Trinary Chaos: The Azalea Effect

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Patagonia

DAY ONE: Obscura

Far above the grand highland jungles of the Andes was an old, rickety plane. It was still quite large, and inside were seven people. One was the pilot, who was just hired to fly the plane to find a space to land near a point of interest and as a guide who knew the area quite well.

Two were Jack Mayflower and Maizie Cloude. The two were sent by Milo himself to follow up on a lead for more clues on the artifact. Our young hacker Maizie had done some research, and they soon ended up on an archeological dig.

The others were archeologists of different specialties. Their leader, Victoria Kurst, had discovered the site originally on a different expedition, but had no time to explore it.

The site itself was an interest because of the mysterious languages found in artifacts and books. Technically, it was two sites they were exploring, but the two sites were an hour apart. The original site was a mysterious village in the middle of the jungle, and the other was found from poorly drawn maps found in the village. The second site was supposedly an important cave higher up the mountain. A path to the second site had been created by original inhabitants, which let them access the path by their expedition vehicles.

The plane landed in a clearing, which was bright and buzzing with insect life. The twelve left the plane, dragging equipment with them. Most of the equipment were motorcycle kits which as the name suggests, contains the items needed to create a motorcycle. The guide released some llamas and donkeys from the plane, which would be used to carry the equipment.

“Are we ready to go?” the guide asked, surprisingly with a European accent.

“Yes, yes, Miss...” a member of the team responded. He wasn’t paying full attention, as the man was trying to fix a camera.

“Cardenas will suffice.”

“I apologise about Nathan Chang over there,” the leader, Victoria Kurst said, extending a worn yet graceful hand. “He’s a scientist, but he doesn’t do well with names.”

“I understand. Nobody bothers about the guide.”

Victoria laughed at the joke.

Meanwhile, Jack and Maizie were back in the plane, rereading a booklet that contained the details of what they were supposed to do.

“Well,” Maizie began, “get on the expedition- check! Number two, make sure nothing goes wrong- check! Although there was that ice-cream problem, but whatever. Three, continue the mission by finding the site.”

“Brilliant, and a bunch of nonsense information on the other pages,” Jack groaned, “now, let’s get to it!”

“Ugh, I hate the jungle.”

“Well, I love it.”

“No, you hate it.”

“No I don’t.”

“You’re just saying that to annoy me,” Maizie pouted, crossing her arms, “you said it was too generic during our first missions together.”

“Anyway, I’ve never heard of these people before. I’ve checked everywhere and I’ve even called some favors. Never heard of this team or the people here. Besides the leader Victoria. That’s just it.”

“Me too, I’ve hacked every database I know. But Milo did say to get on this expedition since the photos brought back had the same writing as the artifact.”

“True, but they don’t know who I am. Lots of people do. Besides, why did Milo just tell us to join this? He just pulled the information out from nowhere!”

“I agree, only a few photos of this site were on the web. The ones Milo gave us had details and were very specific...”

“And what are you two talking about?” a member of the expedition cut in, popping into the plane out of nowhere.

“Nothing,” Jack answered.

“Well, you gotta tell us something. We’ve all worked together before, but we’ve no idea who you are.”

“Well, the name’s Maizie Cloude,” Maizie introduced, “don’t you dare comment on how old I am.”

“Nice to meet you, Maizie. My name is Lynnette Ferguson,” the blonde haired woman introduced, “but you can call me Lynn. Wait, how old are you? Fifteen?”

“She’s… old enough,” Jack countered, “probably. I’m the famous Jack Mayflower.”

“Ah,” Lynette began, “I‘ve never heard of you. Anyways, we’re about to set off. Come, I’ll introduce you guys to the others!”

“Gladly,” Maizie muttered.

The two followed a cheery Lynn out of the plane, where the others waited.

“Hey! Hey!” Lynn called, “Meet Jack Mayflower and Maizie Cloude!”

“Nice to meet you guys,” Victoria greeted, “let’s hope we can work together.”

“I am Nathan Chang,” greeted another, “I do most research.”

“I am Lloyd R’Vaeren,” a purple haired man introduced.

“I think I’ve heard of you before,” Maizie replied, “I just can’t remember where...”

“Don’t forget about me,” the guide Cardenas chimed in, “Brook Cardenas.”

“Alright, let’s start!” Jack laughed.

The guide began to fit the rest of the equipment on the donkeys and llamas, then they began the trek into the jungle. The jungle was brimming with natural life and was like a painting come alive. Wondrous birds flew around, hopping from bright flower to flower.

“Now according to our map,” Victoria began, speaking to both everyone and the guide, “there’s a shortcut to the site. We should get there in a day or so.”

“I hate walking,” Maizie groaned, “and camping.”

“Why are you here?” Lloyd questioned, “You seem a little too young to be on a trip such as this.”

“I’m a genius,” Maizie offered, “is that enough?”

“Interesting,” Lloyd pointed out. Then, he went to the front of the group, where the others were.

“Lloyd, what did you find out?” the one called Nathan inquired, “Who are these people?”

“Not much. I don’t even know how they managed to get on this expedition. It was just supposed to be us and the guide.”

“Strange,” Victoria commented, “we only released a few photos as a cover the last time we came near here. They shouldn’t have even known we were going back- unless...”

“What?” Lynn asked.

“The only ones who knew about the expedition were the Angel and Storm class operations,” Victoria began, “unless...”

“Unless?” Nathan questioned, growing impatient.

“The DAE is meddling with us again.”

“The DAE? We had a deal with them,” Lloyd pointed out, “they aren’t allowed this, or anything. Not since the Valerio war earlier this year.”

“Who else would it be?” Lynn added, “Nobody else should have known. The only ones who could’ve were mindwiped or swore an oath of silence.”

“Oh, and to be fair, we planted a spy on that portal chasing plane.” Nathan pointed out.

“Let’s just be wary,” Victoria warned, “and if they are who I think they are… they might fit in into our plans.”

“The DCU? They can’t be. Our spies reported them all captured on Conseja!”

“Whatever it is, let’s just act natural,” Lloyd decided, “we’ve all taken acting classes for things like this.”

On that note, the other three agreed.

Hours later, it became apparent that everyone was tired of the journey. Victoria decided to stop and set up camp for the day. Not that there was a day, as the canopy kept most of the light from passing.

“Hey! You! New guys!” Nathan called, “Do me a favor and set up those lanterns. Remember to turn on the anti-animal scenting!”

“You got it!” Jack replied, going over to one of the donkeys to collect the specialized lanterns. “Maizie, get over here!”

“Fine,” Maizie grumbled.

“Now, help me set them around the camp.”

“Okay,” Maizie moaned. But they did what they were told and soon enough, the lantern was set up.

“Well, then,” Victoria began, “who wants dinner?”

“Not yet, Victoria,” Nathan answered, putting together a large machine. “I haven’t set up the grid yet.”

“What is that? The grid?” Jack asked, pointing to the machine.

“It is,” Victoria answered, “a security system. It’ll be attached to guns that will shoot down anything large that tries to inspect us.”

“Wait, what about the animal repellent spray thing on the lanterns?” Maizie questioned, “surely that’s enough!”

