Numenera-ST Posted October 2, 2015 Share Posted October 2, 2015 NumenaraA World Out Of TimePart IOut Of The Blue Jet black sky above, no stars, on the horizon the edge of the sun peeking above the curve of Earth, this Ninth World. Setting or Rising, unknown. Below, a Fluffy sea of cloud to the left toward darkness the cloud is angry black and laced with lightning. You look down the cloud is closer, you are falling. You briefly wonder why you don't look to your right, then you are in the cloud. A strange thought that...In the Cloud. You had never considered being IN a cloud before. And now your through it, below is the world stretching as far as you can see. You can make out everything you have ever heard of in your travels and in the tales and stories your mother taught you even the things you have not seen before you see them all now. You look left the storm is ferocious it is hurtling toward you. You look to your right, or try too but you cant. You are falling faster now you see below a a cross roads and you at the cross roads you see...you.You stop.Below you is... you standing at the crossroad holding the cube, looking into it. In the cube you see...you holding the cube looking into it...You notice in front of you, the you you are above, are two beings: one a blue skinned woman or girl who stand about 2' tall, she has delicate features and is armed with some sort of arrow thrower on her back. The other is a mechanical man about 6' in height, but unlike any you have ever seen or heard described before. Both gesture down the crossroads but in different directions, the girl to the left and the approaching storm, the Mechanical toward the right. You look right and you can. But what you see is indistinct, a blur, covered in a haze, hidden by darkness, blinded by light. All of those things."This is a Dream" says your mother standing beside you on the road, "Dreams aren't real.""Except the one that is." That voice is male and far away....Firanis rolls over in the itchy bunk she's slept in for two days, Her mouth tasting foul from whatever she was drinking the night before, her bladder telling her she really needed to get up. That was a weird dream she thinks as she throws off the thin blanket and gets out of bed. After relieving herself in the bucket provided and washing with water from the basin on the stand in the corner She dressed and packed her belongings .Two days in the piss-hole of a town and nothing had come her way. No jobs, no prospects, and more importantly no rumors of anything worth hunting down. The place simply had no local lore no legends of mysterious happenings, and no ghosts. To say she was disappointed was an understatement.The caravan she had accompanied to this place was leaving today and while she hadn't decided if she would be going with it, one thing was certain she would be leaving either with them or striking out on her own.She looked about the room one last time to make sure she didn't leave anything. She checks that the pendant is around her neck, and briefly considers puling out the cube, the dream still on her mind. But before she can, movement out the window draws her attention. Looking through the oiled cloth which serves as glass in this place, she sees a large low bodied wagon pulled by two Shiul. The wagon is about 18 feet long and is fitted with cabinets and shelves loaded with goods.Firanis cant help but frown at what she sees, usually something like this showing up in an Aldia like this would be flocked by people wishing to buy from it. But not this wagon while She sees a many people on the street they seem to be avoiding the lone merchant.This, she thinks to herself, looks interesting.Firanis zips up her glossy grey-black synth bodysuit the rest of the way clips her weapons-belt to the aluminum rings girding her firm hips before turning to the polished metal rhomboid acting as a mirror. She roughly combs her silvery blue hair with slim, strong fingers, hair she is still getting used to since regaining it six turnings of the moon ago....It, and so much more. She smiles and the face in the mirror smiles back. A face no longer green and scaled and snouted and coarse, but delicate and attractive, the most attractive she has ever worn. Feminine and young, barely a woman in apparently age. She laughs - being slim and attractive is better than being bulky and ugly any day - slips her backpack over her sleek shoulders and heads downstairs.Another day beckons, another direction calls. Who knows what will happen, what dangers she'll face, what wonders she'll witness?Firanis smirks, moving lightly down the steps with an ease and grace she missed for too long, noting the hostel keeper eyeing her sleek and lithe figure displayed in body-hugging synth. A part of her likes the attention, even if she has no romantic interests in men - at least, not without the use of certain numenera. She moves up to the counter and nods down at the hostel keeper - with her fantastically long legs, she stands taller than most men - and pays her tab."I think that covers it?" she says, dropping a pair of shin on the counter. "I trust your heating plate is working fine, Tivan?" She had repaired his food preparation device as part of her tab.Tivan nods animatedly. Cooking over an open flame would have been a bother and was glad to get his heating plate back in working order. "It's very schway, thank you, finefem." He can't keep a hint of disappointment out of his voice as he asks, "You're leaving us, this day?""My feet itch and the road beckons," she agrees. then nods at the blocky merchant through the pane of leaded glass fronting the boarding-house, while arching a questioning brow. "What's the scan on this one? I'd think a merchant with such a large wagon would be welcome in a village like yours."Tivan frowns, his eyes hooded as he follows Firanis' gaze towards the merchant. "Normally, yes. But that one, he has a dark reputation to him." He looks up at Firanis with a concerned expression. "A girl like you should have no dealings with him. Since he's been passing through here, we've lost three of our young-ones the last three years shortly after he left.""You don't say?" Firanis muses, interest perking up. On a whim, she decides to part ways with the caravan that brought her here and abandon her plans to head down to Jyrek. "Thanks for the warning."With that, Firanis struts out into the morning light toward the merchant, glancing up at the pale blue sky, where the large yellow-orange ball of the sun burns and wisps of cloud float serenely. The clouds bring back vague hints of her odd dream. When I climb the Beanstalk, I'll pass through cloud - note to self, find or build a cypher than that allows one to walk on aerosols... While the merchant haggles with the youths, youths she hardly looks older than, despite having at least a decade more of life experience, Firanis takes a cursory look at his visible wares. She wasn't impressed - his stock was worn and mundane, but he could have more objects of interest hidden in the cabinets of his large wagon.Not that she had much shin to spare and wasn't inclined to trade her contained singularity yet. But she had other offers to make. As the merchant settles with the youths, Firanis steps up. Much taller and prettier than either of them, his small, dark deep-set eyes turn to her immediately.Sinister reputation or not, he was a way out of town and if she could learn the truth of it - and stop him if it was him - so much the better. Her mother had saved their village, the least Firanis could do was potentially save a pair of youths who had their entire lives ahead of them."Good day, ser!" Firanis chirped brightly. "I see you are alone and seem to be leaving the village soon. The road could be dangerous hereabouts, perhaps you'd like company and another pair of eyes to accompany you?" She taps the hilt of her machete at her hip and the stock of the revolver-bow peeking over her should with a pair of fingers."I'm handy in a scrap, have a fair bit of experience traveling and would be willing to take my pay in trade." Violet eyes bright and lively, her lips curve wryly as she tilts her head. "If you have something finer stashed away than what is seen."Startled, eyes wide the Fat merchant quickly looks up and down the road before turning back to the wonderful creature in front of him, a smile playing across his plump face but his eyes still hold suspicion."Hehe,"� the odd laugh almost like a girlish giggle precedes his words, "It seems I am approached not by custom but by supplicant seeking employ."He looks past her at the convoy in the distance then back at Firanis taking in her dress and gear lingering on her curves more than her weapons. Again the giggle precedes his words."Hehe, seems maybe methinks one would be better to seek employ were one holds chance of greater enrichment, unless one is not welcomed there?" He spreads his arms wide, hands open palms upturned."Hehe, but I know not you, so how can decision I make if what you display..." Again his eyes take in the lithe body licking his lips lustfully, "you are not capable of." HmmWith a sudden twist belying his bulk he reaches into the wagon and whips open a drawer, taking out three small discs no larger than the palm of his hand, he fling them into the air. The discs shoot skyward and begin bobbing and weaving in rapid twisting patterns.He indicates her caster, "Hehe, Show me."Her purple eyes narrow, their inner ring of gold blaze furiously. And there was the downside to looking young and beautiful. The leers that grow too intense, predatory, unwelcome. The need to prove your competency, that you were not vulnerable, that you were more than just a pretty face.Though tall, she carries perhaps a third the mass of her previous form. Though she has the sleek tone of a dancer, she lacks the athletic muscularity she had growing up, climbing the mountains and running the woods of Broley. With her apparent youth and generous curves she never possessed when she was actually the age she currently appears, she hardly looks dangerous, despite the familiarity with which she wears her weapons-belt, an easy mark for someone wishing to push his - or her - advances.Time to disabuse him of the notion.With a practiced motion, Firanis whips the bolt-caster of her own design from her back, braces the stock against her shoulder and works the trigger and slide-action crank with smooth economy, the cylindrical magazine turning with a click - fwack! ker-Chunk! Click - fwack! ker-Chunk! Click - flack! ker-Chunk!Three pulls of the trigger and the three animated discs go down in quick succession. Firanis lets out a steadying breath - she is a fair shot, but was still lucky on that last one - then turns to the merchant and stands to her full height, bolt-caster resting nonchalantly on her shoulder, two more bolts in the drum magazine. She arches a dark, sardonic brow, full lips curling up in a challenging, one-sided grin."Capable, wouldn't you say?" Firanis boasts coolly. "It's not my welcome here that fades, but my patience for tedium." She tosses her head, flicking a lock of glossy, silver-blue hair from her face as she nods at the departing convoy. "Which is the reason I parted ways with them. There are more ways to measure enrichment than just wealth. The excitement and experience of a journey holds value, and I believe I'll earn more with you than with them."She saunters over to the fallen targets and bends over, picking them up and pulling her bolts free, giving the merchant an unintentionally view of her firm ass and incredibly long legs, still not entirely used to being so attractive. She looks at the remnants of the disks trying to figure out the mechanism for their movement as she walks back to the merchant. She glances up through long, dark lashes, giving him a coy look at she hands him his pierced targets."Am I wrong?"The Fat man looks at the pierced discs, then back at the young woman, his lips pursed eyes narrowed he studies her a bit more thoroughly."Perhaps," His pudgy fingers make quick and rapid touches to the edges of the discs, "mistake I have made."Firanis can't help but be impressed at what she sees as the discs repair themselves at his touch."I am Goutro Imzec," He smiles as he holds out the discs to her, "you will need much more practice, good eye but slow. Consider this first payment, hmm?"Firanis looks at the merchant noticing the complete change in his manner including the way he looks at her, much more business like, she also notices small crowd of people watching at a distance. Her brows rise up in surprise as the discs repair themselves in Goutro's hands. Her mother being a powerful and respected nano, Firanis couldn't help being impressed with those able to manipulate the machine spirits all around them, a skill she could never fully develop despite being handy with numenera herself."Payment accepted," Firanis says with a grin, receiving the discs and tucking them away in her pack after another cursory inspection. She smarts a bit over the merchant's comment about her speed. No need to reveal the capabilities of the Time-Maker until it was needed, then she'd show him! "I don't mind giving you a chance to learn from your mistake."Goutro's shift to a more professional and business-like manner makes her feel much better about her decision to go his way as she reloads her bolt-caster and slings it onto her back. She raises her right hand to her left shoulder