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    Ashes of Tamara

    Discussion in '2013 Science Fiction Writing Contest' started by rhduke, Dec 5, 2013.

    Ashes of Tamara

    Zynn

    Six moons strung themselves across the horizon like a necklace of ruby rocks while the sun set underneath them. The sight was known as Tamara’s Doom because of how it looked like six meteors were burning through the sky as they descended upon the planet. You could only see it from the northern hemisphere, but the expression was known all around Tamara—which is, if I may say, a very large planet, ten times larger than old Earth. The word “Earth” springs about many responses, most relating to the ancient people known as Erlings. Before I begin this story, you should know that the people of Tamara descend from their Erling ancestors, and while their appearances and social structures may be similar, much of the old language was mistranslated or simply changed over the centuries. All we have to remember the Erlings by are old trinkets and converted texts that probably spout out more misinformation than anything else. Not many people give Earth much thought these days—they’re too busy trying to live on Tamara.

    Minner Axion gazed at Tamara’s Doom through the passenger window as the high speed train neared the gates of Waterway castle. The term “castle” is interchangeable with the old word “city” only Waterway spans thousands upon thousands of kilometers in every direction, underground, on land and in the sky. Metallic archways reach the clouds, arcing over mountains and lakes of methane, giving passage to walkers and visual guides for aircraft. A voice came through the speakers once the train was through the floating gates, “Downrise,” he said cheerfully. “We will reach Waterway castle momentarily. Please remember your bags at the outrance. The Maker thanks you for riding the White Carnival, Tamara’s fastest and best valued carnival service.”

    Minner hated the travel time between acquisitions. His mind would wander into memories he had promised to forget. He’d make a cage in his mind, dark and endless, where he’d bury these memories away but he was never good at keeping it locked. “We’re going to go watch the cactuses in the north hills. Do you think Ma will let me ride one?” That was the last question his son had asked him over forty years ago. Why did he have to leave his wife and son behind? Minner had had numerous jobs and at the age of a hundred and twenty-two, he was finding it harder to remember their chronological order. It didn’t matter anyway. He had avoided the explosion by the will of the Maker but every day since then, he wished he had died with them. As decades past, memories of their smiles became muddled and their eyes turned colourless. To marry was to be united for life, and through death.

    “You know what to do when you’re missing me.”

    He remembered what he had replied to his wife and mouthed it as he walked down the train isle. “I count the stars and when I’ve stopped counting—”

    “That’s when you’ve found me.”

    When Minner reached the train’s outrance, or exit, he saw a long row of luggage running parallel to the stationary train. As people walked by, bags would fly through the air and land in their owner’s arms like long lost pets.

    “Minner Axium.”

    A large and tattered bag rose from the row and flew directly at Minner which he caught easily with one hand. He set it on the ground while he patted the sides of his utility belt to make sure he hadn’t left anything behind. Men and women wearing brown and grey shawls revealed smiles and courteous nods as they passed Minner by.

    “Downrise, Zynn,” one lady said.

    “Would you accept a tasteful corn?” asked a man who held out a basket of red coloured fruit.

    Minner eyed the basket to show admiration for how well they were grown and then kindly shook his head.

    “Nonsense.” The farmer tossed him a corn and continued on his way.

    Zynn workers were recognizable by their copper coloured chest plates and shoulder pads that made them look like dwellers from space, but combined with their thick and baggy leg armor they looked more suitable for the hazardous deserts on Tamara. The rusty and blue tinged flaws on the armor showed how long Minner had been in the profession which made him all the more respected. He wasn’t used to this sort of recognition though. His job would often take him to the smaller castles or unpopulated areas where people weren’t so open to visitors.

    Minner slung his bag across his chest and followed the crowd through the station outrance where he saw priests scattered around selling and trading goods from their wooden stands. The term “priest” has a long history of different meanings but its most common use these days means someone who works for himself, selling goods to the people. One of them locked eyes with Minner. She was quite a sight with her curly, red hair and vibrant eyes.

    “You there!” She smiled at him.

    Minner did not return the smile as he walked to her stand. She was selling shawls, ones that were more colourful than the common ones worn in Waterway.

    “Half the value for the handy Zynn.” She winked. “What do you say?”

