Authors: Dhayaa Anbajagane
He looked at the planet’s surrounding space. There were three or four other planets in the system and they didn’t have moons of any sort.
Just where has Jake sent me?
The planet had enlarged enough for him to make out its features. It had a shade of light blue, which was probably the color of the cloud systems on its surface. It was perfectly round, and small overall, about the size of the moon.
He slowed down considerably and descended onto the planet, his entire body quivering with the strain of re-entry. He entered the planet’s atmosphere only to be stunned by what he saw. The blue color of the planet didn’t come from the clouds, it came from water. The surface of the planet was pure water, an endless ocean of blue. Q searched for land but this planet didn't seem to have any in his immediate vicinity. He flew around a bit, scanning a wide area in his search for a place to land. A few minutes after he heard a loud rumble come from the ocean.
A huge submarine burst out of the water like a dolphin and fell back in with a loud splash. Gallons of water slid off of its metal gray surface as it tried to stay afloat. The first thought that entered Q’s mind was whether this was a friend or foe. A panel on the surface of the vessel slid open and a platform rose out of it. A man in a white overcoat stood straight, as the wind fought against his presence.
“May I help you?” the man said.
“Who are you?” Q asked.
“I should be asking you the same question, young man,” he said. “Why are you in these parts anyway? No one comes by this planet.”
“It’s a long story,” Q said.
“Oh, those are my favorite kind!” the man exclaimed and gestured to Q to follow him inside the submarine. Q was skeptical of the invitation. The man didn’t seem to be a threat but that didn't necessarily rule out the possibility of him having ill intentions. But then again, this man could be the one who could help him locate the Lambda Driver. After pondering for a few seconds, Q decided to gamble and followed the man.
The inside of the submarine was quite homey. There were carpeted floors and pictures hanging on the walls. The scent of jasmine floated around the air giving the whole place a sense of calm and serenity. Q could see that the inside of the ship was oxygenated and turned off his energy suit.
The man led Q to a section of the sub that seemed to be the entertainment room. A large screen hung on the walls, and tables and chairs were situated on the other side. Q wondered if the guy had a lot of visitors, because he seemed to have an abnormal number of chairs in the room. The man sat down on an armchair and gestured to Q to take the one opposite him.
“Let’s hear you story,” he said and poured Q some tea as Q told him about everything that had happened back at Aliea.
The man listened to his story patiently. “I see,” he said, after it was all over.
“Why did Jake send me here?” Q asked.
“My, my. I figured you would have found out by now,” he exclaimed.
Q looked confused, “Figured out what?”
“I never introduced myself did I?” he grinned as he shook Q’s hand. “I’m Dr.Burke, creator of the Lambda Driver.”
“So you created the Lambda Driver?” Q asked. He was stunned. He didn't expect the situation to develop in this direction.
“Yes, then I hid it so that it wouldn't be used as a weapon,” Burke said.
Q was confused “Wait, it isn’t a weapon?” he asked. The name
suggest it wasn't a weapon but Jake’s obsession with it made it seem like this thing could pack a punch if used a certain way.
Burke laughed, “On the contrary, it’s just a highly advanced engine. Light years ahead of the warp drive, literally.”
“So what does it do?” Q asked. The Lambda Driver had suddenly become more interesting.
“Well, the Lambda Driver creates a five-dimensional bridge between two places. Imagine if the whole Universe were a piece of paper. If I drew a dot on two corners, to get there using warp drive you would have to go across the sheet. Now I can essentially bend the sheet to make the two dots overlap,” he stretched out on his chair and continued. “I can therefore use a three dimensional piece of paper to go across two points in a flash. Now since we’re in a four-dimensional Universe, I need a five-dimensional bridge, a.k.a the wormhole. So my Lambda Driver creates a wormhole and shortens the distance between places exponentially,” he finished.
Q was completely stunned at this explanation. He was amazed at the kind of technology that existed these days. “Do you have a model of the Lambda Driver right now?” he asked.
“I’ve made only one, and it was stolen from where I hid it,” he said. “Right now it’s in the Anti-verse. The technology to get there though is beyond me.”
“Leave that to me,” Q said.
“Really?” he raised an eyebrow.
“Very well then, I think we should get a move on as soon as possible, yes?” he asked.
