Sanctuary Temple, 3rd Age of Stability; Year 388 (2016)
“Symon, wake up.”
Symon groaned and rolled over in his bunk when he heard Veda’s voice.
“Symon, we’ve landed. Get out of bed.”
“Five more minutes, please,” the boy mumbled.
“Sorry, but no,” Veda said as she took hold of Symon’s blanket and pulled it off of his body. The boy yelped and sat up straight in his bed.
“Alright, alright, I’m up,” he said groggily.
“Good,” Veda said. “Follow me. Grandmaster Tauri wants to see us.”
Symon yawned and stood up from his cot, picking up his duffle bag before walking out of the bunk-room after Veda. They met Jei at the boarding lift. The Beloran smiled when he saw them.
“Sleep well?” he asked Symon.
“Not long enough, but well enough,” Symon replied.
Jei snorted. “Sounds about right,” he said. He hit the switch on the lift’s guard rail and the platform began to descend. Once it touched the ground, Symon got a full view of what was outside the ship, and he was awestruck.
The ship was resting on a large, elevated landing platform just outside of a massive, stone structure. Surrounding the structure was a massive metropolis, teeming with massive skyscrapers and buzzing with air traffic.
“Oh my God,” Symon gasped.
“Welcome to Corneria, Symon,” Veda said.
“And that giant building right there,” Jei said, gesturing towards the massive structure, “is the Sanctuary Temple, home of the Auran Order.”
“Come on, let’s go,” Veda said. “We don’t want to keep the Grandmaster waiting.”
“I have some business to take care of,” Jei said. “I’ll meet up with you guys later.”
Symon and Veda bid Jei farewell and made their way into the temple. The building’s massive hallways were alive with activity. Hundreds of people of numerous different species, all wearing similar robes and tunics, were moving around on business of their own. Symon started taking mental notes of all the different species that he saw.
‘Beloran, another Beloran, person with green skin and elf ears, cat person, yeah, it’s going to take me a while to get the names of all these species down.’
For the most part, nobody paid any mind to the Cerinian and the human as they made their way through the building. But there were a few individuals who took notice of Symon, their glances ranging from indifferent, to confused, to somewhat contempt. He tried to avoid eye-contact with the others. But his eyes ended up locking with those a young girl standing beside a Beloran woman. The girl look similar to Veda in many ways. She was vulpine in appearance, only her fur was a light gray instead of a deep blue.
The girl smiled and waved at him. Symon shyly returned her smile and waved back to her. Veda saw this and giggled.
“Vulpids,” she said. “They’re always so adorable when they’re young.”
Symon cocked an eyebrow. “Vulpid?” he asked. “I thought she was a Cerinian.”
“No, the Cerinians are an evolutionary cousin of the Vulpids,” Veda explained. “An easy way to tell the difference is that a Cerinian’s pelt is always some shade of blue. Any other color, and you’ve got a Vulpid.”
Symon nodded in acknowledgment. ‘Cerinians are blue, Vulpids aren’t. Got it.’
The two rounded a corner into a smaller, more narrow hallway and walked down to the single, large door at the end. Once they reached it, Veda reached out and loudly knocked on it. A couple of seconds later, the door hissed open, revealing a small, circular chamber on the other side.
Sitting in the center of the room was a ginger-furred female Vulpid clad in a long, white robe. Despite having her back turned to the door, she instantly knew who it was that came to see her.
“Veda T’mara,” she said. “It’s come to my attention that you have recently and illegally landed on Earth. Is that correct?”
Veda gulped nervously. “Yes, Grandmaster Tauri.”
There was a short pause before Tauri spoke up again. “Who’s this that you’ve brought with you?” she asked, standing up and turning around to face her with her deep, amber eyes. Her gaze instantly fell upon Symon, and he felt his heart rate begin to pick up.
“What’s this? A human?” she asked, turning her stare to Veda. “What are you up to, Veda?”