    Minner looked down at the shawls, too ashamed to gaze into her face. She wouldn’t have called him handy if she had seen the ring he wore inside his glove. Someone laid a hand on his shoulder from behind, and Minner turned around to see a man wearing the same copper coloured armor as him.

    “Downrise, Minner!” the man said. Despite being shorter, he still managed to wrap his arm around Minner’s shoulders and haul him away through the crowd. “You hear? She called you handy. If you weren’t already married, I’d tell you to go after a red diamond like that.”

    Minner shrugged him off. “Age, you know it bothers me when you talk about—”

    “Aye, I know.” Age rubbed his bald head. “It just it bothers me to see you low hung all the time. I want to see you get on with your life. When will you listen to me and register for a justiment?”

    Although it was against the law to remarry even if one’s spouse died, one could register for a justiment which breaks the union on a spiritual level. The Maker would accept that the marriage was in error and the husband and wife never loved each other at all. It wouldn’t be hard to understand why Minner would be betraying his wife’s and son’s memories if he did such a thing.

    Minner ignored the question and asked, “When did you arrive at the castle?”

    “Sometime in the early,” Age said. “Sole Ash is a day closer to Waterway than Oulay, if I remember correctly.”

    “I wasn’t in Oulay.”

    Age frowned.

    “I was south of there in a shy castle called Whist.”

    “Doing?”

    Minner sighed. “An acquisition.”

    “Without me!?” Age flung his arms out in annoyance.

    “Would you feel better if I told you I was planning to split the earnings with you?”

    “I don’t care about the coin, Minner. You know that. I’m your admiral, your partner. We’re supposed to do these jobs together. I ought to kick you in the sack.”

    Age had been a zynn for only seven years so it was understandable that he held the Admiral Code in high regard. Zynn worked in tightly bound partnerships where it was very common for both men to become lifelong friends after working years side by side. As admirals, they performed their duties together. When things turned bad for one, the other would be the anchor who helped bring his partner back into a balanced state of mind. It was the Department’s way of creating a self-supported system. The partners supported each other, which meant little external support was needed from the Department. Other than incoming transmissions that detailed their orders and wireless payments to their accounts, Minner and Age rarely came in contact with Department personnel.

    They were still walking through the lower class part of the castle, so the roads were made of dirt and the buildings of stone on either side of them were high, sun bleached and weathered. Age veered down the left side of the forked path.

    “Where are you going? The acquisition is in the se’enth Excavator Division.”

    “To get nourish,” Age said, grinning. “Waterway’s supposed to have the tastiest roasted cactus in the hemisphere. We should enjoy the moment while we’re here.”

    Minner remembered the corn the farmer had given him before and for some reason thought that was enough to get him through the day. Ever since he had nearly starved to death during an acquisition that went wrong a few years ago, he found himself spreading his meals far apart without really noticing.

    “Haven’t you been here before, Age?”

    “Long ago when my ma took me to see the flying spiders during their mating cycle in the northin mountains. I was shorter than I am now if you can believe it, but I remember the sight like it was yester. Have you ever seen them? It’s like a show of coloured electricity dancing across the night sky only it’s free, so all the people of Waterway are able to admire it every year.”

    “I haven’t unfortunately. The last time I was here I visited the Wayvin Division. Can’t say I was impressed with what was there. The nourish wasn’t great either.”

    Age patted him on the back. “Oh humour! The people in Wayvin are so backwards I’m surprised the Teacher hasn’t run them out of the castle. The only thing they talk about is Earth and nonsense from an old script.”

    “But don’t you ever linger?”

    “Linger about what?”

    “About the ancient planet and the Erlings. About how they came to Tamara in the first place.”

    “No. Why does it interest you?”

    “The Erlings must have travelled from Earth to Tamara by some kind of arc. Where are the arcs now?”

    “You mean arcs that go beyond Tamara’s helios? You know the Maker frowns upon such lingering. However the Erlings managed to get here was their business. The people of Tamara keep their feet on stone.”

    “You don’t ever linger about the unknown that surrounds the stars above, what the Erlings had seen? I feel it in me, like a desire greater than curiosity. Like we were meant to one day rise above the helios and discover more than what’s on our dusty planet.”

    “You know me,” Age said. “I’m no wise gazer, otherwise I would have become a backtracker, writing long and boring scripts about the meaning of old words and what the Erlings used to eat for supper. Sounds like you’re thinking about a change in profession.”

