A/N: VeeVeeTheRoleplayer helped me write this chapter, as it includes details of the Artlen race and their home planet.
The TALE of the TESSERACT
37: Into Perspective
The time stream was warping, the world around him was collapsing. Vision? Yeah, that was a thing of the past. The world was nothing but chaos.
Now... Roku had experienced this before... but not while being guided by another deity of extraordinary power. It felt as if his body was being pulled this time... forced to move in certain directions. Not that he could see these directions, oh no, it was just random twists and turns through a swirling vortex of energy and color.
Out of the chaos, came sudden order. The discourse of the inter-dimensional portal seemingly evaporated. He was now within Epsilon... but traveling faster than anything natural. He could see galaxies blazing past him in the millions, all melting together in one indiscernible blur. His path focused on one of these galaxies... Aeron. He knew that galaxy all too well.
He's currently massless form streaked into one of the galaxies arms, moving further and further towards his destination. The edges of Aeron disappeared into the horizon. The stars became visible specs instead of one gigantic galactic cloud.
And before he knew it... he was focusing in on one star system... Sellica. Roku's form went flying past the edge of the burning star, focusing in on one of the orbiting planets. The spherical rock became all that was in Roku's field of view... and before he knew it... he was blazing through the atmosphere. To his slight horror, Roku could feel his body beginning to regain mass.
"Um... Yagoda..." Roku said, speaking the the second consciousness in his mind, "I was under the impression that I wouldn't actually be crashing into anything."
"Oh... um... you were? Well... I might have left a tensy bit if information out."
"And that is?"
"There isn't really a receiving gateway over here yet. Were being launched into this universe the same way the Tesseract was. The only way we have an exact destination is thanks to me."
"But that means..."
"Oh... don't worry. I obviously don't want you dead. A field of solid kronon energy surrounds us... that should take out a good amount of the impact normal force... but... um... yeah... its still gonna hurt... a lot."
"You're kidding me."
"Yeah um... no I'm not."
By all means, Roku was pretty angry that the deity, but there wasn't much that could be done now.
Roku blazed into the lower atmosphere, and before he could say another word.
An absolutely ridiculous amount of g-force was placed on Roku's body. The shield did its fair job of protecting him, but it quickly dissipated as well. A incredibly large amount dirt was blasted away from the initial crater of Roku's impact... but that wasn't the end of it.
Roku continued to slide, breaking through more of the ground with his remaining momentum... given that he had come in at an angle.
Kronon energy... Dust... Trees... Rolling... No Orientation... Absolute Randomness...
After what seemed like forever, the world settled back to normal.
Roku couldn't move... his body simply wouldn't respond.
In all his life... Roku had never suffered a fall that bad.
Well, technically... it wasn't a fall as much of being shot into a planet out of an inter-dimensional portal like a cannon ball... but that didn't really help Roku in his current condition.
Roku couldn't retain consciousness anymore. He closed his eyes, and the world immediately went black.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
"Life signs stabilizing. Normal rotary functions showing potential. Heart rate normal. He's... oh my word... I think he's waking up."
Roku slowly broke his eyelids apart, closing them shortly after as an unexpectedly large amount of light flooded into his retinas. He tried again, this time even slower. The world around him was at first a blur, light melding together into a single mess of color, but after a few seconds, the room around him came into focus. His eyes were now fully open.
"Wow... he's actually awake."
"Can you hear us? If you can blink twice."
"Excellent. Can you speak in any way, shape, or form?"
The tharian took a breath, and then attempted to speak. His voice was a bit raspy, but there none the less.
"Yeah... I'm pretty sure I can talk."
"Fantastic. How many fingers am I holding up?"
"Okay... that finishes basic function checks. Over to you Dalka."
Roku turned his head a little to the left to see the two artlens. They had been the ones speaking to him. The one apparently named 'Dalka' was a female with a light blue coat. The other was looking at a rather complicated set of statistics on a computer monitor. He was male and had a greenish colored coat with purple markings. Roku was somewhat surprised... as the only artlen he had ever had any extensive meetings with was Veara... and she wasn't really an accurate representation of the species as a whole.
Like Veara, both Dalka and the other doctor had a feline-like face with long ears, and relatively slender bodies. They both had the same natural clothing in the form of feathered skirts that started at their waists and extended just to where their knees were. They had the same retractable claws and tendency to stand on the balls of their feet. Both doctors had distinct markings spanning across nearly their entire bodies, usually in a darker shade of whatever the predominant color of their fur was. Three spikes extended approximately 4 feet in length from the backs of both artlens, although the doctor at the computer monitor currently had them somehow bent downwards.
"Subject seems to have regained full functionality. Can you tell us, what is your name?" Dalka asked.
Roku had to think. He couldn't just say his name. Right now, he was a time-traveler. He could not risk giving foreknowledge to anyone here.
"My name is Arcadia," Roku lied, having randomly selected one of his comrades names as fast as he could.
"Wow... good work Roku," Yagoda said in his mind.
"Great, glad to see that your memory is intact. Can you give us any details of what happened?"
Now Roku was stumped... he had no idea how much the doctors actually knew about how he had arrived. It was next to impossible to know how much of a lie the doctors would actually believe.
Then it hit him: the obvious and simple solution to the problem.
"No... no not really. I remember falling... and lots of pain. That's it."
The perfect bluff.
"Yagoda please tell me you have some other sort of cover."
"I do. Give me control of your voice for a second."
"I know that I was on an exploration mission for the Tyro Empire," Yagoda said through Roku, "The last thing I remember was entering the Sellica system."
"Wow... well okay. Is the Tyro Empire composed of your species? Because... we've never seen a creature anything like you before."
"Yes... they're on the far side of the galaxy," Yagoda continued, "This was an exploration mission, like I said. If you're a level 7 empire, then you probably don't get much contact with empires that far away."
"No we don't. Anyway, the results from your medical scan are back in," Dalka explained, pulling up a small touch screen device, "From everything we understand you should heal normally. We don't fully understand your biology... so we can't guarantee anything. But... we're fairly confident you should recover soon. Most of the injuries are just broken bones, nothing a good mitosis accelerator can't fix."
Roku looked down to see that he was laying in a typical hospital bed, with the covers placed over him. To complete the image, he was wearing a white colored hospital gown, with some obvious openings made in the back to accommodate for his wings.