“Way ahead of you,” Q said. He flicked his hand forward and was covered with a white light.
“An energy suit. Impressive. Sustains the user’s life in any environment,” Burke said.
“Burke?” Q tried to get his attention, it seemed like a Cyclops could bellow before this guy and he would be inspecting its high tech club instead.
“Ah yes, I’m paying attention.”
Q closed his eyes and felt the energy within him. He imagined the Universe and Anti-verse side by side, and then he shrunk them down until they were just two large blobs of darkness in front of him.
He pushed his life force out of his fingertips and created a bridge between the two blobs. Q opened his eyes, his chest heavy and his hands clammy. In a few seconds a blue circle of light hovered in front of them, large as a door and quite bright.
“The portal is open,” Q said.
“Oh, a portal. Very nice. Good form of travel.” He went closer to inspect it, “How is this stabilization even possible?” he asked.
Q couldn’t take this guy’s rambling any longer. He flicked his hands again and a white glow, similar to the one around Q, appeared around Burke.
“What are you doing?” Burke asked.
“You know, someone did this to me once,” Q laughed.
He pushed Burke into the portal and jumped in after him. They entered some sort of rainbow tunnel. The walls around them flashed with colors that changed in a fraction of a second. They were hurtling at incredible speed through the tunnel. Q liked to call this part the Rainbow Bridge. It sounded cool, and it was a pretty accurate description as well. It took them less than a minute to leave the Rainbow Bridge, and when they exited they were in deep, dark space.
Burke’s eyes glittered like precious gems. “Amazing,” he muttered, as he trembled with excitement.
Q looked all around him. Their energy suits protected them from the antiparticles in this Universe so they were safe as long as they had the suits on. He ignored Burke’s rambling and put himself in a state of deep concentration. He usually found it difficult to activate ‘Q maps’ in the regular Universe, so using them in the Anti-verse would require a greater deal of concentration. Sweat formed on his brow and his forehead scrunched up. His brain felt like it was splitting apart. Finally a map formed in his mind, allowing him to see their position in the Anti-verse.
“The Lambda Driver has to have huge energy content doesn’t it?” Q asked Burke.
“Not necessarily,” he said. “The Lambda Driver charges continuously by absorbing the energy from the atoms all around it, but this happens only when it’s being activated. So the Driver would have an energy reading only when it’s ready for use.”
“So basically, if I can see an energy signature, then Lambda Driver is ready to go, and that’s bad for us,” Q concluded.
“Yes,” Burke acknowledged with a small nod.
Q looked around for the energy signature. Since the driver was from their world, the energy signature would be different from the energy signature of all the matter in the Anti-verse. So if he found some sort of an anomaly in the energy of an object, it would have to be the Lambda Driver.
Suddenly, Q’s arms went limp and he gasped, out for breath. His eyes were bloodshot, indicating that the inter-Universe travel, plus activating Q-maps, had completely exhausted him.
“Are you okay?” Burke asked.
“The Lambda Driver,” he said, his voice coarse and weak. “It’s at full strength.”
“It’s okay, it’s not like anyone is going to die,” Burke said.
“Can you guarantee that?”
“Well, theoretically they won’t,” he stated.
“How about practically?”
He hesitated, “They might.”
Q pushed himself forward, “Then I guess we’d better find it quick,” he said and pulled Burke forward as well.
“Can’t we rest?” he complained, “You don't seem to be in the best of conditions for a mission like this either.”
“I’m fine,” Q said, “We should set out as soon as we can.”
“But we don’t have any survival provisions.”
“The energy suit will infuse you with what you need,” Q said. “We have a long way ahead of us. We’ll be lucky enough to get back alive.”
“Luck isn’t theoretically possible.”
“We’ll find out,” Q said and they both laughed, as they headed into the unknown.
Elizabeth was breathing heavily. About twenty cadets lay on the floor, exhausted. Another twenty were sitting around her in a circle, biting their nails.
“Next!” she yelled and a guy from the ring walked up to her.
“Draw your weapon,” she commanded.
The guy nodded and pulled a sword out of its sheath, his fingers nervously gripping it.
“Begin,” she boomed and charged at the guy.
