Prologue - The Beginning of the End

A man sat quietly in this drab waiting room with walls of cinderblock and a faint smell of skaishi [1], most likely from a previous occupant. This man, athletic build, approximately 1.77 kono [2] in height, sat and waited patiently while drinking his aldo [3] from a paper cup. He was undoubtedly a wuss, since he weakened the taste with milk and sweetener. No true military man worth his weight in salt would dare drink aldo in any way other than in its pure, bitter, dark gray form. Then again, this particular man who sat in this waiting room on this particular day was rather unordinary.

A female of medium height, thin, but slightly curvy build, wearing military office wear, opened the door to this man's left of where he was sitting, and said, "General Meyer, General Karzay may see you now."

Meyer stood up, turned to the lady, and bowed slightly, replying, "Thank you, lieutenant."

Alongside the lieutenant, Meyer walked down the corridor, and he noticed just how mundane these walls were. As a matter of fact, the entire building had a rather depressing sense about it. He wondered why Karzay would choose to stay in a place like this. Meyer fought side by side with Karzay at Kadesh and Thermopylae, Alesia and Jianye, Bach Dang River and Osaka [4], and many other places over millennia. But something was different now. The mood had changed. It seemed as if this silent, dreary environment was some sort of commentary on the finality of their mission. For millennia, they fought for the right to be where they were that day. Moreover, for all that time, they fought for the ability to reach their final destination, which was not yet, but very soon to come.

When Meyer and the lieutenant reached the door at the end of the hall, the lieutenant unclipped her keycard from her lanyard and swiped the card through the reader. Leaving the door only slightly ajar, the lieutenant poked her head inside and said, "Sir, General Meyer is right here."

Karzay stood up and walked to the door, opening it himself, slightly surprising the lieutenant. Meyer figured the lieutenant was used to Karzay simply sitting at his desk, likely uninterested in whatever she had to say.

When Karzay opened the door, he enthusiastically, again to the shock of his assistant, said to Meyer, "Come in! Make yourself comfortable!"

Meyer simply bowed slightly and stepped inside the office. Karzay noticed the look of bewilderment on the lieutenant's face and realized an explanation was in order.

"I know I seem to be out of character today, Lieutenant Theissnau. Not only is Meyer on the Council of Generals at Bikanel Academy, but I have also personally known him since we were both teenagers. He's a good friend of mine."

Theissnau beamed slightly in understanding, "Oh! That makes sense now."

Karzay said, "By the way, Theissnau, this is General Shardu Meyer, obviously," then turning to Meyer, said, "This is my assistant, Lieutenant Jilly Theissnau."

Meyer smiled, extended his hand, and shook Theissnau's, saying, "It is a pleasure to meet you, lieutenant. And you have my greatest apologies for having to deal with this ruffian."

Karzay simply growled, while Theissnau snickered. To maintain what composure she had left, the lieutenant said, "I think I better get back to work. It is likewise a pleasure to meet you, General Meyer."

Once the lieutenant left and shut the door, Meyer immediately stated, "There's something familiar about that woman. I can't quite put my finger on it though."

Karzay replied, "That's Trauma."

"What? Are you serious?"

"That's Trauma."

"But, she's not - uh -"

Meyer made motions with his arms and the rest of his body to gesture several different physical attributes that most women would find unfavorable. Karzay broke this display by saying, "Yes, I know. I'm quite aware that her current form is that of a female that most men would indeed find attractive."

Meyer replied, "I still wouldn't make any sort of pursuit, because that would just be weird at this point. But I have to say - wow."

"Hah! Anyway, I assume your visit wasn't simply for the purpose of ogling my assistant, correct?"

Meyer partially ignored this attempt to change the subject, continuing with, "Does she know who I really am?"

"No, I haven't had the stomach to have that conversation with her yet. I think that would be too much for her at this juncture."

"Does she know who you really are?"

"I finally explained things to her a few months ago. She was an emotional wreck, for better or for worse, after we had that conversation. It took her a while to process everything, but things are mostly back to normal now."

"Who else do you have under your employ?"

"Brown Doppelganger and Black Wrecker. Doppelganger is a newly minted major, and I have him managing the supplies for the base. Black Wrecker has been a major for a while now, and I think she'll be ready to become a colonel sometime in the near future. She has been recently very hands on with the new drill sergeants and volunteer trainers, trying to help them transition from only taking orders to being able to give them."

"It's amazing you all were able to reunite so easily."

"You know better than anyone what it means to be a Timeless [5]."

"Although you may be right in that assessment, the general idea of reunification is actually what brings me here."

"I figured that's what you were going to say, but explain."

"We live in a reality that is vastly different from the one we left at Zero Hour [6]. Although times were changing in Otherworld [7], this planet, although similar in physical properties to the place we left, is far, far different in many ways from what we left when we performed the Spindle Ritual at Osaka. As you well know by now, this is the place where we have to perform the final piece of the prophecy, yet we know comparatively little about our surroundings. We left a world where we spent several thousands of years attaining knowledge, then we essentially vegetated in the Spindle [8] for a few hundred years, as opposed to quickly reincarnating, like we usually do, and now we have the task of learning on the fly in a fairly hostile environment, all things considered."