“Let’s just say...” Lynn began, not sure of what to say, “bears and jaguars aren’t the only things here.”

“Well,” Jack started, “I for one, think it’s a brilliant idea. Can I help in any way?”

“No, for I work better alone.”

“Well, I’ll be getting the food ready,” Lloyd informed.

“Oh, brilliant!” Lynn giggled, “Lloyd makes the best food.”

“I agree,” Victoria spoke, “Jack, Maizie, you’ve got to try his creations!”

Lloyd’s supposedly wondrous food was finished just as the perimeter defense system was set up. True to what the others had said, the food was amazing. It had the perfect balance of everything. As they ate, they all got to know each other.

And when all was said and done, they decided to go to sleep. The tents had already been set up, and everyone was perfectly comfortable. Specifically, there were only three tents- one for the guide, one for Jack and Maizie, and a large one for Lloyd, Nathan, Victoria and Lynn.

Far after Jack and Maizie were thought to be asleep, the four lit a light.

“I think everyone else is sleeping now,” Nathan muttered.

“Obviously,” Lynn pointed out, “now let’s get to business.”

Unknown to them, Jack and Maizie were outside, and not asleep. But the walls made it quite hard to hear. With a small knife, Jack slashed a tiny hole where he could see what was going on.

“Of course,” Victoria replied, “Lloyd, set up a connection to the Library of Alexandria.”

“Done,” Lloyd boasted, showing them all a loading sign on a screen.

“A-am I get-tting --ough?” a voice said from the device.

“Not really,” Nathan murmured, “Hold on, I’ll boost the signal.”

“--Hel- Hello? Hello?”

A person’s face appeared on screen. It was a man, and captioned was the name ‘Caiden Corvette’. The screen split in two, and this time, an old woman’s face appeared. The caption was ‘Katherine von Schieden’.

“You’re getting through,” Lynn informed.

“Lovely,” the woman named Katherine complimented, “now, why the emergency meeting?”

“An unexpected error in the system, perhaps?” Lloyd offered.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Caiden questioned.

“It means we’ve gotten some unexpected visitors,” Victoria informed, “Jack Mayflower and a Maizie Cloude.”

“You’re joking,” Katherine said, “it’s impossible that anyone could have known about this trip.”

“Well, they’re with us, and we don’t know why!” Lynn shot.

“Do you think it could be-” Caiden began.

“Avalon? A third party?” Victoria cut in, “No, that’s impossible. It can only be someone who’s been spying on us, or-”

“The DAE!” Katherine finished. “Which could make a lot more sense.”

Outside, Jack and Maizie stood, confused.

“How do these guys know about the DAE?” Maizie pondered, “Isn’t that impossible?”

“It is. We need to contact Milo.”

Back in the tent, the mysterious people continued to theorize on where our unlucky DAE agents had come from.

“But, this may be a blessing in disguise,” Lloyd suggested, “we’ll get the tech quicker.”

“Let’s go the safe route,” Katherine decided, “I will contact the DAE sector that manages the DCU and portal studies leaders.”

“Vilette Villefort?” Victoria mentioned, “Our intel has shown us she may be untrustworthy.”

“No, we’re bringing this to the top,” Katherine replied, “to American Director Milo Krassant.”

“Him? He’s a director!” Nathan argued, “Directors don’t usually interfere with other things such as the DCU team we’ve heard about! Directors usually focus on world changing threats!”

“Our intel says that Milo has involved himself quite a lot,” Caiden told, “and more so now that his brother, the leader of the so called DCU is kidnapped on the Conseja island.”

“So?” Lynn asked, “What are we to do?”

“Send us a photo of the two, we’ll run it through our database.”

“Done,” Victoria reported.

“Then this meeting is over.”

The screen fizzed, returning to just static. Lloyd pressed a black button, turning off the device. Outside, the two stared in confusion. Who were these mysterious people? How did they know about the DAE? How did they know about Isla Conseja? Those were the questions they thought as they made a retreat into sleep.

DAY TWO: Xeno

As an unseen sun rose, the rainforest began to change and come alive. As usual, the world was bright and colorful, but the animals of the night differed with the animals of the day. For the voices off the night were eerie and dark, and so it was different from the flowering songs of daylight. Full from the mystery of the previous night, both groups, the two DAE agents and the mysterious other group rose with an energized intrigue in each other.

Of course, they both hid their newfound fascination and acted as if nothing had happened.

“Oh, look!” a delighted Maizie called, “A quetzal!”

“Sorry kid,” Lloyd commented, “no idea what that is.”

“A bird, look!”

Lloyd looked over to where Maizie pointed. There was a bird flying around green, red, and black in color. The bird was red on its belly, a soft green everywhere else, and black on the edges of its wings. It’s tail was long, amazing the two.

“Hey! Daydreamers!” Nathan called, “Stop watching those birds! We gotta move! We’re crossing a river of some sort soon!”

“I hate rivers,” Lynn mentioned, “have I mentioned that?”

“Can we get going?” the guide monotoned.

“Yeah, let’s go,” Victoria answered. Then, she turned to the others and shouted: “Guy’s c’mon! Move it!”

“I’ll snap a photo of it,” Lloyd offered.

“Thanks, Mister R’Vaeren.”

“Lloyd is fine.”

Lloyd snapped a photo off the quetzal and joined the rest of the team. Victoria and the guide debated on the quickest route while everyone else gathered the equipment and fixed them to the pack animals.

Today, the trek would bring them to the site, which they would get to by lunchtime.

Once all the items were set and packed, the group began to finish their journey. They traveled up and down, cutting vines and marvelling at animals.

“Wait,” the guide Brook spoke, “something isn’t right here.”

“Everything seems fine,” Victoria argued, “let’s continue. We’re about eighty percent of the way there.”

“No,” Lynn disagreed, “isn’t it obvious? No noises. All along, the sounds of the rainforest have accompanied us.”

“It was like this before when I discovered it with the other team,” Victoria informed, “nothing ever came of it.”

“You were only there about ten minutes last time,” Lloyd reminded, “we don’t know anything about this place.”

“Is that what the gun is for?” Jack inquired, “Keep away whatever is causing the silence.”

“Yes,” Nathan answered, “Victoria mentioned the silence in her previous mission file. That’s why.”

“We’ll be safe, right?” a hopeful Maizie gulped.

“Probably,” Jack responded.

“We have to continue,” Victoria demanded, “that’s what we’re here to do!”

“I have to agree,” Lloyd contributed.

“Then… let’s go,” Brook decided, “I am getting paid for this...”

As they continued, the contrasting absence of life began to creep eerily on the seven. It was as if a fog had rolled in, obscuring any sort of life. However, a variety of insects still roamed, but insects do not make noise, and it didn’t help that they were creepy.

And soon, the group arrived at their desired location. The seven stood, staring in fascination at a towering stone wall. From what they had gathered, the wall surrounded the entire village, tall enough to ensure nobody could climb over it.

In front of the team was an archway half open, a rollable stone peeking out.

“This is- is- it’s amazing!” Jack blurted, “This construction!”

