Finally, the moment you've all been waiting for! The creation of the wiki's third collaborative fanfic, perhaps this time with a title that is not three words! Anyway, this is where the actual writing will take place. The discussion tab of this page is intended for conversation about how the story is progressing, etc. Basic information such as character lists can be found in Yuanchosaan's Sketchbook. Hopefully we can begin this Story ASAP!
- Editing of this fanfic is open only to users listed on the Sketchbook page. If you are not one of these people, please do not edit this story unless you are correcting format, markup, or minor grammar.
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- As noted on the Sketchbook, this is a sci-fi story with little correlation to Final Fantasy. Please try to act within reasonable boundaries of plot twists and keep grandiose character introductions and drawn-out fight scenes to a minimum. This is fantasy, but it is intuitive, futuristic fantasy that is partially based in reality.
- This is kind of a new concept, and there are many editors, so please feel free to ask questions or make suggestions on the talk page!
The History of the World is a Book.
Each People is a Chapter,
Each City is a Page and
Each Human Being is a Word.
Each Word has a Meaning - at one, single place.
But he doesn't know about it.
He has to discover it.
And so begins his Inner Quest.
The Sun crept through the hut because the sister of Araya'Ndanki had left the window open before leaving for the fields.
Slowly, the fisherman opened one eye and and let out a sigh. He stretched on the bed and yawned loudly before getting up and sitting up, his head still bowed down. He had not gone to bed particularly late last night, he was just being lazy.
After doing his daily prayers to A'mano and washing his hands and face, Araya stepped outside the small hut in which he and his older sister lived. The early morning's chill had alread passed and midday's warmth began filling the air about the peaceful village. He saw the children running about and the maidens returning from the river carrying jugs of water over their heads. Some of the elders had sat at the common room's entrance and were busy with their looms and parchments. The hunting dogs' pups lay sleepily at their feet, their adults having left with the hunters at the breaking dawn.
Araya grabbed his net and headed for the river. He passed by the maidens and smiled at them, bidding them good morning and, discreetely, winking at Imena'Nkana, eliciting a few raised frills of pleasure and a smile back. The road to the river had been paved with stones hundreds of cycles before he had been born, yet it was still flat and regular, and, whenever the need arose, carts could travel between the River and the village with little diffulty.
The Fisherman arrived to the River and boarded his small fishing boat. The boat had belonged to Araya's father and grandfather and was a sturdy, if old, vessel that was rumoured to have been built with wood from the River's delta, where it became very much narrower and where the trees would sometimes unroot themselves off the shores to walk into the waters.
"Thirst is a very natural thing" said the elders in regards.
Araya was smiling at the promise of a great catch that day, seeing how the flying fish were leaping to and fro, when suddenly the sky grew dark, like when a great cloud blocks the Sun for a few moments before the winds blows it away. The fisherman looked up at the Sun and wondered at this, since he had seen no clouds in the sky on that bright morning. He let out a cry as he saw a massive object, very much of the size of one of the Unknown Towers of the far north, pierce the skies and fill the air with the sound of a thousand riders, no, of ten thousand riders, crossing the Canyons of Silence at night.
The Flying Tower seemed to be slowing down as it neared the ground, but its massive size and long distance from the fisherman made it hard to determine. The sound was beginning to be deafening and Araya had to gather every last bit of courage to prevent himself from diving into the water and swim away towards the shore. He instead crouched within his boat while pulling down the sail and steered the vessel back to the small pier, relying on the current alone.The Flying Tower disappeared from his sight, behind the miles of a sea of trees. But few moments after Araya had stood up and leaped off his shored boat the loudest boom came from the forest on the other side of the River. Peeking above the tallest trees, the Octavarium had finally landed, mostly unscathed. Araya'Ndanki could make no other move but to run as fast as he could back to the village.
The torturous crunching and squealing from the ship finally surceased, giving way to the cracking of the over-heated metal settling. Locked safe in one of the Octavarium's many escape pods, Colin breathed a sigh of relief. Even with their state of the art safety systems, he'd been worried that the ship would have been completely destroyed by the crash.
"Okay, first thing's first..." he murmured, punching up the environmental readings. Biodata appeared on the screen: atmosphere breathable, though richer in oxygen and argon; temperature outside still blistering but bearable in an environment suit; no toxins so far.
"Crackle...Hello...?" A thin whine filled the pod, muffled with static. Colin slammed the communicator button and replied, "Colin Teriah, technician here. I am currently unharmed. Please state your name and condition."
"Colin? It's Evets...crackle...sorry, my communicator's a bit br...earing you, though. I'm fine; currently exploring the...most areas seem to fine so far."
"Anyone with you?"
"Dr. Sola was in the next pod...crackle...unconscious. Damn this machine! Hang on, swi... back-up."