and gives the short bow bending at the waist that is a common greeting in Thaemor."Pleasure to make your acquaintance Goutro Imzec. Firanis Phlux, at your service." She notices the people watching from a distance, hears some of their murmurs, but they don't bother her - she rarely cares about what others think. Firanis settles back on her heels in a comfortable slouch, her eyes cutting to the watchers for a moment."You still have some trading to do, or are we heading out before the sun reaches its zenith?" She purses her lips, and slides a step closer, not adept at hiding her expressions or motives. "If you don't mind me saying, you don't seem well liked here.""Hmm," Goutro follows the eyes of Firanis Phlux taking in the towns people, " I am as liked as i wish to be, but we will be here for a few hours, or at least i will, if you wish to take care of other business, but do not make it a point of letting your new employment known."Turning away Goutro busies himself with his goods to all who would be watching he seemed to be ignoring Firanis now, but his lowered voice came clearly to her ear."Phlux is a name i am familiar with, Leave town later either before or after me by the west travel along the road till you come to a trail going north I will meet you there at a set of strange rocks you will know them when you come to them. Decide if you trust me. I will wait until the moon rises. if you come i will explain, if not no matter except the discs as a gift."Firanis' brow furrows at Goutro's claim that he knows the Phlux name. While her mother Holeona had been a notable nano and Aeon Priest, she hadn't been a part of the Order of Truth and rarely traveled far from Broley... as far as Firanis knows."Acknowledged. I will see you there," Firanis confirms with a nod. "At least to hear what you have to say."With that, Firanis walks away with long, smooth strides. She feels the eyes watching and stares back, her gaze long and direct until the watchers turn away, uncomfortable. She already has rations for the road and no extra money to spend on a last, fresh meal, so Firanis decides to leave the village immediately.She heads out via the south, then circles around overland to reach the west road out of sight of the village, her gait a graceful, economical lope she could maintain for long distances. She breathes easily, a grin on her face, always happy to be traveling.When she finds the trail heading North, Firanis follows it some distance to the side, her razor ring in hand to catch game. By the time the reaches the unique rock formation Goutro mentioned, Firanis has three serretzes hanging from her belt, slim, scaled mammals with eight legs and a whip-like tail that weigh 3-4 pounds each. Their meat was tart and tough, but nourishing.The rock formation had a porous, almost organic appearance. Perhaps the calcified remains of some creature or plant-life. Or a victim of the Iron Wind, though this would be pretty pedestrian on the part of the Iron Wind... Firanis suppresses a shudder at the thought of the Iron Wind. She may have transformed more than once over the course of her travels and explorations, but she the same fear as most as at the chaos inflicted by the Iron Wind.Firanis takes a look around the rock formation, then sits down to take a closer look at one of the disks, while waiting for Goutro to arrive. As the sun begins to close with the horizon, she finds a place for a decent rest-site and makes a fire-pit with a ring of stones. By the time the setting sun is painting the sky with vivid yellows and pinks, oranges and purples, Firanis has the three serretzes roasting on spits over a bed of hot coals, the tart, citrus smell mixing with the smell of wood smoke in the air.Bolt-caster at hand to ward off more dangerous game, Firanis relaxes as the daytime noises fade, to be replaced by the nighttime noises of this part of Thaemor, wondering what Goutro will have to say and where he plans on going...Firanis was not one to easily become frustrated but the discs were accomplishing that with seeming ease. She examined them and found...nothing. They were somewhat thicker toward the center but she could find no seams, no protrusions, no indention's, and nothing to reveal how he had manipulated them. Even tossing them into the air did nothing they just fell back to earth.As the sun begins to close with the horizon, she finds a place for a decent rest-site and makes a fire-pit with a ring of stones. By the time the setting sun is painting the sky with vivid yellows and pinks, oranges and purples, Firanis has the three serretzes roasting on spits over a bed of hot coals, the tart, citrus smell mixing with the smell of wood smoke in the air.Bolt-caster at hand to ward off more dangerous game, Firanis relaxes as the daytime noises fade, to be replaced by the nighttime noises of this part of Theorem, wondering what Goutro will have to say and where he plans on going...Firanis can hear him as he makes his way through the rocks towards her position when he comes in sight of her he stops as if he cant quite make her out."I forgot, no moon tonight, climbing is harder in the dark." He takes a deep breath and slowly starts moving in her direction. "I hope there is some left I'm starving, hehe.""I left one for you, if you don't mind serretze." She throws a few pieces of tender and wood on the smoldering coals causing them to light and show the fatman where to come and sit."Ah good sized I hope you cleaned the skins we can trade them in the villages."He sits and taking up the food begins to daintily eat with birdlike care. Watching her noting her look as she watches him..."Sniffle” he turns his head and blows his nose violently away from the fire. "I suppose you want to know whats going on?"Firanis frowns at the display, "An explanation would be nice, Why are we out here in the middle of nowhere and why did you hire me, and how do you know my name?""Whoa my dear, we may not have time for all of that but we will start with why we are here which leads to why I took you into service. Bear with me and ask your questions when I have finished."Goutro pulls a flask from his pocket and offers it to Firanis who shakes her head, he takes a drink."There are three settlements in these hills I trade at over the last three years after I have visited these settlements a person I sold something to has gone missing.” He takes another pull from the flask, “Last year I decided to find out what was going on and twice I discovered a customer i had dealt with that day leaving their village under cover of darkness sneaking as it were, into these hills, I tried to follow but lost them." He offers her the flask, Firanis takes it and drinks this time then passes it back as he pulls a a small glass rod with a glowing tip that pulses blue.Holding up the rod he continues. “Today I gave each of those boys a numenara disguised as a coin. I have been blamed for these disappearances and I am not at fault. this rod will lead us to the boy, already he is close enough to register with the rod. As for why you, I am not young nor am I a fighter, none of these people have returned I saw you and your weapons you wanted a job, simple as that.”Firanis nods not sure how much of that last statement she believes. “We should get going then.” She makes to stand but Goutro motions her to sit.“We have some time, he is still closer to the village the rods tip will change to red when he passes us then we can follow. You have questions I think.”The serretze skins were scraped and cleaned, treated with oils from the brain to prevent rot and prepare them for tanning. They were stretched to dry over some smooth rocks around the camp. Almost everything could be of use.Sitting back down, Firanis pulls a leg up, her knee rising higher than her head and wraps her hands around her shin. Cheek resting on her thigh, she eyes her employer with direct, purple eyes."I do have questions," Firanis admits, never having been good at dissembling. "You said you know the Phlux name. I wish to know how you know it, and what you know about it. Broley is in the Beyond and not on the common track."Goutro wipes his mouth as he swallows the last of the serretze he had been picking over while watching the girl prepare the hides. “Here,” � he produces a small off white bracelet made of the same material as the discs, “this is the controller for the discs. Just put it on they will do what ever you want them to just think it.”He heaves his bulk up and move around the coals checking the wand. “As for your name, Greenwood. Fifteen, twenty years ago I traded in a small aldaia called Broley, an Aeon Priest by the name Phlux had invented the stuff. But you should know all about that. I was young but you were younger then too hehe. Course you don't look anything like you did then you took more after your father in looks than your mother. Any way I had a client who liked the stuff and I made a trip there once a year to fulfill his needs but he died so no more reason to make the trip. That would have been when you were what five maybe six I don't know that was a long time ago.”Firanis slips the bracelet high up on her forearm, just below elbow, feeling a slight tingle. She eyes the bracelet, the off white contrasting sharply against the dark grey of her bodysuit, but sees no more of how it functions than she did with the disks. As Goutro mentioned, she pulls out the three disks and wills them into the air...And into the air they rise, forming an equilateral triangle above her head. They begin to spin and weave with geometrical precision, but when Goutro mentions her father, the disks suddenly fall, clattering against the rock as she gasps in utter shock and disbelief.Firanis stands to her full height, glaring down at the shorter, stockier merchant, her hands balled into fists at her sides, while the three disks slide across the ground in jerky, aggressive motions. Goutro had to be lying. She remembers clambering through the cliffs and trees around Broley at that age, even falling once and breaking her arm, but she has no memory of this man, and certainly none of her father. No one in Broley could - or would - tell her anything of her father, but she knew he had left before, or just after, she was born."You're mistaken, Goutro, or a liar," Firanis claims in a high growl, shaking her head in denial. "My father was out of my life before it even started. I never knew him, nobody in Broley knew him, and my mother never said anything about him.""Of lies, I have spoken my share," Goutro admits, studying Firanis with a cocked head, "but in this, I speak only Truth."Her purple eyes narrow in suspicion, but it doesn't seem Goutro is lying - at least, she can't tell. She doesn't know enough to see what advantage it would gain him either. If she can get him to reveal some other supposed details, perhaps she can catch him in some inconsistency or clear falsehood - though this happened twenty years ago, or thereabouts."If you knew my mother well enough to trade with her, you must know something of my father." There is a clear note of challenge in Firanis' tone. "If what you say is true - as I have no recollections of this man - what can you tell me of him?"And if there's any Truth to his words, I will have words with Camila next time I'm in Broley. With mother dead, if anyone in Broley knows anything of my father, it would be her...Goutro sniffs and looks at the wand the tip unchanged.“Hmm hurt me you do, that no memory of self even from someone so young as you were.” He points to his nose and belly. “I have changed but little while you have changed much. Yes I knew your father but I did not know him we were acquaintances brought together by trade as the same with your mother, we maybe shared a drink but life stories we did not share. As for the business with you mother I was but intermediary my client made all arrangements I just brought payment and made delivery.”As he is talking the tip of the wand changes to red and the pulsing becomes faster. Noticing this Goutro points the wand off to the east of the hill they occupy.“Apologies if offended I have made thee, such intent was not mine. But when we are done I will tell what I remember and answer any question that I can. But now we must follow and mystery solve and maybe save a life or lives, at the least clear my reputation.”He stands there one hand holding the pulsing wand the other outstretched to Firanis.