A Dreamer's Knight

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Chapter 22 - The Five-Shard Tour

Mikaen was still trying to figure out why One disappeared when Tirinia and Teria appeared at the far end of the corridor.

"Oh, hello again." He said as they drew near.

Smiling shyly at him, Tirinia said. "Hello."

Teria gave him an odd look. "You okay? You looked like you were zoning out there for a sec."

"Hmm? Oh, I'm fine. I was just talking to someone."

"Who were you talking to?" Teria asked, glancing at the spot in front of Mikaen.

"I'm still not quite sure." Mikaen admitted. "I think he's trying to help me, but I get the feeling his goal may not be the same as mine."

"I see. And do you listen to what 'he' tells you to do?"

Mikaen shrugged. "I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. I suppose I trust him, but it's hard when he keeps popping in and out."

"Popping in and out?"

"He tends to disappear when other people come around."

"Oh, so no one else can see him." Teria said, crossing her arms.

Mikaen frowned at the increasingly sarcastic tone of her voice. "I suppose you could say that."

"So you listen to the advice of a man that only you can see."She glanced at Tirinia and said, "Hoo, yeah, this one's a keeper, all 's just hope the voices don't tell him to start fires or to go skin babies or something."

His cheeks flushed, Mikaen said,"Believe me, I know how this sounds, but One's really-"

"One?" Tirinia asked, clearly surprised by the name, "You don't mean Narrator Number One do you?"

"Yeah, the Dreamer." He said, surprised. "You've heard of him?"

Teria rolled her eyes and muttered, "Here we go."

Tirinia nodded enthusiastically in response to Mikaen's question. "Narrator Number One of the Elsewhere Incorporate, known most commonly by the name 'One'. He pops up throughout Vintan history more than any other Dreamer. In Longshore, seeing him is considered a good omen."

Teria sighed and rubbed her eyes. "He helped stop Calliban's Crusade, Tirinia. If I stopped a war, people would take my appearance as a good omen too. Seriously, Mikaen, if you get her started, we'll be here all week; she majored in Vintan History."

"Really?" Mikaen asked, raising an eyebrow. "Are you a teacher?"

She blushed, but seemed pleased by the question. "I'm working on my doctorate."

"Ah. Professor then." His tone was teasing, but he was rather impressed. With the fall of the standardized education system in North America, teaching had become a dying profession. "You know a lot about the Dreamers?"

Tirinia beamed. "Oh, yes! They-"

"Whoa!" Teria said, holding up her hands. "Sorry to stop you both from nerding out here, but I think there's something else we need to talk about, yeah?"

She turned to Mikaen and said, "Look, I'm gonna be honest; I'm not comfortable with , at all. You seem like an okay guy, but I think we both know that plenty of people out there seem okay."

"True enough." Mikaen said, thinking of the had, after all, started as a group to assist the survivors of the Devastation.

"Now I won't pretend I don't share mum's feelings on alcians, but the fact that you know nothing about them either is for being from Earth, well … let's just say I've got some experience on that front, and it doesn't bother me."

Rubbing the back of her head, Teria said, "I guess what I'm saying is that it's not your fault you stumbled into all this. Tirinia and I had a little talk, and since she seems willing to give you a chance, I guess I should too."

She pointed a finger at him, claw extended. "But don't think that means I'm not keeping an eye on you. You do something to hurt her, I'll skin you alive. If she decides it's over, I better not see you hanging around anymore. Got it?"

Behind her, Tirinia gave Mikaen an embarrassed smile. "I'm 's always been … protective."

"I understand." Mikaen thought back with a smile. "She's your sister, after all."

Teria's eyes narrowed. "She's apologizing for me right now, isn't she?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about." Mikaen said, fighting to keep a straight face. Tirinia stifled a giggle.

Teria glared at both of them for a few moments before letting out a polite cough. "So, now that that's out of the way, do you want a tour of the palace?"

"What?" Mikaen said, almost in sync with Tirinia.

