Wow, everything's so pretty…
Morning dew sparkled on the trees and plants as the sun's rays shined down onto the forest. Birds chirped in the trees and flowers swayed in the wind as butterflies danced from one petal to another. Not too far away, a humanoid creature walked along the forest floor. Sent down to the planet's surface to scout the area for signs of life, she looked about, admiring the scenery around her with her deep-blue eyes. A reasonably tall girl of eighteen years, she had bright green hair, going down to her shoulders. She wore her usual red pants and shirt, a white dress over it, and a button-like hat with two long white bands with red stripes on the bottoms.
"Okay, this planet appears to be safe enough for the Professor," she said to herself, a bright smile on her face. "The air has the proper amount of oxygen; the pressure is equivalent to that of Earth. Time to report back to the professor, I guess."
She looked down at her hand. It appeared humanlike with its five fingers, nails and palm and all. One thing sets them apart: the fingers were as red as her clothes, the palm was ghost-white, and the back of her hands each had a blue glass dial covering them, concealing circuitry running underneath.
Raising her hand to her mouth, she said, "Activate jet thrusters."
Right on cue, a huge hole opened up on her back. Lowering out of it was a small jet engine, black as charcoal, aimed towards the ground. The engine started to turn, emanating a bright yellow as it spun. After a few seconds of charging, the engine released a huge column of energy straight at the alien earth. The energy lifted the girl high off the ground, above the trees.
Looking upward, she shouted, "To Spaceship Liteyears! Yahoo!"
And with that, she took off. In just a few seconds, the forests soon became a mere green blotch on the canvas that was Planet Clancer. Looking around in place, she spotted the spaceship hovering in the midst on the morning sun. Locked on, she took off for Spaceship Liteyears as fast as she could. Returning to the space ship, the girl stopped and landed lightly on the landing area with her small, ballerina-like feet.
"I bet the Professor must be so bored right now…" she hummed, giggling to herself. "Might as well deliver the good news to cheer him up!"
She dashed over to the entrance and, with a simple button press on its side, the door flew open. "Hey, Professor!" she started happily, "the planet's safe to go! You can… come out… now...?"
To her surprise, the lobby was in complete shambles. Books lay strewn across the floor, torn to shreds. The table that was in the center of the room was now reduced to firewood. The Professor's prized sitting pillow was merely bits of fluff adding to the chaos of the room. As she looked on in sheer horror, one thought crossed her mind.
"What the heck happened here?" she yelled. "Professor!"
She raced over to the back of the room, peering into the laboratory. Though a bit disheveled, it was no worse than when she left hours prior. One thing still left her puzzled, though: where was Professor Theo?
"There's no way he could have left this ship on his own," Marina thought, walking through the carnage of the rec room. "The ship's over a thousand feet in the air…" Before she could ponder on her predicament anymore, she noticed a small envelope sitting amidst the wreckage of the rec room. "Huh?" She walked over and grabbed the envelope by the edges. She opened it as delicately as she could and found a small folded piece of paper.
"Must be a note..." she muttered. Unfolding the parchment, she read the contents:
To The UltraInterGalacticCybot-G, Marina Liteyears,
If you're reading this, then you're probably wondering what happened to that stuffed clanball Professor Theo, right? Well, I, the great and handsome Marzen Clancer the 64th, will fill you in on what became of Fatso. I, as well as my troops, have kidnapped him! Shocking, ain't it? Anyway, I guess you want to know where we took him, right? Well, I got GOOD news and BAD news:
Good news: we're taking him somewhere on this planet and we're not planning on hurting him... yet.
Bad news... you figure it out where we took him! Ta-ta!
Glorious as always,
Marzen Clancer the 64th.
The letter ended in a grinning face that resembled those faces on the ruins. The more the girl, Marina, read the letter, the stronger her urge to destroy anything in her sight coursed through her. The kidnapper not only took her Professor, but had the unmitigated gall to mock her?
