The Last Precursor is an HFY-exclusive web-serial which focuses on the exploits of the last living human amidst a galaxy of unknown aliens. With his species all but extinct and now only known as the ancient Precursors, how will Admiral José Rodriguez survive in this hostile universe? Make sure to read the earlier chapters first if you missed them! Do you like the story? Subscribe to HFY bot and get notified when I post new parts! Previous Part Part 001
Three days pass.
Admiral Rodriguez stays inside the holodeck, quietly watching various memories from his life play out in front of him. Sometimes he laughs. Sometimes he cries. Sometimes, he looks on in silence as horrific memories play out before him.
A memory of a criminal blood-cult. They would stab hooks through people's feet, then hang them upside down and torture them for idle amusement. In the end, a few executives of Ramma's Chosen were found to be involved, which led to an internal purge of heretics.
An underworld slave trading ring. José and Nick once spent five years executing hundreds of top-level members, many of whom violated children for their sick amusement. Even so, many escaped to commit countless unseen atrocities elsewhere.
Two women, known as the Crimson Harlots. They seduced various government officials, coercing them to plant unknown devices inside top secret installations on various Core worlds. Eventually, those devices exploded, destroying the planets and killing trillions. The sisters vanished, never to be seen again.
The more memories José watches, the less intensely his loneliness and despair burns. Eventually, quiet logic and contemplation fill the void in his heart.
After the Crimson Sister's memory file fades, the holodeck goes still.
The synthmind, Umi, speaks from overhead. "Admiral. Would you like for me to play another memory file?
José doesn't answer.
He stares into the void, a faint frown on his face.
"Humanity committed many atrocities."
" Umi says, her monotone voice not revealing a personal bias one way or the other. "Of course, humans also performed many incredible acts of kindness. To look at only the negatives would require that you view history though a biased lens.
Slowly, José nods. "You're not wrong. I remember that one entrepreneur fellow, the ex-Orion Corp CEO. What was his name, again?"
" Umi replies, instantly pulling the file from José's memories. "He purchased the development rights to a Class II Type-K bio-world, one with a toxic atmosphere and insufficient planetary deposits for industrial purposes. Over the course of 2,000 years, he terraformed the planet to make it habitable for human life, then turned it into a refuge for orphaned children, the galaxy over.
"Haha..." José chuckles, a faint smile revealing itself. "I always used to hate Orion Corp. Looking back, they weren't all that bad. I had to visit Hetaria once on official business. The people there seemed... happy."
"Would you like me to replay that memory file, Admiral?
"Nah, that's not really- actually... yes. Go ahead."
José starts to object, only to think better of it. The holodeck shifts around him, transforming into a replica of James Green's world, Hetaria. A glossy green sky spreads out overhead, while José appears in the middle of a city square, one with thousands of children running around, playing hide and seek, tag, or any number of other games.
In the memory, José's holographic self stands at attention, with Nick at his side, and a few other of Ramma's Chosen behind them. The group of warriors looks around, gazing at random children impassively, if only to pass the time.
From the other side of the square, a dark-skinned, black-haired man comes trotting forward, a smile on his face. A small contingent of bodyguards follows in his wake, but they keep their guns holstered, knowing such simple weapons won't be useful against any of Ramma's Chosen.
The man claps his hands and smiles. "Ah! Adjunct Belfos, the Twin-Headed Hydra, and the Golden Wolves! Haha, it's great to see you again!"
In front of José and Nick, Adjunct Belfos steps forward, a polite smile on her face. "Mister Green. It's been a while."
James Green shakes her hand while smiling from ear to ear.
The Adjunct continues. "I've come to fill your request. Based upon the information you've given us, we've placed this mission firmly in the Epsilon tier."
James' smile fades, ever so slightly. "Oh? The children who've gone missing, we suspect they were captured by pirates. Do you believe differently?"
"We do," The Adjunct says, her smile disappearing. "We've intercepted several transmissions in recent weeks from the Third Hand. It seems they have a few vessels near this sector."
"Ah, I see. Not pirates, then..." James murmurs. "...Cultists."
"Yes. We've been tracking a new underground network for the past several decades. They're adept at camouflaging themselves amidst civilian populations, but we've still managed to place several moles in their ranks. This isn't a good place to talk, though. Why don't we head inside?"
"An excellent suggestion," James concludes. "You know me. I'll never pass up an opportunity to show off my wine collection."
Both groups start to walk forward. As they do, a couple of boys run up to José and Nick, their eyes starry with excitement.
"Wow, you two are HUGE! How did you get so big?"
Nick smiles. "Eat your vegetables. Lots of kilgu, moppus, and spinach. That's how you turn out looking like me and Jojo."
José's holographic self nods. "Yep, Nicky-boy's right. You also have to do a hundred pushups, a hundred situps, and a ten kilometer run every day. No slacking off!"
Both boys nod, clearly enthralled. "Wow! You got it! We'll become super soldiers someday, just like you!"
The memory file fades away, leaving the flesh and blood José behind with a smile on his face.
