- March 13, 2021
Guardians: Heroes of the Milky Way Chapter 2
Chapter Two: Alloya Ra’non
Today is the most important day of my life, so please just let her be okay.
They call name after name, getting closer to hers one after the other. Please let her be okay, do not let her break under the pressure.
If she messes up everyone will remember and judge her for it.
Okay, maybe I’m being a little extreme. Here she comes!
“Now the valedictorian of Nornan Third Academy, Aleti Ra’non!” the class president calls as she walks up the aisle in her golden gown and sash.
I stand up to start cheering for my daughter. She is finally graduating from school! The top of her class! I cannot be prouder.
Aleti walks quickly with a huge smile over her face as she shakes hands with her school president and she looks around. I assume she’s looking for me so I start jumping and waving my hands as if I were her age. She sees me and she waves back excitedly. Then the president congratulates my daughter and kind of points to her to keep walking so the next student can walk after her. She settles down and walks back in line.
Then I sit back down in the bleachers with the other parents and try to calm myself down. I can’t believe that she’s eighteen and a graduate already. I look to my right and left with a huge smile on my face to see if the other parents are as happy. They seem to be, except for the man next to me. He is staring intently at as if confused. I think he is wondering why I am so happy.
“That was my daughter who was valedictorian,” I tell him loudly so I can be heard over the music.
“I figured,” he says. “I’m sorry if I was staring strangely at you, you just seem so familiar. Oh, I remember now. I can’t believe I’m the first to recognize you. You used to be the Captain!”
‘That must have hurt,’ my demon points out.
“Mom, it’s been so long since we’ve been here!” Aleti reminds me.
We’re eating dinner at her favorite restaurant, the Lagoon, from when she was nine. Being eighteen now it has been a while. It’s near this nice park and has chairs outside on the side where we liked to sit and have lunch.
We haven’t been back since we moved into the city after her father passed. The Regnorian government asked, or better yet, told me to move after her father passed. His ability to watch over me personally in our small town outside of the capital, was the only reason I was allowed to stay there at all. Thankfully, Aleti didn’t mind the move as the town reminded her of her father. It also allowed her to go to one of the most prestigious schools in Nornan, the aforementioned capital city.
“I know, I remember it was your favorite place when you were a kid, so I thought that it would make this occasion extra special,” I tell her.
“It really does,” Aleti says as she smiles at me before looking down at the menu. She is still wearing the pretty black dress that matches her hair. “The food here has changed, or maybe it’s just the names.” Her eyes search for what she wants to eat. “I’m sorry if I’m taking too long,” she says.
I’m watching her look at the menu so it must seem like I’ve gotten impatient. I quickly gather myself and shake my head. I assure her, “No, no it’s fine. Take as long as you need, order as much as you want.”
Then Aleti did this thing where she smiles dubiously at me. Then she rolls her eyes as she starts, “Well certainly not as much. I can’t have everything on the menu.”
“Why not?” I ask. “Anything you don’t eat we can take home for leftovers. You haven’t had this in a while so get whatever seems interesting.” I find it a little strange she’s worried about the quantity. It most certainly isn’t like we can’t afford to take two of everything and then some. Then she reminds me that she is much more of girl than I’ve ever been.
“Are you kidding, Mom? All those calories?” she says with a look of concern.
Then I shake my head with a face of humorous disappointment. “You’re kidding right?”
She looks at me with her own face of humorous disappointment, “Of course I am. Though seriously, if I hate half of what I want to, I’ll hate myself later.”
I chuckle and shake my head. I tell her playfully, “Just figure out what you want, brat.”
“What about you?” she asks me. Then I remember that I haven’t even looked at the menu. I quickly pick it up and rifle through it, looking for something to eat. Then she makes a pained face and informs me, “I haven’t gone to the bathroom once all day. Can you get me a water when the waiter comes over?”
“Sure thing,” I assure her with a nod of my head. Then she scampers off to see if she remembers where the restroom is.
I stay in my seat looking through the menu, not recognizing what’s there. The Lagoon for some reason, decided to have a menu where the names of the meals are something special or full of characters instead of just being what they are. I have to go and read the specific descriptions to figure out the meals, which are much simpler and commonplace than their goofy names suggest.
Then a waiter comes walking past and puts down two glasses of water. “Thank you,” I tell him without looking up from the menu.
“No problem. This is what Aleti wanted, right?” the waiter responds.
I immediately freeze in place and move only my eyes up from the menu to see that it is no waiter standing near me. It is a man dressed casually like another customer. He smiles at me as he moves to sit down in my daughter’s chair.
“What do want?” I ask him sternly.
He holds up his hands as he smiles. “No need to get anywhere near upset. I’m just here to check up on you since you left the Nornan. You know you’re not supposed to do that.” Then he lifts up what should have been my daughter’s water and sips from its straw. “You usually do what you’re told.” As he goads me on, I deduce that he is a Regornian agent meant to spy on me. I figured the agents ‘guarding’ over me today would realize the occasion and let it go if I left the city just once. I guess they aren’t smart enough to realize that this is for one special instance, or maybe they are asinine enough to bother me anyway.
I return his fake smile with one of my own as I let my menu stop covering my mouth. “Don’t worry, I’m not planning a run for it. I just wanted to take my daughter out to her favorite restaurant for her graduation.”
“Graduation? Good for her,” he says with a nod of his head. Then he starts rambling, first by saying as if I didn’t already know, “You know, besides the different color hair, and the slightly rounder chin, she really is the spitting image of you when you were her age.”
As I look back down at the menu to feign interest, I tell him, “No, I never noticed.” Then blatantly ask him as he tries to open his mouth, “Why are you still here?”
