(Echo Suite Saga #2)

by Mike Mallow

The battle for Fairchance is everything. The ultimate quest. The kingdom, the planet, the star cluster, and forbidden love. A Maiden of Exas has the right to claim it all, but can Romani hold it against invading armies, Absolutes, and destiny itself? Fairchance is more than a place; it is the end and beginning of everything for Romani … and Heartspark.


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“Play the recording.”

A woman in a white lab coat delicately pushed a button on her wrist controller and the crackling sound of a stressed voice filled the room.

“This is Cline Janus of the Dark Skies Brotherhood. This message is for any remaining members of the brotherhood or employees of Ryvio Laboratories. I am transmitting from the Nyx Outpost near Mako Minor. Our base is under attack by... something. It’s darkness. Pure darkness! I can’t get a good visual of it because it’s moving so quickly. All I can see is a black streak moving against the starlight.”

A loud explosion overwhelmed the voice on the transmission.

“Oh hell, it took out the last power source! If anyone is nearby, I request immediate evacuation. The attack started with our vessels being destroyed, so there is no possibility of escape on my own. I know of no other survivors at this time.”

There was a pause as the softer sounds of static and heavy breathing crackled over the transcript.

“The attack seems to have stopped. I’m looking out the window of this node and I’m not seeing any movement. Either way, I still need to be evac....”

Three loud metallic thuds interrupted the man’s voice before screaming flooded the broadcast.

“It’s at my door! It’s coming through! This is the end!”

The screeching of metal being torn dominated the recording for several seconds before the male voice was heard once more.

“It’s a man! A tall, stone man! With wings! He …it’s coming straight towards me. A man’s face. I’ve seen him before. Doctor Heartspark! It’s the enemy of Ryvio! Doctor…”

Screams of panic and pain continued until the woman pushed another button and stopped the recording.

An eerie silence settled on the room. Undisturbed by the tragic recording, the woman looked at the distinguished, well-dressed man casually slumped in a tall chair at the end of a long polished table in the Ryvio Industries boardroom.

“Thank you, Dr. Lada,” Ryvio Kopek, the company’s president and founder, acknowledged. “What more can you tell us about this event?”

“We received this transmission two years ago,” Doctor Gail Lada shared. “The man in the audio didn’t state the star date before recording, but the digital timestamp traces it to not long after the collapse of Mutinellis.”

“There appears to be a strong correlation here between the black hole, the reappearance of Jonathan Heartspark, and the decimation of this outpost,” one of the older board members calculated.

“It’s clear that Doctor Heartspark won the arms race to create the first black hole generator, but it also appears there was indeed something more sinister at work here,” Ryvio noted. “He’s seemed to have managed to fuse all of the black hole’s energy into himself, but also seemed to have absorbed some kind of celestial contamination contained in the particulates.”

“Have we been working on a project of this magnitude?” a board member asked.

“Just the black hole generation aspect,” Ryvio replied sheepishly. “In conjunction with the wormhole generator, both were deemed to be failures until today. What Heartspark appears to have done goes beyond imagination. They claim what we do is mad science, but I would go so far to say that Heartspark is firmly planted within the realm of insane science.”

“Heartspark Ultimate,” Dr. Lada interrupted. “That is the name we have attached to this new being.”

“I would posit ‘Heartspark Absolute’ as the description that poor soul gave reminded me of those celestial beings of legend,” Ryvio suggested in rumination. “This plays also into what I just mentioned about the theoretical presence of celestial contamination. Regardless, I am jealous of his new title.”

“Are we here to vote on something?” an impatient board member angrily interjected.

Ryvio smirked and nodded. “Yes, my apologies, and thank you for waiting for my arrival from the Mako System to convene business. There are a number of things we need to attend to – housekeeping mostly. We need a vote to restart the work on our own black hole generator, for obvious reasons. We should also investigate either a way to duplicate this Absolute form or a way to counteract such a powerful being.”

“I would vote for that,” the angry delegate stated.

“All in favor?” Ryvio asked, not detailing the issue any further.

“Aye!” the board droned in unison.

“Excellent,” Ryvio commented before swiftly moving to the next topic. “We also need to officially sever our ties with the Dark Skies Brotherhood. It would seem their operation on Mutiny was a complete failure. Of the seventeen ships Vester Loveless promised to add to our labor force, only one returned. And of that ship, there were only one-hundred and forty survivors out of thirty thousand, as well as no gold. There were twelve other ships en route that disappeared, and four never left Mutiny that we can tell.”

“Has this Mr. Loveless addressed this issue at all?” one of the members queried.

“Vester has gone missing and his ship never registered as being in route to this system. Given the circumstances that transpired at Nyx, it would be safe to presume he is deceased. After Vester, the only remnants of the Brotherhood is the station on Coil, but none of them have the charisma or caliber of leadership that Loveless possessed.”

“I move that we sever ties with the Dark Skies Brotherhood,” a board member offered.

Ryvio grinned. “All in favor?”

“Aye,” the group harmoniously answered.