Letting out a loud growl, she balled up, tossed the letter aside and stormed out of the spaceship. Standing on the landing area, she looked around, searching for any signs of civilization that could help her in locating the whereabouts of Professor Theo. After a few seconds of scanning, she spotted a huge group of buildings off to the east.
"Activate thrusters!" she yelled, and with that, she took off for the buildings.
Marzen Clancer... she thought as she dove down as fast as she could. Who is that guy?
Arriving at a large gate right in front of the series of buildings, she slowed to a stop, landing on the fresh grass below. Just as she started to dash towards the gate, she heard a deep voice ring out from behind.
She spun around and gasped at what she saw. It consisted of a headless torso with skin as white as chalk, and had a shape like that of a lightbulb. Its arms and legs were of a greyish-brown shade, and its shoulders appeared more like grey balls connecting the arms to the body. Its face bore a similar appearance to the grinning face on the letter, with piercing red eyes glowing from within its sockets. It wore a shabby hat atop of its "head".
"Hey, are you Marina Liteyears, the Ultra InterGalactic Cybot-G?"
Thinking back to the letter, her befuddled stare was instantly replaced with pure rage. "YOU!" she yelled, pointing her finger at the strange being.
The creature jumped back, shaking in confusion. "H-hey! W-what's the problem, l-lady?"
"YOU are the people who kidnapped my Professor!" She stomped her way to the creature, fists clenched. "I can tell by your face that you're in cahoots with that Marzen Clancer guy! Tell me where you took the Professor, NOW!"
Backing up to the gate, cowering at the sight of the angered Marina, the creature held out its hand and exclaimed, "Wait, n-n-no! Don't hurt me, please! We're not with those guys, I swear!"
"Wait, what?" Marina paused, confused by the response. "So you're not with that Marzen Clancer guy?"
"Hell no!" the creature yelled. "We're also suffering because of that monstrous bastard, always terrorizing us and stuff!"
Crossing her arms, Marina asked, "Okay… but how can I be sure to trust you?"
"J-just..." The creature stuttered, getting to his feet, "...come to my village and meet our elder. He'll explain the situation better than any of us Clancers here."
Bracing her right arm with her left hand, Marina stroked her chin and pondered. On the one hand, the creature - apparently called a Clancer - could easily lead her into a trap or otherwise distract her from getting to Theo in time. On the other hand, she had nothing in the way of an idea as to where the Professor is located on the planet and she could really stand getting all the help she could get.
After giving it a few more seconds, she finally sighed and said, "Fine, I'll go see your elder. You seem… nice enough."
The Clancer breathed a sigh of relief. "Good, that's settled, then!" The creature ran over to the gate and threw it open. "Welcome to Nepton Village, Marina!"
Marina's eyes grew wider as he looked around. Standing before her was an expanse of grass, bushes and trees that stretched as far as the eye can see. Odd stone sculptures dotted the ground here and there, giving it a surrealistic look. Nobody here seemed to be in a rush; rather, people similar to the creature in appearance strolled about down the various dirt paths running through the village, some holding hands and chatting away.
"Wow..." Marina said, trailing off.
"Hey, I'm gonna go on ahead and tell the elder that you're here!" With that, the Clancer took off around a small pyramid. Odd ghost-like faces were craved in each of the blocks that comprised it.
"Hey, wait!" Marina yelled, but the Clancer was already gone.
She just stood there, pondering what has just transpired. One minute, she was in search of the Professor; now, she was an expected guest for a leader of some village on some planet that she had never visited before. The more she thought about it, the more it confused. Why was she expected here, when neither she nor Theo came to the planet before? Where in the world was Professor Theo? Who was that Marzen Clancer guy?
Clenching her fists, she thought, Grr, when I find that Marzen guy, I'll-
"Ah!" Shrieking, she spun around and saw another Clancer. It looked similar to the Clancer she was just talking to, perhaps a little bigger. It sported a hat like the other Clancer, except a bit bigger to accommodate its larger head.
"Hey, buddy, you're lookin' a little lost there, got a problem?" the Clancer said. It sounded significantly deeper and masculine than the other Clancer.
