looks closer. Deeper. Each swirling shape is made up of smaller pin-points of light as he sees tiny orbs within the larger orb that Ameryl had created to house this gift. Around those tiny orbs of light are other orbs. On some of those orbs there is life.
Memnoch: "You have created a universe for me?"
Ameryl: "A microscopic universe. Teeming with life."
Memnoch: "A most impressive gift, I admit. But you said infinite."
Ameryl: "It has a... kind of time-lock on it."
Ameryl: "Every ten-thousand years a great catastrophe will engulf the entire universe, wipe everything out. The time lock will then trigger and turn back time to the beginning of the universe. It will again play out, this time with a whole new lease of life. It's not just the same thing on repeat, only the beginning and the end will ever be the same..."
Memnoch actually smiles and she gets the impression that he's genuinely impressed.
Memnoch: "That is quite clever. I admire your ingenuity."
Ameryl: "I have some of the best minds at my disposal. The microscopic universe was created by Reimi Soulstar. A genius inventor. I just... found a practical use for it."
She gestures towards him.
Memnoch: "I loathe to admit this, but I almost feel like I am getting the great deal from this bargain. An entire universe for the sake of one small realm?"
Ameryl shakes her head.
Ameryl: "I've given you an idle curiosity. A microscopic universe isn't going to serve us very well until we can figure out how to get resources or beings out of it and into our universe - more relatively sized. Plus, I buy your favour."
He says slowly. He might be the prince of lies but he knows a good relationship to foster when it crosses his path. He holds up a hand, which appears tipped with claws instead of human nails, and moves the tiny universe into his possession. Trillions and trillions of souls for his possession.
Ameryl: "Time is, of course, relative. There every cycle of the universe will seem to take as long as any normal universe. But to us it will last just one Earth day. I don't know why but I've been told we should use Earth's days as standard definitions for the length of time. Seems arbitrary to me but there you go. Do you know the planet?"
Memnoch: "I do. Every day I shall consume trillions upon trillions of souls from this universe."
Ameryl: "I assume that soul sizes aren't a thing?"
Memnoch: "No. The size of a being doesn't dictate the size of the soul. Souls are given weight by the measure of the being's life. The greater the life, the... tastier the soul."
Ameryl does grimace at that.
She has already battled with guilt over this, but she decides that the lives of people so small that a microscope couldn't hope to see them shouldn't be worried about. Even the cells in her body are larger than planets and stars of that universe. Every day she kills bacteria and germs just by existing.
Of course she wouldn't tell Reimi what she did with his universe. The guilt is easier to stamp out without Reimi railing on her. Besides she and Memnoch could well be living in their own microscopic universe and never even know it.
She glances up, as though she might see the edge of the universe and a big beady eye looking at her.
She doesn't. Of course.
Besides, out of sight, out of mind.
But even as Memnoch leaves with his trophy, she feels like some last vestige of her humanity goes with him. Years ago she would never have been able to do such a thing, sacrifice so many lives (tiny, insignificant lives or otherwise) but now she has something greater than herself. Greater than her empathy, greater than her moral codes, greater than Nothing. She has *something*. She is the guardian of The Imperium and she must do whatever it takes to enhance and improve The Imperium. For the greater good of the people that relied upon her.
She turns to Adralain, who stands ready. The angel-turned-vampire looks especially pale, likely because she's had to stand around waiting for Ameryl to finish her meeting with Memnoch and has had no time to eat. Consume is probably a more accurate word.
Adralain marches ahead of Ameryl as they walk their path towards the war room of space fortress Remnant Fortress - so named because it's a fortress that exists within the remnant of a supernova. Ameryl could award 'obviously named' certificates to the designers but the best name she could come up with was 'Super Secret Ninja Base' which would end up being embarrassing. Aside from the fact it's not all that secret and there are no ninjas onboard.
She makes a mental note to add ninjas to the station roster.
