Kade Vs. Stardust
By Grizzly Moose
A revolution of ethos was coming, after millennium of waiting the planet would find a new union under The Stardust – the gravest substance in the universe. Stardust had chosen this path for the world; it had chosen her. Kade stood tall holding a pinball-sized obsidian-black orb that hung from her neck. She was the guardian of the last known traces of stardust.
Four-thousand years ago it had predicted her birth and the coronation that she was waiting to undergo. Today was her sixteenth birthday, the most important moment in her life, and in the history of humanity. She was to take her place as the head of The Vicar. The grand marble doors leading into the Exalted Ballroom opened signaling it was time for her presentation. Kade hid the orb beneath her elegant empire gown and walked towards the audience. Reaching the front of the small, chrome stage she felt her face go pale. Kade looked to the mountain-sized auditorium that housed three-million people, all staring at her. It was the first time she had seen anyone besides her parents, The Vicar and the tutors who had spent her entire life preparing and educating her.
She swallowed with her jaw, an exercise learned long ago, and her face regained color. Remembering her lessons she smiled to the millions who worshiped her as the vessel that would be the will of The Stardust. Her father and Eskiro, the current head of The Vicar, joined her at the front of the stage.
“I give you Kade of The Stardust,” her father announced through electronic amplification. Every person stood and cheered. The hypersensitivity started in her ears, all her senses following in a split-second avalanche that ripped her in two. People stood cheering, and the thunder of applause made her go deaf. She blinked and the lights overwhelmed her, all she could see was white. Her mouth went dry and her limbs numb. It was the beginning of her conversion. Half of her soul was melting as the remaining half was binding to The Stardust.
She blinked, and her eyes focused on a silent and still crowd; they stared in awe. The power of her presence had stopped every single person from taking a breath. Kade looked away; this was beyond what she expected. She turned back to the millions of faces patiently watching and instantly had an intimate knowledge of every person in the room. Through The Stardust, she connected with them, and they could feel her.
She found the smile of a boy so voluminous she heard his thoughts: I love you, Kade. She blinked again, focused on other faces. Thoughts began to flood her mind: Love. Hope. Stardust. Kade started to understand, to know these people: her people.
The Stardust was revealing the essence of their personal character when an ear-shattering explosion roared through the ballroom. A storm of rock, mortar, steel and marble formed at the apex of the room and rained over the crowd. Kade watched a large chunk of rubble rain down and crush an old woman. She felt a line of ice pierce her mind. Kade screamed and fell to her knees.
Forcing her eyes open, she got to her feet and froze as she saw the room in chaos. She looked to The Stardust and heard painful thoughts. People were searching for survivors and Security trying to combat the turmoil.
Kade’s attention shifted to three dark wires that had descended from the hole in the roof to the floor. Wanting to run she turned from the chaos to see her father dragging Eskiro to safety through the Grand Doors. She stopped, grabbed the orb, closed her eyes and asked The Stardust for help.
Kade felt rough hands grab her free hand and pull her other from the Stardust. She fought as she felt her arms pushed to her back and bound with rope. Digging deep into her lifetime of training Kade found the courage to open her eyes. She saw three bandits in brown robes made from poor, holy cloth and faces covered by black wool scarves. One finished tying her hands as the others guarded Kade with large knives. When her bonds were secure, the bandit nodded to the guards. They sheathed their knives, picked her up and carried her towards the center of the room. A palace guard saw Kade as the bandits reached the wires and he yelled. Two dozen guards started pushing through the chaos of people and rubble. Kade heard their courageous thoughts but knew that their efforts were futile.
An elbow to her stomach knocked Kade to the floor. A bandit tied her feet to a wire as another thief grabbed the wire and the two ascended. The palace guards fought to save her, but the bandits held their positions and fought the guards back.
As kidnappers pulled a screaming Kade to the rooftop, her people turned to watch their savior cease to exist.
On the roof several bandits assaulted Kade. They picked her up, put her in a bag, zipped it shut attached her to a zip-line and sent her towards the city walls. It wasn’t an ideal introduction to the outside world. These criminals would get the same welcome when they met the armies of her people. She was Kade of The Stardust and that meant over a hundred thousand people would fight to see her free.
The bag came to an abrupt halt with her head banging a wall. The zipper flung open, and Kade felt a cloth placed over her mouth causing her eyes to close. She was unconscious in seconds.