“And it’s just one of the mysteries of this village,” Victoria replied, “besides the fact these walls should’ve been impossible at the time period. Well, impossible at all- our modern ways can’t even replicate the jigsaw pressing of these stones.”

“Is it not Incan? Or some variant?” Jack blurted, “These look like the impossible Incan structures of Machu Picchu!”

“According to our research,” Lloyd began, reciting information like a computer, “this predates the Inca.”

“A pre-Incan civilization with a written word? This should be impossible!”

“I don’t see what’s so cool about some rocks,” Maizie yawned.

“My dear Maizie, this rock wall should be impossible!” Jack blurted.

“Let’s not waste time,” Nathan reminded, “let’s go.”

Everyone agreed. Friends or enemies, the investigation into the village was the key priority.

One by one, each of them stopped in, making sure not to disturb anything.

The village was devoid of life, droning on in its sad, lonely existence. The vacant village was made up of about eighteen stone huts, a central zone outlined with pebbles on the circumference that would’ve had a roaring bonfire in the center. Opposite of where the team now stood, they could see what appeared to be a church, or temple tower over the three huts that were in front of it.

Long twisting pipes fed into bucket-like troves and into houses, where slow dribbles of water dripped. Wells were present, and every few houses had one.

“The technology,” Jack began, pausing to admire the village, “it’s like a mixture of all the great technologies of other civilizations!”

“And more,” Victoria commented, “we know whoever lived here had a sewer system. We’ve scanned the area, and there appears to be a system of man-made tunnels and caves underneath. Sewage gets dumped into a garden area just outside on the other side.”

“And the other site?”

“Well,” Nathan began, “a large road leads a ways up the mountain into an area we’ve never seen before. According to what we’ve gathered from the photos, it appears to be a sacred site.”

“We’ll set up camp here,” Lynn informed, “the safest place is here, after all. Now, we’ll assemble the motorcycles to be used to drive up the mountain- don’t worry, the roads will be fine.”

“Brilliant,” Lloyd put in, “now, let’s all get to work.”

“I’ll tie up the animals outside the site,” the guide, Brook informed.

And so all six began to work on setting up camp. The guide sat around lazily, her job having been complete for the time being. Like before, they all had separate tents. While the others were working to fit together the vehicles, Lloyd set about preparing a delicious lunch. “What would you like for lunch?” He had asked. This, in turn, elicited more of grumble from the mysterious four of how Lloyd never bothered to work on the camp. Jack, Maizie, and the guide requested some food, ignoring the others.

“Aaaand, done!” Lynn cheered, “Anytime, we can go up to that sacred site!”

“Brilliant,” Lloyd mumbled, rolling his eyes, “and is everyone just gonna forget my cooking?”

“Sorry,” Jack spoke up, “but I’d rather go up and investigate more mysteries.”

“Well, I’ll be staying here,” Maizie offered.

“Fair enough, I’ll at least have one person to enjoy the food.”

“I’ll be here too,” Nathan said, “I have to do a more complete mapping of the village. Lynn?”

“I’ll be going up to check out the other site.”

“Well then,” Victoria started, standing up, “let’s go!”

“We’ll join you guys after lunch,” Lloyd suggested, “I’ll be leaving the food in a preservation box.”

Victoria nodded.

Jack, Victoria, and Lynn each hopped aboard the vehicles and drove up the cliffside path. The path was amazingly smooth, and the only time they had issues was when animals decided to block their way. Of course, they made sure not to fall off the cliff.

The sacred site was a cave, but of course, that wasn’t at all what it was.

“Doors!” Jack exclaimed, notifying Victoria, “Giant, stone circular doors!”

“I can see,” Victoria noted, “and look- vent holes for air.”

“Can it be?”

“A city?” Victoria pondered, “But why would it be underground?” Victoria pondered on the idea, before going up to Lynn. “Hey, can you scan those walls?”

“Oh, yeah, sure.” Lynn agreed, scanning the walls. “Hollow. Something’s definitely behind that. Listen, I’ll be out here if you guys are gonna go in there.”

“Got it,” Victoria replied.

“But these are defensive doors,” Jack pointed out, “they are meant to be openable from the inside.”

“You’re right. We’ll never move this on our own.”

Suddenly, the giant stone moved, opening up the way from them.

“Gah! Lynn!” Victoria shouted, “How’d you get there?!”

“Oh,” Lynn began, half laughing, “I found a part of the mountainside opened into a cave when we were coming up. I just went in. Same type of door, but it opens.”

“Well, that makes sense.”

“Pass me a lantern,” Jack said.

Victoria passed Jack a lantern, then found one for herself. Together, the two were swallowed up by the cave. Outside, Lynn continued to scan and write down observations.

Jack and Victoria were walking inside a cave path, and now they were stopped at a forking location. To the left, they saw the harsh light of day, where Lynn had entered from. To the right, the cave trailed downwards into a murky abyss. But this was not just a slow slope. These were stairs leading downwards.

“Now that’s evidence something big is down there,” Jack began, “I wonder what could be so important to have the defensive doors.”

“Why is it similar to Derinkuyu,” Victoria pondered.

“Noted,” Jack noted, “just need to find a city.”

“And judging by what we’ve seen it might just be.”

“But those doors- exactly like Derinkuyu’s. What were these people keeping out?”

Victoria and Jack pondered that for a while as they walked, bonding over archeological mysteries. After a while, they came across a large wooden door.

“Open it?” Victoria wondered.

“Yeah.”

Together, the two used their combined force and opened the door.

“What the!” Jack gasped.

Behind the door, was an entire city. Still-blazing torches lit up the walls with an orange glow. The smells of days gone by lingered in the air, untouched until now. Strong pillars kept up the city, still standing after countless years. The area was made of large, man-made caves. In the center of the main cave where the two were standing was a giant castle made of the stone, still of the same jigsaw style.

“Derinkuyu indeed,” Victoria mumbled.

“Derinkuyu… with Incan styles.”

“And that castle- how was it made...”

“Exactly- T-those stones wouldn’t have been carried by humans!”

Ruined by time, the paint on the buildings was muted and lost. Even though most had returned to gray stone lit by the glowing flames, some paint was still visible, showing a great empire mankind had never known.

“More weird writing...” Jack noted, examining what appeared to be a sign. “Who do you suppose lived here?”

“Pre-Inca? Mayan? Who knows? The design here looks almost Roman, maybe Turkish.”

“Anyways, let’s check out that castle-looking thing.”

Meanwhile, let us return to the rest of the group. Lloyd finished cooking and served up his dishes to the others. The guide, Brook took her fill and retreated back to her tent to wait until she was needed.

While the guide cared not for bonding, Maizie, Lloyd, and Nathan decided to talk.

“So, Maizie,” Lloyd began, “who are you?”

“How so?”

“Just, who are you? You seem quite young for things like this.”

“I have my uses, like running computer details on the finds.”

“Ah, an accountant,” Nathan joked.

“No!” Maizie growled, “Well, maybe.” Maizie pondered while staring at her bowl of untasted soup. “Well, what do you do?”

“I,” Lloyd began, thinking of what to say, “cook- a-and well, other things, but mostly food preparation. I’m more of a techie than an action hero. You know, I did shoot someone with a flare gun once.”

