Chapter 4

“Abraxas is the sun, and at the same time the eternally sucking gorge of the void. Abraxas speaketh that hallowed and accursed word which is life and death at the same time. Abraxas begetteth truth and lying, good and evil, light and darkness, in the same word and in the same act. Therefore is Abraxas terrible.”

~ Carl Jung, Seven Sermons of the Dead

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Memphis Nova I (Ganymede)
Imperial Pyramid of Garuk Motankhamun IV
1969 AD SR

 

A portion of the pointed crystal capstone shifted out of phase and was shunted into a dimensional pocket that had been created for it as an architectural feature when the pyramid was built some 400 years ago. The flat, horizontal surface left exposed with the capstone gone was crafted from the same dense Jovian marble as the rest of the pyramid, but had been polished to a mirror finish in contrast to the matte finish of the pyramid’s sides. The glistening platform, which was half a kilometre square, sat three kilometres above the planetoid’s surface.

This open area atop the largest pyramid in the Martian merchant empire was the imperial landing port for Memphis Nova I: the throneworld and largest planetoid in the group of four that collectively served as the capital of the First Martian Solar Dynasty of Garuk Motankhamun IV.

In the leaning crystal tower – the part of the structure that remained when most of the capstone shifted away – teal double doors twenty-two-meters-high opened just enough for the Pharaoh, and two of his imperial guard to walk through.

In keeping with a personal ritual he observed every time he came up here, the Pharaoh habitually walked over to a small platform on the north side of the tower and ascended the solid crystal stairs. His guards took their formal stations, one at each side of the enormous doors. In standard Martian military fashion, they wore only sandals, skirts, bracers, wide, round metal collars that came down over the chest, and a simple metal nemes helmet with striped-silk lappets that flowed around their shoulders and down their backs. Their rank, the highest in the empire, was designated by the gold used for the scant amount of armour they wore and the teal silk accents. Regular soldiers were outfitted in silver and green. On the left hip, each wore a holstered Martian sun-pistol, on the right, a simple, curved short sword.

Garuk Motankhamun crossed the elevated platform and stepped up a dais to regard the solid gold telescope there. He ran his fingers over the plaque underneath. It was engraved, mostly with Martian hieroglyphs, but there were Latin letters as well. Sanctuary letters they were called out here beyond the edge of Sanctuary Rim. And as one who had visited Sanctuary perhaps more times than any other person from outside The Rim, the Pharaoh could read the letters easily.

To Galileo Galilei
these worlds are
Ganymede, Europa, Io, Callisto

He admired the primitive telescope with respect just as he had so many times before. Indeed, every time he came to the landing area. It reminded him that the beings of Sanctuary had the potential to move forward just like any other intelligent, sentient species. It incited him to consider yet again, the perpetual sacrifice of humanity, who for good of the rest of reality, were being held back, limited, and kept in the dark. He had long ago stopped questioning whether this was right or wrong and had simply resigned himself to respecting and protecting the people of the little blue and green jewel at what had become the sacred, diplomatic heart of all reality.

Occasionally, he heard the tick and a whir of servo-actuators altering the direction of the telescope so that it always remained fixed, ceremoniously, upon the state of Italia on Sanctuary: fixed on the very place where Galileo had first discovered the four Galilean moons of Jupiter: those worlds that had become the seat of his empire.

Though a man of average height, Garuk Motankhamun was thicker, wider and more powerfully built than seemed possible. A lifetime of training with the Martian warpreists in the high gravity arenas of the Jupiter stations had assured him an intimidating, confident presence. And while he was proud, he was not haughty. Further, this pride was offset perfectly with a gregarious nature and a legendary sense of humour. His subjects loved their Pharaoh, and even his rivals, both in commerce and war, found it difficult to dislike him. He was a consummate merchant, diplomat and host, but despite his patently gruff form of graciousness, most deemed it wise to be wary that the bright light of his social graces did not shade from view his proficiency and his passion as a fierce and knowledgeable strategist and warrior.

In this moment though, the great and esteemed Pharaoh Garuk Motankhamun IV of The First Solar Martian Dynasty was a father filled with high emotion at the thought of seeing an adopted son he had not seen in over a year now.

He felt the tingle in the artificial atmosphere before he saw the orbital gatestream open.

“He arrives Pharaoh!” announced the senior of the two imperial guards. His tone, rather more casual than one would expect of one addressing an emperor, was tinged with excitement. But Garuk was a gentle ruler who trusted and respected his aides and treated them as equals unless business dictated he must do otherwise.

The Martian Exodus had demanded much of him; and had offered an unparalleled education in the art of leadership.

He had been a young man when the Pentarchy had asked him to move his imperial capital from Mars to the four moons, and even then Garuk had felt no bitterness. This, despite the enormous undertaking it had necessitated. He had agreed completely with the Council of Five’s insistence that, now that the Earthers had developed the capacity to look out beyond their world, it was no longer reasonable for his capital to remain on Mars.