It was morning when she regained consciousness, and the soft light burned her closed eyelids. Her parents ordered shielding of all the windows in her home palace. They wanted her protected from any danger. Kade blinked her eyes open and the burning intensified. Covering her eyes with her palms, she rendered her visual sense useless but found the others amplified. Every sound felt bigger; she could hear everything. The sounds passed through her ears becoming a living paint that etched an intensified world of sound with deeper vibrancy than the canvas her eyes revealed. Turning she saw tall, towering shapes that she supposed were trees. She took a deep breath and every root, nut and leaf filled her mouth with a medley of tastes she was experiencing for the first time.
She stood and spoke. “Hello, is anyone there?” Kade asked guessing her captors were watching her, but the effort returned no response. Lost, she was unable to keep her fear at bay. Kade pulled one hand from her face; the burning returned, and she replaced it. Calm, she must find the calm, her instructors had lectured her. None of her advanced lessons had ever prepared her for a scenario like this. Exhaling Kade watched the sound of her breath ripple through the open air. The waves showed her a path to the closest food she had tasted. A short bush with tiny leaves that she pulled off chewed and found rather sweet. Turning she felt something stiff tied to her stomach. Stroking the object, she felt a book. Hiding in a tree’s shadow Kade pulled her hands free, untied the book and ran her fingers over the text wondering what it contained.
A breeze blew across her skin, and she experienced in greater detail and flavor the architecture of this forest as no human ever had. When the people in the ballroom laid eyes on her, this is what they saw. Stepping she saw a dark area, a hole, and immediately thought of a cave. The Vicar had lectured her on cave dangers on many occasions. Everyone feared the dark horrors that lurked within them. They liked to quote the ancient texts: Stars were in the sky, humans should keep the sky close. That lecturing seemed convenient to her past and irrelevant to her future. All her life she was Kade of The Stardust, that Kade had orders and morals. This Kade was on her own, needed to read this book and decide her next move. A hollow cry arose from the forest, and she looked towards the cave. Its emptiness intrigued her and felt she could read the book in its darkness. Her teachers had attributed this feeling to The Stardust, but she was beginning to think it was something else.
Standing at the caves entrance a chill blew from the darkness covering her skin in bumps. Kade yelled, and the echoes gave her enough of a visual to move into the cave. Twenty steps into the darkness she moved passed the first turn with a single stumble. Opening her eyes the cavern was another new, beautiful dimension. Smooth, dark walls dotted with jagged pieces of rock making it unpredictable at every glance. In other places, she saw pillars that hung from the ceiling and some that rose from the floor. They all excited her – she could do anything in this unknown place. Anything had to wait. She sat down on a flat rock and cracked the book. The text glowed enticing her deepest imaginations.
Following hours of reading Kade found herself filled with curiosity and denial both igniting anger and confusion in her heart. This book told her, Kade of The Stardust, that everything she had ever known was wrong. Many passages involved The Stardust with knowledge beyond anything The Vicar taught her. Where did these lies come from – The Vicar knew the truth of The Stardust. She wanted to burn the book and run home but continued to read. Somewhere in this book, it would tell her these were lies.
Kade stopped reading after the chapter that explained her new senses had no connection to the Stardust. They came from a genetic defect that occurred in a singular person every two-hundred-generations. She had no spiritual link to The Stardust but had a biochip surgically implanted in her brain. This chip bonded to the defected neurons in her brain and rewired it to enhance her senses, giving her insight into others souls.
She slammed the book shut and threw it across the cave. The echoes spread and her sonar glowed igniting the cave in new beauty. It wasn’t true; she knew it couldn’t be true. Her parents, The Vicar, what would they have to gain?Her discombobulated thoughts jumped from her senses to the anathema she had read. Some of it must be true. What she learned about her relationship to The Stardust was false. That made no sense and went against everything The Vicar taught her. Those writings that focused on her, those she had to consider. It had described her senses and her development of them with no ambiguity. She was Kade of The Stardust, a soul unlike anyone else yet someone knew how and what she would endure.
She took a deep breath, tasted clean water, drank it from a small pool with a steady drip and walked back to the book. Kade flipped through pages glancing at chapter titles, but nothing offered any help. They contained the history of the human race and how they had come to this planet: Fawlin. Instinctually she ignored those; Kade knew that long ago The Stardust had given this world to humans. Her eyes swelled when she turned a page and saw a map. Standing, she walked a hundred yards and glanced in both directions. Looking at the map, she saw the similarities. The map was of these caverns; they went on for miles. Studying the map closer she saw several symbols that dotted the caverns, She hoped they designated settlements. Those who abducted her were in these caverns; they must be. She would find them and wield The Stardust upon them. It would be a day they would long remember.
A mile into the caverns Kade found a patch of fungi to settle her grumbling stomach. Walking and deliberating she came to discern and acquiesce her enhanced senses. She learned to use the sound of her footsteps to map the cave while she used her eyes to read. After being told she was special her entire life, this journey made her feel that she was.
