The Stories of Outpost Zaxxius - The Traditionalist’s Tale
Altarr Cyllovius closes his eyes and replays the Song of the Sphexx in his mind. His hood is pulled up over his head as he concentrates on every note he heard sung. He considers sharing this memory within the M.A.Z.E., but he ultimately decides against it. This experience is for him and him alone.
A doorway inside the private lounge opens and one of the Synthetics indentured to Outpost Zaxxius makes its way in. As someone who is used to being able to read the emotions and intentions of others, these ancient relics have always made Altarr uneasy, but he greets the Synth cordially and ensures there is no sign of discomfort obvious in his demeanor.
“It is time for the mid-cycle meal,” the server announces. “What would you like me to bring you?”
Altarr places an order and watches as the Synthetic leaves the room to retrieve the requested items.
The Grayborn looks at his surroundings and feels odd taking advantage of the luxurious perks of Outpost Zaxxius. These perks are afforded to him as a high-ranking member of the M.A.Z.E., yet his recent stance against the actions of that organization make him feel disingenuous for continuing to accept the benefits of that association.
Times have changed, and Altarr finds himself thining back to the earliest days of the M.A.Z.E. Outside of the Phaerrox and the original Khronnen races, the Grayborn are considered by many to be the most powerful beings in all of Cosmerrium. Interestingly, despite the recognition and influence they enjoy today, this race and their homeworld of Nevoz 51 were not even part of the known Universe of Cosmerrium until shortly after the Third Flares. The discovery of new travel lanes allowed this remote planet and its telepathically sensitive inhabitants to become a part of the common trade and travel routes. It didn’t take long for the Grayborn’s unique abilities to become known, and in short order they began to be invited into the highest levels of Cosmerrium’s societal and intellectual circles. At first their abilities were little more than an interesting amusement for many of the powerful elites who requested their attendance at their functions and meetings, but in time their ability to access the Midway or “The Gray”, as it was commonly called, became a valuable asset in the collection and dissemination of information across the Five Rings.
It wasn’t long before the M.A.Z.E., which stood for the Meshed Assemblage of Zonal Enlightenment, was formed. For a people who were used to communicating telepathically in a way where there could be no mistaking intent or context, the Grayborn found the communication methods of the wider Universe to be painfully inefficient. The M.A.Z.E. was established to refine this flow of information, and in the earliest days of this vast information network its purpose was clear and pure – the unfettered sharing of information and ideas across the expanse of Cosmerrium’s Five Circles.
With the new responsibility that the Grayborn held there came both power and status. It did not take long for others in the Universe who also wielded power to strive to align themselves with the M.A.Z.E. so that their own interests would be improved by this vast network.
Slowly but surely the information being shared started to change. Data was reviewed and repackaged for public consumption, and undiluted facts gave way to interpretation of the data being relayed. An eventual partnership with the Phaerrox of Z’tratos gave the Grayborn unchallenged social standing within the Universe, but it also furthered their fall from the purity of ideas that the M.A.Z.E. was founded upon.
The rise of the Traditionalists, as they had come to be called, began somewhat recently. Dissention had begun to rise in the ranks of the M.A.Z.E.’s Grayborn, and heated discussions as to how the Midway should be best utilized for all the citizens of Cosmerrium had created distinct factions within the organization. Altarr Cyllovius had never intended to become the voice of the Traditionalist movement, but an impassioned speech he had given to the M.A.Z.E.’s Adjudication Council had been somehow recorded and broadcast without that Council’s knowledge or consent. Overnight Altarr had become the most recognizable member of the Grayborn Traditionalists. Those who agreed with his stance offered their aid, while those who wished to see his rebellious words silenced worked behind the scenes to quell this new threat to the balance of power that had been established within the M.A.Z.E. Everyone knew who Altarr Cyllovius was now, for better or for worse.