Eerily similar to when he awoke back on Tidus with his alminar ability, a fair amount of bandages were wrapped around where both of his wings connected to his back. He also discovered a similar set of bandages wrapped around the top of his right arm. The bandages were in the form of long white strips of cloth that, thanks to artificial density manipulators, kept Roku's bones in the correct position without taking on the annoyance of full cast.
"Those joints are always the first to go..." Roku muttered in his own mind.
Something then occurred to him.
"Wait... Yagoda... Can you hear all of my thoughts?"
"No. You're a psionic too. I only hear what you want me to hear. If it worked the other way, then you'd be able to hear everything I thought as well... and that would just be chaotic."
"Anyhow," Dalka said, "Since you're awake, and obviously somewhat healthy, we'd like you to meet the one who actually saved your life."
"She said she found you in horrible condition just outside of Ferndanth, in the western fields. We were a bit surprised when she brought you to us. Nevertheless, here you are now. She requested that she speak to you in private... so um... Kel."
"Yeah?" the other artlen doctor answered.
"Could you open the door?"
With a click of a button on the screen, the automatic door to the hospital room slid open. Dalka and Kel exited through it.
"We'll be back momentarily to run a few more tests," she said before disappearing behind one of the walls.
Roku took the short opportunity to look around the room. The walls were the normal shade of white, with a plentiful amount of gadgets hanging on different hooks or placed on different shelves. Everything you would expect - cabinets, a sink, and a recording computer - were all there.
Then... a figure walked in through the door.
Roku's eyes became wide.
"Oh... didn't see that coming..." Yagoda said, "Well... actually I did... but that's besides the point."
It was, of all people, Veara.
The red-colored Artlen stepped through the doorway... with something very different about her.
She had no cybernetics. She had no looks of absolute disgust plastered on her face. She was... She was... normal. She had a red coat, darker red markings, and an expression that showed happiness. Looking at her eyes, he saw that the iris was a defined pink color... something that shocked Roku. This was unbelievable.
Roku had seen her like this once before, in Stekvan's memories. But this was different. Now... he was feet away from the true Veara. There was no corruption within her. This was Veara.
She took few steps into the room and began to speak.
"I'm quite glad to see you're awake now," she said, smiling softly. There was no rage or hate in her voice. "You've been out for quite a while... I was beginning to worry about you. Worried that I might have been too late. How are you feeling? Are the doctors treating you all right?"
This was just... too much. Roku was absolutely blown away. Not only was Veara normal... she was actually nice. What in the name of sanity was going on?
"Your reaction was anticipated," Yagoda said, "Seriously though. We're here on a mission."
"Yes. I remember."
"Yes, Yes I'm fine," Roku said, "How did you find me?"
"Well," Veara's ears turned towards the doors and she lowered her voice slightly, "That's why I wanted to talk to you alone. I... Well, saw you falling from the sky and crash land... rather violently I might add. I didn't... well... I didn't tell anyone about this because they might've thought you were a threat of some kind. Can you explain to me how... and why... you fell? Maybe even where you came from?"
"She knows that you're more than just an alien. She saw you fall out of the sky and crash into the ground. She's also not stupid," Yagoda said.
"Trust me... I know that. Let me guess... did you purposely direct our landing spot so that it would be near Veara?"
"Oh no! I would do no such thing!" Yagoda exclaimed, the sarcasm painfully evident in her voice.
"Let me guess... you want the truth? The absolute truth? Because... as much as you might not like the answer... there is no way you'd believe the complete and total truth."
"Of course!" Veara said, raising an eyebrow, "And I'll believe you. I think I'll believe whatever you say since you did fall from outer space where nothing should be alive, hm?"
"True... but... yeah. It's a bit hard to explain. Anyways... why did you take me here? Why would you take me to the hospital?"
"You should have seen the way you looked... It was just pitiful. Bruises all over your body... your wings were dislocated like no one's business. And you were covered in a fair amount of cuts as well. There was no way I was just going to leave you there."
"And... you were the only one to see me?"
"Well... yes an no. I was the only one to find your body and take it to a hospital. I'm sure tons of other people saw that streak of blue energy come crashing into the planet."
"Ah... yeah... I'd imagine. What do some of the other Artlens think caused that?"
"Our government fears that it might be some kind of attack, they're so jumpy lately... Many agree that streak of blue light can't be a space rock or anything like that... which is why I didn't tell anyone, they will likely harm you in the process of finding out whether or not you're a threat, sadly enough..." Then Veara went on to mutter softly about getting a new leader and about how the whole government shouldn't be so scared about everything. She stopped and cleared her throat. "Sorry about that, now please do tell me why you are here and how you got here."
"Should I actually tell her?"
"Did Veara ever tell you in the future about meeting you in the past?" Yagoda asked.
"But wait... she would at least remember me in some way. I mean... I'm here now. Why didn't she ever mention it before... or in the future... or whatever."
"Thirty thousands years of brainwashing... that's all I've gotta say. The point is, we can't tell her we're time-travelers. We can't risk any piece of information managing to stick with her through brainwashing... the Grox might be able to recover it when they capture her. We have to be as subtle as possible."
"Fair enough... but what do I tell her?"
"Uh... do I have to do EVERYTHING?"
"Can you stop whining like a little girl?"
Roku allowed Yagoda to take over his voice.
"My name is Arcadia. Our exploration team was investigating an abandoned piece of Matrini technology in one of their archives. It was a long distance galactic teleport device," said Yagoda, speaking through Roku once again, "Unfortunately... the ride was a bit rougher than we assumed. The teleport was designed for an entire spaceship. But... when we used it... we must have gotten some of the calibration wrong. The entire ship was torn apart... and the only thing that protected me was my hardened kronon shield. I'm not sure what happened to everyone else... probably scattered across the galaxy... or else disintegrated in the hyperspace vortex."
Veara stared at him for a full minute without saying anything. Clearly thinking his story over in her mind. "I see..." she said, though she sounded like she wasn't too sure about it - but accepted it nevertheless. "Anyways, those wounds of yours will take a while to fully heal. You'll have to stay here on Pangeara until they're healed enough to where you can go back to... wherever you came from."
"Very well," Roku responded, looking towards the Artlen from his position in the hospital bed, "Um... just an interesting question... but I've told you about myself... what about you?"