"Well, I have to give you some time with him, don't I?" Teria threw an arm over her sister's shoulder and pulled her close. "Tyr and I have been here a dozen times over the years. Since this is your first visit, weI thought we could show you around a bit."

"So she can start grilling you for information in the process." Aloud, Tirinia said, "That is, if you aren't busy."

"Of course not," Mikaen said, giving Tirinia his best smile. "I'd be grateful. Jyle never did show me where I'd be rooming."

"Yeah, that's the Cygros all right." Teria shook her head on account of the idestan king. "Well, don't you worry; we'll find a place for you."

As they started walking, Teria asked, "So, how is it you know the Cygros anyway?"

"It's a long story."

"It usually is."

Mikaen smiled as the memories ran through his mind. "I met him in a town called Bridges back on Earth. I had taken up residence in an old food mart, and had just settled down into a routine when he shows up with a troop of Revs on his tail. Figurative tail, I mean. Anyway, I helped him send the Revs packing, after which we ended up heading west, where we met up with some other survivors and eventually formed the Knights of the Star."

"Ah." Teria nodded a few times before stopping and giving him a puzzled look. "What?"

Mikaen found himself telling them about everything as they walked through the palace; Earth, the Knights and the Revs, and the assignment that ultimately led him to Vinta. Tirinia listened intently as well; even though she had heard much of it when she and Mikaen had spoken while dreaming just after they bonded, Mikaen could tell she was still quite fascinated by it all.

When he finished, Teria let out a low whistle. "Wow.I was thinking you were a slamm player or something, but you're a genuine fighter. No wonder you could hold your own against Tirinia."

"But your world." Tirinia said, sadness accompanying her words. "It's in ruins. So many people are suffering."

"It'll get better." Mikaen said as confidently as he could manage. "The Revs will fall, and then we'll be able to start rebuilding. It won't be the same as it was, but maybe we'll be able to make something better this time."

"Good on you. Maybe one day you'll be able to give us a tour, eh?" Teria's ears twitched as the group neared a large set of double doors set in a dark wooden frame. "Ah, we're here!"

She abruptly turned and threw open the doors to reveal more books than Mikaen had ever seen. Shelves packed with books stretched from wall to wall, from floor to a ceiling so high, people were using a unique combination of elevators and conveyers to get from shelf to shelf.

"This," Teria said as she led Mikaen and her sister inside, "is the Muonsol Library."

"I can see that." Mikaen replied, a little daunted by the sheer size of the collection.

He watched as several idestan zipped along on the conveyer belts and zoomed up elevator shafts with alarming speed, grabbing books before they sped back the way they came.

"They house one of the largest collections on Vinta, second only to the Arcadia Repository in Wenapaj." Tirinia told him as she led him to a console installed on the side of a large bookcase. "Do you read, Mikaen?"

"As much as anyone, I guess." He replied, still staring around at all the books. "Misakren's library is nothing like this, though."

Looking him over, Teria smirked. "I'm guessing fantasy's your genre, Mister Knight."

Without waiting for a response, she told the panel, "Pick out a fantasy book for my friend please."

The moment she said this, a robotic hand shot from the side of the panel and flew across the bookshelves. It grabbed a brown leather-bound from a shelf about four stories above them before returning to the panel.

Teria tossed the book to Mikaen. "Impressive, huh? They say Jyle was responsible for getting the technology put in here."

Mikaen read the title of the book aloud, "'Galen's Fables; a collection of stories and myths.' Sounds interesting."

"Yeah, well make sure you bring it back. You wouldn't believe the late charges here."

Another hand slowed to a halt at the console Tirinia was using, this one bearing an old leather-bound book with no title, just a symbol Mikaen recognized as the one on the back of One's right hand.

"And here we go again." Teria muttered.

"'Anti-ka Maru', by Mannon Kokri." Tirinia explained as she handed him the book. "If you want to learn more about Dreamers, Kokri's your best bet."

"Thank you." Mikaen took the book and flipped through a few pages. "I tried doing some research back in Homestead, but every source seemed to contradict each other."

