Somewhere in Arizona, Present Day
The sun had long set and the summer heat had dispersed, turning the chilly desert air sharp and fresh. The desert was quiet, save the occasional howl of a coyote or hoot of an owl. There was in this particular area, another sound. The crunch of rocks and dirt under the boots of a hiker. Though he tread with vigour he was not a young man, rather he was in his early sixties but he was not of the type to stay at home and sit around waiting for the morning paper. He was the type of man to ever seek escape the life of cars and cell phones to journey into the wilderness and sleep under the stars. His solitude was not absolute, there was a little beagle scampering around him, sniffing here and there but never straying far from his master. After thoroughly examining a small clearing in the brush the man decided it would be a good place to set camp. It was not long till a cheery fire was burning and a tent was pitched.
“Ah Zak,” the man said addressing the dog, “this is the life!” Almost in acknowledgement the dog came back from his examination of a very interesting rock, and lay beside him sighing contentedly and yawning, ready to sleep.
Far above them a bright little light appeared in the sky.
“Zak, a falling star; make a wish,” he scratched his pup's ears then cautioned, “as long as it isn’t that Dalmatian in town, she's high maintenance.” he chuckled.
He turned his attention back to the night sky and as he watched the light get brighter, a crease of concern appeared on his brow. Within moments the light became brighter than any star and still increased in intensity. The man stood unsure of what to do. This was not a normal falling star. His dog bolted away.
“Zak! Get back here!” He shouted. He was going to pursue his dog when he noticed the landscape around him was quickly becoming brighter. The light was near blinding and out of pure instinct he ran in the direction he thought was away from the light. He was scrambling up a steep hill when a terrible noise filled the air. He leapt and covered his head. There was a sound like a thousand bombs detonating. Dirt, pebbles, and twigs pelted him. For awhile he lay there, unsure of what to do next. When he finally did look up he found the landscape changed from what was once a peaceful wilderness. The area was covered in freshly disturbed dirt, and dust swirled everywhere on the evening breezes. His shock did not completely register until he noticed the gorge like a black, smoking wound it cut through the once beautiful land. Only one thought entered his mind, get help.
3,896 years ago, South Pacific
A massive city filled with domed temples, cascading gardens, ornate pyramids, and slender towers was silent. It was as if it had been frozen in time at the dead of night, and all the decent inhabitants were sleeping but it was not night. The midday sun beat down and the city should be bustling. There should be transport vehicles zooming overhead to and from the city and the sounds of the markets and factories should be in full force.
The people had gone.
A child, no older than six gazed out a window at the empty city below. He held his stuffed cat a little tighter to his chest. His world was changing, and apparently it would change even more.
His father came up beside him and spoke comforting words about how they would go to a new home, and how life would be normal again. The boy looked tearfully up to his father than back at his city. He was too young to understand. His father beckoned to him. It was time for them to enter their long, dreamless sleep.
They came into a long hall with glass cylinders, just like cocoons or the chrysalis of a butterfly. People were saying tearful farewells as their friends and family climbed into their chambers. The father and his son stopped at one of them. He pressed a pad next to the cylinder and the glass door slid upwards. He told the boy it would be as if nothing had happened, he would be safe, and he would have no nightmares. He took the stuffed cat from the boy and told him he would see it again. Then he had his son climb in. He gently placed two small round discs on the boy’s temples and clipped a cap onto his index finger. The boy crossed his hands over his chest as he had been instructed. The boy's little eyes continued to stare at his father as the glass slid down between them. A cool mist entered the cocoon and his father melted from view as if he was staring through milk, and then all was black.
The father stared at his son’s cocoon, and silently prayed to the gods that all would be well. Then he walked to his own resting place.
The island began to shake, and a massive, golden craft rose from the peak of the mountain overlooking the city. It was a life boat, an entire civilization resided within. Those few who were awake peeked through the windows at their island. For awhile the ship slowly rose. Then an enormous boom sounded. Near the peak, trees shattered as the shock ripped them apart and down in the city glass burst out of every frame breaking into tiny shards. The ship vanished into the heavens.
One week ago, Medao Governate, Ini
The grey-blue sky was brightening as day arrived over the walled city of Medao. A breeze swirled up from the south across the lake and up the river delta bringing with it the scent of a new day.
A youth lay in bed sleeping. The breeze slid through his cracked window and teased the blanket away from the face on the pillow, stirring him with the fragrance of the lush rooftop gardens. He opened his eyes slightly and looked blankly at the ceiling for a moment. He closed his eyes again; until he heard the birds which lived in the nest above the window start to cry for food. His eyes popped open and he fell to the floor. He hopped up with one dreadful thought in his mind, I’m late! He rubbed his hands through his golden hair as he frantically rushed to prepare. Throwing his clothes on, he dashed out of his room into the hall and then stopped and looked at his feet. He had forgotten his boots! He rushed back into his room and snatched his stockings and began lacing up the pale leather boots which rose to just below his knee. ‘I should have just worn them to bed.’ He thought regretfully.
