The emptiness of the space skip was calming to Iphis; she used the black backdrop of space to clear her mind. The journey took many days, but it was finally coming to an end. Finally, finally, the pieces of her plan were coming together; it had been in the making for over twenty years. She pondered her place in the universe and where it would be once she took over from Iphis.
“Don’t forget our agreement.”
The voice came from a dark corner in the room. She was sitting on an armchair smoking a cigarette; her voice was deep, evidence of her decades-old addiction.
“I need your assurance that you’ll be loyal to me when this is all done.”
Iphis turned towards the woman in the shadow. She gave a hint of a smile, knowing that the woman would not let her down.
“You will have my full assurance. Besides, without me, you will not rise as Epsimess.”
The woman laughed dubiously; she leaned forward with just enough light illuminating her wrinkled mouth, revealing dark yellow almost black teeth.
“Thanatos is delusional; he grabs at the power that does not exist, he believes that he is the only one who would bring this glorious Order to new heights. We only allowed him to stay in power this long in fears of total collapse.”
The lady stood up from her chair, still hidden in the dark.
“We will see the end of that old fool.”
She continued and walked forward, standing next to Iphis, peering out the window into the dark abyss.
“What about Izzar?” Iphis looked at the woman from the corner of her eye, not turning fully.
“What of him?”
“Will we be killing him too?”
She had a hint of affection in her voice towards Izzar, something the other woman picked up immediately.
“The boy will be no threat to us once Thanatos is removed. So you may do to him as you please.”
The two stood there in silence; they had not much to say, but a question lingered within Iphis, but she dared not ask.
“When we invade the Citadel….” The other woman said, breaking the silence, “I would like to confront Thanatos myself.”
“Will you be strong enough?”
The woman glared at her with a snarl, but then she smiled with an evil cackle.
“I am stronger than you can imagine.” She continued; her eyes grew dark, and her yellow smile widened.
“I’ve found what Thanatos is looking for on Dessix; I can feel that he hasn’t seen it yet in my bones. This is the advantage I have over him.”
Iphis got shrills from her head to her toes; the old woman in her presence had been mysterious for all these years, and now as if trying to consolidate her control over everyone, she was slowly revealing more about herself.
“We are almost there, shall retire to my chambers to rest for the battle ahead.” The woman turned around and walked towards the door, only to stop before opening it.
“Are you sure you are ready to face him?”
She didn’t allow Iphis to give an answer; she was left alone with that question lingering. Was she truly ready? A smirk grew on her face; the answer was obvious, though Izzar she was not sure she could face. Was it him the old woman was referring to?
Iphis closed her eyes, thinking hard about Izzar. There were so many secrets surrounding the boy, she did not have the opportunity to study him intently. It was true; she wanted to kill him in her womb, but that was years ago, and now still she wished she had succeeded.
Giving the order to terminate Sorath too was very hard; Sorath was her prodigy; he was the one destined to rule the Order of the Ipsimus. However, Igor ruined her plans; Izzar was supposed to be an experiment that worked, and Thanatos decided to let the boy live instead of dying as planned.
Seventeen years ago…
She was in pain, dazed and confused. She had been in stasis for the better part of six months, but she didn’t know that. Iphis was lying on an operating table, her belly was open, and medical staff was all around her, busy stitching her up. In the far end of the room, she could hear the cry of a baby; he was loud and did not stop. One of the nurses came to her to check up on her after she noticed Iphis was awake.
“Can you speak?” The nurse asked emotionless. Iphis tried to respond, but she could only move her lips.
“She is with us.” The nurse said to the doctor, running a stitching bot over the cut on her lower tummy. The doctor shot her a look and peered around the room, looking for someone.
“Someone inform the Epsimus.” He was speaking loud enough for the whole room to hear him; he handed the controls of the bot to his assistant and came around to see Iphis. She knew him very well; they’ve worked together for the last four months before she fell pregnant and sometime during her pregnancy.
“Ah, Iphis.” He rubbed his hands together, evening out the bloodstains on them. “You are finally awake. We’ve been operating for the last eight hours. But, unfortunately, little Izzar is no normal baby.” He removed his gloves and placed them on one side; he had a pair of goggles on his head that he lowered back over his eyes. They were tinted red; the Doctor suffered a rare genetic disorder that canceled specific light spectrums from his eyesight. He once told her that the goggles help him to identify those colors he cannot see.
She tried speaking again, but no words formed, she was trying her best to pull herself up, but her body did not cooperate. She could feel the sting from the robot over her stomach, but she couldn’t react to it.
“A physical response is all we need.” He said, brushing off her visible concerns.
“You’ll be up and about in no time.” The doctor walked to the other side of her, studying her face and every movement she made in it.
“The genetics bots have confirmed a ninety-four percent match with the DNA of Primis. He is almost an exact copy of him. You almost destroyed all of my research by trying to kill him; luckily, he survived.”
Though she couldn’t move, the doctor proceeded to strap her arms and legs. Then, finally, it felt like the bots were finished with her, and the pain she had earlier was no longer there. The table flipped up, helping her be in a standing position; she could now see the entire room and notice almost thirty people there.
Before her, a holographic figure flickered to life; it was Thanatos. Iphis was still angry at Thanatos for what he’s done, so when his image appeared, she managed to move he hand away from Thanatos
“Congratulations, Iphis. Izzar was born, and you’re free to go.”
Then, the hologram disappeared, and the restraints on her came to lose, making her fall to the ground, bruising bother her knees.
A cloaked figure was in the shadows; she came closer and placed a garment around her naked body.
“Come, girl.” The cloaked woman said in a deep and old hoarse voice.
