The Grand Larceny For Life
Two figures, clad in black form fitting outfits that covered them from head to toe, stood before a waterfall, their hands wrapped around the straps of their backpacks. It was obvious that one of the two was a man, while the other person, significantly smaller built, was clearly a girl. They wore black cloth gloves and goggles that hid their eyes. Other than their genders, there was little else one could glean of their identities. The waterfall fell into a gorge below, though the darkness in the cave prevented them from being able to glean the precise depths of the drop. However, they were not interested in scaling the waterfall.
As one, they leapt forward, straight through, and landed safely on a ledge behind the cascading curtain of water. They glanced at each other, and one could almost imagine that they were smiling. Behind the waterfall, it appeared to be a small room within the cave, with smooth walls and edges, and the end of the cave ended in a rounded wall. In the center of the cave appeared to be the source of a strange light, despite that it was just a dark swollen rock outgrowth between a stalactite and stalagmite that met each other. The two people didn't need lights or illumination, as the mysterious light illuminated the entire natural room, and the walls reflected the light, but where exactly the light was coming from was impossible to tell.
The girl tilted her head as she studied the spherical swell that formed between the stalagmite and stalactite. The rock appeared porous, and dark. It was the only part of the cave that was not illuminated by an implacable ethereal light. And yet, the two people were certain it was indeed the source of the light, as the man reached behind him and drew out a sharp pickaxe, and began picking at the stalactite just above the swollen porous rock. The rock and ice formations gave way easily to the metal, and it seemed that in mere moments, more revelations were due.
She removed her mask and goggles with one hand, revealing a young girl, possibly in her late teens to a very young adult. Her dark hair was straight, and kept fairly short, but long enough she could tie it in a small braid behind her. She had a rounded face, brown eyes that were large and round, a cute small nose and full lips. Right then, her expression was one of utter curiousity as her companion continued to work on the swollen rock itself. The porous rock was incredibly soft and frail, so the man very carefully tapped on the rock with his pickaxe, not wanting to do any damage to the treasure that obviously lay within.
The first hints of the invaluable object began to show itself as more and more of the dark shale fell away at the man's tireless and careful work. It was pyramid-like in shape, though that only appeared to be a part of the entirety of the object, and it was glowing in a supernaturally cascading iridescent light of dark blue and white, and then a myriad of other colours. More than half of the swollen rock now lay on the ground, in bits and pieces, and the girl could see that it was a very beautiful prismatic cylindrical crystal, alive with light that moved like iridescent clouds of many colours. The mesmerizing effect was potent.
"Well, it sure is pretty, like you said." The girl piped up, "But what does it do again, besides shine?
The man finally removed his mask, revealing a man in his mid-twenties. His hair was of the same colour as the girl's, as well as straight, and neatly combed in a center-parting sytle. His face was slightly chiseled, but almost round, with brown, slightly almond-shaped eyes, a long nose and thin lips. He'd finished clearing away enough of the shale and carefully removed the crystal from its natural container. It was the obvious source of the light in the cave, as his hands blocked the light in certain angles. He unslung his bag and removed a spherical container from within while holding on to the crystal very carefully.
"No one really knows, yet, Katie." He said, identifying his companion by name. "The scientists never really got a chance to study the full extent of the crystal before the war began."
"Oh." Katie said, "Hold it. People are fighting a war over a crystal that no one knows for sure what it can do?!"
The man arched an eyebrow as if surprised that Katie would be shocked over the sheer stupidity of some things that people would fight over.
"It'd make sense if they knew that it could do something!" She whisper-yelled, though why she had to when muffled explosions and gunfire could be heard nearby was a mystery, "Like maybe it cures all wounds and diseases, or grows crops spontaneously, or maybe it works like a laser beam or something. But when nobody knows?!"
"Hhh," the man let out a loud breath, "It's cold, and that's through insulated gloves. Anyways, people have fought over all kinds of things throughout history. And sometimes, they just want an excuse to go to war. The two armies outside hammering at each other for this cave and its treasure prove the latter point."
"Yeah, sure." Katie said, "But I still think it's so stupid. All they know is it's beautiful. But hey, diamonds are beautiful too."