"Oh how rude of me," said Veara smiling, "I'm Veara Eveler. I'm a simple crafter, I make stuff that my people need... Nothing too special."
Roku waited for a moment before responding.
"Well... I suppose its right to say Thank You. Thank you for... you know... saving my life."
"No need to thank me," Veara said, "I would hate myself if I left you there."
Roku smiled for a moment, silently contemplating the irony of the situation. In a time not long from now, Veara would crash land into the Grox homeworld... and would be recovered by the Grox.
"What is there for me to do now?"
"From what I understand, you'll have to stay here in the hospital for a few more days. After that you're free to go about our city until you fully recover. You'll have to keep those bandages on for a while though."
"Very well. What all do the doctors even know happened to me?"
"I told them that I found your body in a crashed escape pod."
"Wouldn't they make some sort of connection to the falling you know... streak of blue energy?"
"Arcadia... had you been there... you would understand that the streak of energy looked nothing like any asteroid or mechanized piece of equipment. And of course... they would never believe that you survived a fall through the atmosphere without any form of technological protection."
"Yeah... I can imagine."
"I believe the doctors have to run a few more tests, so I'll be on my way."
"Well, okay. I guess I'll see you later."
"Yes, I will," Veara said, "I'll probably check up on you every once and awhile. When you're recovered enough to leave, I'll escort you to somewhere you can stay."
Roku was a bit surprised.
"Why are you doing all this for me? Why do you care so much?"
"Because... that's who I am. I like to care for people. Is... something wrong with that?"
"Dramatic irony... Dramatic irony... DRAMATIC IRONY!" Yagoda chanted inside of Roku's head.
"No... nothing's wrong with that. Just... thank you. Thank You."
"You're very welcome. I'll see you tomorrow... you should get some rest."
And with that, that artlen turned and departed from the hospital room.
Roku laid his head back against the hospital pillow.
"So, since we'll be here for a little while... mind telling me what the entire plan is?" Roku asked the second consciousness occupying his mind.
"Simple. First of all, we wait for you to recover... as being just a part of your mind I can do little to speed up the healing process. Afterwards, you go with Veara wherever she takes you."
"How do you know she'll be taking me anywhere?"
"Trust me, Roku. I know her. I've been around quite a few universes... definitely enough to recognize personalities."
"What do you mean?"
"She is kind, nice, caring... and all that other good stuff. But, from everything I understand... she is rather lonely."
"What? How would you know that?'
"Ascended deity... remember? Just trust me. She will be interested in looking out for you."
"Okay then... so what's the plan after that?"
"You need to gain her trust. In order for a piece of my consciousness to make it into her brain without her noticing... and without letting any later Grox brainwashers be capable of discovering it... it needs to hide in the deepest recesses of her subconscious... where Narahgeenah won't even be able to detect it. In order for me to be capable of doing that... she needs to trust you, so that her mind won't have any sufficiently annoying defenses set up."
"So... how do I do that?"
"We'll figure that out as we go along. For now, just rest."
This was going to be a strange mission... to say the least.
It was three days later. Roku and Veara were walking out of the hospital, with the tharian following behind the artlen with a look of curiosity on his face. He had never truly set foot on Pangeara before... this was an entirely new experience. Looking back at the hospital, he could see that it was constructed as a large glass oval, with pillars supporting multiple metal overhangs. It definitely looked like something you would find in space age empire... but at the same time... it was not nearly as advanced in terms of shear obvious displays of technology, such as most of the other planets Roku had visited. Most empires with the capability to do so would build massive cathedrals and spires, stretching their cities to cover most of their entire home planet in urban sprawl. The Artlens appeared to be doing no such thing.
As they exited the hospital, Roku found himself dumped almost immediately into the center of the artlen city of Ferndanth. It was impressive in the sense the the Artlens had found ways of building their buildings in, around, and as part of the many trees that covered this part of Pangeara. Oh and yeah... a huge majority of the trees were absolutely ridiculous in terms of sheer size. The city itself was constructed on multiple levels ascending from the base of the trunks to the top of the canopy. Right now, they were somewhere halfway up, walking across an artificial pathway constructed along the ridge of a massive branch leading to a city plaza carved into another colossal tree trunk across the way.
"There are four sections of Ferndanth," Veara began to explain, guiding Roku down the stone pathway, "The first and bottom level is devoted to growing food and building any necessary items. The second layer is built on the lower part of the massively thick trees but still very high up from the first section. That layer is mostly shops, business offices, and entertainment locations... stuff like that. That's where we are."
Artlens of all colors were flying around, going in and out of the shops around them. They all seem to be preparing for something. A good majority of the Artlens had wings, making Roku not stand out as much as he had feared. These different Artlen sub-types varied in size greatly. Some were substantially smaller than others, and some possess extremely psychedelic color coat patterns... like an someone had just taken a bucket of rainbow paint and thrown it on them. Roku had, of course, anticipated this.
"I've never actually seen all of the different genetic sub-types of the Artlen species. It's amazing that they're all able to live together in peace."
"They weren't for a long time," Yagoda responded, "Most of the time they spent as a tribal civilization was spent at war with the other sentient artlen variations."
"Higher up in the trees is the third section which contains most of their homes for the common Artlens," Veara continued.
As Roku continued to observe his surroundings, he saw that hover cars flying around, up and down the sections of Ferndanth, a few of them were being followed by very speedy winged artlens. The entire purpose of the hovercars appeared to be the creation of a form of efficient transportation for the grounded artlens since, unlike their kin, they did not possess wings.
"The fourth and last section is located at the very top of the trees. It contains pretty much all of our power facilities. Massive solar panels are placed all across the tops of the trees themselves. The canopy is sturdy enough to support a ridiculous amount of weight. Each of the sections is supported by thick metal beams and, of course, the trees themselves."
The two had reached the plaza on the other end of the branch pathway. Most of the architecture was colored the same theme as the flora around it. Therefore, normal 'earth' colors composed most of the structures. However, a fair amount of the structures had the typical hint of futuristic space age-empire. It was an amazing sight... a beautiful fusion of nature and technology. Add that to the fact that a multitude of hover-cars were blazing through Ferndanth's canopies, branches, and many different levels... and it was a sight to behold.
The plaza around them had a few shops selling miscellaneous items, as well as a few benches with different types of Artlens relaxing on them. A question occurred to Roku.