"Oh, um, nothing!" Marina stammered, stepping back and scratching the back of her head. "I'm just looking for where your elder is located, is all."
"Oh, Geold?" The Clancer raised his hand, pointing straight past Marina. "Just follow the path past the pyramid and you'll reach Geold's place in no time."
"Oh, thank you!" Marina replied, smiling.
Just as she started to turn around, the Clancer held out his hand. "Hey, wait!" he yelled, and Marina stopped. "You have any reasons for wanting to see our elder?"
"Um, yes, actually," Marina replied with a nod. "See, I was told by another Clancer that I was expected here to see him."
"Wait, why would h-" The Clancer paused, and then snapped his fingers. "Hey, you must be that Marina chick, right?"
Marina nodded, pointing to herself proudly. "Yep, the one and only Ultra Inter-Galactic Cybot G, Marina Liteyears!"
"Oh, hey, that's perfect!" The Clancer said, smiling. "Alrighty then, hurry along to Geold's now; you must not keep him waiting!"
"I won't, and thanks for the help!" With that news in mind, she took off for the pyramid. As she drifted past the pyramid, she saw a small ball bouncing along a wide dirt pathway.
What the heck? she thought as she picked up the ball.
Like the buildings that surrounded her, it had the odd ghost-like face etched upon it. Every person, animal and object on this planet seems to have the same ghost-like face. It also seemed to squirm around in her grasps, almost as if it were alive. As she examined the ball further, Marina heard a loud rattle from within the squirming sphere. "Hmm?" Turning it over so that its "face" was down, she gave it a little shake. To her surprise, a small red object fell out through its "mouth", falling to the dirt with a soft tink.
Bending down, she picked up this strange gem and looked at it carefully. "What's this?" she pondered. It was a small red jewel, no bigger than her fist. In the sunlight that hanged over Nepton Village, it glistened with a soft red glow.
"Perhaps I should hold onto this, just in case..." Placing the jewel in her dress pocket, she continued on down the trail.
The strange faced buildings were beginning to pop up more and more as she went on. Some were one-story houses; others reminded her of the skyscrapers from Earth. After a few minutes of walking, keeping to her thoughts, she came across a building in the middle of the fork in the road.
Towering over all the other buildings in the area, it was made entirely out of glowing red bricks, complete with the odd ghost faces etched upon them. Unlike the others, the "eyes" on every brick of the towering structure appeared to pulsate between empty black and bright red. Leaning forward, holding her hand over her eyes, Marina spotted something shimmering inside the structure through the hollow spaces between the blocks. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't make out what it was.
"Must be something important... a place for worship, perhaps?" Marina said to herself. Shrugging her shoulders, she continued onwards.
After a few more minutes of walking, admiring the scenery around her, she spotted a waving figure from further down the path. "Hey, Marina! Over here!" he yelled. It was the Clancer from when she first found the village.
"Finally!" she said exasperatedly, and she took off for the Clancer. A couple seconds later, she came to a halt, standing right in front of him.
"Alright, Marina, you see that building over there?" the Clancer asked, pointing further down the path. Looking over, she saw a huge building erected right in the middle of the path. "That is where Elder Geold is waiting for you!"
"Got it!" Marina nodded, and began to run down the trail.
"Good luck!" the Clancer yelled back.
As she ran, Marina found another ball bounding down the dirt road. Unlike the other ball, it was colored green. Snatching it out of the air in mid-bound, she shook it, hoping to find another red jewel. After a simple shake, another jewel fell out from its "mouth"; unlike the other one, it shined a bright blue hue. As she bent down to pick it up, she suddenly felt calmer as she held onto the blue jewel.
"Huh?" Slowing down to a stop, Marina then checked her sensors to see if her energy was at an adequate level. As she looked on, to her amazement, her energy level started to rise back up again, as if she were in her recharging booth in the spaceship. She placed the jewel back down on the ground and checked her sensors again. The energy meter came to a halt.