"Haha. Cute kids. Wonder what happened to them after that."
The Admiral reflects on that last memory file. He recalls the beautiful scenery, the sight of all the kids frolicking about, and how utterly pleasant that world felt, overall.
"Yeah, you're right, Umi. There were some real shitbags among the humans, but there were good people, too. I can't lump the saints in with the sinners, or I'll lose focus on what really matters."
José's stomach growls. With a sigh, he stands up and disperses the holographic chair, stretching to pop his joints.
"What will you do next, Admiral?
" Umi asks, as José turns to head toward the holodeck's exit doors.
The Terran pauses, a thoughtful look on his face. "Hm. Well, right now, I need to figure out the current galactic situation. I'm sure you've obtained plenty of intel I can use, so that shouldn't be a big problem. I need to learn more about the cats and crocodiles aboard the Bloodbearer, too. Finally, I need to start looking into what happened to humanity. I should visit the Core worlds; the fortresses of the various factions from my day. That sounds like a good place to start."
"Understood, Admiral. And what about the demons?
José blinks in surprise. "The demons?"
"Yes. Have you forgotten? The reason you died and rebirthed inside the cloning pod: It was because a Demon Emperor slew you.
Umi transmits a visual recording to José, replaying the last several minutes before his death. The Admiral's expression blackens as he watches those last few painful moments.
"Sorry. I... I forgot. There was so much going on, I must have overlooked this."
"Yes, that was what I anticipated,
" Umi replies. "Nevertheless, now that you know, I must remind you that Ramma's doctrine states all heretics, especially anyone related to the demons, must be purged upon discovery. Naturally, as the current leader of humanity, you may choose to ignore this doctrine. However, I calculate that you will not abandon a core creed immediately. You know how dangerous demonkind is, after all.
José nods. "I do. Damn. How in the hell did the Shadow Emperor survive for one hundred million years?"
"The Shadow Emperor, Yama, claimed that he split his soul and body in half. He hid away in secret, regenerating himself to his peak condition. Naturally, as demon words are filled with lies, I must advise that you not take anything he says at face value. There is likely to be more to his story than what he's stated.
"Indeed. Demons are notorious backstabbers. Hmm. No matter what, I have to eliminate the Shadow Emperor before doing anything else. He caught me off-guard the first time, but that won't be the case, now. I'll have to take every precaution. Umi, start assembling a list of equipment necessary to totally eliminate any demons we might encounter. If the Shadow Emperor has survived, we should assume others may have, as well. For all we know, there might be Broodmothers somewhere, spawning imps. If that's the case, then..."
José trails off. His skin pales as a horrifying thought occurs to him.
"Umi. What are the odds that demons managed to resurge, somehow? A hundred million years ago, I mean. Could they have made a return and somehow wiped out humanity?"
"Affirmative. The likelihood is less than one percent, Admiral,
" Umi replies. "but even so, I would not advise ruling such a possibility out. While it is possible, the greatest evidence that humanity did not perish to the demons lies in the fact that no notable demonic presences were mentioned inside the Kraktol databases I recovered. Demons are immortal. As such, if they were to defeat humanity, then it would not be out of the question for them to control the entirety of the Local Cluster.
José falls silent.
He closes his eyes and begins to replay the entirety of the Tarus II mission from the beginning. Every moment, from when he first stepped off the Slipstream alongside Megla and the Kessu, all the way to his death, as well as recordings taken by Umi remotely via Lele's datapad. They appear in succession, giving him a play-by-play of the events that occurred.
After more than an hour, José opens his eyes.
"Umi. Tell me about the 'Buzor.' They look like giant bugs. That's what they are, right?"
"Affirmative. The Buzor appear to be vastly enlarged insects, arachnids, and other such formerly miniaturized creatures from the Motherworld, Terra.
"Hmm..." José grunts, stroking his beard. "Have the Kraktol or Kessu ever had dealings with the Buzor? They appear to be intelligent life-forms, not merely monsters acting on instinct."
"My queries reveal inconclusive results,
" Umi says. "The Kessu, naturally, have no computerized records I can search, outside of the Slipstream's memory banks. As for the Kraktol, I am only able to determine that they have engaged in 'amiable' relations with certain Buzor factions. The Buzor are neither allies nor enemies with the Kraktol.
Silently, José nods. He listens to Umi's summary, pondering on her words while brooding to himself.
"Something doesn't add up, here..." José murmurs. "Originally, you stated that the Kraktol were attacking the Kessu's homeworld to eliminate them. Correct?"
"That action seems rather pointless, don't you think? The Kessu intentionally transitioned to a post-technology civilization and ceased all relations with the galaxy at large. Even if the Kraktol hated the Kessu, it's odd that they would wait several thousand years before launching a full-scale assault on the planet. Why not do so earlier?"
José continues. "Furthermore, it seems the only Kraktol still alive who remember the ancient blood-grudges are the Thülvik and some of her top-level administrators. I doubt the peasantry would care about some long-lost humiliation from a former enemy species."
