The archives were always a home away from home for Reltse. She had books at home and more in her dorm room, but it was never the same as having any book she desired at her fingertips. The long rectangle table she sat at was stacked with books from end to end, leaving only a small space for her to read.
Normally when she came to the archives it was to study on the many different fields of Jegathen society, but today she had a purpose, a question that needed to be answered, namely what was on that ship. Which, after several hours of nonstop reading, she had concluded that such an answer would not be so easy to find. First off, how would she even categorize what she saw? It clearly was not a Lost, as someone working on the ship would have noticed a Lost hiding there after all of this time. Her best guess was that it was some form of Lost technology; a drone, a drone that could disappear within the blink of an eye. No, that did not sound very plausible.
She closed her book and added it to the growing pile on the ground as she picked up yet another book to flip through. She wasn’t quite sure what she was looking for but was hoping that something—anything would jump out at her and help her understand this. “I thought we would find you here.” Reltse looked over the stacks of books to see Shelvon, Minicke, and a rather reluctant Galen.
“You didn’t return to the dormitory last night.”
“Is it morning already?” Reltse asked but waved off the question. “Don’t bother answering. Today is my rest day so there shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Then shouldn’t you be resting?” Galen pointed out.
Reltse blinked with baggy eyes. “I’m not tired. Why are you here, all of you I mean?”
“Your mother left another video message,” said Shelvon. “On top of the five from last night. I was not going to open your mail, however, the last message was addressed specifically to me. If I understood the subtext, she wanted me to seek you out and convince you to move back home.”
Reltse rolled her eyes. “Of course she did. This incident on the ship has Jefar up in arms and she is convinced I will only be safe back home, but I’m far too busy for that right now.”
As Reltse’s eyes moved to the next girl, Minicke happily spoke up. “I want to study how Lost deal with traumatic events.”
Reltse closed her book as it was clear that she wasn’t going to get much more reading done. “I would hardly consider that traumatic.”
“Really? So the possibility that the ship came close to exploding and consuming everything in a flaming ball of death, is not considered traumatic to you. Fascinating!” Minicke pulled out a notepad and scribbled down as she muttered, “Lost appear to have a resistance to mental trauma.”
Reltse just sighed and looked to Galen, who looked away with crossed arms. She didn’t say anything, nor did he, as both waited for the other to speak first. Finally, Shelvon took mercy and spoke up. “He wants to know about the ship, something to do with the mid-semester test coming up.
“You will never get your answers if you can not ask.”
Reltse leaned forward in her seat, a playful smirk on her face. “Galen, are you asking for help… from a Lost?”
Galen threw up his arms and turned away with a cry of, “I tried.” Shelvon was quick to grab his shoulder and whisper in a not so hushed voice.
“You promised to help!” Galen’s reply was too quiet to hear. “Fine, just help us get her out of here.”
Galen turned back around, a resigned look on his face. He picked up a book off the table as he asked. “What exactly kept you out so late?”
Leaning forward, Reltse grabbed the book back and placed it back on the table. “I’m doing research.” She explained.
“Research on what?” Galen pressed, waiting for an answer.
Reltse’s eyes darted around the room. Should she tell them? Would they even believe it, probably not, as she barely believed what she saw. Still, if she didn’t tell them they would never give her peace of mind and let her continue her search. “I don’t know, not exactly.” She had barely finished her words when Galen sucked in a breath, about to give some condescending remark, most likely. She cut him off with a quick rise of her tone. “If you must know, while I was aboard the Lost ship I… saw something, however, the issue is that I’m unable to properly identify what I saw.”
Shelvon stepped forward with curiosity in her eyes. “Did you see some strange section of the ship when you ran off on your own, something unique to the Lost perhaps?”
If only it was that simple. There was little point dragging this out, so with one breath, she explained. “I saw another Lost aboard the ship, it was only for a moment and she said nothing, but it was clearly a Lost.”
Three dumbfounded faces stared back at her. After a moment Galen spoke up, “You do know that’s impossible?”
“I am quite aware that I did not see an actual Lost, which is why I’ve been here all night.”
Minicke gasped. “Maybe you’re like a Gropa!”
With a sigh, Shelvon asked, “A what?”
“A Gropa. It’s a type of lizard that’s capable of leaving behind pheromones as a form of message to other gropas.”
While it was certainly an interesting theory, Reltse had her doubts. “Well, that’s settled,” said Galen. “You’re a lizard. Now with that out of the way, why don’t we get out of here.”
Reltse raised an eyebrow and was about to give a response when Shelvon chimed in. “I think what he meant is that we were planning to go play Bolow Ball, since we all have the day off from studies, why don’t you join us?”
“We are going to play Bolow Ball!” Minicke cried. “I love that game.” Shelvon responded only by moving her hand to the side of her head to rub her eyes. Reltse looked to Minicke and then slowly to Shelvon.
“Just come out and play with us, you can’t stay locked up in here.”
Reltse disagreed. She could very much stay locked up in there, not that they were going to let her get any work done. She held up a finger. “I will go on one condition: Once we are done playing, you let me work in peace.”
“Deal!” Shelvon said.
The Bolow court was a large enclosed room. The four of them stood in lose fitting clothing among the white walls, each with a racket in hand. Reltse twirled her racket as she asked. “How do we play?”
