Chapter 9: Voice from the Past
Solon ambled along in a secluded part of the ship, studying all of the lights and mechanisms with wonderment. He wished he knew what they did. Solemnness struck him as he wondered how his father and mother fared. Did they miss him? Did they even know he was gone? While his brother fought in the king’s war, he had been sent to the library to be a scribe.
“Your face is always in those scrolls,” his father had commented once.
Solon couldn’t help it. He was not muscular like his father or brother. Preferring the written word instead, he believed that more could be learned from it than on the field of battle. His finger brushed something. A series of beeps and squeaks escaped it, causing Solon to jump back.
“You know, you should really be careful about what you touch,” said Solaris, her voice filling the empty area.
Solon shrank back. He remained uncertain if he should trust the voice with no face.
“I don’t bite,” said Solaris.
“Are you a god?” asked Solon.
“I don’t believe so.”
“Yet, you have no physical form.”
“I am the ship.”
That statement confused Solon as he tried to comprehend what Solaris meant.
Solaris tried again. “I am as real as you are. As real as the clothing you wear. But, no, I do not have a physical form in the sense that you think of it.”
“Then how is it you are able to speak?” asked Solon, his thirst for knowledge overriding his fear.
“I just do,” said Solaris.
Solon frowned. He glanced around the room and all of its tiny lights, wondering what they meant.
“You like books, don’t you?” asked Solaris.
“Scrolls. Knowledge. You like to study.”
“Yes,” replied Solon.
“Then allow me to bring the library to you.”
The room brightened as shelves with rows upon rows of volumes in splendid and colorful binding appeared, surrounding Solon. The young scholar circled them, staring at the stark transformation with unbelieving eyes. He touched a burgundy colored book with gold writing. It’s cool, leather binding surprised Solon.
“These are real!”
“As real as you wish to make it,” said Solaris.
“My databanks contain over 100,000 books of any genre on any subject. And considering you are not yet familiar with the computer systems on this ship, I thought I would show my library to you in a way you could more easily search through them.”
Solon snatched an emerald bound book off the shelf. As he opened it, the crinkling of the starched pages beckoned him to enter another world.
“Herclai? Who is Herclai? And are not these written in your own tongue?”
“They are indeed written in the Lanyran language, but I have translated them for you, so that you can read them.”
“A hero, according to the ancient tales of Lanyr. Supposedly, he existed thousands of years ago. He was brave. A soldier, if you will, battling demons and monsters of his time. Though his temper needed a little work.”
“Sounds a lot like Hercules,” said Solon.
“Son of Zeus. Half god, half human. He has the strength of the gods and none can defeat him. According to my father, he defeated the hydra, but he was quick to anger, so Zeus punished him.”
“Interesting,” mused Solaris, as she stored the information in her data core. “You enjoy the tales of your people?”
“They are entertaining, though I wonder about their veracity,” said Solon. “Books and stories provide wonderful knowledge and lessons, but I must agree with my father that experience garners wisdom.”
“A wise saying.” Thoughts formed in Solaris’ circuits as she processed what Solon had told her. The similarities between the two stories of Hercules and Herclai astounded her. “Perhaps you will allow me to make a suggestion.”
“Indeed, I will.”
The light faded in the room, focusing on a single volume the size of Solon’s torso. “This you might find particularly interesting.”
Solon heaved the giant book off the wooden shelf, remarking at its light weight. “It weighs practically nothing.”
“One of the advantages to using my databanks instead of a typical library.
Solon scanned the title. “The heroes of Lanyr.”
“I think you will like it,” said Solaris. “You may come here anytime you wish to read. I will have this book waiting for you and any others you prefer.”
“I’m not sure what to say.”
“Thank you, is usually customary.”
Solon chuckled at the sarcasm. “I do thank you, Solaris.” He sat cross-legged on the floor with the book before him, delving deep within its contents.
“I will leave you to your reading.”
Solon never noticed that Solaris had stopped speaking as his mind focused only on the words before him.
Rynah sat alone in the command deck at the flight console. She desired solitude. The day had not gone as planned, and the fact that Klanor had set a trap disturbed her. Why would he do that? How had he known she would return?
She flicked on the holoscreen and scrolled through the saved files. There are so many. She wondered how old the ship was and how often her grandfather had used it to store his work. One file in particular caught her attention. It had her name.
She opened it.
“Rynah,” came her grandfather’s voice from the speakers as a holographic image of him appeared beside her, “I cannot tell you how saddened I am that you opened this. I can only assume that what I, and others, have feared most has happened: someone stole the crystal. If you are listening to this, then it means that our planet has been ravaged and someone has discovered the secrets of the six crystals. It also means that I am no longer there to do what I am afraid is now your task.
“As you know, our planet’s magnetic fields are stabilized due to a crystal created by Benson Ranoe, but the truth of the matter is that he never created it. He discovered it.
“While traveling through a still unknown part of space, Ranoe stumbled upon a civilization that had a unique crystal. This crystal was in their temple, and they worshipped before it daily. The people were not as technologically advanced as us, and when Ranoe appeared in his shuttle craft, they assumed he was one of their gods. As he listened to their mythology about the crystal, he realized that it matched our ancient myths.
“After a series of tests, Ranoe concluded that this crystal was more than just a data core. Knowing he could use this to stabilize our planet as the magnetic fields had begun to destabilize, he stole it—a crime for which there is no forgiveness, for when he took it, that civilization crumbled.