“Just to remind you of your duties,” he says with a more obviously fake smirk.
“Duties? I already used my powers to charge Regamorph cities across the Regnorian colonies. I’ve stopped natural disasters from hurricanes to asteroids. I’ve put terrorist groups on the extinction list. My duties are done,” I confirm.
He tilts his head and his face holds a dubious look. “Don’t forget your duties to maintain the peace by staying inactive. Not causing any commotion or breaking any rules.”
“Not much passes for duties when a part of the Regnorian Regime these days.”
“Regime? Is that how you think of the government? Yourself too then,” he comments. He can’t really care to know, and the lack of interest can be heard in his voice. This agent knows exactly why I would have disdain for him and the establishment.
“No, I was a part of the Regornian Regime,” I patronize. “That was back when the Regnorian leadership respected me for all the fighting and sacrificing I’ve done for them. Then after one ‘mistake’,” I say with air quotes, “that wasn’t really my fault, you tossed me out to stay trapped in a bottle.” I was so stupid for trusting the government. I thought I had power and standing outside of being a Guardian. I found out that I did not, and I lost my family because of it.
“Well, I don’t know about it not being your fault. You didn’t say that when the human could have taken the blame,” the agent challenges, saying the term human as if it meant shit.
“I wasn’t going to let you scapegoat him,” I shoot back coldly. I’m letting him get to me, and it shows when my eyes started to glow blue-green with power.
“I’d calm down if I were you. Wouldn’t want to make a scene in front of your little girl,” he says as he points to her. I power down and quickly check to see that he isn’t lying. Aleti is walking back towards us with a look of curiosity on her face. Then the agent sits up out of his chair. He warns me, “Remember Alloya, you don’t have the power you used to, or the invulnerability. Just do your duty and you can live peacefully and ignorantly with your daughter. There’s no reason to ruin things for yourself and her, so don’t.” Then he smiles at Aleti and walks past her as she greets him. My daughter watches him walk away from the restaurant without turning his back.
When he moves far enough away, Aleti moves to sit back in her seat. She looks down at her drink and I remember how he drank from it. I quickly confuse her by leaning across the table and switch my untouched drink with her soiled one. She glances between me and the drink and then accepts it. “I’m not even going to ask about the drinks, but who was that?”
“Admirer,” I lie as I take a sip of the water from the edge instead of the straw.
“Turned away another I see,” she comments with judging eyebrows.
I narrow my eyes at her and demand to know in a humorous tone, “What does that mean?”
Aleti gazes back towards me and points out, “While I realize that it’s weird to ask someone of your stature for your number so randomly in public, the rest of us normal girls would love to have cute guys like that show interest.”
I spit out my drink over what my daughter said. “You think he was cute?” I question astounded.
“Uh, yeah, he was,” she states like I’m crazy. “Mom, I think you need to lower your standards if you’re ever going to find someone you like.”
That is an interesting observation. “You think I have high standards? Why would I have high standards?”
“Because you were the Captain. The famous leader of the interstellar superhero team, made up of the Guardians from all the species. And also, you’re the Guardian for the Regamorphs.” She adds that last part with a nonchalant attitude and a shrug of the shoulders. “I mean, why wouldn’t you have high standards for your dates, but it must stink never getting laid.”
I practically choke on air and she smiles after her joke. While she begins to laugh, I try to explain that, “I don’t indulge in admirers because that’s just a nice name for stalkers, and I promise you, I get ‘laid,’ as you call it, when I want to.”
Aleti groans, “It’s gross when you say it.”
I simmer down and say, “Let’s talk about someone else, you did graduate. Anyone you’re interested in now that you can let yourself breathe from underneath your pile of textbooks?” She makes an uncomfortable smile as she usually does when I pick the right time to inquire about her love life. I quickly add, “Oh, this should be interesting.”
After dinner Aleti wanted to spend the rest of the night at home in our apartment.
“Are you sure there isn’t anything else you want to do Leti?” I ask her.
“Nope,” she responds playfully. “I just want to read my book with my mom while she watches TV.” Then she takes a seat right next to me on the couch.
“Really? You don’t want to go out with your friends? Rent a holo-movie? Have your first drink?” I feel like she never hangs out with her friends, and when she does, she always brings a book with her, even to the arcade. That’s strange, but I kids are weird nowadays.
She looks at me sideways with a mischievous smile. “You’d give me a drink?” she asks dubiously.
“No,” I affirm, “but you can still ask.” Aleti smirks a little then takes out a big book that was sitting on a small table next to the couch. I lean over her arm to see that it’s a textbook plainly called, Guardians. I stare at her to see that she’s staring at me with a kind of guilty smile. “Didn’t you have to give the textbooks back to graduate?”
“Yeah, unless you pay for them,” she answers sheepishly.
I shake my head at her. “Don’t you ever want to do anything else besides read to learn? Do you ever even read for fun?”
Aleti makes a face to show she’s offended. “This is fun! And besides, you can’t just order textbooks about Guardians anywhere. This textbook was also the only textbook the school gave that contained any information on humans.” I lean back in my seat and watch her curiously. She sighs and tries to explain, “Come on Mom, not everyone got to hang out with one for years on end. The galaxy knows barely anything about them, and this textbook has all the information from the Lupian’s observations and their Guardian’s firsthand information.”
I am little confused by that. I cannot for the life of me remember how Jackal convinced Clay to sit down and explain the culture of humans. Then I remember something interesting about humans. I inform Aleti, “I think I remember Clay saying that the humans have several hundred countries.”