Altarr stands, grabbing his large staff. The wooden implement is an antiquated item, made of a flora type only found on his homeworld of Nevoz 51. The organic nature of the staff is meant to be a symbol of the Traditionalist’s arguments for a return to the early ways of the M.A.Z.E. The wood is hard and impervious to nearly all forms of damage or manipulation. Only Grayborn artisans schooled in an ancient form of woodcraft know how to bend and shape the material. As such, the staff has been made to symbolize the M.A.Z.E. and its need to return to the days when it was beyond influence by outside forces – a time when only those from Nevoz 51 could manipulate it.
The doorway to the room opens and Altarr Cyllovius turns to address his server. Instead of a tray of food, the Synth is pushing a hover-dock with a large crate on top. The crate is long and thin, the perfect size to fit a Grayborn’s body inside of.
Altarr does not need to be able to read the Synthetic’s mind to realize what is happening. His enemies have sent someone for him, eager to see him silenced.
The Grayborn grips his staff and thrusts it forward. The wood is hard and it will be unkind to anyone it comes in contact with. The Synth is too fast for Altarr, however. The Grayborn does not even see his attacker move before he realizes the staff has fallen from his hands, and he is quickly losing consciousness.
It is dark when Altarr begins to wake. He is in the crate. The fit is tight and he cannot move. He closes his eyes and reaches out into the Midway, calling for help, but he cannot make a connection. The crate is preventing it. Whoever has arranged this abduction knows something about Grayborn abilities. There are a few substances in Cosmerrium which could disrupt the telepathic connections of the Gray, and this container is clearly lined with one of them. Altarr cannot call for help. He is cut off from the outside.
“10k in untraceable asset links,” says a deep and raspy voice. “That should be enough to buy your contract out I imagine.”
“It is,” replies a smooth voice. Altarr recognizes it as the Synth who attacked him.
“The deal is done then,” says the first voice, and a short time later Altarr feels the hover-dock begin to move. He is being taken somewhere.
“No use trying to call for help or to read my mind,” says the raspy voice. “We had this box made special for the likes of you. Makes sure we do not get any surprises from that big old brain of yours.”
Altarr prepares to speak, but his abductor continues before he can do so.
“Oh, and no need to talk either,” says his captor. “Sound dampeners in the dock will prevent any noise at all from getting out of that box. You could yell and fuss all you’d like, but to anyone who sees us, this is just a crate of cargo being loaded onto a ship for transport off of Outpost Zaxxius.”
These are the last words Altarr hears spoken for some time.
It has been at least half a cycle since Altarr felt them take off in whatever ship he now finds himself in. He has remained quiet in his crate, knowing that any struggle is futile. He expects that he will find out what is happening to him soon enough, and who has captured him.
His assumption is that it has to be someone whose power would be threatened by the Traditionalists. He wants to believe that no other Grayborn would be involved in the abduction of one of their own, but with what he has seen in the Universe, he sadly cannot even rule out that possibility.
Altarr hears a door open, followed by the jostling of his crate.
“We are going to let you out,” the raspy voice he recognizes from his capture at the Outpost says. “If you try anything, measures will be taken to ensure your compliance. Be warned, you will not like what happens if you mess around.”
The lid of the crate pops off with a hiss and the sudden blast of light forces Altarr to shield his large black eyes. As he blinks and allows his eyes to adjust to the room, he sees a pair of thuggish individuals before him. The raspy voiced abductor is a reptilian Carzynian, while his companion is a female Scorrox. The Carzynian has a pistol in his hand, the barrel of the weapon pointed at Altarr.
“Why have you taken me?” the Grayborn says.
“Right to the point. I like it,” the reptilian replies.
Altarr reaches out with his mind. Freed from the confines of the box, his abilities are no longer stifled. He cannot read the thoughts of the Carzynian, his access blocked by neural implants fixed to the side of his head. He reaches out the Scorrox next. She is not protected the way her partner is, and Altarr quickly finds the information he is seeking in her mind. They are from the Bleeders Guild. She is named Mbyra Jmgyra. He is Noveunn Leen.
“Stay out of my head!” the Scorrox hisses. Her long tail launches forward and Altarr feels the sharp stab of a stinger pierce his flesh. Moments later he crumbles to the floor, unable to move.
