"The stars inside of you will turn into black holes." He told them. "No stars are born evil, but a star without faith will have it's light changed to dark." - Hogarth Hughes, Chapter: 24, The Protector.

Prologue.

I.

небо России, October 7th 1920...

His father called them all kulak, wealthy, hard-working farmers in a sea of rampant peasantry reform, that was why the family stayed where they were and kept up their prosperous means. Father and Grandfather were not kind to laziness, dreamers included. And what did ten-year-old boys dream of anyway? A rebellion with a handsome payout for one, and hero worship of their home, village and of course the surrounding area of небеса was nomer dva, and - a loud fist pounded on the front door.

Inga looked up from rocking baby Isay to the long plank of feather-light timber Isaac I and II had built. Immediately her dark brown eyes cut to Sergei and the rag-draped, hairline-cut boy jumped from the barrel he stood on and ran to fetch his superiors. He stopped barefoot and itchy at the intended eventual nursery for his youngest brother - the three eldest boys in their own wares by now excluding Sergei - and knocked lightly on the thick, heavy walnut door of his elders' normal headquarters.

"Boy, ya check the ferment?" Father asked in his rough, Russian tongue.

"Father, the door, sir."

Immediately the candy bar-colored and shaped door swung open, causing Sergei to jump back three feet. Armed with nothing but their gleaming, well-buffed rifles, two similarily built men in fading gray work clothes and piercing light green eyes made their way to the front door. Inga gave her curious son a look to return to his stirring of Isay's by now very ragged and worn hand-me-downs. Though unafraid, Isaac II still used a security chain.

"Yah?" The tall, broad-shouldered man accosted.

"Man, we need many provisions. Peaceful cooperation is not a requirement, as it is barely a consideration. Give us your old bolt-actions or..." Long, pointed rifles were levelled onto his father, Sergei only saw that much as Inga rushed him and Isay through the small front room and into the second largest bedroom after his parent's. Sergei tried to see his mother.

She hushed him while clutching the five-month-old close as they exited the commotion.

The stagnant stench of hard liquor hit them dead in their throats as they crouched behind one of two huge steamer trunks in the otherwise bare room. Angry male voices conversed, swore and gave silver-tongued reasons as to why they couldn't leave; the children were not part of the reasons why. Sergei heard the unmistakable sound of Grandfather's gun loading and clicking.

Just as he tried to send his mother a pleading look to do something a sharp shot rang out.

Sergei yelped in horror. His mother stared in violent agony, too stunned to accuse him with her normally demure eyes, instead she clamped his mouth with her thin hand, muffling Isay's cries with her bony shoulder. Inga crouched instinctively in front of her older son as a total of three more gunshots pounded out into the gas-lit front room. Grandfather let out a moan.

Inga turned to read Sergei's expression; which gunfire belonged to which man?

Isaac III could tell her. Aleksander would definitely, even Ivan could give an educated guess as to who fired which round. Sergei shrank away, fear of rejection and, most prominently, a fear of not knowing etched into his fair-skinned face. His mother scowled at him, her upper and lower lips tightening like an angry monkey in her own dark face. Isaac I was then in the room and dragging Grandfather along limply with his arm draped over his large shoulders.

The forty-three-year-old man looked dearly into his wife's eyes and kissed their newborn.

"Father?" Sergei tried to coax a half-hearted, man-to-man response out of him.

His parents looked upon him severely as they often did when he failed them.

The scrawny boy wilted as his father took his grandfather's gun and gave it to him.

"Go," Isaac I told him, "Off to the nearby villages to give word, if you see any Reds..."

"Father, I-,"

"You are a man!" He shouted at the boy with the same skin and eyes as him, the only son who was not as dark, thick and large. That was why he married Inga initially, those huge brown eyes and beautiful brown hair, supplied with the Dulov bulk, pedigree was a sure thing. Even little Isay Dulov was thick for his five months, but Sergei was puny, wrong...

"Grandfather is dead," Inga's shrewd eyes had determined even before she spoke aloud.

Isaac II shuddered violently and even Sergei could see for once it was not with a temper.

"Father-," He tried again.

