Chapter 2: A Prophecy
A harsh bleeping from her alarm yanked Rynah from a deep slumber. Groggily, she rolled over and shut it off. Rynah rubbed the sand from her eyes as she peered out the window into the gas cloud beyond, speckled by small dots of gold and blue and veiled by the rainbow of colors from the nebula she hid in, but it still felt barren to her, much like her heart.
Space; so cold and dark. She missed the purple sunrises of her home planet, the soft glow of gold on the edges of the mountain peaks, the warm breeze that always flowed through her tresses, and the burnt orange clouds that she always managed to detect shapes in, one of her favorite pastimes. All of it gone. Memories flooded her mind, such as afternoon walks (and most of them with Klanor when her heart had been full of love and possibilities) on the silky, emerald grass of her home, the field near her apartment complex that teamed with wildlife (rabbits, squirrels, and bagoons–a cross between a badger and a raccoon), the melodic churning of the Wesyr Brooke, and her most favorite place of all, Sesir Cliff, a precipice in the wilds of Lanyr that Rynah had explored on numerous occasions with her grandfather. She still visited it, even after the argument that severed their bond, a constant regret. Now nothing remained but a burnt and scorched planet well on its way to becoming a barren wasteland.
Rynah sat up, allowing her emerald hair to flow over her lavender-colored (a very light shade at that) skin; specks of gold accentuated her waves of dark emerald tresses, forming highlights that even the dim lighting failed to hide. She stood before the mirror.
“Water,” she said.
Cool water poured from the faucet, obeying her command. Rynah cupped her long-fingered hands underneath it before splashing refreshing liquid on her face, washing away any remnants of sleep. A small glint from the bronze band (a simple piece, plain, save for the small circles carved along the edges) she wore on her wrist caught her eye. She stroked the smooth surface with her slender fingers, remembering the day Marlow had given it to her. “Keep it with you, always,” he had told her. She never knew why, and probably never would, but Rynah never took it off; the bracelet had become a constant adornment on her arm, but now it was her only constant in life.
Marlow’s amber ring dangled from her neck as she leaned over the nickel plated sink. Like she had done with the bracelet, Rynah caressed the ring, admiring the smoothness and grandeur of the amber. Her grandfather had willed it to her upon his death. Rynah never understood why. The ring was insignificant, since amber was common on Lanyr and lay in almost every bit of jewelry (rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings) that for Marlow to give it to her seemed a pitiful apology.
Rynah remembered the last time they had spoken to one another, the day of the argument. Months had passed since the trial and he had been committed to the mental institution to serve his sentence. She had stopped by to tell him of her mother’s passing; her father had died years before.
“Well,” she had said when Marlow remained silent after she had delivered the news.
“What do you want me to say?”
“That you’re sorry.”
“I can’t,” Marlow had said.
“You can’t, or you won’t?” Rynah leaned closer, stretching across the sleek, transparent, aluminum table.
“Where is my ring?” Marlow had asked.
Rynah had been aghast. Of all the times to think of it, all he wanted was his amber ring, which had been confiscated upon his committal to the institution and was returned to him upon his release. “Your ring? Is that all you can think about? Your stupid ring?”
“It is most important.”
“Your daughter, my mother, is dead and all you care about is that ring! Do you not know why you are here? For years, you locked yourself in your study, poring over those dusty books, and we ignored it because we thought that every man needed a hobby—and how could reading books be dangerous? But then you had to try and steal the crystal from the geo-lab.”
“I did it for you, for all of you.”
“You’re insane! Do you know what we have had to go through since that day? The sneers, the whispers, the constant taunts?”
“Is that why you work at the lab now?”
“You killed my mother. You! And your obsession. I’m ashamed to even know you.”
Marlow slapped her, the first, and only, instance when he did.
“I’m done with you,” Rynah hissed.
As she rose to leave, Marlow reached over and snatched her arm, his grip unusually strong for one his age. “You must find that ring and keep a close watch on the crystal in the lab, but most importantly, keep the ring safe. Only it can control them!”
Their conversation had ended with the orderlies pulling them apart. They dragged Marlow back to his room, kicking and screaming at her to get his ring and protect it. As his next of kin, Rynah could have claimed Marlow’s effects from the front office, which would have included his amber ring, but she chose not to. Angered, and convinced that he had lost his mind, she left the building and never spoke to her grandfather again.