"You know, for a mechanical engineer, you seem to be having great trouble with machines..."
"Not the time for frivolity!" Evets practically shouted down the line. "Let's stay on task. First, let's find the others. Anyone with you? Um, like, maybe Hyun?"
"Now who's being frivolous? No, I didn't see her. The junior technicians are with me in the block E escape pods; no one else. She's probably with the other kitchen staff."
"Okay, heading towards the second lot of bridge escape pods." Colin heard a number of dull thuds, followed by a distinctive groan of "Joder, me cago en la leche!" "Hey, I found Na- I mean, Iggy! He's not in a great mood, as you can probably hear...and the Captain's here too!"
"Ignacio speaking now. We've got the assistant pilot, a few navigators and that guy with the red shirt here, all fine. I'm up and checking the navigations systems."
"Right, sounds great," Colin replied. He grabbed his orange environmental suit and pulled it on, then paused before opening the pod. "Do you need my help? I was going to check the engines."
"No need. I tried to run the diagnostics: the entire system is dead."
The hatch swung open, making Colin wince as the first wave of heat hit him. "Oh god."
"Couldn't say it better myself, friend."
"No, really..." Colin stared transfixed at the scorched remnants of the Octavarium's engines, glowing dimly in the emergency lighting. He stepped carefully over the buckled and sloped floor. The entirety of the left wall had collapsed in; a structural beam impaling the main engines. Piles of rubble still hot enough to burn lay scattered everywhere.
"Colin? It's Evets. Nearly everyone's accounted for with no casaulties so far, but the living quarters have been completely ruined - the Octavarium is resting on them. Colin? Hello?"
Through a rip in the wall Colin could just glimpse the glimmer of daylight. Cautiously he pressed his face against it, wary of the jagged edges of the torn metal. He sank to his knees, hypnotised by the first sight of the alien world before him.
A startling vista of deep purple sky confronted him, the crimson swirling of the nebula splashed across it, only partially dulled by the light of the bluish sun. Two pale moons hung in the sky, their colours washed out by the dazzlingly spectacle surrounding them. Around the Octavarium, tall grasses swayed nearly to Colin's level, leaning away as if disgusted by the smoke still emanating from the wreck. Beyond the undulating sea they formed lay a majestic canyon; straight and sheer as if a giant of yore had sundered the earth with it's sword eons ago. He watched a tiny four-winged creature dart through the air after a sinuous, shockingly red sliver worming its way above the grasses. Chattering shrilly, the creature managed to jump on to the thin sliver, swinging wildly into emptiness before diving back into the midst of the grasses. The sliver floated on serenely to join others of its kind hovering contentedly in the shade of a tree with no leaves but countless repeatedly splitting branches, each bright turquoise in colour.
A curious buzzing filled the air, pervading every part of his body until he could hardly tell whether it was in his mind or all around him. Fragrant and unique scents almost strong enough to taste mixed in with the odour of ashes, threatening to overwhelm his senses. For a few moments - no, a century, a millennium - he stood, heedless of the shouts from his communicator, of the existence of a person named Colin Teriah; living only as a being able to sense the things around him. He could hardly take it in, even the tiniest, most insignificant details: the way the sun, the moons and the nebula cast a hundred criss-crossing shadows, the moisture of the rushing wind which blew dancing leaves (or were they insects?) in dizzying spirals up, then down, a particular rich aroma which reminded him of a dim, nearly-forgotten memory, warmth in a kitchen long ago...
Evets turned to Captain Dupont in frustration. "No reply from Colin. The signal from his environment suit indicates he's fine, though."
"Tell him if this is another one of his practical jokes, he won't be setting a foot on this planet. Everyone else is accounted for, yes?"
"Except for Chief Navigator Edward Varius. No one's seen him since before the crash, but I think he was in the living quarters..."
"No doubt he was drowning himself in cheap alcohol and didn't manage to get out. Send Dr. Sola with a few others down the living quarters; they've been badly damaged, so we'd best get down there as quickly as possible to pull him out. I want all thirty members of the Octavarium here before we move out" Silently he cursed Varius' flagrant flouting of the rules. How did such an unstable man - not to mention a few other members of his crew - manage to pass the psychological requirements to join the expedition?
He knew he was being unfair to them. In truth, Dupont could hardly stop from trembling - an alien planet, inhabitable! He felt each moment passing by like a crystal clear snapshot. It was the absolute pinnacle of his life, and he was living it now. Every second he spent here was one less spent outside, in an utterly new world.
"Sir?" asked Evets. "I said we'd send three others and Dr. Sola, yes?"
"Apologies, Engineer," replied Dupont sheepishly. "I was a bit distracted."
Evets smiled. "I understand perfectly, sir."
Eddie woke up in excruciating pain, agony so severe that he almost passed out again. For a few minutes he simply sat, shivering, his breath coming in shuddering chokes and gasps. Gingerly he touched his arm, eliciting another wave of pain through his body.