They exited the operating room; Iphis was still weak and leaned on the other, carrying her. She realized she was on the Morningstar; it was strange. The cloaked figure took her sown some dark corridors, up to two lifts, and finally into her private chambers, the door behind them closed.
She was placed gently on her bed; Iphis laid down as she tried to get the world around her to stop spinning; the cloaked woman refused to take down her hood to reveal herself.
“It has been made official, Izzar is to take the mantle from Igor upon his death, and Sorath has been removed as an heir.”
Iphis knew who she was but understood her secrecy; the Order was watching.
“I will be killed if I am seen talking to you, so please, do not address me by name.”
Iphis understood; she too was in danger, especially after attempting to murder Izzar a few months before. She was not sure who she could trust or even where she stood with Thanatos.
“I have a plan.” The old lady said, looking to all corners of the room, trying to formulate a strategy for relaying it to Iphis.
“Thanatos has gone too far with the birth of Izzar; both of them need to be eliminated, and to speed things along, Igor must also go. He has been brainwashed by Thanatos and now believes that Izzar must rule the Order.”
“Surely you don’t expect me to conspire against my own husband?”
“I assure you that I do; it is not so easy for me too.”
Iphis understood it was difficult to do, but the old lady spoke sense; Thanatos had gone too far with Izzar, the way he treated her was too much, and now Igor was taking his side too is lost to her.
“For our plan to come in motion, we need to go about in secret; we must find the perfect opportunity to strike. Strike down the head of the trinity, and the other two will fall short after. The time to attempt this is not now; time will reveal to us the perfect moment to strike.” The old lady walked around the room, looking at every spot a camera could be hidden.
“What is your plan exactly?” Iphis asked curiously, the room was no longer spinning, and she could feel the pain returning. It was a familiar pain from the days when she had Sorath. Her body needed to repair itself now.
“It will be revealed in time; I do not want to share everything at once lest we get caught out, and our plans are hindered.”
“Then I shall eagerly wait for you to reveal it to me.”
Iphis was eager, her heart bitter towards Thanatos and Igor, she wanted revenge, and this old lady was offering it for free.
“The day will come where you will reflect back at this meeting and realize how important it was and how having an ally like me by your side can take you to new heights you’ve never dreamed of achieving.” The old lady headed towards the door without saying a word and disappeared beyond.
A voice echoed in the ship, breaking her train of thought. That was the signal that the fleet would emerge at Dessix and should be ready to attack. Alarms went off all around the ship; Iphis imagined the troops all over the vessel were scurrying around preparing for the attack.
Iphis rushed to her command deck; there, her trusted council was waiting for her. It was those men and women, the Order leaders, who had decided with Iphis that enough was enough and that Thanatos needed to be dethroned. Most of them, including Iphis, were not born when he became Epsimus and knew no rule other than Thanatos’s. Having Sorath removed as the heir upon Izzar’s birth was a mistake Thanatos would live to regret.
Among those seated in the council were six Archons, the highest-ranking members outside the Citadel on Dessix, and one Consular, the leader of a smaller sector between Earth Space and Prionian Space. The first of these Archons were Olgigar Junix, an old soul resembling that of Tristius. However, her loyalty waned when Thanatos decided to exile himself on Dessix.
The second was related to Thanatos, born in one of the forgotten lines of Thanatos; he sought revenge for his family, forgetting them and casting them out. Thanatos had many children over the years; many were lost, some were enlisted, and others were shipped away and forgotten.
The third was power-hungry, Vendra Ulkura, the Queen of the Hieetian Systems and Archon of the Seventh. She was one of the mighty Archons to serve the Order. Her vision was to see a non-Velix sit at the helm and her big smirk at Iphis’s entry confirmed her satisfaction that the day had finally come.
The Fourth, Aarlo Nox, was a coward; he was bullied by his fellow Archons to join Iphis, he was threatened with expulsion and war if he did not comply. Several times he thought about contacting Thanatos to reveal their plans but stopped short from doing so. Above all, he was good at what he did; he protected his part of the galaxy and ensured the utmost loyalty towards Thanatos and the Order.
The fifth was a minor Archon, from the far reaches of the unexplored regions. Her name was Fausti Heggins. A strange person with cybernetic implants on most of her body. She was saved from an ambush by her local guard and reconstructed; she was one of Thanatos’s favorite Archons, though that was not enough for her to change sides.
The sixth, and the last of the Archons, Jared Clide, had the largest spy network in the galaxy. He was critical to the build-up of their plan. It was his spies who went out across the galaxy and secured allegiance to Iphis throughout the Order. The fear of collapse was still there though, it was not guaranteed that everyone they rallied would remain loyal after Thanatos died.
The last of the Councilors, the Consul, Maloney Margrave, was a close friend of Iphis in their younger years and only got her position due to her close relationship with Iphis. Therefore, the others did not really accept her role on the council but respected the wishes of Iphis nonetheless.
Iphis looked at each one with a broad smile; they returned a grin of pleasure. Iphis took her seat amongst them and brought up a hologram image of Dessix. The image zoomed into the area where the Citadel was showing it in great detail.
“My agent on the planet confirmed that they are on high alert and expecting an attack from this fleet.” So said Jared out of turn, but the news brought pleasure to Iphis’s ears.
“Good, so we are expected.” Her heart raced with the thought, it changed the plan slightly, but it had to go ahead nonetheless.
“Ladies and gentlemen, today will see the end of Thanatos Velix.” There was applause in the room; everyone was satisfied.
“No one is to harm him; I will see to him personally.”
All nodded in agreement.
Iphis pressed a button on a panel built into her seat and announced over the intercom system:
“All personnel report to your stations. We exiting the skip.”
Before those in council beyond a large window, the small world of Dessix appeared as they exited their skip. There were no warships to meet them in battle. Iphis smiled.
“Let’s go get Thanatos.”