"Wow!" she exclaimed. The blue jewel, for some reason, can recharge her purely by touch! Picking up the blue jewel, she looked into it and snickered. "Oh, I'm so keeping this!" Placing it in her pocket with the other jewel, she continued on down the trail, giggling to herself. She felt as if she was on top of the world, ready to take on anything that looked her funny.
Soon afterwards, she finally came to the end of the pathway. She spotted two small Clancers standing right in front of the doorway to the large building. The taller one - gray as the other Clancers she saw - wore an orange cap with blond spiky hair poking out from underneath. The smaller Clancer - light blue in color unlike the others - wore a large sun hat topped with a bright red bow. Long curly white hair rolled down from underneath the hat.
"Hi there, you must be Marina!" The taller Clancer said gleefully, extending a hand over to Marina. He gave a bright smile, or whatever Clancer equivalent thereof.
"Why, yes I am!" Marina said gleefully, shaking his hand. "And you are...?"
"Oh, my name is Teran Blockman, and this little girl here is my sister, Celes. Please be nice to her, okay?"
The little Clancer peeked out from behind her brother. She looked up at Marina and muttered, "Hi… I'm Celes," before going right back behind Teran.
"Aw..." Marina cooed, giggling to herself. "She's a little shy, isn't she?"
"Yeah, well, you could say that," Teran replied, chuckling. "I mean, it's not every day that we see humans in our neck of the woods… or cybots, in your case."
"True, true..." Marina murmured, smiling.
"Anyway, our elder, Geold, is right inside." Teran, with Celes following close behind, stepped out of the doorway. "We'll go in with you."
Peering inside, she spotted a large blue Clancer sitting in a large rocking chair. Unlike the others, he had a long, white beard coming down from his mouth area. He held a large brown staff in his hands. Going by the way he lazily rocked about in his chair, Marina deduced that he was fast asleep. Stepping inside, she surveyed the room. It was neat and well-organized, with not a single spot of mess in sight. Just like the exterior of the buildings in the village, the furniture - even the television - all had the odd Clancer faces on them.
"Elder?" Teran called out, stepping inside. "Elder Geold! Marina has arrived!"
"Hmph?" The elder Clancer shot right out of his slumber, looking around in confusion. "Huh, huh, what's that now?"
"Elder, relax, it's just me and Celes," Teran said, holding his hands out. "The Ultra InterGalactic Cybot's here with us."
"Oh, really?" Looking over to Marina, he exclaimed, "Oh, Marina, you're finally here! Please, please, do sit down! You too, Teran and Celes; this matter concerns you two as well!"
Looking around, she spotted a small chair, leaning next to a large table. Grabbing it, she took it over to Geold and placed it next to Teran and Celes, who've acquired their own chairs.
"Ah, yes," Geold started, straightening himself up on his chair. "Indeed, I've been waiting for you, Marina. Weclome to Planet Clancer! I'm Nepton Village's all-wise and all-knowing elder, Geold. Before we start, do you have any questions you wish to ask me at this moment?"
"Yes, actually," Marina replied, raising her hand as if she was in school. "If I heard correctly, there are a few Clancers that has been harassing your fellow villagers for a while now, right? Marzen Clancer and his group?"
For a few seconds, only silence greeted her. Teran and Celes merely looked away sadly. Geold himself looked down to the floor, a dreadful look on his face.
"Oh, um," Marina stammered, "I'm sorry if I struck a nerve, I mean, if it's too soon or-"
"No, no, that's quite alright, Marina," Geold replied, wiping his face. "Our race is kind and friendly, more than willing to help the other fellow... however, this is indeed a downside to our people's overt friendliness. Because of these traits, the Empire of Terror has persuaded many of our Clancers to work for them. Their aim seems to be to use their powerful troops to invade other planets and rule the universe!"
"But here's what I don't get, sir: why did they take Professor Theo?" Marina asked. "What do they want with him?"
The old Clancer stroked his beard. "I'm not quite sure why they kidnapped your Professor. If I had to hazard a guess, it's that they're taking him to the Emperor. Whatever he wants with Theo, I'm certain it's no good. You must rescue him before that happens!"
