11,995 UC The Syana Galaxy East Cell The Ma’lumet System The Interstellar University of Syana (ISUS)

The hum of the university perpetually occupied Seren’s being as it suspended in open space, slowly orbiting a lone G-type main-sequence star.

She glared at the two men perpetually following her around the campus. They looked like they could’ve been twins with their matching black hair and square jaws. They were there when she woke up, when she went to class, when she ate, when she went to bed and everything in-between. She constantly tried to evade them but each time she was found she was scolded as if her life was the most important thing in the galaxy. That’s what they told her anyway.

Despite learning here for five years already, the other students failed to hide their interest in who she was. It was like she was a celebrity. A celebrity without any riches or beautiful people surrounding her. Only scientists and doctors that continued to study her as they had since her birth. If you could call falling from the stars a birth. That alone earned her the nickname ‘Starchild’.

The perpetual hum of the university that orbited a lone star in space was suddenly invaded. “Hey Seren!

Seren turned to see Stev running towards her, one arm up and waving. His thick glasses were falling down his face as usual and his skinny form hardly held the uniform that covered his frail body. Say what you will about Stev, he was a genius and had come all the way from Kelthros to study here.

One of her bulky guards stepped forwards and blocked Stev from reaching her, a low growl filling his throat like an over protective and/or rabid dog.

“Stand down Ein,” Seren ordered. “It’s only Stev. You know he would never hurt a fly.” Not because he didn’t want to. It was simply because he was too weak.

Ein stepped aside and remained stoic next to his mirror image. These men would, without hesitation, throw themselves in front of any kind of attack aimed at her. It seemed to be the only thing they were passionate about. There was no engaging them in conversation either. She didn’t normally get a response unless it was important.

When Stev finally made it, he keeled over and struggled to breath. Seren had to wait impatiently as he huffed and puffed over his small exertion.

“Seriously Stev, the campus gym is open for all,” Seren said. “Why can’t you go and gain some endurance. And muscle.” She added quickly. An image of him without a shirt on and a body covered in tight muscles popped into her mind and she almost blushed. Almost.

Stev’s throat rumbled with disgust. “And be around all that sweat and other bodily grossities? No thanks.”

Seren resumed her walk with a giggle and Stev scrambled to catch up. “If I could go I would,” she said. “But you know, I might just destroy the universe or something if I had an accident.”

“Well,” Stev removed his glasses and withdrew a small cloth from his front pocket. “No one wants that right?”

Seren shook her head of black hair. The white streak in her fringe always stood out in her peripheral vision. “Is what they say about me even true? All I’ve had to go by is the word of scientists and the fact that huge men follow me every step of my day.” She felt her mood sour even further. I just want to be normal and have some star blinding privacy!

Stev rubbed at the lenses of his glasses vigorously with the cloth. “Do you want to risk it to find out for sure?”

It was something that filled her mind constantly. If she was harmed in any way then that damage was reflected somewhere out in the universe. Or so she was told. Several times she had planned to hurt herself, just a tiny cut on her arm, but could never build up the guts for such a thing.

“You’ll just have to wait for an accident to happen and hope that it doesn’t blow up this very university.” Stev placed his glasses back on with a nervous chuckle.

Seren felt a hand fall on her shoulder. “Enough,” Ein’s deep voice came from behind. She shrugged his hand off and threw him a heated glace.

“Anyway,” Stev said with a weak cough. “I have a new invention that I need to show you.”

“A new one?” Seren said only half listening. “Already?”

Stev was a bit of a prodigy. He had invented several technologies that ended up benefiting the galaxy and travel through open space. All his tuition was paid and sponsored by the Star Union, the alliance of systems in the core sectors that included most of the sentient races in the galaxy.

“I don’t want to brag but it may be my best invention yet,” he said with a proud grin.

“Well, I’ll definitely need to take a look at it then,” Seren flashed a soured smile. “I’ll message you later.”

Stev nodded. “Alright. See you later.” He waved as he ran off to his next class.

Seren pondered in silence as she walked to her next lecture. Could she try hurting herself again just to see what would happen? She went back and forth with the pros and cons in her head. Mostly cons presented themselves. Maybe Stev was right. She simply had to wait for an accident to happen so that she had no control of the event. It was bound to happen eventually.

Seren entered the lecture room and made her way up the stairs to the back where she was assigned to be seated at all times. Her two guard dogs stood not far behind her, constantly alert and ready for anything.

She glanced at the boy sitting next to her. Shin, she thought his name was. His naturally bald head shone with vitality and the third eye on his forehead took in everything around him with unnatural clarity. All the people of the Clou race held these traits. They hailed from the planet Somte in the south of the east cell of the galaxy.

