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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3. Episode Two: In which Jaliq disrespects his elders yet again.

 

Episode Two: In which Jaliq disrespects his elders yet again.

The two boys sat at their father's feet, colouring in besides the open fire-place. Jaliq was reading a book, and at first did not notice his boys' curious conversation.

'What's that?' Liart asked, looking over at Strongh's drawing.

'It's the Scatorian Universe.' His brother replied. 'With all the major planets on it.'

Liart frowned thoughtfully. 'Does that mean there are more planets in our galaxy?'

'Yes. But none that support life. The Milky Way is the same, see? They have about 7 other planets in their galaxy, but only Earth supports life.'

'It sounds like a very important planet.'

'That is what they would like to think.'

'Which planet is the most important, Strongh?'

'Well, that really depends. On the neutral side, there is Earth, I suppose. But they don't even know we exist, so I guess it's really RaJuno. On the side of good it's definitely our planet, Zraiatormma. Hence, we live in the Pure Way, because we're pure. Then, on the side of evil, it is Quixas.'

'How come Quixas is spelt with an 'x' when it is pronounced 'kwee-ass'?'

Strongh frowned, completely dumbfounded. 'I don't know.'

Jaliq smiled, and finally noted his sons' conversation. 'It's French.' He explained. 'Like the explorer of our Universe - Philippe Scatorian.'

'I thought he was Italian.' Strongh replied.

'He was - half Italian.'

'Is that a different breed of people?' Liart asked hopefully.

Jaliq laughed. 'No! It is a different race! The difference between French and Italian people is the same difference between us Yohins and the Graedans.'

'Different nationalities then.' Strongh concluded, and his father nodded.

'How many nationalities are there on Earth?' Liart asked. 'Most planets don't have more than five do they?'

'That's true,' Jaliq affirmed, 'but Earth is different. The people on that planet are more divided, and so there are around 99 different countries.'

'Ninety-nine!' Strongh repeated in astonishment. 'And it's not even a relatively large planet!'

Jaliq chuckled. 'It is certainly an amusing planet.'

'Can we go there one day?' Liart asked, his eyes a glow.

Jaliq shrugged. 'Maybe.'

'I'd like to travel.' Strongh agreed, staring at the map he had drawn. 'But I don't want to go to Earth. I want to visit important planets, where people know how to speak Zraiatormmaein. I want to see different breeds of people. Do they have those on earth?'          

Jaliq shook his head. 'The Earthlings are a different breed of people, and they are the only breed on their planet.'

'Wait...' Liart interrupted, a brilliant thought coming to him, 'how...'

Jaliq laughed, and put his book aside. 'My, my, my, you are curious! What am I to do with you both?'

Strongh turned to Liart, who looked guilty.

'Take us travelling!' Strongh cried excitedly, when he saw his brother would not answer.

Jaliq seemed amused by this plea. 'You would not like travel. You would soon wish to come home.'

'Please?' Strongh begged. 'Just to Cerebrum at least? Please, it's only in the galaxy next door!'

'Can we visit the other, unknown Universes when the paths open?' Liart put in, his eyes shining.

Jaliq chuckled. 'Those paths only open once every twenty-five years. Until that day we are stuck here in our twelve-galaxy universe. You must remain content with these few, my son.'

Liart saw the reasoning behind this argument and contentedly shut his mouth.

'Well,' Strongh continued, 'will you take us travelling one day? Maybe when you go away we could come with you!'

Jaliq smiled warmly but tiredly, and nodded. 'I suppose so. Maybe I could take you one day... but when you're older.'

The two brothers smiled at each other triumphantly. That answer would have to do for now.

 

Jaliq worked long hours at the clinic, though he did not necessarily enjoy doing so. His main reason for working such long hours was so that he could afford to give his children a brilliant education. True, it seemed like he was wasting his money on Liart's fencing lessons and Strongh's literature lessons, but he knew in the end it would pay off. Whether Strongh liked it or not, he would be well educated in the fields of art, science, and humanities. And whether Liart liked it or not, he would at least be able to teach some-one else how to fight in battle.

'Mr. Hero,' a voice interrupted his thoughts, making him jump. Looking up he saw Sahrah, the secretary at his clinic.

'Oh, good morning, Sahrah! How are you today?' He smiled one of his winning smiles, and Sahrah smiled back without even wanting to. In fact, Jaliq was the only person anyone knew of that could make her smile. She tried to pretend she hadn't smiled, and pressed on.

'There's a man to see you, sir.'

'Another patient?' He checked his schedule. 'No, there can't be. Who is he?'

