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I thought about entering the temple and sleeping in my room that night, since I knew the other me wouldn’t be using it. But I knew that was a risky move, so instead I climbed my way down the temple through the gardens and entered the city. I wandered the streets with my cloak drawn tightly over my face and no real destination. The market was closed, but I decided to wander through anyway.

I tried to ignore the fact that I failed to get the code. The other me hadn’t wanted to answer when I asked if I succeeded. Knowing myself, it was because I hadn’t. So I resigned to my fate. I figured I wasn’t meant to get the code after all, but at least I tried. I’d worry about that later.

I slipped the cybernetic eye into a pouch on my leg; there was no easy way I could return it to Jonathan tonight without revealing I had been going through his things. But at least I could hold onto it until meeting up with him in the future; I was certain he’d be glad to replace his damaged eye with this one.

A few skythers walked the streets. I could hear their footsteps as a group of friends passed by, joking and laughing loudly. They paid me little attention, their ears lifted in joy. They had no idea what was about to happen to the planet, or the galaxy, with Duhrnan’s threat. And despite everything, I smiled to myself… For once, I was the one who had all the secrets. I took my time, enjoying the feeling of the rough stones beneath my feet, the warmth of the cloak on my shoulders, and the feeling of the air whistling quietly through my fingers. I only wished I had someone I could talk to about what I was feeling; excited, nervous, grateful, and in awe. I stretched my arms up, yawning. The stars were beautiful and vibrant. For now, I was free.

I admit, it was surreal being back on Astraloth. Not only after seeing it destroyed- or thinking it was destroyed, at least- but knowing that I was reliving a day which I had already spent on the planet somewhere else.

I passed by friendly faces, orange lampposts, alleys and trees. I pondered where I might sleep that night. My sleep schedule had been ruined by the poison coma I had on Malum. Between then and now I had only slept once, for six hours. And now I’d been sent back in time from day to night. Talk about jet lag. Regardless, I had too much adrenaline in me to fall asleep.

 

I came-to in a field of tall grass just outside the city, with barely any memory of how I got there. I think I had wandered for hours, and decided to stargaze where there was less light pollution. I guess my stamina wasn’t as good as I had thought. My face warmed in the sun, and as I sat up the grass rippled around me. I rubbed my sore neck and shoulders in vain.

My stomach growled, I was thirsty, and I had to relieve myself. Not to mention, I realized it had been days since I had a shower. Grass clung to my cloak when I stood, and I attempted to brush it off. Everything smelled vaguely dry. I guessed it was already midday.

I stared at the city, and the Great Temple at its center. The spheres. It was time to talk to my mother. By now, the Firebrand would have left.

I synced my holo-gauntlet’s time with the standard time of the city, and cross-referenced it with my record of the exact time when the Shade Beam fired. I had exactly three days between now and then to warn my mother. And to say goodbye.

I stumbled through the field. The sun was blinding. I thought about my mother, and my body quivered. Suddenly, I felt I was surrounded by flames. She was in my arms, limp, bleeding from the chest.

I keeled over, retching.

Everything was spinning. I shut my eyes, breathing shakily.

Three days before Astraloth would be sent to the future.

And then… no more than an hour before my mother would die.

I couldn’t move. I knew I had to warn her. And I wanted to spend this time with her, to cherish it, to show her how much she mattered to me. But I was terrified. I was terrified of seeing her face.

I needed the causal loop to be over. And yet I wanted more than anything for time to stretch on forever. I couldn’t handle knowing how much time she had left.

I forced myself to concentrate on my breathing. In and out. I tried to slow it down, to slow my heart. The shaking began to subside.

I raised my eyes to the temple, and I knew if I didn’t go now, I might not have the courage to meet with my mother until the three days were already used up. And if I missed my chance to see her again, before our time was up, I didn’t know how I could live with myself. So I put one foot in front of the other. I would find a public washroom, buy some food in the market, and then make my way to the temple when I was ready.

 

I scaled the temple in a haze. It was a bright, warm day. Everything seemed so picturesque, and the colours of the city and trees seemed to pop, with the crimson spheres as the centrepiece, floating high above the floral pyramids.

I quickened my pace. Along the steps and around the temple were royal guards who recognized me. They watched in confusion as I passed. I paid them no mind.

What if my mother didn’t believe me?

She’ll understand, I told myself. She can read your mind.

But she’ll know that she’s going to die, as well.

I entered the cut out center of the pyramid and scanned the open area for anyone I recognized. There, a ways to my right, the High Priest, Kaia. Her flowing skirt and hat were unmistakable.

She stared at me in shock and confusion when I stopped at her feet, panting.

Take me to Suranos,” I heaved.

She blinked, perplexed. “Prince Talcorosax-” Her cheeks began to flush.

Please!” I pleaded. “I can’t waste any more time!”

She nodded, and turned, leading the way. “She’s meditating right now, I believe, in her sanctuary.”

I was sweating. “That doesn’t matter… she’ll want to hear what I have to say.”

Weren’t you leaving this morning on your friend’s starship?”

Yes,” I said. “I’ll explain when we find my mother.”

 

Sitting on her knees in a circular room was my mother. She was alone when Kaia and I entered the ornate shrine, wearing white robes on a soft carpet. The room was warmly lit from all sides, and my mother seemed to glow. Her back faced us, and she sat motionless.

