"Please don't fall asleep in the Chamber of Elsydeon!"
"WHAT?" he yelled, bolting straight upward. His legs failed him and he fell down again. His entire body felt completely drained. It wasn't all that unpleasant. It was as though he had finished a good day's work and was only now sitting down to rest. Still, it was embarrassing. He couldn't quite think as well either. Again, he wasn't as confused as he had been during the last few weeks, he just couldn't quite feel as much psychic energy floating around in there. He also couldn't remember what the hell had happened, "I said DON'T! You complete and utter..."
"Complete and utter what?" demanded the Elder.
"Aaargh! I didn't mean you!" yelled Rune, "I... I was talking to..."
"Please don't profane this holy sanctum with foul language." warned the Elder, "Even you shouldn't be here with good cause. I've already punished the guards for not checking what you were actually doing in the Inner Sanctum."
"Sorry. I was sleepwalking."
"Sleepwalking? You don't know the password to get in the Chamber of Elysdeon!"
"Password? I think it was..." he scratched his head and looked up at the statue, "Already open?"
"Is it still time for breakfast?"
"You slept through it."
Rune groaned. He walked out of the chamber. He could feel Alis' eyes boring into his back, accusing him, measuring him up for an unpleasant afterlife worthy of his many shortcomings.
I don't care where I go, as long as I don't get randomly teleported anywhere else stupid today.
As it turned out, he didn't. He made it to lunchtime without any incident. He decided to go for a walk to visit Raja. The old priest was still as annoying as ever but it was an almost refreshingly mundane kind of annoyance – he was only telling awful jokes and getting drunk on the ceremonial wine, not possessing him or teleporting him to the moon or anything. By the time he was ready for tea, he had expected at least something to happen to him. Nothing. He met Kyra at the dining hall and she tried to steal his dessert. He wondered whether there was something more worthwhile that he could be doing as the guardian of Algol than lazing around and eating.
That night, he had an unusually vivid dream.
He was on Rykros. Lonely as ever, the very rocks pulsating with an ancient power, the planet itself was like an eternal dream. Aurorae of green and magenta drifted across the night sky. The planet's soft hum, like a machine on standby, was the only sound, just like the pattern of the skies and a soft breeze blowing the crystal dust across the rocks were the only movements. The planet probably has nobody on it now, he thought. The forces of the Profound Darkness had disappeared along with their master. The Guardians had fallen back into their sleep, possibly eternal, now there was no further need for their historical records. As Rykros drifted back out of the Algol solar system, the planet's orbit was now too far away from the other planets for any humans or even the androids on their satellites to get there.
He walked for what seemed like an eternity, then the Silence Temple drifted into view. The door opened when he approached it. He stepped inside.
In the tower's central chamber, Le Roof was awake. A figure sat cross-legged in the middle of the floor, their eyes closed. It was the girl Rune had seen in the vision. No, in two visions now. She had been singing softly to herself when Rune walked in. As he approached her, her eyes snapped open.
"Brother! You're awake again!" she said, "I never thought you'd come."
"I... I think there's been some kind of mistake..." he said, unsure what to say to a crazy two-thousand-year-old Esper in a dream who thought he was her sister, "Er... was it you that time, with the mission and the Telepathy Balls and the... um... the cats?"
"CATS?" she stood up, her face deadly serious, "WHERE?"
"Er... never mind... there aren't any cats. Honest." she looked disappointed and sat back down again, "Did you ever finish whatever you were doing on Rykros?"
She shook her head, "Never did get off the planet, either. Ran into some problems of my own."
"It didn't work out so well with Lutz. I'm sorry..."
"That's okay, it means he'll be off the outer wheel when the disaster hits." she said, "Deep in the hub. That's the place to be. You should go there too, brother. But I guess you can't, can you?"
"What are you talking about? What disaster?"
"Oh, you weren't there yet. That's right." she scolded herself, "You see, those glitches you heard about... they weren't just glitches. They were malicious information. Like a virus."
"Oh hell. Dark Force again?"
"Much worse." she said, "Dark Force is something that was supposed to happen. This is completely alien information. Nothing to do with Algol. Rykros didn't know how to handle it at all. Must have picked it up somewhere far, far away."
"It tried to attack already but I fought it off and fixed things. That was only a small amount. When Rykros meets the source of that alien information again, it'll have a foothold to breach the wall, flood the place. I'm going to stay here anyway and help Le Roof fight it but ultimately, something's going to get through."
"Um... I suppose I should prepare the solar system to fight it off," he said, "But to be honest, I have no idea where to start. I'm not Lutz any more. I don't even have his memories. I won't live any longer than a normal person and I'll have no way to pass on my will to the next generation. When is this going to happen anyway?"
"The Fifth Cycle." she said.
"Oh. The good part of a thousand years away."
"Its not that long." she gave him a sideways glance, confused, "I thought it was obvious what you have to do. Let everyone know. The Fifth Cycle. Its going to break. Nothing that happens from then on can be trusted."
"I'll try and let someone know. I can't live for a thousand years but I might be able to pass on some knowledge. People listen to you when they think you're Lutz."
"Brother, I'm sorry," she said, "I should have worked it out faster. I think the false data might have been what corrupted the Telepathy Balls. It might even have been the reason some of our exam grades were so low. I..."
"Its okay." said Rune. Utterly confused as he was, he felt sorry for the girl. She was stuck on Rykros, possibly for longer than he could conceive of, she was insane and convinced the world was going to end, "I'll pass the message on for you."
"Next time you visit, can you bring a cat?"
"Um... sure... I'll bring as many as I can carry..."
"Thank you." she smiled. His vision contracted, as though he was walking through a long, narrow corridor, then he was awake.
The long, long struggle of ancient times finally ended.
Four bells tolled. Four bells lit.
And the world continued for thousands of years...