Author's note: I was really unsatisfied with the ending of the Soldiers of Halla, so I thought I'd try to write an alternate one. Please R&R, constructive criticism welcome. Contains spoilers for Soldiers of Halla.
"Don't you think it's a little unfair?" Bobby asked Uncle Press. They were the only ones left in the Taj Mahal amongst the ruins of the Ravinian Conclave that had been recently destroyed. Light filtered through the stained glass mosaics on the ceiling and reflected off the marble floors. The flume glowed brightly in the center of the room, in front of the abandoned thrones of Saint Dane and Nevva Winter, both of whom were now dead. "That we worked so hard to save the lives that we don't even get to live out?"
Uncle Press didn't respond at first, but after a while he nodded. "Sorry, Bobby. This is the way it was meant to be."
Bobby nodded and left the room to finish writing his journals for the last time, and Uncle Press stood there staring at the flume for a long time.
Mark and Courtney decided not to go there the day that Bobby was to return to Solara. Bobby had been Mark's best friend his entire life, from being playmates in kindergarten to fighting the dado army together. They'd been inseparable, even if they had been on separate territories for the larger part of the last few years. The thought that they would never see each other again was unbearable – worse than anything Mark had experienced as a rebel enemy of the Ravinians.
Courtney felt even worse. She still wasn't used to failure, and she'd been thrilled to help the exiles defeat Saint Dane so that she could be a part of the movement to save Halla. At many times, it had been hard, but the knowledge that Mark and Bobby were out there kept her motivated and strong. She hadn't anticipated this – that as illusions, the Travelers would all return to Solara. She loved Bobby, even though they weren't the same at all. She was a creature of Halla, Bobby a spirit of Solara. They'd fought such a tough fight to be together, but it wasn't destined to happen that way.
They had dinner together with Maddie the cab-driver and another of Mark's rebel army that had helped them save Halla in a quiet diner at the border of the Ravinian complex which was being re-constructed as the base of a new city. Nobody said anything as they ate.
Bobby jumped into the flume.
Instead of the crystal tunnels (they had been all destroyed), he was enveloped in warm golden light and he hit soft ground. Sitting up, he knew he'd reached Solara – the beginning of all energy and all life. The ground was dirt, but it was covered in fresh soft green grass. All around, rolling hills stretched as far as the eye could see and the entire valley was bathed in warm sunshine. He wasn't alone, because the other Travelers were all standing up in a circle around him.
Uncomfortably, Bobby got up at once and took a place in the circle. Uncle Press arrived last in a flash of light and landed on his feet. He looked around at the group.
Bobby hadn't known what to expect when he first returned to Solara, but it certainly wasn't this. He hadn't expected to have physical form, and he definitely hadn't expected to meet his friends again in their illusion forms. From all the spiritual stuff Uncle Press had told him, he'd expected to be in spirit form, somehow 'part of the others' in that way. Judging from the others' expressions, he wasn't the only one who was taken aback.
It was Loor who spoke up first. "Why are we still in physical form?" she asked.
"Because things have changed," said Uncle Press simply.
The other Travelers weren't letting him get away with such an elusive answer.
"I thought that when we returned, our spirits would become part of Solara's energy," Gunny Van Dyke said. Kasha and Spader started talking, but Siry cut in. "What have you done?"
"As I was preparing this flume, Bobby spoke to me," Uncle Press said. "And he's right. It isn't fair for you to return to Solara as spirits without getting to live what you fought so hard to protect. We've all gathered here to make choices."
Bobby looked around at the group – everyone, even the genius Aja Killian, looked like they had no idea what was going on. She was in the dark blue jumpsuit of the phaders of Veelox, when she had returned there to search for the exiles. Beside her was Patrick Mac, one of the few Travelers who'd been on Third Earth at the very end. Elli, Gunny, Kasha, Spader and Alder were on the other side of the circle. Loor and Siry stood nearest to Bobby, everyone looking to Press Tilton for the answers.
"You will all be given another chance at life," he said. "You'll be awarded the life of a creature of Halla, in any territory. You'll help to rebuild after the damage that was wrecked by Ravinia and Alexander Naymeer, and you will live the outcomes of what you've done to save Solara. When you die, your spirits will rest in Solara."
His words were greeted by a silence. Nobody knew how to react to his sudden announcement.
Bobby looked at Loor to see how she would react. Her expression was vacant, her eyes far away. However when she saw Bobby looking she gave him a reassuring smile.
"It's time for you to decide which territory you want to return to," Uncle Press said. He stepped back from the center of the circle and a white flume appeared there.
"Spader, you first."