“Recruiting, Master,” Veda answered simply. “This young man is Symon Redfern. I met him during my...incident on Earth. I feel like he would make a valuable addition to the Order, and I wish to take him on as my Disciple, Master.”
Grandmaster Tauri stepped closer to Symon and looked him over, taking in every detail about him. At one point, the Vulpid had gotten close enough to him for Symon to consider it an invasion of personal privacy. He could even smell the strange, foxy scent of her pelt as she observed him, something that told him that she was probably too close. For the sake of being polite, he kept his mouth shut as the Grandmaster continued her observation. However, he did silently relay his discomfort via a nervous glance towards Veda. The Cerinian gave him a certain look that seemed to say, “Just relax. You’ll be fine.”
Another minute or so passed, but it felt like fifteen to Symon. Tauri made what sounded like an amused chuckle and stepped back a bit from the teen. “So, Veda believes you could become a powerful Knight,” she said. “But, what I want to know, is do you believe that you can become a Knight?”
Symon swallowed nervously and spoke up for the first time since he saw the Grandmaster. “I’m willing to try my best, ma’am,” he said.
Tauri smiled at him and let out another chuckle. “So modest,” she said. “You were destined for greatness, child. I can feel it.”
The Grandmaster turned her gaze to Veda. “Veda T’mara, by setting foot on the planet Earth, you have violated Federation law and risked exposing the galactic community to the entirety of the human race,” she said. “For that, I could have you stripped of your status as a Knight. But, considering the circumstances, I am willing to give you a second chance.”
Veda’s expression turned to one of great relief. “Oh, thank you, Master!” she exclaimed.
“Now then, Veda,” Tauri continued. “Do you accept this young human as your Disciple?”
Veda looked to Symon and smiled. “I do.”
“And young Symon Redfern,” Tauri said, turning her gaze to the young man. “Are you willing to learn everything that Veda has to teach you?”
“I am,” Symon answered.
Tauri smiled. “Very well, it’s settled,” she said. “Take care of him, Veda. Train him well.”
“I will, Master,” Veda responded.
Tauri nodded and looked back at Symon. “As for you, young man,” she started. “We need to get you accommodated...and properly dressed,” she added as she looked over his outfit. Symon felt his cheeks blush red from embarrassment as he remembered that all he was wearing was a white undershirt and a black pair of jeans.
“We have an empty room in the east wing of the temple,” Tauri continued. “Veda knows where it is. She’ll take you there while I get someone to work on finding a suitable set of robes for you.”
Symon nodded and turned around to face Veda. She gave him a small smile and said, “Come on, I’ll lead you to your room.” She turned and stepped out of the Grandmaster’s chamber. Symon followed closely behind.
“So, did I bring a bunch of extra clothes for nothing?” he asked as he walked.
“Not necessarily,” Veda said. “While you’re at the temple, you are expected to wear a set of robes. But, once we start getting assignments together, it’ll be good to have multiple changes of clothes for when we don’t want to attract attention.”
The next ten minutes of their walk was spent in silence as Veda led Symon through the halls of the Sanctuary Temple. The two worked their way up three flights of stairs and navigated another set of hallways as they made their way to the Temple’s living quarters. Along the way, they passed an open-aired courtyard, populated with dozens of people. Some sitting on stone benches exchanging conversations, others simply making their way to different areas of the Temple. Symon looked up and managed to catch a glimpse of a spire built at the building’s center, so tall that, from his angle, he couldn’t see what was at the top.
‘Holy shit,’ he thought to himself. ‘How big is this place?’
His thoughts were interrupted when he suddenly bumped into something. Startled, he quickly regained his balance, turned his gaze forward, and noticed he had just walked headlong into Veda’s back.
“Careful,” she said, looking over her shoulder.
Symon felt himself shrink, and his face blushed up again. “Sorry,” he said awkwardly.