His eyes glanced towards her for an instant before flicking back away. It was said that those of his race could see more with their third eye like other dimensions and planes of existence, people’s emotions and thoughts. What could he see when he looked at her?

He was handsome but Seren knew that she could never get romantically involved with anyone ever. Every time she had attempted to engage a boy in flirtatious behaviour she had been stopped by one of her guard hounds. She did once manage a kiss and a grope but that’s as far as she got before getting caught.

The doctor had lectured her extensively afterwards and claimed that it had effected the universe somehow. Whatever… She sighed and turned her attention to the lecturer and his boring rant. She couldn’t concentrate for any of it and it felt like the whole day would turn out the same. Hopefully seeing Stev’s new invention would cheer her up.

Seren took her cell from her pocket and typed up a message and sent it off to the wacky young man.

You can show me your invention tonight. I’ll ditch the dogs and meet you in the usual place.

She made sure that her guards didn’t see what she was up to. They would stop her from going no matter what. Luckily, when she needed, she could slip away at night no problem. She grinned at her own bravado.

The cell vibrated softly.

Sounds perfect. See you then.

#

Later that night she was lying in bed in the dorms, staring at the ceiling, wide awake. Of course, in her own private room. No one would put her in danger sleeping too close to other people. The guard dogs stood outside her room, since it was the only way in and out, as not to disrupt what tiny amount of privacy that she was allowed. She did suspect that cameras were watching her at all times but so far no one had said anything to confirm it even after sneaking out several times before.

It was almost time to go.

She threw back her sheets and quickly hopped out. She was already dressed in dark casual dress, something light and easy to sneak around in.

Seren made her way to the door and placed a hand and an ear against it. She didn’t know how but she could feel the two huge men standing behind it. She stood back and took a deep breath in preparation for what she was about to do next.

A fire engulfed her as she closed her eyes and concentrated. It came from her core and slowly consumed her entire body. She had to bite her lip to stop from groaning. It was strange how good this mysterious power felt under her skin as it weaved and wound across her bones and muscles. It tingled on the outside too, pulsating subtly and touching her nerves in an intimate way. It was like nothing she could describe.

Seren extended her arms with her palms facing the ground and a light dust began falling from her hands. Stardust, she had named it. A fantastical name perhaps but no one else had to know. The dark sand pulsed with life, thumping loudly against her skull and vibrating around the universe. She guided it under the door and around the two guards.

She couldn’t explain how she could create this strange substance or how she controlled it or why it felt so good. Was she the only one that could do it? Surely someone else out there in the universe had similar powers. If so she had to find them.

Once she was sure they were trapped, she sighed and let go of the power, relinquishing the pleasurable feeling.

After opening the door she waved a hand in front of the faces of the two men. As usual they didn’t react at all, stuck in their stony faced stares.

Seren proceeded to walk down the hall unescorted, a slight strut invading her step. She made it out of the dorms no problem and quickened to a jog to the meeting place. If anyone else saw her she would be in big trouble. Not many would be out this late anyway so she figured that she should be okay.

Voices came from around a corner and Seren froze. She couldn’t afford to be caught now. Her eyes darted around, looking for a hiding place but none revealed themselves.

The voices came closer. Seren had no option. She flattened herself against the wall and seized the power. A rush of energy came to her, filling her body, head to toe, with mystical rhapsody. The dust appeared and she veiled it around herself, hiding her in a haze that blended in with her background.

A group of casually dressed students rounded the bend, joking and laughing amongst themselves. They walked right by without even looking in Seren’s direction.

The power, fuelled by her panic, was so intense that she couldn’t hold it in any longer. A whimper escaped her lips.

The student at the back stopped and turned, his eyes looking directly into Seren’s eyes. She took a quiet breath and held it.

The young man stared with a frown, furrowing his forehead. Thank the stars he’s not Clou. Seren suspected that one of them would be able to see straight through with their third eye and completely penetrate her veil.

“Hey, what are you looking at?” one student said as he noticed his friend’s curiosity.

“I thought I heard something.” He closed in on Seren’s location with narrowing eyes. Closer and closer he got until he was in front of the door next to her with his ear close. “Sounded like someone doing it…” Seren could see every blemish on his face and the way his short dark hair sat on his long head, strand by strand.

“Really?” the second young man said with a grin.

“Just leave them, Kaal,” the charcoal-skinned woman with them said. Her horizontal golden eyes gazed out from her dark face. She was Halluxian, who were considered a violent race but it was mostly ignorant conjecture based on their appearance and voice. To be fair it was frightening at first glance.

