[Antioch Zero][Chapter I]

Written by ZeusLegion. Edited by Auspex Turmalis.

Table of Contents

Chapter I

The Judicator of the province of Scion made his grand entrance under the arched dome of the Tribunal's main auditorium, his hooves clacking loudly on the stone floor. He seated himself as his usual entourage of Zealot bodyguards positioned themselves a few feet behind him, standing at attention.

Those who thought they had known Sevorak well had born witness to dark changes in his behavior in recent weeks. The normally outgoing Templar's brash sense of humor had been replaced by an inexplicable anger and need for secrecy. He had recently ordered a massive wall to be built around the entire province of Scion, sealing off entry to anyone lacking his express permission to enter.

His call for an assembly of the leaders of local provinces this day filled many of the other Judicators with the grim feeling that this bizarre metamorphosis was about to come to a head. No one sensed this more than the behemoth Judicator seated directly across from him. The brawny Protoss from the province of Antioch rose and pointed an accusing finger at his political nemesis.

"Why have you called us here, Sevorak?" Jepok questioned.

For a brief moment, Sevorak's eyes flashed red with hatred, but he quickly gained his composure and rose to meet Jepok, eye to eye. Saying nothing, he glared at the Judicator for a moment, then spun around and walked down to the center of the Comitatus and addressed the assembly:

"Long ago, when the Ancients left us, our brethren turned on each other in despair and wallowed in self-hatred," he began. "Khas saved us and taught us to become one with each other again, restoring our communal psionic link, and order to Aiur. I have called all of you here this day to make a request, on behalf of all Protoss, that will make certain there will never again be another Aeon of Strife!"

The chamber was filled with murmurs as the Judicators expressed their shock at Sevorak's unlikely claim. It was Judicator Aldaris who spoke first.

"Quite an ambitious goal for one who has yet to demonstrate any significant achievements other than a talent for building walls. Just how do you propose to do such a thing, Sevorak?" Aldaris asked in his usual facetious manner.

Sevorak's eyes flashed blue in amusement. He ignored the barbed comment and continued.

"I ask that you release all artifacts and knowledge of the Ancients to the populace of Aiur so that our brethren will know what it means to be the First Born! That it is we who shall inherit the cosmos from our creators and none other! The Ancients' knowledge will pave the way to our destiny by renewing our understanding of the universe!" Sevorak bellowed.

Aldaris, flashing with anger, rose and shouted. "Preposterous! That is forbidden! You speak of heresy, Sevorak!"

Sevorak's eyes now also flashed with anger. "Watch your words carefully, Aldaris. You may live to regret them."

Aldaris turned to see that Sevorak's bodyguards had silently moved to a mere five feet behind him. Aldaris turned to the others in disbelief. "This is an outrage! He implies murder and none of you have honor enough to contest this mad scheme of his?"

Jepok rose to his full height and pointed to Sevorak's bodyguards. Aldaris turned to see that three Zealots bearing the markings of Antioch had silently crept out from the shadows and surrounded the bodyguards, ready to strike. "Enough of this," Jepok said. "We have heard Sevorak's request and the Council has already reached a judgment."

"Do tell," Sevorak said, knowing full well what the answer would be.

"No," Jepok said. "The Ancients' knowledge is too dangerous. We are not ready yet as a species to dabble in technologies and sciences devised by creatures older than Aiur itself. If we have a destiny, we will get there in due time by following the teachings of the Khala."

"So be it," Sevorak replied. "I tried to do it your way. If you will not release the secrets of the Xel'Naga willingly then you have forced my hand. Remember that you are all responsible for what is to come."

One of the three Zealots from Antioch stepped forward. "Is that a threat? You would do wisely to leave this place now while you have the opportunity to do so!"

Jepok waved a hand. "Moloch, you will be silent. Sevorak is a Judicator and you will address him with respect until he proves that he is not deserving of it."

"It would be wise for you to listen to Jepok, Zealot," Sevorak laughed.

"Silence!" Jepok shouted. "The young Zealot may be out of line here, Sevorak, but we of the Judicatura agree with his sentiments. Leave now. This assembly is adjourned."

The behemoth Judicator, Jepok, and the three Zealots from Antioch walked along the halls of the Tribunal.

"I meant no disrespect, Judicator. Please forgive me," Moloch intoned.

"There is nothing to forgive," Jepok replied. "You must learn to control your emotions, Moloch. They will be your undoing, as it was with the Dark Templar. The other Judicators were tempted to censure you for your outburst. Had it not been for your young age and the greater weight of Sevorak's veiled threat, it would have been so."

"Surely, the other Judicators won't let Sevorak continue with whatever secret scheme he is plotting?" Kuldarus asked.

"I say we smash down the walls of Geryko and find out what he is up to!" snorted Sinar.

Jepok laughed. "Brave talk, young Sinar. And what would you do if there is nothing to be found?"

The young Zealot shook his hands vehemently. "Beat him until he told us the truth!"

Jepok laughed again. "Sinar, I wish I were young and naive again so that I could do that very thing." Jepok turned and looked down at the brawny little Zealot who oddly resembled a shorter version of himself. "But I am a Judicator. There are laws that must be upheld and it is my responsibility to make certain that they are. Attacking other Judicators on mere charges of suspicion is not something I can do."

"As you say, Master. I still have much to learn from you."

Jepok placed one of his massive hands on the Zealot's shoulder. "Indeed you do, Sinar. But your idea has given me one of my own. As a Judicator, I am allowed a few special considerations. I intend to use some of them to uncover Sevorak's misdeeds, quietly, should there be any. Come. We must speak with Laurioch."

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