"The Veil of Secrecy." Tirinia said mysteriously. "Apparently, Dreamers keep a tight lid information about themselves. I've spoken to a few scholars who've tried to write about them in the past; apparently, they'll get ready to release a volume or a report only to lose their notes or find that their memory is suddenly hazy. Sometimes there are accidents along the road to publication that see the book lost or altered. My favorite was the one where the manuscript ended up in a fiction publisher's office, only to get massively edited and released as a fantasy novel."

Mikaen stared at the book as he listened to her speak about the various accidents that seemed to befall those who would shed light on the Elsewhere Incorporate. While One seemed to be a good enough fellow, he also seemed to enjoy his mysteriousness.

"I bet a lot of those writers have vague memories about a guy in a green-and-gray striped shirt." Mikaen said with a grin.

Teria's head jerked around instantly, startling Mikaen. The look in her eyes was one of total and complete shock.

"Green-and-gray shirt? That's what One was wearing?"

"Every time I've seen him." Mikaen told her, flashing a curious look at Tirinia, who shrugged.

"Describe the rest of him." Teria said, her tone demanding.

"Teria?" Tirinia asked.

Teria held up a hand. "Just do it, okay?"

Taking a deep breath, Mikaen said, "Strong with a bit of extra weight, slight tan, brown hair kept in a ponytail, strong build. I think he had a spiral scar on his right cheek." Thinking back to his last encounter with the Dreamer, Mikaen added, "He was wearing a necklace too: a silver ring on a steel chain."

Without a word, Teria immediately started toward the nearest door.

"Hey!" Tirinia said, grabbing her sister's arm. "What happened to keeping an eye on us?"

"What?Oh, right … well, you can show him to his room, right?" Teria pulled away and promptly left the library.

His concern merging with Tirinia's, Mikaen said, "What was that about?"

"I don't know." She said, shaking her head as her sister disappeared through the door. "She usually hates it when I talk about the Elsewhere."

It was all rather mysterious to Mikaen, but he had the feeling that it was likely to remain that way until either One or Teria decided otherwise.

"Well, I suppose we'll have to continue the tour without her." Mikaen glanced at Tirinia. "I mean, if you're comfortable going on without our escort."

"We'll manage." She said, slipping her hand into his.

The next stop on the tour was the palace stables. As they walked inside, Tirinia told Mikaen, "The stables are connected to the forest floor by both elevator and teleporter. The keepers like to let the larger animals walk out in the open from time to time, though a few of them simply show up for food every now and then."

At about that moment, what appeared to be a calico cat hopped up onto a nearby shelf. At first, Mikaen thought it merely fat; as it sat up, however, it lifted large fur-covered wings to reveal a lithe feline form.

Much to Mikaen's astonishment, it asked, "Hello there! Can I help you with something?"

Kneeling, Tirinia said, "Hello, Trabia. I'm giving Mikaen a tour of the palace."

The cat hopped up to a nearby shelf and gave Mikaen a cursory examination.

Mikaen stared back. He had seen stranger things, but for some reason, the idea of a talking cat floored him. After a few moments, he managed to say, "Nice to meet you, Miss Trabia."

The cat giggled. "Just call me Trabia. Let me know if you need anything, okay?"

"Sure thing." As Trabia sauntered off, Mikaen asked, "She's the keeper?"

"Her pride." Tirinia corrected. "They've lived in the palace for generations. We've a few prides in Longshore, though I believe most live in either Ronisgald or the Cleftan Region."

With Trabia gone, Mikaen turned his attention to the rest of the stable. Although he recognized a few of the creatures in the stables as they walked by, most were new to him: winged bunnies so small that two could sit side by side in Mikaen's hand, lizards that were able to change into any color (several were perched on a colorful magazine that someone had abandoned), a corral of large bird-like creatures that looked sturdy enough to ride, and even a small docile durien that was currently dozing in a dark corner of the stable.

As Tirinia led him through a corral of horses, they passed a stable of what Mikaen was surprised to recognize as pegasi. At their approach, a colt still too young to have grown wings cantered up to Mikaen looking for some attention.