My daughter develops a look of confusion on her face and begins flipping through pages in her textbook. She finds a page and points out, “But right here it records a much smaller number of little over a hundred different human nations and a lot of small tribes.”
I remind her, “Aleti, don’t forget that the Lupians made their observations over a hundred years ago. Humans have probably changed a lot in that time.”
Aleti nods her head in understanding. “Yeah that’s true.” Then she does this strange thing of looking down and asking me, “Maybe you could tell me other things you know about their Guardian?” Then she starts pushing her tongue around in her mouth.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
Then she looks up in a fake face of surprise. “Nothing’s wrong. What would be wrong?”
“You’re acting all coy and strange. What do you want to know about Clay?”
Then she shrugs and looks back down. She stutters out, “Oh, I don’t know. Anything interesting. Maybe knowing some facts about him could, uh, um, help, with some inferences about the human race.”
Aleti is doing this typical thing where she mumbles and stutters when she is embarrassed about something. “Is that really the reason why you want to know about him?” I ask with a humorous tone.
“Uh, what other reason could I have?” she lies, although not at all well.
I chuckle and lean over to look in her textbook. “Tell me, does that have any pictures of Team Sunset in there?”
Then with actual confusion she asks, “What do you mean?”
After she asks that I reach over and quickly snatch the textbook from her hands. I close it to see if any pages were bookmarked. There are several so I open one in the middle. There is an excellent picture of Clay and me holding up a support beam for a building that was falling down. Then another with Womby, then Clay and Womby again. “Any reason you have all of these bookmarked?” I ask with a giggle.
Her eyes open wide, and then a few seconds later she tries jumping on me. “Mom! Stop! Give it back!” She jumps on me as I laugh. I easily manhandled her by grabbing the scruff her sweatshirt and hold her back as I try to find another page that she bookmarked.
“I wonder what’s on this page,” I say humorously.
I struggle to open it with one hand, but am greeted by an interesting image that had Womby swimming under the deep sea, shirtless. How they got these pictures, I do not know, but I’m starting to think my daughter has a special taste in men. Before she can swipe back the textbook, I roll off the couch away from her and stand up to continue reading. She stands up too, looking up at me with very angry eyes. She moves to grab me again and this time I hold her back by placing a hand on her forehead. It’s moments like this where I cherish the fact that my daughter is pretty short at 5’11”.
“Is there something you want to tell me? Your taste in men, is, how should I put it? Quite foreign.” Simple to say she is not happy with my jokes.
“I don’t like you right now,” Aleti says as she stops struggling and crosses her arms. I take my hand off of her head.
“Sorry I’m not blue,” I add in one more jab. She groans angrily at that. Then I start inspecting all of her bookmarked pages and they are all ones of either Clay or Womby in them. “You know,” I start saying, “you could easily find better pictures online than the ones you’ve been looking at in here.”
She looks up and kind of nods her head. She replies “I guess, but then I would find a lot of fake and gross pictures.”
I nod and agree, “That is true.” Then I flip to another bookmarked page and there aren’t any pictures of my old teammates. This is the start of the chapter about Guardians and how they work. I start squinting to see how my daughter’s school had explained my existence.
This is when she snatches back the textbook and demands to know, “Now what are you looking at?” Then she reads the page. “Oh, this is what I also wanted to ask you about. You know, before you started making fun of me.”
Now I feel a mature interest in what my daughter wanted to ask me. This is her heritage, which must have been strange to learn in class. Admittedly, I realized at her birth that she was not going to be the next Guardian.
‘She was born too weak for me to fix,’ my demon says in my head.
Shut your trap, I tell her.
This time I seriously offer to answer her questions, “Okay, I’m sorry Aleti. I won’t make fun of you anymore.” She ignores me and sits back down on the couch to continue reading that same chapter again. I roll my eyes and move to sit next to her. “Aleti, I was only joking. It’s not bad at all that you have a crush on a few aliens. It means you’re open-minded.” Her face grows a small smile at that last part. “What?”
Her smile grew bigger. Aleti tells me, “Nothing, I was just thinking about what you could have meant by ‘open-minded.’”
I make a contorted face. I respond that, “I think what you’re thinking of, is something I don’t want to actually hear.”
In a humorous but challenging tone she asks, “You sure?” I nod my head. “Good.” Then she continues reading and scrunches her face.
After noticing that I ask, “What confuses you? I’m sure I can answer whatever questions you have.”
Aleti kind of glances between her textbook and me. “I’m just not sure on how a Guardian is chosen. Something about a demon. The textbook mentions it once and never again.”
“Ah, well for one thing, we’re not chosen, and the demon isn’t spoken about because they’ve caused catastrophes in the past. While they may not care anymore today, many religions used to find it sacrilegious to mention them in any great depth,” I explain.
“Of course, the people’s education is hindered because someone might get offended,” she says all annoyed.
“But who could realistically take out a Guardian?” she asks.
I inform her that, “Not all Guardians have been or will be as powerful as others. And that doesn’t even take into account that we’re not always powered up. A sniper could kill me right here and now because I’m not ready.” She grows even more tense once I become blatantly honest with her. It is better to teach her now when she has an interest to learn about the risks, we take instead of letting her be surprised by them.
“That’s actually kind of scary,” she responds.
“It can be, but don’t be scared, I’m always going to be here when you need me,” I affirm for her. Then I move my hand behind her head to scratch it. She loosens up a bit and calms down. Then I continue my lesson, “As I was explaining before, Guardians aren’t chosen. It’s somewhat hereditary. The demon will move on to the next one in the bloodline, but it can reject one to move into another next of kin. It didn’t want to leave me for you for instance.”
‘Your brat should watch the sarcasm,’ my demon warns. I ignore her.