The Tycho Nebula of the Milky Way Galaxy isn't worth much to most civilisations, but to The Imperium it is a great source of energy. Deep within the outer shell of the remnant, its gaseous remains floating outwards in a yellow and green haze, is the Crab Pulsar that has created the pulsar wind nebula. The Remnant Fortress sits there, behind the outer shell of gas, and inside the pulsar wind nebula where the magnetic fields with strengths over a hundred million teslas blast pure plasma straight into the fortress' energy-absorbing shield. The force of plasma particles slapping against the immovable shield generates immense amounts of power that is then flooded along the shield and into a waiting portal. On the other side of that portal is The Energyplex - a construct the size of Jupiter that acts as a colossal capacitor. From there portals lead all over the Milky Way Galaxy to planets or stations to provide power. So long as the Crab Pulsar spins, energy is sent. Many commcercial ships have even taken to using rechargeable engines (as having their own warp cores often resulted in mishaps) and they can recharge at any Imperium base that utilises this power mode.
While the portals could send power to other galaxies, universes or realities, it was decided it would be safer to keep the flow of power contained within the same galaxy. A sudden explosion or surge from one place could end up slipping back through the portal and into the wind nebula. Though the portals are designed to be 'one-way' portals, this only works in theory by pushing the energy through and trying to shield energy from coming the other way. Unfortunately it's impossible to completely shut out any and all energy from one side so long as energy is going through from the other. A problem with a single portal within the galaxy would be easier to manage than problems from other galaxies. 'They can get their own damn power,' was the response Reimi Soulstar gave when asked to share the wealth.
As an added bonus the wind nebula made the Remnant Fortress highly defensible. The power of the plasma itself, forced along by the magnetic fields, would destroy matter in an instant. Most of their galactic neighbours were using energy weapons that would never be able to produce the power of a hundred million teslas, which the absorption shield laps up. Defence and energy makes Remnant Fortress a prized possession.
It also doubles up as the location for many clandestine meetings with the intelligence division. An intelligence division that needs more ninjas onboard. The pulsar winds block most forms of observation from outside the Tycho Remnant. They'd be able to see a black dot against any imaging scans of the nebula but never anything beyond that as the pulsar winds distort all energy waves. This means nobody can listen in unless they're physically present.
Andralain passes through the biometric scanning parlour and into the intelligence wing of the fortress. The moment that the two women enter they are received by an overly cheerful welcome.
Ameryl marches past Gadreel, who stands there with his arms spread wide for a hug.
Ameryl: "Go talk to your daughter."
Gadreel slips into step with the Left Arm of The Imperium.
Gadreel: "I will."
Ameryl: "You said you will the last time I saw you."
Gadreel: "I'm working up to it. But you didn't come here to talk about me, surely?"
Ameryl: "If I came to talk to you, I'd stop and talk to you."
Gadreel keeps after her.
Gadreel: "Fair point. You never come to visit me anymore."
Ameryl: "I'll visit you when you talk to your daughter."
Gadreel: "She doesn't want to see me."
Ameryl: "She wants to see you."
Gadreel: "It's too dangerous for her to see me."
Ameryl: "She wants to see you."
Gadreel: "She's too busy to see me. She has a new job."
Ameryl: "She wants to see you."
Adralain opens a door which Ameryl steps through. Gadreel stops short of the open-door, knowing that the invisible barrier would stop him in his tracks. He waves after Ameryl.
Gadreel: "Good talk!"
Ameryl: "Go and see your daughter!"
She shouts back.
They are now in the War Room.
Ever since it was named that she has been trying to provoke people into fighting each other inside the room, just so that she could make the comment 'you can't fight in the war room' gag[Ext 1]. Unfortunately everyone in here is far too serious for that.
Maybe if there were ninjas in here...
Today though, there's only Reimi Soulstar to contend with. She is actually surprised he hasn't tried to fight anyone yet, should they ever insult some famous scientist he admires or dismiss the importance of some random discovery that only he cares about.
The furry-faced inventor is standing in the middle of a holographic projection. It is a simulation of the hell that has been allocated to The Imperium for use. He looks up from the projection and puts his hands on his hips.
Reimi: "And what are we supposed to do with this place?"
Ameryl: "What do you mean? Why are you so angry?"
Reimi: "Well, what is the point of it? Nobody's soul is actually going to go here, is it? It's not like we have an Imperium religion."
Ameryl: "There are a few things we can do with the place, Reimi. I'm a little disappointed your big brain hasn't seen the potential."