The first young man took his ear away and shrugged. “Guess it was nothing.” He re-joined the group with a laugh and they all disappeared around the corner.

Seren let out her breath and let go of the power. That was a bit too close. She didn’t waste any time and continued towards her destination.

She crouched low around the final corner and peeked around. No one was around the entrance to the indoor forest so she quickly ran to the doors and slipped inside. It was a room perfectly set up to house a forest just like on the surface of a lush garden planet.

Stev would be waiting for her within. Her excitement rose about his invention. Just what had he come up with this time? The boy who created suits that absorb sweat and bodily wastes and converted them to pure water that the wearer could drink or get a cooling spray to the face in intense heat.

Seren made her way into the trees and was promptly concealed by the greenery. The smell of earth and bark assaulted her nose, taking her back to her childhood growing up on Hol. It was a natural planet covered in all kinds of greenery and natural formations, unlike most of the planets within the east cell of the galaxy, which the Star Union controlled and governed.

It was a better time where she had been free for the most part. She was still watched, she simply didn’t realise it at the time. Ah, to be young and naïve. Then, when she was older, she had been sent halfway across the cell to the most renowned university in the galaxy.

Seren spotted Stev through the trees and she stopped to spy on him for a minute, just in case this was all a trick or a test; a lesson in disguise. She often thought this and liked to pause to take in every detail. The lanky boy stood in the clearing fiddling with a small remote in his hands while mumbling. Occasionally he would look up and adjust his glasses while he glanced around at the surrounding bush.

After she was sure it was safe she emerged from the bushes.

Stev spun in fright, eyes even wider behind big lenses. “Oh, it’s just you,” his relieved sigh filled the small clearing.

“Who else were you expecting?” Seren said.

“Well, anyone else of course,” his eyes darted frantically.

Seren scoffed. “Don’t worry I used my magic to get away.”

Stev’s docile face twisted into a scowl. “There’s no such thing as magic, Seren. If I could just study it then I could show you the science behind it.”

“No,” Seren said in an attempt to end the topic. “It’s too dangerous.”

“You don’t even understand it yourself,” Stev protested. “That’s far beyond dangerous. I could find out exactly how it works and help you use it correctly and safely.”

Seren raised her voice slightly. “I understand it enough. Now, show me your invention.”

“But-“

“Stev,” Seren warned.

“Fine,” Stev shook his head in frustration. “Take a look at this.” He held out the remote.

Seren took it and examined it closely. “What does it do?” It was about the size of a cell but with physical buttons spread out across it, all with different shapes and colours corresponding to different functions.

“Press the middle button,” Stev suggested.

Seren did and after a few seconds heard a light humming coming from the forest. “What is that?”

Stev grinned. “You’ll see.”

The bushes behind Stev rustled and a small flying object emerged. It flew forwards slowly until Seren could recognise the metal structure. “It’s a miniature SU fighter.” The standard fighter starship used in space combat.

“Indeed,” Stev said, his tone subtly challenging her to figure out what it meant.

Seren concentrated on the small model as it flew around. She tested a few other buttons causing the fighter to zip around in tight manoeuvres. Then it hit her. “It’s not possible.”

Stev smiled. “Duh. I invented it so of course it’s going to work.”

Seren’s jaw felt like it was hitting the dirt below. “If you can implement this into the actual fighters and have people control them from a safe distance then that means no unnecessary loss of life in an open space battle.”

“Also, it would eliminate the risk of a person passing out during intense manoeuvres, effectively allowing the fighter to move with extreme agility and precision. No restriction or risk,” Stev added.

“This is amazing Stev,” Seren said. “The SU is going to be thrilled for this invention. More than you know.”

“It still needs a little work. It’s not perfect yet. Plus implementing it into life-size fighters is going to be a huge project. And imagine the overall cost.”

The test fighter began to hum louder.

“Is that normal?” Seren asked.

“It may have a slight overheating problem,” Stev said as he took the controller from Seren’s hands. He pressed buttons in attempt to get it to stop. The model fighter’s humming grew louder still.

“Stev.”

“I know.” He was franticly pressing buttons but to no avail. “It’s never done this before.” His eyes widened. “Run Seren!

Two big figures burst from two sides of the bushes and charged towards Seren just as the hovering model exploded in a ball of fire. Hot shrapnel rained out in all directions, hitting trees and grass alike. As the two figures got closer, a hot chunk of shrapnel cut through Seren’s arm followed by a gout of blood.

