Episode One: The Ancient Ways

"Goodbye, Leela," Enik bid his wife farewell simply, clasping his hands on her elbows fondly.

"Goodbye, Enik," she replied, looking into his eyes with her own bright black ones. "Take care and walk with caution."

"I will, of course," he assured her. He dropped his arms to his sides, turned and walked away from Leela. Enik stopped only to pick up his Magetty and bag filled with the Fourth Dimensional Nodes he would need for his journey, then exited the small house. Behind him, Enik could hear his wife Leela going back to her household work. Having said goodbye, he turned his mind aside from family and to the task at hand. He walked through the beautiful Altrusian city towards the pylon he was to use, but thought he heard someone call his name.

"Enik!"

It sounded like a young girl's voice. He turned to his right, towards the sound of the voice, and caught only a glimpse of a pylon with an alien figure in the doorway. It was far away, outside the city gates, so he was not able to make out much detail. He took a few steps towards it to investigate, but then it vanished suddenly.

How odd, he thought to himself. I must remember to report this to the elders when I return. They will find this interesting. Enik turned back to his task at hand. Once he reached the pylon, he stepped inside and began arranging the Nodes on the table to configure the correct key for the time he was travelling to. He set the pylon for a thousand years in his past, then activated the Magetty.

Moments later, the pylon attuned to Enik's destination and he stepped out. He was unsurprised to find himself surrounded by jungle foliage, gently illuminated by the moons above. A primal hissing sound reached him, and he turned with only mild concern to see what the source was. Ah, he thought, as the primitive green Altrusians made their crouching way towards him, bearing crude crossbows and nets. Yes, of course. My ancestors. He extended a hand slowly in their direction, at the same time extending thoughts of peace and travel in a different direction. The hissing of his primitive relatives lessened in its intensity and they slunk away to hunt the moths elsewhere. Calmly, Enik followed them at a safe distance. His purpose was to study the Altrusians' ancestors first-hand. The library of skulls contained great knowledge, but experience had value that words alone could not encompass.

The ancient Altrusians that made up the small hunting party Enik was following were taller than him, and they were a deep green to blend in with their leafy surroundings. Much different from Enik's own warm gold color. They were also more muscular, which made sense to Enik as they lived a harder, more rugged life than the Altrusians of his own time were used to with the aid of their advanced technology and sciences. They seemed to communicate mostly through harsh, hissing words. Though their vocabulary was fair enough, they did not seem to make much if any use of their race's natural telepathic abilities. They have obviously not yet developed those skills, Enik thought, making mental note of his observations as he continued to stealthily follow the hunting party.

Suddenly, the group came across something that Enik found quite unexpected. Three strange beings, covered in thick brown fur like mice. The two larger ones were almost the same size as the members of the Altrusian group, while the third was only about half Enik's height. They reacted to the group's arrival with a strange assortment of grunting yells and a lot of arm-waving which Enik took as defensive posturing. They obviously wanted to seem as threatening and dangerous as possible, hoping to scare off the intruders.

They did not know what Enik himself did -- no Altrusian was easily intimidated. The green hunters closed in on the strange furry beings, holding up their crude nets and hissing loudly.

"This is our territory," one of the hunters, apparently the leader, hissed at the strange ones. "Go away!"

"Eh?" the largest of the three strangers said, cocking his head to one side. He babbled angrily at the hunting party and swiped at them with one arm. He pushed the other two furry ones behind him with his other arm, and all three continued to chitter and yell in what was, to Enik and his ancestors, pure gibberish.

This is strange indeed, Enik thought, staying well out of the way of the entire confrontation. I fear this will come to a conflict. How unfortunate. I am glad that Altrusians have progressed past these barbaric ways.

"These hunting grounds belong to the Sleestak!" the green hunting leader hissed again, and motioned two of his hunting party forward. They ran at the furry creature who was standing in the front and threw a net over his head.

The Sleestak? Is that what our ancestors called themselves, then? Enik thought, interested despite the concern he felt for both sides of the conflict he was now watching unfold.

There was a great commotion, mostly coming from the furry strangers. With a lot of jumping, screeching, more gibberish, and frantic arm movements, the two smaller creatures managed to help their friend struggle free of the net. They retreated quickly, yelling in threatening tones over their shoulders as they disappeared into the foliage.

Thank goodness no one was hurt, Enik thought in relief. Now that that is over, I will see what my ancestors do next.

Enik followed the Sleestak through the rest of the night. They worked together with a surprising level of cooperation to catch the moths they hunted. Two of the Sleestak would throw a net over a moth, and then a third would shoot the captive insect with a crossbow. Then yet another Sleestak would collect the moth into a large bag for carrying it home in, and the hunt would continue again. As the first rays of daylight started to filter into the jungle, the Sleestak turned and headed back the way they had come. They moved more quickly now, while not stalking prey, and within a few minutes they had led Enik to the mouth of a cave set in a large, rough wall of rock.

The hunting party entered the cave, closely followed by Enik, who continued to use his mental abilities to make sure he remained unnoticed. The cave opened out into a complex series of tunnels, but Enik's ancestors seemed to have no trouble navigating through them. And why should they? Enik reflected. Even though they are primitive, they still have the Altrusian sense of direction.

Although the Sleestak lacked Enik's advanced skills with telepathic ability, any Altrusian could instinctively hone in on the direction of his or her home. It was very unusual indeed for an Altrusian to get lost.

Little else that was unexpected happened over the next few days. Enik observed the Sleestak's daily routine, their comings and goings, and social structure. Although uneventful, Enik found it fascinating. He had waited a long time to be approved by the council for this type of task, and was fully enjoying the experience. He set himself up a small workstation on a waist-high flat surface of rock that served as a small table. He set the Magetty onto it, and laid out several of the Fourth Dimensional Nodes, rearranging them periodically as his work demanded.

Several days into his study of the Sleestak, the calm was shattered. Something caught their attention, and they hurried away through several of the tunnelways. Enik heard one of the Sleestak hiss, "Intruders!" Curious, he followed a group of three Sleestak to see where they went. He left his tools behind at his workstation, confident that they would remain undisturbed until his return. After all, he had already used his telepathic abilities to make them seem uninteresting to the Sleestak, and the furry creatures Enik had seen on his first night here had never once ventured into the caves. Those strange brown beings were the only ones Enik had seen beside the Sleestak and himself in this place that exhibited any major signs of intelligence and sentient thought.

At the same time, something in that logic bothered Enik. Who could these 'intruders' be?