“I told you that you wouldn’t like what happens if you messed around,” Noveunn laughs and then looks at his partner. “Can he hear us still?”
“Yes,” Mbyra replies. “My sting will keep him immobile, but he can see us and hear us.”
“Excellent,” Noveunn says, returning his weapon to a holster at his side. “Then I won’t be needing this anymore. Heck, I couldn’t have used it anyway. You aren’t worth anything dead. Nah, your value is alive, so our instructions are to transport you and whatever information you may have safely to the Thorn.”
The Mortal Thorn is a terrorist organization at the top of Cosmerrium’s list of most dangerous criminal entities. Altarr has never heard of them working with the Bleeder’s Guild, but he has also never heard of the two organizations being at odds with each other, so it is possible they are working together in his abduction.
“What do they want of me?” Altarr asks, pushing the question into Mbyra’s head. The poison she has hit him with has made him unable to talk, and he cannot access her thoughts, but he can at least still push his own thoughts out and communicate that way.
“What do they want?” the Scorrox’s repeats the question. “What do you think they want? They want what everyone else in Cosmerrium wants from a Grayborn – access to what you know, and what you can find out.”
“The ultimate information source,” Noveunn adds. “The value you would have to the Bleeders is immeasurable. Information is power, and you are tapped right into the source!”
“I will not help them,” Altarr thinks. “I will not be used, and when I do not appear at my next scheduled meetings, others will come looking for me.”
“He says that others will come looking for him,” Mbyra tells her partner, relaying the thoughts that their immobilized captive is pushing into her mind.
The Carzynian laughs.
“You’ve made yourself a whole lot of enemies,” he snaps. “Powerful enemies at that. Heck, there was a contract out for your assassination, did you know that? Lucky for you we got to you first and paid that Synth off to help us nab you. Anyway, your enemies want you gone, and they will take your disappearance to be a gift. Trust me, they will find a way to spin the information to their advantage. That’s what you guys do, right?”
“I am a Traditionalist,” the Grayborn thinks. “I do not spin the truth. I tell the truth.”
“You better tell the truth to those who paid so handsomely to have us deliver you to them,” Mbyra says. “They didn’t even want us to extract the information they needed from you. They said they wanted to do it themselves. There is no telling what will happen when the Seeress gets ahold of you.”
The Scorrox takes a small cylinder out of her belt and uses it to snap an image of the Grayborn as he lays prone on the floor.
“I am sending proof of capture to our contacts now,” she announces.
“Good, then we can seal him back up and keep him safe for the rest of the ride. I want to be done with this. Right from Hvalkatar to that Outpost with no time for rest. I need to eat, wash, and sleep. I swear I can still smell the stink of the Grave on my gear.”
“Let’s do it,” the Scorrox replies. “And yes, you definitely need to wash.”
Altarr is helpless to resist as the two Bleeder’s Guild thugs lift him up and shove him back into his crate. The lid is reaffixed, and he is alone once again with only his own thoughts.
The Mortal Thorn has called for his capture, but why? He hopes he will have the strength to stand up to the Thorn. He hopes he will be able to deny them aid in whatever plot they wish to use him for. He hopes he will survive this. He hopes.
The Song of the Sphexx enters his head once again, and he allows himself to remember the hopeful lines that the Cavern Sphexx sang of. In the memory of those words he seeks solace and strength, and the will to endure whatever lies ahead.
The Bleeder’s Guild ship races forward. Outpost Zaxxius grows further and further away, until it has disappeared completely from the viewports of the vessel. This story is not finished, nor are any of the tales we have related about the travelers we met in Outpost Zaxxius - yet our time here is at an end. Rest assured, however, that the Universe of Cosmerrium is vast. There are many more Outposts to visit, and countless more tales to be told.
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Originally published on 03.23.23 by Four Horsemen Studios at https://sourcehorsemen.com/updates/blog/the-stories-of-outpost-zaxxius-the-traditionalists-tale