Relocating the seat of the empire out beyond The Rim where the Pentarchy’s illusory Eden Veil kept humans from discerning the truth of their unique place in the multiverse was the reasonable – the necessary – thing to do; and the nearly planet-sized moons of The King (Jupiter) were the reasonable choice. Their proximity to Sanctuary would ensure the Pharaoh could continue to fulfill his millennia-old hereditary obligation of serving as its protector – an obligation he executed proactively and passionately. He genuinely loved and revered the innocence and beauty of Sanctuary above all the other worlds known to him – he loved it even more than stale, dry Mars in the end.

In ancient times, before intelligent beings even walked on Sanctuary, The Wrath of Sol had destroyed Tiamat, the fifth planet of the Sol system. The resultant reorientation of gravitational fields had moved the event horizon of Sanctuary Rim outward and, robbed of even of the scant, residual fluxing probability weak force made available by proximity to the Rim and channeled to them by the 22 equatorial and 22 meridial pyramids, the enormous realization engines at the martian core, had ground to a halt – never to come on again. Eventually, Mars began to dry up. First the water disappeared from the surface. Then it began to leave the atmosphere as well. Once the alchemical power of the realization engines was lost, the consensus was that the planet was doomed.

As he descended the stairs to the main platform, the Pharaoh kept his eyes to the east. In the evening sky, Jupiter filled the lower third of the view to his left. Its enormous arc ran behind Memphis Nova II (called Europa by the Earthers) almost perfectly bisecting it along its equator. In the distance, the pale blue point of light that was Sanctuary was beginning to shine above the darkening orange of the sunset. Garuk smiled at the astronomical perfection of the moment.

The electricity in the air became more pronounced and the hair on the Pharaoh’s arms and full beard stood on end (it was the fashion of Martian royalty and their courtiers to have clean-shaven heads). The teal lines of the landing lights were now fading up into view. It was impossible to tell if they lay upon or beneath the polished marble of the landing area. They began at the edge of the pyramid and ran to its centre gently curving here and turning sharply there to form the outline of a giant, shining ankh, the imperial symbol of Mars.

Effortlessly and silently, the glowing teal ankh in the polished marble rotated around a point at the centre of its loop at the top so that the lines of its shaft moved from their default position facing south toward the east face of the pyramid just as a silvery blue flicker appeared in the sky in the distance. The gatestream was opening. The point of light was perfectly centred between the parallel glowing landing lines formed by the staff of the ankh.

Then, with a flash of white light the gatestream ignited fully, burning open a hole in spacetime. It continued to burn until the large ship had passed through. And not just any ship: a Martian dreamship: a rare remaining testament to the power of the ancient realization engines and that powered the Martian alchemy, now lost forever.

Beyond amplifying Mars’s intrinsically limited ecological potential, the realization engines, informed by the focused thoughts of the imagineers, had also created the alchemically powered talismans: the sun guns, the gatestreams and the dreamships.

Having traversed the dimensional threshold from the Sea of Tears to regular spacetime, the Ramses Dynasty galleon glided toward the Pharaoh and his guards at an altitude that set it on a perfect vertical line with the height of the landing surface of the pyramid.

The imperial guards had walked up to stand with the Pharaoh just outside the glowing light of the loop of the ankh at their feet.

All three men were smiling as they watched the ship glide onto the edge of the pyramid perfectly centred between the landing lines. Even after her flat bottom had connected with the marble surface she slid silently toward them. When the galleon had reached the crossbars of the ankh, it triggered the return of the hollow capstone of the pyramid to this dimension, the evening sky faded from view to be replaced with four triangular walls of solid, two-meter-thick crystal that soared half a kilometre up to a point. The crystal capstone diffused the orange of the setting sun in a way that, while making the room brighter, imbued it with a softer, more pleasing ambiance. The dreamship glided silently into the ankh until her prow came to an easy rest precisely in the exact centre of the loop.

She was The Ramses IX, flagship of the Martian navy. Of the four remaining Martian dreamships in existence, she was undoubtedly the most magnificent.

Every aspect of her structure, even the rigging and more superficial appointments, had manifested permanently in some alchemical form of solid silver-blue light of varying shades. The only exception was her enormous sails, which were only ever invariably, a perfect, unsoiled white.

The typical din of landing preparations was heard before the dreamship settled to a complete stop. And then over the starboard railing of the foredeck came the voice the Pharaoh had so missed hearing for the past year.

“A glorious TEN of a landing if I don’t say!” the voice squealed with wild exaggerated exuberance. “Wouldn’t you say so landlubbers? A PERFECT little-green-men TEN!”

The lad looked older, thought the Pharaoh who was grinning from ear-to-ear. The senior of the guards affectionately slapped him on the back.

“I stuck the landing for you, your highness. Did I not!” The boy’s hair was shorter, in the navy style, and it was hard to tell, for the deck upon which he stood was about 12 meters straight up from where they were standing, but it looked as though he had filled out some. Otherwise he had not really changed. The Pharaoh reminded himself it had only been a year. It had felt longer for he had missed him so.

“I see they have not educated the Sanctuary gibberish out of your lexicon master Kilroy! But I must admit that it does appear they have taught you how to properly land a dreamship!” The Pharaoh’s heart was bursting with pride.

“That they have, King Gary! That they have!”

And so, the Pharaoh of the First Martian Solar Dynasty, guardian of the gateway to Sanctuary and the young man whose care and training he had been entrusted with, rushed to the gangway for a long anticipated reunion.

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To be continued in Chapter 5

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