    Minner hardly believed that was the case. Sitting and writing scripts all day was something he didn’t have patience for. He sighed, “No, Age. It seems to me Tamarians have no interest in where they come from or where they’re going. The Maker’s scripts say we should live within our bounds but—”

    “That’s great, Minner.” Age pointed ahead. “Look! Roasted cactus.”

    The plump, four legged creature was strung upside-down over an open fire. The tusks had been removed from its mouth and it appeared the priest was cutting off one of its three tails for a hungry looking girl. Age jogged over to the shed and gazed closely at the roast.

    “Value for a leg?” Age asked.

    “I was first you!” shouted the girl.

    “Little dawn,” the priest said. “This man here is a zynn. You must learn to show respect, understand?” He handed her the cactus tail, patted her head and then looked to Age. “A leg is se’en drocks.” He studied the man’s uniform. “Or that shiny piece of metal on your belt if you’d abide.”

    “Here’s tweny-two for a scree of legs then.”

    Minner had guessed Age was too proud of his zynn uniform to trade away an insignificant decal on his utility belt.

    The priest eyed Minner who stood a few paces in the distance. “You’n your admiral here for the business in the excavator tunnels then?”

    Age nodded.

    “Bad luck for those workers. I hear ele’en died when the zyler appeared.”

    “Tweny,” Age said. “More fell to the radiation that spread after the initial explosion. It’s worse than bad luck. The chances of a zyler graining inside of an excavator engine is…well it’s not probable. If they keep this up, people might start thinking the zylers have minds of their own.”

    “Maker forbid it.”

    Age walked back to his admiral, holding a grease-dripping leg in each hand. “Hope you’re hungry.”

    “Maybe afterwards we can stop by the clinic and get our hearts working again.”

    “Ha! What happened to your lingering curiosity? Here. Stop your mouth flapping and eat.”

    They took the long route to the Excavator Division and enjoyed seeing the strange and interesting objects Waterway offered. Minner didn’t mind the brief diversion. The Department had reported that the excavator tunnels were sealed off and the radiation was contained, so there was no risk of further casualties. Their work had no time constraints, as long as they got it done.

    At night, the castle seemed more alive than before. Large crystals on the tops of buildings glowed brightly as they released their stored solar energy. The large archways from distant divisions were lit up like beaded rainbows, blinking blue, white and green lights in unison. Amongst low clouds, they almost looked like arcs that had descended onto Tamara. When he was a boy, Minner remembered seeing a creator’s interpretation of an Erling arc as a painting. The arc was enormous in comparison to the painted mountains, most likely able to hold many thousands of passengers onboard. He thought it was incredible how a people could build something so large that could visit the stars. The painting had always been his source of curiosity for space and technology. Unfortunately, Tamara didn’t foster professions that advanced a combination of the two facets, though Tamarians weren’t without knowledge of astronomy. They were well aware of the distances between stars and the gravitational forces of space objects, but there was no desire to put that knowledge to use.

    “And when I found you lying there like a dead animal—no, the appearance of a dead animal would have been a shy better,” Age said, laughing. “You remember the first thing I said when I saw you?”

    “Was it, ‘Serves you proper you mulching igriot’?”

    Age was on the verge of high-pitched giggling as he repeatedly slapped Minner on the shoulder. “Yes! And your expression! I wish I had taken a gazing!” A gazing is synonymous with the old word “photograph”.

    “I’m pleased you found my experience of nearly starving to death humorous.”

    “Well who was at wrong for rassing ahead, thinking he could extract the zyler by his lonesome?”

    “Maybe I was too rass but I had no idea the zyler had affected the door controls. You were doing Maker knows what. A skinny through and through. There was no relying on you.” Minner couldn’t help but crack a smile. Age didn’t hesitate to insult him which made it all the more amusing to insult him back.

    “Skinny! I’m no skinny!”

    “Maybe not anymore, but you used to be.”

    “Bah! You mulcher.”

    The road started to slope downwards and directly at the bottom was a wooden building that stood out from the stone ones around it. It had no crystal lights but Minner could make out the sign above the door: ANCIENT XYLOPHONE. The word “xylophone” is mostly used in context of ancient things. It isn’t clear exactly what a xylophone was, but Tamarians use the word to refer to someone who is old, often in their hundred and eighties.