"GO!" His father grabbed him up and manhandled Sergei out a half-open window.

"NO! No, I don't want to go!" Sergei screeched and actually used the gun to bar himself, twisting his little limbs around the long weapon. "Father, please!" he cried out as tears sprang from his eyes. Isay wailed loudly at the disturbance, Inga helped to straighten the weapon out and his father thrust up on the window. Sergei was shoved out into the night.

"Go!" Isaac II barked a final time. "And if you get the chance, aim for the heart."

Without one word of prayer from his mother, without one single look of encouragement, the window slammed shut and the front light in what to Sergei was the rear of the house went out. Gulping dryly and panting in ragged breaths, he clutched the gun to himself yet again as if it would come to life and protect him. With one more gulp of air that couldn't entirely choke back his near-silent crying, Sergei backed frightenedly into the brush. His round jade eyes darted this way and that in fear of the horrid Red Menace before taking off.

Sergei found quickly that his boots hindered him and so he yanked at their taut laces. The boy managed to have ripped both sets out at the top when he stumbled across the nearest home at the edge of his village in небеса. He regained control of his breathing as his small fingers pushed aside overgrown weeds - farmers spent time on farms now, no resources in these times were wasted - and picked his way into an empty backyard. It was much larger than his family's and was in the area his father considered beneath the kulaks. So why did these lesser peasants have more acreage? Sergei only left home to hunt with Father and-,

He stifled a watery sob as his trained eyes took in unfinished firewood and the well-kept handsaw next to it, a shovel left out, and - BANG! Sergei shrank back, remembering that sound. Then he remembered he was a disappointment. The boy gripped Grandfather's old rifle in his hands with forced bravado and ran through the backyard, then along the house and up to the front. He uneasily but curiously peered through two rows of tall porch slats.

"I'll ask you again," a voice very much like the other Red was saying, "where do you keep the most valuable items on this property? We want to make a good appearance, old man."

His company chuckled softly.

That's when Sergei saw an older man, like his Grandfather but younger, two women and a lean boy possibly a year older than him. Sergei pondered how he could see them and was quick to note the stars were unusually bright that night; he almost never came out at night.

"Again," A single-action revolver rose to the man's heart, "Where are your valuables?"

Sergei was picking at his laces again and finally managing to slip his boots off when there was something said he would never forget, "My most valuable item is my heart, good sir."

There was no hesistation from the farmer when he spoke this, nor hesistation from the Red.

Pow!

"Now," Sergei could hear the smile in the man's voice as one woman wailed, "a devalue."

The older boy had been shielded from the sight of the explosion, somehow the smell and sound didn't make it more real. Seeing it, Sergei stood gawking at the sight of it all. Why was this? Why was the man with his heart shot and the man with no heart standing alive?

He saw the curve of his jaw where it was still tugged up in the shadows, low chuckles infiltrated any surrounding sense of calm. Sergei's reality had imploded and the pounding of his own heart in his ears, rupturing his brain and skull, and the strong, almost pugnant cold air in his nose enraged him. This broken sense of secure normacly filled the ten-year-old boy with a rare, terrifying rage that jolted him to a man twice his age. Yelling like a banchee or an Indian, Sergei flung himself from his hiding place and forgoed all common sense.

Tears spilled out of his eyes as he shot wildly, taking no heed where he shot. Without seeing from his blur of waterworks the nearly gaunt boy dragged his mother and sister into the hole dug out, the very one where his father had collasped in. Sergei ran by the gaping pit of darkness, crying hysterically and throwing the long weapon in it as he did.

"Get the boy! He's killed Roland and Isaac."

Sergei threw himself into the tall corn crops and ran as fast as his thin legs would take him. He wasn't a man anymore, he was just a boy; a scared, God-fearing little boy. The collaspe of corn and the thick, dark grass was the last thing Sergei saw as he fell face first.

