The Gates of the Frontier Universe

By: Christopher Villanueva

A Society Called to Arms


Prologue





He could finally see him.

The time it took since they last spoke (mere minutes as it was) felt like torturous hours. From a balcony of his sanctuary, the master watched the siege unfold. Both above and below the remote settlement war had broken out, twisting the usually quiet night into a nightmare. Burning the snowy skies, an invading fleet torched the sparse air defense, while pelting surface defenses to ash. Throughout the glistening white streets themselves, an entire host of ground insurgents plowed through the crowds of civilians, lighting fires of their own.

But he could finally see him . . . which meant their salvation was near.

“Master Vohn!” called one of his associates next to him. “Is that him? The man from the city hall?”

“Yes, Knol!” he huffed, his heart energized. “He’s still alive!”

Sprinting through the wide open street, their contact braved both storms—a frostbiting blizzard, and the scorching hellfire of rocketing ordinance. He was close now, but that meant so were those hunting him.

“Over there!” sounded Knol. The master followed the other’s pointing finger, already seeing the mob in pursuit of their man. “He needs help!”

“Indeed!” agreed the master feverishly. “But our militaries are already engaged, and our backup forces are still minutes away.” He walked up close to the balcony’s guard rail and began pacing anxiously. Below, their contact was nearing the final stretch, except for one more obstacle. “If he can make it across the main bridge,” Vohn pointed to the large bridge extending over the frigid river, “we can protect him.” He then focused his mind, channeling his psychic powers. “SANCTUARY!” he called to the entire premises. “OUR CONTACT DRAWS NEAR! ALL UNITS, PREPARE FOR COMBAT!” He then turned away, drawing his golden sword. “Let’s move! Perhaps we can fend off the invaders long enough for our backup to arrive!”

Knol drew his own sword, a familiar, glowing silver blade. “With the device he’ll supply, hopefully we won’t have to,” he prayed.

The master nodded, with as much hope as he could conjure. “Hopefully . . .”

They hurried back in and down to the ground floor.



A minute later, Master Vohn arrived at the rugged, stretching doors of the sanctuary’s entrance. A team of his subordinates stood by at the ready. “Sir,” opened one immediately, “the contact has prevailed! He’s crossed the bridge; his arrival is imminent!”

“Unbelievable,” returned Vohn, thrilled. He and Knol approached the others with haste. “We may yet survive this.” He motioned to the doors. “Open them; he’s not out of this yet!”

Eagerly obeying, two of the warriors seized the doors and heaved. The tired hinges creaked but were immediately deadened by the howl of the wind and thundering of artillery. Flurries of chilling snow invaded the sanctuary, stinging the master and powdering his robes. Not sparing an ounce of awareness on the weather, though, he brandished his golden sword and marched out.

“Take defensive positions!” he commanded.

He hurried out onto the frost-covered lawn, a few dozen warriors at his back, all gripping glowing glass swords like his. They trooped across the sinking terrain, until reaching the outer gates. On the outside, however, barely a half-mile away charged the mob . . . And the sanctuary’s practically defenseless contact a few hundred yards ahead of them!

“There he is!” Vohn shouted. “The Pirates are almost to him. Get ready!” The others tightened their figure as the contact neared. The master motioned declaratively to the others on various levels of the sanctuary. “SNIPERS, TAKE AIM!” he commanded. Amidst poor sight conditions, dozens of gunners and archers locked onto the mob.

“HELP! HELP!!! THEY’RE RIGHT BEHIND ME!” called the contact. Astonishingly, he darted down the street at top speed, as if unhindered by the snow. He was only seconds away now. “OPEN THE GATES! NOWWW!”

Lowering his golden sword, Vohn lifted an arm, grabbed the gates with telekinesis, and yanked them open. Snow was thrown to the air by the force of the power, and three seconds later the contact flew through the entrance.

“Oh, bless you, bless you!” the man huffed and hacked. Reaching Vohn, he slowed and put his hands on his knees. Wrapped tightly around him by the strength of the wind, his dark cloak obscured most of his features. Fighting it, the contact finally pulled his hood around, revealing a thin, tanned, and thankful face. However, the sting of the storm had burned it bright red. “I have it! The artifact! They . . .” he puffed. “Pirates; they’re coming for it! We can’t let them—”

Suddenly, a barrage of hostile fire pelted the scene, whizzing by, igniting trees, and busting stone! Master Vohn grabbed the contact and threw him in the snow. “Stay down!” he ordered. Then he turned his voice on his forces. “SNIPERS, YOU ARE WEAPONS-FREE! ENGAGE!”