“For you,” I say to mock complaint. “It decides at birth, so it can’t just randomly jump into you unless I die, then it would be necessary. If a Guardian doesn’t have a next person in the bloodline, the demon can jump to a sibling, cousin, or back to the last Guardian. If none exist it will fade and take much time to regenerate, then reappear to cause havoc until it finds another bloodline to be its host. In extreme instances it can revive past Guardians from the dead, but that’s honestly only a legend.”
‘So, don’t die on me now. I’d hate to be stuck in her adolescent mind.’
I then explain, “Anyone in the Guardian bloodline though can form powers, but you must be part of the bloodline, at least with Regamorphs. Some species may have abilities we consider to be powers when they’re actually just necessary outcomes of evolution.”
“So, the demon doesn’t give you your powers?” Aleti wants to confirm.
“No, our bloodline does. In moments of extreme danger, rage, or weakness though, the demon can fuel a Guardian with massive amounts of power, but also try and take control of their body at the same time.”
I smile at her devilishly, and say, “She’s tried.”
‘I wouldn’t gloat,’ she warns out of bitterness.
Then I add, “Well, I have to admit that being around other Guardians for much of my life helped.” Aleti looks at me with interest. “When the demons are so close together, they interfere with each other. Their own power pushes another back into the recesses of our minds, so you could say my team, we all protected each other from our demons.”
Aleti looks forward and closes the book. “Are you okay?” I ask concerned.
“Yes?” I ask back.
“Do you ever miss being the Captain?” she asks a little distraught.
I look at her confused. “Why do you ask?”
“Then why did you quit?” she asks.
‘Hehe.’ The small chuckle bites at the back of my mind.
“Maybe I’ll tell you when you’re older,” I say. That answer annoys her.
“Older?” she questions with attitude. “I’m an adult, what could I possibly still have to learn to understand why you quit?”
“The world. You still don’t understand the world enough to understand why I quit,” I tell her coldly. I don’t want to explain myself anymore, at least not about this. She tries to say something else but I interrupt sternly, “That’s all there’s to it. I don’t feel like talking about it.”
Then in a fit, common for a girl her age, she rolls her eyes at me and stands up to go to her room. I guess I ruined the night. Damn it.
‘Being a mother can be hard,’ my demon says with some compassion. This is strange because she has never been nice or helpful to me unless she thought I was going to get myself killed.
Then I wonder, do you speak from experience? I do not receive an answer.
I am jolted back to reality when my daughter makes one last comment before shutting herself in her room. “If you can’t ever talk about yourself without being insulting, you’re going to end up without anyone who will want to listen.”
‘A mouth on her, that one,’ Rega comments in my head.
I stay up watching holo-movies while I mourn the night that should have been a happy one. I had ruined my daughter’s graduation night by being secretive as usual.
This is usually the point where Jackal tries to cheer me up by grossly licking my face like a pet animal. Clay always found that really funny for some reason. Back then I thought moments like those to be annoying and bothersome. Now they would be a wanted change to the boring monotony that is being a crappy, single, stay at home mom.
‘It could be much worse. Her father could still be around to bother you,’ Rega comments.
Leave me alone, I tell her. I cannot stand Rega. At first, I thought she was just a prick but after having her in my head my whole life, her condensation or her need to make me feel guilty about everything bothers me more than it should.
Someone is at my front door. Then it comes again. And again.
“Aleti!” I call. Maybe she invited a friend.
“What?” she calls back from her room. “I’m trying to sleep!”
“Never mind, sorry!” Well I guess that squashes that idea. I get up from the couch to go to the door and hold my left hand behind my back. Can it be the agent from before, here to threaten me again? I haven’t left Nornan again so why would anyone try to intimidate me?
When I rest my right hand on the panel of the door, I charge a blast to be ready in my left palm. I’m ready for whoever was at the door. Then I open it.
I lied; I was not ready.
“Hello Captain,” my old friend says.
I gasp, “Terra!” Then I leap against his hard chest to hug him. I can’t reach around him, and it most certainly hurts when I bang my head against his chest, but I don’t care. “It’s, it’s, you being here is indescribable.”
He dips his head to smile down at me. “It has been far too long, Captain.” It really makes me feel good to hear him say that. “Doesn’t seem like you’ve aged that much these past few years.” Strange that he says few, though Techanots do live longer than others, I’m not going to nitpick his words.
“Why are you here?” I ask him as I release my hold on Terra. Then I move to the panel to open the door wider for him to come inside.
“I came to see if you were alright,” he informs me. Then he adds, “Please don’t freak out, but I’m not supposed here.”
I narrow my eyes at him. “Terra, what do you mean by that?”
Then his face starts to seem somewhat apologetic. “I’m sorry but I couldn’t let a bunch of higher-ups tell me where or how to live anymore. I just want to see someone I care about before I get caught.”
It would be an understatement to say that I’m a little shocked. The people that have been screwing me over were doing the same to poor Terra. I try to comfort him by saying, “Terra don’t worry. They’ve been doing the same to me. I’m not even a part of their Regime anymore.”
His face loosens. Then in reference to my position in the government he says, “I don’t mean to be rude, but that’s a relief.” Then he arches his brow at me. “Calling it the Regnorian Regime? Sounds pretty accurate.”
Then I ask him, “What have they done to you? How’s your family?”
Then with a heavy sigh he informs me that, “I was stripped of any right to choose and forced to work at a hospital in Aloy.”
“That’s a Regamorph city, how did your family cope with the move?” His dreary face makes me regret asking that question.
“They didn’t. They moved back to live in our old home in Tortugan.”