 'I don't know sir. He has several friends with him, but I told them they couldn't all come in.'

Jaliq felt a little concerned by this, and so said, 'bring them all in, would you?'

Sahrah started in surprise. 'All of them? But sir, I don't think they'll fit...'

'Let them in.'

Sahrah sighed, but went to fetch the men anyway.

Jaliq slowly turned back to his computer screen. A jar of pencils made the projection waver, so he shifted it carefully. The hologram eased, even though he had plenty of papers and junk piled in the middle of it. The technology amazed him, really. He would never understand how it worked. 

There was a knock at the door, so Jaliq turned back to his former position. At once he beheld a tall man, about fifty, with completely white hair and a bushy beard. His eyes were a piercing black - so black Jaliq could not make out his pupils - and his lips were tight and thin. His face was very square, and his hairstyle emphasised this all the more. Jaliq frowned without really thinking. He looked so peculiar in his long, brown overcoat and brown motor-bike boots. Who even had a motor-bike now days? They were generally considered too slow.

'Hello.' The man greeted first, throwing Jaliq out. 'Do you mind? I have brought some friends.'

Jaliq did not like the tone of familiarity in the man's voice, and brashly replied, 'I already said you could all come in.'

The man raised his eyebrows and entered. He was followed by a muscular black-man, dressed in a neat white suit with a green shirt, a short Ai (who was really the stereo-typical image of his planet, with his dark-pink skin, lack of nose, and bulging black eyes. Jaliq had never been able to decide whether or not they were cute or disturbing), a young man who could have been an Earthling, and six men wearing bronze helmets, their odd look completed with tan-coloured camel-hair suits.

'What's with the helmets?' Jaliq asked as the ten men squeezed into his office.

'What helmets?' The eldest man - obviously the leader - asked, as if everyone wore the accessories. 'Oh!' He cried, upon following Jaliq's gaze. 'Those helmets. Well - ah... they have self-esteem issues. You see, their father was from Zraiatormma, but their mother was from Ai...' his voice trailed off. One of the men obligingly took off his helmet, and seemed grateful that Jaliq did not wince.

'Oh.' He said brightly. 'I'll have to tell Liart about this.'

The curious looking man, with his squashed nose, straight black eyes, and pale-pink skin, did not understand this remark, and put his helmet on with a look of uncertainty. His hair was certainly his most unusual feature. Male Ai had no hair, and their females had long, dark purple or black hair. As a result, this man had a sort of purple Mohawk. It was far too interesting. 

'Enough distraction.' The elder man interrupted gruffly. 'We have come to speak of a very important matter.'

Jaliq frowned a little condescendingly. 'Oh?'

The man scowled. 'Do not mock me. Do you not remember who I am?'

This really did confuse Jaliq, making him eye the man thoughtfully for several minutes.

'No.' He said at last. 'I don't. Are you important?' He raised his eyebrows, suggesting the opposite.

'You are a rude fellow.' The elder man returned, his frown deepening. 'Don't you know you should respect your elders?'

Something snapped within Jaliq, and his heart skipped a beat. To mask his panic he quickly said, 'I'm often told to.' His gold-brown eyes dilated ever so slightly, and the elder smiled gleefully.

'You do remember.'

'Remember what?'

'Who I am, idiot.'

Jaliq shrugged. 'Beats me who you are. But can I just say, if you're going to call me an idiot I'm not going to treat you any better.'

'Fool. You know who I am - I can see it in your eyes - but you stubbornly refuse to admit it. That is fine. We shall continue with our business anyway. First of all, my name is Jasper.'

Jaliq blinked. 'You mean like the stone?'

The man ignored him, but one of his men nodded.

'And, while I know I have never entirely left you alone, now I'm afraid I must stick closely.'

'Okay... what, you mean like a stalker?'

'Jaliq, let me cut to the chase. You have a week - one week - to convince us that Strongh and Liart are safe with you. If you pass, you may keep them. If you fail, we must take them.'

Jaliq panicked again, though this time he did not attempt to hide it. 'Wh...? But - you can't just take them! They're my children!'

'They are motherless, fool. They may as well be fatherless too - how often are you with them?'

'You can't take them! I won't let you!'

'Jaliq, I'm afraid you have no say in this matter. You have a week to do your job, and if you fail we will take them. End of story. You cannot argue with us.'

'Why?!' He cried. 'Why would you take them? What do you mean, if I fail to keep them safe? And why do you keep turning up!?'

The man smiled. 'So many questions... you are far too young to suffer such stress.'