After this he went into the kitchen, Too little time to cook anything. he thought. So, instead he grabbed a couple of paper-wrapped pastries from the counter he had purchased yesterday from a shop in one of the neighbouring roof top parks. He left and tried to slip down the hall. There were other homes in the building and he did not want to wake anyone. As he descended down the stairs he was tempted to slide on the hand rail. He stopped himself; twenty years was far too old for that. At the bottom of the stairs he briskly tip-toed to the door. He opened it hoping it would not creak. All he needed today was to wake Lady Zhemeia. She slept like a war veteran, the slightest sound would wake her. He did not want a half hour lecture on the subjects respect for elders, clumsiness, and above all, punctuality. He smiled when he imagined her pursed up lips as she sharply said ‘punctuality!’
He stepped into the courtyard. The redbrick building surrounded it, making it seem like a canyon, vines and ferns were planted on the wall to give it a more natural effect and there were even some small trees and flowers in clay urns. He glanced over at the snow vine; it was his favourite with its icicle like flowers.
He fell with a resounding crash as he did not see the rack of hanging laundry. He lay silent for a moment, hoping against hope no one had heard. He got up relieved. He looked at the mess, ‘I will have to clean that up later, I do not have time now.’
“Who made that racket?” a shrill voice cried.
“Damnation,” He grumbled to himself, knowing he had been caught.
He turned around to see a dignified woman arrive at a second story window. Her formally blonde hair was now cream from the white of age. When she saw him her face immediately became even sharper as she yell scornfully, “Kahlen Rhora! You are a clumsy boy! Clean up the mess!”
“I am very sorry Lady Zhemeia,” Kahlen said in his most apologetic and respectful tone he could produce, “however I must leave; I am late for work, all I can do is promise that I’ll make up for it later.”
He dashed away into the gateway and out onto the street, with the lady shouting a few things about young people nowadays. He ran as fast as he could and hoped he would make it to the train. He ground to a halt when he noticed the alley. ‘It could save time.’ He ran through it. He would have to climb over the brick wall and leap far so he would avoid the compost heap on the other side.
He knelt down, took a few breaths and ran. There were a few crates stacked up and he would have to be quick to not disturb them. He leapt and climbed, touching each crate for a mere instant. Then he grabbed the top of the wall and swung his body onto it.
He let out a groan of dismay. The compost heap had grown since he had last used the short-cut. He was about to despair, there was no way he could leap that far. Then he noticed a poll sticking horizontally out from the wall a ways away, what was even better was that he knew he could leap to it. He jumped, grabbed the bar swung halfway up, let go, then did a cartwheel in the air and landed in a crouch. ‘If only Sir Ramira could have seen that.’ referencing to his gymnastics teacher from his younger years.
The depot was in sight sitting on the second level above the ground street and he could hear the final warning call for the passengers. He put on an extra burst of speed as he climbed the stairs to the station. He ran under the glass shelter of the depot and called to the doorman. “Wait!” the shout paused the doorman just long enough for Kahlen to get through the door before he closed it.
After thanking the doorman profusely Kahlen settled down in a seat by the window. The train started to accelerate until it reached a fair clip. It glided over it’s risen metal track supported by a magnetic field.
The train was going to take him through the other side of the city and would cross the heart of the old quarter. On the way he watched the rooftop gardens and forests go by. Nearly every building in Medao was topped with a garden and the brick and stone walls had vines of many sorts cascading down them. It was said that, from a distance Medao looked like a plateau in the middle of the wide delta swamp topped with forests.
The train reached the old quarter and stopped at the plaza so Kahlen got a chance to gaze at the many temples and shrine surrounding the Court of the Three Ladies. He loved the old quarter, it was the very heart of Medao, and unlike the rest of the city where buildings never topped three stories, here the building were tall and ornate. It was not just the buildings that were taller but the trees were too. The trees planted on the rooftops surrounding the heart of the city were ancient monoliths, many of them older than three centuries, which was near the time of the founding of the grand city. There was also more wildlife, and because of the abundance of it the uppermost floors of the buildings were often uninhabited and were filled with ruins of the third and fourth story structures, giving it a mystical appearance as deer grazed in the rooftop meadows.
There was also the Osai Library and various other important buildings surrounding the plaza, but alas he could not go there today. He said a prayer of thanks that he had caught the train so he could relax until he arrived.
At the final station within the walls of Medao, Kahlen disembarked and waited at the international train depot. His next train arrived promptly and Kahlen was on his way out of the city. This train went outside of Medao and on to the much larger city of Thaniunamai van Ithnuna, capital of their neighbouring nation, Hathinudihawa. It was also a much faster train, it could cover days of walking in less than an hour and the vast forests, swamps, and farms of the river delta became a blur. As according to his normal commute, he would be getting off just before the border at the military base where he and his father worked.
His stomach growled, so he pulled out one of the pastries he had from earlier. They had a grainy, nutty crust and lots of sweet berries cooked into them. After snacking on half of one he nodded off to sleep.
