Every culture on every worldline had a legend of an ancient, lost civilization, more often than not identified as Atlantis. Many people on those same worldlines would be amused and amazed to find that Atlantis really existed and that it was not merely a continent, but an entire world. A lost planet in what is called the Old Universe. Fabled Atlantis, home of our line.

Fabian Sarkhon, Oh, Atlantis

I’m not a god, but I’ve been called upon to play one. People feel that they need the illusion of godhead and sometimes it is necessary to give people what they think they need to get them to acknowledge what they really require.

Joshua Sarkhon, Interviews with Nathan Taylor

Prince  Toreus Rhann  and the Thuvian Rangers

Chapter 4: The Star Palace

House Sarkhon was forbidden by the Guild Treaty to have an official presence on Terra Prime. And so the Embassy was a suite at the Pangaea Arms, the most luxurious hotel in the plate’s capital.

It was here that Arenjun held audiences with Priman residents and it was here that he slept when he was on the Pangean plate for extended periods of time.

It was a comfortable residence, if modest in size. And secure enough. A squad of Temporal Guardians from House Sarkhon’s legions lived in the adjoining rooms and two always stood guard outside the door of the suite armed with Tesla projectors.

But the real business of House Sarkhon was never conducted in the room. No, since there were restrictions of the presence of Time Sorcerers on the Sphere under the Treaty his fellow Sorcerers never came there. Not that it was necessary for Time Sorcerers to be in the same room to conduct a meeting. Not when holospace was available, as well as the jump points.

Arenjun entered the suite and let his cat, Angelique, drop to the floor. He scanned the room with his wand as a precaution against bugging and illegal entrants.

The scan read negative and he turned to the cat.

“So you’re hungry,” he said acknowledging the thought transmission between himself and the cat. The cat’s job was to record his mental landscape for future use and so it was in constant contact with his mind.

“Why am I not surprised,” he said and went to the tiny kitchenette and opened a can of food for the animal. He placed it in a bowl and rubbed the beast behind the ears. She purred and rubbed her slim head against his hand. One should be good friends with the guardian of one’s soul. She was not merely a pet but a storage repository for his persona should he ever be killed and need a reboot.

“No need to thank me, doll. It is my pleasure.”

Not that he was sure that if he were ever killed he would wish to return. Arenjun had lived a long and rewarding life and even the life of a Chronomancer has to have its end. All things—even the cosmos itself—have their ends.

Or so it was widely believed. Universes came to an end and new universes were born every second.

He thought such thoughts a lot these days. He had returned from holospace many times in his existence. Not because he clung to life like some coward but because there was always a mission that required him—one more job that needed his attention.

Such foolishness, he thought, shaking his head as he went to the bedroom to freshen up and change his garb. He would not wear the grand cloak and garb he had worn at court for a meeting with his cousins, sisters and brothers. Sarkhons tended to be less formal amongst family. Even distant family no longer on this plane. Being a Time Sorcerer meant that one had to behave in a formal manner with most of sentient kind. And that made being casual amongst family all the more precious.

He went to the bathroom and took a long hot shower. Being at court made him feel dirty. The Emperor was a good man but there were those in the power structure of Pangea who made his skin crawl—principally the Chancellor.

Gharvan was from old money and even though the Rhanns went back into the ancient past to Starkiller’s time and were much more influential than any Gharvan could ever wet dream to be, the Chancellor considered them new money and somehow unclean. Bastard.

The cat ,Angelique, entered the room.

“Yes, I know. I should not let minor souls such as the Chancellor bother me. But one never gets used to ignorance—no matter how long one lives.”

He had socialized with Gharvan at one of the man’s boorish social clubs. The kind of place that didn’t allow women or anyone not full blooded Cro-Magnon. The event had left him feeling unclean.

“I know Angel,” he said. “We are better than him whether he knows it or not.”

Arenjun dressed in a fresh uniform and cloak and went to the wardrobe to one side of the bedroom. He sanpped the wand into the compartment on his staff where it was kept. Then he activated the smart matter of the staff and it shrunk down and was inserted into the scabbard on his belt. On command it could become a knife, a trunchean or a sword. A Sorcerer is never disarmed,

The wardrobes always reminded him of an ancient fairy tale popular on a number of the alternate Earths. A wardrobe that contained a doorway to another world. Perhaps the author of that legend had heard stories and had been inspired by them. It was common for Sorcerers to hide jump points in such pieces of furniture. He’d once had an associate who had hidden one in an antique police call box.