Mikaen ran his fingers through the colt's silky mane. "Everyday I'm on this world, I see more and more that amazes me."

Tirinia looked at him, surprise in her eyes. "You've never seen a pegasus?"

"They're just a myth back home, even after the Devastation." He patted the pegasus colt's head and fed it a carrot from a nearby bucket.

As the pegasus chomped eagerly on the snack, Tirinia said softly, "You like animals."

"I've got a small kitten back home named Kyren. She's all black except for a small spot of white on her chest." A sudden worry ran through Mikaen's mind. "I hope someone's feeding her."

Tirinia rubbed his arm reassuringly. "I'm sure your friends will take care of her. Any other pets?"

"Not really. Well, unless you count the frog that lives in the pond outside my bunker. We call him Mr. Frogé. He seems to like hitching rides on Kyren. She doesn't seem to mind, unless he's dripping wet."

Leaning against the stable wall beside Mikaen, Tirinia said, "My parents told me a faerie tale about a Mr. Frogé and a Mr. Moore when I was a little girl."

"Really? Tell me."

Tirinia blushed saying, "It's just a silly story."

Mikaen insisted, "Please tell me. I'd like to hear it."

Smiling, she said, "Mr. Moore and Mr. Frogé are given a map and a key. On the way, they use their talents to escape from trolls, cross a huge ravine, and fool a sleeping dragon. They reach their goal only to find that it wasn't what it appeared. Realizing that what they wanted was behind them, they returned to a Faerie city they had encountered on the way, and married the two Faerie Princesses who had helped them."

Smiling, Mikaen added softly, "And they lived happily ever after."

Tirinia gave him a questioning look.

Mikaen shook his head, "Fairy tales back home always ended with 'and they lived happily ever after'. It sounds like Mr. Frogé and Mr. Moore had a happy ending too."

Tirinia smiled at him. "That makes you happy."

Blushing, Mikaen replied, "I love a story with a happy ending."

"Me too."

After a few moments of tense silence, she sighed and ran her hand nervously through her hair. "I'm sorry. I was so eager to find someone to bond with, and now I can't help but feel … nervous. I'm just-"

"It's okay." Mikaen assured her, "Believe me, I feel the same way."

She smiled at him. "I know, but what do we do now?"

The pegasus nudged his hands, sniffing around for more food.

Pulling another carrot from the feed bag, Mikaen said, "I'm not really sure myself. What actually happened the other night with us?"

"You don't … oh, of course you wouldn't know. Well, I don't know the exact reason, but …" She blushed again, continuing, "When women of my tribe reach a certain age, we occasionally enter a … um … a mating phase. We call it the thrall."

"Oh." Mikaen felt a faint heat grow in his own cheeks.

"The process is triggered," she said, growing redder by the second, "when a mutual feeling of attraction exists between a tigreth woman and a potential mate. The attack was a test to make sure you were strong enough to … um …"

Her whole face crimson, she finished, "To be the father of my children."

"Oh."A moment of awkward silence passed."And when we kissed?"

"We bonded. Our souls touched briefly so that we could become closer, creating a telepathic link. It makes it easier for us to get to know each other, and decide if we want to be together." She smiled timidly. "I'm sorry if I went too far the other night.I was warned that the bond could be a little overwhelming right after it's formed, but I had no idea how strong it would be."

"No kidding." Mikaen said "So it wasn't just me then?"

He meant that in a playful, teasing way, which is why he was taken aback when her shame filled his thoughts.

"Hey." He said,rubbing her cheek. "What's wrong?"

She said, "It wasn't an accident."

"I don't understand." Mikaen said.

"I didn't take my anti-thrall medication."

After a few moments of silence, Mikaen said, "Okay, still not understanding."

She fished out a bottle of pills and handed it to him. "I could tell I was about to enter the thrall; it's pretty much every other month since I was eighteen. Normally, I'd have a First to bond with, but-"

"I'm sorry," Mikaen said, raising a hand, "but what is a First?"