“Apologies aren't necessary - you didn't offend me," Firanis claims, clasping Goutro's wrist after a moment, tilting her own head as she studies him. "But we will speak of this again later, and of what you know."Her lips quirk in a tight, one-side smile as she unlimbers her shield and cocks her bolt-caster. She tosses her head to shake a lock of silver-blue hair from her face, her purple eyes flicking to the pulsing tip of the wand. "After we save a life or two, and possibly even a reputation."The tall, young-looking woman takes two long strides ahead of her employer, eyes panning across the gloom, her pointed eyes tuned to hear any sound. "Direct me which way to go, I will cover you." Firanis and Goutro made their way down the hillside and angled to the west, the tip of the wand steadily blinking red, "The tip will go steady when at about 50 meters or so at 20 it will turn white." explained Goutro as he led the way. Firanis had her crossbow out and ready for what ever dangers might lurk int he gloomy darkness of the night.For the better part of an hour the two walked deeper into the steepening hills when the wand stopped blinking. Goutro signaled a halt and both of them watched the tip for several moments. it remained steady. Firanis moved in front of the larger man and motioned him to stay back and follow as she moved forward warily.Silently the young woman glided through the darkness placing her feet carefully, alert to any change in the environment, she silently marveled at at how well her companion moved quietly despite his great bulk. Soon the tip of the wand changed to white and she gestured for Goutro to stop and remain while she moved ahead.Crouching down she crept forward her ears picking out the sounds of metal striking rock. Covering the distance between her and the sound she took up some cover among some large rocks and looked upon the source of the noise.Up the hill less than ten yards away she could make out the form of the older of the two boys, he was busy striking at what appeared to be the collapsed opening of a cave. Out of the cave opening there was a diffused blueish light which illuminated the boy and the work he was doing as well as few yards around the opening. Scattered about under his feet were broken tools and the skeletal remains of several humans. The boy only paused to shovel the area clear so he could continue to use the pick. As soon as the debris was cleared he took up the pick again.Firanis silently watched the boy for several minutes, a frown growing on her face. There was something odd, disconcerting about the scene. Something beyond the bare bones scattered about the boy's feet and the pale blue glow filtering through the cascade of fallen rocks and bathing several yards around in a soft light.The boy had obviously not prepared for his journey. There were no signs of water bottles or rations, the boy's footwear looked too soft for the mountainous terrain, and what tools he had looked picked from the skeletal remains laying on the ground, judging by the dirt on the hafts and the rust pitting the metal. And no weapons. Even a boy his age would know not to travel out of his village without basic supplies and at least one weapon, let alone travel this far.Something lured him out here, Firanis thought, drives him to clear the rubble from the cave mouth. To clear it with single-minded purpose, and next to little skill... She explored many parts of the Black Raige Mountains, yet she would never have noticed the cave mouth here save for the signs of digging and faint, bluish light radiating from the natural-appearing landslide.Curiouser and curiouser... Watching the boy work, she estimated the boy had been digging for an hour, perhaps and hour and a half, no more. There were things in the Ninth World that could compel one's will or drive one to madness - Gods, Nano-spirits, Visitants, abhumans, and things she had no names for. So while the boy's actions and reasoning were unclear, his situation wasn't completely unheard of.Her dark brows lowered as she considered further. But if something in luring or compelling these youths out here and working them to death, and all these youths are... chosen after coming in contact with Goutro, what is Goutro's connection with this something? Firanis watched for several more moments, then knowing the boy wouldn't breach the cave mouth any time soon, slowly and quietly backtracked the way she came, though the boy was so fixated on his task, she believed she could have walked in plain view with no pretense at stealth and he still would not have noticed her.Firanis made her way back to Goutro, a questioning light in her purple eyes as she gave him a low, quick report. "The boy, he digs at a collapsed cave from which a blue luminescence radiates. It seems to me, something calls him or compels him." She arches a brow, watching for any hint of Goutro's reaction or thoughts. "Whether he is trying to reach something inside, or seeks to let it out, I don't know."She purses her lips, and remembering how light Goutro was on his feet, keeps her hand steady on her bolt-caster, though she kept it pointed down at her side. "Do you?"Goutro's frown deepens as Firanis relates her report. "Hmm sound of this i do not like. If there is some compelling and it is being done in three different villages and only after i have visited these villages. Hmmmrmmm, No sign of anyone else or anything?" he scratches his head. "Why have i not been compelled?" "The only others I saw were the bones of what I presume were other younglings, forced to dig until they could dig no more," Firanis added, watching Goutro, then flicking her eyes in the direction of the cave and back.There was a mysterious here and the tall, young-looking woman felt her interest rising. Mysteries were the spice of life, after all. There could be danger here and it would be simple to walk away, but Firanis knew she wouldn't, not now, not until some of the secrets in this situation revealed themselves."As for why these younglings are compelled, yet you are not..." Firanis chewed on a full underlip in contemplation. "Perhaps come cypher or artifact you possess or possessed protects you or changed you in some fashion." Her lips quirked in a wry smirk. "I well know such things can have a lingering effect on one in several ways, visible and non-visible. Oh!"Firanis' large eyes widened with a new thought. "Or... perhaps since this... force seems to be affecting younglings in your proximity, maybe the force is working through some object in your possession. Is there some thing that came into your into shortly before the disappearances began that you still have? Regardless, I'm wondering if we should help this youth to breach the cave mouth, so we can find the source of these... compulsions and see if we can end them, one way or another. What do you say?"Goutro sat crouched in silence for several moments his mind racing, then he spoke "The boy help we must for if these deaths are in anyway my fault i must not let another add to the toll. As for my own safety I cannot speak i know not why i have not been compelled, but if one thing you suggest be true and something in my possession that i know not is the root of this then therein lies a reason for no compulsion to befall me."He stood and grasping his companions shoulder continued, "Help me to right this wrong and forever in debt to you am I. First we must stop the boy from hurting himself. Then we find the cause and stop it, forever as well.""We'll fix this," Firanis assured Goutro with audible empathy as she patted his thick, short-fingered hand. She had was no stranger to causing unforeseen consequences from her actions (or inactions). "And we'll do what we can for the boy, too."Considering that their objective had changed to some degree, Firanis slung her bolt-caster back over her shoulder and instead pulled out her whip. It was less damaging than the bolts, but would hopefully still discourage the boy if the compulsion he was under turned him violent and she could use it to entangle him, so they could secure him with a minimum of trouble. She also secured a length of rope by a loop on her weapons belt, in case they had to restrain the boy for a time while they explored what lay beyond the rubble of the cave mouth."I'm ready to proceed," she said, twisting her wrist to make the tip of the whip dance across the ground, limbering up. "I suggest we approach openly, to give us more time and distance to see how the boy reacts."The two unlikely companions headed off toward the boy and whatever mystery awaited , Firanis leading the way with Goutro following. Goutro's frown deepened the closer they got to their destination and it didn't go unnoticed by the tall woman who still wasn't entirely sure of her employer.“What's wrong Goutro?” Asked Firanis as they paused before entering the rubble strewn clearing to see if the working boy reacted to their presence. He gave no appearance of even noticing them.“Even if I am protected what of you? If you are controlled I do not know if I would be able to subdue you, and would rather not have to try. Perhaps you should wait here in the rocks while I proceed and confront the youth”Firanis had to admit that line of thought had occurred to her as well. And while losing her mind was only marginally less terrifying than growing old and not having all the time she wanted to see what the Ninth World had to offer, she wouldn't let that deter her from resolving this mystery. Besides, she didn't entirely trust Goutro yet and wanted to hear what he said to the boy."That is a possibility," Firanis had to agree, "but a remote one, I think. I have been in your presence longer than the boy was, yet my mind is my own. And the boy is alone despite him being with another when they conferred with you. This would seem to indicate that whatever... agent is working on the boy can only affect a single being at a time. Further..."Firanis hefted her shield and whip and tossed her head of silvery-blue hair as she pointed towards the boy with her chin. "You hired me to protect you. If the... entity can infuse its mindslave with abhuman strength or speed, and I'm waiting behind, I may be to far to protect you." She gave a sigh, dropping her hands to a more relaxed position. "But the choice is yours. If you wish me to hold back a ways, I will."She arched a dark brow expectantly as she waited for Goutro's answer.“Together then we go.” Goutro smiled at her and heaved his bulk up. Slowly the two made their way around the boulders and picked their way through the debris and remains, openly but cautiously. When they closed the distance with no reaction from the boy ceaselessly digging Goutro called out in as non-threatening a manner as he could.“Hey, young one!”The call drew no attention. “You there digging stop and come to here.”Again the boy oblivious to then continued to dig. Looking at each other the two moved closer...Firanis glided closer to the boy, her rugged synth-leather boots crunching on the loose rubble as she stepped to his right, Goutro going to his left, but still the boy continued digging. She gave him a nudge with the coiled length of her whip, but other than swaying with the force of her push, the boy gave no other reaction.She studied the blue light, looking for any flicker or change in hue that might betray the entity or whatever it was reacting to their presence and tuned her ears, listening for any conspicuous sounds."Boy! Stand aside. Fight! Resist, if you can!" Firanis pressed, watching the boy, to see if anything else would take hold of the boy.Watching from a few paces back Goutro grows frustrated with the boys non responsiveness and steps forward and grabs the youths' swinging arm. As soon as contact is made the constantly digging boy simply falls to the ground like a puppet whose strings have been cut, and the blue glow goes out leaving them standing in the pale light of the distant moon.The abrupt change startles both adventurers even though they were prepared for "anything". They step back readying weapon for the inevitable attack they know is coming.Only it doesn't. The sounds of the night continue unabashed, the boy lay crumpled where he fell. Goutro and Firanis exchange glances then she moves forward kneeling by the young man. his chest isnt moving feeling his neck she finds no pulse."He's dead, Goutro." she says over her shoulder in a near whisper, then she steps over the body to examine the hole the boy was digging, her mind registering a feeling or rather the lack of a feeling. There had been something when they had first stepped near the boy a sort of buzz or itch that she hadn't noticed until now that it was gone. as she examined the rocks she also noticed tiny crystals in the exposed rock which she was unfamiliar with. She relayed this information to Goutro who came forward to look.Pausing at the body he makes a small warding sign with his chubby hands, then crouches down by Firanis. "I have never seen crystals like this before," he takes a small knife and brushes it across the rocks dislodging several of the crystals. "They are not part of the rock but seem to just be adhering to them." He scoop's a hand full of the crystals and debris into a small pouch. "we will look closer at this back at the wagon. i think we should leave now before what ever killed the boy does for us the same.""Agreed." Tense and wary, regretful they couldn't save the boy's life, Firanis took a step back as Goutro slipped the odd crystals into a pouch. Her eyes flicked from the still boy to the rubble that was now limned only in shadows and moonlight and back. She frowned, then put her whip away and slung her shield on her back."We will take the boy back with us," she said firmly, crouching low and swinging the boy over her shoulder. Slowly, she stood back up, then shifted her weight to settle the boy's dead mass as comfortably as possible. She gave Goutro a level gaze, not accusatory, just stubborn."It may be too late for those others, but not for him, and he was someone's son. I will build him a cairn while you study the crystals, so he can rest in the peace he didn't find in life. Lead the way, I will follow.""Share your feelings i do Firanis. We will solve this. I will not leave this until done it is. Somehow, blame is mine, these deaths are on my head. I counted the remains it is the number of those who have been missing since the first. I do not believe there are any others. This is because