“You’re fine,” Veda said. “In the future, though, watch where you’re stepping. Anyways, this is the room that Master Tauri was talking about,” she added, nodding towards a metal door to her right. She stepped towards it and pressed the lone red button on its control panel. The door hissed open and revealed what was on the other side.
The room was about as large as his bedroom back on Earth, roughly ten feet by eleven feet. Directly opposite of the door was a window that overlooked the cityscape. In front of the window was a bare work desk. Up against the left-hand wall was a fairly large bed, just a few inches short of queen-sized.
“This is where you’ll be living,” Veda said.
Symon stepped into the room and placed his duffel bag on the floor. “It’s pretty bare, but I’ve stayed in worse places.” He looked out the window. The city was bathed in brilliant orange light. The view was something to behold, but it wasn’t what he was interested in. “What time is it? Morning or evening?”
“Late evening,” Veda answered. “Why?”
“I’m thinking I’m just gonna go to bed,” Symon said. “I’m still pretty tired.”
Veda nodded. “Alright. I’ll leave you to yourself,” she said. “If you need anything, my quarters are on the other side of the east wing. Otherwise, I’ll be back tomorrow morning to collect you for training.” With that, she stepped out of the room, closing the door behind her.
Symon sat down on the bed and kicked his shoes off of his feet before crawling under its covers. Shortly after, he had drifted to sleep.
Only about three hours later, Symon was awake again. Rubbing his eyes, he sat up in his bed. Once his vision had cleared, he looked out the window. Night had fallen, and he could make out a single moon resting just above the cityscape.
“God, are you kidding me?” Symon asked himself. “Even in space, jet lag is a thing.”
He lied back down and closed his eyes in an effort to go back to sleep. He tossed and turned on his mattress, trying to get comfortable again. After a few minutes, he sat back up, groaning.
“Dammit, this is worse than jet lag,” he grumbled. “Fuckin’ space lag, more like. I’m gonna go for a walk.”
He threw his covers off and climbed out of bed. He put his shoes back on and walked over to the door to his room. Upon opening it, he felt a chilly draft of wind blow past him, causing him to shiver.
‘That’s right, this is really close to that courtyard,’ he thought. Before going any further, he went back into the room and opened up his duffle bag. After a few seconds of rummaging, he found his hoodie and put it on, zipping it up as he stepped into the east wing corridor. His door slid shut behind him.
Unlike earlier, there wasn’t a single soul sharing the halls with Symon as he walked. Were it not for his footsteps echoing off of the walls, it would be quiet enough to hear a pin drop, something that made him feel slightly uneasy. Almost in a way to make the silence more bearable, Symon started quietly whistling the original Deus Ex theme. Just when he was starting to feel more comfortable walking in the halls, a door hissed open beside him, making him jump.
“Jesus!” he yelped as he turned towards the noise. Standing in the newly opened doorway to his left was a girl, a gray-furred Vulpid about a head shorter than he was. Her large, amber eyes were open in surprise, and her mouth was covered by one of her hands, likely to contain a shocked gasp.
“I’m sorry!” she said, her ears folding against her head. “I didn’t mean to startle you!”
Symon loosened up and let out a sigh. “No, no, you’re fine,” he said.
She lowered her hand from her mouth, and her surprised expression shifted into a more curious one. She took a couple of steps out of her room, the door hissing shut behind her, and looked over Symon. “You,” she said quietly. “You’re a human, right?”
Symon slowly nodded. “Y-yeah. Yeah, I am.”
“I saw you in the hallways earlier,” she said. “We waved to each other.”
It took Symon a couple seconds to remember what she was referring to. “Right, right, I remember,” he said. “I’m Symon. Symon Redfern.”
“My name is Serena,” the Vulpid said. “Mind if I ask why you’re up so late?”
“I’m still getting used to the time difference,” Symon answered. “I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided to go for a walk.”
“I couldn’t sleep, either,” Serena said. “Mind if I walk with you?”