"What can you tell me about the different types of Artlens?"
"All right." said Veara, clearing her throat. "There are four types of Artlen: the Common, The Greater, The Lesser and The Grounded. All sub-types of Artlen, save for my own, have wings - ranging in size and color depending on the sub-type. There was another type called the False Artlen... but they died out a very long time ago. The False Artlens had tails which were very inconvenient to have on this planet."
"The Common Artlens got their name because they are able to adapt in different biomes such as the mountainous regions and glasslands. They live mostly in this the forests like these however... as they seem to enjoy living in very high places. Oh... and they're the most common of the four Artlens."
"The Greater Artlens are the biggest and the most colorful of all the Artlens hence the name Greater... but they are also the most dangerous to be around. Since the Greater Artlen live in the mountainous regions, one of the more hostile biomes on Pangeara, they kind of need to be so in order to survive. All Greater Artlens have two pairs of wings, the first pair, the top ones, are pretty big compared to the body. If not for flying, they mostly use the top pair for swimming since a majority of the mountain regions on Pangeara are close to the oceans. The second pair are a lot smaller, those are mostly for steering. All Artlens agree that Greater Artlens would, as an overall personality trait, rather be left alone That's why there is a project taking place to find a planet that the Greater Artlens move to. But... keep in mind that you can befriend a Greater Artlen. There are some that are more friendly than others. It's just they can be very..." Veara paused to think "..ill-tempered for lack of better words."
Roku took a moment to examine the different Artlen types around him. From what he could tell, most to nearly all of the inhabitants of Ferndanth were either Common or Grounded Artlens. However, Roku was able to glimpse the occasional Greater... as their size and distinctive color patterns made them stand out greatly from the other citizens.
"Then there are the Lesser Artlens, they are the smallest... they can stay around roughly five feet fall. They have dull colored coats, and are mostly a sandy color. They live in the desert part of Pangeara... but really they never stay in one place for too long. They have this need to move around. Very friendly and fun creatures, not a lot upsets them. Horrible fliers mind you, they are more like gliders than fliers than anything else."
"And, of course... you are?"
"Me? I am a Grounded Artlen. As you can plainly see... we Grounded Artlens don't have wings. The Grounded Artlens are the only Artlen without them hence the name 'Grounded.' We mostly live in glass planes though we tend to live next to the forests were the Common Artlens live. We seem to have a bond of some kind - throughout our evolution we seem to share kinship. Yes we do fight but it never lasts very long. The Grounded Artlens are the only type of Artlen that grows hair, which can grow to a few feet long." Veara pointed to her own pony tail while saying, "We keep our long hair tied up so it doesn't get in the way."
Roku was amazed by all of this information.
"Amazing that they live in peace, isn't it?" Yagoda said.
"It is... but that's not the weirdest part. I'm still trying to get over to the fact that I'm walking through this city with Veara... you know... the ruthless second in command of the Grox?"
"Yeah well... get over it."
Roku and Veara were now walking across an artificial bridge, constructed out of some form of metal. This one was bridging the gap from the plaza they had just been in to what appeared to be a docking station. It was a large metal platform built into the side of another gigantic tree. Every few minutes, a hover car would come to a halt on the platform, and an Artlen would step inside. Moments later it would speed off. It had to be a transportation hub of some kind.
"Where are we headed?" Roku asked.
"Since I found you all mangled in that crater, I took it upon myself to make sure that you would heal properly... and so I'm taking you to the guest house on the outskirts of Ferndanth."
"Just beyond the edge of this forest are the 'Fields of Fauxia.' They extend onwards for... quite a long while. Its just rolling plains and and grassland for hundreds of miles."
"There's a small neighborhood built out there. That's where we're going."
Veara and Roku had crossed to the transportation hub. Roku's Artlen guide touched a few buttons on a panel sticking up out of the floor beneath them. The computer made a confirmation beep before Veara walked away from it. Roku followed her to the edge of the metal platform. Sure enough... within a good 30 seconds, a hover car came speeding to their location, quickly accelerating to a stop just in front of them. It had the typical design - sleek, enclosed, and with The automated back door slid open immediately afterwards.
The Artlen got in first, with Roku following. The door automatically slid closed behind them. It didn't take Roku very long to figure out that this vehicle was essentially, by earth standards, a 'taxi.'
"Where to?" the blue coated grounded artlen driver asked.
"Ania, please," Veara responded.
"Where's that?" Roku asked.
"That's the neighborhood I was talking about."
"Ah, I see."
The hover-car sped off with somewhat alarming speed. The many tree canopies and branches streaked through their vision as they flew through the complex of bridges, technology, and nature that was the city of Ferndanth.
Roku began to notice something that he had just began to spark curiosity in his mind. A large amount of the areas they were passing by appeared to be in a sort of 'decoration' process. It was like all of the city was putting on some sort of event... maybe even a celebration. As they continued to fly through the city, Roku could see through the hover-car windows that this was undeniably true. Streamers and posters were just the start of it.
"What's going on? What's with all the decoration?"
"Oh! I forgotten to tell you that the Purrina festival is starting tonight. The Purrina festival is exceptionally special... You see... once every 1500 years, give or take, our star system passes through the Zerus Nebulae. Starting tonight and continuing for the next eight days, the night skies are lit up with the most beautiful colors. Given its rarity, its a treat to see it. It's a really good time to spend the nights with someone that you really care for." Veara frowned a little when she said that last part, but it was quickly gone. "You're able to see all of the solar particles and nebulae dust that passes through the Sellica system... its just... beautiful."
"Wow... I'm guessing you picked this arrival time because of that?" Roku asked Yagoda.
The rest of their hover-car ride was in silence. They continued to fly past a large number of gigantic trees, until the density of the flora began to lessen. The trees were becoming further and further apart, and the amount of visible artificial structures was diminishing.
Before they knew it, they were outside of the forest that Ferndanth occupied, and accelerating across the expansive plains of Fauxia. The hills sloped up and down onwards unto the horizon. The plains were covered with a beautiful saturated green grass, long enough to wave slowly in the breeze. In the far distance, Roku could see Sellica itself, Pangeara's bright yellow star, glowing in the distance as it neared the horizon. Sunset was beginning... it was nearing the end of the day of Pangeara.