"Okay, okay," he whispered to himself. "My arm's broken. All the lights are out. I think we had a bad crash, but I've got to stay calm. At least I can breathe." He mentally took inventory: no bleeding wounds, no blindness, aside from his left arm and a few bumps on his head, nothing else seemed to be damaged. He had a throbbing headache, either from the drinking or the bumps. Gently he eased his other arm into his pocket, searching for the communicator and the the light he always kept with him. Nothing.
"It must have fallen out." The sound of his voice, shaky as it was, reassured him. "That means it's still in this room...I hope." By then he could make out dimly the contents of what had been his quarters. Everything loose had fallen out and been smashed to bits, the wall had crumpled over the door and bed, the floor sloped down at an almost thirty degree angle.
He fought down rising terror. No way out, no way to communicate with anyone, no light, no food, no drink, stuck in a box with a broken arm. No telling if anyone else on the ship was alive. He was stuck in a box, and there was no one to rescue him.
Or maybe they were just outside, and couldn't hear him. Maybe they'd tried to find him already when he was unconscious, and now they thought he was dead, while all the time he was stuck in this box, there to starve to death.
"Stop it!" he told himself. "Panicking will just make me run out of air faster. Okay, that wasn't a good thought." He breathed in deeply. "I'm calm. People rely on me for my calmness. This isn't so bad. It's just like when I was a kid playing in the subways in Tokyo. I remember all my friends there; we'd skip school and spend our days hiding and chasing each other. I'd gotten lost several times there, but they found me. Eventually. They'll do it now, I'm sure. I can deal with this.
"It's better here. At least it's not damp and freezing like last time. I even broke the same arm that time. No thugs here, no kidnappers, no train to run me over. Just me on this ship. Perfectly okay. And soon I'll be back home, with Mam and Pa- well, at least on the Octavarium with Colin and Evets and Iggy and Captain Dupont...Captain's going to be so angry with me. I shouldn't have drunk that much, but I was so angry at myself for messing up like that. God, I could use a stiff drink now. But I'd better not move, Doctor Sola would kill me if I did with this arm. Well, kill me after fixing it, anyway. She scares me a little, always with that cold look. There's probably glass all over the floor, like the syringes that the pleasure junkies left around in the subways..."
Eddie had no idea how long he rambled on for in the darkness, voice rasping from the constant talking. He barely paid attention to the specifics of what he said, aware that he was slipping in and out of delirium. When he finally heard a voice, he almost didn't notice it, caught up in the story he was spinning.
"Edward Varius? Are you there?" A female voice, just audible through the door.
"...when I was back in Ireland and- Ivrae? Is that you? You have no idea how glad I am to hear your voice!" he shouted.
"Yes, I'm here. Edward, are you hurt in any way? We're getting you out now," Ivrae called reassuringly.
"I think I broke my arm, but I'm not about to die. I'm sitting next to my bed. The door's broken." His ears strained, he could just hear her giving orders to a few other people.
"We're going to make a hole in the wall. Stay back, this won't take long. Keep calm and don't move, Edward." A line appeared on the opposite wall, laser cutter working steadily.
"I am. Everyone calls me Eddie, by the way."
"Eddie, then. We were worried about you. Everyone else made it out fine. You were the only one not in an escape pod." Ivrae's voice was neutral, but he winced anyway.
"I'm glad everyone's alright."
"Yes, that is a relief. Wait a moment." With a clank a section of metal was kicked in, revealing Ivrae carrying a bulky first aid kit, and two of the Octavarium's guards. "You're fortunate I brought this cast along, just in case. Can you move?"
"At this time," Eddie answered, blinking in the light, "I feel like taking a leaf out of Colin's book and kissing you, Ivrae."
Each member of the Octavarium quietly stood before the ship's hatch, waiting to step into the new world. Dupont had wanted to give them an uplifting speech, but standing in front of them, he realised he didn't need to. Some were apprehensive, others impatient; all were ready. They had found - if in different circumstances from what they'd imagined - what they had been looking for, the thing which had driven them out to spend years amongst the stars, the starlight in their souls that made it impossible to stay on Earth.
"Let the people of Earth walk in a new place, untouched and unseen by human eyes. Let us go forth and do our race proud.
"Open the hatch.""Yes, sir!" the crew of the Octavarium shouted.
As the hatch opened, a fresh breeze of the outside air filled the chamber, a welcome and, for some, exciting change from the air conditioned Octavarium or the stuffy escape pods they had just gotten out of. Dora was especially excited; as an ecologist, she had been waiting to study the diversity of unknown lifeforms and their relation to their equally unknown ecosystem. Taking a camera and a notepad with her, she was one of the first to get over the new found fresh air and walk out into the grassy field surrounding the crash site. She then turned to her subordinates.