of me and i will see it ended."With Goutro leading the way the two make their way back with their separate burdens. Arriving as the pale sun begins its creep into the ancient sky, Goutro prepares a quick meal which he insists Firanis share before burying the boy. Before they eat Goutro says what Firanis assumes is a prayer but it is in a language she doesn't know."I believe you," Firanis said, eating the meal with mechanical attention. She was thinking about the boy and about Goutro, and about where Goutro came from. Not understanding the language of his prayer, nor even recognizing the sound of it, she figured he came from some place well beyond the reach of the Black Raige."Study the crystals, Goutro, I'll take care of the boy. We will end this."As the sun rose above the horizon, Firanis began collecting stones for the boy's cairn, since the ground was too hard to dig a grave and stones of a variety of sizes were plentiful in the rough terrain. She cleared a patch of ground and dug a shallow divot with the edge of her shield, then laid the boy down and crossed his arms over his chest. Then she started covering him with rocks, working the non-uniform shapes together like a puzzle.Very soon, her alabaster skin was slick and shiny with a sheen of sweat, but Firanis continued stubbornly while Goutro glanced up at her from time to time from the books and devices he was referencing to study the odd crystals. Firanis felt the poking of something into her breast it was that discomfort more than anything that woke her. As feeling and coherence came to her the poking of more objects filled her senses. She opened her eyes and saw rocks. She was lying in the fading sunlight atop the cairn she had been almost finished building. her head was fuzzy and she smelled burning meat...With effort she rolled over and sat up at the same time, the sight which met her eyes was not one she was prepared for.The wagon was a smoldering husk, the Beast that had pulled wagon had been tethered nearby and was also a smoking carcass. But what stunned and horrified her was Goutro. The fat man was lying amid the wreckage of the collapsed portable table he had been working at motionless smoldering, obviously dead.She took quick account of herself, she had some minor annoying burns on the back of her bare arms and her tunic was singed, her worst injury was a split lip from falling on the rocks.I fell where i stood, she thought to herself as she painfully started to rise, so it wasn't an explosion. Looking at the wagon and Goutro's remains verified that. Both were in the same places and the wagon was relatively intact. But what ever intense ...fire had caused this appeared to have originated from the wagon..."cough...cough" The sound came from Goutro!Firanis tottered to her feet, eyes squinting as they passed across the orange-red ball of the sun. She twisted to look at her burns - the blisters and marred skin were vivid against her pale flesh, but they looked worse than they were, though she felt tender all over, as though sun-burnt.First, she rushed to her pack and checked the status of the Detonation she carried - the Heart of a Dark Fathom. If it activated, that would be... bad, but it was intact. Then an anxious panic rose inside her at the thought that Goutro was dead - he hadn't yet told her all he knew of her father.Afterward, she grew suspicious. The attack was too convenient following their investigation of the missing children and the entity. Did Goutro's study of the odd crystals cause the rain of fire, or did the entity somehow use them as its eyes and preemptively strike? She was fortunate to have been missed by the brunt of the strike.Did she dare to see if any of the crystals remained in the charred remains of the wagon, or return to the cave on her own, or-Firanis jumped and spun around at the sound coming from behind. It was a cough, a distinct cough, she heard it! She stared hard at the prone corpse, body still and poised. A moment passed, then another, when she saw the chest of the rotund figure rise and fall with a ragged breath.Relief warred with a sudden caution. She had had an inkling that the fat man was more than just a man, but what if the entity instead was animating his lifeless husk, to see if its attack had been wholly successful?Firanis quietly crouched over and picked up her bolt-caster as well as her half-empty flask of water. Then she stalked her way towards where Goutro lay in a spiraling path, so she could kept him in view as she glanced around their kept for any other sign of hostiles, her bolt-caster at the ready."Goutro, can you speak?" Firanis asked, her voice tight as she approached, though staying well out of reach. "I don't think the entity appreciates our investigation. Are you... you? Or are you the entity?" The tip of her tongue poked from the corner of her mouth as she considered the possibility Goutro was possessed and if so, if the entity would seek to trick her. "Where did we meet before coming here? What did you tell me is the name of my father?"Silence answered her.Moving closer she saw the wide open glassy eyes staring toward her under the darkening sky, unblinking.He had been sitting with his right side toward the wagon and it was there that his burns were the gravest, the flesh on that side of his face blackened and melted. It looked as though he had fallen face first onto the portable table he had set up to work on. Some time after collapsing he had apparently woke enough to push himself up onto his left side which is how he lay now, his arms akimbo, mouth open and slack, his head resting amid the crystals he had been studying.Then he died.Closer now, Firanis could see he was not breathing, but she was sure she had seen his chest move, and the cough. Had it been her imagination?“Cough”She dropped into a crouch whipping her bolt-caster up aimed at the body! She had heard a cough but she was watching him this time and Goutro had not moved, not at all, but she was sure the sound had come from him. Yes! There his chest heaved, then it heaved again and was still. Seconds later she heard the cough again but it sounded weaker now, but more importantly, Goutro did not move when he coughed.Firanis tightened her jaw as she pursed her lips. With the slack posture and glassy eyes, Goutro was seemingly dead. Possibly, a part of him lingered, or something inside him yet lived, if not for long. But she couldn't be sure. What were you, Goutro? A parasite, a symbiote, some twisted iteration of a Lattrimor? Watching the corpse carefully, Firanis propped her bolt-caster against her leg and reached inside her pack.The young-looking woman pulled out a small, slim case and flicked it open, revealing a pair of translucent, crystalline, rose-coloured lenses. She plucked them up delicately with her fingers and breathed on them, then pressed them against the clear synth of her goggles, where they adhered. She pulled up the goggles from where they were hanging around her neck and gazed through them at a world painted in yellows, oranges, and reds, blues and purples, as heat and its lack grew evident to her eyes.The charred brush and remains of the wagon showed fading traces of strong heat, presumably from the attack, but Goutro's body was already brush with pale blue as it cooled with death. Yet inside was a shape that glowed with a pale orange-red. A shape that still moved, if weakly.Huh - perhaps what Goutro knows is not lost to me, after all... If I move quickly. A parasite or symbiote piloting a humanoid husk didn't disturb her unduly - all sorts of beings lived in the Ninth World - but she had no intention in letting it take up residence inside her. Still, it might have some other means of surviving without its... husk.She holstered her bolt-caster over her shoulder and pulled out her machete. The brittle brush crackled as she knelt beside Goutro's corpse, using her blade to cut a long slice through his burn clothing and peeling it aside to reveal his abdomen.Watching the source of heat inside, Firanis carefully cut a Y-shaped slit in Goutro's abdomen. Murmuring a benediction for Goutro's sapience if it did not reside inside the thing inside him, Firanis pulled the cut wider with one hand to get a better view and give the thing more space to wriggle free. In the other hand, she kept her machete ready, in case the thing inside proved to be aggressive."What do we have here?" she said to break the silence of the burnt and dead encampment. Staring down into the incision she had made Firanis saw not the organs and bones she had expected but some sort of membrane covering the skeleton. Although the membrane was opaque she could make out the outline of the rib cage and there along the center-line of the torso is what appears to be a seal of some sort. As she looks at this amazing discovery she hears a strangled sound and the ribcage moves slightly.Curiosity overcoming cautions Firanis puts knife to membrane at the seal. As soon as the knife blade touches the seal it parts and the rib cage springs open revealing not the insides of a grossly overweight man but the innermost working of a machine and nestled in the center of the contraptions filling a good portion of the cavity in a framework of some sort is a fantastic creature gasping as it feebly tries to remove some sort of mask covering it snout. Her brows rose in surprise at was nestled in the mechanical bowels of Goutro. She had never seen such a creature before. Was this the true Goutro? Caution gave way to curiosity as she reached down and gently removed the mask covering the blue-furred marsupial. She may have wanted to live forever, but the key word was live. Someday - hopefully centuries or millennia hence - her curiosity was going to be the end of her.She was okay with that.Firanis made a small hiss as a gear brushed the back of her hand, still hot from the attack, but her lips curved in a faint smile as the creature gave a more vigorous gasp when she removed the mask from its snout. "That's better, no?"She sheathed her machete then after making sure nothing else physically linked the creature to the Goutro husk, carefully extracted the creature from the static confines and nestled it in her arms. She raised her water flask in to view. "Do you need water?" She paused for a moment, pursing her lips. "Can you communicate without your... bipedal vehicle? If not, use an open hand to indicate yes and a closed fist to indicate no. I do not think we should linger here, but know, I have even more questions for you."The creature, Goutro, stared wide eyed as Firanis picked him up but once sure she intended no harm gave a sigh and reached for the water. After taking a long drink he handed it back to Firans and spoke to her unfortunately it was as he had surmised with his experiments of the past, the animals which passed for thinking beings on this world, really didn't do much thinking at all. He raised his hand and made a fist then pointed to the ground, Firanis still somewhat cautious put him down and stepped back.The blue furred creature examined himself looking for injury, The tall human watched for a moment. "Are you Goutro?"Goutro looked up at her, this was going to get old quick he thought raising his open hand to indicate yes, then climbing up onto what had been his vehicle for the better part of 40 cycles.Firanis could here sounds, high pitched squeaks and squeals coming from the animal... no coming from Goutro, it was like he was talking to him self as he examined the mechanical body. Then he started pulling things out and tossing them to the ground. Soon he had a small pile of machinery parts and obvious Numenara then he pulled his head out and looked at the wagon. in four bounding hops he quickly moved to the wagon and onto the shelves where things had been stored. He paused for several moments looking ant what must have been the origin of the blast, then he scrambled out of sight to the inside of the wagon. before Firanis could move to observe he was back now carrying a small belt of tools sized for his stature. he put this on the hopped down to the body.he pointed at himself, the body, and his tools, then back too himself. then he pointed at her at the pouch where she had stored the disc and made a wide gesture Indicating the ruined camp. then without another look he dove into the cavity and began disassembling more of the insides.Despite Goutro's pantomimed demands, Firanis stood back for a moment, hip cocked to the side as she watched him delve into his bipedal conveyance. He was already acting on her next thought of scavenging the husk for parts and numenera. It was a remarkable device, she wished she knew how it worked.She had never seen a creature like Goutro before, didn't know if he was a native of some obscure part of the Ninth World or a rare (or new) form of Visitant. Regardless, he obviously was far more skilled with Numenera than she was. Perhaps he had access to some other capabilities of the targeting discs that she was unaware of and that was why he wanted her to release them.Firanis reached into one of the pouches on her belt and pulled out the three discs Goutro had given her. She tossed them in the air and the bracelet around her bicep tingled as she willed them to disperse, forming the points of an equilateral triangle, that slowly revolved around the perimeter of their ruined camp. "I hope you can re-purpose the translation vocalizer from your... vehicle," Firanis said