The hover-car began to descend. The field below them came into clearer view. A soft thump signaled that the hover-car had safely landed on the surface of Pangeara. The door beside them once again automatically slid open, allowing the two passengers to exit.
Once outside, Roku found himself standing on an artificial brick road, that seemed to curve slowly across the plains of Fauxia, bending with the hills as it moved.
Roku then noticed the structures in front of them. The brick road seemed to extend into a small collection of houses.
"Here we are," Veara said, gesturing to the area just in front of them, "This is the neighborhood of Ania."
"It's notably far away from Ferndanth," Roku responded.
"That's the point. The people who live here don't want to be in the clutter of that city. It's unbelievably peaceful out here on the plains. Mind you, it's mostly grounded artlens that live in this neighborhood... I don't think any of those winged Artlens could bring themselves to live this close to the ground."
Roku looked behind him, to see the beginning of the Ferndanth forest on the far horizon. They certainly were far away from the clutter of the city. Of course, hover-car technology made travel easy.
The tharian turned back to face Ania.
Roku knew from experience that space age empires generally laced all structures with a sturdy metal framework. Regardless, the neighborhood looked very 'classical' to say the least. There were hover car docking areas... mailboxes... even a playground not too far away, with small artlen children running around playing a game. This was just... too good to be true. Everyone seemed so happy.
Past the houses was a continuation of the rolling hills of Fauxia.
"And... you live here?" Roku asked, looking over at Veara.
"Yes... I do actually," Veara said, "It's a little bit down the road. I work in Ferndanth, but I prefer the fields more than the trees. How about you?"
"Where I come from... we didn't have much of either."
"I lived in quite a large city... but that's besides the point."
Veara didn't respond for a moment, and then she spoke up. "The guest house is actually right here..." she said, gesturing to the nearest residence, "It literally is used in turns by the people of this neighborhood to house guests."
"Fantastic," Roku responded, "So... what do we do now?"
"I should be asking you... you're the one who has to stay here for a few more days. There's no way you're going to be able to fly until those bones finish replenishing."
"Hm..." Roku thought for a moment, "The Purrina festival is coming up, isn't it?"
"Yeah... there's a huge celebration in Ferndanth's city square... nearly everyone goes to it. But... I'm just go out into the fields and watch. I rarely ever attend those huge celebrations."
"So you're planning on... just watching the Purrina in the middle of nowhere?"
"From what I understand... that's the best way to do it. No loud city distractions... and no light pollution. It's supposed to be the most beautiful natural anomaly you can see in Aeron."
"Is it then?"
"Well... at least that's what we say."
"Figures." Roku was quiet for a moment. "And nobody's going with you? Don't you have other people in your family that would want to go to?"
"They... kind of just mind their own business. I haven't seen them in a while. I generally do a lot of things alone."
"Well... then I guess it's weird to ask but... would you mind if I came with you?"
"To the middle of nowhere?"
Roku was suddenly reminded of his adventure on Primo.
"Trust me... I've been there before. This is not the middle of nowhere... this place is amazing."
Veara smiled. "All right then... meet me back here in two hours."
The sky was absolutely, jaw-droppingly, outstandingly amazing.
The moment Sellica had completely set... and the darkness of night had covered the planet... the sky lit up with a dazzling array of colors. You could see the nebulae through Pangeara's atmosphere. The galactic gas swirled slowly in the distance. The large columns of morphing star substance seemed to glow. All of the normally visible night stars were piercing through the hazy shifting colors of the nebulae. Yellow... Red... Orange... Violet... all mixing together in a fantastic display of lights.
Nature at it's absolute finest.
"My Spode..." Roku said, observing all that was above him.
Roku and Veara were sitting on the grassy surface of Fauxia, a good two miles from Ania, on the slopes of a particularly large but slowly descending hill.
"Beautiful isn't it?" said Veara, not taking her bright pink eyes off the sky in fear of missing something. "You're lucky to see this at all. It's an unbelievable coincidence that you arrived on this planet just a few days before this was to begin."
"Yeah... a coincidence."
Yagoda laughed a little.
"Yes... it is beautiful," Roku said.
After spending a few hours exploring his guest house and the neighborhood of Ania that surrounded it, he had accompanied Veara as she walked out further into the fields of Fauxia. And here they were now... looking up at what was quite possibly the most beautiful thing Roku had ever seen. Well... it didn't quite compare to the hyper-reality between universes... but the tharian didn't feel like bringing that up.
Strangely enough, Roku had seen this display of colors before... in the vision through Stekvan's memories. But now... it was different. Now he was there. He was actually watching it... not through the hazy vision of a projected memory. All of the colors seemed more vibrant, more real. It was outstanding.
But then it occurred to Roku - the Purrina festival only lasted eight days, and it only happens once every 1500 years. In Stekvan's memories... when Veara was taken over by Narahgeenah... it had been during the Purrina. By horrifying process of elimination... that could only mean one thing - Veara was going to be taken over by Narahgeenah within the next eight days.
Roku was shocked by this discovery. That fraction of Agriath's evil was trapped in the ground beneath Roku's feet. Stekvan had said that the portion of Agriath anchored itself into Pangeara... waiting and influencing the genetic schism that created the different Artlen variations. It tried to bring hate through this division, but from what Roku saw of this society... they had moved away from hate. They were embracing each other differences.
Narahgeenah was growing impatient, and could no longer feed off of the residual archon of the Arlten race. It had now turned its attention to releasing Agriath from the galactic core, but it needed a host to do so. And that host... would be Veara.
"Are you alright?" asked Veara, looking at Roku "You seemed shocked by something..."
"No... no I'm fine," turning his face away from the sky to look over at Veara, "Just thinking about stuff."
"May I know about this stuff you're thinking of?"
"Many things..." Roku thought for a moment on what to say. He decided to settle on the truth - something that was on his mind, but not necessarily what he was just thinking about. "From where I come from... it's a bit chaotic. We're on the brink of war."
"That's terrible!" Veara gave Roku a sympathetic look. "Isn't there a way to settle down and think about a solution and not fight about it? It's kind of pointless to fight unless you need to..."
"I wish we didn't have to fight. I truly wish it could all end. But far more is at stake than just money, politics, or power..." Roku paused for a moment. "We have to fight."
"You never have to fight."