A dazzling onslaught of burning crystal shards and arrows launched from the balconies. Crashing into the rushing mob, the projectiles were reduced to ash, however, incinerated by powerful personal shielding.

“KEEP UP THE FIRE!” he ordered. But with far too much shielding left for the snipers to penetrate, the Pirates burst through the gates, screaming wildly. “Stop them! Defend the sanctuary!” he bellowed.

Along with Knol, his associates darted forth, locking swords with that of the Pirates. In a single instant, dozens of enemies poured into the tight yard of the sanctuary. His own forces numbered less than half, but were far better trained. Through the thick blizzard, glowing glass swords impacted against all manner of remorseful Pirate weapons, spewing colorful shards with every clash. Each cloud of shards spat into the air, lighting the snow, surroundings, and combatants before evaporating away. His warriors were performing outstandingly . . . but their numbers were simply too few.

More Pirates flooded the yard, many just ignoring the forward defenders and making a beeline for the contact—who was still fighting the deep snow to stand. Seeing their precious ally in danger, Vohn flung himself in front of the man. Three steel swords plummeted for his head at once. Lifting his golden weapon in defense, he locked blades with two while sidestepping away from the third. In the time allotted, two other Pirates approached, making to surround him.

The vicious fencing commenced. Vohn slashed left and right, cutting blades away and holding the line. His stained sword hissed and crackled, throwing golden dust to the air in every direction. The enemies pressed ruthlessly against him, every now and again throwing a blow for the contact. However, each time he saved the man and pushed the Pirates back.

“Hold them!” he shouted to his men. “SNIPERS, KEEP UP THE PRESSURE!”

Another two swords lunged for his head, but he dodged. They missed, one plunging into the snow, the other into a stone statue. The master twisted elegantly and shoved his blade into the nearest foe. The impossibly sharp sword penetrated the target’s armor (unhindered by shielding) and drew a spitting stream of blood. The Pirate screamed and went down. Seeing this, the others closed in, swinging their vengeful blades.

“You’ll pay for that!” growled one. He then cocked his weapon back and began to drop it. However, Vohn was too fast. He kicked the man in his leg, putting him on one knee, and then cut a horrendous gash in the foe’s chest. Like his partner, he fell, staining the snow.

“The contact is too precious!” shouted the master. “Do what must be done! Terminate them!” He turned back for the other Pirates, as another sword came flying for his head. He blocked, ready to strike back; but out of the corner of his eyes he saw another enemy lunge for the contact.

“HELP!” The desperate man lifted his arms in futile defense. Just as the executing sword fell upon him, Vohn conjured a concentrated blue energy beam and fired it. The beam crashed upon the Pirate’s sword, splintering it in an instant like wood. Freaking out, the contact whimpered and began crawling away. The master then promptly kicked another enemy from ahead of him before felling the now unarmed Pirate. “Go!” he bellowed to the contact. “Inside the sanctuary! We’ll follow!”

“R-Right!” the terrified man replied. He scurried frantically to his feet, tripping and crushing snow all the way to the doors.

Master Vohn followed. Behind him, however, the enemies were plowing through the defense. As skilled as his warriors were, they were slowly getting defeated, dropping to the ground and spilling blood. Only a few remained now, their chances of survival altogether dismal. “Pull back!” he yelled to them. Panicking, for he knew they would never survive, he called to the snipers again. “SNIPERS, SUPPRESSING FIRE!”

The gun and bowmen unleashed a deadly assault upon the Pirates, momentarily holding them back. But another defender fell to the hoard, his blue sword vanishing in the snow. Three survivors remained and they retreated quickly.

Suddenly, an allied gunship dropped from the sky, hammering the mob with high-powered cannons! And then another descended right next to it! The Pirates halted, thwarted by the ships’ strength, and urgently pulled back. They began returning fire, in an attempt to bring the vessels down.

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