In the small meeting room with Jonathan, K, and Joëlle, after a discussion about time travel, my slightly younger self hesitated with the time ball in his hands. “Maybe… maybe I can’t do this,” he said.
“You can,” I said. Then I twisted the ball in his hands and he vanished in a flash of light as the device disintegrated.
K shouted. “Hey! What the hell are you doing? He changed his mind! He didn’t want to go!”
Her orange eyes were sharp against her blue skin. “It’s fine, K. I needed to do it. I just… needed some assistance. From myself. Besides, it’s done now. And I turned out alright.”
She sat down in her chair, shaking her head. “Ugh, this is so confusing.”
Joëlle smirked, brushing aside a stray purple lock. “Don’t worry, K. Now that Osax has left for the past, the causal loop is done. It’s over.”
Everyone sighed collectively. I walked around the table to where I had been sitting before, and pulled the seat out. I sat down, and placed my father’s helmet on the table in front of me.
“Thanks for bearing with me through all of that,” I said.
Jonathan stared at me with one eye. “So… you travelled back in time, and now the causal loop is done. So, who created the spheres?”
“Right,” I said. I told them what Kaia and my mother had said. “So,” I continued, “That was the last time ball. And since we can’t replicate the technology, there aren’t going to be any more.”
Jonathan stretched his arms back, exhaling. He spiked his hair with his fingers. “I’m going to be honest, I’m glad to hear that. We shouldn’t be messing with things we don’t understand.”
“Says the guy who joined a terrorist organization and started trying to create bioweapons,” said K, smirking.
“I- Well...” Jonathan sighed. “Fair point.”
Joëlle leaned forward, ignoring Jonathan. “Isn’t it odd that these spheres are the only evidence of the civilization they came from, and that they even came with instructions that the skythers could understand?”
I blinked. “Yes… it is strange.”
“Maybe they’re not an ancient civilization at all?” she said. “If they’re the ones who invented time travel, who says they had to do it in the past?”
We sat in a humble silence.
“You’re right,” I said. “Maybe the spheres were planted on the moon for us to find them in the past. Maybe they were invented by… By skythers in the future.”
“Now that’s just crazy,” said K. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
To my surprise, Jonathan spoke up next, defending the idea. “It makes as much sense as the causal loop we just witnessed. But we’ll never know. It’s only speculation. And even if they were created by skythers from the future, it would have to be so far in the future that none of us will live long enough to see it.”
“What I don’t understand is why Astraloth never mentioned this to the TAU,” said Joëlle, not bothering to look at Jonathan. “Doesn’t it break the treaty?”
“No,” I said. “The spheres were discovered long before humans and skythers ever encountered each other. If the treaty were retroactive for all technological discoveries ever made, then both Astraloth and the TAU would be in breach of it for countless items.”
“Fair enough,” she said. “But it still seems like a big secret to keep from your allies.”
“That’s because it is,” I said, my eyes narrowing. “But it doesn’t matter now. The spheres are gone. There will be no more travelling backwards through time.”
“What about forwards in time?” asked Jonathan. “You said there were some more time spheres hidden beneath the surface of the planet.”
I shrugged. “Who’s to say whether or not they disintegrated when Astraloth leapt to the future?”
“Well, you could check,” he continued. “Besides, if there were originally two time balls to send a messenger into the past, to be used in conjunction with Astraloth’s defense, then wouldn’t there be two sets of spheres to send Astraloth into the future?”
He had a point. “You might be right. But now’s not the time to check. We need to talk about the Shade Beam.”
Everyone shuffled in their seats.
K leaned forward onto her bulky, spiked forearms. She flexed her fingers, and her eyes shifted between us. “Well, Osax? Did you get the code?”
I shook my head.
“Dammit!” Jonathan cried. “That was my only idea.”
“That’s a shame,” said Joëlle, trying to hide her unease. “We’ll just have to find some other way to fight the Shade Beam.”
“But if we can’t search the schematics for a weakness, what are we going to do?” asked K. “Dammit Osax, your plan got me excited for a few minutes there.”
I sighed. “I know, I let you all down. But believe me, I tried. Jonathan was wearing his holo-gauntlet on his wrist, and when he went to bed he locked the door.”
“So, it’s Jonathan’s fault,” said K.
“What isn’t his fault?” Joëlle muttered, her shoulders tensing.
He raised his hands in defense. “What, you expect me to have magically known that I needed to let Osax steal my holo-gauntlet in the past, so that when I decided to abandon the Brotherhood and stop Duhrnan we would have a chance at destroying the Shade Beam?”
K shrugged. “It would have helped, yeah.”
“I do have some good news,” I said, trying to raise their spirits. I activated K’s holo-gauntlet, and opened up the scans of her brain, displaying the holographic images of K’s brain above my arm.
K met eyes with me. Her lips curled into a smile, and I felt my ears lift. “Aw, Osax! That’s probably not even going to help me, you know. But that’s- It’s thoughtful of you.”
“Osax,” said Jonathan. “Can you send those scans to me? I… want to see if I can help K, as well.”
“Of course,” I said. “Well, you can get K to do it, later. I should return this to her.” I removed the device from my wrist and gave it to K.
Joëlle smiled at me. “You know, you are sweet, Osax.”
Jonathan lowered his gaze, and I caught sight of his damaged eye.
“Oh!” I exclaimed. I reached into my pocket, and retrieved his spare eye. “I, uh… accidentally stole this from you.”
He lifted his head, and then his eye widened and a grin spread across his face. “Osax! You bastard, I remember now! That night, I lost my spare eye! You were acting so strange! It was you!” He laughed, then scrambled, leaning over the table to me. “Give it here!”
He snatched it from my hand before I could react. I couldn’t help but smile seeing Jonathan so energetic.