"Yeah... I hope you're right," Roku responded, turning his gaze back towards the sky. As he looked at the nebulae above, he thought about everything he had been through. The Fall of Thar... the raid on Sol III... Barx... Phyrhcous... Primo... Marksul... all of it one big pile of nonsense. Then of course, even the stuff he just recently remembered. Everything with Amy and Yagoda. But then Roku realized... none of that was happening now. In this part of the timeline, Agriath was trapped in the galactic core, stripped of his godlike powers. Narahgeenah had yet to make a move... and the Tesseract was not causing unbelievable unnatural advancements in power. And the Grox... as corrupt as they are... were fulfilling their duty to protect the core, the way they had set out to do. The Grox were Agriath's prison guardians, and would be for thousands more years.
But once the Grand Master gained control... their objective would switch almost instantly.
But now, there was peace. For the first time in a while, Roku wasn't running from something continuously out to kill him. The was the first relaxation he had had since the day he had woken up on Thar to go refuel the dark energy in his spaceship.
Oh that day...
"Roku," Yagoda said.
"Remember why we're here. You need Veara's trust."
"And again I ask... how?"
"Oh Roku... do you think I would just throw you into the situation without any planning?"
"Shut up. You've already seen a fair number of coincidences come into play because of me. You've got about 14 more seconds."
"14 more seconds until what?"
"Don't move from where you are just stay still and continue looking at the sky. If you want Veara's trust, you have to let this play out the way I want it to."
Roku sat there in silence, waiting anxiously for something to occur. After 14 seconds had passed... nothing happened.
"Yagoda... were you just messing with..."
"You two, UP NOW!" a voice behind them commanded.
Roku immediately felt the firing end of a plasma rifle pressed up against his back. The same was being done to Veara.
"Hands above your heads, and don't say anything else. Just stand up!" The voice was low and filled with anger.
"Just do what he says," Yagoda said.
Roku and Veara slowly rose to their feet (and talons), and turned to face the whoever was behind them.
It was an Artlen... a Common Artlen, and a male as far as Roku could tell. He was a shade of purple, with dark blue - almost black - markings. He was clearly in a state of disarray, as his fur was severely messed up and covered in a fair amount of dirt. All of the feathers in his wings were out of order. As an added bonus, he didn't look happy at all - the expression on the Arlten's face was stuck on one of disdain and anger.
The Artlen was holding two plasma rifles, one in each hand. They were shaking as they pointed at Roku and Veara.
"Who are you?" Roku asked, arms still above his head.
"The names Goff," the Artlen responded, "The rest of who I am isn't important. I'm here for all of your money and valuables."
"Seems original," Roku remarked.
"What did you say?" Goff exclaimed, moving his plasma rifle closer to Roku.
Roku didn't respond.
"That's what I thought."
"You wanted this to happen?" Roku asked Yagoda.
"Just go with it..."
"What do you want us to give you?"
"Everything you have. But truly... just one thing in particular."
"How can you know we even have anything valuable with us?"
"I know that Ms. Eveler here was one thing that I desire."
The Artlen next to Roku almost immediately grasped the necklace hanging around her neck. Roku hadn't even paid any attention to it before... but now he realized. At the end of the thin metal necklace was a small red gem. That had to be worth something.
"Goff... I thought you were in prison!" Veara exclaimed.
"I was in prison. I've been wandering these fields for a while, taking up camp in different locations. But with that gem and a good buyer... I'll be able to pay my bail ten times over."
"Why do you need bail if you're already out of prison?"
"I'd rather not have the Artlen Guard following me constantly like there's no tomorrow. So... if you would be so kind as to hand me that gem, that would be fantastic."
"Act now, Roku."
"Veara, give me the gem."
"What?" Veara shouted.
"Please, Veara. You have to trust me."
Veara knew that they had little time to act, and so she reluctantly pulled down on the necklace, breaking the connection behind her neck. She then tossed the entire necklace over to the Tharian, who quickly grabbed it.
"I will not have this foolishness!" Goff shouted.
The winged Artlen placed the rifle in his left hand back in it's holster, reaching out and grabbing hold of Veara. With some force, he pulled her into a neck lock, placing the rifle in his other hand right up against the side of Veara's head. Veara struggled but was unable to break out of Goff's hold.
"Do anything other than what I command," Goff stated, "And she dies in an instant."
Roku looked at Goff with a blank expression.
"Why are you doing this, Goff?"
"I don't understand, alien. What do you mean?"
"Why are you stealing? Why are you..."
"I've heard enough. All I require is that gem. Give it to me, and I'll be on my way."
"Oh... you'd like that wouldn't you."
"Excuse me? I have your friend right here, ready to be killed... and you make jokes?"
Veara, from her perspective, was severely worried. She had just recently met Roku, and had little to no knowledge of his motives or personality. She had no idea how he would react... and she had just given him one of the most valuable gems on Pangeara... and she was trusting him to save her life.
"Yes. Yes I do," Roku said, smiling, "But it's more than that. Veara here saved my life. If it weren't for her... I would not have recovered... and I would not be here. And now, oh so confident Goff... I return the favor."
Before Goff could even think about saying another word, his plasma rifle was knocked out of his hand by a ridiculously fast arm movement.
"What... how did you?"
A kick to the stomach sent Goff backwards and forced him to let go of Veara to clutch his chest.
"I will not have this!" Goff said, pulling his other plasma rifle out of its holster and charging towards the tharian.
"But I will," Roku said.
As Goff readied the plasma rifled and energy began to build up in its barrel... it was knocked out of his hand by an invisible blast of psionic energy.
Telekinesis had its uses.
"WHAT?" Goff shouted in frustration, "How in the?"
Goff, however, had forgotten to stop running towards Roku. Right as he neared the tharian, he found himself the recipient of several professional kicks, punches, and dislocation maneuvers.
Veara simply stood behind the entire scene, her mouth open in surprise.
With one last shove, Goff was on the ground, even more disheveled than before, and groaning in pain. He simply laid on the ground and looked up at the sky, an expression of shock and horror frozen on his face.
Roku walked up next to the body of the Common Artlen.
"Never again will you threaten anyone on this planet. Am I clear?"
"Y... Yes," Goff responded, stuttering as he tried to speak.
"Now be gone," Roku said, "Before I change my mind about letting you go."