My hands began to shake.

My Queen,” said Kaia in a gentle voice. “Your son is here to see you.”

Suranos rose and faced us. Her yellow eyes locked onto mine, and they quivered. I could almost see my memories of the past few days flooding into her as she, whether intentionally or not, peered into my mind.

I thought of falling to Astraloth, and of her coming to save us. I thought of her ship exploding. I thought of our last conversation together, and of her death. I could see my mother’s face contort, shifting, struggling to maintain composure as these images and emotions entered her. Her tattooed face squinted at me.

Kaia simply watched us both with wide eyes. My mother stepped up to me carefully, not breaking eye contact. Her face shifted between concern, pity, and compassion.

I trembled. I opened my mouth to speak, but choked on my words. Be strong, I thought. Be strong! But despite my efforts, tears trickled down my cheeks.

I’m sorry, Mom,” I said. “I’m sorry that I got mad at you.”

It’s alright, my child!” she said, her ears tilting with compassion. Then she grabbed my hands from my sides, and squeezed them, bringing herself close. I looked up at her. Then she pulled me in for a hug, and I buried my face in her chest, Her fur was soft and comforting, and I felt the tension leave my arms as I sobbed into her. We held each other for a long time.

Not long enough.

She pulled herself away from me. “…You are not from this time,” she said slowly.

I shook my head, scared to make a sound because I knew if I tried to speak I would only cry.

Kaia ventured hesitantly, “You do not mean… that Prince Talcorosax used the ancient artifacts?”

She nodded. “Yes, Kaia. Osax is a visitor from the future.”

I looked at Kaia, and nodded quickly. “I’ve come to warn you about Duhrnan-”

Duhrnan?” Kaia asked, tilting her head to the side.

Yes,” I said, wiping my face with my wrist. “There’s a lot to explain.”

Sitting cross-legged on the floor, we talked for hours. Eventually I concluded my story, and Kaia and my mother were both on the same page. I told them everything about the attack… even about my mother’s death.

Kaia was shocked. Not by the time travel- it seemed that her and the queen were the only two who knew the truth about the spheres of Astraloth- but she was shocked at hearing of my mother’s death.

Is there no way to stop it?” Kaia asked. “Must you die?”

My mother lifted her ears, calmly. “All things must die, eventually. Though few have the chance to know exactly when, and how.”

But,” I said, “Mom, you know exactly how you died… or, will die… doesn’t that mean you can do things differently this time?”

She smiled at me. “Osax… if I am to save you and K from dying, I will need to concentrate on nothing else. Slowing your falls with telekinesis… that will not be an easy feat.”

You can do it,” I said, encouragingly. “Can’t you avoid the mothership’s debris at the same time?”

She rested a hand on my leg. “I will try, Osax.”

I felt my heart sink. Deep down, I knew: it was hopeless to try to change the outcome.

I asked about the spheres, to change the subject. My mother explained that all of the time travel technology was unearthed over one thousand years ago on one of the moons of Astraloth, when skyther’s had just finished perfecting interplanetary flight. They were clearly the product of an ancient civilization, but according to my mother, not the loro.

I was aghast. “You mean, all this time, we’ve had evidence of another ancient civilization? People who travelled the stars before us… and they’re not the loro?”

Kaia and Suranos looked nervous.

You can see why we never spoke of this to the TAU,” said Kaia. “Any why we never made these discoveries public. To share this knowledge would undermine the effectiveness of the defense. If our enemies knew that we could send our planet into the future-”

But why hasn’t anyone heard about these other people. Do they even have a name?” I asked.

Suranos replied, “The spheres were practically the only evidence we ever found of such a civilization, along with instructions on how to use them. It was not hard to hide their existence.”

I gazed at them, perplexed.

Kaia continued where my mother had left off. “The spheres were towed back to Astraloth and installed per the instructions. For hundreds of years, a trusted few have tried to reverse engineer the technology, but it is too complex. Even our best engineers cannot comprehend the internal structure of these devices.”

Yet you put your trust in them,” I said. “How did you know they would work?”

The device you used to travel here from the future- the time ball… There were once two of them. An early king thought it was worth the risk to use one as a test. When it truly did send him back in time, he was convinced of the sphere’s power, and tried to erase any knowledge of the spheres from the public to keep their power secret. He hid what he could of the technology beneath the surface of Astraloth, though he kept the spheres floating above the Great Temple as a symbol of worship. As for the true abilities of the spheres, only rumours remained.”

You mean there are more spheres hidden below the planet’s surface?” I asked.

Kaia bowed her head, and my mother nodded. If I hadn’t just experienced time travel first hand, I likely would have had a harder time believing everything they said. But before I could puzzle over the ancients who must have created the spheres, my mother interjected.

So, we have a few days before Duhrnan will attack.” She lifted her ears at me. “What would you like to do, Osax?”

My gaze fell to the floor. I tried to keep my body still, but my arms started shaking again. I tried to control my breathing, but it started to slip away from me. “I don’t know…” I whispered.

The three of us sat in silence as I pondered her question.

I think I just want to spend time with you.”

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About the author

Seb Woodland

Bio: I'm a writer, game developer, artist, and musician. Just a creative guy working on art and trying to make his way in the world.

-There is always hope-

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