"That is most definitely true, but what is your point?"

"We're behind schedule, and we don't know where most of our important comrades are. Perhaps even more importantly, we have no idea where most of our most dangerous enemies are. And we are only talking about Timeless here, mind you. We're also in the top brass of the most powerful country in this world, which essentially dominates the world, but the government is on the verge of collapse."

"One would think that in a world like this, as seemingly technologically advanced as it is, with also its deep body of knowledge, that it would not leave the running of the country to the senile Council of Elders over in Braknel. Young people are considerably more impulsive than old people, and almost the entirety of the top ranking military officials are recent alumni from the expansive military academy system. In this life, I'm only 25, but I'm a general. You're only 22, and you're also not only a general, but you have one of the most prestigious positions in the world."

Meyer finally sat down and poured himself another cup of aldo, not even asking for Karzay's permission. He started drinking his beverage in a manner as if it were alcohol. From instinct, Karzay briefly grimaced at this, but then realized who was in the room with him and quickly got over it.

After the awkward moment, Meyer spoke, "Lung is on the Brakanel Council of Generals."

Karzay looked like he was going to hit the roof. "How do you know this? When did you find out?"

"I found this out a few weeks ago. She was performing some sort of ritual with subordinates of hers. If I had to make a guess, some combination of Swift, Lynx, and Duck were among those present. I felt the signature right away, and after both of us had a tense moment, we went our separate ways."

"I'm surprised you even thought it was safe enough to take the trip here."

"If I didn't have Storm as my assistant, I wouldn't have. He's out there right now keeping his eyes and ears open for anything suspicious. He has his little sister and her friend helping us out."

"Puff and Snicker?"

"Yes. I know they're not too much, and they cannot possibly hold off Lung for long. But I don't think Lung would be stupid enough to try something just yet, assuming she doesn't have something up her sleeve that I didn't account for."

"You know better than to believe you know everything about Lung, ever."

"That's very true. That's why I don't intend to spend long out here. Once we're done with business, I'm immediately heading back to Brakanel."

"I have your back if things start suddenly going bad. Braknel could be a threat to the both of us though, if Braknel were to somehow fall under Lung's control."

"That would take quite a drastic turn of events, but you are right that we would have a lot of trouble taking on the forces of the capital, if the absolute worst-case scenario were to come to pass."

"As it stands, I have Whirlwind to my southeast, but I am not too worried about her. She is as incompetent as the day is long, and she has such a tiny force that it would be an embarrassment to not completely crush her. Black Ignition is to my southeast. I'm a lot more worried about her, not because she is particularly talented in her own right, but because she has a knack for attracting ronin who may be willing to take us on for good rewards. I'm not entirely sure who else we have in any given direction, especially on your side of the Triae River."

"I have my suspicions about a lot of people, but I can't prove anything. The only one I know for certain other than what we've already discussed is the fact that Black Duchess is the Administrator General of Kojiro Garrison."

"What? Are you certain of this?"

"I am absolutely certain. I'd be willing to make any wager on it."

"This is very bad, you know. This is very, very bad."

"Why do you say that? Shouldn't knowing the whereabouts of an ally be a boon?"

"Although you generally have the initiative on the rest of the Timeless in regard to determining the signatures of the others, it's not as if the rest of the Timeless are unperceptive fools who will just lie down. What will you do if Towline or Wolf catches wind of her location and decides to start a conflict with the other?"

"We have to find Towline and Wolf before they find her. But what do you propose we do in regard to that? It's not as if I don't already have some pretty big problems at Braknel. I can't both keep my eye on Lung and extend my already paltry forces to hunt down those two."

"Leave Wolf and Towline to me for the time being. While I'm at it, I'll see if I can find Crusher, Light Avatar, and Lady Spindle, too."

"I have no idea where you'll find Crusher. He likes to keep a low profile and disguise a lot of his actions under the guise of being insane. As for Light Avatar, you'll find her with her sworn sisters; she'll probably be the easiest to find. Just look for an academy where four women pretty much make a top-secret special forces squadron. As for the Lady of the Spindle - good luck on that one."

"Do you wish to perform the Dragon Ritual?"

"Ugh, you had to ask. Didn't you?

"It's a valid question."

"Hmph, fine. Try to look for Inferno, too. Also, it wouldn't hurt to search more on the part of the prophecy concerning the 'Zhongda Strategist.' Honestly, I have no idea who or what that may be referring to, at the moment. I know when we fought for the unification of China in Otherworld, the Wei strategist, Sima Yi, was referred to as Zhongda, but I cannot imagine his having anything to do with our current situation."