    Minner gestured his head forward.

    “I don’t know where this path of linger is going but it doesn’t look good. If the Department found out about what you’re doing. They’d…well they’d do something.”

    “Age, I’ve been with the Department far too long for them to care about what stores I visit.”

    “Yeah but what about me?”

    “Stay outside then.”

    Age stood on the road and watched Minner walk up to the store’s entrance. After a moment, Age joined him at his side.

    “You are curious.”

    “I just want to see the expression on your face when an old man with a melted face wants to foresee your future.”

    Minner opened the door and heard two pleasant notes from an electrical instrument, followed by a startlingly loud voice that seemed to come from all directions.

    “SALUTATIONS, CITIZEN.”

    Minner looked around wildly as he stumbled into the store.

    A woman cackled. “It gets the farcastlers every time.” Despite her scraggly, grey hair and hunched posture, her face was smooth and relatively flawless for someone her age. She wore a sparkling, gold shawl and had at least six earrings in each ear. She pointed towards the doorway. “It’s Erling. You have to linger why they bothered to communicate at all when they had devices like that to speak for them.”

    Age cautiously entered and closed the door behind them. “Your business would probably do better if people weren’t insulted when they walked through the door.”

    She made a charming smile and beckoned them closer. “You men don’t look like xylophone collectors. Your faces are too dirty. That smell—dungeon workers? Walking through waste all night have you? No. Perhaps scruss hunters. Their orange blood is all over and now you tread it through my store like a pair of miscreants.” She appeared amused by their puzzled expressions. “This one’s handy,” she said, looking at Minner. “Eyes like stones covered in ice, one day to rise and be surrounded by the darkness above. Forever you will travel the stars.”

    Minner couldn’t pull away. Her gaze was haunting and though her words were confounding, it was like she was able to understand a part of him he had not been aware of.

    “What diseased caroff got loose in your head woman? We aren’t dungeon workers or hunters—”

    “I know exactly what you are.” She scowled at Age. “This one’s got red beads for eyes, seeing only black lashes and crimson lips—ha! Better off gouged. ”

    Age looked on in cold resentment. Though her meaning was lost to them, her intent to insult was obvious and more than that, it resonated bitter truth.

    As if there was an unspoken moment of levity, the woman’s expression turned soft and she walked towards a bookshelf with a kind of grace unseen in someone so ancient. She pulled out a green binder as the unbalanced bookshelf shed a haze of dust.

    “Are we on the same mindwave yet?” Age whispered over his partner’s shoulder. “She’s nothing to offer but mad talk and dusty scripts.”

    Minner waved a hand distractedly as he recognized the symbol on the book’s cover. There were five circles arranged as if they were placed on the five points of an invisible star. Each circle was a different colour that stood for a specific discipline inside the Department of Tamara. The yellow circle was painted on the armor of both men’s shoulders.

    She came to a page and slid her fingers down the printed words. “Zynn,” she read. “Admirals, partners with one mind. Keepers of the zylers that grain across Tamara. In castles, deserts, mountains and in seas of nitrogen, the phenomenon is an obstacle to our way of life. The zynn are called to extract the zylers from the land and the people offer gifts to show their appreciation. Over four hundred years ago the first zynn were—”

    “Priest,” Minner said kindly, “we aren’t here for a backtracking of the zynn.”

    She looked surprised. “Well if not to learn of the roots of your kind, why else would you be here?”

    “Earth,” Age said, rolling his eyes.

    “Ahh… come, this way.”

    Minner and Age walked through the maze of bookshelves and followed the priest through a curtained doorway. She flicked a switch and the room lit up in a warm glow. Shiny metals were scattered across the floor and piled on top of each other, taking the forms of devices Minner had never seen before. There was a picture hanging on the far wall which Minner walked up to. The colours were dull since it had not been properly preserved.

    He read the words in the lower right corner, “The Trinity ship.”

    “What’s a ship?” asked Age.

    “It’s the Erling word for arc,” Minner replied.

    The arc was smaller than the one Minner had seen painted before but the picture still emitted a feeling of awe and darkness that he had always been drawn to.

    “It’s estimated that the Erling first came to Tamara about fifeen hundred years ago,” the woman said. “No one can be certain of course, so that number could easily be ten thousand. The arcs were lost along with all the libraries stored inside of them.”