“What?! A flare gun?!”

“Oh, it’s true,” Nathan supported, “It was quite funny. Lloyds if you’ll tell the story.”

“Ah, good,” Lloyd began. “We were off some coast examining some ruins when some pirates on a speedboat started shooting at us. They took out our weapons first, and we were left with some flare guns. I took one, and shot.”

“Amazing! And then?”

“Well, the flare distracted them and they crashed into a rock and blew up. Sounds cliche, but it’s true,” Nathan concluded.

“Hey! This is my story!” Lloyd snapped.

Nathan rolled his eyes. “I shot them too, just I missed. You were just lucky.”

“So you guys are a good team,” Maizie noted. “How long have you all been together?”

“Years,” both Nathan and Lloyd harmonized.

“All four of us,” Nathan reminisced, a metaphorical light in his eyes. “Ah, the good old days.”

“Welp, that’s over,” Lloyd ruined. “Now, let’s go about investigating this weird village.”

“Oh, I’ve totally forgotten we were in a creepy abandoned village!” Maizie realized, adding a pinch of humour into her words.

Lloyd got up, swirled his soft purple hair in thought, then walked away into one of the mysterious stone huts. Nathan got up as well, but instead of following Lloyd into a hut, he made his way to a motorcycle.

“Where are you going?” Maizie asked.

“Up the mountain.”

Maizie mumbled something as Nathan disappeared into new horizons. Seeing little else to do, Maizie finished her soup and joined Lloyd in the hut.

Inside, young Maizie found Lloyd staring at a large, dark, stone box. The box itself had ridges and seemed to be a sort of three-dimensional puzzle. Lloyd fiddled around, sliding segments of the box in a serious effort to open it. As he turned, a keyhole seemed to be visible.

“What’s in that?”

“No idea, but I’ll have to either solve this puzzle… or find a key...”

“Can’t we break it?”

“I don’t think so- and its best to preserve archeological artifacts.”

“Well, then should we be searching for the key? Maybe it’s a game,” Maizie suggested.

“No, if it was a game...” Lloyd began, thinking, “it wouldn’t be made of stone. I gather it might be a safekeeping box of some sort with two ways to open. Though, a box of stone arranged a puzzle should be impossible.”

“Give it to me, maybe I’ll figure it out.”

“Ah… yeah… probably,” Lloyd mumbled, mesmerized by the strange mechanisms the box was made up of.

“Lloyd! Pass the box?”

“Oh! Yeah.”

Lloyd passed the box to Maizie, who went outside. She entered her tent and began to scan the machinery with technology provided by the DAE. With the scans, she would be able to insert it into a problem solving program to solve the box. According to the computer’s calculations, the machinery and steps would be presented to them in about an hour.

“Hey! Maizie!” Lloyd called.

Maizie returned outside, where Lloyd was waiting, visible concern on his face. “What’s wrong?”

“Haven’t you noticed? No damn bones!”

“What? Isn’t that good? Doesn’t that mean maybe these people moved on or something?”

“No!” Lloyd snarled. “No bones at all! Not even animals! I’ve been through the entire village, besides that temple, and no bones! Not even a graveyard!”

“And…?”

“It’s odd. You’d think people that advanced to build impossible structures have a graveyard... Or at least pets.”

“So you’re saying?”

“Gone! Everything, every trace of anyone, almost gone! The only reason we know someone lived here are some stone tablets with weird writing and the village.”

“No pottery and stuff?”

“Yes! Exactly! No evidence of pottery or anything!”

“What about the temple. You didn’t go in it yet.”

“Unopenable.”

“Can we break-in?”

“I suppose so… but the door is basically a giant circular rock only openable from the inside. Or...”

“Now that ‘or’ sounds good.”

“Maizie, I can lift you up on the roof, where there’s a hole. Now, Mayflower, Lynn, and Victoria took all the rope, so you’ll have to be careful. So?”

“Perfect!” Maizie bubbled. “I’ll do it!”

Back in the mysterious underground city, Jack and Victoria enter the castle of stone. The insides were just as majestic as they had viewed outside. It looked like something out of a fantasy novel, with stone chandeliers still lit, flames dancing across the central room.

The central room was pentagonal, and it had pathways for each side. Some led up, some led down, and some led to storage closets. Of course, the two had no idea what the symbols engraved into the stone meant.

“Phenomenal,” Victoria muttered. “This construction isn’t even possible by today’s standards.”

“Unless one was rich,” Jack offered.

“Exactly, who were these people, and why did they build this- this city?”

“Well, shall we pick a direction and go?”

“Agreed.”

Victoria picked a direction, and the two walked up some stairs, leaving behind trackers on the way.

Shadows lined the path, dancing madly as the flames licked and purred. Strange writing was illuminated, glowing in orange and red, moving with time. At the end was an archway into a room. Jack and Victoria entered the room.

The room had a large rectangular slab in the center, probably used as a table. Lights flickered, illuminating the stone shelves lined with stone and glass bottles.

“What could this place be?” Jack wondered.

“Either some sort of kitchen or a lab,” Victoria answered. “But probably a kitchen. See those shelves, look at those bottles on them.”

“It’s glass,” Jack pointed out. “Some of the bottles are made of glass.”

“What? Impossible.”

Jack grabbed one of the glass bottles and showed Victoria. “See?”

“So this is some sort of highly advanced civilization...”

“Perhaps...” Jack muttered, brushing away the dust. Now that the dust was clear he could see inside the bottle, which was filled by powder.

“Cooking spices?”

“Maybe,” Jack pondered. “But do you feel that?”

“What?”

“The air… it seems different here- come over here.”

Victoria walked over to where Jack was. Exactly as Jack said, the air was different, noticeably colder. “You’re right, but why?”

“Might be some sort of secret passageway?”

“Perhaps,” Victoria responded, testing the stone bricks.

Jack joined her, and the two began to look for a hidden entrance. After searching for a while, they finally found the source. They happened to push some bricks, causing a mechanism to click and whizz.

“Whoa!” Jack gasped.

“What’s happening?!”

The two watched in awe as the giant slab in the center of the room dipped into the ground, disappearing. In it’s place, was now a wooden ladder that went a long way down.

“Impossible!” Jack gasped.

“How deep is that?!” Victoria confusedly blurted.

Jack took a glow stick from his backpack, cracked it, then threw in into the pit. “Not that deep.”

“Let’s go?”

“Depends on that wooden ladder. It doesn’t look very safe.”

“We’ve got a rope ladder back at camp.”

“Then we should be going back there,” Jack suggested, “unless you want to explore more.”

“Back it is,” Victoria agreed. “Food will be waiting.”

Jack agreed, and the two began to depart the impossible city hidden by the fog of time.

As the two exited the castle, they found Nathan puzzling over a box. The large box seemed to be like a jigsaw puzzle, and it was very similar to the one Lloyd had found.

“What’s that?” Victoria asked. “Looks like a Japanese Puzzle Box.”

“I found it,” Nathan began, “here- It was inside one of the houses here.”

“Odd…” Jack pondered, “we’ve seen some designs not consistent with Native techniques.”

