~ Chapter 8 ~
Aiden woke with a silent scream, saturated in sweat and shaking. He had dreamed everyone was shunning him. No one would talk to him and everyone backed away and pretended not to see or hear him. When he grabbed Cosmo by the arm to demand an explanation, Cosmo burst into flames and was reduced to a pile of smouldering ashes on the floor. Amber and Sarah-Jane backed away from him screaming as he held up his brilliant white hands, still clasping balls of fire.
Cosmo lay sleeping, oblivious to Aiden’s nightmare. Still shaken, Aiden showered and apprehensively went back to bed. He woke a couple of hours later from the all too familiar dream of his parents calling him. He couldn’t see them or speak, and he fell endlessly into blackness until he could see, hear and smell nothing.
He sat alone in the viewer room wondering what was wrong with him. He didn’t dare look out the viewer in case he felt the presence from the stars again. Instead, he went rummaging through his bag, searching for one of his Football Fever magazines. In the side pocket he came across the package Aunt Del had given him as he entered the pod. Inside was an assortment of photographs of his parents. Among the photographs was a striking oval pendant. Aiden turned it over in his hands, gazing in awe at the smooth purple rock that hung from a long black twine. Cloudy swirls in the rock were moving. It felt alive. As Aiden put it on, he noticed a note fall to the ground.
This pendant was your father’s. It was one of his most treasured possessions. In his will he asked that if anything should ever happen to him, you should be given this pendant when you are to face the world alone.
Lots of Love
The hypnotic swirling clouds were mesmerising. It was like nothing he had ever seen. He clasped the pendant tightly. He no longer felt alone and he did not want this feeling to go.
In an instant Surge was before him wearing the same stripy clothes, blue shorts and slippers. Surge already felt like a lifelong friend. He understood Aiden. Aiden had never confided in anyone before. He preferred to work things out himself. With Surge it was different; he could tell him anything. They talked about cosmic truths and karma. Surge was very interested in the Sleeper prophecy and to Aiden’s surprise asked him if he accepted it as a truth.
“Well... yes, it’s a prophecy.”
“A great evil?” said Surge. “There is no such thing! What is coming may not suit everyone, but who determines what is good and evil? This change may, in the long term, be just what is needed. Prophecies predict cosmic changes, and for many they can be disastrous as they change the balance of power. Nothing lasts forever, nor should it.”
“But Surge, the Horde is evil; they’re attacking Alliance ships!”
“Do you know why?”
“Ah... no,” said Aiden feebly.
“They could be furthering their own thirst for power,” said Surge. “They could also be reclaiming what used to be theirs. Perhaps they could be retaliating for past wrongs. Or, are they seeking food to ensure the survival of their species? There are too many unanswered questions. You should not assume they are evil. They may think the Alliance is evil.”
It worried Aiden that he had not questioned this before.
Kydra’s training was relentless. It seemed to drag on longer than usual. Aiden wanted to move onto second sight and premonition, and then hopefully healing. To his dismay, they had another short session on illusions, in which he again stood out as the only one unable to produce anything.
It was the light relief provided by Cosmo’s constant attempts to fool him and the girls with illusions that maintained Aiden’s spirits. Despite Doctor Peasley’s reprimands, Cosmo, self-proclaimed master of illusion, managed to slip in a number when she wasn’t watching. He even made her smile during a brief lull in the training when he created an illusion of himself lying on a sandy beach sipping on a cool drink.
Cosmo visibly swelled with pride when Sarah-Jane had begrudgingly admitted he had a real talent for illusions.
With illusions finished, Kydra explained premonitions. “When it comes to seeing the future, you cannot control what you see or how far in the future you see. What is seen is determined by who is doing the viewing and what forces are around at that time. To help you see another’s future you must empty your mind, touch the other being and project your emptiness to the being whose future you wish to see. If there is anything unusual in their future, then this is the event likely to come up. Premonitions work best when performed on an empty stomach. If your body is busy digesting food it will cloud your concentration.”
It was a disappointing session for most of the group. Osma, Sarah-Jane and Amber managed to catch glimpses of their partners’ future but the rest searched uselessly for an image.