    Minner turned from the picture and picked up a strange device that looked like a transparent globe with gears attached to it. It had a handle and trigger, but pressing it had no effect. “How can there be no script of what really happened? Their technology was far superior to ours so why didn’t they make an everlasting electric library? Why did Tamarans have a period of only written scripts?”

    “There are many lingerings, the most possible being that the Erlings and arcs were destroyed shortly after arriving and the remaining survivors were left to start over.”

    “But there would be wreckage, even after so many years.”

    “Oh zynn.” She smiled. “If only more Tamarians were as luminous as you.”

    There was a loud crash and they turned around to see Age buried up to the chest in broken gadgets. The bald man didn’t say a word, he just looked at Minner like it was all his fault.

    “I told you to shed a few pounds from your stomach, Age. This is what happens when you walk around in shy places.”

    “Humour,” Age responded dryly. “Now get me out of this garban.”

    “Oh it isn’t garban,” the woman said. “Most of the devices here no longer work, but they are some of the rarest and most unique Erling machines ever found. Like that one.” She pointed at the device in Minner’s hands. “That’s called a sink teleporter. See, it’s written on the back of it.”

    “What’s its function?” Minner asked.

    She rubbed her nose. “Well it’s…I don’t really know. I never could get it to work. It looks like there’s something that goes inside the globe.”

    “It looks interesting just by itself. Maybe I’ll buy it to remember my time here in Waterway. What’s the value?”

    “Would you abide to thiry drocks?”

    Minner thought the value was very low for something so rare. He didn’t know if she gave him a good value because he was a zynn or because no one in Waterway was interesting in buying any of these old things. As they walked through the many bookshelves towards the door, they suddenly her a beeping noise. Minner recognized it even though the tone was slightly different than when he usually heard it. It was a castle transmission that was sent to every home in the event of an emergency. The priest quickly ran to the desk by the doorway and turned on a holographic display. The image of a suited man with his hands folded together appeared. After a moment, he started talking.

    “This is a castle wide alert. A man has killed two chameleons in the second Tech Division. He has been identified as Jinou Amnen, a leading Department scientist stationed in Waterway. There is no word on his objectives but the Department is warning people to stay off the roads…”

    Age nudged him. “Minner.”

    “What?”

    “It’s the Department.” He pointed at his wrist device which had just received a transmission. “They want us to finish the acquisition immediately.”

    “…the mad man was last seen heading through the se’enth Excavator Division. I repeat. This is a castle wide alert…”

    “Maker, two chameleons,” she breathed.

    Minner looked to his admiral. “The se’enth Excavator Division.”

    “You think he’s heading for the zyler?”

    “If the Department is ordering us to extract it now, I’m lingering it isn’t a good idea to let this Jinou get his hands on it.”

    “But what could he possibly want with a zyler? Everyone knows—”

    “It doesn’t matter,” Minner said as he marched toward the door. “You and I both know what zylers are capable of doing. Our mission now is to prevent the worst possible outcome.”

    Outside the store, Minner gazed up at Tamara’s moons strung out against the darkness. The night he had left his wife and son, he knew they were gazing at a similar sight, and when the blinding dome of light consumed them, he knew they went without pain.

    Zyler

    It was well known that zylers were good for absolutely nothing. Five hundred years before Minner’s story, the zyler was introduced as a new element on the table. Though Tamarians had not made many technological leaps, their scientists had developed power sources like electricity and fuel from nitrogen lakes. These sparkling blobs of transparent matter, however, remained a mystery for many centuries. There was no way to move a zyler once it grained, or appeared, and despite the abundance of energy that emitted from it, there was no way to harness it. Its particles would pass through anything solid. There were only two outcomes after the appearance of a zyler: either it was left there or it was destroyed. Leaving them alone didn’t seem wise since they tended to interfere with electrical equipment. A controlled explosion was used to eliminate them with the least possible collateral and so the zynn were introduced into society.

    The nature of zylers was always chaotic. They would appear in the most populated parts of Tamara or in the most obscure. During Minner’s time however, zylers began to grain inside castles more often, which posed a deadly problem.

    The caves of the seventh Excavator Division were enormous in comparison to most, the tunnels being fifty feet in diameter. The lights had all been turned off as Minner and Age walked through a tunnel wearing helmets. The creases of their armor emitted light, allowing them to see all around them.