Then there was the legend of the Holy Prophet Joshua who escaped death via a jump point hidden in a coffin.

That had started religions on many worldlines.

He looked at the cat. “Ready to jump, doll?”

He opened the wardrobe door and stepped in. Angelique followed him.

On the other end of the tunnel was his private Star Palace, which was in an orbit around the Great Sphere. As he stepped from the jump connection the two Temporal Guards on duty there snapped to attention and saluted.

The jump point was on the command bridge of the palace. Nori Vinjon, a Randarian navigator who was chief navigator of the palace stood up from his command couch and approached the Time Sorcerer.

The Randarians were a race of artificial beings who specialized in mathematics and hence in interstellar and inter-dimensional navigation. Nori, like most of his people, was thin, blue skinned and had pointed ears and a balding head. His eyes were dark and Rands seldom if ever smiled.

“Greetings, Your Lordship,” said the navigator.

Arenjun glanced toward a big view screen behind Nori.

It showed a view of the palace's Combat Acclimatization Deck. On it a group of young men and women were exercising. They wore the fatigues of the House Sarkhon Temporal Guardian Corps. Those would be the Special Forces unit—the Dark Knights—that had been seconded to this project.

Temporal Guardians were the enforcement unit and military wing of every Atlantean Time Sorcerer house. They were also part of the Time Sorcerer League and expected to behave as an arm of the League whenever the League acted as a unit. Which was seldom theses days.

The Dark Knights were a special black operations unit of House Sarkhon’s corps. Secret and deniable and that was why they had been sent to help in this mission.

“Greetings, Nori,” Arenjun replied. “Is the Grimoire ready?”

The Randarian nodded. “It is in place in the holospace conference hall, sire.”

He gestured toward the door that led to the room just to port of the Command Bridge.

“Thank you, Nori,” said Arenjun and walked through the door with Angelique at his heels..

The walls of the holospace room displayed a mural of the Terra Prime system. Arenjun walked out onto the dais and sat on the couch in front of the pedestal on which rested the Grimoire.

The cat climbed up on the cat seat on the right arm of the couch and began to lick her paw. It made Arenjun smile. When the reflection of his own recorded persona spoke to him from the cat the creature seemed like any sentient being—a partner as it were. But the rest of the time she was just a friendly, affectionate companion. Like a pet. He reached over and scratched her between the ears, Angelique purred and rubbed her cheek against his hand.

He then looked up toward the holoscreen that surrounded him. To his left was the great nebula known as the Vault of Heaven and to the right was the Sphere.

At the orbital distance of the palace the Sphere looked like a big wall. You had to get really far out into space to see the whole thing, with its  two Astronomical Unit diameter. Then you would see that it was not a complete sphere but rather a wide band around the sun. You couldn’t put caps on the Sphere because they would not be orbitaly stable and it was—at least according the Sidaririan Cosmic Engineers—one hell of a trick keeping the plates of the Sphere in orbit as it was.

A wonder of the universes was Terra Prime. And perhaps the most important hunk of real estate in the entire Cosmos. Certainly it was the most disputed.

In the northern and southern plates of the Sphere were the energy and exotic materials collection plates. There were machines that collected and produced antimatter, Helium 3, Deuterium, Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Most of the materials that made the fantastic technology of the Intercosmic civilization possible,

The Great Sphere also captured much of the stellar energy that came from the G-class star at its center. It was a veritable cornucopia of natural food production. It also had unlimited living space for a nearly infinite number of intelligent beings.

Ages ago the Atlantean Time Sorcerers and their elder race cousins—Sidairians, Seraphians, Taurans, et al, had been involved in a really big, really long war over who controlled Terra Prime and the preserved world habitats that populated it. The war had gone on for nearly a century with no sign of victory or end in sight for either side.

Eventually a family of Time Sorcerers—the Shaitannises—threatened to use a Nova Inducer on the central sun of the Terra Prime system. A device that would pour enough antimatter into the sun to cause it to nova killing everything on the


That brought both sides to the treaty table and led to a cease fire that lasted for ten years while all interested parties argued over an end to the hostilities—with the Shaitannises calling all the shots.

The result was the Guild Treaty named for the Time Sorcerers Guild—that less than perfect, much despised, armistice that had so far maintained what people had come to accept as the peace for over six centuries.

And now, once again, that peace was threatened and it fell on the shoulders of the Sarkhons—as always at odds with their landsmen the Shaits__to preserve it and, at the same time, push things along in the direction of social evolution.