As the pain tore through her body, her vision went white. Visions assaulted her mind, flashing in quick succession; a green planet surrounded by space, a spark at the core, a bright light slashing through, the world exploding in brilliant cosmic fire. It felt like that very fire had exploded within her head and consumed her entire body. All she could hear was the roar of flames and distant screams of men, women, and children.

Her mind tried to clear itself, attempting to grasp at anything that was tangible, anything that wasn’t pain and death and destruction. All she could see was the planet slowly breaking apart and the cry of the earth rang out across the cosmos.

After an eternity of agony her eyes opened. Ein was lying atop her, covering her from further harm. She could hear Stev yelling in distress. “Let me up!” she demanded.

Ein slowly got off and took hold of her shoulders. The other guard had his huge arms around Stev and was holding him close. “Do you realise what you’ve done?” Ein’s deep voice penetrated the forest with natural command.

“No, ah-” Seren’s arm suddenly throbbed with pain and she put her other hand to it. Blood trickled out, over her fingers, then back onto her arm. She didn’t recall ever seeing her own blood before. Her face flushed and her head lightened with dizziness.

Ein lifted her gingerly and took off at a light jog. He spoke into an earpiece as he went.

“Sir, we have a situation here. The Starchild is hurt.”

“A deep wound to the upper arm with a fair amount of blood loss.”

“Affirmative, we have a suspect contained.”

“We’re on our way.”

His words came blurred to Seren’s ears as her whole head rolled and heaved. Forest sped by her faster than light and time in her mind seemed to slow to a gruelling crawl. Her consciousness started to fade.

Everything became light.

#

Seren awoke in a room of light. She had to squint as her eyes slowly adjusted to the brightness. “Where…?”

The room came into view. It was neat, mostly white and held an air of authority to it. It showed much of the habits of the man who worked in here. Multiple shelves were filled to capacity with datatomes, mostly scientific and medical writings by the looks of the lengthy titles. A massive window showed open space beyond and the edge of the university that hovered in space on a backdrop of stars.

The huge structure holding thousands of students and hundreds of staff, suspended in the heavens like a holy beacon of learning and future hope. It looked just like a massive city with sprawling towers and gardens housed in round domes. Tube-like walkways connected each tower on several levels and Seren could just make out tiny figures walking through them, making their way to their lectures and other duties.

“Hello Seren,” a familiar voice uttered, confident and old.

“Doctor Rigel?” she said as she noticed the person at the desk.

A chair whirred and steps signalled an approach. “Now Seren. We need to have a very serious chat about what happened at the university tonight.”

The memory of the explosion flooded back to her. “Is everything okay?” she asked with uncertainty.

Doctor Rigel sighed. “It’s bad news Seren. You’re not going to be happy with what your carelessness caused.”

It wasn’t my fault!” she protested.

“It was partly your fault. But mostly it was that boy’s fault,” anger filled the doctor’s voice. “But don’t you worry about him. He will be used in your punishment.”

What are you going to do to him!?” Seren demanded.

He ignored her question as he made his way to the window overlooking the university. His hands rested at the small of his back. “Do you want to know what your little accident caused, hmm?”

“It didn’t do anything,” she scowled. “I do not embody the universe. You’re just using it to keep me out of trouble so that you can eventually use me for my unique powers. That’s what it’s all about.”

The doctor glided towards her. “Guess what part of the galaxy you destroyed my dear?” He leaned in close, his leathery face quivering with rage.

“Nothing was destroyed. It’s a lie,” she said looking directly into his faded grey eyes.

“Hol is gone from the system.”

Seren’s eyes widened in shock. Her home planet was gone? All those people she had known and grown up with, just gone from existence because she had suffered a cut to the arm? “No…”

“Seren,” Doctor Rigel folded his weathered hands behind his back again. “As we’ve told you many a time, you, as in your entire being, embodies the universe, the whole of creation. Everything that has been and everything that will be flows through your veins. Every single cell in your atomic structure represents a whole galaxy somewhere out in space.”

It was finally starting to hit her. She had been lectured many times before but she had listened without hearing the words. Now she knew better. If one cell in her body died then a whole galaxy crumbled into oblivion and all the living creatures within were lost forever. All of that life, gone in an instant with a cosmic flare of light.

“So, that cut you suffered didn’t just destroy Hol, it removed a tiny chunk of the universe with it. An entire supercluster’s worth. I don’t need to tell you that that equals about ten thousand galaxies. Now do you realise how important and dangerous your life is, Seren?” the doctor said as he walked away.

“It can’t be gone…” Seren said, still in disbelief.

“I can show you some footage that was captured on various cameras around the planet. Though I warn you, it will not be easy to watch,” Doctor Rigel said as he sat down behind his long desk.