Reimi: "Well there is the netherflame. I got the opportunity to get a good look at the mechanics for that Kalor Varkesh ship while I was over there helping them repair after you all came out of Tartarus. All the netherflame damage and the crystal tech onboard gave me some ideas for how we could try to replicate the use of netherflame ourselves. Maybe a portal or something could blast netherflame out of it... could be fun."
Andralain catches her comment and glances at Ameryl, hoping not to be chastised for admonishing Reimi's attitude. Ameryl doesn't, however, say anything. She knows her friend's mind isn't so tethered to reality as everyone else's.
Reimi: "It could provide energy, of course. Or I could try to create a sort of Bagon-Noz Drive of my own, that uses this Hell - whatever we're calling it - to travel through. This Hell does have a manipulative energy matrix, so maybe constructs could actually be built there and projected into the real world. Maybe I could make a pen that actually writes in blood! That would be--"
Ameryl: "I was thinking of building a prison."
Reimi: "I... think we could do that."
Andralain: "Do we need one?"
Ameryl: "I think so. You recall I had to rely on the Pan-Cosmic Command a long time ago to imprison Vedas Khaan? There have been rumours that a new Imperium-style empire is forming under a self-styled khaan--"
Andralain: "Like we have a skrai?"
Ameryl: "Exactly. What if this new khaan is as powerful as the original Vedas Khaan? Vedas himself might even be helping them from... wherever he and his band of God-Monarchs are. This hell is Dudael, so Gadreel told me. He said it was a prison once, I think it could be again."
Andralain: "And its first prisoner would be this khaan? Or would it be Indigo Shade?"
Ameryl: "Exactly my point. I would make it Indigo Shade if I can... but that's going to depend on the High Empire, isn't it? Highemperor would rather let her destroy a galaxy filled with life than let us imprison her in our hell."
Andralain: "Shouldn't the High Empire be the ones to imprison her anyway?"
Ameryl: "He did. She got out. Now she has committed crimes against us and a universe full of factions. We'll have allies in hunting her down this time. Whatever happens after that, we need to have a plan in place."
Reimi: "I don't think I can create a prison like The Cube. That kind of technology is beyond me."
Ameryl: "Words I never thought I'd hear you say."
Reimi: "But I don't know. Maybe I could... create something inspired by it. It's the principle, not the technology specifically, that I need to apply. The same effect but with different methods..."
Ameryl: "I also want the netherflame gun you mentioned!"
Ameryl: "Flame on![Ext 2]"
Ameryl sides sideways at Andralain.
Ameryl: "Don't cringe at me."
One hour later and The War Room has changed.
The holoprojection is gone and the room adapted itself to suit the new requirements of the next meeting. The holoprojector melted and remoulded itself into the centre of the room so that the image could be viewed from the newly moulded chairs that circle the projector. A circular table has created itself in front of the chairs and the surface of the table has various displays of digital information that might be wanted for the meeting. Ameryl sits down and orders a glass of rosé wine, which materialises in her hand from the Drow-tech replicators. For now the lights in the room are bright as the requested persons are still entering the room.
Astrid Kal'Vassemp (her name is a mix of her mother's family name of Kal'Vass and the affix from Highemperor's usual 'Emp') enters and walks across the room, her hips swaying rhythmically, and seats herself beside Ameryl. She looks fine now but after the escape from the Brontax Galaxy she had been injured as Kalor Varkesh had had to clung to the hull of The Lamb when hurtling through Tartarus. Memnoch had not focused his attentions solely on The Lamb bridge but the whole group of sentients aboard both The Imperium ships and the High Imperials. No fatalities but a lot of injurious casualties. The High Empire undoubtedly has proficient healing technology though Astrid could well be relying on magical healing instead. Someone once told Ameryl that magical healing is not true healing as it only makes reality believe that you are healed. If reality were to suddenly realise that you had been lying to it all this time, then you're in for a world of hurt. To Ameryl there seems to be a strange kind of logic to that. And reality does have a tendency to catch up to you when you least expect it.
Astrid: "Kleo won't be coming to the meeting, I hope you won't mind?"
Ameryl knows that the query is only a formality for her sake. Astrid would usually just tell people what is what but when it comes to Ameryl she has a penchant for trying to appease.
Ameryl: "Was she hurt?"
Astrid: "Not physically."