They broke for lunch and relaxed in the recreation room. The boys were shocked to hear from Sarah-Jane that the doctors were not just drinking coffee and browsing through journals, as the boys had believed. They were testing and analysing common diseases and viruses found on the Alliance planets, comparing them with those on Earth. They were searching for cures. They had already found cures for arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout and they had possibly found a plant that would treat Alzheimer’s.
“How did you find out?” asked a bewildered Cosmo.
“We asked!” said Amber and Sarah-Jane in unison.
The boys pressed Sarah-Jane and Amber for details of their premonitions. They were disappointed when the girls said all they did was touch the other’s hand and they started to see images. Neither would divulge what they had seen, which infuriated the boys. Cosmo badgered them for a while. Was it on the ship? Were any of them in it? The girls held fast, with Amber telling the boys it really wasn’t anything too interesting. Disgruntled, the boys left for the juice bar.
Cosmo stood twisting his leather band around his wrist. “Have you been sleeping well?”
“Not really,” said Aiden, knowing he could not remember the last time he had had a good night’s sleep. “Are you?”
“Yeah, except I keep hearing you get up.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t have your knack for sleeping,” said Aiden, hoping Cosmo would drop this.
They turned as Amber laughed loudly at Gibber using his tail to touch his nose.
Cosmo nudged Aiden in the side. “Have you ever seen Sarah-Jane laugh?”
Aiden thought for a second. “Once, I think. She’s not really the laughing type.”
“That’s my mission then – to make her laugh. I mean everyone likes someone who makes them laugh, don’t they?” said Cosmo.
“Sounds like a good plan.”
The afternoon started with illusion and premonition sessions. Aiden thought he might as well have gone to sleep, as he got nothing from the sessions. It was not until they practised drawing energy in that Aiden remembered he at least possessed some powers, but even here he could not release the energy properly.
With the afternoon sessions complete, Aiden and Bajool entered the games room to dispel Aiden’s surplus energy. The rings hummed and filled with a golden hue as Aiden stepped in.
“Bajool, when will we start learning about healing powers?”
“Healing will not be covered in the training. I believe only you have the gift to heal... and yes, I will train you. It is similar to what you are doing now,” said Bajool. “When you pull energy in from around you, instead of then pushing it out, you embrace it, letting it merge with your life force and release it with compassion over an injury. If you release it too fast, you will be giving up too much of your life force. Healers have killed themselves giving away too much of their life’s energy.”
“So you couldn’t spend a whole day healing?”
“No, you need rest and a lot of energy to be able to heal. Once you release your excess energy, I will give you a lesson in healing.”
Summoning gold, football-sized balls of energy in his palms, Aiden threw them at illusions of asteroids.
“You are getting more powerful every day,” said Bajool, as the scorch mark disappeared from the wall.
“It’s not helping me in training though,” Aiden grumbled.
“Patience. You have to learn how to access your powers. It will come,” said Bajool, pulling something shiny from under his poncho. In the space of a heartbeat he slashed Aiden’s arm with a blade.
“Ow! What the...” Aiden said, jerking his arm away in protest.
Blood flowed freely from the gash and his arm throbbed with pain.
“Now we have something to heal,” Bajool declared. “Focus and draw in energy.”
Aiden gritted his teeth. Working through the pain, he followed Bajool’s instructions. It took a few attempts before he successfully merged the energy with his life force, and even more before he managed to control the release onto the injury. It was a strange sensation as his skin knitted itself together. He could hardly believe his eyes.
“The power to heal is rare, even among magwans,” said Bajool. “The bigger the injury, the more energy is required to heal it.”
Aiden was astonished. It was almost too good to be true. He could heal. He wished he could show his parents.
Bajool gave him a big smile. “Being a healer is the most useful power a magwan can have. None of your companions possesses such ability. You need to study the skeletal and muscular systems to heal the more serious injuries. You should not divulge your healing powers too widely though! Healers are feared throughout the universe because it is as easy to heal, as it is to maim or kill. There are few healers left... their bloodlines have largely been destroyed. Most were killed by their own species.”
“But you’re a healer.”
“Yes, but I am a Yendi. We have evolved to a level where we do not seek personal gain. We are trusted throughout the universe not to abuse our powers.”
Feeling like a success for the first time in days, Aiden no longer cared about his poor showing in illusions or premonitions. He was satisfied that the power he wanted most of all, he had. His mind raced with the possibilities. He could heal Drew. He could travel the world like an ancient shaman healing wherever he went. He would have to change his name of course. Aiden the healer did not have the right ring to it.