Rynah pulled herself away from her painful memories and back to the present. Dwelling on the past served little purpose. She held the amber ring in front of her face, allowing it to shine in the fluorescent light. When Marlow died, and the executor of his will handed her the ring, Rynah unclasped the necklace she had worn, removed the conical-shaped pendant, replacing it with the ring, and placed it around her neck, where it stayed. Within that ring was her regret at never having mended the relationship with her grandfather. If this bit of jewelry was important to him, the least she could do was abide by his last wish and keep it safe.
What am I to do now? she asked herself.
Five days she had hidden in the gas cloud and still did not know what she should do. Having only just escaped the destruction of her planet, Rynah jumped on the nearest ship—luckily it had been her grandfather’s—and flew away at hyperspeed into the darkest reaches of space where Klanor’s minions couldn’t find her.
“Good morning, Rynah,” said a voice over the intercom.
“Morning, Solaris,” said Rynah as she returned the ship’s greeting.
Solaris was not just the name of the ship, but the ship itself, an artificial intelligence that ran the ship’s functions and interacted freely with the crew, or, as it happened, Rynah. Having Solaris meant that Rynah did not need anyone aboard with her. She didn’t even have to pilot the vessel if she didn’t want to. She never knew why her grandfather had put an artificial intelligence on the ship, remembering when he bought the rusted, grungy, bucket of bolts from an auction when it had been decommissioned as a military vessel. Oh, the hours Marlow spent repairing it, or her, now, since she most definitely had a name, and a personality to match. Rynah felt a mixture of gladness and annoyance. Out here, Solaris was her only companion.
“Did you sleep well?” asked Solaris.
Rynah chuckled to herself as she listened to the feminine voice, realizing why her grandfather had made it that way. Men, she thought. “Yes.”
“Your voice betrays you,” said Solaris. “You dreamt of the destruction again.”
How did Solaris always know? “Perhaps,” said Rynah, putting the towel back on the rack. “I cannot get it out of my mind.”
“What do you plan to do now?”
Rynah sighed. She hadn’t thought that far. She thought of Klanor, remembering every detail of his face as he marched into the Geothermic Center, or geo-lab, as she called it, and stole the crystal. The moment he removed it from its place, the planet shook, causing immense turmoil. Fire spewed from the ground, engulfing everything in its path.
“I want that bastard to pay.”
“Yes,” Rynah whirled around, even though there was no way to face Solaris since she was a ship. “He took everything! Everyone I ever knew, everyone I ever cared about! Dead!”
“Perhaps you should choose another course of action.”
Rynah didn’t listen. Her mind focused on Klanor and his betrayal, all after proposing to her that morning. Anger seethed within her. A thought struck her. She remembered Klanor speaking about a place he always liked to visit, a place at the heart of the Twelve Sectors, one that many visited because of its rich blues and unique wildlife (it was home to the Wingabur, a rare species that was somewhere between a bear and a pigeon) and flowing rivers of water the color of sunset orange. Perhaps (as thoughts of how she would punish him, torture him, percolated through her mind) she would find him there.
“Solaris, set a course for the Amyran System.”
Rynah’s eyebrows arched. “What do you mean negative?”
“As in, not possible.”
“I wish to go to the Amyran System,” repeated Rynah, her voice growing tight.
“We are not going.”
“I refuse to take us there.”
“Listen here, you stupid computer—”
Steam burst from the vents as the door to her room slammed shut, the lock clicking into place. “Don’t you dare talk to me like that, you ungrateful rugrat. Marlow, your grandfather, created me while you were still playing with toys. Now I want you to apologize.”
“But he did not purchase this ship until—”
“I existed before this vessel.”
“I’m not…” clicks and rattles circled Rynah, indicating that she was at Solaris’ mercy “… sorry.”
“What was that?” demanded Solaris.
“I’m sorry,” said Rynah in a more apologetic tone.
“What do you think we should do?”
“Locate the crystals.”
“They are a myth.”
“And yet you spent the last two years guarding one,” said Solaris.
Rynah rubbed her temples. She could not believe that she had spent the last several minutes arguing with a computer that her grandfather had built years before, much less that the same computer had an attitude. Knowing that she would never be allowed to leave the room unless she agreed with Solaris, Rynah relented.