But this time—if things worked out—the Guild Treaty would be circumvented and over passed and Terra Prime would be the world it had always been meant to be. That was the Sarkhon plan. And it would take much effort and much care to make it work.

The Grimoire looked like an ancient lap top computer in a jewel and gold embossed case covered with Atlantean runes. It was baroque and highly crafted like most ancient Atlantean devices.

They really knew how to make things in those days. Even stuff that came from the replicators of Old Atlantis looked like a craftsman worked years on them. Nothing looked mass produced though he was sure that the Grimoire devices were.

Of course they were rare these days. Guiders had all but replaced them. Though the average Grimoire was much more powerful and one did not need hyper-mentation or special training to use one.

That’s why he would take this one with him. The family in hiding could make use of it. He was certain of that.

The Atlantean device was open to reveal a holographic screen and a control panel with touch sensitive meta-keys. The device was not a computer but an opening into holospace—the mysterious realm where all the data of the Cosmos was inscribed in two dimensions.

The Grimoire was a much bigger cousin to the Guider gem that Arenjun wore on his forehead. The gem could link with the Grimoire and allowed Arenjun to control the unit by his will alone.

Arenjun placed the palm of his right hand on the Grimoire control panel.

Lord Arenjun Sarkhon said the Guider voice in his head. The voice of the Guardian of Holospace. Communion is approved.

No one knew exactly who or what the GoH was. It might be one being or a gestalt module of many. Only one thing was certain: it consisted of the preserved personae of some of the greatest people who had ever lived. Arenjun was willing to guess that many of them had gone by the name of Sarkhon. One of them might even be old Harlan himself, the founder of the clan.

Or ancient Thrall Khonn who married into Pangean stock and produced the Khonns and Rhanns of that Priman nation.

The image of Terra Prime faded out and was replaced by the figures of nine Time Sorcerers. The Supreme Council of House Sarkhon. At least the Genesis Prime wing of House Sarkhon. There was another wing far away on Atlantis Prime—another Great Sphere in another universe-- but there was a rift between the two factions of the House. A rift that went back to the time of the Great War and the Guild Treaty that ended it.

This wing was Arenjun’s wing, composed mostly of his brothers and sisters. Both living and ghosted.

Ghosts resided in holospace, the remains of great souls that had chosen to go on to that life and not return to this one, or merely those who had decided to take a vacation form the physical world. Some of the entities in that realm were regarded as gods. Arenjun had had enough mortals regard him, erroneously, as a god to have nothing but contempt for the idea of immortal super beings being considered as such.

Sitting at the center of the Council was Joshua Sarkhon, the current Chief Executive of the Council. Born in an alternative worldline he had still managed to make himself a major figure in Genesis Prime politics and in the politics of House Sarkhon in particular.

Genesis Prime was another Sphere built around a smaller star in a neighboring universe. It was named for the ancient world ship that had brought the Atlanteans from the Old Universe.

That world ship was still in orbit about the Sphere and was the capital of Atlantean civilization in the part of the Cosmos that included Terra Prime.

So, all in all, Joshua was an important person. He was the President of Genesis Prime and the Director-General of the Time Sorcerer’s Guild that managed the Guild Treaty.

Unfortunately the Shaitannises and four other Houses—including Sarkhon—had veto power in all Guild matters since they were founding members of the association. If it were not for this a majority vote would serve to make changes in the situation of Terra Prime and there would be no problems. But the vetoes always served to thwart any changes.

The Shaitannis had little to do with Genesis Prime preferring, along with their allies, to rule over Tartaris Prime—a world ship where they had long ago been exiled for their crimes against Atlantean society, and a place from which they had managed to earn their freedom to continue with such crimes—legally more or less.

Denied a Sphere to rule over the Shaitannises preferred to manage Terra Prime with the power of their veto and hope for the day when they could rule it outright, as they had tried to do in the Great War.

You look tired, Arenjun, said Joshua.

Work days are long on the Sphere, Brother, he replied.

And progress is scant, said Julia, Joshua’s wife who sat to his right

Joshua Sarkhon lived in a worldline where the Earth was the center of a Galactic Federation. He had been born there and had a loyalty to that place and time. But that did not stop him from expressing concern for Terra Prime. Especially since the Terran Federation was currently exploring wormholes that would lead to The Sphere.

Arenjun looked at his cousin’s wife. Progress always seems scant to the impatient and is not easy to discern from inside the process.