The last few days of training had them all brimming with excitement. Amber was now seeing auras around everyone constantly. With her face beaming, she told them auras could tell her the mood of the person and their health.
“It just happened,” she said. “I woke up and everyone had these rings of colours around them. They’re there all the time. Bajool has promised to give me special sessions on how to read the auras and to view them only when I choose.” She turned to Cosmo. “But it does mean I can see when you’re doing an illusion – you have a deceitful green tinge!”
“Deceitful is a strong word,” said Cosmo feigning offence. “How about mischievous?”
“Deceitful!” said Sarah-Jane and Amber together.
Aiden swore them to secrecy before demonstrating his healing power by biting his lip then healing it, to the astonishment of everyone. Despite warnings, Cosmo bit his own lip then couldn’t heal it. Aiden stepped in.
The pictures of strange beings and galaxies on the walls were oddly familiar to Aiden now, and alarmingly, images of the beings moving around in their native habitats also flashed through his mind. He had no idea whether this and the other things that seemed like lost memories were due to the imprinting, or to some other power they had not learned yet. Either way, it irked him that these things popped into his head. It was like there were parts of his mind that were not his.
Amber talked everyone into an astral travel rendezvous at midnight in the games room, emphasising to Sarah-Jane this did not constitute a breach of curfew. Amber explained how to astral travel. She started with the basics: how their consciousness would leave their physical body into another plane of existence from which they could go anywhere; how to recognise when they were on the verge of going to sleep, and then redirecting where they wished to go. Once everyone was satisfied they understood what to do, Amber left to make alterations to the doctors’ clothing. She had already made adjustments, but Doctor Hudson had lost more weight and was having trouble keeping his trousers up.
Aiden and Cosmo returned to their quarters and recorded an MDD message.
The boys followed Amber’s instructions. They ate nothing from nine o’clock onwards to give themselves an empty stomach by midnight. They watched the blockbuster movie ‘Flipping Out’ on Aiden’s PDC before meditating from eleven to midnight. Aiden only had to wake Cosmo once during the meditation.
Aiden found himself drifting off to sleep just before midnight, and managed to seize the moment and astral travel. There was an initial tugging sensation, as if a magnetic energy was drawing him back into his body, but he pulled free and found himself in the games room. Amber was already there, bursting with joy at seeing him. Aiden smiled to himself when he saw Amber’s pyjamas. The brightly coloured, baggy flannelette top and long pants could have doubled as a clown suit. Only Amber could pull that look off.
“You made it!” she said.
“It’s magic,” said Aiden. “I feel like I can fly!”
Ogmore strode in. Amber and Aiden froze. Ogmore walked right past them and opened a panel on the wall.
“He can’t see or hear us, can he?” Aiden whispered.
“No,” said Amber. “I feel we’re spying though; let’s leave.”
“We can’t, we have to wait for the others.”
“I’ll go check on them,” said Amber, disappearing and reappearing a second later. “They’re both sleeping!”
Ogmore left the games room, leaving Aiden and Amber talking more frankly than ever before.
“I knew I would miss my family,” said Amber. “I just never knew how much. It’s like I’m not whole anymore.”
“I know what you mean. I don’t have much family left. I felt strange leaving Drew and Aunt Del behind.”
Amber spun around, her arms stretched out. “You know what I also miss... the grass, plants, trees and running water, rainy days and sunshine on my skin. Being locked up in a spaceship doesn’t feel right.”
Aiden nodded. “It’s not natural. We could get cabin fever. I guess we’re lucky they keep us so busy. We’ll probably miss all this when we return home though.”
“I suppose, but at least we’ll have our powers. Our ability to recharge will be a lot less though.”
“Yeah, with Earth being so far from the Source only small amounts of its solar winds will reach us. Pity we can’t gather some up and take it home,” said Aiden.
“Aiden, can you feel the universe?”
As odd a question as this was, Aiden knew what Amber meant. “I’ve felt it was trying to tell me something, sort of luring me in.”
Amber’s brow lowered. “Really?” she said. “I feel something’s not quite right. It’s like there is a shroud covering everything; you can’t see it - but you can feel it. Bajool can feel it too – a growing darkness he called it.”