“True...”

“I think we should be going back,” Victoria ordered.

“I agree,” Nathan said, “but I’m bringing this puzzle box with me.”

Victoria agreed, and the three met up with Lynn, who was finishing up mapping the outer area. Lynn agreed, and they set for camp.

Down the old, strong path. Past the crack in the stones. Down into the missing village. Far above, one not introduced watched in deep concentration.

Lloyd and Maizie welcomed the returning party.

They all greeted each other.

“That box!” Maizie said. “It’s like the one we found!”

“You found one like this?” Nathan inquired. “May I see it?”

Maizie led Nathan into her tent, while the others ate Lloyd’s delightful creation. Everyone was tired from a mostly uneventful day and were just talking and bonding.

“Amazing.” Nathan watched the laptop scan and create directions. Now, it was two minutes until completion.

“Is it me, or are they both exactly the same?” Maizie pointed out.

Nathan nodded, a bit perplexed at the congruence as well. Each and every detail was the same, from the mechanisms, to the grooves, and strangely, the color. They both had the exact same color, and even the same disturbances. It looked as if it had just come from a factory.

“And done!” Maizie gurgled, seeing the computer state instructions on the screen.

“Brilliant. You may have the honors.”

Maizie smiled as she took the puzzle box. Following the few dozen instructions, the box clicked, moved, twirled, and even extended.

Thirty exhausting minutes later, Nathan and Maizie had finished opening the large puzzle box. Well, there was still the last step.

“Ready?” Nathan said.

“Ready,” Maizie agreed.

Together, the duo completed the last instruction, which was pressing a button that had appeared in an obscure inside fold.

At the push of the button, the mechanisms on the large box began to click and whirr. With a sudden pop, the mechanisms began to dislodge themselves, falling from where they held it.

The sides cracked open, then fell to the floor.

A small sphere sat in the center of the now-flat box. It was nested neatly in a nest-like structure. It was a cobalt-blue colored metallic sphere.

The sphere was smooth all over, and perfect. Even looking by naked eye, it was evident it was perfect.

Without warning, everyone suddenly dropped to the floor, asleep.

DAY THREE: Deus

A jolt of thunder awoke the sleeping group. When they awoke, they were all exactly where they were before, but slumped on the floor.

Heavy rain pattered down on them, but as of the time, they were too busy to notice.

“Ugh...” Jack moaned, getting up to his knees. “What was that...”

“Better yet,” Lloyd yawned, “what time is it?”

“Four in the morning.” Victoria checked her phone and stood onto her feet. “Now, what happened?”

Lynn groaned and stared at the clouds… which looked different.

“The sphere!” Nathan yelled, snapping Lynn out of her trance-like state, which also caused her to banish the thoughts. “It’s gone!”

Nathan’s cry in the darkness snapped the others out of their sleepy state, and they raced to Maizie’s and Jack’s tent.

Inside, both Maizie and Nathan were looking around for the sphere. But alas, they couldn’t find it anywhere. Strangely, nobody had noticed that the other puzzle box was also missing.

“What sphere?” asked Jack.

Maizie explained what they had discovered to the group. Nobody could theorize what the sphere was, or where it could’ve gone.

“Wait,” Victoria said, pondering something. She looked around, as if searching for something. “One, two, three, four...”

“Victoria,” Lynn began, “what’s wrong?”

“Where’s Brook?”

“The guide? Oh, I don’t know?”

“Me neither,” Maizie added.

“I’ll check outside,” Jack volunteered, going outside into the dark and heavy rain. Nothing, but the sweet fresh air and his powerful flashlight, which cut the darkness. “Brook!” he called. No response.

Against his better judgement, Jack headed towards the guide’s tent.

Jack shined a flashlight, looking around in the darkness. Nothing, just silence. Not even the sounds of animals were heard, like the journey to the place.

Jack opened the tent… and found nothing. There were only a couple pillows and a blanket. Towards a side was a backpack filled with supplies, and next to that was a water bottle.

He was shivering, and drenched, so he took a moment to calm down.

“Nothing! She’s not here!”

Before Jack could realize it, a giant gust of wind slammed into the tent he was in, collapsing the supports.

As he fought to escape the minor inconvenience, he noted that the water felt living, as if each drop had its own living pulse of life. After tossing and turning, he managed to free himself of the collapsed tent, and just as he escaped, another gust of wind blew it away.

But alas, a piece of the tent got in his way, and he tripped, falling into the muddy ground.

“Jack!” Maizie called, unusually brave.

Maizie rushed over to Jack and helped him out. Saying no words, the two held hands and rushed back into their own tent, where everyone was currently sheltering in.

Lynn watched her group’s tent disappear into the distance, destroyed by the wind and rain. “Damn! All our data!”

“We have no chance, we’ve got to get out of here!” Lloyd mentioned. “It won’t be long until even this tent falls!”

“Agreed,” Nathan said, “get anything you can, and we’re getting out of here!”

“Where do we go then?” Lloyd recalled.

“The city. The underground city,” Victoria told.

“What city?” asked Maizie, having not been to the city.

“You’ll see. Now, let’s move!”

As one, the groups took as many items they needed, nodded to each other, and ran out into the darkness and out of the village.

The rain was sticky, as if it were flesh and blood. But in the great panic, nobody had noticed it.

The six got onto the motorcycles, each on one, except Maizie and Lloyd, who didn’t know how to use one, and drove.

Victoria led first, shining ahead.

The trees all seemed to move and growl, living where nobody could see. Tendrils of water and branches reached out, threatening to ensnare them. Lightning flashed and thunder cracked, each illuminating the towering jungle and the deadly road.

But at last, Victoria Kurst led them all to safety, and they were hiding in the cave entrance on the mountain.

“The city is here.” Victoria shone a light into the doorway into the underground city. The electric lanterns shone a great holy light, lessening the anxiety. They all hurried down into the narrow passageway. Nathan went in last, and he rolled the large stone acting as a door using the mechanism. Now, nothing could enter. But the vents couldn’t be closed, and gusts of wind lost themselves inside the city, howling in abstract power.

“Tea?” Lloyd offered, having accidentally grabbed a backpack full of equipment used in the creation of tea.

“Yeah, tea,” Lynn accepted.

“You know, I have a cousin who loves tea, Caleb Azalea...”

“Lloyd, we absolutely don’t need to hear that story again,” joked Victoria.

“Wow!” Maizie shouted, just to test the echo. The echo shouted her words back at her, delighting everyone.

Maizie sat down on what seemed to be a bench. The others noted this and sat on respective other benches. Thunder boomed like a dinosaur’s roar, and the wind threatened to extinguish the age-old torchlight.

“Guys,” Jack began, realizing that none of them knew what happened to the guide, “what happened to the guide?”

They all shook their heads. Nobody knew where the guide was.

“I think I know exactly what caused this!” Nathan declared.

“What?” Maizie inquired.

Nathan got to his feet and reached inside his backpack and pulled out a pistol, aiming it at Maizie. “You.”

“Nathan, what are you going on about?” Lloyd questioned. “These people are completely innocent!”