Yet, Julia smiled. The situation in Arcadia continues to decay. Duke Nathaniel Taylor, our best hope for a resolution of the problems in our favor, continues to languish in jail. And his family is still in hiding somewhere in the capital city.

Arenjun frowned and looked toward his cousin Joshua.

I have managed to convince the Emperor of Pangea to send in a covert mission to rescue the family assisted by our local Doom Watch elements.

And you requested an elite special forces contingent of the Termporal Guardians to be placed at the disposal of this Emperor’s agents, said Joshua.

If the opportunity presents itself we will use this force to rescue Nathaniel Taylor, said Arenjun.

And once they have been rescued? Asked Elvis Sarkhon, the youngest brother of Joshua who represented the House’s interests with regard to Terra Prime.

Then we will relocate them to a sanctuary worldline, where they will be safe until they are needed.

Hopefully one that is under our control, said Harlan Sarkhon XXVIII, who traced his name back to the founder of the House on ancient Atlantis. And like the original Harlan he was in charge of the research and development division of Sarkhon Enterprises—the family corporation. It was Sarkhon Enterprises that held the Intercosmic patents for warp drive, hyperspace insertion, wormholes and gravity generators. And hence the patent for interworldline time travel.

With that came a wealth of power and influence all across the Known Cosmos. This, sort of, makes one understand why the Shaitannises and their allies clung to the Guild Treaty veto.

Arenjun knew that Joshua hoped that the Taylors would be sent to his beloved Elder Terran Federation but Arenjun did not share his trust for that Earth Empire and so he did not divulge his plans. The Federation might try to use the Taylors as leverage to grab themselves a piece of Terra Prime and he did not wish to allow that. The Great Sphere must never be allowed to become a colony of any other civilization—especially a primitive and somewhat warlike upstart of one. After all it was called the Terran Federation—which seemed to indicate a Terran prejudice on the part of its people.

Of course the term prime in Central Atlantese meant a preserve or refuge and so Terra Prime meant Earth  Refuge. Most of the creatures that lived there were from alternate Earths.

I will settle for one where the Wallaces cannot reach them, said Arenjun.

And the father? Asked Racquel Sarkhon-Willis, the Director of Temporal Portal Operations.  Will he join them in exile?

He will be taken to a neighboring plate where a covert center for the resistance has been grown. Nothing like a strong resistance to unsettle a dictatorship.

Joshua nodded. Very well, but remember, under the treaty the Shaitannises are allowed to keep their damned antimatter nova inducers. They still orbit the Priman star ready to move in at a command from House Shaitannis. Whatever we do in Arcadia we must not provoke another Terra Prime war. It would be the end of everything.

Arenjun nodded. Of course it would, he thought. I will proceed with all necessary caution, cousin.

But I will not sacrifice the future to the mistakes of the past.

Arenjun closed the Grimoire and slipped its thin case into the carry pouch in his cape.

He left the holospace conference chamber and headed back to the command bridge of the palace. He passed the rows of hibernation cells that dated back to an era before this palace had been equipped with FTL drives. Arenjun had left them in place because he had once had a plan to use them to store replacement bodies for himself and members of his family. Nothing had come of that plan yet but it was still on the back burner.

The thought of the cells made him cold—not with a reminder of cold sleep because these were warm sleep cells that preserved the body by use of a fluid loaded with nanobots.

No it made him think of all the years he had devoted to his mission as unofficial Sarkhon ambassador to Terra Prime.

The job never seemed to be finished and the rewards for it were few and far between.

Perhaps he would have the reward—soon—of putting the arrogant and sadistic Wallaces in their place. But he knew enough not to count your winnings while you were still at the tables. And this thought was a left over from his long ago youth when he had—to his parent’s displeasure—been fond of games of chance.

He nodded to the Randarite and took a seat in the bridge’s central command couch. He opened the comm module on the main screen and saw that he had a message from Ghenghis—that being Kothar Junior’s callsign.

He opened it and decoded it.

“The cat is in the cradle,” it said.

Good, thought Arenjun. Now we can advance the game one step.

He called up the CO of the Dark Knights, Gemini Syrtis on the screen. “Colonel Syrtis speaking,” said the woman.

“Colonel are your troops ready to jump?”

“Aye, My Lord,” she answered crisply.

“Very well assemble them for a jump to the first staging area.”

“By your command, my lord.”

“And may the Lords of Light guide you.”

Arenjun closed the channel. Now came the hard part.

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