Every culture on every worldline had a legend of an ancient, lost civilization, more often than not denitrified as Atlantis. Many people on those same worldliness would be amused and amazed to find that Atlantis really existed and that it was not merely a continent, but an entire world named for that continent. A lost planet in the Old Universe. Fabled Atlantis, home of our line.

Fabian Sarkhon, Oh, Atlantis

I’m not a god, but I’ve been called upon to play one. People feel that they need the illusion of a godhead and sometimes it is necessary to give people what the think they need to get them to acknowledge what they really require.

Joshua Sarkhon, Interviews with Nathan Taylor

Chapter 4: The Time Sorcerer

House Sarkhon was forbidden by the Guild Treaty to have an official presence on Terra Prime. And so the Embassy was a suite at the Pangaea Arms. It was here that Arenjun held audiences with Priman residents and it was here that he slept when he was on the Pangean plate for extended periods of time. It was a comfortable residence, if modest in size. And secure enough. A squad of Temporal Guardians from House Sarkhon’s legions lived in the adjoining rooms and two always stood guard outside the door of the suite. But the real business of House Sarkhon was never conducted in the room. No, since there were restrictions of the presence of Time Sorcerers on the Sphere under the Treaty his fellow Sorcerers never come there. Not that it was necessary for Time Sorcerers to be in the same room to conduct a meeting. Not when holospace was available, as well as the jump points. Arenjun entered the suite and let his cat, Estrella, drop to the floor. He then went to the tiny kitchenette and opened a can of food for the animal. He placed it in a bowl and rubbed the beast behind the ears. She purred and rubbed her slim head against his hand. One should be good friends with the guardian of one’s soul. She was not merely a pet but a storage repository for his persona should he ever be killed and need a reboot. Not that he was sure that if he were ever killed he would wish to return. Arenjun had lived a long and rewarding life and even the life of a Time Sorcerer has to have it end. All things—even the cosmos itself—have their ends. He thought such thought a lot these day. He had returned from holospace many times in his existence. Not because he clung to life like some coward but because there was always a mission that required him—one more job that needed his attention. Such foolishness, he thought, shaking his head as he went to the bedroom to freshen up and change his garb. He would not wear the grand cloak and gab he had worn at court for a meeting with his cousins, sisters and brothers. Sarkhons tended to be less formal amongst family. Even distant family no longer on this plane. Being a Time Sorcerer meant that one had to behave in a formal manner with most of sentient kind. And that made being casual amongst family all the more precious. He went to the bathroom and took a long hot shower. Being at court made him feel dirty. The Emperor was a good man but there were those in the power structure of Pangea who made his skin crawl—principally the Chancellor. Gharvan was from old money and even though the Rhanns went back into the ancient past to Starkiller’s time and were much more influential than any Gharvan could ever wet dream to be, the Chancellor considered them new money and somehow unclean. Bastard.

Arenjun dressed in a fresh uniform and cloak and went to the wardroom to one side of the bedroom. This always reminded him of an ancient fairy tale popular on a number of the alternate Earths. A wardrobe that contained a doorway to another world. Perhaps the author of that legend had heard stories and had been inspired by them. It was common for Sorcerers to hide jump points in such pieces of furniture. He’d once had an associate who had hidden one in an antique police call box. He opened the wardrobe door and stepped in.

One the other end of the tunnel was his private Star Palace, which was in an orbit around the Great Sphere. As he stepped from the jump connection the two Temporal Guards on duty there snapped to attention and saluted.

The jump connection was on the command bridge of the palace. Nori Vinjon, a Randarian navigator who was chief navigator of the palace stood up from his command couch and approached the Time Sorcerer.

The Randarians were a race of artificial beings who specialized in mathematics and hence in interstellar and inter-dimensional navigation. Nor, like most of his people, was thin, blue skinned and had pointed ears and a balding head. His eyes were dark and Rands seldom if ever smiled.

“Greetings, Your Lordship,” said the navigator.

“Greetings, Nori,” Arenjun replied. “Is the grimoire ready?”

The Randarian nodded. “It is in place in the holospace conference hall, sire.’

He gestured toward the door that leads to the room just to port of the Command Bridge.