'I'm twenty-five. It's not that young.'

'Not at the moment. But Jaliq,' the man took a step forward, 'you have not been listening.' Suddenly, dramatically, he lunged forward, pinning Jaliq to his seat and staring him squarely in the eyes. 'You don't know what stress is. You think the boys' last episode was bad? Well you haven't seen anything yet. The stress is coming - and its playmates are danger and death.'

A terrible silence fell over the room, as Jasper's eyes pierced Jaliq's own, terrified ones. Finally though, the latter worked up the courage to quietly say,

'You will never have them. Either one of them. I won't listen to you anymore.'

Jasper scowled, and stepped away. 'You are a fool, Raer - a fool.'

'Yes, I think you've made that perfectly clear, thank you.'

'You will not make it through this week.' Jasper continued, ignoring his snide remarks. 'Your boys will not allow it.'

He turned to walk out of the room when he suddenly paused.

'By the way,' he said, smiling at Jaliq, stirring him. 'Thank you for listening to my advice. You will not regret it.'

Jaliq's face hardened. 'I already do.'

Jasper scowled, disappointed by the man's stubborn reply.

Then, angrily, he turned and walked out of the office, followed by his men.

 

Liart laughed and shook the grass off him. Strongh laughed too, and threw more on him.

'It's not fair!' Liart said, in between laughter, 'I can't throw well.' As he said this he threw a fistful of grass, which missed his brother by miles.

Strongh laughed delightedly and pulled some more grass from the overgrown field. Then, beaming, he ran up to his brother and stuffed it down his shirt.

Liart managed to scream while laughing, and tried to fight his way out of his brother's arms. Strongh would not allow this, and held him tighter, until the boy gave up struggling.

'Why is the grass so long here?' Liart asked, looking round thoughtfully.

Strongh shrugged. 'Don't know, don't care.'

'I do. I'd like to know why they haven't mowed it. Usually it's nice and short.'

'I like it better long.'

'Still, I wonder...'

Strongh sighed, and let his brother free.

'You want to know everything.'

Liart frowned. 'Not everything.'

'Well, nearly everything.'

The sound of footsteps came into earshot, and the boys turned to see ten men.

'Good afternoon, boys.' The eldest greeted, smiling pleasantly. 'On the way home?'

Liart nodded quickly, whereas Strongh seemed wary.

'Had a good day at school?'

Liart nodded again, while Strongh frowned accusingly at the men.

'Who are you and what do you want?'

The elder looked disappointed. 'Now, now. Be polite. You are a lot like your father.'

Strongh wasn't too sure whether or not to be pleased by this remark. Was it a compliment or an insult?

'How do you know my father?'

'He's a Raer. How could we not know him?'

'Easily.'

The man smiled. 'Now, now. I was just hoping we could be friends.'

'I don't make friends with strangers.'

'Then you must be a very lonely person. But come - do you look forward to seeing your mother when you reach home?'

Strongh smiled smugly. 'You do not know my father very well. We don't have a mother.'

'Don't be ridiculous.' The man returned. 'Of course you have a mother. But perhaps something happened to her. Have you ever asked your father?'

A cloud passed over Strongh's face as he said this, and the boy frowned in disturbed wonderment. Liart looked at his brother worriedly, a little confused.

'What does he mean, Strongh? We don't have a mother.... do we?'

'He's right.' Strongh finally muttered. 'We have to have a mother. How come father never speaks about her?'

'Perhaps he is sad.' Liart suggested. 'That always happens in novels.'

'Perhaps you should ask.' The adult suggested.

This provoked a surprising reaction from Strongh - one the man had not been expecting. The boy's blue eyes turned ice-blue, flashing with anger, and his face hardened.

'Why did you speak to us? Why do you want us to ask?'

The man was truly taken by this response, and Liart seemed quite impressed.

'You impress me with your questions.' The elder stammered honestly. 'I did not expect them from you, of all people.'

'Answer my question.'

'Oh, dear me. You are very much like your father. Be polite, Strongh.'

'Answer my question!' Strongh repeated, this time screaming.

There was a pause. During this time the man eyed Strongh furiously, his eyes eventually drifting to Liart, standing defiantly next to his brother, in support of his words.

'I will not.' He said abruptly. 'Life does not always answer questions.'

With this, the man turned, and began walking off.

'But you're not life.' Strongh called after him, making the man bristle with anger. He said nothing in reply, however, and his followers did the same.

 

Jaliq stared nervously, thoughtfully, into the fire, his eyes looking magnificent but troubled.