“No, but all this nonsense happened after they joined our ongoing expedition, which first of all, shouldn’t be possible!”

“I agree,” Lynn said. “Who are these people anyway?”

“Wait, we’re just people!” Jack protested. “We’re all in the same boat here!”

“No, you’re clearly a spy!” Nathan argued.

“A spy, really Nathan?” Victoria countered. “Technically, we’ve been spying on them!”

“What?!” Maizie gasped. “Why?”

“Shut up Maizie,” Lloyd commanded.

Victoria stood and aimed her own pistol at Nathan and Lynn. “Calm down!”

“No, Victoria, these people must be from the war!”

“Nathan, the Valerio war is over! These people are obviously from the DAE!”

“Wait, what?!” Jack growled. “You do know where we’re from!”

“Stop,” Lloyd said. “Let’s not do this. Nathan, you’re a scientist, calm down. Lynn, you are too.”

“Wait a minute, Scorpion planted us here!” Maizie guessed. “I knew it, this was a trap!”

“Scorpion?” puzzled Lynn. “Who are they?”

“Aren’t you… part of Scorpion?” Jack wondered.

“No,” Nathan disagreed, “I’m from Angelbound Research and Development, derived from the Angel Empire.”

“And I,” Victoria added, “am from the Stormbound Federation.”

“What?” Maizie puzzled.

Before anyone could speak a single world, Victoria launched herself at Nathan, tackling him. Lloyd took the hint and fired his pistol, surprising everyone. Lloyd charged at Lynn, knocking her to the floor, then knocking her out. Victoria did the same thing to Nathan.

“Alright,” Victoria huffed, now pointing the gun at Jack and Maizie, “tell me who you two are.”

“I second that,” Lloyd said.

“We’re from the DAE!” Maizie blurted.

“But that’s illegal, the Angel Empire and the DAE have-”

“Lloyd, I don’t think these people even know where we’re from,” Victoria cut in, putting down her gun in the process.

“Maizie, now!” Jack shouted, charging forward at Victoria, surprising her.

Maizie picked up Victoria’s weapon and aimed it at Lloyd, who didn’t give much of a fight. Jack and Victoria brawled, but it was soon clear that Jack wasn’t going to win.

As Victoria began to gain the advantage, Jack made a run, inviting Maizie and her newly found gun along as well. Instead of heading towards the exit, they headed straight into the stone carved castle.

“Lloyd, stop standing there and chase them!”

“Agh- Yes, Captain Victoria!”

Victoria and Lloyd chased the two DAE agents. Jack and Maizie fled through halls and passageways, deviating from the mapped path. Twists and turns, halls and floor, soon, the two thought they were safe.

Maizie turned off her flashlight, hiding their location. Jack frantically searched for any sign of their pursuers. There was none.

Now accustomed to the bleak darkness, the two looked around to see where they had ended up.

“M-Maizie...” Jack moaned. “Look.”

“Huh? What?”

Jack pointed.

The room was a large room, with a large stone table set in the center. Stone benches surrounded the machine, where the builders of the place would have sat. At the edges of the room, were skeletons of unimaginable beasts of size and look.

And on the benches, skeletons sat.

“Oh...”

Somewhere else, Victoria and Lloyd sat on a bench, lost in the winding paths of the stone castle.

“I think we lost them,” Victoria groaned. “Now what?”

“I could… use it.”

“We’ve barely studied it. You don’t know what could happen to you,” Victoria warned. “But if you say so, I’ll allow it. At the very least to get out of here.”

“Good,” Lloyd thanked. “I’ll just lie on the floor.”

“And you’re sure, your body will be fine?”

“Yes, just you know, the usual. Just like the tests. And I believe the kid has my gun.”

“You know what to do.”

Lloyd smiled confidently, found a nice spot and lay on the hard stone floor. It was uncomfortable, but he didn’t care.

Lloyd breathed in, and out, slowing with each breath. His eyes closed, and his heart began to beat slower and slower. Now, he wasn’t even breathing at all. He looked calm, asleep. Then, his heart stopped, and his body went slack against the ground, dead.

Victoria checked for a pulse, and just as she expected, none was found. Lloyd was dead, or at least appeared to be.

At that exact moment, Jack and Maizie were gazing at the skeletons of the builders, which will not be described as of now.

“What… are they?” pondered Maizie, brushing her hand against a skull. “Or were...”

“No idea- Maizie!”

Without warning, Maizie’s body jerked and she seemed to be fighting with something until-

“Hello… uh… Mayflower, right?”

“Maizie?” Jack guessed. “Are you alright?”

“Oh, Maizie isn’t here right now. I’m Lloyd, remember me? Oh, I haven’t been a body so… well, to put it appropriately, alive.”

“How… what?”

“Well, to put it simply,” Lloyd-who-was-now-Maizie began, “I am now intermixed with Maizie, combined. But of course, I, Lloyd or what was Lloyd- weird person, I now reflect, still have the most control.”

Lloyd-Maizie strolled around the room, and pulled out her pistol. She aimed it at Jack. “Oh well, you two did put up a nice fight, after all.”

“What… who… are you?”

“Ah, just let me...” muttered Lloyd-Maizie, activating some sort of tracking device on the pistol. It was located by pressing a specific panel, which popped out another, which would activate the tracker. “Nice to meet you, I’m… Alex. Alex, what a gender neutral name. Brilliant.”

Jack couldn’t say anything, as he was too shocked to even comprehend the events that were unfolding around him.

“Put your hands where I can see them!” the voice of Victoria ordered, appearing just behind Jack. “Good job, Lloyd.”

“Oh, it’s Alex now. Brilliant name. Have you noticed the skeletons here are really weird. On a lighter note, you won’t believe the memories I’m getting-”

“What the hell are these?!” Victoria exclaimed, staring at the skeletons that were sitting at the table.

The skeletons were humanoid in shape, but not in color or material. They were opaque, and looked more like crystals than actual bone. The skull was elongated, which was also decorated with small bumps in a V shape.

In addition to the mysterious skeleton of the form, it’s eye sockets were large, and pointed downwards. The skeletons were just very tall in general, and they had many bones that were all mysteriously still attached to one another.

“Brilliant, aren’t they?” Maizie, who was now Alex said. “What do you guys suppose they are? Personally, I suppose it’s aliens.”

“No idea...” Victoria mumbled.

“Sorry, but what’s going on here?!” Jack growled. “What happened to Maizie, and what are those skeletons?!”

“I’ll explain later about your friend. Now Lloyd, I mean Alex, can you stop pointing the gun and give it to me.”

Lloyd did so.

“Wait, now what?” Jack asked.

“Oh,” Alex muttered, “I suppose I separate now. I’m sure Maizie will suffice for now.”

Maizie’s body crumpled to the floor, limp. Jack rushed to her aid, but a second later, Maizie awoke. “What happened?”

“I have no idea.”

Victoria pointed the gun, ensuring that they wouldn’t try an escape. A moment later, Lloyd arrived.

“Ah, Lloyd,” Victoria greeted. “That worked surprisingly well.”

“You should let me merge with you sometime, I’d like to know what goes on in that silly head of yours-”

“Absolutely not, Lloyd. Not until it’s necessary.”