He just stood there, already stunned. He tried hacking at Elizabeth but she was too quick. She ran around him in an instant, flapping her wings to run a tighter circle and keep him within her striking range. He turned quickly and threw his sword at her. She expanded her wings and rose into the air.
“You’ve lost your weapon,” she said and swooped down at him. In a flash, he was on the ground, and Elizabeth had the flat of her dagger at his throat.
She got up, “You should learn to wait and then strike,” she gave him a hand.
“I think that’s enough,” Juliana walked over.
“It isn’t. I’m in charge of getting these cadets ready for war. I’m not going to slack off on it.”
“You won’t be slacking, dear. You would just be giving them a break.”
Elizabeth looked around her. Most of the cadets were drained from dueling her, while the others were drained from the fright of dueling her. She looked at herself, at her bruised arms, and the snow white feathers that lay all over the floor.
“I guess that’s enough for today,” she realized, and sat down with Juliana. “You think we’re all going to be fine?”
“To be honest, I do not know myself,” Juliana said. “But I do know that if there is a way to stop this atrocity we will definitely find it.”
The lights in the building went out all at once.
“What’s going on?” Elizabeth asked.
A loud siren rang loud and clear. Everyone looked at each other, clueless about what was happening. They had already had one attack. Was the siren signaling the start of another one?
Elizabeth turned to the window. She could see a battleship hovering in the air a mile away, a claw below it carrying a large metal sphere. Before she realized what was happening, the claw dropped the sphere onto the surface. A hemisphere of bright white light expanded rapidly from where it landed. It headed at them with lightning speed, destroying everything in its path.
There was no escape.
Elizabeth opened her eyes. She saw a clear blue sky, its clouds as fluffy as cotton candy. She felt like she was floating in water. She tried getting up but she didn’t have the strength to move even an inch.
“Rest, young one,” a melodious voice said.
Elizabeth turned her neck. She saw a beautiful woman floating in the air next to her. She was dressed in a glowing pearl-white gown, similar to those from ancient Greece. Her skin was radiant, almost like it was light itself. She wore gold bracelets on both her arms, both studded with jewels that seemed duller than the glow on her skin. Her long silver hair was braided with golden threads, and atop her head was a gold headband adorned with emeralds, rubies and sapphires.
“Where…am…I,” Elizabeth croaked.
The lady put her finger to Elizabeth’s lips, “You must not talk. You were drained of all your energy.”
The lady’s words rekindled Elizabeth’s memory and images of an explosion surged through her mind. She sat up reflexively and her back was immediately struck with a sharp pain. She gasped for breath, taking in big puffs of air.
The lady stroked Elizabeth’s back, her hands both forceful and gentle at the same time. The pain receded slowly until she could feel it no more.
“I warned you,” the lady scolded. “Such actions cannot be encouraged in your condition.”
Elizabeth could reply with nothing but silence. Her body was too weak for her to actually speak. The lady dipped her hand in the water and brought some up, giving it to Elizabeth to drink. She took a sip. It felt cool and refreshing at first, but then it turned nasty. She felt like hot coals were running down the sides of her body, scalding and tearing through her insides. She gritted her teeth over the intense pain she was feeling. It took all her effort to make sure she didn't lose consciousness.
“Just what are you trying to do?!” Elizabeth yelled out, unable to bear the pain, and then shut her mouth immediately. She blinked in surprise. She was able to talk again. Whatever that lady had done, it had helped her gain a bit of her strength.
“What is this place?” she asked.
The lady smiled, “Where do you think you are?” she asked.
Elizabeth sat up, her body feeling strong and confident, and looked around. She could only see water for miles around. There was no land on the horizon. There were no other living beings around. Just her, the lady, and the water.
“Just where am I?” she asked again, even more bewildered than before.
“This is the Palace of Being.”
“It can’t be,” her eyes widened. “I’ve been to the Palace of Being before. It was nothing like this.”
“Of course this won’t look exactly like the Palace,” she said. “This is the Palace’s Fountain of Youth.”
“Wait, you mean
Fountain of Youth?”
“Not that mythical one from Earth’s legends,” she said, “This one is named so because its water has amazing healing properties. It cannot, however, make one immortal.”
, Elizabeth thought.