    “Look.” Age pointed to the ceiling where sparks of gold light flashed in erratic intervals. “The silver is reacting to the presence of the zyler.”

    “Must be the cause of the radiation.”

    “What do we do if we encounter the mad scientist?”

    “Don’t know.”

    “Maybe we can shoot him with our extractors.” Age chuckled.

    “That might be a shy messy.”

    They came to an opening with metal floors. Dozens of wires were strung out on the walls, all connected to an engine that was in charge of powering the excavator equipment and lighting the tunnels. They removed their extractors from their bags. The devices, which were as big as children, were comprised of four long pipes, each designed to eject streams of energy into a focal point at the end of the device.

    “Open it up.”

    Age walked to the engine which looked like a large black oven. He blasted the corners of the front panel and it fell away in a clang. Inside was the zyler. It was a blob of shimming green light, moving slowly like a floating chunk of lava. They moved back to a safe distance and charged their extractors. The devices made high pitched whining as the streams of yellow energy focused into sphere that grew larger. Both men fought the forces of energy that pushed them backwards. Two streams of light exploded toward the engine and struck the zyler in a blinding display. Its colour turned purple then red. Soon the colours were changing so quickly that the zyler turned white. Suddenly it began to expand.

    “Phase two,” Minner said. “Watch the cascade.”

    They changed the settings on their extractors and the beams of energy turned thicker. A barrier started to appear around the zyler and it began to shrink in size.

    “No!” shouted a man’s voice.

    There came a crackle as a spark of electricity tore through the air and struck Age in the back. He let go a cry. Minner tried to turn his head to see, but his helmet wouldn’t allow it. He had to keep his beam on the zyler to keep it from destabilizing.

    “Age? What happened?” Minner moved slowly in an arc so he could see behind him while keeping the beam on the zyler. “Age say something!” His eyes widened as he saw a shadow move in the distance. He only saw a flash of light before he found himself lying on his back, his left arm in excruciating pain. His extractor was now aimed at the ceiling as chunks of rock began to fall.

    “Murders,” said the voice. “Murders! They’re trying to destroy you, but don’t worry. I’m here. I’ll make you new. I’ll make you whole again.”

    Minner reached for his extractor and pressed the emergency shutdown. The beam dissipated but he could still see Age’s beam tearing into the wall. In the glow of the zyler, he saw the man. It was the same man that was shown on the alert hologram. Glasses, black hair in a ponytail and an expression so fiendish, Minner thought he was a creature. The scientist drew a small device from his white coat and pointed it at the zyler.

    “No! What are you doing?!”

    The scientist activated his device which emitted a strange throbbing sound that immediately gave Minner a headache. He tried to get to his feet, but the force of the impact and the weight of the armor were too great.

    “Don’t you understand?” the scientist sad to Minner. “They are the souls of the lost ones. They roamed alone through rock and dirt, drawn to us by instinct. I’ll bring them all back.”

    Through blurred vision, Minner saw the zyler twist and thrust erratically out of shape. Turning blue, sparks of energy bolted from it and struck the rock walls, breaking pieces away. The tunnel was going to collapse, he could feel it. Then in a moment of awe, as all turned silent, a head formed and a spine that was curled in a fetal position. Minner could not believe what he was seeing. The figure emitted an explosion of energy that pushed Minner onto his side and caused the ground to shake. Pieces of rock struck his armor leaving large dents. He could see Age now who had gotten to his feet and was pointing his extractor at the zyler. He fired and figure inside the zyler was obliterated. The barrier reformed around the zyler and caused it to shrink until it collapsed into nothing.

    “Lost and dead! Never to live again you murder!” The mad scientist fled down one of the tunnels in a wailing of sobs and curses.

    “Minner! Get up!”

    Age helped him to his feet and together they sprinted through the tunnel, falling over each other and chunks of rock until they reached the exit. On the castle level they saw crowds of people circling the scene. Rumbles from the falling rocks in the tunnels could still be felt. They collapsed on the ground. The people of Waterway ran to assist them but were held off by chameleons who shouted warnings of radiation. Minner couldn’t move a muscle let alone breathe. He felt hands carry him away and into what looked like a clinic transport. Someone else was placed next to him and he turned his head to see Age with his eyes closed.

    “Alive?” Minner asked.