“You’ve never played?” asked Minicke with genuine surprise.
“My family was never much into sport events.”
“Oh, my family was, me and my father used to play all the time, so don’t worry I know all the rules.” Minicke tossed a blue rubber ball up and down in one hand. “I’m going to hit the ball against the far wall and everyone has to try and hit the ball through the hole,” she pointed to the hole barely twice the ball’s size, in the center of the wall. “Get it through and you get a point. The first one to ten points wins.”
“Sounds simple enough.”
“Than let’s get the game going,” called Galen as he snatched the ball from the air while ignoring Minicke’s cry. “I’ll serve”
With a surge, Reltse followed Minicke’s lead and lined up beside the other two. Galen stood at the end and tossed the ball into the air and smashed it into the wall with a flick of the racket. The group spread out as the ball came flying back. Reltse watched the ball as it came flying back in her direction. She gripped her racket with both hands and waited for the perfect moment to strike, only for Galen to block her field of vision as he smacked the ball back, barely missing the goal. “That was mine!”
Galen smirked. “Don’t tell me Lost are too slow for this game?”
“I’ll show you slow,” she muttered. The ball veered off to the side and right at Shelvon, who threw herself to the ground to avoid being hit.
“Shelvon, you have to keep your eyes on the ball,” called Minicke.
“I was, that’s how I knew to dodge!”
The ball hit the back wall and bounced back, losing some momentum but still going strong. Galen rushed forward. He kept his racket close to his body to easily maneuver it as needed and prepared to strike his target for his first point, yet a bout of self- preservation instinct flashed through him, as he jerked his head back to avoid Reltse’s racket from smashing his face. Her racket hit the ball in his moment of distraction and sent the ball flying through the goal. “You almost hit me,” he cried.”
“Almost,” Reltse taunted.
Perhaps Reltse was too focused on Galen to notice, but Minicke was really good at the game. She danced around the room with spins and twirls, stealing the ball away from someone with a quick swipe of her racket than leaping away to chase down the ball. It was after she had scored her eighth point in a roll that Reltse stopped in her tracks to look at Galen, “We never stood a chance?”
“No, we didn’t.”
When the game came to a close the group of them set on the floor. The final score: Shelvon 0, Reltse 3, Galen 3, Minicke 10.
Reltse was tired and combined with staying up all night, she wanted to stretch out on the ground and sleep, but the thought of her work left unfinished was enough to keep her going. “Reltse, mind listening to something for me,” asked Minicke. She looked over to Minicke, who set with her long fingers holding her legs.
“You want to tell me something for once, ok go ahead.” Reltse’s amused tone was clear and she eagerly listened.
“Un, well, our mid-semester exam for the Perigr class is to write a thesis on a species of our choice. I don’t know what you picked, Reltse, but I chose the Lost—”
“I’m shocked!” Galen interrupted, only for a rubber ball to bounce off his head.
“Let her finish,” said Shelvon.
“As I was saying,” said Minicke. “For my thesis, I’m focusing on why the Lost grow so slowly compared to us and the societal impact it could cause.”
Reltse had heard many theories about why she aged slowly. Her favorite was the one that claimed her life span stretched into the thousands. There was something reassuring in knowing she could live for hundreds of years to come. Though until she hit the age of two hundred it was impossible to know for sure. “What do you have so far?”
“Keep in mind that I’m skill working everything out, but I believe early Lost society were heavily based around the rearing and protecting their young. Unlike us Jegathens if our early ancestors lost a child it could easily be replaced.” At the squeamish looks she got from the others, she elaborated. “It may sound cruel, but keep in mind that for a long time we were a prey species who’s only real defence was running away. You wouldn't believe how long it was before we started putting stones on sticks. For the Lost, however, losing a single child could set back a tribe for a decade. They would have been a close community but very territorial to anything that wasn’t one of them. With their children young for so long, it would have been difficult for them to run from danger, forcing them to adopt a more aggressive approach, and systematically remove anything they view as a danger from their territory. Well, that’s the basic idea for my thesis; what do you think?”
“I believe the part about being aggressive,” said Galen
“I believe the part about being territorial,” said Shelvon.
“Ok, I can kind of see the aggression, at least when it comes to Galen, but how am I territorial?”
“You hate when people enter your room.”
“Everyone hates that… right?” Reltse looked around the group as eyes darted away.
“I love when people come to visit me,” Minicke said, unhelpfully.
“It's normal!” Reltse rose from her spot on the ground and dusted her pants clean. “I need to get back, I still have a lot of books to go through.”
Shelvon jumped to her feet with a cry of, “Just one moment.” But Reltse held out her hand.
“I agreed to one game only.”
“Yes, but just listen for a moment. I don’t know what you saw on the ship, but I believe that you saw something, however, whatever is on that ship has likely been there since the ship first arrived here. All I’m trying to say is that you don’t need to push yourself so hard to find answers, rest, take your time, and the answers will come.”
Reltse stared at her with heavy bagged eyes. She had a point, and sleep was calling to every muscle in her body. For once in her life, she felt dread at having to sort through more books, so with a heavy voice she said, “Alright, I’ll stop for the day.”
It wouldn’t be tomorrow or next week, but she would have answers. It was only a matter of time.