"Oh!Sorry. A First is typically a close friend, someone who I would already care for and want to form a bond with. He or she would be the first to fight me, and in most cases, would be the person I'd actually bond with … if I had a First, that is, but I've never found someone like that back home."

She let out a sigh. "It just seemed so easy for everyone else, yet here I am, twenty-three years old without a First, without anyone."

"What about Teria?" Mikaen asked. "She's still single, right?"

"Yeah, but that's … 's got guys hanging on her every word back home; she just chooses not to give them the time of friends are all married, or at least engaged, and I … I wanted that. I wanted that connection with someone, so I didn't take my thrall medication."

"Which is where I came in." Mikaen said.

She gave him an apologetic smile. "I didn't expect to run into anyone so far from Muonsol, not out in the woods, and yet, there you were. Your body was strong, the body of a fighter, and yet when our eyes met, I felt the surge of love and affection you felt for … for her. Then I felt when you realized that I couldn't be her because ..."

After a few moments, Mikaen finished, "Because Maria's dead."

She nodded, her face solemn. "I didn't just hit my thrall, I was enveloped by it. In that moment, I wanted you.I wanted to comfort you, to hold you close, to bring back those feelings, to you to feel them for me."

Tirinia lowered her gaze. "And that's why I'm sorry. I feel like I violated you … violated your memories of Maria. If you wanted to walk away now, I wouldn't blame you."

"I think I understand." Mikaen said.


Her eyes widened as he leaned forward and kissed her gently on the lips.

Rubbing her cheek, he said, "You said you were glad it was me earlier … and you know what?No matter how this turns out, whether we end up married, friends, hating each other or some variation of all three, I'm glad it was me too. Truth be told, I miss that feeling too."

She stared at him for a long moment before slipping her arms around him and giving him a grateful hug. "Thank you, Mikaen. I just hope Mom and Dad are just as understanding."

"If it helps, we could always tell them it was a Dreamer's fault." Mikaen suggested.

Tirinia giggled at this. "They'd believe it too. Dreamers have a reputation … and at least neither of us are injured. The way mom tells it, dad wore a cast and a sling for months after they bonded."

Nodding, Mikaen said, "And hey,at least in the forest, we were able to get the fight out of the way with a minimum of fuss. Would've been a bit more difficult to explain if we started fighting in the middle of the Council."

Tirinia let out another giggle. "Or in the library. By the Creator, could you imagine how Teria would've reacted?"

Mikaen laughed at that, though his laughter fell into an uneasy silence. "I'm a little worried about Teria, actually."

Tirinia took his hand again and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "She's been on edge lately; apparently, someone snuck into our tent the night we met. She won't tell me who it was, but by the Creator, I've never seen her more shaken."

"I can understand that. Hell, I get why she was less than happy with me; you're her little sister, and she wants to protect you. I just … I can tell how important she is to you." Taking her hands in his, he said, "And if it does work between us, I'd like to think that I wouldn't be pushing you two ap- hey!"

The colt shoved through their hands and whinnied loudly, likely hoping for more petting and treats.

Tirinia and Mikaen looked at it, then at each other before bursting into laughter. Mikaen didn't know why it was so funny, or even if it was his own amusement anymore, but the surge of relief that passed through him felt like a warm wind blowing through his soul.

As full grown pegasus came over and shooed away the colt (giving Mikaen a surprisingly apologetic look), Mikaen let out a yawn.

Tirinia's concern filled him with a comforting warmth. She put her hand on his arm and said, "You're exhausted. I'll show you to your room."

As they turned to leave, they found themselves being watched by seven feline faces. Almost immediately, the yulias disbanded and wandered away in various directions as though they had mildly important appointments elsewhere.

"Why do I get the feeling that everyone in the palace is going to know we're bonded by tomorrow morning?" Mikaen said.

Tirinia laughed and slipped her arm around Mikaen's. " 'em talk."

They left the stables, arm-in-arm. Once again walking through the hallways of the palace, Tirinia asked, "By the way, what is the symbol on your sleeve?"

