The Archives of the Heroes: Series One - Foundation.

This is the story of two brothers growing up in our Universe. They manage to find themselves all kinds of trouble and adventures while travelling from galaxy to galaxy with their father.
Or, in some cases, by themselves.

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18. Episode Four: Home

 

Neither of the boys bothered asking where they were going. Strongh was too solemn – his birthday a complete flop in his eyes – and Liart was saddened by his brother's despondency. Occasionally he tried to lighten the mood by suggesting a thumb war or the like, but his brother would only win in two seconds and turn away again.

They journeyed into what was obviously a less developed galaxy, as there were hardly any Lysas to be seen – in fact, the boys only saw one, and that was Rose's.

Strongh perked up a little when they landed on a planet, and took in his surroundings breathlessly. It was amazing, literally breath-taking.

It was a sort of cross between a jungle and a rainforest – luscious and green with large, water-filled or water-covered plants. The boys quickly assumed that a person would never really be dry on this planet.

The sounds that accompanied the surroundings were just as beautiful. There were parrots and howler monkeys – giant crickets and nightingales. Magpies and lyre birds added to the mysterious atmosphere.

'How is this possible?' Liart breathed. 'To have a planet so untouched like this?'

Jaliq was just as overwhelmed, and replied the brightest he had been all day. 'This planet was inhabited and forgotten about for centuries. The people nearly died of disease – it's a miracle there's anything left here apart from flora and fauna.'

'I don't understand.' Strongh said, 'how did this even happen? You said all the planets were originally as bare as the ones in the Milky Way.'

Jaliq nodded. 'They brought seeds, and saw which ones survived where. The rainforest did well on this planet, as it rains often – it took no human interference to cause that. The atmosphere, too, was full of oxygen – one of the few planets in the Scatorian Universe that has oxygen naturally. The other planets are heavily monitored. But this planet is also particularly dangerous, as it occasionally showers acid instead of water. And these showers are unpredictable.'

He reached into the car and pulled out several umbrellas.

'Cover up, boys. If the umbrella starts disappearing, make a run for it.'

Liart glanced at Strongh who was just as uneasy as he was. Then, in perfect unison, they grabbed two umbrellas each.

There was the sound of another Lysa landing, and the small group turned to see Rose. Here, in the middle of no-where, Jaliq seemed inclined to get along with her better, and smiled brightly.

'How was your journey?'

She nodded. 'Good thanks – yours?'

'Yeah, same.' He looked up at a particularly large tree. 'Isn't this place beautiful?'

'Spectacular.' Rose agreed, looking up at the same tree. Then, looking back down she seemed to scowl. 'Or at least it would be if it didn't rain acid.'

'How does that not kill everything?' Liart asked.

Rose only shrugged. 'It's a rain forest. Things cope. As for the animals, the natives like to say they can smell the acid coming and make a run for it. When they go, the natives do too – it's the only reason they've survived.'

'What language do they speak?'

Rose smiled. 'A simplified form of Latin. After all, they are directly descending from the Romans.'

'They're an ancient civilisation, then.' Strongh reasoned.

'Hmm.' Jaliq grumbled, finally turning away from the shrubbery and towards the people. 'If you can call them civilised.'

'This is one of the safer planets in this galaxy.' Rose added.

'What galaxy?' Liart asked.

Rose only smiled. 'You'll find out eventually.'

Jaliq began walking, and Strongh wondered why they did not take the Lysa. Jaliq boredly explained that the jungle was too dense for the vehicle to travel through, and the rest of the small group followed him.

After about an hour of walking through the thick shrubbery and swatting giant mosquitoes, the group reached a sort of clearing. This was almost as breath-taking as the planet itself.

It was a large square, with a stone wall around it that was about two metres tall and one wide. Wooden spikes had been driven through various stones to prevent something from entering – or was it leaving? - and red rags attached to sticks marked entrances. These entrances were guarded by two men with sharp poles – Liart supposed these could be called javelins.  The people looked typically Italian, with one obvious difference. It was the most basic form of genetic modification, that had obviously been achieved before the planet had been forgotten about: they all had curly hair. Because of this, the majority of them had short hair, including the women. But a few of them had long, impressive hair which they either tied back with cloth or braided in a similar fashion to the Africans Liart had seen in his Encyclopaedia. But there was another feature peculiar to this race: they were all short. The tallest was about as tall as Strongh, who was short for his age, measuring about four feet – just over a metre and just under a metre and a half.

They were dressed simply, in Roman-style tunics, though they had loose pants, similar to those of the Indian pyjama, and the cloth was thin and possibly see through – they were so caked in mud that it was not obvious.