The loneliness in his eyes really tugs at my heart. In a quiet hush, I say, “You’ve been forced to be alone all this time.” He missed out on his kids growing up and everything. I can’t imagine that with Aleti.
Aleti then comes out of her room in her regular clothes, which doubles as her pajamas. As she rubs her eyes she begins complaining, “I can’t get back to sleep now. Can you tell me who was at the do-” She stops in her tracks when she sees a huge Techanot in the middle of her home, all while still holding her hand to her eye. She glances between the two of us, and then focuses and squints at Terra’rork. Then realization washes over her. “Holy crap. You’re Avalanche! Terra’rork, the Guardian for the Techanots!”
“Um, nice to meet you,” Terra’rork says as he looks at my daughter all confused. Then he looks at me to ask, “Alloya, who is this? Your roommate?”
I giggle, and Aleti smiles humorously. I inform him that, “This is my daughter, Aleti.” Terra’rork’s eyes went wide and starts glancing quickly between my daughter and I. “What’s wrong Terra?”
“This is your daughter? I see the resemblance, but… How old are you?” he asks Aleti.
“I’m 18,” she says with a slightly confused smile.
I explain that, “I had her two years after the team was disbanded.”
Terra’s eyes flutter. “That can’t be right. That doesn’t make any sense!” he yells loudly.
He is really confusing me and worrying me now. “Terra, what are you talking about? What about this doesn’t make any sense?”
“Her age! If you had her two years after we disbanded, and she’s 18, that would mean you haven’t seen me in 20 years.” Terra states facts like they cannot be true and now I’m worrying about his state of mind.
“Yeah so, what’s the problem?” Aleti asks, sidestepping to get closer to me. I think Terra is frightening her.
“It hasn’t been 20 years! It’s only been 5!” he says.
Then Aleti and I contort our lips out of confusion. I grunt, “Huh?”
“5 years! That’s how long it’s been for me! My kids are only 6 and 7. How is it that yours was born and has gotten to be more than twice the age of my oldest?” Terra asks.
I am at a loss for words. “I, uh, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I haven’t seen you for twenty years. I have the memories and the physical proof of it,” I say as I point to Aleti, who is clutching my arm from behind me.
Terra dips his head and starts whispering and swaying frantically. Then he picks his head up. “I know how to figure this out.”
I narrow my eyes onto him. I inquire, “How exactly is that?”
“The Rango!” he exclaims. “I brought it. It can tell us how much time had passed on Tora and Reganora! I didn’t park it far. We should go now.” Then he begins shambling towards door.
I quickly turn back to face Aleti. I apologize, “I know you probably don’t want me to leave, but I have to know what’s going on with him so I can help him. He may not be right in the head, or worse.”
Aleti stares at me like I am crazy. “Are you kidding? I’m coming with. You’re not leaving me here.” I open my mouth to argue, but she speaks first, “Didn’t you say I need to get life experience? Well this will most certainly be an experience.”
“This is not what I meant!” I try to point out.
“Maybe so,” she says as she moves to slip on a jacket from a hanger by the door, “but we don’t have time to argue about it right now. He’s already left our apartment.” I look back behind me and Terra isn’t there. How did I lose a several ton rock giant? I quickly look out the door and see him waiting for the elevator.
“Shit! Fine you can come, but you stay by me at arm’s length, at all times. You understand?” I order her.
“Yes, sir!” she says comically. I shake my head with an extremely annoyed look on my face.
I tell her, “Go tell him to wait. I need to grab something!”
“Didn’t you just say stay at arm’s length?” she points out.
“Just-, damn it! When we get outside stay by me!” I yell. She shrugs and runs out of our door to stop Terra. Then I run to my bedroom and quickly open the front door.
My bedroom is spacious and filled with some mementos, holo-pictures, and personal trophies, but I don’t have time to look at anything. I move to my closet and find my old combat gear. As fast as I can, I take off my regular clothes and put that on. I then turn around to slide to my knees next to my bed where I reach under. I pull out a very special case and open it.
Inside are my trusted cantorium batons, already well dusted. I grab the black duster that is also in the case. It’s made from the same shiny material as my old combat gear. I take the batons and their holster to then pull them around and onto my back. Then I put the black duster on over. Now I’m ready in case there is trouble.
I leave my room and move swiftly out of my apartment to see Terra and Aleti impatiently waiting by the elevator.
“The shipyard should be closed right now. How do we get in?” Aleti asks as we stand by the gate. It’s the dead of night and the gate is connected to a metal fence around the shipyard. The fence is taller than Terra and made of a strong metal.
I smile at my daughter’s lack of knowledge about our powers. I wrap one arm around her waist and bring her close, then I grab Terra’rork by his arm. Right before I power up and take off, I whisper in Aleti’s ear, “We fly over.” Then we launch into the air.
“Language, daughter please,” I joke.
Terra joins the conversation by saying, “Now that we’re over the fence, can we please land?!” Terra does not like flying without a spaceship. If there is nothing under his feet it apparently feels like he is falling.
“No way!” Aleti cheers, “This is amazing! How do you not fly everywhere?!”
“Well, honestly it can get boring, and there’s not much exercise in it,” I inform her. Then I remember why we’re here. “Hey, don’t forget to look for the Rango!”
“It’s in the back corner! Sadly,” Terra informs us. He realizes that he is not going to touch the ground as soon as he would like.
“Boring?!” Aleti questions me, bringing the conversation back around as I change course. “How could anyone get bored of soaring with the clouds?”
“I can actually fly through space too, I don’t need the nitrogen you do to breath,” I inform her.
Then Aleti’s curiosity shows. “Dr. Terra’rork?” she asks as she looks down at him.