Symon cracked a small grin and laughed nervously. “No, not at all.”
She smiled and stepped up beside him, accompanying him as he continued striding down the corridor. “I usually have the halls to myself when I go walking at night,” she said. “It’s nice to have some company for a change.”
“You do this often?” Symon asked.
“Only every once in a while. Most nights, I have no trouble at all sleeping. Some nights, though, I just can’t get to sleep. I usually walk out to the courtyard and look up at the moons on nights like this.”
There was an awkward lull in the conversation as Symon tried to think of something to say.
“You don’t talk much, do you Symon?” Serena asked after about a minute of silence.
“Sorry,” Symon said shyly. “I’m not exactly good with people. Back on my homeworld, I pretty much just kept to myself. I had friends back home, sure, but only a small handful.”
“What’s the human homeworld like?”
The question made Symon stop in his tracks, and thoughts of home flooded his mind; his friends, his family, even his old high school. The last few moments spent with his sister replayed in his head. He closed his eyes and brought a hand up to his face, expecting tears to come.
“I’m so sorry,” Serena said. “I-I shouldn’t have brought it up. I didn’t mean to-”
“I’m fine,” Symon said, cutting her off. “I’m...I’m fine. It’s just...It was difficult leaving.” He let out a long, low sigh before continuing. “Earth’s not very interesting. At least not the part that I’m from. I lived in a rural area outside of a small town where I went to school. It was very quiet, and nothing exciting ever happened.”
“That sounds a little like my homeworld,” Serena said as they started walking again. “I was born on a farming colony in the Mid-Rim. I don’t remember too much about it, only that it was quiet and boring. I was only six or seven when a visiting Knight from the Order found me, recognized me as an Auran, and brought me here.”
After a few more seconds of walking, the two came across the tall archway to the courtyard. The entire open-aired area was bathed in light reflected from a pair of moons hanging high in the sky. As he stepped out into the courtyard, Symon looked to the Temple’s central spire, his eyes following it all the way up to the top where a rounded, pod-like structure was built. A special chamber, perhaps?
“I love coming here at night,” Serena said, getting Symon’s attention. “The view of the moons here is wonderful.” Her gaze turned skyward to admire the dual satellites. Symon, though, simply glanced around the courtyard until he spotted the nearest stone bench. He walked over to it and sat down, letting out a long sigh and burying his face in his hands as he did so.
“Symon?” he heard Serena call. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Symon reaffirmed. “It’s just that...” He lowered his hands from his face and looked up at her. “I left behind everything I had ever known,” he said. “My family, my friends, I’m probably never going to see them again. I don’t know if I can handle that.”
Serena sat down beside him on the bench. “I couldn’t tell you how to cope with that,” she said. “After all, I left my home when I was just a child. I have almost no memory of my family. But, if you ever want someone to talk to, I’m always available.”
Symon took in a deep breath and slowly exhaled. “Thanks, Serena,” he said quietly. “I...I appreciate it.”
A handful of silent seconds passed before the Vulpid stood up from the bench. “I think I’ll head back to my room,” she said. “It was nice talking to you, Symon,”
“Yeah,” the human said. “Yeah, we should do it more often.”
Serena smiled at him. “I would like that,” she said. “I’ll try to find you tomorrow. Good night, Symon.”
“G’night,” Symon said as Serena turned and left the courtyard. The human lingered for a while longer, looking up at the dual moons of Corneria and replaying the past twenty-four hours in his head.
‘Did I make the right decision coming here?’ he mentally asked himself. ‘Should I have just stayed home and pretend none of this had ever happened?’
He shook his head and turned his gaze to the ground. “No, I made the right decision,” he said. “If I had stayed home, I would have thrown away the chance of a lifetime.”
He stood up from the bench and walked out of the courtyard, back into the Temple’s hallways and started making his way back to his room.
‘I made the right decision,’ he thought. ‘I know it.’
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