"I don't know where those troops went, though," Marina explained, clenching her fist. "All they left behind was a note taunting me, those jerks!"
"Yes, quite..." Geold muttered. "It appears that, unfortunately, you must find him the hard way, then. To get from place to place on this planet, you'll have to utilize the Warp Gates dotting the landscape."
"What do they look like?" Marina asked.
"Well, they look like this," Geold explained, holding out his hand. To Marina's surprise, a bright white star appeared right over his palm. It shined and spun around in place, flashing red and pink. "Each Warp Gate emits a very bright light, so spotting them will be easy."
"Shining stars…" Celes muttered, to Marina's surprise. "You mean like the one sealed in the Shrine of Clancer, Elder?"
"That's right," Teran answered with a nod. "Except... these gates, that is, at least the ones in this village, were all sealed away a long time ago."
"Then it's fair to say that it's time to open them once more." Geold took his staff and tapped it on the ground. Suddenly, a small black metal ball fell from the ceiling right in front of them. It sported a Clancer face like everything else in the village.
Marina gazed upon the strange device and asked, "What the heck is that?"
"This is a Clanbomb." Leaning forward, Geold carefully lifted the device up. "It is a special device that we Clancers use to clear away any obstacles that comes our way. Use this at the Shrine of Clancer to unseal the Warp Gate there. Be careful while using it, however: once you press the button in the center of its face, it will start the countdown to its explosion! Be absolutely sure that you're within distance of what you wish to clear away before you activate it!"
"Right, sir," Marina said as she carefully picked up the Clanbomb.
Geold looked over to Teran and continued, "Teran, please escort Ms. Liteyears to the shrine. Safety precautions, of course. You know the procedures."
"Yes, Elder," Teran replied, standing back up, "Come on, Celes."
"R-right, Teran..." Celes got right up and scurried over to Teran.
"Alright, I wish you the best of luck with your search, Marina," Geold said with a nod. "Do be careful out there."
"Don't worry, I will, and thanks!" Marina turned to Teran, Clanbomb in hand. "Let's go, Teran."
And with that, Marina and the Clancer siblings left Geold's abode and make their way back up the trail. Throughout the short hike, they mostly kept to themselves. Marina walked as lightly and quickly as she could, careful not to trigger the bomb. Teran kept pace, with Celes keeping a tight hold to Teran's hand. The midday sun hung high above the village, basking everything in its sunlight. As they walked, Marina noticed a most peculiar feature in the building: the "eyes" all began to glow a soft red color, as if they're coming to life.
Once they made it back up the hill, Marina looked around and said, "Interesting buildings, don't you think?"
"Yeah," Teran replied. "This village has many ruins, being very old and all."
"Of course. Um, mind me askin', but why do the buildings and stuff all have... well, faces?"
"Well, legend has it that each face in a given structure houses a spirit of those from ages past. It's said that the brighter the eyes of the faces are, the more active and lively the spirit is from within."
"Wow..." Marina blinked. "That's... kinda creepy, Teran."
Teran shrugged. "Not really. I mean, personally, I think it's actually quite comforting to know that, even in the hereafter, your ancestors are still with you... even if they can't quite communicate with you."
"Well, anyway." Teran pointed down the road. Off in the distance, Marina spotted the glowing red building from before. "See that red building further up the trail? That's the Shrine of Clancer."
"Alright, so, Geold want us to blow it up completely?" Marina asked. "I mean, I don't want to ruin anything valuable or those 'spirits' and all that."
"No," Teran replied bluntly. "He only wants us to blow the entranceway open. The rest of the building can withstand a Clanbomb explosion."
"Ah, gotcha..." Marina looked over to Celes. She only looked away in response. "I see she's still not quite used to me yet," she said, giggling a bit.
"Oh, don't worry," Teran replied, giving his sister a light noogie. "She'll get used to ya soon enough. She's always like this with new things and people."
Marina only nodded in response, looking down the road. Sure hope I'm not scaring her or anything...