But more interesting than the people was the architecture. The entire town (or at least that was what the boys supposed it was) was on stilts a good two metres above the ground, and the actual houses and shops were connected by a sort of shared floor. The boys correctly assumed that the wall was not meant to keep anyone in, as the houses extended above it. It was obviously designed to keep something – whatever it was – out.

'Salve.' The first guard – the taller – greeted them, though he looked less than friendly. Then, continuing in their basic form of Latin, he asked, 'who are you?'

'My name is Jaliq Hero.' Their father replied, speaking the Latin he knew. 'These are my children, Strongh and Liart. I'm an administrative doctor, and this is my assistant, Rose Eye.'

The man eased. 'So you have come to inspect our city?'

Oh. It was a city.

'All your cities.'

'You have an easy job then. This is it, tiny as it may be.'

Jaliq seemed both pleased and disappointed. 'Have you ever been visited by an administrative doctor before?'

The man shook his head. 'Only administrative nurses. They were not much help. They just told us to wash our hands, which we were doing anyway. What we need are surgeons. We have anaesthetics – there is a marijuana field a few miles from here. What we need is more medical knowledge.'

Jaliq nodded. 'It is my job to ensure that you get some.'

The man beamed, as did his quieter, shorter friend. 'Then I must take you to our leader.'

Jaliq smiled. 'Thank you.'

Jaliq and Rose were lead to the leader (a chief they supposed) whereas Strongh and Liart were led to a small hut on the other side of the city.

'You must stay here.' The short guard said to them. 'Your father will join you shortly. Do you need anything?'

The boys shook their heads and the man left.

Sticking his head out the window – which had no glass – Liart realised that this clearing was not clear at the top. It was almost completely covered with large leaves – not branches, leaves, from the biggest trees he had ever seen in his life.

'Well,' he muttered, 'that explains why this place is so dark.'

Strongh sat down heavily on the cosy looking bed and sighed. 'This is fun.'

'It's pretty.'

'Liart, we don't even know where we are.'

His younger brother was astounded. 'You're right! To think I never asked! I'll do it as soon as dad comes back.'

Strongh seemed frustrated, but he said nothing to suggest he was. 'Did you see my sword?'

Liart nodded. 'It was amazing.'

Strongh was pleased with this response. 'It's awesome. And strong too, you know.'

Liart did not reply, and so there was silence. Eventually, Strongh began swinging his legs back and forth, but his demeanour did not seem as carefree as he wanted to make out.

'Liart, 'he said at last, 'you know I... do... love you?' The last two words were said very quickly, but the younger did not choose to rub it in. He only nodded very seriously. 'I know.'

'And – I'm sorry that I didn't help you more at school. I should have... I shouldn't have hurt you.... I'm sorry.'

Liart smiled a little. 'Thanks, Strongh. I'm sorry for being mean to you.'

'I was meaner, Liart.'

'I didn't say you weren't.'

Strongh smiled a little, and, after a pause, asked, 'you love me, right?'

'Of course.' Liart replied obligingly. 'I should have hoped that was obvious.'

'And you forgive me?'

Liart nodded, but Strongh's face showed he was unconvinced. Liart was the only person he could read, and he knew by the new shade of blue in his brother's eyes and the slight restriction of the pupils that he wasn't entirely convinced either.

The two smiled at each other sheepishly for a while, both turning many things over in their mind.

He didn't mean it, Strongh thought. He could tell. He had lost his brother's trust forever, and no matter how much Liart wanted to fix it he couldn't. The only way he'd ever regain his trust was if he did something spectacular – but what? And Liart was so insecure, so fragile – he could undo all his hard work in a second.

But he was loyal too, Strongh thought. Despite the fact that he didn't trust him any more, Liart still looked out for him. He still tried to cheer him up on  his birthday  - he'd always be there. Even if he believed Strongh would not be.

Liart had astounded himself in that split second, as he realised that he did not forgive his brother at all. He knew his brother was sorry, but he also knew he would do it again in a moment. He did not trust Strongh any more, and he wanted to tell him so. He wanted to tell him so so that he'd never do anything like that again. But he couldn't. He didn't have the guts to say anything. Nothing, that was, but a lie.

Realising he hadn't lied very well, he smiled brightly at his brother. He had been able to see through him, Liart knew this, but now he was not so sure. Strongh smiled back at him, but his face expressed his complete confusion. Good. At least he'd think about what he'd done.

The door to the hut flew open very suddenly, making both Strongh and Liart jump. In walked a native man – tall for his race at 175 centimetres – average height, really. In fact, he did not look like a native at all.

