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                                                                                           Chapter 8              

                                                                               *The Mahdi Protocol*

“Be carefuuuul!!” Menelik screamed at Nongqawuse as she brought the Hoverbird to an abrupt but smooth stop in the docking bay.

“We’re running out of time!!”, Nongqawuse shouted as she jumped out of the cockpit.

“So you think we’re not aware of that?”.

Menelik responded somewhat cynically.

“I just hope you completed your mission as instructed”, he continued.

Nongqawuse responded with a mixed look of disdain and indignation.

“Your confidence in me is inspiring as always!”

“Look…I’m sorry if I came across as ungrateful.”, Menelik responded slightly embarassed.

“It’s just that we’ve come such a long way, and this is our first chance to rid ourselves of the Juluka since they arrived.

Our Star Mapping Computations have revealed that the current Planetary alignments are the most propitious for our intended course of action according to the Ancient inscriptions.”, he continued.

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“I understand how important this is. I dont need to be reminded”, Nongqawuse retorted.

“However, I am concerned about whether our own Messiah Neural feed is the best way to achieve what we want”, she continued with a look that betrayed a need for Menelik’s reassurance.

“It wasn’t my individual decision. That’s what the joint Cult Dare Council decided, and we are all bound by the decisions of the Dare Council. That has always been our way. We’ve also learnt a lot from the Juluka in this period of our humiliation.

The technology we have stolen from them over the years has enabled us to develop our own secret Synthetic Army, and we are now ready to expel the Juluka from Kingu so we can restore the Olden ways.

A Messianic Protocol delivered via a Neural Feed is necessary to operate the Synthetics. This is where your little assignment comes in. The Synthetics have been designed to work with a Messianic Protocol. Without it, the Synthetics will not activate, and we wont have an army”, Menelik continued emphasising what was at stake.

 “I can confirm that I made contact. I’m sure we’ll be hearing from The Elected pretty soon, but I really hope you know what you’re doing”. Nongqawuse added in an effort not only to confirm the execution of the task assigned to her, but also to reveal her unease at the use of Neural Technology by the Mwari Cult in the coming confrontation with the Juluka.

“Trust me, we know what we’re doing. We’ve had a long time to prepare for this, and we certainly cant afford to let the moment pass. It’s ordained in the Stars. Let’s go, the Dare Council is already waiting for us.

I wonder why they don’t provide a Teleportation Capsule. I hate walking all the way up there everytime”.  Menelik concluded as they began the treacherous climb up the long, winding and narrow path to the Dare Council Chamber where the full Mwari Cult Council was impatiently waiting.

The Mwari Council Chamber was hidden in a deep Ancient Cave whose location was known only to members of the Akan. A Triangle of Waterfalls all poured their waters from the top of the sacred mountain into a Circular Canal at the centre of the Cave, and around the Canal a thick, natural raised Circular Limestone Platform located at the epicentre of the Cave was formed.

The Dare Council Members sat in a Circle of 7 around a wooden fire, and the Cave was lit with a delicate combination of natural sunlight and flame torches as in the olden days before the arrival of the Juluka.

Menelik himself was a descendant of the Mwari Cult Akan Dynasty that had ruled Planet Kingu before the Juluka Conquest. The Mwari Cult were a Priestly Clan that had used a combination of Military force and Astrology to unify the Kingu Tribes into a single Akan Nation before the arrival of the Juluka. Their Dynasty had barely survived the Juluka Conquest, with Menelik emerging as the strongest leader in recent memory.

A tall, muscular well built man donning a crop of dark, mature and flourishing dreadlocks, Menelik was both regal and imposing. They were rumors that his hazel eyes which were uncommon amongst the Akan were proof that he was a Demi-God, having been born of the union between his mother, Akan Chief Priestess Ishta, and the Chief Male deity of the Akan, Nkulunkulu.

“At this rate I’ll have to carry you”, Menelik teased Nongqawuse as she struggled to navigate in the thick brush while trying to contend with the possibility that she may at any time slip and fall to certain death on the moss covered stepping stones.

“Not all of us have the slight advantage of being born Demi-Gods you know”, she responded curtly.

 “Sure, if that makes you feel better”, Menelik responded with muffled laughter.