Goff quickly scrambled to his feet, desperately trying to get away from Roku. In a matter of seconds, he had spread his wings and taken off into the night sky. Veara and Roku watched for a few minutes as he glided into the distance.
"That was... amazing," Veara said, "How in the... How in the world did you do that?"
"The Tryo Empire has some training."
Veara walked closer to where Roku was standing.
"You saved my life."
"As did you."
Roku then extended his right hand, holding in his palm the still intact necklace.
"Here, take this."
Veara reached out to grab hold of the gem.
"Thank you. This gem..." Veara said, "Was given to me by father. It was a priceless family heirloom for the longest time. But then Artlens discovered that the material that forms this gem, Regimight, is extremely rare and highly valuable. It can be a source of tremendous electrical energy, and its ridiculously valuable. Normally people don't make the connection that the gem at the center of my necklace is made of Regimight... Goff was the first one to do it. He's a thief for a living... so it only a matter of time before he figured it out."
Roku was abruptly reminded of his mission on Korona... the planet on the outskirts of Grox controlled space that was absolutely filled with Regimight. Here, to a level 7 civilization, any amount of Regimight was absolutely amazing. Little did Veara know of the conflict that this mineral would cause later in her life...
"Wow," Roku said, "Well... you're very welcome."
Veara and Roku smiled before moving back to where they were previously sitting. Before long, they had resumed looking at the beautiful lights of Purrina. Now they were both laying down on the grass, looking directly upwards towards the sky. It was still absolutely amazing.
Minutes passed. Roku didn't keep count anymore. It may have been a good twenty minutes that Veara and Roku stared up into night sky in silence.
"Now's the time," Yagoda stated, "You know what to do."
Roku turned his head to look over at the Artlen laying on the grass not too far from him. He immediately recognized something - her eyes were closed, and she was taking slow rhythmic breaths. She was asleep.
Roku laughed a little, but knew that this was his time to take action. He now had her trust, and she was asleep - all of her psionic defenses were down.
The tharian quietly shifted towards the Artlen, rising so that he was balancing on his knees. He reached out one of his hands and gently placed it on Veara's forehead.
"This better work..." Roku thought to himself.
Roku was standing in a large room. The walls were made of a strange stone-like material. Large glass windows occupied huge portions of the wall, as well as the hole beneath their feet. Beyond that glass... an outer-space like void... occupied with what seemed to be distant galaxies and massive star clusters.
This was a projection of a portion of Veara's mind.
At the center of the large room was a single pillar of energy, extending through the ceiling and the floor. It pulsated with some strange energy.
"Finally, we're here."
Roku spun to face the strange voice coming from his right.
It was Yagoda. She was once again occupying a visible form, standing off to the right and looking towards the pillar of energy.
"What now?" Roku asked.
"Nothing complicated," Yagoda responded, "Just give me a second."
The ascended deity took steps forward, using her strange tentacle like legs to move towards the pillar of energy. When she stood in front of it, she extended one of her hands, allowing it to pass into the shifting field of blue light. She closed her eye.
"This is a representation of the deepest reaches of Veara's subconscious," Yagoda explained, "All I have to do is..."
The purple aura around Yagoda began to glow brighter than before, and, to Roku's amazement, it began to fade into the pillar of blue energy, channeling itself through Yagoda's arm. Before his eyes, Roku saw the pillar of energy change colors, shifting from a pale blue to a deep purple.
Yagoda removed her arm from the pillar, taking a step back in the process.
"Okay... that piece of my psionic energy will remain dormant in Veara's mind for 30,000 years, hopefully undetected."
"Okay... now we've done what we came here to do... what do we do now?"
"You wait until you're fully healed... and then you head off to Thar to meet up with Captain Marks."
"What will that accomplish?"
"He will be able to guide you to a cryogenic chamber... where you'll be safely hidden away for the remaining time between now and the time period you're from."
Roku was back on Pangeara, removing his hand from Veara's forehead. He shifted back over to where he was before, laying back down on the grass.
Veara hadn't even stirred.
Roku closed his eyes, and before he could stop himself... he fell asleep as well.
It was 5 days later. Roku was now fully healed. He knew that it was his time to leave... he couldn't risk interacting with the past any longer.
Veara and Roku we're standing on the brick road leading out of Ania and towards Ferndanth. Far behind them was the tall canopy of the forest, and in front of them was the peaceful neighborhood. It was early morning on Pangeara. Sellica was just beginning to poke through the sky, and the glory of the Purrina was still gracing the sky.
"Well... you're sure about this?" Veara asked.
"Yes. I am. You said yourself - I can't leave until I'm fully healed. Well, I am now. And I have things I need to do."
"Where are you going to go?" Veara asked, a little curious.
"Back to the Tyro Empire... they need to know of what happened."
"Very well... the best place for you to get a ride would be at the Ferndanth spaceport. You should be able to catch a flight to any star system in this galactic arm... well... any star system that we've discovered."
Roku laughed a little. "Yeah, don't worry... I'll be able to get back home."
There was an drawn out silence.
"I guess... this is goodbye then."
"Yeah... I suppose it is."
"It was great getting to know you. Do you suppose we'll ever see each other again?"
"I have no doubt, Veara. Just keep in mind... that things don't always turn out the way you expect them to."
"Not sure what that means... but that's besides the point. I'll be seeing you off to the Ferndanth spaceport. I sure you hope you have everything that you brought."
"Yep, I sure do," Roku said, gesturing towards the bag he was holding in his right hand. It was filled with all of his armor... which would have been a bit awkward to where in this normal society. Roku was in fact wearing a normal set of clothes, tinted a blue-ish color.
"Oh! I almost forgot!" Veara exclaimed, "You're going to need some sort of money to pay for the trip."
"Yeah... I suppose I will...'
"Wait here. I'll be back in a moment."
Veara went speeding off back down the road and towards her house. The Artlen was always really good at running fast.
Roku began to pace up the hill to his right. As he shifted into a new vantage point, he was able to see Veara's house. It was the same structure he had seen in Stekvan's vision, situated near the edge of the neighborhood, with a doorway and porch facing the expansive Fauxia fields. Roku watched as Veara ran around her house, quickly opening her door and running inside.
This was absolutely an experience that Roku would never forget.
"I can barely imagine... having to go back and face the Veara of the future..."