He looked at the girl and grinned as he packed the crystal carefully into the transparent sphere-shaped container. "You said it yourself. Beauty has caused more wars than I care to remember." He closed the container top, reslung his bag and stood up, carrying the sphere with the shining crystal inside in his hand.
He leaned over to Katie and added to his statement, "Just ask Helen of Troy. Come on, sis."
Katie's head followed her brother as he walked back to the natural curtain of the waterfall and muttered as she followed in his wake, "I would ask, but she's kinda dead."
After leaping through the waterfall and walking the short distance of the cave to the entrance, the siblings squinted for a while to reaccustom their eyes to the bright sunlight. Out in the open, the sound of battle was clearer now, and when the two of them stepped out onto a ledge just a few meters ahead of the cave mouth, which was at an elevated height, the two could see just how devastating the battle was. There was chaos on the field, with soldiers, tanks and vehicles of war on both sides, some still functioning, and many dead. The desert-like terrain appeared to have a distinctive red tint, from the blood of the fallen.
Looking at each other, the siblings nodded, and the man lifted up the sphere, until it was above his head. Catching the sunlight, the crystal began to shine like the sun. The sheer radiance forced the man to squint again, and hold the the sphere up as high as possible so that the light didn't blind him. The brightness, of a second sun eventually caught the attention of the combatants from so far away, and they could see tank cannons from both sides turning to look at them. The sounds of battle began to die away.
"Topher?" Katie said in a slightly shaky voice.
"So...uh...what happens next? You didn't quite tell me."
"Oh right, sorry about that. Slipped my mind. Well, when you see flashes of light coming from them, run the other way like crazy."
"Which side?" Katie looked out at the armies of tanks and soldiers all staring at them.
"Both." Topher answered flatly. "We kinda just stole the one thing everyone's fighting over. You think they're gonna wait to ask? One side thinks the other stole it."
Katie blanched, "Oh my gosh...now I remember why no one likes to accompany you on your missions! You're a maniac!"
Topher grinned at her and pulled his mask back on along with the goggles, "We're family. You don't have a choice but to follow me."
The flashes of light started appearing from both sides. Soldiers and tanks and other vehicles were all firing at the ledge now. All they saw were flashes of light, but the sounds had yet to catch up to them.
"Let's go!" Topher shouted. They weren't waiting until they could hear the sounds of weapons fire, because by then it'd be too late to run, and they'd be dead. Stuffing the crystal into his bag even as he descended along a small path leading down and away from the cave, Topher made sure that Katie was in front of him, and the two siblings spared a moment to glance at a very fat man dressed exactly like them passing them by. The only difference was that he was heading for the ledge, taking off his mask as he watched the two of them escaping.
Not one to question random weirdness, Topher and Katie made good on their escape while the fat man, now without his mask, made it to the ledge in time to take an uncountable amount of bullets to his body. The sounds of the weapons fire reached them at last, and neither of them looked behind as they raced through the clear forest. There was no undergrowth, so their flight was relatively unhindered.
They didn't stop running as they entered the virtually abandoned city. Due to its proximity to the battle, all civilians had been evacuated beforehand, so the sounds of their footsteps as their protective boots stomped down each time produced eerie echoes around the structures. The lack of noise also alerted them to the sound of pursuit as the sound of running vehicles and other hurried footsteps could only belong to none other than soldiers from both armies, now out for a common target.
They stopped between two buildings where the sunlight could not reach them, and there was a manhole on the road close by. Having run for so long, they were quite tired and out of breath, panting and propping themselves up by holding their knees with their hands.
"Think...we...lost them?" Katie gasped out.
"Doubt it...hear that?...tank...big tank..." Topher replied just as breathlessly.
Katie slowly straightened up. "Well, we can't keep running through the city, they'll catch us."
"Not to worry, sis, I've got a way out to sea and a boat away from this country, and home sweet home." Topher winked and grinned.
"Oh good! Let's go."
Topher marched over, followed closely by a scampering Katie, and she nearly crashed into him when he halted and stooped down at the manhole and lifted the rusty cover. "Voila!"