as settled her buckler on her arm and held her bolt-caster in the other hand, her mouth curving in a wry smirk. "Otherwise, it will get quickly tiresome playing seventeen questions. I unfortunately have never heard your language before."As Goutro continued his activity with squeaks and squeals, Firanis took a cursory look at the interior of the ruined wagon and what appeared to be the epicenter of the attack. Then she began walking around the edge of the camp, keeping a wary eye out for anyone or anything that the entity might send after them following the attack.Noticing that Firanis was keeping a good eye out, Goutro paused and opened his Third Eye to inspect her a bit more closely than he had been able too Before while inside the now ruined shell. He was puzzled and impressed at the same time. Like with many of the ninth worlds inhabitants the various Numenara, as they called them, leave their imprint upon those who handle them with insufficient knowledge so too did Firanis have a record of mutations and discontinuities. How ever the core of her being was unmarred and amazingly strong for someone who was so young, he shifted his sight into the higher bands of reality and made a high pitched squeal which caused the young woman to spin around and rush to look for a would be attacker.The tall woman was contemplating the wisdom of a fire and a meal when the Goutro/creature let out a squeal, she spun looking for what could be causing her companion this new distress and found him sitting up on the corpse of his numenara shell gazing at her.They both froze.She because she thought she had seen a flicker of...something in the air in front of Goutros head. He because he had been caught staring.Goutro squeaked and held up a small piece of numenara about eighty millimeters long and thirty wide, maybe ten thick. it had a softly glowing square of translucent material with some sort of strange characters moving below its surface. Goutro had attached a small chain to the piece so it could be worn around her head which is what he indicated she should do. Hesitating only slightly she complied and immediately she heard Goutros voice coming from teh thing. It sounded far away and thinner than normal but she could hear him talking."...can hear, i may adjust need make too. You can hear, no?" She looked on in amazement. Goutro was sitting their looking at her and his voice was coming from the box but none from him!"I can hear you but how?""Explain later I will, but now It will only work if we are close to each other and it may say things wrong It has to learn all over again" The little blue furball points at the wagon, "There was a mechanical hand in a drawer, it is missing, We need to find it deadly Die Death Destruction Incontiayhtgngaaaaaa......" Goutro squeals and pulls you down he touches the numenara, until his voice comes back clearly."I thought the hand dormant, think I the crystals were source of power. The hand drained to become active and the blast I don't know what was. But I think maybe rest in cave. Not unleash do we desire." Firanis crossed her arms beneath her breasts and let out a snort of frustration. Goutro was hiding too many things, things she wanted to know, and now, it seemed like time was of the essence. Some manner of evil or at least indiscriminate Nano spirit was trying to reassemble the mechanical components of its physical manifestation, and from what she could see, this would be a bad thing for those surviving in the Ninth World.Plus, there were still answers she wanted from Goutro."I'm better get these explanations you keep alluding to, Goutro, but never reveal," Firanis warned, unfolding her arms and putting her goggles back on - she was pleased to note that the heat sensitive lenses were still active. "But this... appendage appears to be dangerous and I'm thinking if it reaches the rest of the entity as you fear, it will be more dangerous still." Firanis scanned the camp anew with her temporarily enhanced goggles, now with some extra details on what to look for. The lightning within many numenera and mechanical devices often produces varying amounts of heat as a side-effect, perhaps the heat sensitive lenses could pick it traces of the newly empowered hand. She also looked for tracks, ones that looked like they could be made by a hand - they presumably wouldn't be deep, if the hand wasn't of Brobdingnagian proportions."Do you need help retrieving any more resources from the remains of your... vehicle?" Firanis asked as she continued her search. "Or help transporting them, as your vehicle and wagon are both damaged beyond immediate repair? I think we should track this.... hand as quickly as possible. When we are sure where it has gone, then we can determine if we should stop to rest and eat, or endure and try to end this threat before it starts."The voice coming from from Firanis" chest was able to convey regret it seemed. "Yes you are correct, not all honesty have been I. But I am alone and not sized for this world, which Dangerous place it is. Precaution take I must." a sigh emanates from the voice box. "different you are I did not know before. Explain what I can i will. but the sorcerer must be stopped before it reactivates or the ninth world may become the last."The Two unlikely companions head into the night Searching for the Missing hand, and hopefully saving the world.XXUsing logic Goutro suggest that they begin by heading back to the dig sit as that is the most likely destination for the disembodied appendage.Not finding any tracks it is surmised that the ting might be able to fly which meant it was probably already there. They hurried on.Arriving at the dig site. they found no light emanating from the cave entrance but the pale moon light revealed much more debris around the entrance as if something had been furiously digging and expelling the rock and soil. It was deathly quiet.They stealthily approached the cave, Firanis ready with her weapon.Several more meters had been excavated and there giving off only the faintest heat signature, lay the hand. Firanis eyed the hand with disconcerted curiosity, the heat radiating from it fading to nothing even as she watched. It wasn't the mechanical construction of the hand that concerned her, it was that she had something of its ilk before, not in the Ninth World, but in her dreams.The tall, young-looking woman had been raised by an Aeon Priest - she wasn't one to see omens in every phenomena witnessed in the Ninth World or to believe silly superstition. But there was Truth in the tales and myths from the past. She did believe in the power of artifacts from prior ages of the World, that entities and machine intelligence's could have thoughts so intense that they could infect the minds of less advanced being, and that people could unconsciously tap into the Datasphere that wove an invisible net around the planet. That she had had a dream of a type of automaton she had never seen nor heard tell of before, then found what appeared to be its hand, which used to be in the possession of some manner of visitant merchant who hired her to help deal with an seemingly connected mystery was just too much to be a coincidence. This conjunction of events must hold a greater meaning.As the last traces of heat dissipated from the hand, Firanis cautiously approached, tentatively gave the hand a prod with the end of the bolt-caster, then picked it up. She studied it for moment, analyzing the articulation and wondered if and when the blue girl would appear or become involved ins some way in this mystery.Her gaze went to the cave, noting the energy in the hand must have been expended to excavate so much in such a short amount of time. She believed it wouldn't take much more to dig a path big enough to wiggle herself through. Then she looked over her shoulder and waved the appendage at Goutro almost accusingly."This... this hand, where did you acquire it? To what did it belong? Just last night, I saw an image of the Mechanical Man to which I believe it belonged in my sleep." Firanis paused with frown, eyes closed as the tried to recall every detail of the disturbing dream. "He... implored me to choose a direction while another... being pointed in the other."Firanis leaned her bolt-caster against her leg and pulled out the Galactic Cube in her other hand. It was a curio, an oddity, but perhaps it was more than that, in the right situation. Maybe it could act as a lens that could reveal more than what the eye could see. It had been in the thing she was beginning to suspect was more than just an odd dream caused by an uncomfortable bed."What is going on?" she demanded her eyes shifting from the cube to Goutro and back.Firanis did not get the reaction she expected from her little friend.Goutro, who had been content to let his young companion take the forefront (and risk) of the immediate investigation squealed a piercing whistle which even Firanis cold tell was one of shock and excitement.The voice box made several attempts at making words before it finally produced some thing she could understand, bu the look on the little visitants, for that is what she now perceived to be the truth of his origin, face spoke volumes.His eyes wide, a look of wonder and reverence on his furry countenance meant more to her than the words that came from the box - “ahhhh! A Trans-Galactic Cartogram!”If her purple eyes didn't have the same wonder and reverence evident in Goutro's, they were still bright with excited curiosity, despite the serious and dangerous situation they - and possibly the world - were in. She lived to explore the Ninth World, but exploration was more than just a matter of distance. It was knowing! The magic and science left behind by the prior Ages were beyond the ken of those in the Ninth World. Like most, Firanis looked at the majority of the remnants as mere curiosities, oddities, hardly more than esoteric toys, though she dreamed and pondered what they may have been used for while trying to figure out how they worked.But Goutro seemed to know more about the crystalline cube in her hand. Her gaze flipped from the cube, to Goutro and back, lips quirking into a wide grin, revealing the tips of her slightly prominent canines, the Automaton's hand forgotten for the moment."A Trans-Galactic Cartogram..." she breathed, though the words in such a string barely made sense to her. "Is that what this is? What is it used for? And can it help us dispatch or disable this malicious entity?""No" Goutro reached toward the cube but stopped short of touching it then withdrew his hand. "Right are you, we must finish what threatens first. Away secure the Cartogram, but carefully it is most most valuable"He hops over to the hand and looks at it and the excavation, "Much earth has been removed." he scoops up some of the crystals from the dirt, "The power crystals are dead."Looking at His Giant companion and around at the scattered tools he rummages around in his pouch and withdraws and slender flat rod about twelve centimeters long made of some burnished dark metal. He points at the shovels and pick axes, "We can dig," then tosses the rod to Firanis, "or we can dig?"Her interest only rising with the obvious value the small, blue furred mammal was showing in the Cartogram, Firanis put it back into a pouch, with more care than she usually showed for what she had thought of as an intriguing curio. As much as she wished to pursue this right now, the cave was more important at the moment, in case the entity tried another means of attack on them."You are really going to have to explain this Cartogram device you hold in such esteem, Goutro."Dropping the dismembered hand, Firanis deftly caught the rod, giving Goutro a nod and smile before turning her attention in it. Though it looked featureless and smooth, running a pair of fingers down its length, the could feel some very minuscule markings on it. Nothing moveable - not buttons or switches - but perhaps writing or numerals. It tingled, very faintly vibrated, with energetic potential."What is this?" Firanis asked with an arch of her brow.The translation device around emitted several garbled words because saying, "... High spectrum, radiant particle emitter. To dig."Goutro hadn't used it or offered it before, so Firanis conjectured that the rod used to be a fundamental mechanism in his bipedal vehicle. Some manner of energy source, perhaps, if it's meant to help excavate the cave? Firanis rapped the rod against a discarded boulder, which caused the rod to ring with a pure sound, the sympathetic vibrations in it growing stronger. the invisible markings down the rod's length began to glow with a rose-coloured light, intensifying towards the end.Firanis' grin widened at the glow and vibrations grew stronger towards the end of the rod. She placed her goggles back over her eyes and pointed the tip of the rod towards the mouth of the cave. Suddenly, a coruscating beam of violent pink light burst forth accompanied by a pure, pulsing musical note. The beam struck the rocks still obstruction the cave-mouth, which immediately began to melt and flow like pudding."I like your way of digging, Goutro."Firanis wielded the potent cypher for several minutes easily and quickly removed permanently tons of rock and debris. Finally she spied a small opening which revealed a cavity of some sort she began widening the hole when Goutro's box emitted a warning. “Not to large of an opening my friend, we don't