“Very well,” Ryvio concluded. “As you know, our new laboratory is currently being constructed on the Ulamechian moon of Zensho and should be completed within the month. With luck our next meeting will be held there. With that, let’s adjourn.”

The board members arose from the long table and mingled with one another a few minutes before exiting the room. Only Ryvio and Dr. Lada remained and he watched impassively as she gathered her equipment and charts from the meeting.

“I want to thank you for the work you have done here on Ulamech,” Ryvio finally addressed the doctor. “You have done an incredible job of launching our sister operation and helping us now to establish it as the primary base.”

Dr. Lada nodded emotionless. “I still have doubts about some of the experiments you have brought with you.”

“The black hole generator?” Ryvio defensively replied. “This has been the flagship of my research for the past decade. Though I have not disclosed it until recently, I have invested buckets of my time to cracking the technology. I’m not about to abandon it, especially now that it has been realized by Heartspark – the bane of every particle of my existence.”

“Did you really just disclose it though?” Dr. Lada questioned. “Both that and the ability to create Absolutes have been secret projects that have been going on for years.”

“Top secret projects. Even the board doesn’t have the clearance to know everything,” Ryvio corrected arrogantly. “There are only five people who know this project exists, and three of them never left Bessinger before it was swallowed by the very thing they were passionate about. And from our competitor no less!”

Ryvio pounded the table in anger, prompting Dr. Lada to quietly return to packing her equipment.

“Regardless,” Ryvio concluded as he stroked his fingers across the metal cassette that contained the audio recording. “It’s a good thing we have been working on it. I have a feeling our project will soon be a necessity for the continued existence of the Fairchance system.”

Just then there was a knock at the boardroom door.

“Enter,” Ryvio called.

A younger man poked his head through the door and spoke nervously. “Sir, there is a message coming in for you from the edge of the solar system.”

“Huh,” Ryvio hummed to himself. “Patch it through to here.”

The young man nodded and disappeared.

“Who could it be?” Dr. Lada wondered.

Ryvio smirked. “I suspect that Mr. Loveless did escape the chaos after all.”

A moment later, static crackled over the table intercom before a clear voice drowned it out.

“This message is for Dr. Kopek,” the voice stated.

“Please, Mr. Loveless, call me Ryvio.”

Vester seemed panicked and out of breath as he proceeded. “I am just now coming into the Fairchance System and I need to arrange an emergency meeting with you. We barely escaped the destruction in the Mako Belt and Mutiny appears to be a total loss.”

“It would seem you and Mutinellis have something in common,” Ryvio responded coldly. “We just voted to terminate our contract with the Dark Skies Brotherhood.”

“No, please,” Vester begged. “Dr. Exodus was masquerading as Jonathan Heartspark. It appears that he has harnessed the power of a black hole and fused it to himself to create a more powerful being. I intercepted a distress call from Nyx...”

Ryvio cutoff the crime boss’s report. “Vester, Vester. Firstly, it is extremely uncharacteristic of you to have misplaced your chill. Where is that dastardly facade that I’ve come to know and love? I miss it a lot right now. Secondly, we have already received the transmission from Nyx Station, so we are fully filled in there. And finally, the failure of your organization to collect intel is disappointing to me. Jonathan Heartspark isn’t an alias for Dr. Exodus. Jonathan Heartspark is his actual name and Exodus is the alias. You could have even verified that with us if you hadn’t been busy bathing in your own ignorance.”

“We didn’t encounter him until after our last talk,” Vester sputtered incredulously.

Dr. Lada noticed Ryvio’s face glow red with frustration. “Listen, none of this matters because you failed to deliver on any promise you made. You failed to even deliver on your contractual obligations to us. We have already voted to sever ties and I’m not going to drag the board back in here to undo something I believe to be right.”

“You will regret that decision,” Vester growled, changing his tone.

“I regret hiring you in the first place,” Ryvio snapped back. “So any future regrets are negated by my current one.”

There was a long pause over the intercom, to the point where Ryvio began to reach in to close the communication. This was when Vester began speaking again, more calmly than before.

“I’ve been awake now for two days. I am in my ship’s escape vessel with one other occupant who has yet to awaken from her ice nap. We departed with no supplies, so I’m a bit hungry and cranky. To kill time, I have been doing my own due diligence towards your operation and I managed to tap into some encrypted transmissions stored in our shared storage space. Heartspark became an Absolute, and, what do you know, you’ve been trying to do the same. Because Heartspark’s success destroyed all your progress, you’re trying to find a quick and dirty route to achieving the same goal. Have I got your attention now?”

Ryvio leaned towards Dr. Lada. “Six people now know, I suppose,” he whispered to her before speaking back to Vester. “So what do you think my next move is?”

“You’re going after Doddridge,” Vester answered confidently.

Ryvio laughed. “Well, I guess the only way you’ll know you’re right is to meet me there. But what are you really going to do in that scenario?”

Vester responded in a deep voice, his grim resolve restored. “I will personally deliver you those regrets.”

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