He put his head down, and fiddled with the metal plate around his damaged eye, until the center piece popped out. A moment later, he fitted the spare eye to his face. He looked up, smiling, and flicked a switch. His eye began to glow white.
“Wow, it’s not red!” said K.
“It’s colour changing, just like my old one,” he said.
“So wait-” said K. “You intentionally had a red eye this whole time?”
“Isn’t that, like… obviously the evil thing to do? Red eyes?”
“It’s just a colour,” he said. “I like red. Besides, some people have red eyes naturally. It’s not evil.”
“White suits you too,” I said.
He was going to fiddle with his eye some more, but at hearing this lowered his hand. “Thanks. You know, the light doesn’t actually do anything. It just looks cool.”
Then he jerked his body to a halt and a look of concentration came over his face. He snapped his fingers together, and smiled. “I’ve got it!”
“What?” said K, leaning in.
He touched his cybernetic eye. “Ah!” he said. There was a clicking sound, and then he leaned back, continuing to fiddle with the device attached to his face. He closed his left eye, and the aperture on his right shut as well. He grinned. “There we go...” We all stared at him in silence before he opened his eyes, and looked at us, still smiling. “My eye implant- It has a storage component. Whenever I am looking at something, the device automatically saves a snapshot, once every second!”
“Uh...” said Joëlle. “That’s unnerving.”
“Yeah, dude, that’s creepy as hell!” said K.
He raised his hands in defense. “Call it what you will, but don’t blame me; I didn’t design the prosthetic myself. That was a feature I wouldn’t have wanted, but it came with the eye, and otherwise this prosthetic is the best in its class-” His cheeks began to flush. “I- I don’t need to explain my choices about my body to anyone, anyway. The point is, I can use this to find the brotherhood access code! I know I looked at the code using this eye before, which means it’s just a matter of searching through its memory!”
Excitement hit me like a crashing wave, and I almost jumped out of my seat. “So we still have a chance!” I cried. “Jonathan, that’s some brilliant thinking!”
“Ha ha! Thank you, Osax!” He shut his eyes again. “The images are sent directly into my brain, so, it’s a little disorienting. I can’t concentrate on anything else while I’m browsing through my eye’s image gallery. But with luck, I should be able to find it in a few hours.”
“It’ll take us a while to fly from Astraloth to Voren where the schematics are hidden,” I said. “Maybe you can look for the code on the way?”
“Good point,” he said.
I stood up from my chair and checked the Code-Alpha signal.
My brows furrowed. “We don’t have any time to lose.” K, Jonathan, and Joëlle each stood from their own seats. “Alright, Joëlle. Is the Firebrand ready?”
She frowned and stared at the floor. “...Yes,” she said, after an awkwardly long pause. She looked up at me, and her face told me she had just come to an important decision. “But you need to find your own transport to Voren.”
I felt like I had just been punched in the gut. Jonathan and K stared at her, utterly confused. No one knew what to say.
“Why?” I asked finally.
She looked me square in the eye. “You’re the King now. You should have no trouble acquiring a transport to Voren. In the meantime, I’m going to take the Firebrand to the TAU fleets at Olympus and speak with the admirals, maybe conduct some repairs on the weapons system.” She couldn’t resist the urge to give K a quick glance, though I know she didn’t mean to make her feel bad. “They need to know what we know. And I’ll make sure that the fleets reconvene over Earth. We’ll wait for your return there with the schematics. And once we analyze them, we’ll come up with a plan to destroy the Shade Beam and save Earth from the valicorr.
“Besides,” she paused. “I don’t think I can work with a member of the Brotherhood.”
Jonathan’s lip twitched. “I-”
“I don’t wanna hear it!” Joëlle snapped.
“But, I’m not-”
“You betrayed us,” she said. “But I still saved your life. Don’t ask for anything more.”
His mouth hung open. Then he shut it, and frowned as his gaze fell to the table.
I opened my mouth to speak, but Joëlle cut me off.
“Just because you forgave him doesn’t mean I have to,” she stated. “Even ignoring everything he did before we met him, it’s because of him that Omega is dead right now. You wouldn’t have been trapped in a cave with a myrok in the first place.” She scowled. “I don’t want him aboard my ship anymore.”
I noticed K clenching her firsts, but she stayed silent. She bit her bottom lip.
I sighed. “Alright, Joëlle. You go to the fleets. I will tell the skyther fleets to meet with the TAU over Earth. We need to stand together if we are to defend our galaxy from Durhnan. Then Jonathan, K and I will get the schematics from Voren, and return as soon as possible so they can be analyzed,” I said, though my heart was heavy. We had only just reunited. I didn’t want us to split up again. And I didn’t want to leave the Firebrand; it had just started to feel like home to me.
It was never your home. The thoughts invaded my mind. And for a moment I was back in the freezing air of Voren, with a black sky above me as missiles detonated in vicious flames and the tower where her team was trapped crumbled away into the abyss.
She was never your friend. She could never really like you, after what you did. After what you let happen. The voice in my head cut me like a molecular sword. I forced myself to ignore it.
I stepped a pace toward her around the table, and reached out a hand for her to shake. “It’s been an honour getting to know you.”
She wrapped her fingers around my hand, and squeezed firmly. I could tell she was holding something back behind her eyes. “Be careful, Osax. Contact me if you need anything. We all should leave at once.”
She halted on her way out the door. Facing me, she gave the skyther bow, which I returned. Then she glanced back at K, who stared at her sadly. “See you around, K,” she said.
Then she disappeared.
Jonathan hung his head in shame. K sighed. I stood silently as my thoughts wandered back to the frigid snowfields of Voren. We had no time to lose.
“My mother had a spare ship,” I said, flatly. “We can use that.”