Geno was one of the last people onboard to stroll out the hatch. Like everyone else, this new world excited him, but unlike everyone else onboard he could only think of the economical applications of a new planet. All those resources, all the sights, all the potential. And it was all his. Oh sure, Captain Dupont would be the one to go down in Earth history as the man who gave humans renewed hope, but all the economic text books would mention Geno Ryan. The world economy, nay the galactic economy, would call him the greatest man alive since Adam Smith. Geno started thinking of all his business partners and which ones would be most interested in this planet's resources.
But then a horrifying thought occurred. What if they never got off this rock? How would anyone know about Geno Ryan? What if all they find is his corpse and someone else lays claim to the planet? Then he'd just be Geno Ryan, that guy who died on the great new planet.
Dismissing these thoughts, he had to stay positive. Looking around the local flora, he saw some fruit growing on what could only be called a tree. Plucking one of the strange apple-like fruits off, it's smell dominated his very being and all he could think about was taking a bite out of it. Just as he opened wide Grant ran up and smacked it out his hand. "Are you mad sir? We have no idea how our bodies are going to react to the local flora." The purple fruit rolled perfectly towards Grant's feet, where he proceeded to pick it up. "It may smell nice, but for all we know its tissues may contain arsenic. Further study is required before we start tucking into the local plant life."
Geno wanted to yell at the boy, but he knew he was right. It was also a wake up call. No point bringing investors here only to poison them on local delicacies. At the very least, he could get rid of some of the more annoying investors.
Grant's words were immediately rendered moot however as Dora approached, munching on one of the fruit. "I must say, this fruit is delicious! Sweet as a bag of sugar but with none of the teeth rotting effects. I might just have found my favourite food."
"D... Doctor! What are you doing!?" Grant was almost in hysterics, while Geno started to chuckle.
"Relax Grant, I'm not an idiot. I ran some quick tests on the fruit and initial findings showed no real poisons in the tissue. It's sweetness is obviously designed to draw in animals to eat the seeds, which they spread..." She stopped and realised a simile would do nicely, "It's basically an apple." Her simile fell apart however when she reached the core. Instead of a group of seeds in the centre, there appeared to be some kind of bug, like a maggot. Geno and Grant wrenched but Dora was fascinated, "Amazing, the fruit house a living organism." She looked around, studying the trees with a look of wonder on her face, "These trees might not be related to our own perennial woody plant life. They may be fully aware sentient creatures." Dora grabbed the nearest crew man she could find, a portly man in a red shirt, "You! Get me a cutting saw! We're gonna play lumberjack!"
Hyun had overheard the conversation and looked around wistfully. Other people wanted to dissect the animals and catagorise the plants. She just wanted to see what would go best in a soup.
Grabbing the branch of the nearest tree, she was entranced by its bright colours, a feast for the eyes. She also hoped it'd just be a feast. Taking out a kitchen knife from the tools she could salvage, she carefully cut one off. The knife didn't cut through cleanly though, it was like she was cutting through meat rather than a plant. When the branch finally came off she noticed that the tree started bleeding. Not sap, but a substance much thinner, like blood. Almost as if she'd been waiting, Dora hovered over Hyun's shoulder. "I didn't do anything wrong!" she exclaimed."Not at all. In fact, this will have to do before the cutting saw arrives."
"C-Cutting saw?" said Geno. "I don't remember approving that."
"Oh, you didn't," replied Dora. "You'd be surprised at all the stuff I brought."
"All the stuff you...? Like what? How?? I had a list of--"
"Well, you know that young, attractive women like myself have ways of getting what we want," Dora said with a wink. Geno would have responded, but he was too busy worrying about what other people might have smuggled on-board.
A group of three men in red environmental suits were walking towards the tree carrying what looked like a cross between a cannon and a giant toy robot.
"Alright, boys!" shouted Dora. "Cut away!" A large, spinning saw blade eased out of an opening in the device.
"That's the saw?!" exclaimed Grant. "It's twice as big as the tree! That's overkill!"
"I know," said Dora. She leaned a little towards Grant. "Don't worry. I brought a small one, too."
"You what!" shouted Geno. "You brought two saws? Where are you keeping all this stuff?"
"You'd be surprised what you can hide under those cheap little beds," replied Dora. Geno muttered something under his breath about the beds "not being cheap," but no one noticed. Dora's "lumberjacks" were about to slice into the tree.
"You might want to stand back a little," Hyun said to Geno. "Those trees bleed or something. Wouldn't want your environmental suit to get dirty."
But it was too late. The moment the saw cut into the tree, liquid burst out, covering the red-suits and utterly ruining Geno's clothes.