His entire little body heaved and sobbed with all he had endured in what couldn't have been very long at all. Smoke from fire filled his little nose. He didn't want to, but morbid curiosity was the only curiosity he had anymore. Sergei shakily rose to his feet and turned to see through dry, sticky eyes two pillars of smoke joining what collectively was ten or eleven pillars, all adjoining into one huge, heavy cloud of pure black. It was in Sergei's mind the death of hearts, for he couldn't even feel his own anymore. The boy clutched half-conciously at his chest and turned shakily to see the entire night sky ablaze in stars.

They were beautiful, but Sergei had never been much of an abstract thinker. He wasn't raised to be anything but practical or to think of practical thoughts. Practical dreams did count. He lowered his eyes from the meaningless night sky and breathed in the chilly air choked with thick fumes. Suddenly, a point of starlight eclipsed his face. He looked about himself to discover a metallic halo had formed around his head. "Sweet Jesus!" he fell on his butt and watched the encircling light rotate his entire body. The Reds... mind control...

The thoughts sent chills to his suddenly stuck heart and he trembled as he watched four more silver beams of light strike out of the center of what Sergei identified as the North Star. He shivered all the way down to his fragile bones at the immensity of this presence.

Sergei fell forward and bowed before it, but something in his gut told him it was unholy.

"If you come to kill me, do it now." he quivered out the request. "I have lost Mother and Father, baby Isay and Grandpa. I have no more strength to carry on, but tell God to have mercy for I am but a boy who has sinned and killed possibly five or more men." Licking his cold lips, he somehow composed his breathing where he was still bowed. "And women."

After adding this with some consideration as to the importance of women in God's eyes, Sergei lifted his head to see the emcompassing silver light. It was peaceful, the boy imagined it was holy for it aroused a sense of long-forgotten faith in him from when he was five or six. He stood, not quite believing but starting to want to, hunching his shoulders straight.

"You are a boy," A whisper announced to him, a smaller, faded silver flash appeared in front of him and Sergei cupped his hands. "These are rudiment pieces to allow you to communicate in any language, it is you who must create them." The boy couldn't bring himself to look away from the metal arcs in his hand. "You can make a world all your own." he raised his speculating, wonder-filled green eyes. "A world that is perfect here."

Sergei thought he saw a shadowy figure in the light.

"Only God can do that," he whispered, but somehow he didn't believe his own words.

"Having observed the evolution of this world..."

"... We feel that it is not progressing properly..." Another voice spoke.

"But you," the first one emphasized, "Can make the difference."

"I am not Prophet." Sergei explained automatically, but the gears in his mind were turning again in his lightly throbbing head. His heart filled with longing to re-create everything he had lost. He gripped the silver pieces in his hand. "What must I do!?"

"Allow us into your mind, we will show you the rest." A second figure appeared.

Something clicked in his head. Sergei's eyes widened and he remembered everything, what was happening had happened before. It was all happening again. The identity of who Sergei Dulov was in Russia, of who he became in America: Sergey Dimelo, of his empire-building, or this one instance when he came into contact with mysterious beings he would never see again except in the ideas that came to him, reverted to his mind. He remembered everything up until his re-arrest in 1965. He remembered everything vividly before that though: His many-great granddaughter Kina, 7000 and it's (his) clones, the gateway... Hogarth.

Hogarth.

He shook his head slowly and looked up with new eyes, his recovered adult personality was at war with this newly-resentful young man one. Sergei didn't know if they knew, but he did know he had more knowledge than he ever had before. Dimelo knew he had a heart for his past and future family and he would get to that, now that he knew everything in between 1920 to 1965. The memory box was apparently still functioning somewhere within the universe, somewhere between now and the last of his memories. He sighed.

"I would be happy to join your cause," he made sure his rememberance of the English language wasn't apparent as he replied in flawless, nearly cheery Russian. Sergei knew these aliens would mentally supply him fractions of useful information for both himself and his own plans for the next thirty-plus years. Who had need of God anyway?

It wasn't Sergey Dimelo who would need one, once he found out his fate after 1965.

He allowed them to fill him with unnecessary knowledge before they slipped away fast. Sergei Dulov's body travelled away from the grassy knoll and he was almost a single-minded robot as he kept his other memories at bay and walked to the post office so he could send a telegraph to his older brothers in America. The cold still made him shiver.

...

~ Lavenderpaw ~