Umi pauses a moment before replying. "Admiral, may I ask what argument you are making? Do you mean to imply that there is a deeper conspiracy happening here?
"There always is," José replies, his voice low. "Since the Buzor are fighting alongside Yama and his minions, that implies a cooperative relationship. And why are they skulking underneath a mountain filled with Trifrancium deposits? Why choose the Kessu's homeworld? What are they trying to hide?"
"I have many questions..." José murmurs. "Too many to count. Did I ask anything similar before my death?"
" Umi answers. "These conjectures you've stated are brand new. I have adapted them into my processing matrix and will begin calculations regarding probable answers at once. My first hypothesis is that the Kessu, Buzor, and demons are working together in some way.
"I have a similar thought," José says. "But... it's too early to assert that without evidence. No... instead, I need to set aside the immediate extermination of Tarus II's demons. Gathering intelligence should be my primary goal, right now. I want to know why the demons and Buzor are working together, and how the Kessu and Kraktol fit into their plans. Seal everything I've spoken about with you in here inside a red-level classification file. I don't want any of this information leaking to our... passengers."
"Orders acknowledged, Admiral,
" Umi says, her voice as monotone as ever. "Do you have any other orders?
José frowns. He rubs his stomach and sighs.
"No. The only thing I want at this moment is to eat some food. I'm starving."
"Currently, your body does not possess any augmentations. I recommend that once you obtain some sustenance, you should immediately head to the medical bay. Bio-entity Penelope will reinstall the biomods from your previous body, allowing you to reach your peak combat potential as quickly as possible.
José starts walking toward the holodeck's exit doors. They slide open, only for him to emerge into an empty hallway.
"Hm?" José says. "Where is everyone?"
"The majority of the Bloodbearer's personnel are currently asleep,
" Umi explains. "I informed them you would not emerge from the holodeck for several more hours. I calculated that you would like to maintain a certain level of privacy for a short while. Shall I inform them otherwise?
"No. That's fine," the Admiral says. He turns and heads toward the mess hall, his stomach grumbling harder than before. "Damn. Now that I've rebirthed, I won't be able to use my psionic abilities anymore. Not having those available is... unfortunate."
"Affirmative. However, Admiral, not all is lost. Your former body suffered many expected abnormalities, all accumulated over thousands of years of its existence. Considering the amount of time you spent inside the stasis capsule, much of your internal structure had decomposed as well. By comparison, your current flesh-vessel is in pristine condition. Physiologically speaking, you will restart your biological clock, and soon your strength should rapidly eclipse your former self. I estimate that you will easily live for many thousands of years.
José rolls his eyes. "Wonderful. Lots of time to adjust to this ever-present sense of loneliness."
"My apologies, Admiral. I did not mean-
"It's a joke, Umi. A joke."
"Affirmative. I will note this in my processing files.
José enters the mess hall. Inside, not a soul stirs.
He synthesizes multiple heaping plates of food and begins wildly gorging out to his heart's content. After more than thirty minutes, the Admiral consumes the meat equivalent of five chickens, making his stomach feel as if it's about to burst.
"Haha!" José laughs, his voice echoing in the empty room. "I can't remember the last time I got to ignore the rationing guidelines and pig out like this. Feels nice. Plus one to living in an empty, desolate future, eh, Umi?"
José cracks his neck and rubs his stomach.
"I forgot what it was like living without augmentations. Is this how unaugmented humans used to feel? My eyes are drooping."
"Presently, you do not possess the cerebral and neural efficiency-type biomods which all of Ramma's Chosen typically had installed. Thusly, your mind and body will fatigue more easily, particularly after three days of nonstop memory-viewing. I recommend several hours of bedrest to elevate your mental condition to its peak. Then, we will expend two to three days reinstalling your missing biomods.
"Sounds good," José says, rubbing his tired eyes. "Let's go with that."
The Admiral rises to his feet. He stretches hard, pops his back, and yawns. As he leaves, a bio-entity materializes inside the mess hall and cleans up his dishes before disappearing.
José strides down the corridor. His eyes droop, making him yawn several times.
"Admiral, your quarters are in the opposite direction,
" Umi says. "You no longer reside in the Private barracks. You took over Admiral Baruchen's quarters five point six months ago.
José slows to a stop, turns around, and walks in the opposite direction, toward the Bridge.
"I didn't realize."
"I calculated as much,
" Umi says. "You will require additional time to readjust to your living situation.
The Admiral nods.
"You've got that right."
....................................... Author Note: Ayo famalams, if you liked what you just read, consider subbing to my Patreon! I post patron-exclusive writing posts, with typically one post dedicated to TLP each month, and another to Cryopod. You help me survive long enough to not starve to death, and I give you fun things to read. It's a win-win! Check out some of those posts here and here! Also consider reading The Cryopod to Hell, the primary story in the Cryoverse! Both stories are part of the Cryoverse, so they're deeply interlinked. You don't wanna miss them! Thank you!