For some reason his face lights, up after she calls him by his name, then his smile plummets with his stomach as I descend. “Yes, child?” he croaks out.
“The Techanots homeworld has copious amounts of nitrogen, that’s why we can breathe on Tora. Is that what you breath too, or is my textbook telling the truth when it says Techanots don’t depend on any gaseous elements for the body to perform?” Her question is way too long and complicated for me to follow.
Then as we get closer to the ground it becomes easier to see the ships. I spot the Rango, and I realize that I really missed that spaceship. “Found it!” I inform them with glee.
Terra nods with a face of approval then begins to answer Aleti’s question. “Your textbook is correct. We get all of our nutrients and necessary elements from the minerals that are in the rocks we absorb. Trust your textbook. The only Regamorph class you should worry about trusting is anything having to do with history.”
Aleti’s face becomes one of confusion. I wonder how long it will be before I would have to explain our predicament to her. I have managed to allow her to live a life of ignorant bliss for now, but for how much longer I don’t know.
When we fly near the Rango it automatically starts opening its rear ramp. I let go of Terra’s arm a few feet above the ground and he falls with a thud, but completely unharmed. I descend to place Aleti’s and my own feet lightly against the ground.
Terra leans over and starts talking to the ground. “I never wish to part from you again.”
“But he will,” I add as I walk past him to enter the Rango. To say that I’m excited to be back in the old girl is an understatement. This was my home for the better part of decade where I could talk to and be around pretty much everyone I love. Not to mention that the food has never been half bad.
I quickly come around the bend of the rear platform and take a look at the Rango’s huge hull. Then I hurry up to the door to enter into the main ship.
“Mom, wait up!” Aleti sounds off trailing behind.
Terra tells my daughter, “Give your mother a moment. This was her home and she hasn’t been here for a very long time. Let her take a look around and I can give you a tour on the way to the bridge.”
I then impatiently open the door to the halls. I walk through, taking notice of each nook and cranny, letting memories of the conversations I had or the times someone would have been walking through.
First was Clay’s. His is last since he was the newest member to the team. I place a hand on the door as I stop in front of it. Made many memories in there, I think to myself. Then I realize that I should probably keep them secret. “Wouldn’t want Aleti finding out about those now would we.” Then I continue forth.
Then I pass Womby’s. Probably the most normal one of us all.
Then I pass Hideo’s. The loud mouth, with a sparkling sense of humor.
Then I pass Terra’rork’s.
Then I pass Jackal’s. Oh, Jackal. I place my hand on the panel to his room, and I have to go in.
The door opens and I enter his dark room. I turn the light on and take a gander overthe mess that will forever be Jackal’s living space. Everything is turned upside, nothing is in the drawers, the bed isn’t made, and food is on the floor. It reeks and so I smile, no one has touched this room. As the smell becomes stronger maybe someone should clean away the food at least.
I move to look over his dresser and gaze at all the pictures he left behind. I have to step over a lot of his old crap to do it, but when I get there, I remember just how long we had been friends. I look over his regular photos, no holo-photos, of him and different members of the team at different times. There is one I think Hideo took of Jackal and Womby after a job well done. Another of Jackal, Clay, and Hideo. Others are of him having fun with us like always. Then I find a picture I haven’t seen in forever.
I go to pick it up and hold close to my chest. It is of us after my award ceremony for the Hand of Valor. It was for saving my squad on a mission to raid an Omniguard hideout. I had to get everyone out because the squad leader walked us into a trap.
The medal and the ceremony don’t seem to matter much now though. Now it just means more to me that he kept the picture. It was of Terra’rork, Jackal, and me; I remember they were proud of me.
I can feel my eyes welling up with tears. I try to hold them back but one drips down my cheek and onto the picture. I quickly rub my eyes and think that Jackal would not want me to be sad, or at least I hope not.
I stuff the framed picture inside the pocket of my duster to keep. Then I turn and leave his room, remembering to shut the door behind me. I take a moment to gather myself and then make my way to the bridge.
When I get to the bridge, I happen upon two very confused individuals.
“This doesn’t make any damn sense!” I hear and see Aleti say. She really does have a mouth.
‘I think you overestimate how vulgar she actually is,’ Rega pops out to comment right before I come near Terra’rock and she is locked out.
“What doesn’t make any sense?” I ask the two of them as I come up from behind.
Terra orders the Rango, “Computer switch to voice communication.” I remember how this turns on the Rango’s voice.
‘Voice communication now operational,’ the Rango says in the electronic voice of a female.
“Rango, bring up the calendars for both Tora and Reganora for the Captain,” Terra orders it.
It brings up the dates and I can see why they were floored.
Simply put, Tora is 5 years after the disbandment of Team Sunset, and Reganora is 20 years after.
“How is this possible computer?” I ask the Rango.
‘There seems to be an anomaly where the planets are in different time zones. In each time zone time passes at a different rate. I cannot know how much time passes without first traveling to said time zone,’ the Rango informs us.
“Do you have any ideas as to why this happened or how it works?” Terra asks.
‘The only possible theory I can come up with is that it’s some kind of side effect of the Dion’s expansion and whatever else happened after your attack on the Omniguard facility years ago.’ What the Rango says makes sense, I guess. None of us were ever informed whether or not anyone figured out what the Omniguard facility was. Then the Rango continues, ‘As to how it works, I can assume based off of the fact that Tora is closer to the Dion than Reganora, time moves slower there.’
Terra lets his shoulders loosen up. “I guess that makes sense,” he says.
Aleti has a sad look on her face. “What’s wrong?” I ask her.