He was woken by the silent deceleration of the train. “Here is my stop.” he muttered to himself. He disembarked the station and walked down a dirt road with on his right being the rolling plains and on his left being the dense delta jungle. The jungle gave way to a tall fence made of decorative but highly sharp steel rods which stuck up the height of three men. After walking awhile he made it to a large gate. The guard held out a flat screen on which Kahlen placed his hand. The screen flashed a bright blue under his palm and his picture with information appeared next to it.
“Proceed on through Rhora.” The guard beckoned.
The base was very large but he enjoyed walking the distance to where his father worked. It was a pleasant path, the roads were lined with trees and there were little garden patches everywhere, seeming to hide the fact that it was a military base. He came to a small shed which was placed off to a corner of the garden. It looked like a gardener’s shed but Kahlen walked up and lifted some of the siding which revealed a key pad. He typed in the code and the door unlocked. He walked in and it latched closed behind him. He stood on a section of the floor in the corner and said, “Revata ta basai na.” The floor lowered like an elevator. It took him down a round cylinder shaped tube and then stopped. The wall slid around and an exit appeared. He walked into a reception area.
“Hello Rhora,” a soldier greeted from behind a desk,
“Good day Vela,” he replied.
“Wish we could chat, but you father has something special for you.”
Kahlen’s face lit up in excitement and leaned in close, whispering conspiringly, “Is it about the project? What is it?”
“You will have to find that out, I do not know anything.” Vela answered with a shrug.
Kahlen dashed down a hall on the left side of the room. Lieu. Vela smiled casually and looked down at the desk expectantly. Kahlen came running back.
“Forgot something?” The Lieu. Vela asked cheekily.
“Yeah,” Kahlen sighed with red starting to show on his cheeks.
The soldier handed him a two pronged key. Kahlen walked somewhat cowed after his initial foolish rush. He reached the door in the hall that had stopped him the first time. He stuck the key into a control board on the right. He inserted it, turned right and typed in a combination. He heard a click sound and the door slid open.
Two men were bent over a piece of an engine on the table. One of them had a small laser which he was using to weld a part of the framework together.
“Is this the big surprise?” Kahlen asked doubtfully.
The man welding stopped and took of his visor. “Kahlen, excellent, you’re here, and no, this is not the surprise. This is just a part of the generator for one of the cruisers the military needed repairing. This…” he got up walked to a window and gestured for Kahlen to follow “…is the surprise.”
Kahlen walked to the window took in a sharp breath, “She’s gorgeous! She is more beautiful than I imagined!” He was looking down into a hangar below at a white vessel. It had streamlined sides and smooth contours. It had two small, down-turned wings which opened at the front and back showing the jet-like propulsion engines. Kahlen continued, “They placed the engines right where I suggested they go, in the wings, 45 degrees descent. I never imagined her to look so beautiful!” He then frowned slightly, “But the wings should be longer, and it is two small, this is only the front part.”
“It is a work in progress, Kahl,” The other man spoke for the first time; he was Kahlen’s uncle and was the only person who shortened his name. “They wanted to make her operational as soon as possible. She will be added onto later.”
“I suppose that is reasonable.” Kahlen said thoughtful, then finally breaking his gaze from the vessel he turned to his father, “Has the Yasha element been installed?
“That is why we called you,” his father turned to him and placed his hand on his shoulder, “I wanted you to help install it.”
“But, security, I am not allowed in the hangar.”
“Son, you have worked with us since we started in the workshop downtown, I have finally convinced the board that you are not a security problem. You have gotten near to no credit and without the heat sink you designed, the Yasha would not have been possible.” He beckoned his son to follow.
After descending the stairs, they walked into the hangar. Kahlen did not expect what came next; all of the technicians were there standing in line on one side and soldiers on the other. A large box, about the size of a young child, was sitting on a table set between the two rows. One technician took a handle at one end and gestured for Kahlen to do likewise. Kahlen stepped forward, a jolt of excitement ran through him as he grasped the handle.
They carried it through the line and into the vessel and walked to the back of the engine room. They set the box down gently next to an open panel in the floor. Kahlen opened the box and took a large blue cylinder with various components inside it suspended in the crystalline material. It took him two hands to hold it. He slowly lowered it into the space under the floor panel where it was received by a slot. He let go of the ‘crystal’ and it settled into its position snugly. He pushed down a small metal latch and it lowered further, lighting up and became a shining gem filling the inside of the ship with a radiant blue light until a protective casing slid around it, concealing it.
Kahlen and the technician, who he recognized as being a leader of another team stepped out of the vessel and the hangar exploded into applause. He did not know how to react. For years he had been just the lab assistant, the son of the eccentric engineer.
His father stepped up to him and asked, “Any words?”
"Today, Yasha shrank the galaxy." Kahlen stated as his father slapped his back affectionately.
There was another round of applause as a table was rolled out with food and alcohol with an announcement that work was over for the day. It was their day to celebrate.