'Salve.' He greeted them, making Liart frown. He had not pronounced the word correctly. 'Welcome to the planet Home.'

Strongh jumped up immediately. 'You speak Quixaseu. How?'

The man smiled. 'With my mouth. How do you speak it?'

Liart's frown deepened and he stepped in for his brother. 'What do you want?'

'You two.'

A cloud passed over Strongh's face, but it was too late.

The man entered the room, followed by nine others, including their famed stalker.

'Twice in one day!' Liart cried, but Strongh did not leave room for such pleasantries. He pulled out his new sword in an instant and lunged forward, not certain for what.

The man who had come to fetch them tightened his grasp on this long stick he had been carrying – Strongh hadn't noticed it – and hit the boy hard across the face. Liart screamed in horror as there was  a sickening crack. Strongh fell to the floor, but he was well trained. His grasp on the sword was still firm.

'Pick him up.' Their stalker said.

Their fetcher stooped over to do so and Liart successfully did not smile.

Strongh suddenly moved, wrapping his legs around the fetcher's left one and rolling. The man cried out in surprise and fell to the floor.

'Get him!' Their stalker ordered, losing patience.

Strongh did not wait to battle another – his head was throbbing, and blood was streaming down the right side of his face – and raced to the other side of the room where Liart was. Then, grabbing him, he jumped out the window.

Liart's first instinct was to scream. His second was to build a slide of diamond. He had to be careful though, he thought, or he'd impale them. Strongh smiled as they went sliding safely down a diamond construction, and quickly congratulated his younger brother.

'Quick thinking. I'm glad I didn't have to remind you this time.'

Liart smiled proudly and let the slide crumble to ashes. 'I was just incredibly scared this time.'

Strongh laughed and ran faster.

'We have to find help.' He reasoned. 'And quickly. I don't feel like running off into an acid-rain planet.'

Liart nodded. 'Let's find the leader.'

The two ran over to the guards at the south entrance and began chattering loudly – desperately.

'Where is your leader?' Strongh asked at the same time as Liart cried, 'we need help! Men are chasing us!'

The guards frowned. 'You can't just see the leader.' The first one said. 'Who are you?' And what do you mean men are chasing you?'

'They want to kidnap us!' Strongh cried exasperatedly.

Liart heard a shrill sound, gradually becoming louder, and turned around. His face paled as he saw an arrow approaching at an incredible speed. Then, before he even thought to turn it to diamond, Strongh caught it in his left hand.

'Too late.' He concluded, and Liart sighed.

'I didn't even bring the umbrellas.'

'We'll just have to follow the animals.'

Then, instantly, he grabbed the boy's hand and took off.

The guards had gotten the idea now, and split up. One went running off after the two boys shouting,

'wait! I will help you!'

The other went running up to the city screaming 'help! Help! The two aliens are being attacked!'

Jaliq was rather bored by now, as the leader was not one to cut to the chase – or rather, he did so several times – and Rose was busy making it obvious that she had already written everything the man had said down. He was easily distracted by shouting from outside, and listened keenly to something new.

His face fell immediately.

He did not think to explain himself, he only ran out onto the 'street'. Then, desperately, he cried.

'Where are they?!'

The guard was relieved some-one had finally responded and replied, 'they are running into the forest. My friend followed them for protection.'

Jaliq nodded. 'Thank you.' Then, ducking his head back into the leader's hut, he said, 'I've got to go rescue my sons.'

Then he bolted.

He did not have the option of sliding down diamond, and so slid down the wooden ladder instead. He winced as his hands were sliced by splinters, but did not let himself dwell on it. He hit the ground in a matter of seconds and tore into the jungle, following the sound of his sons' angry pursuers, already feeling uncomfortable in his suit – the weather was hot and humid.

He didn't have a weapon with him, but figured it make do when the time was right. For now, he had to concentrate on catching up with his sons.

The ground was uneven, and the leaves made it look closer than it was. Liart stumbled frequently, crying out in surprise, and Strongh made sure he was always there to catch him. The two moved at a surprisingly fast speed, but it wasn't going to be enough.

'They're catching up.' Liart said, risking a glance behind him as he staggered to his feet. His face was pale and moist. Strongh only hoped he wouldn't faint.

The men – their pursuers – screamed and jumped though the bushes behind them. Neither boy dared to scream. Liart paled and froze, as did Strongh. But he overcame his horror quickly. Grabbing Liart's arm he tore off in the clearest direction.

Jaliq could no longer hear the men or his sons, and began to rely on tell-tale signs such as broken twigs and pushed back branches. He had not used his tracking skills for many years, since grade ten, when he dropped out of the Zraiatormmaein Army Cadets (an activity that had been compulsory at his school until that year). 