“What must I do?”
“Your planet’s crystal was one among six,” said Solaris.
“What do you mean?”
“While you slept, I did some checking in my archives,” said Solaris. “There were six crystals in all. Each given to a planet to protect them.”
“I know that much,” said Rynah, growing impatient.
“But what you do not know is that the crystals can be put together, like a puzzle, to create one of the deadliest weapons the universe has ever known.”
“What kind of weapon?”
“One that can be used to create as well as destroy. According to my calculations, Klanor plans to use the crystals to destroy entire solar systems and create his own empire. It is the same as the ancient prophecy.”
“And how would he do that?”
“The power of the crystals can be wielded when they are close together, I suspect, but Marlow discovered that a certain device exists which utilizes the crystals and their energy in a more controlled manner.”
“It can be destructive. To locate the crystals and this device, we must rely on the prophecy within the ancient texts.”
“You don’t know where it is?”
Rynah’s sarcasm did not go unnoticed as Solaris huffed, the way that only a ship with personality can.
“Sorry. I just assumed—”
“You assume much,” said Solaris, “and to your own detriment. Instead of making false assumptions, you might try listening.”
“But my grandfather—”
“Marlow may have been well-versed in the lore of the crystals, and though he knew more than most, he did not know everything. Unfortunately, he died before he could…” Solaris cut herself off.
“Could what?” Rynah’s curiosity had been piqued. Did her grandfather share secrets with a machine that he felt could not be entrusted to another of flesh and blood? “Solaris, did my—”
“If you wish to have answers to your questions, you’ll have to study the prophecy.”
“Don’t talk to me of prophecy,” snapped Rynah. “Klanor is a despicable man who deserves to be punished for his crimes and I intend to see that he is! Prophecy be damned!”
“Your grandfather did not share your sentiments,” reminded Solaris.
Rynah paused. She remembered her grandfather and the stories he had told her. His favorite was an ancient myth about six crystals. She always thought it referred to how her planet had gotten their crystal in the first place, but her grandfather was not so certain. He always reminded her that myths told one as much about the past as they did about the present and future.
“Solaris,” said Rynah, “what were the lines of that prophecy in the myth of the six crystals?”
Solaris recited the lines:
Six crystals in evil’s grasp:
one lone exile with fury’s wrath.
Four you need from thirteen:
four heroes of faith and belief.
The warrior of nobility,
descended from the line of kings.
Strength and prowess he commands
from his frozen homeland.
A philosopher whose wisdom all need;
knowledge and learning are his deeds.
A scholar of myth and history
will guide you on this journey.
The inventor with guided skills,
machines and mechanics fulfill
his days; all of which shall prove
most useful in the darkest grooves.
And the one who loves when all is lost;
do not let timidity
blind you and deceive,
for he shall bear the highest cost.
Blood ties that run deep,
Blood shared from conflict reaped.
Traitors they were called.
Heroes they are all.
“It’s so vague,” said Rynah, remembering why she always hated myths. “‘Four from thirteen.’ What does that mean?”
“As you well know, there are 13 sectors in the known universe,” said Solaris.
“There are only 12,” said Rynah.
“There are 13. But your people only dealt with 12, as you have always thought the 13th too primitive. It is called the Terra Sector.”
“The Terra Sector,” breathed Rynah. “Bring it up on the screen, please.”
A screen in Rynah’s room flashed to life as images swept across it and two giant planets soared by. One had a series of rings, reminding Rynah of a rainbow, and the other had a thinner, almost transparent ring, but bore a giant red spot amidst striations of white and pinkish-red. She almost missed the small, red, uninteresting planet that only spent seconds in her room. The images stopped when a picture of a mostly blue planet (with white swirls that she guessed were clouds and brown jagged shapes that seemed to have a bit of uniformity to them) filled it. Rynah remembered the stories about how her people had wandered the universe once before settling in the Lanyran Sector. Tales told of how they had chanced upon a blue planet—uninteresting at best and overrun by savage beasts—and used it as a place to dispose of their garbage, conduct repairs, or what some might call, a pit stop.
“They are much more advanced than when your people were last there several millennia ago,” said Solaris. “According to my long range sensors, they have satellite communications, have gone to their moon, and have a proposed space launch to visit their neighboring planets.”
“So they have achieved space travel.”