"Yes... remember what you're fighting for. You're fighting to bring back this... the true Veara. And on that note... I am sorry... I am truly sorry."
Roku couldn't figure out what Yagoda was sorry about. Everything seemed perfectly fine.
The door to Veara's house opened again, and Veara slowly walked back outside. She was carrying a small slip of plastic in her hand now. She took a few steps down from her porch, walking across the fields. Spotting Roku in his new position, she began to walk through the grass towards him.
And then... it happened.
Veara grabbed her shoulder as if suffering extreme pain. She almost instantly collapsed to the ground, screaming in apparent agony. She was shaking in absolute fear.
Roku wanted, with all his might, to scream out Veara's name and go running to her aid...
But he knew he couldn't. He could not change this event... it was set in stone. This was what Roku had seen in Stekvan's vision.
Veara was now shaking on the ground, grasping her head with her claws so tight that it began to bleed.
Even from the distance... Roku could hear Veara's cry...
"W-What... is this... pain?"
This was horrible. This was the start of an evil that would last for thousands of years.
There was a huge expansion of archon energy... and then Veara fell completely limp and unconscious.
And Roku was powerless to do anything.
As he had seen before, another Grounded Artlen came running off of a porch of a nearby house, sprinting towards the form of Veara's body. He looked shocked... scared and worried to say the least.
"Oh my..." the Artlen said, observing the scar on Veara's left shoulder.
Roku closed his eyes. He could not change any of this. All he could do was pray for his plans eventual success.
He spoke softly into the wind.
"I will fight you long and hard for many years. It will look bleak and impossible... but hope is always there. No matter how hard you try... No matter how many people you kill... No matter how powerful you think you are... or how successful you think you're plan will be... I will stop you. Yes, you will become very powerful. Yes, you will do a large number of things that will bring inhabitants of countless civilizations to their knees... and yes, you will become very successful... but it will not last forever. I will save you, Veara Eveler."
Roku turned around and walked towards the hover-taxi docking station. He would no longer need Veara to accompany him to the spaceport... as this was no longer Veara. This was the raw darkness of her soul brought to the surface.
There was only one way he could save her now. He had to leave.
"Someone has some anger issues..." Yagoda stated.
"It doesn't matter. Narahgeenah will get what's coming. We will end this."
One week later...
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Marks asked, a little hesitant.
"Yes, absolutely. I need to return to where I came from."
"So... you're really from the future then...?"
"Yes... yes I am."
Roku was standing in an open cylindrical tube of glass, most of his body strapped to a thick piece of metal. He was now wearing only a thin cloth-like set of pants and shirt. Multiple needles were sticking into different parts of his body, programmed to monitor his vital life signs.
"And you said... thirty-one thousand four hundred and sixty two years, seventy days, 8 hours, and 34 minutes... exactly?"
"Yes... exactly... can you be sure it will be accurate enough?"
"I can't guarantee the minutes and hours part of it... but you'll definitely get the right day... at least... I think."
Marks pressed the confirmation button on the computer screen, and then moved back towards Roku.
Just beyond the cylindrical tube was a large set of control panels. Beyond that... a wall. They were in a very small claustrophobic chamber located deep below the surface of Thar. It was a cryogenic facility that was owned and run by the Tharian Council. Roku knew from the history books that he was forced to study that it was created for the function of storing animals in danger of extinction... or sentient beings that possessed a lethal and yet incurable disease. It was an expansive facility, housing many chambers just like the one Roku was in now. This was the perfect place to sit and wait until it was time to rejoin the fight against Agriath.
"You sure you got that thing programmed right?" Roku asked.
"Yes, I'm positive. This entire chamber has been technologically isolated from the rest of the facility. The main computer framework can't detect... the maps don't show that it exists... and the door will be sealed completely shut. It will not exist. None of the employees will even bother coming over here in the first case, given that we're on the extreme end of the facilities West wing... and miles beneath the surface of Thar. That little wave bender that I added to the door will help as well. And of course, once the Cryogenic Facility on Kimplemvora is finished with its construction, this one will be abandoned. All of these isolation mechanisms will ensure that you'll remain here, completely isolated, for thousands of years after that. Nobody should disturb you at all."
That was the least amazing thing happening... as speaking to Roku was none other than his ancestor... Captain Marks of the Old Tharian Empire. The one and only hero who had brought the militaristic nature of the Old Tharian Empire into the scientific nature that they would strive for all the way through Roku's time. Even then, Marks' Old Tharian body was distinctly different from Roku's New Tharian form. Instead of eagle wings... he had bat wings. Instead of a human like face... his entire head structure seemed akin to that of a crocodile. Instead of the eyes being located on his head... they were on the ends of short eye stalks protruding from the sides of his face. His legs were long with human like feet at the end... and his hands had a distinct webbed structure. The tail behind him ended in a large barbed appendage.
Given the issues it would cause, Roku was unable to speak to Marks about what would happen to him with Sol III and Primo... but he could tell him something else.
"So... you say I'm your ancestor... what happens to make the Tharians look so different?" Marks asked, moving back into the cryo cylinder to make sure all of the settings on the different IVs were correct, and that none of the straps were too loose.
"One day... an object will crash into Thar. It'll make all of your empire change to look similar to me... and not just that... but great technological advances will come as well. The Tharian Empire will rise as the only true rival of the Grox."
"This object... what is it?"
Roku took a breath... and said the word that was a plague to all mortality. "The Tesseract."
"The Tesseract? What's that then?"
"You'll learn that yourself... One day you'll read a prophecy about it... and you'll gain quite a bit of understanding. Don't worry about what may happen... just know that one day... that prophecy will come to pass. We will do everything in our power to win."
Mark smiled. "Good enough for me. Now... I'm about to activate the cryo chamber... Any last words? Spode... it sounds like I'm going to execute you or something."
"Yeah... just one thing. Good luck on all of your endeavours, Captain Marks."
"Same to you, Roku Azero."
The cryo chamber slid shut quickly, forming a complete cylinder around the New Tharian. The computerized voice chimed to life.
Cryogenic Chamber Activated. Life Form Preservation Circuits Online.
The room filled with a purple gas... and within seconds... Roku felt his mind drifting into unconsciousness.
"See you in thirty thousand years..." Yagoda said, her own telepathic voice showing noticeable signs of tiredness.
"Yeah... see ya'."