He pushed his way through one particularly large bush and tried not to feel too disappointed when his coat tore. In an effort to console himself (for he quite liked his suit) he threw of his jacket and ran faster.

The tie was quite annoying now that the jacket did not prevent it from blowing in his face, and so he threw that off too. Moving was easier now, though he began to tear his shirt.

Jumping through yet another cluster of bushes, he came to a small clearing. His first instinct was to run in a heavily foliaged direction, but his tracking skills made him pause.

'No,' he breathed, identifying footprints in the moist soil. His eyes followed the obvious path that had been created and slowly began adjusting, looking down a long trail, to the edge of the horizon.

There they were!

Jaliq didn't bother asking himself whether his sons were wise in running off in so clear a direction, only took after them.

'Stop!' He screamed at the top of his lungs. 'Leave them alone!'

The men turned around and scowled. From where he was, Jaliq could clearly make out Jasper – his sons' stalker – and two words uttered from his lips: 'finish him'.

Jaliq froze immediately. Three men came running up to him.

He remained still for a while, wondering what to do, torn between an obligation to save his children and a desire to save himself. He had to go forward to do the first, but in doing so he would probably die.

He looked to his left. The shrubbery wasn't too thick. Surely he'd be able to...

The tallest man jumped up, javelin in the air, and Jaliq's instinct took over. He ran to his left, running through the heavy foliage.

'No!'

Liart was screaming – crying, he could tell.

'I'll never forgive you if you kill him!'

That was Strongh, good old Strongh. For now he'd have to rely on him to keep Liart safe. He couldn't even see them any more.

Strongh switched from flight mode to fight mode, and used a likely disadvantage to his advantage.

Liart was in tears and could not go any further, that was perfectly clear. And Strongh knew he'd never be able to outrun these men with Liart on his back or in his arms. So, as their stalker reached forward to grab Liart, he raced forward – head first – into the man and snatched his pointed stick. Then he kicked the man down and pointed the stick at him.

There was a mad look in Strongh's eyes, and consequently a terrified look in Liart's.

'Don't kill him.' Was all he finally managed to stutter.

Strongh nodded, but did not move.

Suddenly he spun around.

The two men that had run up behind him dodged the stick and ran wide, attempting to sneak up behind him. Three men were behind him, Strongh began to feel their breath on his back. He knew he'd never be able to handle all six men at once, but what did that matter? He had to do it. He had to try.

He spun around again and began spinning the stick expertly. He could see the men were impressed, but it more held them off than did any damage. Still, that was a start.

He glanced over at Liart – the boy was still quite pale. He supposed he shouldn't expect to see any diamond. The boy was clearly drained and exhausted.

The men began to predict his every move, and Strongh wondered what he could do that was unexpected. Run off screaming? That would certainly be different.

Wait, he thought, where had the short one gone? His eyes widened, as he realised he'd lost track of him. Hearing a footstep behind him he spun around, but it was too late. The man that had been waiting to his right jumped forward while he was distracted.

'No!' Liart screamed, as the man put one arm around his brother's body and the other over his mouth. Ah, Strongh thought, perhaps he might see some diamond now.

What he saw instead was quite unexpected.

There was diamond, alright. Liart instantly held a marvellous javelin made entirely of the mineral! But a javelin? What was the boy thinking?

He poised himself, standing as he had been taught to do, pointed his javelin in an ambiguous direction, and eyed his brother's captive sternly. He could act, he thought, he could do this.

In an instant his eyes hardened, and he felt himself fill with confidence and ease. He smiled.

'Let go.'

Their stalker was brushing his clothes down, but now he laughed. 'You? Aren't you the one who can't fight to save himself?'

Liart only shrugged.

'We'll find out.'

He stepped forward and drove the javelin into the ground. In an instant the entire ground began to turn to diamond, though that was not dangerous. But Liart wasn't going for dangerous.

He let the diamond race up each man's leg, pinning them to the spot while leaving their body completely unharmed, and gleaned great satisfaction from the fact that they could no longer move.

Their stalker was less than happy, but he had grabbed another stick. Waving it in the air he cried, 'foolish child, we still have our arms!'

Suddenly, in perfect unison, each man lifted their sticks into the air, and Liart knew that he was doomed. He tried to turn himself to diamond, but found he could not do any more than his feet. He was exhausted, drained, and had never attempted to use his skills so intricately before.

He was done.

'Leave him alone!' Strongh screamed, finally managing to free his mouth from his holder's grasp.