Aiden nodded. “Somehow it’s calling me though, and it feels like a trap of some sort.”
“Perhaps you should go home. Just like Sare said, you’re the centre of something – I can feel it too.”
“I have to stay. Anyhow, you’re forgetting the Sleeper Prophecy. The Sleeper will destroy the darkness.”
“I guess so,” said Amber slowly. “You have to love the idea of a Galactic Alliance that keeps the peace. It fills you with hope for the future. I hope Earth gets to be the eighth member one day.”
“Who knows, we may be the key to Earth joining the Alliance,” said Aiden.
“I think that’s why Doctor Peasley keeps referring to us as ambassadors of Earth. Having powers is going to be a lot of fun. When we get back home we’re going to have to find a way to use them without anyone knowing we’re different. I mean, I’ve always been different, but we will be really different. We don’t want to be locked up and studied by scientists,” she said, tossing her hands in the air.
“Bet they won’t let us use them much.”
“What did you tell your friends about going away?”
“I don’t have many friends. I used to but I had to move to a new town to live with Aunt Del. It’s hard to start again. I’m not like Cosmo. He could fit in anywhere.”
“I have heaps of friends. No boyfriend though...”
“Me neither, I mean no girlfriend,” he said awkwardly.
Amber giggled, her face beaming up at Aiden. “I felt bad lying to my friends,” she said, scrunching up her nose. “I told them I was holidaying in Australia with my aunt. I had to prewrite a lot of postcards that Mum’s organised to have sent from Australia.”
Aiden pushed off the ground and floated up. “What are you going to do with the money they’re paying us?”
Amber floated up too. “Mum’s putting it into the bank. It should buy half a house.”
“Aunt Del’s doing the same for me; a house and university fees. I think Cosmo’s trying to talk his parents into pay TV and a few new bedrooms on their place. He doesn’t like being squashed in with his brothers.”
“You don’t talk about your parents much,” said Amber.
Aiden floated back down again to avoid her gaze. He would never forgive himself for his parents’ deaths. He wished he could go back and undo his mistake. “No, but I think of them.”
Amber did a somersault and joined him on the ground. “Dad says I’m like my Mum - we both talk too much.”
Aiden told Amber about Aunt Del, the pendant and his father training with Bajool. Amber in turn confessed she had always hated her freckles and that she wished everything came as easily to her as it did Sarah-Jane. She also revealed Sarah-Jane did not get on with her stepfather, who had made it clear that she was in the way. That was the main reason she decided to come on this trip.
“She does seem to be unhappy,” said Aiden.
“I wouldn’t say unhappy. I think she’s trying to find her place in the world. She’s used to living in a perfect world and she’s naturally good at everything, not to mention very rich. She’s amazing, but she’s going through a tough time right now,” said Amber.
“What does Sarah-Jane say about me and Cosmo?”
Amber’s eyes bored into him. “She doesn’t talk about you much, and she thinks Cosmo is childish.”
Seeing he had somehow offended her, Aiden tried to recover. “I bet you’ll be a great reporter one day. You get along with everyone. You’re the one that keeps us together, the glue.”
“That’s me, the glue, everyone’s friend – that’s just the problem.”
A sudden jerk whisked Aiden away from the games room.
“Did you do it?” Cosmo called, nudging him.
“Huh?... Yeah,” said Aiden, adjusting back to physical reality. “Didn’t Amber say not to wake someone when they’re astral travelling!”
“Oh... I forgot. But you’re okay,” said Cosmo meekly.
“Yeah, I’m okay,” murmured Aiden. “I met Amber in the games room. It was magic!... What time is it?”
“Twelve thirty. Was Sarah-Jane there?”
“Wow, it seemed a lot longer,” said Aiden, checking his PDC. “No, only Amber.”
“So what did you do?”
“Nothing much, we talked while we waited for you two.”
“Let’s try again tomorrow,” said Cosmo yawning, as he climbed back into bed.
Happy at yet another success, Aiden drifted off to sleep.
As Aiden dressed the next morning he put his purple pendant on underneath the training outfit.