Katie saw greenish fumes rising from the hole, wrinkled her nose and scowled at her brother. "Now I remember the other reason why I hate travelling with you: You always have to pick the stinkiest escape routes!"
Topher heard the sound of a tank rumbling nearby. Too nearby. "Get in already! We have to get going yesterday!"
"Urgh!" Katie leaned her head into the manhole to have a quick look, hoping to find a relatively clean place to jump to.
She was bent so much her rump was presented up to her brother, who, in a desperate haste, raised his booted foot up to lightly tap his sister in the rear. Shocked by the contact more than anything else, Katie abruptly fell forward and into the sewer.
Greenish goop flew upwards, and Topher was barely in time to lower the manhole cover in front of him to block the backwash. Since she fell in face first, Katie was unable to scream bloody murder at her brother. Furthermore, since she did not put her mask back on like he did, Katie fell into the sewer with an uncovered face, and who knew just what was in that sewage? Topher could already imagine the thousand-and-one ways that Katie was thinking of how to disembowel him.
The rumble of the tank's tracks sounded like it was just about to round the corner where he was, so without any further delay, Topher lifted the manhole above his head and leapt into the sewer, dropping the cover right back in place as he vanished.
The rest of the trip back was fairly uneventful, and the two siblings were soon home (with Katie staying in the shower for several days, all the while plotting Topher's demise). They lived in a mansion, and Katie was studying the Collections Room, where curiousities from all over the world could be found. On Topher's desk was a strange metallic platform about the size of a man's palm, and floating three inches off from it was a spherical lump of clay. In the corner, a tall plant with a green stem and a large blue flower moved about lazily, swaying in a non-existent breeze. Topher entered the room, and the head of the flower followed the man's movements as he marched towards a small shelf where other strange curiousities sat, including a slightly broken chalice that sat on a tiny pedestal with the words "Holy Grail" inscibed on the plaque.
Topher was dressed in a brown leather jacket, white shirt and dark pants, an attire that his sister matched. Apparently, they liked to wear explorer's outfits indoors.
"Well, and another mission accomplished." He declared as he carried the crystal sans container and placed it into a vertical support stand that held the crystal upright on the shelf.
"I can't believe everyone was fighting for it so hard when they didn't even know if it'd be worth it." Katie said.
"Like I said, sis, people have fought for dumber reasons, and sometimes, they just want to fight, and will use any excuse." Topher brushed his hands off and planted them on his hips to admire the latest collection. "But you know, the crystal has done something now."
Topher turned to look at Katie, "Well, think about the last few days and all the news that's been pouring in. Two nations that have been enemies for years, are suddenly now united under a common cause. That fat guy that we saw while running away, he was found to be a member of the royal family of another country that's been rife with infighting. Former two said nations assume this third country has stolen their precious mystery crystal, and is bearing down on them, forcing the third country to put aside their infighting to deal with the threat of two now-allied nations. However, this third nation has some very formidable automated defenses and high walls almost a hundred meters thick. They'll be like an unstoppable force against an immovable object. It's as bad as a war, but the losses of life has now reduced to a minimal to none."
He turned to look at the crystal, "When you think of all that, you suddenly realize, this crystal did all that."
Katie looked thoughtful, and then nodded her head slowly. "Well, I guess...yeah. Though I still wish there was more information about what it can do."
Topher stroked his chin thoughtfully, "Well, one of the rumors has it that it has healing properties."
He shrugged and started walking away, while Katie reached out to touch the tip of the crystal. The tip was much sharper than the girl realized and when she applied just a little pressure to the sharp point, it pricked her skin, causing her finger to start bleeding quickly, "OUCH!"
Topher turned around and saw Katie sticking her finger into her mouth first, and then remembering that the crystal is ice cold, stuck her finger to the flat side of it and soon had a relieved look on her face. However, when she lifted her finger from the crystal, there was no more blood on her finger, and neither was there any hint of a cut ever being there. She looked at her hand, and then the crystal, and then her hand, and then the crystal, and then her brother, who just shrugged and grinned.
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