want to collapse the cave and we want to be able to seal it our selves if need be.” She continued making the opening just big enough for her to slip through with little trouble. Deactivating the cypher she looked at it with a bit of desire before offering it back to the short furred enigma beside her, who waved it away. Pleased she placed it in her belt for quick access, since it could also be used as a weapon, while doing so she noticed it was several centimeters shorter than it had been.Goutro moved up to the smooth hole created by the cyphers beam and peered into the dark a grunt came from him and was echoed by the box, he turned and looked at it annoyed. “I cannot see anything we are too deep and the moonlight does not penetrate enough. We will need torches unless you have light that does not burn.”The silvery-blue haired girl smiled “Of course what kind of explorer wouldn't have a glow globe or four, where do you want it?”Goutro shook is head “Give to me I will place it, you be ready.” he indicates her bolt-thrower.Placing himself back at the hole but to the side giving Firanis a clear line of sight through the opening, he makes a high pitched bark at the hole his ears angling forward and a few seconds later pitches the globe into the cavity.Lighting up as it sails into the chamber the glob stops about 4 meters in it's soft light illuminating but not quite filling the space. The chamber is much large that either of them expected, the walls beyond the light are visible but no detail can be made of then. The floor is littered with body part, arms, legs, torsos, heads, all broken and split, but the parts are not flesh and bone, but synth, metal, plastic. Mechanical.Goutro starts to enter the chamber but is stopped by Firanis who silently places a hand on his shoulder. Without speaking she indicates that she should go first. He nods silently. XXFiranis peeled off the synth lenses she had stuck to her goggles, their power faded, and crouched, the length of her legs making her knees reach as high as her shoulders. Bolt-caster cradled in her arms, Firanis eased forward through the opening she had made with the disintegration beam by rocking side to side, eyes and ears sharp on what may linger inside. Her violet eyes widened, the light of her glow-globe reflecting off the synth, crystalline, and metallic remains of automatons. Her gaze was drawn to the one automaton that seemed mostly intact, a figure she recognized from her her dream. The cave opened up and Firanis straightened to her full height and looked around for any hint of danger or hostiles before her inspecting the main focus of her attention. The walls of the chamber - clearly not naturally formed - were embedded with a lattice-work of metal and crystal, though its function, if any, was not immediately identifiable. But it was the azure automaton from her dream or vision that drew her. Firanis glided closer, reaching into a pouch on her belt. "Goutro - the cave, it seems safe enough," Firanis called over her shoulder at the blurred-furred visitant as she knelt by the object of her attention. The automaton wasn't completely intact. It was missing a hand, a hand she expected was a match for the one she had just retrieved from her belt pouch. Firanis glanced around once more, studying the fallen automatons with an eye for certain details, then the one before her. It cannibalized the others for its continued survival, then attempted to use the crystals to power itself, to no avail it seems... Placing the hand by the stump at the end of the automaton's arm, Firanis reached over and opened the container resting at its side. Inside, she found what appeared to be some manner of tools, though she didn't understand their application at the moment. Several she believed would function as cyphers of one sort or another, though she would need to experiment with them. If they had the time, she might be to recover some more from the remains of the other automatons, or at least some parts for could repurpose for other uses. Firanis glanced over at Goutro making his tentative way inside and nodded at the automaton at her feet. "Dangerous perhaps, but do you think we can get some answers from... him?" Gautor entered the chamber after his partner. he heard her question but with held his reply as he studied the perfectly curved dome and the intricate lattice works which seemed vaguely familiar. Oh so much time gone so much knowledge as memory lost. His little paws touched where the Digging tool had broken the lattice work. He could identify the type of material by touch unusual. He turn a d hopped down to make his way to Firanis studying the broken machines. the sight of them after so so long made his fur stand on end . His instinct to run as far and fast as possible was almost unbearable. But really he no longer had anywhere to run to. With a sigh and the thought that this would be his last adventure he arrived at the one intact robot and his new friend. "Wait this is unusual, this machine is modeled as a male, I never encountered a male before and look around all of these are female modeled." With a hiss he hops to the ground and begins pushing the broken pieces around with grunts and sequels eventually the box makes words out of the noises." The floor Firanis the Floor is the lattice in the floor Hurry!" Quickly She begins helping the small visitant push around the broken pieces soon the lattice work is revealed in the floor. With a wail Goutro shouts "Get out get out now!" As the small blue furred fellow dashes to teh hole. time seems to slow. Firanis feels the pendant vibrating and moving in slow motion she turns hr head to see the Mechanical rising it stump glowing and the hand she had put on the ground rising up to joins its body making it whole. This is... not ideal, Firanis admitted grimly. The manipulation of time felt like a cold tingle on her skin and Firanis focused her will on the Time-Maker hanging from her neck. The effect of the time retardation popped like a soap bubble, at least for her. While the mechanical man didn't seem precisely hostile, and she desperately wanted to question it if possible, Goutro's exclamations were frantic with terror and he obviously had more familiarity with these entities than he had revealed. And it did appear to be responsible for a great many deaths among the young in the local villages. Yet another thing we will have to speak about... if we get through this intact. She had been hired to defend him, and so, Goutro was her first priority. Firanis spun gracefully around and with two long steps, reached Goutro, moving so slowly with the uncanny field the Mechanical Man was emitting. She ducked low and swept him up under the arm bearing her buckler and dashed for the opening of the chamber. Tossing him through the opening, Firanis spun back to confront the Automaton from her dream, the pendant vibrating even more intensely against her collar bone. She brought her shield forward to guard, her bolt-caster resting on the upper rim and braced against her shoulder. "Goutro - Gooouuuutroo! What does it want? Can't it - he - be reasoned with? How do we stop it?" Firanis demanded over her shoulder - voice sounding drawn out and distorted by the time dilation field - as she kept her gaze on the Mechanical Man and hoping she'd live through this. There was so much more in the world she wanted to see and experience. Firanis breathing rapidly as she shouted her questions at her diminutive partner didn't feel the vibration on her chest at first but it only took moments for the sensation to grow strong enough to override the adrenaline fueled pounding of her heart. Time slowed even the mechanical seemed slow now, Firanis, moving in slow motion looked down at her chest and the Time piece, it's cover had flipped open and the hands were spinning around the dial in opposite directions! Suddenly beams of prismatic light shoot out and curve around behind Firanis, the beams connecting with the broken ends of the strange latices created when she burned through into the chamber. A thin wailing can be heard from the mechanical in the center of the chamber as the entire lattice lights up filling the air with a prismatic spray which bath the robot in the scintillating light. DISCONTINUITY PROBABILITY The mechanical falls back to its knees as the multicolored light reflects off it's shiny body the reflections pooling in the space around the chamber at the compass points both minor and major. Sixteen pools of prismatic light coalescing into forms, form ethereal and smokey, tall, thin and spindly white synth robes with hoods hiding non human features. TEMPORAL COORDINATES IMPROBABLE SPECULATIONSPACIAL SYNTHESIS The light becomes sound the sounds form words in Firanis' mind. She cannot move she cannot speak. The forms all turn to face her. All are different. All are the same. 24.573.956.024 THE ENDINTEROGATIVE THE BEGINNING NO END NO BEGINNINGDISCONTINUITY The voices in her head a cacophony each separate and blended together at the same time each different and the same at the same time. No, wait, one voice is distinct Firanis focuses on it.... BIOLOGICAL MECHANICALEXTINCTION IMPROBABLE “Firanis! Firanis? Are you there? Are you ok? Whats happening? Firanis?” The voice is Goutro's but not coming from the box its in her head. But focusing on the voice of Goutro has unjumbled the other voices. She can hear them as separate sounds in her mind. “Who are you?” She thinks at it tentatively and hears her voice echo through the chamber. COLLECTIVE CONCIOUSNESS INDIVIDUAL ELABORATION INTEROGATIVE WHY HAVE YOU ACCESSED THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE? “I don't understand? What tree?” YOU HAVE ENTERED THEFIRST LASTCHAMBER All answered her at once a single thought with many voices. YOU HAVE ACCESSED THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE WHY? Firanis growing frustrated shouts at the figures “Because I'm an explorer I seek knowledge but I don't even know what the Dodging Hell the Tree of Knowledge is!” The beams of multicolored light strike Firanis and bathe her in the same prismatic glow engulfing the mechanical. She sees an image of herself appear in the air centered above the robot surrounded by the strange robed figures. Then her head fills with the multicolored sounds and smells and tastes as the answers to all the questions explode into Her mind.... -What is the Tree of Knowledge? Will I/Can I access it at a later time?RESERVOIR NONLINEARYOU HAVE-Who/what is the Mechanical Man? Was he intentionally or unintentionally doing harm? Is he/it still a danger? What was he doing in my dream/vision?TREE OF KNOWLEDGE DEFENSEOFFENSE -Who/what was the blue woman in my dream/vision?TRANSIENT INCEPTIONDECEPTION CONVERGENCE -Who is my father? What is he? Where is he now? Did my mother know who and what he truly was? INTERROGATIVE SELFUNSELF BIOLOGICAL INCONSISTENCYDISCONTINUITY CONSCIOUSNESSCONCEPTION INTERRUPTIONDIVISIONCREATION-When I was in my male, spikey-scaled reptilian form, did Yuvvu truly love me, or just get off on fucking a beast that hurt her with every embrace? (At least she healed quickly) SUBJECTIVE ITERATION -Where can I find the secret to eternal youth? One that won't deform me or make me mentally unstable? NO ENDINGNO BEGINNING NON CONSTANT-Did Harllo really have that winning hand, or did he cheat?SUBJECTIVE POSSESSIONLOSS WIN -Was Entropy Zero just a random occurrence, or did someone direct the Dark Fathom towards Broley? NO ONEDISCONTINUITY ENTROPY ZERO ASSASSINIf I hadn't been physically altered so many times, but kept my original form and developed naturally, what would I look like? YOURSELF -How does one enter the Amber Monolith? What did the first Amber Pope find in there?-Where or how can I learn or develop Nano-sight (the Scan Esotery), like my mother? Where is Goutro from? What is he and why is he here? Was he truly unaware of the reason for the deaths surrounding him?-What is a Trans-Galactic Cartogram? What is it used for and how do I activate it?-What does the mark on my face from the Fountain of nahiÃ“ge mean? What was the original purpose for the Fountain of nahiÃ“ge?-What can be found at the top of the Beanstalk?-What is the purpose of the Clock of Kala? It has to have been manufactured for a reason - it clearly isn't natural...Where is Goutro from? What is he and why is he here? Was he truly unaware of the reason for the deaths surrounding him?-What is a Trans-Galactic Cartogram? What is it used for and how do I activate it?-What does the mark on my face from the Fountain of nahiÃ“ge mean? What was the original purpose for the Fountain of nahiÃ“ge?-What can be found at the top of the Beanstalk?--Where can I find a source of Silver Ichor?How does one enter the Amber Monolith? What did the first Amber Pope find in there?-Where or how can I learn or develop Nano-sight (the Scan Esotery), like my mother?-What is the purpose of the Clock of Kala? It has to have been manufactured for a reason - it clearly isn't natural...Where is Goutro from? What is he and why is he here? Was he truly unaware of the reason for the deaths surrounding him?-What is a Trans-Galactic Cartogram? What is it used for and how do I activate it?-What does the mark on my face from the Fountain of nahiÃ“ge mean? What was the original purpose for the Fountain of nahiÃ“ge?-What can be found at the top of the Beanstalk?How does one enter the Amber Monolith? What did the first Amber Pope find in there?