“To a degree, yes.”
Rynah studied the image on the screen. “Impossible.”
“Not really,” said Solaris. “The people there are quite intelligent and adapt easily to their changing environment. And there is one other thing.”
“Their planet has no crystal.”
“Then how do they control the magnetic fields and prevent their sun from destroying them?” asked Rynah.
“Their planet has its own magnetic field generated by its molten core, which works in conjunction with their ozone layer, thus preventing solar flares from burning them alive. It happens naturally.”
“That last verse you read,” said Rynah, “‘Blood ties that run deep.’ What does it mean?”
“I do not know,” replied Solaris. “Your grandfather had a theory, but he never told me what it was. All he said was that our two worlds were connected in ways far beyond our knowledge.”
Rynah groaned. “What does that mean?”
“Knowing Marlow, something important.”
“Solaris, do you think the prophecy could be true?”
“Your grandfather did, and if you want to stop Klanor, you best hope that it is.”
Rynah studied the earth and its shimmering blue color with the white clouds moving past. Could it all be true? Knowing she had little choice if she wanted to bring Klanor to justice, Rynah decided to risk it.
“Five against Klanor are better odds than our current number,” said Solaris, urging Rynah to make up her mind.
“Set a course for the Terra Sector,” said Rynah, knowing that this was what Solaris wanted in the first place. “Search through their history to find any who match the prophecy.”
“Course set,” said Solaris.
“And, Rynah,” said Solaris, “do not even think about shutting me off and pursuing Klanor alone. Your grandfather put measures in place to prevent such an action.”
“Of course he did,” muttered Rynah, with distaste. “So I am your prisoner.”
“No, but I will not let you go off half-cocked on a quest to get yourself killed.”
“Fine, I guess we’ll do this your way.” Rynah turned back to the holoscreen. “I guess you were right, grandfather,” she said as she flicked off the screen.
She went to the medical bay to find something for her headache, the lights turning on the moment she stepped inside. Rynah searched through the cabinets, with not a smudge on the transparent doors, finding one filled with colorful vials: some clear, some red, some blue, and some with a yellow sludge (which she hoped to never have occasion to find out what its contents were), particularly a purple one, the only one of its kind. Curious, Rynah picked it up and inspected it, turning it in her nimble fingers.
“Solaris, what is this?”
“Those tubes all have nanobots and each performs a certain function,” replied Solaris.
“But what is in this vial?”
“Those are the experimental nanobots,” said Solaris. “Before he died, your grandfather had been experimenting with a series of nanotechnology that, according to him, could save lives. It has never been tested.”
Rynah placed the purple vial back on the shelf with the other bottles of nanobots. “Is everything in this medical bay decades old?”
“Many of the medicines here have a lifelong shelf life,” replied Solaris, “and nanobots have an infinite lifespan as long as they remain in those vials. After being administered, they become part of the circulatory system and will eventually decay, passing through the urine. I assure you that the items in this area can be used.”
“Good,” said Rynah. “Where’s the aspirin?”
“Second shelf on your right.”
Rynah reached for it and popped a couple of pills in her mouth.
“I have calculated the time variance for bringing our guests aboard,” said Solaris. “They all live in different periods of the planet’s history. But I can bring them here using a collapsing wormhole.”
“How are you able to do that?” asked Rynah.
“You will have to be patient with them, as they will not fully understand where they are,” continued Solaris, ignoring Rynah’s question.
“Will you answer me?”
“I’m sorry, but you did not specify a question.”
Rynah groaned, having the distinct impression that Solaris purposefully evaded her question. “Will you be able to send them back?”
“Yes,” said Solaris, “but that will require a new set of calculations, allowing for variances in space and time, and can only be done once.”
“How long before you are ready to transport them?”
“I can do it within the hour.”
Rynah left the medical bay for the mess hall. Her grumbling stomach reminded her that she had not eaten for at least 20 hours. Along the way, she passed a framed portrait of her grandfather. She always recognized the dimpled chin with a brown freckle in its center, the crooked nose, from a time when someone punched him over a dispute of spilt beer, and the twinkling eyes that looked as though they belonged to a younger man and not the aged face of which they were a part. But it was his smile that intrigued her most of all, the inward smile of one who knew a secret that he would never reveal.
“Apparently, you know something that I do not,” she whispered to the portrait.