“Thank you, Nori,” said Arenjun and walked through the door.

The walls of the holospace room displayed a mural of the Terra Prime system. Arenjun walked out onto the dais and stood beside the pedestal on which rested the grimoire. To his left was the great nebula known as the Vault of Heaven and to the right was the Sphere.

At the orbital distance of the palace the Sphere looked like a big wall. You had to get really far out into space to see the whole thing, with its 2 AU diameter. Then you would see that it was not a complete sphere but rather a wide band around the sun. You couldn’t put caps on the Sphere because they would not be orbitally stable and it was—at least according the Sidairian Cosmic Engineers—one hell of a mess keeping the plates of the Sphere in orbit as it was.

A wonder of the universe was Terra Prime. And perhaps the most important hunk of real estate in the entire cosmos. Certainly it was the most disputed.

Ages ago the Atlantean Time Sorcerers and their elder race cousins—Sidairians, Seraphians, Taurans, et al, had been involved in a really big, really long war over who controlled Terra Prime and the preserved other worldlines habitats that populated it. The war had gone on for nearly a century with no sign of victory or end in sight for either side.

Eventually there was talk of one combatant using a Nova Inducer on the central sun of the Terra Prime system. That brought both sides to the treaty table and led to a cease fire that lasted for ten years while all interested parties argued over an end to the hostilities.

The result was the Guild Treaty—that less than perfect, much despised, armistice that had so far maintained what people had come to accept as the peace for over six centuries.

And now, once again, that peace was threatened and it fell on the shoulders of the Sarkhons to preserve and, at the same time, push things along in the direction of social evolution.

But this time—if things worked out—the Guild Treaty would be circumvented and over passed and Terra Prime would be the world it had always been meant to be. That was the Sarkhon plan. And it would take much effort and much care to make it work.

Arenjun placed the palm of his right hand on the grimoire control panel.

Lord Arenjun Sarkhon said the Guider voice in his head. The voice of the Guardian of holospace. Communion is approved.

The image of Terra Prime faded out and was replaced by the figures of nine Time Sorcerers. The Supreme Council of House Sarkhon. At least the Genesis Prime wing of House Sarkhon. There was another wing far away on Atlantis Prime but there was a rift between the two factions of the House. A rift that went back to the time of the Great War and the Guild Treaty that ended it.

This wing was Arenjun’s wing, composed mostly of his brothers and sisters. Both living and ghosted.

Sitting at the center of the Council was Joshua Sarkhon, the current Chief Executive of the Council.

“You look tired, Arenjun,” said Joshua.

“Work days are long on the Sphere, Brother,” he replied.

“And progress is scant,” said Julia, Joshua’s wife who sat to his right.

Arenjun looked at cousin’s wife. “Progress always seems scant to the impatient and is not easy to discern from inside the process.”

“Yet,” Julia smiled. “The situation in Arcadia continues to decay. Duke Nathaniel Taylor, or best hope for a resolution of the problems in our favor, continues to languish in jail. And his family is still in hiding somewhere in the capital city.”

Arenjun frowned and looked toward his cousin Joshua. “I have managed to convince the Emperor of Pangea to send in a covert mission to rescue the family and perhaps, if possible, break the Duke out of jail.”

“And once they have been rescued?” asked Elvis Sarkhon, the youngest brother of Joshua.

“Then we will relocate them to a sanctuary worldline, where they will be safe until they are needed.”

“Hopefully one that is under our control,” said Joshua.

“I will settle for one where the Wallaces cannot reach them,” said Arenjun.

“And the father?” asked Julia.

“He will be taken to a neighboring plate where a covert center for the resistance has been set up. Nothing like a strong resistance to unsettle a dictatorship.”

Joshua nodded. “Very well, but remember, under the treaty the Shaitanuses were allowed to keep their damned gamma ray Nova Inducers. They still orbit this system ready to move in at a command from House Shaitanus. Whatever we do in Arcadia we must not provoke another Terra Prime war. It would be the end of everything.”

Arenjun nodded. Of course it would, he thought. “I will proceed with all necessary caution, cousin.

But I will not sacrifice the future to the mistakes of the past.

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