The lady came a little closer to her and whispered into her ear, “Do you want to know what happened to Aliea?”
Her face turned serious, “Show me,” she said.
“Remember, it is not the prettiest of pictures,” the lady waved her hand and a small portal opened. It flushed with images of Aliea, images of everything that had happened at Aliea since the blast, images of everything that was happening right now. Elizabeth’s eyes widened, her breathing irregular and strained.
She could see the Demon Riser. Everything else? It was just gone. All that was left was a bright glow of white with patches of red in some places. She realized that the white was the snow and the red was-
her eyes widened.
“What happened?” she asked. She could feel her heart rate increasing. Her blood pumped through her body faster and faster.
“Your enemy released a ‘Zeus’ bomb onto your academy.”
“A Zeus bomb?” she asked. “Some sort of massive explosive?”
“Not exactly. The Zeus manipulates the atoms in the air to create all sorts of natural disasters. It may not necessarily create death but you can bank on it creating a lot of pain and torture.”
Elizabeth looked closer at the portal. She could see the blazing winds carrying gallons of rain, tons of snow and ice. Out of nowhere a huge column of red emerged from the wind layer. Red hot lava. A monstrous water wave appeared out of thin air and cooled the lava, creating steam. When it had all cleared up, the lava stood as a pillar of ice, courtesy of the freezing wind. It seemed like the elements were playing a game of rock-paper-scissors. Elizabeth tried searching for people but it was no use. She couldn’t even see the ground, much less any survivors.
“Do not worry,” the lady said. “Your friends are all right. Aliea is the only one that is on the brink of extinction.”
Elizabeth lay down again. Her brain went haywire. What could she do to save her home? She was willing to put everything on the line if it meant she could save Aliea.
“The question you should be asking is why all of this is happening to Aliea,” the lady said. “Not what you can do to save your academy.”
Elizabeth stared at her. The lady smiled, “I’m sorry if I startled you,” she said.
“So you can read minds as well,” she mumbled. “Why am I not surprised?”
“Remember. You must find out why all of this is happening,” the lady’s voice faded away. She floated away from Elizabeth, a calming smile on her face.
“Who are you? What is your name?” Elizabeth yelled but the lady did not reply. She traveled further and further away with every moment that passed.
The lady made a gesture with her hands, and darkness emerged from beneath the water. It swept Elizabeth into its void, leaving a million questions unanswered in her mind.
Kai left Chris and the enemy’s battle camp. His ‘maintenance buddies’ led him outside to a bunch of solo-rider hovercraft, which looked a lot like flying snowmobiles, and boarded them.
“You do know how to operate one right?” a guy asked him.
“We’ll just lead the way and you follow,” another said. “I’m guessing you’ve never been to the mothership before?”
“Never,” Kai shook his head.
The two guys looked at each other and started laughing.
“You’re really something, man,” he said.
“Now,” a deep voice came from behind, and Kai quickly swiveled around.
A cadet pointed a laser blaster dead-straight at his head. “Why don’t you tell us where you
are?” he smiled.
Kai raised his hands instinctively. The first thing to do was to show them that he was surrendering. The rest he could plan later. All four of his ‘maintenance buddies’ surrounded him, and trained their laser blasters at his head.
“Where are you really from?” the tallest one asked.
Kai kept quiet, trying to find an answer from within his muddled thoughts.
The cadet pushed him to the ground, “YOU ANSWER WHEN I ASK YOU A QUESTION.”
“Forget about questioning him,” another said. “Just take him out.”
Kai panicked. He needed to find a way out of this. He needed to help his friends. He needed to keep his promise to Chris.
“Any last words?” the cadet smirked.
“Yeah. Eat this!” Kai yelled but nothing happened.
The boy desperately tried to control his laughter, “Should I wait for something to happen or-”
A hovercraft exploded, knocking one of the guys unconscious.
Kai smiled, “Looks like I can join in on the fun now,” he said.
A cadet shot at him with a laser blaster. Kai dodged and just thrust his hand out, using his Elementa of Metal to shatter the gun to pieces.
“My turn. Any last words?” Kai asked.
“N-n-now listen, bud,” they pleaded. “We were just following orders, we’re just henchmen, trust me.”