"Whoever or whatever this 'Zhongda Strategist' is, he, she, it, or they must not get in contact with Inferno. I really don't know what this warning is about, other than talking about the resurrection of the 'Spindle Pillars,' which I couldn't even begin to tell you what they are. All I know is that they sound really nasty, along with all the other fates that apparently will arrive to your doorstep if such an event occurs. Luckily, it says nothing about it actually destroying your ascension. From my interpretation, it will just make your journey a hundred times more difficult."

"Let's just handle one thing at a time for right now. All of this end chapter prophecy stuff is making my head hurt, and I used to talk to Lady Spindle."

At that moment, Meyer's mobile phone started to vibrate, and he saw that the number came from his own private hideout office on the fringes of Braknel Academy. Meyer excused himself, and took this call just outside of Karzay's office, in the corridor.

Meyer, slightly annoyed, said, "Storm, it better be you, and you better have a good explanation for hanging around in my hideout office."

Storm replied, "Something big is going down. I can't get in touch with my sister or her friend. Their status beacons went dead when they started walking by the old drill field. At the same moment, my lieutenant told me of suspicious activity in the same area by Lung. He told me she was creating what looked like some sort of makeshift prayer circle. I went in here to discuss this, because of how sensitive this matter is. I didn't want to tip off our enemies nor did I want to start a panic."

Going from annoyed to concerned and bewildered, Meyer ordered, "I want you to send one of your blues [9] to pick me up at Old Turey Pier in as discreet of a manner as possible. I'm going to leave here immediately. I don't like this at all. Monitor the situation from a safe distance away. Do not do anything until I get there. I repeat, do not do anything until I get there. You may be in a lot of danger right now."

"What do I do about my sister? If I'm in a perilous situation, what am I to do about her? She can't handle herself!"

"A dead hero may be a hero, but he's also very much dead."

"But -"

"This is an order! Do you understand me, major?"


"Do you understand me, major?"

"That's my sister out there! I'm not going to let anything happen to her!"

"The only thing I want to hear leave your mouth when I ask this question one more time is 'Yes, sir!' Now, do you understand me, major?"

"Yes - sir."

"Good. Now, watch from a safe distance. You are no good to me dead or captured."

"Wait - dead or captured? What is going on here?"

"Just do what I tell you, and I'll explain things when I get there. If I tell you now, you'll panic. Follow my orders, and I'm on my way ASAP. Over and out."

Meyer hung up before he could let Storm respond to him. Immediately, Meyer frantically rapped on Karzay's door, and Karzay opened it while giving Meyer a strange look.

Meyer exclaimed, "I have to rush back to Braknel! Lung is making a move!"

Karzay replied, "Oh, no. Do you need me to provide reinforcements?"

"I'll be fine on my own for right now, but you may want to keep the next few days open, if you get my drift. But I have to go."

Meyer hastily turned around to leave, when Karzay spoke, "Take care of yourself - Breaker."

Meyer did not stop, but replied on his way down the corridor, "You too, Steel."

1. skaishi - Imagine something similar to cigarettes in regard to culture, legality, and general effects on the body, but smelling as putrid as marijuana.

2. kono - A measure of distance similar to an Earth meter

3. aldo - A drink made from ground herbs, prepared in a way similar to coffee on Earth, often with a percolator

4. The entire story will be chock full of historical references, particularly names of places and people. In most cases, it's not terribly important that you know the exact history of the place or event, but if you really want to know, you'd be better off searching on your own, else these notes may become excessively long. In most cases, it should be obvious when the story refers to a historical person or place as opposed to somewhere or someone fictional.

5. Timeless - Anyone who is important in this story is part of the Timeless. Basically, these people have immortal souls that reincarnate over and over again, and also have superhuman abilities.

6. Zero Hour - This occurred a few days after the end of the Summer Osaka Campaign, probably in late June or early July of 1615 on Earth, just outside of Osaka, Japan.

7. Otherworld - Earth

8. Spindle - This is where all Timeless originate and return. Moreover, all that gives Timeless meaning and power comes from the Spindle, one way or another.

9. blue - A soldier with a code name that begins with blue. This is generally the highest color rank a regular person can get. See "Other notes" for more details.

Other notes - Someone's color code next to his or her name signifies a rank related to one's connection to the Spindle. People can be infused with Spindle power and be taught in ways that utilize its energy, but it is very difficult, if not impossible, for a regular person to have power that matches that of a Timeless. That is why the brown and black ranks are almost all exclusively Timeless. Furthermore, these ranks are more unsaid and secret. In public, people are generally referred to by their ranks within this world's Academy system, which are similar to basic military ranks.

Furthermore, assume time in this world moves at approximately the same pace as time on Earth. I could have written out different units for time, but it would have been more confusing than anything else.

Also, if there is something I didn't put in the notes that seems confusing, it's possible that I forgot to clarify something, and there may be a need for an edit. More than likely though, I made things intentionally vague, and part of the story is reading through later chapters to understand what I meant in earlier ones.