The red-suits stopped for a moment to wipe their faces, then continued. They cut deeper and deeper into the trunk until they were about half-way in. Suddenly, one of the branches smacked one of them on the back of the head. He fell to the ground, and the other two dropped the saw.
"What the hell...?" one of them said. Another branch knocked them off their feet, and the roots of the tree began bursting out of the ground.
"Incredible..." remarked Grant. "The tree is not only defending itself, but it looks like it's moving away from what's threatening it..." The tree was now fully out of the ground.
"Perhaps we should run away? NOW?" said Geno worriedly.
"No, look!" said Dora. "It's running away!"
The ground started to rumble. Aetius had let the men carrying the giant device go by, since they said it was for Dora, but now he was wondering if one of Dora's normally harmless eccentricities had finally done something very serious. He began making his way to her, but something else caught his eye. A tree - no, many trees - seemed to be migrating away from the Octavarium.
"I-I-I-I must talk...to Dora...about this..." he stuttered, thinking out loud. "She...This must...DOOOORRRAAAA!"
The whole crew was transfixed on the trees.
"It's like they're a pack or herd of some kind..." said Geno."It would seem that way," said Dora, almost dreamily. "Fascinating. Absolutely fascinating."
The cluster of "trees" surrounded the wounded member of their number, shielding it from further harm.
"They show protective behaviour towards other members of their species? On Earth, only beings from the animal kingdom show this behavior!" Dora exclaimed, surprised at the strange behaviour of the organisms...
Imena'Nkana had just delivered the water to her grandparents' hut when the Flying Tower clove the skies above her. She had been happily whistling an ancient and simple tune and would have gone to the fields to do the day's work had the Tower not flown above her and had it not made the loudest sound she had ever heard. Indeed, the Tower made the loudest sound anyone in the village had ever heard.
At first, Imena was unable to understand what she was feeling. There was an emotion that urged her for action, choking every part of her that wished to remain static. But the action she was urged to perform was unclear; she could only perceive the raw emotion. It grappled with her will to remain calm and collected, and it beat it into submission almost immediately. Across her mind flashed images of her grandparents, her field, her crops, her friends, her belongings, her hut, all them raining upon her as they had never done before - all in a matter of a fraction of a moment. The agony of having lost them gripped her heart but almost instantly let it go; her grandparents' hut she could see from where she stood, her field was merely a few minutes' walk from their home, she had begun the harvest of her crops days before, she had walked to and from the river along with her friends (he had even seen Araya on the way), she had few belongings and her hut was less than a stone-throw away.
Whenever a hunter visited the village he or she would sit by the fire at the elders' hall and tell stories about the wildlife. The had often described the most alien of sensations. It usually occurred whenever a wild animal was on the loose, or whenever a trap failed, or whenever they were led astray in some strange forest. It could not be understood by the peaceful villagers.
Could Imena have experienced that? Could Imena have experienced fear?
"Imena! Imena'Nkana!" someone cried from afar. Imena turned around and saw her friend Dipeya'Toga running towards her. "Imena! A mountain took flight and ripped the skies!"
"I saw!" Imena cried, snapping out of her stupor. "Where is everyone?"
"They fled to the Kuma as soon as the thunder broke down" said Dipeya, shaking uncontrollably. Most of the villagers had already left for the fields before the Tower had ripped the skies and would reach the Kuma quickly. "Imena, we must hurry too! I feel strange. I feel awful. I felt for a moment as if everything I had, my sister, my hut, my fox-squirrel -everything- had been lost! Look at me! I'm shaking!" Tears began to well up in her eyes "I don't know what came to me! I just don't know! I-!"
"Dipeya, it's... it's fear!" Imena said. "Do you remember the hunters' tales? I think it's fear!"
"What shall we do?" cried Dipeya. "What shall we do? Should we fly to the Kuma?"
"We must find everyone and stay t-together" said Imena, with a strength and a resolution she would only much later understand, though her teeth were clattering as she spoke. "W-We must make sure everyone is s-safe!"
"Imena'Nkana! Wait!" cried Dipeya, but Imena was already speeding towards her grandparents' hut. Dipeya stood frozen for several seconds but she eventually darted off to the Kuma.
Her grandparents' hut was bigger than hers, but, as every hut in the village, consisted of a single room. Imena nearly crashed through with a cry of "Grandfather! Grandmother!" She found her grandfather with a pitiful look of perplexity mixed with the newly-discovered look of fear, holding his wife in his arms while the poor old lady clutched at her breast with both hands and breathed with difficulty.
"Grandmother!" Imena cried, helping the old lady up. "What is wrong? What is going-?"
But the old lady moaned in pain, dropped her head backward and passed out. The old farmer let out a cry and nearly dropped her, confusion and fear numbing every single one of this movements. Imena was quick to catch her and slowly lay her on the floor. The poor old lady was pale, her grey skin growing paler and paler with each passing moment.