She discovered that the people who colonized this world called themselves The Auncyen and had invented the chips in her brain when they first settled here. Deep within the planets thousands of miles of caverns they discovered a unique mineral that was unlike anything humans had ever contemplated. They named it seoroq; it consisted of atoms constructed like human cells but had the rigidness and conductivity of many metals.
They learned how to use seoroq for many medicines. It was programmable like any old-world technology with the ability to bond to and over time replace human cells. The seoroq became celebrated amongst all humanity. Kade no longer found herself angry. Her vitality was split. This discovery seemed truthful, but The Stardust had been her one true companion her whole life. How could that be false?
A trail of red-heat disappearing down a distant corridor caught the corner of her eye. A footstep, she turned, saw two heat trails in the distance. Something was aware of her presence. She searched the cavern, picked up a stone and felt her body absorb the rocks structure. It became an extension of her body, and she knew every instance of how and where it served her in an attack. Her muscles tightened enabling her to fend off the maximum number of aggressors. The first attacker came from her back.
Kade spun, and the stone exploded from her hand, realizing what happened, after the fact, she breathed deep breaths. The humanoid figure fell, she heard footsteps advancing. Her jump was too late; an arrow was heading towards her. She wanted to duck but heard steps advancing, lowering her center of gravity was tactically flawed. Taking a deep breath she held her arm up and the arrow pierced her wrist. Instead of screaming she felt her forearm go numb, and her hand go limp.
She bent and grabbed a stone with her dominant hand. Her body did the rest; she catapulted the rock towards the cloaked figure that had fired on her. The stone hit the figure in the head, and his body fell to the cave floor. She felt a single drop of blood roll down her forearm as she turned to see another figure. He stood five feet from her with a dark club held above his head. Kade concentrated on the weapon as the man swung it. Her eyes and ears calculated its exact path and she could defeat it.
Kade waited until she knew the man was sure of his victory, In the last moment, she bent back dodging the blunt instrument. The man lost his balance and stumbled to his knees. Kade attacked with precision and elegance. Her body twisted ninety degrees as her hand came down on the back of the man’s neck. His body went limp a moment. She watched it transform to powder and collapse into a cloud of dust.
Disturbed, Kade stepped back and searched the caverns; she saw, heard or felt nothing. Taking a breath Kade tasted nothing unusual and continued investigating the situation. She turned one of the unconscious men face-up and pulled his mask back to see his profile black with dust and dirt. Moving a finger across his forehead, Kade watched the man fall to dust. A day ago she would be crying at this sight, too many strange things were happening – everything confused her. Why hadn’t the book mentioned this power? She felt her mind fill with fear. What other powers did the bio-chip give her?
A pinching came from her arm, and she remembered the arrow. She broke off the arrow head and pulled the wooden shaft from her arm. The arrow made a hole in her arm large enough for her to see through. Her gut told her to look at anything else; her mind forced her to stare at the gap in her flesh. No blood came from the wound, it was the chip she knew. She tore off a piece of her dress and wrapped the wound to protect it. Turning to the last man Kade made sure his robes covered him, threw him over her shoulder, grabbed the book and resumed following the map.
The next five miles filled Kade’s senses with wonders beyond anything she had imagined. A cough broke the endless silence. Kade laid the man on the ground, and his eyes flickered open. He focused on Kade, sat up, and looked in all directions.
“Where? Where are my companions?” he muttered in a scared whisper that Kade heard at normal conversation volume.
“I touched them, they…. I’m sorry.”
“Kade. You are Kade of The Stardust,” Kade stepped to the side studying the man.
“How do you know that?”
“Your defect will destroy any of us without it.” The man realized his words, jumped to his feet and hid in a corner. He pulled a small blade from his belt and held it at ready trying to stop an idle Kade.
“What is your name?” Kade asked forgetting one of her oldest lessons and the man thrust his knife at her. Kade focused on the man’s eyes “I will not hurt you,” she pushed hard enough. Through the bio-chip, she heard the answer in her head. “Do not worry Roke; I do not want to hurt you.”
Roke’s eyes turned to slits; his muscles tensed as he growled back. “Keep out of my mind you wikkjaz!”
Waving his blade, he lunged. Kade looked the small, stubborn man over and pulled the orb from her neck.
“This is the last Stardust in the universe. You must listen, or you will be destroyed,” Roke turned and ran down the cavern. Kade watched him go as she slipped the orb back under her dress. She turned from the coward, looked to the map and continued.