“Here, grab my hand”, Menelik said as he held at an outstretched arm, which Nongqawuse observed indifferently.

“Look, I know you don’t need my help with this, but we need to get up there ASAP”, Menelik continued with slight irritation in his voice.

“As long as you realise that I can handle this little mountain myself”, Nonqawuse eventually replied grabbing hold of his arm. Menelik pulled her up firmly and carried her the rest of the way.

They continued without incident, and soon they could observe the torch flames and smoke around the Dare Council Chamber.

Menelik approached the edge of the watery canal around the meeting Platform, and after placing Nonqawuse gently on her feet, he announced their arrival by shouting the Ancient Password:  “!Khwa ttu”.

The Canal waters parted instantly, opening a path for Menelik and Nonqawuse to cross over to the main Platform where the Mwari Cult Dare Council was already gathered in waiting.

“Finally, you’ve kept us waiting long enough”, Ishta announced as Menelik and Nonqawuse entered the Dare Circle.

Menelik took his place as the 7th member of the Council whilst Nonqawuse sat behind Ishta. The Council was made up of 4 Women and 3 Men including Menelik. Ishta stood up to address the Council as the other members remained seated.

Due to the Cybernertic enhancements performed on her over the years, Ishta’s original face was barely recognisable. She no longer had any hair, plus the colour had been drained from her skin, and what remained was an ashen cloured slender body frame controlled by a 3 eyed Cybernetic head fitted with an assortment of Data Ports.

“We are all aware that our people lost to the Juluka at the battle of Maji Maji Station because our weapons were inferior to those of the Juluka. In the last war against the Juluka, the Ancient Knowledge and Prophecies were simply impotent in the face of the Juluka War Machine.

As a result, we were humiliated, and since then we have been collaborating with the Juluka in the oppression of our own people. Its only been through this deception that we were able to gain the trust of the Juluka so we could understand their ways, and most importantly their technology.

We have waited patiently once again for a sign from the Gods, and finally the Stars are aligned.

This time we will confront the Juluka with their own weapons because we have managed to replicate the Synthetic Life Savant Technology they developed and have now used it to create Synthetic Super Warriors of our own.

However, our Army is in need of a leader.  For this purpose we have been led by the Ancient Prophecy and identified The Elect amongst the lost sheep in the Citadel.

The Synthetics will be controlled by him using the Messianic Neural Protocol we have developed called the Mahdi Protocol, a Messianic Warrior Consciousness we built by Coding and merging the best qualities of various charismatic Akan leaders from the past into a single Consciousness that will be uploaded into The Elected via a Neural Feed and used to lead our Synthetic Army into battle.

We tasked Nonqawuse with making first contact and she’s here to give us her report”.

She turned her unnerving gaze to Nonqawuse who stood up apprehensively to address the Council.

“Yes its true that I have initiated contact with The Elected. The Citadel is riddled with anxiety and tension because the people are without a Shepherd. However, Wise Elders, I am concerned at the methods we are using to accomplish this task. By using a Neural Feed are we not resorting to the same vile technological tools the Juluka have used to corrupt and bring misery to the Federation?

They were murmurs across the room until Ifaenyi, leader of the male faction of the Council spoke out.

“Who are we to dare to even imagine we can comprehend what the Olden Gods want and what they do not? All we know is that the Juluka are a curse unto this land, and we must do all we can to expel them. In defeat, we bid our time, and ingratiated ourselves to them so we could learn their ways and understand where we went wrong.

Now that we have built an Army using their Knowledge, for the first time, the Celestial signs have been aligned. If this is not a sign from the Olden Gods, I do not see what else could be. I say we prepare for battle!”

Ishta stood up and addressed the Council.

“So its agreed that we continue with the plan to implant the Mahdi Consciousness into The Elected.

My Son, Menelik and Nonqawuse will ensure that everything goes according to plan. And you, young Maiden are reminded that until you become a full member of this Council you should use your liberty to speak before us wisely, we should not have to remind you to know your place.”

Menelik and Nonqawuse exchanged glances as the procession of Elders departed the Council Chamber.

Next: Chapter 9: Blood Moon

Artwork Credit: Nubiamancy