"What's happening to her?" Imena cried, getting the same feeling of loss she had had when the Flying Tower had torn the skies, only this time the feeling did not seem to leave her as quickly.
"I don't know" her grandfather said. "I don't know what's happening Imena'Nkana. Why was a Tower flying through the skies? Why did it make the sound of a thousand thunderstorms? I don't know anything! I don't kn-!"
"Grandfather!" said she speaking out loudly before the old farmer could sink into a deeper state of fear. "Everyone is gathering at the Kuma. We should go there too! A'mano will protect us!"
"Yes, yes," said the old farmer, in a daze. "W-We, we should leave. H-Help me carry your grandmother."
The old farmer did not have much strength left, so it came down to Imena and her will alone to carry the old lady outside. She stumbled upon a grinding stone and nearly sprained her ankle trying to break the fall for her grandmother, she then stumbled upon a pot and fell over, painfully landing on her waist while trying again to break the fall of the old lady.Unknown to her, Araya was already a quarter of the way from the river back to the village, still clutching an oar and trying to keep his thoughts away of the fear of never seeing her again.
"All right, I think I got it this time" said Evets.
"That's what you said one, two and three hours ago" replied Colin.
"Third time's the charm, isn't?" Evets' voice came from under the Orbiter's exposed control panel.
"Yeah but this is your fifth time already" snapped Colin.
"Oh hush. You're distr- Ow!" There was a loud, electric crack and the Orbiter's antenna sprung to life, spinning slowly at first but steadily gaining revolutions.
"Excellent! Lemme just see if we managed to lower the voltage now..."
"What are you two gentlemen up to?" asked captain Aetius, stepping over a considerable amount of debris and salvaged crates as he approached the technician and the engineer. Valentina followed close behind.
"We're trying to restore the Orbiter's power back, sir" answered Evets, still from beneath the control panel.
"The rocket engine is working just fine, so we could easily have this baby up in the air and at low orbit in a matter of minutes" said Colin, picking up a pebble and tossing it as far as he could, as if he were trying to make it reach escape velocity.
"But the Orbiter's spectroscope doesn't seem to have been designed for the energy density we ran into" said Valentina, taking a look at the spinning antenna. "And even though I applaud your interest in measuring the electromagnetic fields of the planet from low orbit, I don't think this is something in which we should be concentrating at the moment."
"We're perfectly aware of that, cutey-pie" said Colin, brandishing a winning smile at Valentina. "But we're not trying to map every single EM source on the planet."
"Just the real strong ones," said, Evets, his voice becoming harder to hear because of the antenna.
"To what purpose?" asked Valentina, raising an eyebrow.
"So we could pinpoint the location of the source of the interference that brought our vessel down," said Captain Aetius, grasping Evets and Colin's intent.
"That's right, skipper!" said Colin. "We can't take off, we can't use holonet broadcasts, we can't use our coms amongst ourselves, hell, we can't even send a text message to people standing on the other side of the ship.
"So our only course of action is to locate the source of the interference and, if possible, shut it down," said Evets. "Hey, Colin! How's that filter working?
"What?" Colin leaned toward the panel, trying to make out what the engineer had said.
"I said, 'How's that filter working?'!"
"Oh! I think you did get it this time. I'm finally getting readings."
"Yes, he managed to capture some readings," said Valentina checking the monitor. "But the output is still a little problematic. Even if I zoom out completely I can barely see some peaks, amidst much noise."
"You see, Evets?" said Colin, leaning toward the panel again. "Valentina says you're doing a half-assed job, so you better get back to it."
"I did not say that!" said Valentina, horrified.
"What?" came Evets' muffled response.
"We'd best leave these two gifted gadgeteers to their job, miss Branford," said Captain Aetius putting himself between Colin and Valentina before the technician could notice her blushing. "Come."
"Well let you know when we get something done, sir," said Colin as the captain and the scientist walked away. Not long after Colin had spoke there was another electric crack! and a muffled cry from Evets from underneath the control panel.
"Carbuncle" read Valentina on one of the crates surrounding the Orbiter's site. "What is that?"
"It's the Orbiter's class," replied Captain Aetius. "A Carbuncle-class Space Spectroscope."
"Oh, indeed. And, pardon my ignorance, what exactly is a carbuncle?"
"Besides a nasty infected abscess, 'carbuncle' is an archaic word used to denote a grenat."
"Oh, you mean a garnet."
"Precisely. A red garnet. Somebody probably thought that associating the colour "red" with the infra-red spectrum was clever."
Valentina smiled. Both of them made their way to the cargo bay, where the sound of an roaring engine was quickly filling the air.
"Iggy, the battery is broken,"
"I know, Eddie."
"We're gonna have to replace it."
"I know, Eddie."
"Also, check the fuse box. At least half of the fuses melted."
"I know, Eddie."