A few minutes later, they made it back to the Shrine of Clancer. In the midst of the midday sun, the glow emanating from the bricks were practically blinding. She walked over to the shrine and placed a hand on it. Despite its blinding light, it was still cool to the touch.
"Alright, Teran," Marina said, looking over to him. "Where's the entrance to this place?"
"Here." He pointed over to a slight depression in the building. With a nod, she walked over and placed the Clanbomb in front of it.
"Um..." Marina murmured, eying the depression.
"What's up?" Teran shouted from afar.
"It's just..." Marina replied, "This wall here has those ghost faces, too. Won't I hurt them if I blast it open?"
"Well..." Teran scratched his head. "I also heard that, if a face get destroyed, they can just move on to another face. So, go ahead; I'm sure they won't mind."
"I hope you're right..."
As soon as Marina pressed the button on the Clanbomb's face, the device began to tick, showing a number inside the red glowing eyes that started from fifty and counted down.
"Move back!" Marina yelled as she zoomed away from the shrine. Running a few blocks away, they huddled together as far away from the Shrine as they could and waited, ears closed.
After a minute elapsed, the bomb went off with a loud bang. The air practically split in half as the explosion rocked the village. The faced bricks that once blocked the entrance to the Clance Shrine were nothing more than heated pebbles. The rest of the building, just as Teran said, remained intact.
"Whoa..." Marina muttered.
"Okay, Marina, the Warp Gate's inside." Teran said, brushing himself off. "Let's go find that Professor of yours, eh?"
"Wait, you want to come along, too?" Marina asked, her eyebrow raised.
"Hey, why not?" Teran asked, shrugging his shoulders. "We want to help you with your search in any way possible. Right, Celes?" She gave a little nod, barely enough to register her agreement with her brother.
"Okay, just checkin'," Marina replied, giving a thumbs-up. "Let's go!"
After letting everything settle, they entered the Shrine of Clancer. The interior emanated a dim red aura that partially illuminated the room. Right in the center of the ethereal shrine was a huge spinning star. Just like the one Geold demonstrated, it flashed a bright red and pink that blanketed the room in its glow.
"Okay, Teran, what do we have to do to activate this?" Marina asked, gazing upon the Warp Gate with curious wonder. "Press a switch, or something?"
"Oh, that's easy," Teran scoffed. "All you have to do is touch it and it'll take you... somewhere."
"Huh?" Marina uttered quizzically. "You mean, the destination's not predetermined?"
"Yeah, that's the thing about the Warp Gates," Teran replied sheepishly, scratching the back of his head. "They're all pretty random with their destination choices. Come to think to it, that's why our ancestors sealed them away long ago in the first place."
"Dang…" Marina sighed, stomping her feet. "I knew there was something off with his comment about this being the 'hard way'! What do we do now?"
"Cross our fingers, touch the Gate and hope for the best?" Teran replied, shrugging.
"…Alrighty, then," Marina said exasperatedly. Let's just go." She walked up to the Warp Gate, with Teran and Celes following close behind. Stopping just in front of the oscillating object, she reached out towards it. Before she could grab it by one of the points, she heard Teran yell, "Wait, Marina!"
Looking over her shoulder, she replied, "What's the problem now?"
"There's another trick with these Warp Gates: we'll have to hold hands to go to the same place. Otherwise, we'll each go to different locations!"
"It's that random?" Marina sighed. "Fine, hold my hand."
Reaching out, Teran firmly grasped her hand. "Well, here goes nothing, right?"
"Right." She turned back and reached for the center of the Warp Gate. The instant she grasped it, she, along with Teran and Celes, disappeared in a flash.
Author's Note: And with that, Chapter Two comes to a close. With this chapter, we meet our main heroes: Marina Liteyears, Teran and Celes. There's just one more main that will make themselves known in the next chapter, so stay tuned.
As for the Warp Gates, they should prove to be quite a chaotic element for this story soon enough...
Anyway, how is the story so far? Did you find this chapter enjoyable? Boring? If you have any questions or problems with this story, post your concerns as a review or send me a private message. Any constructive feedback is, and will always be, much appreciated.