“Paradigms”

Stardate 74726.0; September 23, 2397

 

Episode 67

 

 

 

 

Prologue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many moons had passed since the Dark Legion first appeared in the verdant hills of Lordaeron.  In the beginning, their infrequent visits to the peaceful countryside generated little more than curiosity.  No harm was done, and the denizens of rural Lordaeron were occasionally treated to the tale of a farmer’s fortuitous encounter with one of the vile beasts.

 

Over time, the farmers’ tales blossomed into unsettling accounts of life or death.  At first, many were skeptical, believing the farmers had exaggerated their tales to appeal to a broader audience.  But then the storytellers began to disappear, mutilated livestock was often found strewn across the rolling hills, and entire crops were destroyed.  Before long, entire villages began to disappear.  The Dark Legion was coming, and hell followed close behind.

 

 

 

* * *

 

Black clouds roiled in the crimson sky, gradually billowing upward with hopes of reaching an explosive, thunderous apex.  Vivid tendrils of lightning had already begun to streak between the bulging thunderheads, releasing ominous groans of thunder into the evening sky.  Soon, the floodgates would open and the deluge would commence.

 

Alan Christopher cringed at the prospect of engaging the Dark Legion under such circumstances, but he had little choice—the nefarious demons were coming, and the unfavorable weather conditions were the least of their concerns.  Thus, Christopher tried to put the coming storm out of his mind, but the stiff wind howling in his face did not help matters; it would be a difficult fight, to say the least.

 

Suddenly, he glimpsed something on the horizon.  It was little more than a shadow, but it was definitely there.  He immediately turned to Bator, who trailed Christopher by only a few footfalls.  “Do you see that?”

 

The Phobian peered into the horizon, and a sullen look immediately fell upon his face.  “I do,” he said softly.  “The Dark Legion has mobilized.  Shall I give the call to arms?”

 

Christopher’s gaze wandered back to the horizon.  There were more of the ominous shadows now—more than he could count—and they were all crossing the knoll with incredible haste.  Christopher’s decision was essentially made without so much as a moment of consideration.  He swiftly drew his hefty claymore and readied himself for battle.  “Summon our forces, Mr. Bator.”

 

He immediately turned on his heel and made a swift retreat into the haze from whence the two of them had ventured, leaving Alan Christopher alone with his thoughts—and for a moment, the Captain could not help but feel he was forgetting something of consequence.  He promptly shrugged the feeling away—it was probably nothing, after all—and instead focused on the task at hand: presiding over the demise of the Dark Legion.

 

They drew closer with each passing moment, thousands of them storming across the grassy plain in a great maelstrom of evil—and as tiny droplets of rain began to pelt Christopher’s body, he could finally hear the manic roars of his distant adversary.  His grip instinctively tightened around the hilt of his mighty claymore; he gave it a few casual practice swings before assuming a more appropriate stance—the last thing he wanted was to be caught unprepared…

 

Moments later, the ground began to tremble.  Voices filled the air amidst a trumpeted battlefield sonata, and before he knew it, Alan Christopher stood in the midst of Lordaeron’s mightiest army.  Led by Matthew Harrison, the group charged the Dark Legion, prepared to defeat the malevolent beasts or die trying.  Unwilling to miss the action, Christopher immediately fell into stride alongside the agile footmen—only to stopped a moment later by the voice of Matthew Harrison.

 

“Good luck to you, mine friend!” he called as he unsheathed his silvery blade.

 

Christopher flashed Harrison a wry grin.  “To both of us,” he replied.  “And I suspect we will need it!  Never before have we faced such a incredible nemesis.”

 

“Indeed,” said Harrison as Bator drew nearer.  He gave the Phobian a polite nod before continuing:  “But we have an advantage that the Dark Legion can only dream of—a force so powerful that it cannot be stopped under any circumstance!”

 

“And what might that be?” inquired Bator.

 

Harrison smiled, and raised his sword in tribute.  “We have each other,” he proclaimed, “and together, we shall make a difference!”

 

Unable to argue with such a noble sentiment, Christopher gently clanked his blade against Harrison’s.  “This day will be ours.  To victory!” he proclaimed.

 

“To victory!”

 

And on that note, the trio quickly came about to strike at the heart of darkness.  Lightning suddenly ripped across the darkened sky, spewing sonorous rumbles of thunder into the atmosphere; torrents of wind-driven rain fell from the sky, just as manic battle cries filled the air.  Swords clanked, soldiers screamed and—

 

Everything froze.

 

Christopher’s heart immediately sank.  Was there a flaw in the program?  Had the simulation overloaded the hologrid?  Alan promptly turned to Matthew for answers, but to his chagrin, the Commander appeared equally perplexed.  “I take it this is not a part of the program…”

 

“It is not,” confirmed Harrison.

 

“Lovely.”  Seeing the battle was temporarily delayed, Christopher sheathed his sword and stepped in front of a frozen footman.  He gazed into the bulky soldier’s glossy brown eyes for a long moment before waving his hand in the soldier’s face.  Naturally, there was no response.

 

“Computer,” Bator called a moment later, “resume program.”

 

It happily chirped, and for a moment, Christopher thought that they might be back in business.  But then the computer’s monotone female voice bluntly announced, “Unable to comply.”

 

“Why not?” demanded Christopher.

 

But before the computer had a chance to reply, a sliver of bright light suddenly sliced into the forest at the edge of the battlefield, and summarily widened until two shadowy figures stood at the holodeck exit.  When the doors clamored shut, the simulation promptly restored the forest, but the rainy mist left the holodeck’s newest occupants shrouded in mystery.

 

Christopher’s disgruntled eyes immediately darted between Bator and Harrison.  “This had better be good,” he grumbled.  “I mean, we had be under attack by an armada of Borg tactical cubes.”

 

“Well, you’re going to be disappointed then, little buddy.”

 

As Erin Keller’s pleasant voice floated to Christopher’s ears, his rage subsided a bit.  He could never bring himself to be angry at his beloved, even if she interrupted him during playtime.  Besides, he was suddenly left with the impression that he should not have dismissed his forgetful premonition so quickly, and that if anyone had the right to be angry, it would probably be Erin.

 

A few seconds later, the murky shroud released Erin and her companion from its grasps; the two of them stood in awe of their mythical—and utterly frozen—surroundings for a long moment before Erin closed the already small gap between herself and Alan.  “Now tell me, when I talk, does anything I say actually penetrate that big head of yours?” she playfully inquired.

 

Alan immediately paused.  The question was layered with so many pitfalls that he was absolutely certain there was no correct answer.  Still, Alan was confident that if he played his cards right, he could emerge from the discussion with a small amount of dignity.  “I hear most of it,” he said softly.  “But I will admit, when you go off on one of your girly tangents, you often lose me.”

 

Erin raised a quirky brow.  “Girly tangent?”

 

He nodded.  “Yeah.  You know…” And Alan certainly hoped she knew, because he really did not want to explain himself now.

 

But Erin decided to play dumb.  “No,” she said pleasantly,  “I have no idea what you’re talking about!”

 

Alan shrugged.  “Too bad,” he quipped, and before Erin had a chance to press the issue, he turned his attention to the mysterious woman at Erin’s side.  “And who do we have here?”

 

The woman flashed Alan a pleasant smile.  “Felicia Gayle,” she said in a warm, inviting voice.  “I’m here to speak to you about adopting Angela.”

 

 

 

Proceed to Chapter One

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