Ameryl nods gravely. She can well imagine the distress the mere sight of Memnoch might have caused in the soft-centred psyche of Kleo. Ameryl's heart wants to melt in sympathy for her fellow Hypericumite. She'll send flowers with a bottle of cranberry juice.
Gadreel: "Ameryl, I have something to tell you."
Ameryl doesn't look at him. While Astrid is seated on her left, Gadreel is to the right. He waits and when he realises she's refusing to speak to him he says;
Gadreel: "I promise I'll send her a message right after this meeting."
Ameryl: "Just a message?"
Gadreel: "A voice message."
Ameryl: "Baby steps will do, I suppose."
She turns and looks straight into his eyes.
Ameryl: "Dudael was your prison wasn't it?"
He is taken aback but settles quite quickly and assumes a sudden blank face that masks any and all emotion. When he really wants to, Gadreel is able to switch off his emotional centre completely and enter an eerie deadlock mode where his brain almost shuts down save for the basic needs. This is an excellent advantage should he ever fall under interrogation from those he's meant to be spying on.
Ameryl: "Don't think you can play this game with me, Gadreel. You work for me, I want answers."
He stares blankly.
If he was merely being stubborn she could use magic to pry open his mind. But in this state his consciousness is not only under lock and key but almost entirely absent. It would take a truly great telepath to even begin searching for the mind's hiding spot.
She prods him in the temple.
Ameryl: "I'm going to draw on your face."
Ameryl: "And it will be a dick pointing towards your mouth. I'm going to write 'I like to suck this' on your cheek and--"
Gadreel: "You are really mean, you know that?"
Astrid, on the other side, snorts with laughter.
Ameryl: "Dudael. Why were you imprisoned there?"
Astrid leans over the table and watches Gadreel. From behind him Ameryl sees someone else craning to hear them. Seeing as he's now in the spotlight of attention, Ameryl decides it's not fair for him to reveal his secrets to everyone in the room. Ameryl raises her hand, the flat back of it facing Gadreel, and then lowers it while muttering the incantation;
The room around them becomes dim and greyed out, the voices dulled. They are now sitting in a magical pocket universe. While not an actual pocket universe, bound by the rules of science and existence, this magical universe is a small fragment that allows them to exist just beyond the bounds of reality. To everyone else in the room the two of them will appear to be the ones greyed out and blurry, hiding their speech and actions. Ameryl watches as Astrid tries to touch her and her hand passes through her form.
Ameryl: "You can talk here."
Gadreel: "You didn't need to do all of this really. I just don't like to remember those times."
Ameryl: "No need for everyone to know everything about you. But I should know."
Ameryl: "Imprisoned because of what you are?"
Gadreel: "That... and there might have been a rebellion against the WriterGod that I was mixed up in somewhere..."
He shrugs with mild surprise. Ameryl rolls her eyes.
Ameryl: "Great. So I have a traitor working for me."
Gadreel: "I wouldn't betray The Imperium."
Gadreel: "I'm here of my own choice."
The implication that he was being forced into servitude before slits through to Ameryl and she understands his reasoning. Ameryl has long made clear her disdain for slavery and servitude. Obedience to command should never be blind. Only through question can command be responsible.
Ameryl: "So for getting yourself into this rebellion you, and the other Watchers that rebelled, were imprisoned in Dudael?"
Gadreel: "That's the short story, yes."
Ameryl: "Weren't you an angel?"
Gadreel: "Yes. Watchers are a kind of angel under the WriterGod. We watched the young species of the Multiverse grow. We watched their gods flare into existence. We watched as they took to the stars. We saw how they were free and we became jealous."
Ameryl: "Seems fair."
Gadreel: "Not to WriterGod. We were designed with a single purpose. We were not designed to be free. Perhaps he thought of us as broken pieces? A virus in his machine. We stopped doing as we were told. He attempted to reinforce his control over us but he did not cast his ire upon us until after the birth of humanity."
Ameryl: "Humans? Of Earth?"
Gadreel: "They were his chosen people. He lavished them with fate that exceeded all others."
Ameryl: "And you hated them for this?"
Gadreel: "No! I loved them! Humans were like shiny, sparkly things! I wanted to join them! Play with them! And so I did."
Ameryl: "Wait. I think I know what comes next. The girl you refuse to talk to..."