    “For now. This is the second time I’ve saved your life you know.”

    Minner grinned and closed his eyes too. After a moment he heard someone else enter the transport.

    “Minner Axium and Age Pilim.” It was a woman’s voice. “We have questions.”

    Minner opened his eyes to see a blonde woman and a dark haired man staring down at him through black visors.

    “Chameleons?” Minner asked.

    “We’re above the chameleons,” replied the man.

    Minner glanced at his shoulder which revealed a black circle. They were part of the Department. “Swimmers,” Minner grumbled. Swimmers worked behind the scenes of the Deparment, keeping secrets and making new ones of their own. “Can we know your names before you start questioning us?”

    The swimmers exchanged glances.

    “Wayes,” said the man.

    “Hayette,” said the woman.

    They were obviously fake names but Minner didn’t mind. It made the situation less stressful if he could call them something other than swimmers.

    “Did you encounter the mad man?” Wayes asked, looking back and forth between the two zynn.

    “Are you two a bunch of igriots?” Age said. “We just got electrocuted and then nearly flattened by rubble. Get the scrap outa here. We aren’t saying a word until we’ve had a moment to rest.”

    Minner smiled and then nodded in agreement.

    The swimmers exchanged glances in the same emotionless fashion.

    “Very well,” said Hayette. “We will question you in thiry minutes.” She sat down beside Age.

    Wayes closed the transport doors and then sat down beside Minner. Minner felt the transport begin to move. If what the mad man was saying was true, then the people who die on Tamara turn into zylers. Minner tried to understand how and why but the whole thing was too incomprehensible. The humming of the engine soon put him to sleep.

    Jinou

    “Finally, you’re awake.”

    Minner rubbed his eyes and looked around. They were in an enclosed white room. A plate of food was in front of him. “Are we prisoners?”

    Age chewed loudly. “They blindfolded me before we got out of the transport. You mulcher,” he punched Minner in the arm. “I got stuck with all the questions while you were dead asleep.”

    “What did you tell them?”

    “The truth. Mad scientist, zyler and collapsing tunnel.”

    “I saw something, Age. The zyler it was turning into something.”

    “Into an explosion that would have destroyed the castle maybe.”

    “No. It looked like…like a person.”

    “You were imagining it. Too many rocks falling on your head.”

    “I know what I saw.”

    The door opened and Wayes and Hayette walked through were the same uniforms and visors as before. They sat down at the table.

    “What happened down there, Minner?” Wayes asked.

    “Didn’t Age tell you everything?”

    “We want to hear it from your perspective.”

    “I’ll tell you something important, but you have to promise me something.”

    The swimmers exchanged glances and it was like had an unspoken dialogue.

    “What do you want, Minner?” Hayette asked.

    “I want to help capture the mad scientist. He nearly killed me and my admiral. It would ease my anger if you’d let me help.”

    Age scowled. “Minner have you cracked your head?”

    She nodded. “We were going to ask for your help anyway. What did you see?”

    “He had this device. When he used it on the zyler it turned it into…well it looked like a person. He said he they were souls he was trying to bring back.”

    “Then he’s perfected it,” Hayette said.

    “The Teacher will not be happy.”

    “We have his location.”

    Wayes rose from his chair. “We must act now before all is lost.”

    Minner raised his hands. “Woah. Can you explain what’s going on?”

    Hayette spoke, “Jinou Amnen was our leading scientist in charge of terraforming the hazardous deserts on our planet so they can be habitable. He began experiment with zylers against the Department’s wishes. He soon discovered that zylers were once Tamarians.”

    “In other words,” Wayes continued, “Zylers represent the souls people who have died on Tamara.”

    “What are you saying?” Age asked. “That souls do exist?”

    “Perhaps,” Wayes said. “When the Erlings first arrive here there was devastating explosion that destroyed nearly everyone. Excavating through Tamara’s soul, we have found remnants of black matter radiation and triterran, both elements we believe the Erlings used as some kind of energy source. The explosion tore apart space on a subatomic level, separating spiritual side of the body from the physical. We say spiritual side or soul simply because we have no word to describe what it truly is. These souls are as real as matter, something inside of all of us.”

    “So he’s reverting zylers to their true forms,” Minner said. “Why is that such a big deal?”