“Fine then. I’ll let you go, on one condition. If I ever find out that you told on me, or if I ever see your faces again, then that’s what’s going to happen,” he pointed to the unconscious guy.
The boys nodded furiously, “We won’t do anything. You have our word,” they said and ran off as fast as they could, carrying the unconscious cadet with them.
Kai un-froze his face from that terrifying expression.
Acting tough sure is difficult
, he thought,
He got onto the hovercraft.
Now where is that mothership
, he looked around.
A large pointed top rose from the horizon. That had to be the mothership, no two ways about it. He headed off in that direction with his hovercraft on full throttle. A gust of wind hit him hard in the face, its drafts cold and heavy. He was confused. Winds weren’t possible in Aliea. The force field sealed off the possibility completely.
A deafening blast sounded, summoning a terrible tremor. Kai was thrown to the ground and his hovercraft exploded. The blast deafened him, leaving his mind filled with nothing but the sound of his own thoughts. He looked at the glowing white light that raced towards him.
, he thought as he watched the growing hemisphere of light. He rolled into a ball and lay on the cold surface, waiting for bright light to swallow him up.
Kai found himself on a bed in a large room. He had no clue as to where he was, and he had no recollection of what had happened. All he remembered was a blast and an intense light engulfing him. He tried focusing his mind, trying to remember what had happened after that. A piercing pain cut through, making him groan in pain. He held his head and the pain slowly subdued.
“Ah, I see you're up,” a voice said.
A girl, about the same as he, walked up to the bed. She was quite tall and had short raven hair, her eyes matching the dark black of her locks. She wore rimless glasses, which, along with her long white overcoat, made her look like a researcher. Kai opened his mouth to talk but his voice was too soft for even him to hear.
“Don’t try to speak,” she said. “Your wounds have not fully healed.”
Kai looked at himself, and then he screeched. First of all, he realized he had no shirt on, which for a thin kid like him was a horror situation. Second, there was a long scar stretching from his neck all the way to his navel.
“That’s the only wound I haven't treated yet,” she said. She joined her fingers on both hands and pointed them at Kai. A green channel flowed from them and into the scar, creeping around like a ghost.
Kai felt like a hot white flame was burning him. He gripped his bedding, trying as hard as he could to bear the pain. When the pain finally receded, he looked at himself. The scar had vanished. His body felt more energetic, as though he were back to normal.
“Okay then, get up, we’ve got work to do,” the girl said.
“You’re part of the maintenance crew right? That’s the infirmary.”
“Wait, the maintenance crew is a healing team?” Kai asked, realizing that Chris would have fit right in with this bunch.
“Maintenance to the cadets on board,” she raised an eyebrow. “Don’t tell me you didn’t know that.”
Kai could feel his heart in his throat. The girl was clearly suspicious of him. The question wasn’t if she would find out, it was when.
“Dr. Trisha,” a guy entered the room. “We’ve got some serious cases on level 3.”
“Very well,” she said while looking down at her desk. “I’ll be there.”
“I’ll inform them,” the man said and left.
Dr. Trisha looked at Kai, “I don’t think the rest of the crew is going to get here anytime soon,” she said. “So it’ll just be you and me.”
Kai recalled frightening off the other maintenance guys when they had tried to threaten him.
“We’d better run along then,” Trisha said.
“Y-Yeah,” he stuttered.
Trisha glanced at Kai again, but glance was an understatement. She looked like she was trying to pry into his soul. Thankfully she didn't ask him any questions. The door slid open and they stepped out into a circular hallway. Kai looked out of the nearest window. His brain went haywire, fear and happiness setting in, both at once.
Why? One may ask. How can fear and happiness exist at once? Well here’s the answer. The good news was he was inside the mothership. He hadn't really thought about it before, but he must have been brought back into the mothership when they found him in the snow. He was finally right where he wanted to be, hence the happiness.
The bad news was he could see the raging storm going on outside, and it didn’t take him too long to realize this storm wasn’t a regular one. It just seemed a little too destructive to be a natural disaster. And if it wasn’t a natural disaster, it didn’t take a genius to see what the storm was trying to achieve. Annihilating Aliea.
“One heck of a storm,” Trisha said. “Too much destruction. A pity Jake wouldn’t listen to me.”