Running late, with no time to shower, the boys ran to the recreation room, scoffed down breakfast and arrived in the training room three minutes late, to a frosty greeting from Doctor Peasley. The girls appeared a few seconds later to an even frostier greeting. Amber’s eyes were puffy and red. It must have been an allergic reaction to one of the things she was sensitive to, thought Aiden.
The day started as usual with Kydra running them ragged around the training room, followed by illusions. Aiden was amazed at the improvements everyone had made to their illusions over the last three days. Cosmo was now making the dragon on his outfit leap and breathe fire. He even made the red lion on Aiden’s outfit roll over onto its back, legs up in the air, dead, with a fierce kangaroo standing over it. Aiden knew it was a pointless exercise for him and only half tried. He was more interested in watching the others.
For premonitions, Kydra split them into pairs. Aiden was surprised when Amber let out a huff and stalked towards Cosmo. What was she upset about?
The pairs dispersed around the training room and looking considerably strained, Sarah-Jane held his hand. Aiden’s heart sank. He knew he had never been popular with the girls, but this was ridiculous. He pretended not to notice. Amber appeared preoccupied and each time Aiden glanced in her direction she was lost in thought. Aiden put in a half-hearted effort and predictably saw nothing. Suddenly, Sarah-Jane’s face drained of colour.
“What did you see?” he asked, trying to read her face.
“I’m not sure...” she said. “I saw you behind bars... I think you were in a sort of cell.”
“Brilliant!” He frowned. “Did I at least have two arms?”
“Yes... yes, you did!” she said.
“Well at least that future has changed,” he grumbled.
Kydra called them together again. “It is important to be able to draw energy in when you need it, and to release excess energy. Knowing how much to pull in is a skill you will be tuning for the rest of your lives.”
They broke for lunch after an exhilarating session of drawing in energy. With Bajool nowhere in sight, Aiden approached Gibber, and they left for the games room on level four. He gave a little jump to clear Gibber’s tail, then hopped up beside him where it was safe. Matong swept past them as they approached the games room and entered the bridge.
Aiden always felt good when Gibber was around. It was not anything Gibber said or did, or even his smile. Despite his ungainly movements and that dangerous tail, there was something special about him that Aiden couldn’t grasp. It was more than his clumsy nature and the blissful happiness he walked around in, or the fact he was a quick learner and very hard to beat at anything. His mere presence made Aiden feel good. He wondered if all the Jundah were like Gibber, or if was he unique.
They entered the games room. “I have never been here before,” said Gibber, bending down to inspect the rings on the floor. “It is a place for magwans. Matong spends a lot of time in here.”
As he turned, his tail entered the ring. Silver light billowed, and a blinding flash sent Gibber catapulting across the room. He slammed into the wall and slumped to the floor. Aiden stood motionless as he comprehended the horror of what had just happened. Then whisking his top off he ran to Gibber and smothered the flames on his tail. Gibber lay motionless.
Aiden held Gibber’s head. There was an eerie stillness in the air and time seemed to stop. Blood pounded in Aiden’s head. He placed his hands over Gibber’s still form and started transferring his life force. He willed Gibber to open his eyes.
“Come on Gibber,” he spluttered.
Aiden could feel his senses dulling and his energy weakening. Time was running out.
THUMP! Aiden shot backwards as a painful blow to his chest slammed into him. He forced himself back up, and through bleary eyes saw Bajool helping Gibber up. He sighed with relief and passed out.
“Aiden! Aiden!” called Bajool, his hands on Aiden’s chest.
Aiden stirred, and then sat up with a start. “Huh?... Is Gibber okay?”
“Gibbergunah is shaken, but fine,” replied Bajool. “You transferred too much life energy. If I had not stopped you, you would have killed yourself!”
Aiden rubbed his sore chest, astonished how such a frail being could pack such a punch.
“You saved my life,” Gibber blubbered, as he wrenched Aiden up.
Bajool stood surveying the rings. “Aiden, if you or I had entered the rings we would be dead. Gibbergunah has two hearts and a more robust constitution. I think we have been very lucky.”
“How could the rings do that?” asked Aiden, as he carefully pried himself free from Gibber’s embrace.
“I will speak to Eulo and Kayeed and have this investigated.”
“You mean someone did this on purpose!” Aiden spluttered in disbelief.
“Possibly...” said Bajool.
“We saw Matong coming from this direction before we came in!” Aiden thundered.
* * *