Seren hesitated. Did she want to see her home planet falling? She swallowed. “Yes… I want to see it.”

The doctor looked evenly at Seren. “So be it.” He punched in some buttons on his desk and a holographic image sprang out and formed the scene that the cameras had caught.

It displayed the familiar lab in which Seren had spent a lot of her early life in. Men and woman walked around, going about their work and research. Suddenly, people started to stumble as the ground shook, grabbing onto each other and furniture around the lab. The floor began to break up and swallow various things around the room including a few scientists.

Seren’s eyes stung with tears and her lips began to tremble.

A light appeared in the hologram and in a shaky flash, the image was gone. Billions of lives were gone in an instant, all because she had suffered a gash to the arm.

The doctor gazed at Seren impassively. “I knew a lot of the people in that lab.”

Tears streamed down Seren’s face but she bit her lip and refused to make a sound.

“There is one more to show you.” He pressed more buttons and a new image popped up. “As you know, we had plenty of cameras set up in your old residence.”

Seren sniffed, determined to watch her childhood home as it died.

The hologram showed the living room where her adoptive father and mother sat relaxing with books in their hands. No doubt their other kids were about somewhere.

Seren couldn’t help but let out a whimper as she saw them. The people who had raised her like their own despite what she was. They were the closest thing she would ever have to a family.

The ground began to shake and both her parents jumped up in panic.

“Stop,” Seren said through gritted teeth, tasting tears as they fell over her lips.

Furniture fell and smashed then the floor split and began to open wider and wider. Her mother ran into her father’s arms. He held her close as they watched the ground breaking apart and engulfing all that came close. The image began to flicker and break up. Her father looked up directly into the camera and into Seren’s eyes.

She gasped and fell to her knees from the chair she sat in and it all came out. She wailed in agony as the cut on her arm throbbed angrily. A sharp pain filled her heart and from that moment she swore to take her condition seriously and never doubt it again.

“Are you ready to accept what you are, Seren? You are the most important being in the entire universe. You exist as the universe within itself, an impossible concept, yet true none the less. You are the universe. You are the Starchild,” the doctor’s hollow voice bounced off the walls making it large and menacing.

Seren’s tears ceased as she looked up and into Doctor Rigel’s hard eyes. He didn’t show it but she knew that he was hurting too. Those age lines didn’t lie. “I will protect the universe at all costs.” Something hardened within her and her tears dried. She stood with confidence, clenching her fists at her side. “What of Stev?”

The doctor continued his hard gaze and it seemed to reinforce further. His silence said everything. Stev was to die as just another lesson.

Seren fought back the intense urge to protest with all her might but she knew there was nothing she could do. His death would serve as just another lesson. She felt a tear roll down her cheek and she gritted her teeth until her whole mouth hurt. *I’m sorry Stev, I wish it could’ve ended differently… *

The Star Union wouldn’t be happy about this after spending the amount they had on funding his education. She was sure she had just made an enemy for the rest of her life.

“I must get back to my study,” her voice was cold and stony. She resolved to do everything in her power to establish her own seat of influence and authority. Everyone will know the power of the Starchild and learn to respect what she was. She’d gather the most influential people at the university, the future of the galaxy, and use them to her advantage. Her influence and protection would rival no other.

Doctor Rigel smiled wide, his thin lips wrinkling at the sides. “Of course, Starchild.”

#

Three thousand years later 15,006 UC South-east Cell of the Syana Galaxy The lone white dwarf, Herald Staroua, home of the Starchild

“Davyn, I don’t need to tell you how important this is for the future of the universe,” the Starchild said from her seat. Soft light from the nearby white star filled the room and bathed it in calm and benevolence.

Davyn was dressed in heavy TechPlate armour that all of the Starchild’s special soldiers, the StarBlessed, wore. A dustblade hilt sat on his belt, the special weapon that they all wielded out in the field. “I do, Starchild.” He put both hands over his heart and bowed his head. “Your enemies shall fall to your light.”

The Starchild smiled as the faithful man turned and walked out of the long hall. She knew that Davyn would do his job well but no matter what she did, her enemies would always find a way to seize power once again, aided by the power of time. There was always someone out there who wanted to control the power that she held, the power that she was born with and the power she had built up over her three millennia of life. And then there were the fanatics who simply wanted her dead, the religious zealots whose ideals were bordering on the insane. Man was too corrupt and thus the Starchild had to die in a glorious and biblical cleansing of everything.

Seren wouldn’t let it happen. Not as long as she continued to live. Not as long as the universe continued to thrum with life. After thousands of years of peace under her guidance, death was not an option.

The Starchild will live on.