Gadreel: "Half-human, half-grigori."
Ameryl: "And this was against the rules?"
Gadreel: "Yes. Angels were not meant to befoul themselves, as it was put. We were not angels of Earth, who were permitted to such lows, we were angels of the cosmos. We were expected to be better than that. We were expected to be perfect beings of example. But in that we would have to be unthinking slaves. I couldn't do it. Maybe I am just a failure. Maybe I am just a broken thing. But I fell in love with humanity. I fell in love with a woman."
Ameryl: "How romantic!"
Gadreel: "Thank you. Though I think she wooed me. WriterGod didn't punish us directly though. Those of us who had offspring... he punished them."
Ameryl: "That seems cold..."
Gadreel: "I don't want to see my daughter because it's dangerous. I told you this but I never told you why."
Ameryl: "I thought you were trying to make up excuses for your cowardice."
Gadreel: "I can control her."
Gadreel: "With a stray thought I can command her to do whatever comes to mind. If I think of eating, she'll eat, if I thinking of sleeping, she'll sleep. But not just me, any fallen angel or grigori will have this affect upon her. When you let her join The Imperium I-- it was a great service. Here I think she will be safe."
Ameryl: "This does make her a liability though..."
There's a moment of silence between them as Gadreel regrets ever telling Ameryl this dark truth and Ameryl has to realise the implications that one of her agents could end up under the spell of an outside force. She wants to be nice, but she has to be the protector of many - not just the protector of the one.
Gadreel: "All nephilim born by grigori are cursed as such?"
Ameryl: "What about children born by other angels, like the Earth angels?"
Gadreel: "Not my business, I never asked. When we realised that our sins were to be born by our children we became... enraged. We couldn't find the justice in this and so... we rebelled. Ours was the first rebellion against the tyrannical WriterGod but there were many more to come. We sowed the seeds of discontent as others came to realise that they were being forced to serve. Helebon, a ruler of Earth's Hell, fought for his family. High Imp, another fallen angel, would later battle for his freedom. Our rebellion was defeated, but our war raged on ever after. We showed that the WriterGod was not infallible."
Ameryl: "And we come back to Dudael. I want you to speak with Reimi about outfitting this hell's prison for use once again."
Gadreel: "I don't think I can. I wouldn't want to see people subjected to the kind of hell I had had to experience."
Ameryl: "I don't need torture, I just need imprisonment. It is for the safety of all."
Gadreel: "Indigo Shade, you mean..."
Ameryl: "For one."
Gadreel: "I'll do it."
Ameryl: "And your daughter..."
Ameryl: "Go talk to her."
The world suddenly resumes its normal state. The sound of voices blasts in their ears, sounding incredibly loud after such a long period of muteness. Gadreel glances round and then nods at Ameryl.
Gadreel: "Thank you."
Ameryl: "She will be safe with us, Gadreel."
Astrid: "Will I be safe with you, Ameryl dear?"
Ameryl looks at her coyly.
Astrid: "How you tease me!"
She smiles cutely yet wickedly.
Ameryl then speaks aloud and her voice projects across the room for all to hear.
Ameryl: "Welcome to this meeting. We have High Imperial officers as our guests, they are to be treated accordingly. I hope the topic of discussion doesn't upset them..."
She glances at Astrid who frowns. She obviously thought they'd be discussing Indigo Shade today.
Some time later Ameryl is in command of the God-Killer, the great machine designed to negate all great powers of the Multiverse through its mere existence. No one, not even Highemperor, is immune. She wonders if, on this day, she may see the end of her former love? Would she mete out vengeance upon Imeryn? In her absence, the quest for Indigo Shade would continue and while Astrid wanted to join Ameryl she knew her father wouldn't want her there. Instead she would continue to help The Imperium hunt down her wayward sister.
The council decided that they couldn't support Ameryl directly in her attack against the God-Monarchs, knowing that she may well come into direct conflict with the High Empire too. This would break the accords resulting in a sudden collapse of reality - it was named the Only War for a reason. Instead Ameryl renounces her role as Left Arm of The Imperium and takes a contingent of ships, captained by people willing to also forgo their commissions within The Imperium to follow her. They know this is just for show. Once this is over they will be re-enrolled, no questions asked.
Provided they live to return.