“Well, then Victoria, I suppose we should explain the whole possession thing and the hidden cities agreement. So, Jack Mayflower, which is it you’d like explained first?”

“How you did… the possession thing...”

“Oh, brilliant,” Lloyd giggled, in a posh tone. “Long story short- I went into a spooky door when I was three and got the ability to merge with people. Quite cool, I can just leap out of this body and just merge with another person. Nathan Chang says my brain energy or something merges with the person I’m… possessing. Hate that word. That merge creates a completely new person, but with me in control and something called. It uses memetic life forms and stuff. They exist on Memorite with a variance of 4932.249 bits. Only downside is that once I possessed somebody with a photographic memory and now I know all the memories of everyone I’ve ever possessed. Basically, you probably shouldn’t let Maizie have a laptop.”

“What?” perplexed Jack, having no idea what Lloyd was saying.

“Science is hard,” Victoria chimed in. “If it seems like we’re covering obvious plot holes with science and numbers maybe consider you might be too dumb for this.”

“Okay… Now what about that other thing- the city treaty or something.”

“Ah, that,” began Victoria, “is a treaty signed by the DAE and the Storm of Angels organizations. I’m surprised for being in the DAE, you’ve no idea who we are. Basically, our ancestors were super-smart and built flying cities, underwater cities, and this weird time shifting city. No pressure, we’ll explain further, when we lodge a complaint to your leader, Milo Krassant. Or was it Henrietta Rene, I keep forgetting.”

“I don’t quite understand...” Maizie puzzled.

“Ow...” came a voice. “Somebody must’ve hit me on the head. It still hurts...”

Everyone looked past the doorway, revealing Nathan Chang and Lynette Ferguson standing, quite dazed and confused.

“Also,” Lynn started, “we found something you guys need to see.”

“Wait, those skeletons! That’s like what we found! But- you’ve got to come see!”

“Wait, weren’t we all fighting each other?” Maizie pointed out.

“We were?” Lynn inquired.

“What? Why would we be fighting each other?” Nathan confusedly questioned.

“I have a theory,” Lloyd piped. “I believe the rain caused this, or more specifically, the sphere that was unleashed. I noticed that the rain isn’t quite right. It seems...”

“Alive?” Jack finished.

“Precisely, something is going very wrong here. The rain must’ve injured our memetic life-forms for a while.”

“What are those?” Maizie asked.

“Oh, science and numbers,” Victoria joked. “Language is a living creature, a parasite that-”

“That I don’t want to hear.”

“Brilliant everyone, we’re all almost up to speed!” Lloyd clapped. “Jack and Maizie here are part of the DAE, and we told them where we’re from, though I don’t think they believe- but that’ll be settled in good time!”

“Can we focus on the alien-looking life-form now?” Lynn pleaded.

“Life-forms?” Victoria pondered. “That implies...”

“We found one of your skeleton ‘aliens’- alive. In some sort of stasis chamber, no doubt.”

“Jack, Maizie,” Victoria addressed, “are you up to having peace with us? We won’t harm you, just that we’ll need to be clear if we’re to coexist. Anyway, it seems we’re all stuck together, as I’m not going in that… living rain until it’s over.”

“Sure,” Jack decided. “Though I don’t believe any of your stories.”

“You will,” Lloyd said, “once we’ve finished viewing this ‘alien’, we’ll call your leader Milo, as I brought our communications device. He’ll clear things up.”

“Then it’s settled. A peace. It seems our organizations have peace as well?”

“The hidden cities… do maintain peace with the DAE.”

“Wait.” Maizie tugged at Jack. “Are you seriously suggesting we trust these people?!”

“Maizie, I don’t think they’ll be hurting us. And, well, we’re also stuck here together, so we’ll just...”

“Pretend nothing happened?” Lloyd guessed.

“Something like that.”

Maizie sighed, but accepted the situation. If they didn’t try anything, the others would not as well. Though she was more annoyed at the fact that Lloyd now had access to all her memories, feelings, and thoughts, which were private.

Jack tugged Maizie, a sign to follow Victoria out of the room. After a while of following Nathan and Lynn, the combined group arrived at a room that was different.

Instead of having the stone walls, the room was metallic, like on that could be seen in laboratories.

In the center, a tank lay on the floor. The lid was glass, allowing the group to see inside. Lights that were inside the tank shone, giving the liquid inside a light blue color.

Inside, was the ‘alien’. The being had a light gray skin, and on its head were small horns. The large, downward pointing eyes were large and black. The body was quite long and slender, almost skeletal. Areas of the skin were translucent, allowing them to see the opaque crystalline bones. Occasionally, bubbles would float up and pop.

Compared to what they had found in the room of skeletons, this being looked very much alive.

And it was, as even through the bubble filled liquid, a light breathing could be seen. Its chest rose up and down, slowly, but steady.

“It’s alive!” Lynn joked.

“What… is it?” Maizie wondered.

Suddenly, several small beeps came from Nathan’s pocket. He pulled out a phone and puzzled over it. “Something tripped our sensors.”

“Where?” Victoria asked.

“The city entrance. Something’s there- something humanoid.”

“Do you want to check it out?”

“Sure.”

Nathan and Victoria chose to ignore the ‘alien’ in what seemed to be a stasis tank and left the rooms.

The duo followed the paths, twisting and turning, getting lost, but eventually leaving the labyrinth castle.

Gusts of wind echoed as they walked through the tunnels to the entrance. Overhead, thunder roared like lions, and the ‘living’ rain pelted down with unending torrents, now seeming more solid.

Through the tiny holes that acted as vents, Victoria could barely make up an outline of a person just outside the door. It was dark, and it seemed more of a shadowy figure rather than a recognizable person. Lightning flashed, but the figure was still enveloped in complete darkness.

“So, Victoria, what-”

“Shush, I think someone’s there,” Victoria ordered.

“Who could it be?” Nathan wondered, looking outside through another vent.

Still, the figure could not be seen clearly. Just a dark shadow.

“Wait,” Victoria said, “it could be the guide.”

“We would’ve heard a voice or something. And I think she’d notify us. Remember, she went missing- we don’t know where she went.”

“If as you say, the guide is missing, then who is outside?”

“I don’t know, Victoria. But something feels not quite right with whoever’s outside. I believe the lighting should have illuminated the person.”

“Agreed.”

Suddenly, whoever was outside began to knock on the large stone. One knock, then a pause. Another knock, then a pause. Then two knocks. Last, was three knocks. It then began again.

“What could that mean?” pondered Nathan, keeping calm.

“One, one, two, three- part of the Fibonacci Sequence,” Victoria guessed.

Before the two could theorize any more, a muffled voice was heard, coming from outside.

“Wait, that sounded like a voice,” Nathan pointed out.

“I agree.”

The two pressed their ears onto the cool, hard rock.

One knock, another, then two knocks. Last, three.

“Hello? It’s me, Brook.”

Nathan and Victoria drew back in surprise. Outside, thunder boomed and lightning flashed like fire.

“Odd,” Victoria decided. “If it was her, why knock. Just yell, why talk.”