She looks at me with a disappointed look. “Earth is the farthest away. Time must have passed by much faster there.” Under better circumstances I would have smirked over my daughter’s concern for one of her crushes, but this situation is somewhat inappropriate for teasing.
“He could be near the end of his life, though he may age slower as a Guardian,” Terra says. “I don’t know enough about humans to say.”
Aleti only becomes seemingly more disappointed.
Terra asks us, “How has this been kept quiet? Portions of the galaxy have been on a different time table and no one knew?”
I think about that for a second. “There’s no way the Regnorian Republic didn’t know.”
Aleti defends, “They couldn’t have known. If they did, why would it be a secret?”
Terra and I trade looks. I plainly tell her, “Aleti, our government isn’t exactly as good as you’d like to think. If it gave them a leg up on everyone else, you better believe they would-” I stop and realize something. “This does give them a leg up.”
“How?” Terra asks astounded.
I explain, “Think about. If the Regornian government is mainly rooted in a time zone where time passes faster, they’re getting more done. They can evolve faster than the rest. The time it takes for new technologies, new battle tactics, new policies, and production, can all happen under the Regnorian banner all before it would for anyone else. And who would know? The Rivertans are in isolation and wouldn’t even care to check in with everyone else. Half of the remaining Waverites are too beaten down while the other half is trapped with the Rivertans. The Techanots are pretty much under Regnorian control. Who’s going to be able to find out? No one as long as the Regnorian banner is just a little careful.”
Terra’s mouth is hanging open and gasps, “I think you’re right.”
“Everybody wait!” Aleti sounds off. “This is all just assumption and speculation. Mom, you’re making the government you used to work for look like supervillains. Don’t you see a problem with that? They’ve taken care of us ever since you retired.”
I really wish I had a better time to explain myself, but it doesn’t seem like I have the chance to wait anymore. “Aleti,” I start saying, “our government, the Regnorian government, are the ones who forced me to retire. It wasn’t a choice.”
My daughter is taken aback by what I said. She begins to say, “What are you talking ab-”
Then we see red and green lights start flashing through the front window panels of the Rango. Regornian soldiers shine their bright lights and sound off their horns. We can hear them saying, “All ex-members of Team Sunset, come out with your hands up!”
“Well that’s no good,” Terra comments.
“It was only a matter of time I guess,” I remark. “They follow me around everywhere.” Aleti looks at me sideways when I say that.
“Really?” Terra says. “Me too. It was a real pain to ditch them.”
I think about what to do, and I realize that I should go talk to them. “If I can stall them, can you prepare the Rango to wormhole from here?”
“That’ll take a few minutes. It would take seconds from outside the atmosphere,” Terra informs me.
“I bet they brought something that can shoot us right out of the sky, and I don’t feel like losing my home after I got it back so soon,” I state. “I’ll distract them. You prepare, Terra.”
I turn around, and Aleti gets in the way. “You can’t go out there,” she tells me. “What if they shoot you?”
Aleti still looks concerned. “Mom, you can be honest with me. Aren’t you even a little afraid?”
I look at her closely, then I decide to be honest. “I am, but not for me.” Then I grasp her by the shoulders gently and move her out of the way slowly.
I walk to the middle of the bridge over the circular platform that goes to the ceiling is. I turn around and look at my daughter as the ceiling slides open and the platform begins elevating me higher. Quickly to Terra, I order him, “Jump as soon as you can, even if I’m outside the ship. I’ve survived worse.” Terra nods his head in understanding.
Aleti and Terra watch me as I move upwards. I look Aleti in the eye and try to protrude bravery to her before I cannot see her anymore.
Before I know it, I’m standing on top of the Rango in front of its tall fin-looking structure on top. I walk to the front edge of the Rango and look down at many Regnorian soldiers. Quite a few with personal missile launchers aimed at the Rango.
Then there is that same damn prick from the restaurant holding the horn.
He stands on the hood of a military hovercraft, with a shit-eating grin on his face. He wanted this to happen. Guys like him like it when people like me misbehave. Can’t say that I am sorry to give him what he wants.
He speaks without the horn at his side, “You can hear me, right?”
I respond politely, “I hear you fine, jackass.”
He smiles at me. “This is good. I hate using the horn, it hurts my ears.”
“You’re telling me.”
He keeps smiling at me, and it’s creepy. Everything about this guy’s looks seem bland and uninteresting. He has a regular physique, his hair is the common color of dark blue, his face is samey looking. What did Aleti think was cute about him?
“Did I ever tell you what to call me?” he asks.
“Maybe,” I tell him, “I probably wasn’t listening, you know, because I don’t care.”
Then he laughs, “I like you; you know that.”
“I kind of wish you didn’t.”
Then he looks down to scuffle his feet on the seat of the hovercraft. The soldiers around us do not budge as they keep their weapons trained on me and the Rango.
He looks up with his smile still there. “I don’t think you need to know my name; my title will do fine.” Then he dips his head like he is talking to royalty, not that we have anyone like that anymore. “I’m Chronos.”
“Well, Chronos, I care about you about as much as I did before,” I taunt. “So still not at all.”
“You’re not getting out of this,” he states plainly. “Just turn yourself in, or run. I’ll admit, it will be more fun for me if you run.”
I arch my brow at him. He is not playing this the way others would. He isn’t nervous, nor aggressive, and especially not afraid. His lack of any fear bothers me considering that I can wipe him off the map. Though, I am sure he knows that I’m too close to the Rango to do anything extreme. “Sounds like you want me to get away. Also, don’t any of you think you should shoot at me? I mean, won’t you all get in trouble if I get away?”
“They do what I tell them,” Chronos informs me. “They hang onto my every word.”