Mikaen glanced at the crest engraved on his right shoulder plate depicting an image of earth with a small five-pointed star in the center. "This is the insignia of the Rangers Collective. After the Devastation, many of the peacekeeping organizations in the former United States joined together to form the group to help the survivors of the Devastation."

"Were you a member of the Rangers Collective?" Tirinia asked curiously.

Mikaen shook his head. "The Ranger's Collective was destroyed by the Revs before I woke up in Bridges. Some of the members survived and joined up with the Knights of the Star, though."

Pointing to a small symbol that had been scratched above the main insignia, Mikaen added, "That's where I got this; it's the symbol of a Ranger known as Crash."

Running her fingers gently across the strange symbol, Tirinia repeated, "Crash."

Mikaen nodded. "Crash the Builder, leader of team C-32. He and his team were arguably the most famous of the Rangers. Many of the survivors claimed that Crash held off an entire troop of Revs by himself to buy time for C-32 and the rest of the Rangers to escape."

"I investigated the area," Mikaen continued as they walked into an elevator, "And although there was definitely one hell of a fight there, there's no way to prove that it was actually Crash or C-32. Still, the survivors maintain that he was there."

Tirinia tapped a button on the control panel. "Did he survive?"

"No one has seen him since that time. His body was never found, but given the nature of the damage at the site of the battle, I don't see how he could have lived through it." Mikaen sighed. "A shame, really. I always wanted to meet him."

Seeing Tirinia watching him closely, he added, "Even if his last battle was just a story, people honestly think that he really could have held off over a thousand troops by himself. He must have really been something to have people believe in him that much."

They stepped out of the elevator into a large chamber similar to that of the vuestan tower. The only difference was that instead of a tree in the center of the room, there was a circular ring of consoles surrounding a moving metal sculpture that strongly reminded Mikaen of perpetual motion toys he had seen back on Earth.

"Well, we're here."Tirinia said, turning to face him. They stared at each other for a few moments, their shared awkwardness making the air uncomfortable.

"I'll see you tomorrow?" Mikaen asked when it became clear Tirinia was not currently capable of breaking the silence … at least, not first.

Blushing, she nodded. " !Yes!We'll meet up tomorrow. I mean, if you want to.I know you're probably busy, but-"

Seeing her nervously continuing to speak as she twisted her hands and grew redder by the moment was too adorable for Mikaen. He leaned forward and give her a kiss on the cheek.

"I'll see you tomorrow, yeah?" He asked, squeezing her hand.

"Y-yeah." She said, smiling through her obvious walked to the elevator, happiness radiating from her like warm sunshine. Her cheeks still red, she gave him a final wave before the lift doors shut and carried her away.

The lingering happiness of her thoughts kept a smile on his face as he picked a one of the Galden rooms. The room he chose was more like his quarters back at the Knight's Headquarters in Misakren than his room in Homestead; painted walls, carpeted floors, a nice bed with a sturdy wooden frame. The only difference was the computer console, identical to the computers around the sculpture in the main room.

He dumped his weapons on the table and had just started to remove his armor plating when he heard the springs on his bed begin to creak at regular intervals.

Mikaen sighed. "I had a feeling you'd show up again."

Sure enough, One was in Mikaen's room. He looked to be around ten years old, and was currently occupied with jumping up and down on the bed.

"Hey Mikaen. Enjoying Muonsol?"

"Yeah," He replied, thinking of Tirinia.

A grin crossed One's face. Hopping off the bed, he said, "Wanna see something cool?"

Without waiting for a response, One walked across the room and opened a door on the far outside, Mikaen following shortly after.

The door opened up to a fairly large balcony, shared all of the Galden rooms. From his vantage point, Mikaen could see the six other balconies (one for each set of council representatives) circling around the great tree.

Far below, Mikaen could see the Royal Garden. The carefully arranged plants and flowers looked impressive, but it was the large tree in the center of the courtyard that most caught his eye. While the tree's size was impressive, it was the tree's crystalline bark that made it stand out.

