Across the darkness a voice called.
A circle of light appeared and in the center stood a young man dressed in a short, burgundy tunic, black leggings, and a royal purple cape with a dashing short sword stuck in his belt. He bowed low.
Another man appeared, older and grayer, wearing a long, black cloak over a white tunic. The elder nodded to the younger, a half-smile glinting through his eyes. “Obsessed aren’t you, Last One?”
The young man grinned and, waving one hand majestically against the outer darkness, a humble village appeared with a medieval castle perched on the top of a low hill.
“An obsession you once shared, Father.” The son shuffled along the dirt path leading to the hill. “Call me Omega, now. It sounds so much more…hopeful. After all, your last is not my end.” A grin took the edge off his bitterness.
The father trod along at his son’s side, his hands clasped behind his back. “True. Though we all face an end—sometime. Remember that.” He glanced around at the villagers bustling amongst myriad thatched huts and fenced yards, hurrying to their daily business, offering low bows of obeisance as he passed. He tipped his head in a lordly fashion, earning wide-eyed curtsies from the women and squared shoulders from the men. “Besides, I was never obsessed. Not like you. Interested. Merely interested.” He glanced at the castle as he climbed the cobbled incline. “Your mother awaits.”
Omega twirled around as he locked his gaze on a pretty maiden. Tearing himself away, he trotted after his father. “Humans are my favorite. I believe they always will be. I’m making them my specialty.”
The father grunted as he twitched a branch off of a nearby tree. Peering at the stick, it suddenly transformed from a ragged twig into a beautifully carved walking staff. He tapped the staff on the paved stones leading to the castle gates—huge, ornate affairs with burly soldiers guarding each side. “You have many races to choose from—don’t be too hasty to pick a favorite. Keep your mind open.”
Throwing his arms wide, Omega appeared to embrace the entire village. “Oh, Father! Humans are the best. Cresta minds are so narrow and small, forever focused on science, pretending to be logical while lying to themselves; Ingots and Uanyi are like children inside mechanical bodies, and the Bhuacs, well they are intriguing. So versatile. Pity they’ve been decimated so often. They’re not nearly as resilient as humans.”
A bell tolled from the castle’s highest tower. Both men looked up, the father with a sigh and the son with adoration. The father waved his stick at the village throng. “Humans retain their barbarism for just such a purpose. They could never survive without it.”
Omega raced up the last paces to the gates and turned before the guards, his arms wide, a gleem shining through his eyes. “And what are we—with out zoos and life studies? Surely those that live in our villages would consider us nothing more than oppressors—if they knew.”
The father stepped passed his son and gestured to the guards who promptly pulled open the heavy gates. He spoke over his shoulder. “If they knew. My point exactly.” He waved his son into the inner courtyard. Pages and squires bustled, leading horses to open stalls while stately nobles stood aside, clustered in private consultation. The sound of a hammer striking metal on the left told the tale of other industries near at hand.
“But, Father, they must know, in their own way—”
“They know they are oppressed because they struggle against it always—even when it isn’t there.” The father stared ahead as a woman appeared in the doorway of the keep. A youthful woman wearing an ornamental dress with a golden belt tied about her waist and thick hair falling across her shoulders smiled at them.
The father hurried his steps.
Omega hustled at his father’s side. “One day, Father, I will test your theory. I’ll create one of my own and—”
His father stopped and spun on his heel, glowering. “You can create nothing! Don’t speak like a fool. Your studies have made you forget your limits.”
Chastened, Omega lowered his gaze. “I just want to discover how far their natures will expand….”
With a huff of impatience, the father brushed his son’s words aside. “Some day you will realize that not all questions need to be answered. It fact, it is best if they aren’t.” He gazed at the woman, his scowl instantly replaced by a gleam of joy. He stared into the woman’s sparkling eyes. “I’ve brought him home—at last.”
Omega rushed forward and embraced the woman. “Sorry it took me so long, Mother, there was so much to see and do!”
The woman threw back her head and laughed as she wound her arms around her son in a warm embrace. “You never change! Always insatiable! Come, I’ve prepared a feast, just as you like it, warriors and roasted venison abound!”
Omega, with his arm around his mother entered the confines of the keep. His father sighed as he looked after them, shaking his head and murmuring, “He’d devour the universe—if he could.”