“Really? Interesting,” I mutter to myself as I gaze at the crowd of aimed guns. Then I ask Chronos, “By the way, did your superiors tell you about what’s going on?”
“With time. The galaxy is no longer on the same time table.”
“Oh! That’s what you mean,” he says excitedly. That confirms that indeed he knows about what is going on. “Wonderful, the advantage we have now. Not that we didn’t already have one, but who can help but be happy for only more advantage.”
“You’re okay with lying to your people?” I ask him. I want to see if he is a psychopath or a blind patriot. The difference can tell me how to get under his skin.
“What they don’t know won’t hurt them, especially if it’s helping them.” His words don’t really tell me much. Too early to make a decision about him.
Suddenly the circle I came from opens, and I look behind to confirm it. Damn it, they won’t go without me inside. I thought I could trust Terra to have faith, but probably not Aleti.
“Something wrong?” Chronos beckons to have my attention again.
I turn back and return his gaze. “Yes, sadly. I’m going to have to give someone a stern talking too. After I give one to you.” Then in quick succession, I bent down with both hands below my knees, energy blasting wide at the crowd. In a flash I hit every Regnorian soldier, knocking them on their asses, except for Chronos who holds firmly onto his hovercraft.
I don’t stay to exchange anymore words as the Rango powers up and starts creating the wormhole to escape. I quickly run to the hatch and jump through as it is closes. When I hit the floor of the bridge, Aleti is there to hug me close. “Mom!” she yells into my chest.
Terra yells back, “We’re going now!” Then the Rango lurches forward through a now fully formed wormhole. The force throws Aleti and I backwards. I quickly grab and bring her close to my chest as we go spiraling. My back hits the wall behind me with a thud, and tighten my grip on Aleti as we travel through space as if it is folded paper.
After a dozen seconds we come out the other side in deep space.
The Rango’s voice communications come on to inform us, ‘We are now in the time zone which holds Acoustica. It has been three years in this time zone since Team Sunset was disbanded. The location of Acoustica also holds true for the previous theory that time moves slower the closer to the Dion. This planet is the closer than Tora.’
“Thank you, computer,” Terra says. Then he turns around in his chair to look at me as I let Aleti up. “What do we do now, Captain?”
I look at him with a blank face, and then at my daughter who is kneeling next to me. I tell her, “I’m so sorry that this happened, but we can’t go back home obviously.”
Aleti looks to the side to smack her lips, and then looks back at me. “I think you’re already home Mom, and you know what, it is only an apartment with some stuff that can be replaced. So, don’t beat yourself up. Next time we go back, we’ll just have to buy another place at worst.”
I nod my head and move myself up to lean more so against the wall. “Okay Aleti, but I have to know. If you want, we can go find some colony to live on for some time, under different names or something. I’ll take you back to something resembling a normal life if you want. I don’t want to force you onto some dangerous adventure you don’t want to go on.”
Aleti stares me in the eye and smiles. “I appreciate that Mom, but this seems a bit too big for us to just run away from.” Then she grins from ear to ear. “And what makes you think I don’t want to go on some dangerous adventure? Didn’t you ask if I wanted to do something other than read books?”
I start smiling too and I tell her, “Thank you, Aleti. This means a lot to me, and honestly to everyone in the galaxy.”
“Don’t thank me. I should thank you. I get to actually meet all the people and species I’ve been studying for years, and save the world all at the same time.” She’s actually excited about this. Oh dear, she is actually happy.
“She really is your kid,” Terra says. “Hungry to go do something.”
I inform him with a chuckle that, “That’s ironic of her because she hasn’t done anything but read all her life.” Then I look back at my daughter, and for some crazy reason she’s still smiling.
“Does this make me a part of Team Sunset?” she asks me.
“Sure, does kid,” Terra says. “We can call you what we call everybody for their first few weeks.” Then with inflection the Techanot calls her, “The Rookie.”
I look from Terra back to Aleti. “The Rookie, I like it for you.”
She smiles and nods her head. “Let’s get you up.” Then she reaches for under my shoulder to get me off the floor.
“I’m fine!” I tell her. Then I motion away and get up myself.
“Still won’t take any help,” Aleti comments with a judging face.
Terra chuckles and comments that, “Some things never change. Now where to Captain?”
I walk up behind him past the Captain’s chair and rest a hand high on his shoulder. I command with pride, “Obviously we’re getting the rest of the team. This is in the same time zone as Acoustica, right computer?”
‘Correct, Captain,’ the Rango replies.
“And is Hideo TriVi Die-Ve Eron on said planet?” I ask.
‘Yes, he is.’
“Take us to him, Avalanche.”
“Yes, Captain,” he sounds off.
Then I turn around. “Take a seat Rookie, and strap in for another wormhole jump.” Aleti salutes me and sits in the seat near a comms panel where she straps herself in.
“Stop saluting me,” I order her. “No one on this team does that.” She rolls her eyes as I ignore the fact that she was joking. Then I look at my Captain’s chair and walk towards. I look down and pat the seat which still has the imprint of my butt. “I missed you,” I told it.
“It’s a seat, Mom,” my daughter pokes humorously.
“No Rookie, it’s the Captain’s chair. My chair,” I correct with a hint of humor. With that I sit in it promptly letting my form fit once again in its rightful place. All is right in this moment for me. I can let the world fade away. I can only let that moment go on for a minute though, because now is the time get back to my old job.
“What are you waiting for Avalanche?” I ask Terra’rock. “Let’s go.”
“With pleasure,” he says as he starts forming the wormhole to Acoustica. It takes a few seconds to form the wormhole, and then we’re off.