He watched transfixed as a stray beam of light made it through the dense canopy of jewel-like leaves, making hundreds of facets glitter across the massive tree's trunk. Thick mevos vines clung to the sides of the crystal tree, flowers glowing faintly in anticipation of the coming night.

One leaned against the edge of the balcony and said, "Beautiful, ain't it? Royal family lives in there."

Glancing at the moon-shaped leaves on a nearby branch, Mikaen asked, "This is a chronoan tree?"

One nodded. "It's pretty rare, but really old chronoan trees sometimes drop crystalline nuts. The idestan usually use them for jewelry, seeing as most of the time the nuts won't grow."

"I sense a Dreamer's hand." said Mikaen with a knowing grin.

One laughed. "Yeah, Teach helped the seed sprout. Even he was surprised at how beautiful it turned out."

After admiring the view for a few moments longer, Mikaen asked, "You said you were in the Ranger's Collective. Did you know Crash?"

"Crash the Builder? Yeah, he was the leader of my unit."

Mikaen's eyes went wide. "You were part of C-32?"

"More like a junior member, to be honest." One put his hands behind his head and stared up at the sky. "Raven, Monkey, Squeak, and Crash. And me, I suppose; I was Crash's assistant. I did get to help him with some of his more famous inventions.

"Like what?" Mikaen asked curiously.

"Well, he designed the first Universal Builder's Tools. UBTs we called them." Headache appeared on his arms in an instant, looking to Mikaen like two heavy metal gauntlets attacked by a mad technician. "They incorporate a lot of nifty gadgets; fusion welder, rivet driver, strength booster. Useful stuff for building or for crushing a few heads. He also made the first prototype tek-boots with the Off-The-Wall system."

"Off-The-Wall system?" Mikaen asked curiously.

"There was a mini-gravity device imbedded in the boots that slowed descent around the wearer. If you controlled your fall, you could literally bounce off any surface. Neat, huh? Then there were these massive armored mechs; we called 'em dreadnaughts."

"That sounds a little intimidating." Mikaen said, raising an eyebrow.

"Intimidating? Dude, a dreadnaught could bring down a fully grown behemoth. They weren't always used for war, though; most were designed to help with the construction of the Star Ocean Space Station."

Mikaen's eyes went wide. "Space station!? Wait, Crash designed a space station?"

"Yeah, the Rangers were big into space exploration back then. Figured if Earth couldn't be salvaged, it might be best to find new horizons. If the Revs hadn't scattered the Collective, he'd probably be making full-fledged spaceships by now."

"Whatever happened to the Star Ocean?" Mikaen asked. If it still existed, and the Knights could manage to get access, it could give them a clear advantage against the Revs.

"Oh, it's still up there, I'll bet. It was fully manned when the Rangers fell, and it was designed to be self-sustaining, so there wouldn't be any need to connect to the surface. We only got there via dreadnaught or teleporter, and if the Revs had access to the dreadnaughts, the Knights would have noticed."

"And the teleporters?"

"I went back to the site of the Ranger's HQ. Believe me, there wasn't much left."

They watched a small group of children playing tag in the garden below the great tree.

Looking back at One, Mikaen asked, "Can I ask you something else?"

"Knock yourself out."

"Did you ever think of using your abilities to stop the Revs?"

"Obliterate them you mean." said One, a knowing grin on his face, "Can't say the thought hasn't crossed my mind, but it's not like I can just point a finger and make them explode.

"Veil of Secrecy, huh?"

One gave him a curious look. "Yeah, actually. Still, I wouldn't do it even if I could get away with it. Who would want that much death on their hands anyway?"

"I suppose you're right." Mikaen admitted, "Still, the Knights will probably have to kill a lot of them before they submit."

"Yeah. It's sad, but there isn't much of a choice, is there?" After another long pause, One let out a sigh and turned from the railing. "Well, I'd better be on my way. Take it easy, dude."

"Wait a sec!" Mikaen sighed again when he realized that One was already gone. Again.

Shaking his head, he turned back to the balcony. "See you later, One."

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