"At least the tires are all righ- wait, no: third, right-hand tire is bust and second, left-hand's rubber is partially melted.
"¡Coño, tío! What part of 'I've been working on the Rover for four hours' didn't you understand?!"
Ignacio Carrasco had been indeed working on the Bronco for four straight hours but had managed to fix most of the issues. The all-terrain ground transport was a sturdy vehicle, yet the cargo bay had been one of the most damaged areas of the Octavarium and the expert pilot, despite his competence as a mechanic, had only been able to repair it so far.
"Where the hell is Evets when you need him? I swear, I'm going to take that diploma of his, roll it over and stick it up his-!
"Uh, Captain on the deck!" whispered Eddie as he saw Captain Aetius and Valentina approaching.
Iggy grudgingly put down his wrench at stood up.
"How are the repairs going, mister Carrasco?
"Running into a few problems, capitán," replied Iggy, trying to put on a better face. "The battery is broken, we need to replace it; half our fuses are burnt, those need replacement too, and finally some of the tires are damaged beyond repair and, you guessed it, need replacing as well."
"Well, keep up with the good work, mister Carrasco, we are probably going to need the Bronco soon, if misters Narrol and Teriah get the Orbiter to work."
"Captain, what do we need the Orbiter for?" asked Eddie. "It's not as if we could get, or needed, any readings out of this rock right now."
"Misters Narrol and Teriah are working on the Orbiter so that we can trace the source of the interference, mister Varius," replied the captain. "That's why we might be needing the Bronco: the path to follow might be too long for a simple stroll."
"That's quite a lot of initiative you got there, isn't it, captain?"
Valentina and the captain turned around to face Geno Ryan, smirking at them.
"I mean, this crew definitely shows a lot of enthusiasm, doing all these things like repairing the satellite, fixing our ride, adjusting the spectro-thingy to catch electro-encephalo-ergonometer waves or whatever."
Valentina winced at the abuse of terminology perpetrated by the businessman as Aetius frowned. "And that's a bad thing, mister Ryan?"
"Not at all, captain!" Geno answered, mockingly saluting. "I'm sure crew members doing all sorts of things on their own initiative, including, but not limited to, cutting down alien trees and igniting a radiation detector - all without the Captain's consent - is perfectly normal!"
"And what would you have them do, mister Ryan?" said Iggy, wiping off some sweat from his forehead with his sleeve. "Have them sit down around a campfire telling stories?"
"First of all," scoffed Geno. "I would have them step away from me until they're properly showered. Second of all, what I'd do is-"
"Well, we don't have time for "would do's" now do we mister Ryan?" Aetius said sharply. "We do have time for "will do's" though, and what I will do is that I will send you to the kitchen and appoint a new kitchen staffer to be Hyun's assistant if you feel the need to partake in our enterprise as somebody actually useful.
"And", the captain said, approaching Geno with clenched fists, "I will do something much harsher if it ever occurs to you to question my authority in front of my crew ever again. Do I make myself clear, mister Ryan?"
Geno's look of disdain did not fade, but his smirk was gone. "Yes, sir."
"Captain", said Iggy after Geno had slunk away. "I'm sorry, sir, but that idiot does have a point. I hadn't thought about it myself, before I sat down to fix the Bronco, but maybe I should've waited for your command."
"Yeah, captain," said Eddie, "and maybe it is a bit dangerous to bring out the power tools and start chopping down trees just like that.
"The suit does have a point," agreed Aetius. "I already told Dora to stop playing predator with the local flora and fauna. Misters Narrol and Teriah are only doing what they thought it was natural to do, just like you two."
"Captain, if I may," Valentina said, timidly. "Maybe you could call for a staff meeting and, and make sure everyone knows their place and duties?"
"And why would that be necessary, miss Branford?" Aetius asked, raising his brow. "The crew of the Octavarium is a perfectly capable crew.""Yes captain, but, please: you must remember that not all of us are season spacemen like yourself."
Reuc leaned against the wreckage of the Octavarium and simply observed the goings on of the more "important" people. The biologists continued to alternate between picking and prodding through the grass and observing the odd, insectoid creatures wading through it, and marveling at the retreating trees. Not far off, one of the Protection Officers began plucking out blades of this grass, wadding it into little balls and hurling it at the Orbiter, just to watch it bounce off. Reuc scoffed and looked away, just missing Colin threatening the man with a wrench and the portly officer tripping over himself as he ran off. Everyone else was either staring at the retreating trees, or picking around the parts of wreckage. It didn't concern him.Dora apparently saw the incident with the officer, and she then wadded the piece of grass in her hand into a ball, the tips and sides of the grass somehow merging, forming the blade into a perfect sphere. "Not like the grass back home at all. How strange! To think this was under out feet this entire time..."