Liart dropped his javelin in an admission of feet, and watched as his diamond creations began crumbling around him. Their stalker was infinitely pleased now.

Strongh saw a figure out of the corner of his eye, flashing down from the trees to the ground. Instantly, the shortest man fell to the ground unconscious. But Strongh could not make out anything that could have knocked him out. Suddenly the man next to him fell, and then the next, and the next, and the next too, until all six men laid unconscious on the ground.

Strongh stared at the spiral of men in disbelief, as did Liart, when he felt himself flung over a man's shoulder.

'Get Liart!' Was the first thing he cried, though he was not sure if were safe.

He need not have worried about his brother. The poor creature had collapsed in physical exertion, and was carried delicately in the man's strong arms. Yes, Strongh thought, they were definitely safe.

'Who are you!?' He cried, wishing he had been flung over the other way. Then he could have stolen a glance at the man's face.

'Yulean.' He replied, and Strongh recognised it as the Latin form of 'Julian'. 'But not with a J.' The man continued. 'It is spelt Y-U-L-E-A-N.'

Strongh frowned. 'Why would you bother telling me that?'

'There are many Julians back at the city. When I rescue you I want them all to know exactly who your rescuer was.'

Strongh frowned. 'Gee, thanks for your sacrificial help.'

Yulean frowned now. 'But it's not sacrificial.'

Strongh sighed.

Jaliq continued running, endeavouring to turn around at some point, but beginning to realise that was an impossibility. Unless he stood up to the men chasing him he'd never even make it through the next hour. And so, sighing, he came to a logical conclusion: he would have to use his special ability.

He hadn't used his ability for years; he'd been avoiding it. Ever since he'd met Rose he'd made a conscious decision not to use his ability, and he'd almost vowed never to do so ever again once he brought his sons to Zraiatormma. But now – now looked like a good time to break that vow.

He had incredibly high intelligence – a gift all Zraiatormmaeina possessed – but he had something far more priceless and rare: he had unwanted, unwarranted wisdom. That was why he had refused to use his gift for so long. He knew what he had done was right – at least, it was at first – but he was afraid of finding out that it was foolish. But even then, he knew he had not entirely shut down the gift. In his heart, he knew he had been foolish. Foolish in so many ways. Now he would risk finding out for sure.

Turning on the gift was a wonderful feeling – like opening a door within the mind. Instantly his brain filled with life, and a sensation of joy flooded through his veins. But there was dread too.

I just have to work out how to get out of this situation, he thought to himself. Then I'll switch it off. I should be able to avoid everything else if I just stay focused.

But the gift would not leave him be.

Instantly, it all came flooding to him – everything he had avoided so long. He cried out in agony as he was overwhelmed with shame, guilt, a sense of foolishness and inadequacy.

'It was right!' He cried. 'I did the right thing! Isn't that wise?!'

His pursuers didn't have a clue what he was going on about.

Jaliq forced himself to focus on the problem at hand, and slowly began to work out a solution in his mind. When he had just about perfected it he waited no longer. He turned the gift back off. It was a horrible feeling, like turning off a heartbeat, but it was worth it. The guilt remained, but the constant, nagging reminder of his foolishness had returned to just a whisper. He knew he could never get rid of it without killing his mind and losing his gift altogether.

He stopped running, something which confused the three men very greatly, but it did not stop them. They only sped up, eager to take advantage of his pause.

They approached quickly, sticks pointing lest he should try anything, and Jaliq kept an eye on everything without looking directly at anything.

Then he fainted.

The men stopped now.

'What?' The oldest asked. 'Is this a trick do you suppose?'

'We should kill him now.' The half-Ai offered. 'While he's down. That way, even if it is a trick, we win.'

The youngest seemed hesitant. 'It's just a little unchivalrous...'

 Jaliq did not listen to them bicker any longer. He had been busily attempting to something he had definitely not done for a long time, and had just worked it out.

He had found a bridge.

He didn't know where it was going to take him – he'd never been good enough at the science of Astronomiae Pontes to tell that – but if it were away from here, it was fine. And so, slowly – clumsily – he made his way to the bridge.

He felt a sharp stab of pain, a reminder that he was not Quixaseu, and under-trained in this field, and knew he was out of harm's way. He disappeared before Jasper's minions' very eyes.

'Where did he go!?' The half-Ai cried.

The eldest only rolled his eyes. 'This is so typical!'

'I guess we should have killed him while he was down.' The youngest shrugged.

Jaliq smiled and braced himself for the worst. His body had not travelled in this fashion for a long time, so he knew what would come next.

He fell unconscious.

 

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