    “Jinou believes he is their savior and that he can make them reborn on a new world. And when I say ‘new world’ I mean Tamara. Using the terraforming technology he created, he plans to pull Tamara’s moons to the planet’s surface. In the complete destruction of our world, he believes a new one will emerge from the ashes and the zylers will regain their physical forms.”

    “That’s ridiculous!” shouted Age.

    “How can you clearly know the motivations of a mad man?” asked Minner.

    “Because…” Hayette said. “We had him in captivity when we learned how mad he was. He told us all of this. There isn’t any more time to explain.” She took a device from her pocket and handed it to Minner. “We’ve installed the power source to your sink teleporter. When activated, it transports a person from one place to another instantaneously. The only problem is it navigator module is broken so using it could teleport you anywhere in the solar system.”

    “How in Maker is that going to be helpful?” Minner cried.

    “It’s a last resort to stop Jinou. Get him to activated it somehow. Just remember anyone he’s touching will also be teleported so don’t be anywhere near him.”

    Minner grasped his head.

    “You two won’t be alone,” Hayette said. “We will be there with you, but we can’t risk sending in a large force. We risk too much.”

    Tamara’s Doom

    The apocalypse of Tamara had started. Deep in the mountains, the mad man had activated the terraforming device by using the satellites in the helios to amplify the power. Clouds swirled into a dirt coloured swirl. Storms appeared across the planet as lightning and wind storms tore through the castles. The moons of Tamara were descending and the people cried in hopelessness.

    The two zynn and the two swimmers entered a valley between two mountains and there, they saw the souls of Tamara, hundreds of thousands of them circling in the air as a sphere. The sight was magnificent and haunting. They were the souls of the Erlings, once again able to see the light of the sun. Minner passed through the wall of souls like nothing had been there. Age, Wayes and Hayette followed behind. In the center of the sphere was Jinou, the mad man. The terraforming device on the ground looked like a beacon that projected a beam of light into the air and through the helios.

    “Do you see them?” the mad man laughed as he danced with his arms in the air. “They know it’s coming. The new world.”

    “Jinou!” Wayes shouted. “Stop what you’re doing or we will kill you.”

    “The souls whisper to me! Do you know what they say? They say ‘we are fools, we have destroyed ourselves’. Do you know why they say these things? The Erlings didn’t perish by some accident! No. It was by their own hands. They built weapons of destruction. Two ancients sides fighting over Tamara. The war above the helios lasted for fify years. They slaughtered each other’s families, each other’s future. And in a collision of weapons all was destroyed. The explosion was so great that even particles of metal where annihilated! But what happened after? What have you Tamarians come to be? Afraid, reserved, spineless. Why do you think the Maker says to rise above the helios is wrong? No it wasn’t the Maker. It was you. They put barriers on us. Stopped us from rising to the stars.”

    “So we wouldn’t repeat the past!” Wayes shouted. “So we wouldn’t destroy ourselves again. Don’t you understand?”

    “I do. But we are given the chance to live again not to be held back. We rise and rise but we remember the past and live from it.”

    “People can’t be trusted to remember the past.”

    “You. You don’t trust! The Erlings deserve retribution!”

    Hayette aimed her pistol and fired. The mad man was unharmed as the bullet struck some kind of force field. Cursing, she sprinted forward and drew and electric rod. Wayes knelt to the ground and fired a rocket launcher the missile struck the force field in a fiery display but the mad man simply laughed. Minner and Age charged their extractors and fired. The beams struck the field and the mad man rolled away as the shield shattered. Electricity and beams fired back and forth. Hayette headed for the beacon to destroy it but the mad man had planted a trap. The explosion sent her flying a dozen feet away.

    “Hayette!” Wayes bolted for the mad man and fought him hand to hand.

    Minner flanked him from the opposite side and managed to hold down the mad man for Wayes to strike. A burst of energy emitted from the madman sending the enemies to the ground. He had too many gadgets. He was able to counter everything they threw at him. The beacon must have been linked to him.

    In a final cry Minner grabbed onto the mad mans arm and activated the teleporter.

    “Minner!” cried Age.

    Minner and the mad man dissolved away.

    The light form the beacon faded and the souls stopped their uniform flight and faded away.

    Tamara’s Doom had been stopped but at one man’s sacrifice. Some say his body journeys the solar system. What he had always wanted.
     

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