With a swift motion, she placed it within a sample bag. Her movements were steadier now, no longer a flurry of excitement, gasps and demands. You have time here, she told herself. Even if they fixed the Octavarium within a few minutes, I'll have more than anyone else in the world ever did. Even if they never fixed her, I would be glad. To stand upon this surface, to feel a strange sun, to breathe alien air, even if it was filtered through an environment suit. She smiled, a wave of giddiness rising through her. For a moment she wanted to tear away the suit and embrace the planet as herself, toes curled into the soil and vivid, shifting undergrowth.
The impulse faded quickly, dispelled by a shake of her head. Absurd. There was science to be done, not tree-hugging. She was becoming as silly as her reputation suggested. "Ivrae?" she called. I need you to keep me in line, old friend. As you've always done. Dora felt a sudden rush of gratitude towards the doctor. How vulnerable that figure looked, so stiff and controlled. One felt that she would shatter at the merest touch. She shook her head again.
Ivrae strode towards her almost unsteadily, accompanied by Hyun. How strange, thought Dora. The ship's cook looked almost as if she was clinging to the doctor, though she made sure not to touch her.
"What's wrong?" Ivrae asked.
"Wrong? Now why are you asking what's wrong? That seems a rather hasty assumption to make," said Dora airily. "I'm fascinated! Have you seen how amazing these plants are? Everything is absolutely perfect." She coughed. "I seem to be getting a little poetic, though. I've had some rather odd thoughts about this planet. Not that I don't love it! I'm almost sorry to have pulled down that tree like that. Poor darling."
Ivrae's eyebrows rose higher and higher as her friend rambled. "It's likely just euphoria, coupled with a reaction to all this excitement. Nothing medical."
"Did I ask for a medical diagnosis?" said Dora. "That's not all we keep you around for. There you go again, always heading to the worst possible explanation for something. You've got to be young like me: idealistic!"
"No, no. It's really perfectly fine," the scientist cut her off. She placed a hand on Ivrae's shoulder and smiled. "Really. Please relax, Ivrae. We've got so much here, we're bound to find the cure you want. Every cure for every disease that you could possibly want." She could feel how tense the doctor's muscles were under her hand. They were spasming. "You must have your reasons, though. Why did you think something was wrong?"
"Hyun's been feeling very uncomfortable here. Almost nauseous, she said. It might be just due to the motion and the trauma of the crash, but it's best to check how others are as well, in case it's this planet. She reports nothing wrong with her capsule, and I can't find any injury either. Of course, it's nearly impossible to with the suit on and much of my equipment still on the ship. I've enough to fix the burns and scrapes people have received in the crash, and fortunately no one's wounds are excessive. There's no reason to suggest that pathogens in this environment will be adapted to our immune systems, but we must be cautious - the same applies to our systems in response to diseases here. It's been so long since I've worked clinically, too..." Her professional tone trailed off at that acknowledgement.
Dora looked at the cook again, pale enough for even her to notice it. Hyun cringed as a curious violent tendril probed towards her; with a slightly larger, pointed tip, the vine looked almost predatory. "This is terrible," she said.
Even Ivrae jerked slightly in surprise. It was perhaps the first negative comment they had ever heard the Korean woman make. "Are you feeling sick, Hyun?" asked Dora gently.
"No. Not sick. Terrified." Her voice was barely a whisper.
"Hyun, I know that being on a completely new world is startling and somewhat scary. I won't lie, we might even be stranded here," Dora said. "Don't you worry, though. Captain Aetius will get us right home. Though hopefully he'll wait long enough to let me get our samples," she added under her breath.
"Not scared of that. I have felt what it is to be in new world before, when everything is strange. I fear what everyone is doing. What they are becoming."
Dora and Ivrae stared at her, perplexed. Was that grass leaning away from her, Dora wondered. Perhaps it's something I can record, and not to do with what she's saying. She filed the note away absently in her mind for later. Focus on Hyun in front of you, idiot.
"Cannot you see it?" she demanded. "We are all so, so..." Her hands shook in frustration as she tried to find the words. "We are not happy, we are ecstatic. We are not sad, we are miserable. We act so swiftly, without thinking. Like ship. Out of control."
"A roil of emotion," Ivrae said. If she felt the same, she gave no sign. A face as still as a mirror, though Dora dreamily. What's this about a roil? I feel peaceful. Ivrae was nodding at Hyun. "I'll ask the others about it. We need to set up a self-monitoring system. At the very least, we shouldn't be tearing up the landscape like this."
"Oi!" muttered Dora. "I just got a bit over-excited. You would too. I'm good now." So very calm.Hyun looked pathetically grateful. "Thank you, Doctor Sola. I am so very terrified; now so very glad. Perhaps next I will be sorrowful." She shivered in her circle of bare ground; the "grass", if it was that, was definitely shrinking away from her. "This place is wrong."