-Where or how can I learn or develop Nano-sight (the Scan Esotery), like my mother?-What is the purpose of the Clock of Kala? It has to have been manufactured for a reason - it clearly isn't natural... It becomes too much for her and she screams and...Darkness... The darkness recedes, Firanis is still in the chamber but it is different the mechanical is there, standing though not sitting. it looks brand new it shines and gleams the parts that are not covered with the white synthe glow an actinic blue. it is motionless yet she knows it is alive, aware of her. she looks around the room it is the same but different. teh broken female mechanicals are gone and the chambers is open to one side where an arch is. Beyond the arch she can see a corridor. There is no sign of Goutro. "Perhaps this will be less confusing, Firanis Phlux." She spins at the sound of the voice her hand dropping to her side to draw her bolltcaster but it isn't there. She realizes suddenly that she is naked and across from her is a man, also naked, she has never seen. Tall and thin with a bald head and strangely common features, ageless, his gaze seemingly unconcerned with her lack of clothing. "I am UL, Voice of the Collective Consciousness." He raises his hand palm up and gestures to the Mechanical, " This is the Tree of Knowledge." "Perhaps somewhat less confusing," Firanis admitted with a mutter. Being naked, wherever she was, in front of a stranger didn't unduly concern the tall, young-looking woman. Abnormally long legs or no, she had a fine figure, lean and curvaceous both, the most attractive she had ever worn, nothing to be ashamed of. Being unarmed was rather disconcerting, however. Thin as he was, UL was very tall, more than half a foot taller than she was. Her head still reeled from the barrage of answers the questions dredged from her mind had garnered. At first, they didn't seem to make much sense - though paradoxically, she believed they were undeniably true - but the more she turned them over in her mind, the more she discerned. It was almost like the entities or entities amidst the Tree of Knowledge were learning how to interact with her frame of thought with each question they pulled from her mind. Firanis couldn't deny being excited - if still wary - with the situation she found herself in. If this UL was forthcoming and the Tree of Knowledge, whatever or whoever it truly was was readily accessible, she might be able to find answers to many questions. It didn't seem that odd that UL knew her name. Though poor at dissembling, Firanis fixed an easy grin on her lips, trying to contain her excitement and anxiety. "I must say, when I was hired to find and end the deaths my... employer was being accused of, this was not what I was expecting," Firanis said, head tilted up slightly to give UL a level gaze before her eyes flicked to the Automaton. Her lips tightened in a faint frown as she pondered the answers she was given concerning the Mechanical Man. "Were Goutro's intentions disingenuous? What kind of information is contained within this Tree of Knowledge?" Firanis gestured towards the unique Mechanical Man with a slender, toned arm. "And what was... it doing in my dream or vision, when I have never seen the like until know? Was I meant to help Goutro... or stop him?" "Subject Goutro, species Heiril extinct 19.752.334.691 outside of parameters, intentions unknown. Apologies" Ul looks at the robot. "The Tree of Life was constructed during what you would refer to as the 7th world prior to its fall, to house all knowledge accumulated by the reigning intelligence's on the Primary World known as EARTH. They foresaw their demise and prepared this chamber for the Intellect. Unfortunately the intellect was damaged prior to its placement in the last chamber and due to age and the inability to repair itself it fell back onto survival sub routines. Thus instigating the unfortunate demise of several formerly extinct lifeforms." "As for it's appearance in your dream state it is likely due to your state of Discontinuity." Firanis ponders the answers given and even more questions evolve. "Ok everyone keeps saying I'm in a state of discontinuity and I really do not understand that, can you explain?" "Of course Firanis, a discontinuity is a distinct break in physical continuity or sequence in time. When we speak of such it is in reference to the Temporal continuum or time. For example Your species is extinct and has been for roughly six billion years. However when we consult the collective consciousness we find the presence of your species in multiple time frames and across the vastness of the universe, not only after the extinction of your species occurred but also prior to it's possible existence. This is an non-resolvable Discontinuity." While giving this explanation vivid 3d images of humans in various times and place appear some are fantastical some are mundane but all fascinate the tall willowy girl. "As for the Firanis Discontinuity this is not explainable. Your consciousness exist in multiple time frames as well which is not possible." Enthralled by the images of various human phenotype and the allusions to the bizarre flow of history of the human race, was still bewildered and confused by the allegation she was a living Discontinuity. She would readily admit to her physiology having been altered with a frequency that exceeded most others, often at her own instigation. And she had experienced limited forms of non-linear passages of time, including one memorable and frustrating time lost in the Violet Vale and other (or the same?) patches of reglae, which did eerily match the same violet color of her eyes, as one lover had claimed. But she had never been temporally displaced forward or backward to the extent UL was suggesting, at least as far as she knew. Nor was she aware of her consciousness existing in multiple places and time. Though, perhaps, that was not how UL meant it. With her lust to explore all the Ninth World had to offer, Firanis couldn't help but get excited at the idea of exploring the Worlds that had come before. "I do not know how you experience time, UL of the Collective Consciousness," Firanis said, her eyes bright as they flicked from the images of humans to UL and back, her heart pounding excitedly, "but I, like most, experience it in a linear fashion. I have no direct access to these Discontinuous portions of my consciousness. Can you tell me when you have detected my consciousness in relation to this point in time? And is my state of... Discontinuity as you call it inherently or potentially dangerous to me?" Firanis frowned, head tilted to the side as another question came to her. "And regarding that - you said my state of Discontinuity is why... it appeared in my dream. Is that what drew the tiny blue woman as well?" Firanis did her best to recall all the details of her dream or vision and describe the blue woman to UL, "Is there some connection between her and the Mechanical Man?" Firanis pointed toward the Mechanical Man with her pointed chin without taking her eyes off the images and UL beyond them. "As for the Tree of Knowledge, is it possible to... to change its survival instincts and protective behaviors so they are no longer lethal?" Firanis couldn't bring herself to suggest turning them off or destroying the Tree of Knowledge - one could potentially lead to others abusing what the Tree of Knowledge contained and the other would be a terrible lost to the Ninth World and the history that came before it. "The deaths are what lead me and Goutro here - they could draw others that would put the Tree of Knowledge in jeopardy." Firanis stood back on her heels, hip cocked to the side and arms folded beneath her pert, high-sitting breasts, lips forming a thoughtful moue as she considered UL and the Tree of Knowledge. How far did its information reach? It probably had more than she could know what to search for - did it have an index of some sort she could peruse as her curiosity took her? Her nipples stiffened in arousal at the thought of what she might have access to here... wherever where has. "UL, the Tree of Knowledge... does its resources extend beyond that belonging to the Seventh World? You said may consciousness exists in multiple time frames. Can the Tree of Knowledge let my visually look at my timeline? To looking into may past? There has been a question that has kept coming up lately, and I would like an answer to it - namely, who my father was, where he came from and where he had gone? I'm starting to wonder if he is the reason for my... unique Discontinuity." Planting one hand on her hip, arm akimbo, Firanis glanced around the chamber then arched a brow at UL. "And where - or is it when? - are we anyway? Where are my clothes and gear?" Remembering the varicolored lights hitting her, Firanis had a sudden suspicion of where she might be. "How do I get back there and when I go, will I be allowed to come back here?" "Yes it is impossible for one who has not attained binding with the collective consciousness to to know the fullness of the universe and words cannot convey the truth." He floats to Firanis, becoming uncomfortably close to her. "Past, future, present thing your kind create to explain the oneness of the universe. Yes your Discontinuity is dangerous it should not be, but then we sense more things of that nature thing which were not here before. that which cannot end, ends." He turns the Mechanical and the robot begins to glow. "Th robot shall be released to your keeping. we have fed it to allow it to repair its form. away form here it does not retain connection but the discontinuity is dangerous to it." He turns back to her as she continues asking questions. "Your father is not bound to the collective. There are many blue species we do not know to which you refer." Planting one hand on her hip, arm akimbo, Firanis glanced around the chamber then arched a brow at UL. "And where - or is it when? - are we anyway? Where are my clothes and gear?" Remembering the varicolored lights hitting her, Firanis had a sudden suspicion of where she might be. "How do I get back there and when I go, will I be allowed to come back here?" He grows still and ponders. "You are where you have always been Firanis. Everywhere." "Thanks for that enigmatic non-answer, UL" Firanis muttered, knowing the answer meant more than at initial glance, as she found herself back in the Chamber, the Chamber as she had first entered it. She patted herself down, finding herself clothed once more in her glossy, dark-grey synth bodysuit, and comfortably armed again with bolt-caster and machete. None of her gear seemed to be missing, though something had been added - the Mechanical Man, in a functioning state, she can here Goutro shouting behind her in front of her the Mechanical Gaines its feet and looks around at the surrounding carnage then spot s her as if for the first time. "Hello, who are you?" "Me, I'm Firanis Phlux," Firanis answered the automaton with a quirked brow. This was not what she was expecting. "And you seem to be in my charge now, so my... erm, discontinuity ends up being less of a danger to you and you don't end up killing innocent boys and girls with your survival instincts engaged. Umm, do you know who and where you are?" "Why, of course, Mistress. I'm Cyrix, the embodiment of the Tree of Knowledge," the automaton replied, which made a show of looking around the chamber with a discerning eye, then made what Firanis swore was an indifferent shrug. "I appear to be in some manner of cave carved by sentient appendages." Firanis blinked. "Yes. Right. Close enough. we're on the western side of the Black Raige Mountains. Follow me, we have a blue furball we need to talk to." Turning around, Firanis crouched and crawled through the tunnel she had made through the rubble, following the sound of Goutro's piping voice, which was making the plaque hanging on her chest beep and boop as it tried to translate the unintelligible words. Yet, somehow, Firanis was hearing Goutro's voice far more clearly some other way. It took her a moment to realize it was directly in her mind, in some telepathic connection. What happened to me? What was done to me? They sat around the fire, it was still day but the warmth was welcome. Firanis had finished her story about what had happened in the chamber after she threw Goutro out. As incredible as it sounded He believed her after all they could now share each others thoughts making communication easier and much more welcome and comfortable. Oh how he had missed sharing mind speech after so so long. Plus there was the mechanical. Sitting there not speaking unless spoken too looking at everything like a curious puppy. Goutro had wanted to shut it down expressing his worry that it might return to it original programming which would mean the extermination of all non mechanicle life on the planet. <Why do you feel that way Goutro?> <Because I know them Firanis. They are the reason I am trapped here and have been since before their world died.> <How is that possible? UL said that they were from the 7th World that must have been thousands of years ago.> <Longer Firanis, much much longer I am afraid. I shall tell you my story now and the whole truth of it.