“I don’t know, but I’m not going to risk… well, it sounds cliche, but it.”

“I don’t think whatever is outside is the guide either.”

With exact repetition, the being outside knocked, and spoke with the exact same tone and cadence.

“Sounds… automated,” Victoria commented.

“Victoria, look!” Nathan gasped, pointing at the small ventilation holes.

“Oh my-”

A liquid was being pushed through the holes. It seemed like the sticky living rain they had all come through to get to the city. The liquid stuck to the walls as it dribbled down.

“It… it’s black?!”

“Yes, Nathan, I can… see that!”

More and more liquid was being pushed through, grower blacker, not transparent as what rain should have been. It kept pushing through, even when Victoria stuffed one hole full of dirt.

The knocking now grew to something trying to barge in, but the doors held tight, and the being on the other side could not enter.

“I...” Nathan began, pulling out a tablet from his backpack. “I think I’m going to call Providence.”

“Can we even get our satellite signal?”

“I think so...”

More and more liquid kept coming as Nathan pressed buttons and tapped at the screen.

“Nathan, I think we need to run!”

“Hold on!”

“N-no, the door!”

The circular defensive stone that was the door began to crack as the entity outside knocked upon it.

“Hello, this is Central Command- ah, Nathan, what do-”

“Emergency transport, ASAP! Get over here, now!”

With an earth shattering crack, the stone shattered, transforming into pure dust.

Victoria and Nathan coughed as they ran, dropping the tablet in the process. The dust obscured their vision, but they managed to run into the castle and lever shut the doors.

“This is Lynn to Victoria, we heard a… well, explosion. Oh, and Jack found an… artifact not like the one we’ve been eyeing that’s in the DAE’s possession, you know, the one that’s on Valhalla base. Oh, and Lloyd is asking if he can… merge with the ‘alien’ being.”

“This Victoria and we’ve got bigger problems than trying to steal an artifact, Lynn. No time to explain, fortify that room!”

“What?! Why?”

“Just do it!” Nathan ordered.

“Got it. End transmission.”

Just as the two finished speaking, a loud knock echoed through the halls. The being outside knocked again, and the duo fled the scene.

The entity outside spoke the same chilling words as before.

The dashing duo entered the room, finding everyone but Maizie fortifying the room. Maizie was studying the artifact, which was a book, with peculiar symbols similar to the artifact found at the temple of water. But some symbols looked to be like the Voynich Manuscript.

In the center, the ‘alien’ inside the stasis tank lay, as nobody knew what to do about it.

“Captain Kurst, what’s going on?!” Lloyd asked.

“No time, it’s gonna-”

The group heard a deafening crack. The being had broken through.

“What the hell?!” Jack voiced.

“That’s the sound of tons of stone being shattered into dust,” Nathan clarified. “Now, DAE or not, we’ve got to defend ourselves.”

Jack nodded levered the door, closing the entrance.

As soon as he did that, the knocking began, then the speech.

“That’s-”

“No, it’s not.”

From small holes that were now forming all over the room, a translucent black liquid poured.

Lynn bumped into what seemed to be a barrel and gasped. “Wait, something’s in here.”

Lloyd opened the barrel.

Inside, were shining crystals. As they watched, the crystals changed colors and shapes, but still held a mostly solid shape. Some crystals appeared to phase out of reality, while others didn’t seem to exist at all, and made the viewers dizzy.

“What the hell?” muttered Nathan.

“Disturbing enough to make a sane man mad, and a mad man sane,” Lloyd murmured.

“On?” Maizie inquired.

“All of this nonsense.”

With an explosion, the door was reduced to dust. The group stared as the entity made it’s move, finally appearing into the light.

The being was liquid, made of the same translucent black liquid that had dripped and poured.

The entity had taken on a humanoid form. A smooth cover of pulsing liquid was a face, and a slender body pulsed in time, alive. The legs were long, but what was its arms were longer, the living liquid almost reaching the ground.

The living liquid stepped forwards, dripping water as it did.

The group stood, paralyzed in fear as the liquid entity began to move towards them.

But Lynn was smart, and with all her strength, she lifted the small barrel of crystals, and threw it at the living liquid.

At impact, the barrel exploded in flames that changed color. Each and every drop of liquid on the entity seemed to scream in agony, as the flames engulfed and spread all over the liquid. The flames, like the crystals seemed to phase out of reality, taking the liquid monster with them.

While the liquid entity was distracted, the group ran, bringing the artifact with them.

Victoria ran downwards, thinking that maybe being outside was safer. After an eternity of running, the group was outside the castle.

“Agh, I,” Nathan panted, “-I’ve called for help. We need to get outside and leave-”

Behind them, the castle exploded. The group looked back to see clouds of mixed colors burn and phase. Next, was another explosion that rocked the very foundations of the entire city. The third seemed to come from the center, and the castle shattered into a million, pieces, exploding outwards, yet inwards as well. There was do doubt that the ‘alien’ in stasis was destroyed.

Debris began raining down upon the city. Some appeared to disappear into oblivion before they could reach anything.

In the center of the ruined castle, debris began to swirl, and a faint colorful glow signalled the existence of a time portal.

And the portal was exceptionally large, almost as large as the castle.

The rock ceiling began to crack, and massive boulders began to fall, crushing anything in their way.

“Damn it- run!” somebody hollered.

But suddenly, the group saw the liquid humanoid in front and-

A boulder crushed the entity, splattering it into a billion tiny drops.

Without saying a word, the group dodged and ran.

The ceiling just above the ruined castle began to pull into the time portal, and more cracks were visible.

With a satisfying crack, the roof began to fall, first into the portal, then everywhere else.

But just as the rock above the heroes began to fall, the group made it, gasping for air outside the underground city.

Behind them, the city buried itself.

But the danger was not over yet, and the cliffside path growled and rumbled. As they tried to run down, a large segment of rock fell, causing a slight landslide and destroying the path.

In the path’s place, was a long drop into the jungle.

“Now what?!” Maizie cried out.

“Now,” Victoria began, “our peace is over.”

At once, Victoria’s group pulled out pistols and surrounded Jack and Maizie.

“Seriously?!” Jack roared. “We’re all gonna die and-”

As if on cue, the deafening sound of a motor was heard.

But it was no vehicle Jack and Maizie had ever seen.

From behind the mountain, a large ship, grey in metallic fashion, began to appear. From what the two saw, it was bigger than any ship they had seen- and the fact that it was in the air, flying.

Large machinery and rotors moved as the infinitely large airship loomed nearby.

From what seemed to be a vehicle compartment, a car flew out, but it wasn’t a car. It flew down towards the group, mechanical wings unfolding as it did. No wheels were visible, just flat.

The vehicle flew to the cliff’s side, right next to the group.

Jack and Maizie stood in silence, mouth agape in wonder.

“Well, then,” Lloyd bubbled, “let’s move!”

And everyone entered the vehicle, squishing into the small space.

Behind them, they saw the mountain’s rumbling intensify, and soon, landslides were taking place, destroying any way into the underground city and the mountain path.

Ahead, Jack and Maizie saw what appeared to be letters on a flag that stood tall and large above the airship.

This, read Providence.

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