She walked searching for what to believe: the book or The Stardust – her past. Since her coronation nothing made sense. With each passing step, she sensed that she would have to make a choice. That choice would have to wait. Kade rounded a corner, and her universe experienced a vicissitude.
Light: brilliant and orange, something she hadn’t seen in several hours. It flowed down a winding cave that led to a settlement. She prepared herself for whatever was in the village by finding filling her stomach with some water and fungus.
Rounding a corner she found herself in a domed cavern with walls covered in billions of chisel scars bore of solid rock. The cavern stretched at least ten miles and was five hundred feet at its highest. A yellow vine ran the distance of the ceiling emanating an orange blanket of light over the cavern. Under the vine were hundreds of small, round, domed structures molded from dark-green clay. Each structure had a six-foot tall entrance with a piece of rough wool hanging across it.
A suspicion grew deep in Kade’s mind as she noticed that the paths separating the parallel rows of huts were empty. The silence here was eerie – unnatural; there should be abundant life in this place. She took a deep breath. Her senses couldn’t see it, smell it, taste it or hear it but she knew someone was here. Holding her necklace above her chest, Kade yelled. “I am Kade, and I have the last of The Stardust,” nothing, “Show yourselves,” she finished. A chill came over her, and the hair on the back of her neck stood up.
She hesitated, hid the necklace and spun one-hundred and eighty degrees. She saw a man a foot taller than her dressed in long, flowing red robes that covered a bulky body. Shocked that she hadn’t heard him approach, Kade looked up to his face: A beard covered his entire visage except two beady yellow eyes. Both rested on a thick and leathery neck connected to a sturdy, robust body.
“You have done well,” he spoke in a deep, stern voice that echoed through the vast cavern. Kade stared into the man’s eyes for several moments, yet his thoughts were silent to her. What had happened to her? Why had The Stardust and the biochip failed her?
“I too have a chip in my brain, just like ever other Captain amongst my people,” Kade back-stepped, “but only you Kade can manipulate your senses, we can only keep thoughts out.”
“Why have you brought me here?” Kade questioned.
“The journey was a test, to confirm the defect was real,” the man spoke. Groups of men and women, as large as him, approached from all directions. “Now that we know the truth, your education can begin,” Kade took another step back. “You did not take what they taught on the surface as truth.” The man smiled, and Kade searched her mind: What the Vicar taught her, what she learned herself?
The Vicar had instilled in her a sense of superior righteousness. When the explosion ended her coronation, it destroyed metal and mortar, but it took away any sense Kade felt towards her former superiority. This man wanted her to follow that path again. That she would refuse. She still had to decide her future, so she proceeded with care.
“But what you will teach me is true?”
“Would you rather go back to your Vicar and be their puppet?”
“I’d be better off as your puppet?” Kade spat, a little too forceful, she reminded herself to concentrate. The crowd ad doubled in size.
“It is the way it was meant to be,” the man answered, and with that the negotiation was over. Kade knew it but made sure the man remained oblivious. Sizing up the situation, Kade took several steps back till she could see all the people that had gathered. She grabbed the necklace and held the orb up.
Diplomacy was the first subject The Vicar schooled her in, and that meant facial reading. The conversation had been long enough for her to learn his profile and she blinked to see the sonar of his face.
“It said in here, “Kade pulled the book from her dress, “that long ago my people conquered yours and renounced seoroq then banished you to these caverns,” Kade declared with all the sympathy at her command.
“The Stardust granted us the gift of seoroq and we are determined to do its bidding,” he replied.
“Yes The Stardust,” Kade asserted hiding her fear and shame, “You denounced my people but not The Stardust,” she finished and watched the crowds eyes become glued to the orb.
“The Stardust does not lie, but your people do, we are bound to follow it.”
“Why do you say we?” Kade responded in an innocent tone and saw in her sonar what was invisible to the naked eye. His obicularis occuli tensed but stopped short of a blink; he was nervous. “How can you speak for so many?” She had made her decision – turning back was no longer an option.
“I am the ancestral leader.”
Lormir, Kade heard in her head, that was his name. He was faltering. She wanted to smile but turned that urge into a split-second pout.
“the Stardust is your ancestral leader,” she professed shaking the orb, and the crowd gasped. “Is it not Lormir?” Kade finished.
Lormir stared as Kade retreated and threw the necklace into the air. She picked up a rock; waited till, as she had calculated, the orb was over the crowd. With all her might she released the rock. It would hit its target; she was sure. The people would see what, if anything, was inside. Kade refused.
With or without the Stardust Kade knew what path she must go on. Her power was her defect, it belonged to her, to do with what she thought honorable. She would remember The Stardust, but it ceased to be her future.