> The small being sat and stared into the fire for long moments, diligently he chose one stick not quite burned through and lifted it out of the flame, then looked up at he sky. His voice forms words and pictures in Firanis' mind as he begins his tale. <The sky, Firanis, home to myriad stars more than you can possible imagine but to you they have no meaning, they are just lights in the sky. Your people once so great are now primitive compared to what they were but you have done something no other race has ever done. You have returned from extinction. You know that your sun is a life giving ball of fire which the Ninth world orbits in space, you know that there are other planets in your Solar system which is what this is called a star and its planets. Each of those lights across the sky is either are a star or are larger systems which contains many many stars called galaxies. A galaxy is made up of billions of stars and their planets, and there are billions of galaxies spread across the cosmos. My people, the Syqui, come from there, that little blue light where I am pointing, that is my home galaxy. Or was, it is gone now destroyed in a collision with another galaxy. My planet circled a star on the very edge of a singularity that is how a species my size evolved intelligence. From the gravity time dilation. It is also how we developed a sense of understanding of the forces of gravity that eventually made us the greatest travelers among the stars of our age. My people at the height of our civilization mastered space travel. We were explorers we conquered hyperspace and even crossed the great void between Galaxies. I was one of those explorers.> <I do not think you can comprehend yet the vastness of the universe. You are astonished at my statement of age. but let me assure my biological age is not indicative of my temporal age. The distances between stars let alone galaxies is so great that even with Hyperspace those traveling between the stars must place them selves into stasis. A condition where all functioning of the biological nature is frozen. Indeed If added up i am sure that at least ninety percent of my temporal age has been spent in stasis suspension. One of the most unique things that i had discovered in my former career was the existence of your species. I have visited four galaxies and in each I had found evidence of your kind all extinct but at different times. now it is not uncommon to find species which are similar having developed in different time and different places but this was something more the evidence shown indicates that these four species were in fact all the same. This was impossible but he evidence was irrefutable. My discovery was confirmed and i was given a new more powerful starship and tasked with solving this mystery. So i set out in this faster more capable ship, a ship i was very proud of that ship it could cover the breadth of a single galaxy in year of your time, could cross the gulfs between close galaxies in just Hundreds of years. It was amazing. I found and cataloged many things but your species i could not find. What i did find was a myth. A myth of an ancient race which had built a network of some sort that would allow its ships and people to travel to all corners of the universe. I scoffed at this myth but at the same time i was intrigued. and soon i began finding bits and pieces of this network. oh it existed yes indeed but it was long destroyed. I never connected your species with and still don't. but none the less that is how i came to this Galaxy and your world. You see in a far off galaxy so distant that the light from its stars have yet to reach your sky. I met your Father.>< As i said I had become obsessed with you species we didn't even know it's name but it was everywhere remnants and runs and then one day i discovered a space station orbiting a burned out star. The station was obviously of human origin or at least its design was and it was completely intact. A find of this magnitude would seal my name forever in the halls of exploration Goutro Stellar Explorer Extreme. I landed on the station mapped and claimed it, them my sensors picked up a small energy source operating in the station. Cautiously i approached, I found a small device no more than a few hundred centimeters tall it gurgled and was full of a dark very hot liquid. Beside the machine was a cup and some packets of two different kinds of powder, one crystalline the other a fine powder both were white.. Suddenly I squealed as a being stepped out of a recessed doorway, keep in ind i had never seen a Human before, no one had. The being a man, was startled by my presence but not shocked, indeed he stepped in looked at a device he drew forth from his pocket of his vest and said. "Hi there, don't be alarmed I'm Jack, and I'm very pleased to meet you." he moved to the machine and poured himself a cup of the liquid. "I'd offer you some but I'm afraid you wouldn't like it and it might even be poisonous to you." My astonishment was to say the least overwhelming. My species is telepathic but only within our own genus, the fact that you can now converse with me assures me that you are indeed your fathers daughter. or Jack was able to converse telepathically instantly with me. We talked of nothing important really as he drank his coffee for that is what the liquid was called. he told me that he was human on of the last of his kind and that his people had built all the wondrous things we had discovered but that a great catastrophe had befallen them as it had so many others. He said he was on his way to a very important engagement and would love to stay, all the while packing up his machine. then told me that everything that i wanted to know everything i would ever be able to discover about humans would be found here on this planet in this galaxy he showed me the coordinates and said good bye. I should have gone home then, but my mind was in a whirl. Should have mounted a true expedition because of the distance. Should have done a lot of things. Instead I set my course for this distant galaxy and consigned myself to stasis until i arrived at this planet, planet Earth.>< I wish I could impress upon you the vastness of the distances I have traveled it is one thing to say and even explain but to live them to experience them that is quite another. Jack sent me on this journey when I entered stasis my people were at the height civilization with colonies and outpost spanning galaxies. When I awoke they were gone, the last transmission my ship had received had been close to twenty thousand years before I arrived here. Sigh Earth ,Terra, a host of names this planet has worn. Your learned priests call it the Ninth world today counting the greatest of its civilizations as capstones. I came here at the end of what they call the seventh world. Man was a distant memory then this was not the planet you see today but a machine world ruled over by matriarchal droids and robots. There were no humans of any sort that I ever saw indeed the machine intelligence's were very bio phobic. And saw me as a great threat. Needless to say things did not go well for me here. The up shot is I had several misadventures and ended up destroying the central intelligence while trying to escape. The machines in turn destroyed the hyper-drives on my ship causing me to crash back down upon the Seventh world. Crashing activated my ships stasis fields and once again I was frozen in time. While I slept the Seventh World collapsed and an eighth rose and fell in the course of things, then this world was born. My ship destroyed, the only surviving systems those protected by Stasis, it became part of the landscape lost deep in the beyond. Eventually the power failed and I was released from stasis. I despaired I was in the middle of a savage wasteland my world long long gone the world I had sought nothing but a memory before I had ever gotten here. I built my first cyber body from the remains of my ship and journeyed into the beyond. Can you imagine my surprise when I discovered life I mean intelligent life and they were Human. An extinct life form reborn, true it was primitive but not savage I had found what I had sought. I returned to the wreckage of my ship and built the body you discovered me in. and set out to learn as much as I could about this wondrous species. For many years I traveled and the one day I came to a settlement and I found Jack, your father. Somehow he knew it was me within the shell I wore and he treated my as along lost friend it was surreal he looked the same as the day I had met him on that station a billion light-years distant, but it was impossible. And it was real. I saw you as a child a sweet adventurous little creature. I returned to that village several time over the course of a few years. He never talked of the station never actually mentioned that he knew I was not human. And every time I approached the subject he would give that smile so endearing and get up and get more beer. The last time I saw him he gave several things he had collected knowing that I was a trader. Among those items was that hand. The next time I came to the village he was gone. Your mother greeted me kindly enough but it was clear she did not wish me to continue coming we traded that one last time and said farewell. She did not tell me what had become of jack, you were probably four maybe five then. By then traveling had become habit so I continued I have been so many places here in your Ninth world, encountered many mysteries and puzzles. Then the murders began and I found you and here we are once again.> Firanis felt the tips of her breasts tighten in arousal. It wasn't sexual, it was in yearning, want. Goutro had explored more than she could have imagined. Her father had witnessed far more, if what Goutro said was true. And in the way he had spoken to her mind-to-mind, there had been no possibility of duplicity. She felt the heat of the fire lick against her alabaster cheeks. Her father. Firanis didn't have any real memories of him, had never cared about finding out about him. But now, her mother was dead, she had no other family, and having heard about Jack, she wanted to find him, and to know him. To find out how much she was his daughter. She could communicate with Goutro the same way as Jack did, seemingly. Did she have her father's longevity as well? Was her search for eternal youth unnecessary? Did she in fact have as much time to experience as much as the worlds, the universe, had to offer as her father had? <This is... is extraordinary, Goutro, almost inconceivable.> Firanis' gold-ringed, violet eyes lingered on Goutro, then flicked around their impromptu camp outside the cave where they had found the Tree of Knowledge, her gaze resting on Cyrix for an extra moment before returning to the blue-furred mammalian. <I finally learn something of my Father, get some answers, yet more mysteries and puzzles arise. You have seen and witnessed to much, Goutro. It's all I ever wanted for my life, to see what is over the next rise, to dance among the stars. I want to hear all about your travels, Goutro. And my father... > The tall, young-looking woman's face grew resolute, her lips growing into a determined grin. <I want to hear all about Jack's life too and why he left me and my mother all those years ago. I think I'm heading back to Broley. My mother is no longer alive, but her good friend Camila Beyett might know something, something she never revealed to me.> Firanis arched a sculpted brow at Goutro, then at the Mechanical Man, Cyrix. <Do either you have anything to add on where Jack may have gone, or how to find him?> Goutro looks at you and you can see the smile on his face and completely understand the amusement behind it, then you hear his voice and that too you now understand perfectly. “The machine cannot hear our thoughts so we must use vocal speech , his memory banks should house my language and it is obvious that he understands yours. Don't be shocked at what you hear Now that your mind has been opened and we have connected you to can understand my speech. You hear my voice and your mind automatically translates it for you. Wondrous isn't it.” Firanis finds herself grinning ear to ear as Goutro continues. “I am sorry but the last time I saw your father was at your old home I did not expect him to be gone the next time I visited. He was...is a mystery. I agree we should return there if this is the mission you wish to undertake. But first I would like us to Journey to my ship there are things there that we may need and I must do what I should have done long ago. While it shall never soar the void again My ship is dangerous even in it's damaged state. If it were to be found by the wrong persons well terrible things could occur.” He pokes the ground with the the toe of his foot. "I must destroy my ship" Firanis could sense just how much the loss of his ship dispirited Goutro. She hesitated for a moment, she reached over and scratched him low on the neck between his shoulders, his blue fur velvety beneath her fingers. Goutro made a sound somewhere between a chirp and a purr. Firanis grinned."Cheer up, Goutro," Firanis said brightly as she stood up to her full, leggy height and stretched. "This day, you've shown me just how big the Ninth World is and can be. I will help end the danger posed by your ship, but fear not! If you wish to sail the Void ..."Firanis waved an arm ahead of them in an expansive gesture, encompassing all there was. "... Out there, we'll find a way for you to do so once more." Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.