The [Commander] looked on at the plains in the distance. He could barely open his eyes against the howling winds of the raging magical storm.
From this height, he watched the errant tornado made of devouring flames as it ravaged the small village.
What a waste. He seethed.
He felt a hand on his shoulder, and turned to find the cause of this indiscriminate slaughter staring him in the face.
“What do you want?” He asked her in a frosty tone.
The imperial [Pyromancer] looked miffed, “Oh, come on, [Commander], you know it had to be done. We have our orders, and they come from The Magisterium and the Emperor himself!”
Talius really wanted to punch something, or someone — instead he whispered, “There were civilians down there! Families! Children!” His voice was barely discernible against the howling wind.
“And they are the enemy. Given a chance, the savages would've risen in arms against us and stabbed us in the back.” She pointed to the south. “You know it's the only way we can advance our supply lines, and we can’t afford to enslave them on this tight schedule.” Aylin said without a hint of remorse.
“I hate this damn world.” Talius turned to observe the village once more.
“There will be peace some day.” She shrugged.
He snorted. “You mean when the empire controls everything and everyone, and there's nothing left to conquer?” Talius looked back with disdainful eyes. “You really think that's ever going to happen?”
From any other man, this talk could be considered high treason, and perhaps be the grounds for a slow and excruciating execution at the hands of The Hands — the Empire's elite secret service.
From the seasoned [Commander], however, it was just an outburst. Nobody in their unit would report such a thing. She certainly wouldn't. The [Commander] – and even worse, The Hands – terrified her beyond measure.
She looked uncomfortable with the topic and quickly tried to change it. “Let's go back into the tent. It's going to get cold soon.”
Talius was having none of it. “I think you should go. I'll stay here a while longer.” His tone was unkind.
She shrugged her shoulders and withdrew. She knew how terrible his mood could swing and decided not to tempt fate.
“I hate this damn world.” She heard him shout as she backed away.
Ethan West was currently seated in his lab.
While his field of study was applied quantum physics – a field which had appeared not too long ago, he strongly disliked pure theory and liked to “get his hands dirty”, thus, he was also an excellent mechatronics engineer and computer programmer.
With help from his cerebral implants, he had managed to study multiple fields of science like so many of his peers. The implants granted one eidetic memory, and could hold hundreds of years’ worth of knowledge. Many scientists naturally used them to further their research.
The implants weren’t exactly sentient, but they were pretty close. The artificial intelligence that operated them was state of the art, and operated as an extension of his nervous system and cerebral cortex.
His current research project involved a quantum computer, a projected field generator, and a mechanical arm.
What he was trying to do, in actuality, was considered madness by his peers. Although he didn't share their predominant opinions and completely disagreed with their sentiment.
He believed that his experiment was completely feasible.
What the experiment entailed was a simple objective: He was attempting to pull objects from a parallel dimension through the field.
The object in question was a little orange ball on one side of the field, while the robotic arm was situated on the other side.
Any dimension with enough similarity to his own would suffice.
For instance, if the robotic arm extended into the field and grabbed a green cube, it would mean that in a reality similar to his own, an alternate version of himself had chosen to experiment with a green cube instead of an orange ball.
The experiment proved to be quite a challenge, however, as the projected field did not always manage to project a portal to another reality, and when it once did, the automated failsafe measures had to immediately abort due to decompression. It had opened a portal to some point in outer space.
He wasn't about to give up that easily though. The field projector was connected to the quantum computer, and would simply project a field with the parameters supplied through the data connection. Said parameters were always changing as the quantum computer evaluated simulation after simulation of parallel realities.
After sitting for hours on end with nothing to do waiting for something to happen, he was currently playing a state of the art prototype “quantum role playing game”, where the game’s engine was not using a pseudo-random number generator, but an algorithm capable of true randomness.
This was another advancement to science coming with the advent of the quantum-computing revolution, the computer could pick a true random state, and the game’s universe reflected that in every way possible.
His mind wandered as he contemplated this, the entire game universe was so lifelike, it was stunning. Too bad he had to run it on a lower graphical quality setting, since it was sharing the CPU time of the simulation.
He knew he wasn’t supposed to do this, but it was so mind-numbingly boring…
It wasn’t slowing the simulation by much anyway, a quantum computer could simulate all possible states simultaneously, so it was no problem.
Thinking of the simulation, he couldn’t focus on playing anymore. He decided to call it quits and save the game.
He was close. He felt it in his bones. Just a bit more time and…
He pressed the “Save Game” button absent-mindedly.
Just a bit more…
That was his last thought before an error message appeared, a new portal opened, and the lab imploded around him.
[Commander] Talius was currently riding with his unit to join the main host of the imperial army near the front-lines at the Krashi Plains to the north.
He was still brooding about the civilians they’d had to kill along the way. He knew there was no other choice, their tribal nature would have eventually caused them to rebel if The Empire decided to enslave them without specialised slavers around to take care of their training, but he still couldn’t stomach the act so easily.
There was simply no way to end this conquest peacefully, the empire was determined and the Krell…
The Krell were a proud foe.
He was trying not to think of the massacres to come when Aylin, the imperial [Pyromancer] sidled up to him on her mount.
“[Commander] Talius… I wanted you to know that I’m… sorry – about earlier, I mean. I don’t enjoy slaughter.” she said meekly.
“Don’t apologize, we’re all following orders.” he said in return.
She looked shocked by his response. Her eyes widened in disbelief.
“What? Did you think I’d disobey orders?” He asked with a raised eyebrow.
“No, no, of course not. I’m just surprised you’re taking it so well. After your outburst I mean, you looked very upset back there.” She looked down.
“Don’t worry about it.” He said stiffly.
“How long before we arrive?” She asked after a bout of silence.
He looked at the setting sun.
“Tomorrow morning, we’ll join the battle, and the Krell will meet their maker.”
<WARNING: MULTIPLE UNKOWN TEMPORAL AND SPATIAL SHIFTS DETECTED! HOST STATUS IS UNDETERMINED! MINOR INJURIES TO HOST’S BODY DETECTED! RADIATION DETECTED! UNKNOWN SUBATOMIC PARTICLES DETECTED! UNKNOWN DATA INTERFACE DETECTED!>
This was the first thing he heard in his mind when he came to. The implants’ AI was warning Ethan about something, or many things, but where to begin?
He tried to open his eyes, but felt completely dizzy and extremely nauseous.
He decided to lay down with his back on the ground, when he finally opened his eyes against the glare of the sun – wait… the sun? Wasn’t he in his lab?
He tried to focus.
After flailing around a couple of times, he sat up slowly and looked around, and his heart beat faster and faster.
He was smack dab in the middle of some vast plains, and to the north and the south of him stood two opposing war camps with pitched tents.
Two massive armies stood at opposing ends in orderly lines and were at a stand-off. It looked like they were preparing to battle just when he appeared… out of nowhere?
He jumped to his feet.
One of the armies was not even… human? Were those gigantic horned people?
Just then, a loud horn sounded.