“Ranoe brought the crystal back, claiming that he had discovered a way to save our home, and that he had created the data core. None questioned him because they had no reason not to believe him. As you know, for 1,500 years, we have used that crystal unaware of its true nature.
“Our people are now reaping the reward for his dishonesty. In my travels and research, I learned that there are five others, each just as unique as the one we possessed. When joined together, they become the heart of a weapon so powerful that it can destroy entire solar systems. I say the heart of a weapon, because according to my research, they are the data cores—if you want to call it that—of a ship that is in fact a weapon.
“Unfortunately, I have been unable to discover where the weapon and the other crystals are. My illness, I’m afraid, is winning the battle. I had hoped that no other would discover the secrets I have learned. I am sorry, Rynah.
“I left you Solaris. You, and you alone, can pilot her, unless you relinquish that control to another. She is a good friend and will serve you well. Study the ancient myths. Please, do not scoff at such a notion…”
Rynah stopped her inward chuckle at her grandfather’s scolding.
“They are more real than you realize. I wish I could be there to help you so that you do not have to do it alone, but what was once my task is now yours. Good luck, my darling, and know that I will always love you.”
The hologram disappeared as the message ended. A single tear rolled down Rynah’s cheek as her grandfather left her once again.
“You have a moment?” asked Tom as he poked his head in.
“I thought you were asleep.” Rynah clicked off the holoscreen and wiped the tear from her face.
“The others are, but I couldn’t sleep.”
“What can I do for you?”
“You can explain to me why we are all here,” said Tom. “The bit you told us when we arrived made sense at the time, but some things don’t add up.”
“The importance of the crystals.”
Rynah released a heavy sigh. “They are data crystals, as I’ve informed you. A single sliver of quartz can hold about—oh, what’s a term you use—100 gigabytes of memory. Now imagine how much memory a crystal the size of your hand can hold.
“Because they hold so much data, the crystal itself becomes a computer, of sorts, that can do unimaginable tasks.”
“Such as control the magnetic fields of a planet,” added Tom.
“Yes. My planet has an unstable magnetic field, making it practically uninhabitable. One man discovered how to use the amount of memory a quartz data crystal could hold to stabilize it, thus stopping all of the earthquakes and storms that plagued us. It is difficult to explain all of the engineering behind it, but suffice it to say that all he had to do was construct a computer to hold it, punch in a code, and it worked.”
“But what makes this crystal so different from other crystals?”
“It is where he got it from. This crystal is different from what is normally used. It is of a higher quality with elements that we have yet to identify. And it is not the only one.”
“How do you know?”
“Because the man who found it said that there were five others just like it, except no one knew of their locations.”
“Hence, your legend of the six crystals,” said Tom.
“Yes,” breathed Rynah. “It is an old legend, and most of my people consider it nothing more than children’s tales, but when Klanor stole this crystal, I began to wonder. But one thing I know for certain: I need it back to save my planet, and if he joins it with the others, I can only imagine what devastation he will inflict.”
“Klanor,” started Tom, “there is more between you and him that you have not told us.”
Rynah’s face pinched slightly as she controlled her anger. She watched as Tom’s eyes, followed by his hand, moved toward the computer console ready to act on another bout of abject curiosity. “Would you like to pilot the ship?” she asked, changing the subject and distracting Tom from his inquisitiveness.
“I’m sure Solaris won’t mind and I can’t always be in here.”
“Oh sure, don’t bother to ask me,” quipped Solaris, with sarcasm.
“Sure,” said Tom, allowing Rynah to steer him away from the relationship between her and Klanor as the thrill of flying a ship overtook him.
“Most times she can pilot herself, but sometimes she needs the help of one of us. Here, put this on.” Rynah handed Tom the helmet used when piloting the ship. “It is a neuro interface and allows you to speak telepathically to Solaris.”
“You act as though the ship is alive and has feelings,” said Tom, taking the helmet. Bleeps and squeaks abounded as Solaris fumed over his comment.
“She can be a bit sensitive,” said Rynah.
With caution, Tom slipped the interface helmet over his head. “Now what do I do?”
“Give her a command.”
A series of thoughts flew through Tom’s mind. The ship lurched and halted, throwing Rynah forward. “Oops.”
“That would be my brakes, you ignoramus,” snapped Solaris, “and it was quite uncomfortable.”
“You must control your thoughts,” instructed Rynah, moving a strand of her emerald hair from her face. “The slightest thought becomes a command.”
“Where are we headed?” asked Tom.
Rynah gave a series of coordinates and Tom just thought about them. Soon the ship sped off through space in the new heading he had given it.
“That was better,” said Solaris, “but I still do not like being piloted by strangers.”
“Solaris, be nice,” said Rynah.
“Hmmph,” came the ship’s reply.
“I think I’m getting the hang of it,” said Tom.
“It’s fairly easy,” said Rynah. “Just keep going in this direction. I’m going to get some sleep. If anything arises, just press this button to talk to me in my quarters, and nothing else. Night.”
“Night,” mumbled Tom as he tried to keep control of his thoughts.
“Well, kiddo, I guess it’s just you and me,” said Solaris.
Tom remained silent, unsure of how to answer.
“Do you like chess?”