Strongh glanced back and forth between his father and his brother, whose eyes were filled with curiosity and uncertainty. Finally, Strongh broke the deafening silence that had fallen by asking,

'Father... did we have a mother?'

His question was badly worded. He knew that the minute he had said it. But it did not matter much, for their father did not reply.

'Father?' Strongh repeated, more demandingly.

Liart helpfully put a hand on the man's arm, which prompted a glance and a movement of a hand to rest on his.

'Daddy?' Liart said, seeing that he had a little of the man's attention. Slowly, kindly, the man turned to face his younger son, a little joy entering his eyes and a small smile playing on his lips. 'Are you all right?' Liart asked, looking concerned.

Jaliq nodded, but Liart was not convinced. 'Are you sure?' He asked. 'Because you seem very worried.'

Strongh had not gotten this impression at all, and interrupted, bursting with inquisitively.

'Father,' he rushed, 'what happened to our mother?'

Everything drained from their father's face at once. The colour, the blood, the life, the joy... it all vanished in a moment of complete panic.

'Was she pretty?' Liart asked, trying to construe a picture in his mind.

Jaliq was as white as a sheet, and looked back and forth between his two children desperately. 'W-w... sh-sh...' He began to stutter insensibly, turning from one child to the other in an extreme panic. Perspiring, he jumped out of his seat and ran out of the room.

His children stared after him incredulously, amazed at the effect such an innocent question had had.

'He must be very sad.' Liart reasoned eventually.

The boys waited for half an hour before they began to worry about what they had done.

'Do you think he's all right?' Strongh asked.

Liart was not so sure. 'I think we really upset him.'

Strongh hesitated. 'Sh-should we check on him?'

Slowly, Liart nodded. 'I'll do it. I'm better at creeping up on people than you are.'

Strongh agreed, and the younger brother sneaked out of the room, making his way cautiously to Jaliq's.

The door to the man's room was closed, so Liart pressed his ear against it.

He heard sobbing.

Surprised and concerned, the boy peered through the keyhole. What he saw touched him deeply, making his own eyes fill with tears. His father sat on the edge of the bed with his head buried in his arms, hunched over as if in a terrible pain. The sight not only upset Liart, it disturbed him. He had believed his father to be untouchable, but here he was, in tears. His bubble had been burst, and it made him feel insecure.

Liart drew his face away, frightened, and huddled up himself, tears of terror streaming down his face. Was this worse than the lion? Yes, it had to be.

Strongh had obviously grown impatient, and appeared beside his brother curiously. When he saw his brother was in tears he frantically peered inside the room, beholding the same sight as Liart.

He was shaken by this sight, though he did not weep. His face grew quite pale, and he began to quiver. Afraid lest he should fall he sat down next to his brother, though his arms continued to shake violently.

'What have we done?' He muttered, feeling an alarming mix of horror, guilt, and uncertainty.

Suddenly, the door opened.

Strongh wanted to leap up, but he found he could not. His shaking only grew worse.

Liart's tear-stained eyes filled with terror, and he froze like a small creature hunted by a predator.

Jaliq's eyes were well and truly tear-stained - in fact, they were still full of tears - but his pain and sorrow left no room for anger. He looked tired and weak... that was what frightened his children.

'What have I done?' Jaliq thought, feeling fresh tears swell up. He looked at Liart, now sobbing uncontrollably, and then at Strongh, shaking in complete terror, and took a deep breath. Then, after sniffing, he smiled a little.

'Hey,' he began soothingly, sitting beside Strongh, but stretching towards Liart.  'What's the matter?'

Liart could not reply, but Jaliq knew only too well what the matter was.

'It's all right.' He cooed. 'Everything's fine. I was just - upset.'

Strongh spoke, though his voice quivered. 'I'm sorry we asked you... and upset you.'

Jaliq tried to smile again. 'It's all right, I understand. I should tell you... one day. I'll tell you one day. But not now. It's - it's too hard to explain. It... hurts... too much.'

Jaliq stopped here. No need to mention all the other wounds that sprung from that one. Those were his problems.

Carefully, after taking a deep breath to calm himself, Jaliq scooped Liart up in his arms and sat him on his lap. Then, holding him close, he pulled Strongh in as well.

'Don't worry. Everything's all right.'

Liart slowly stopped sobbing, though it was hard to stop now. Still, he felt better at heart. Strongh had stopped shaking by now, though he still felt a little unsettled.

The three remained huddled together for fifteen minutes, until Jaliq looked tired, but otherwise fine. Liart exhaustedly fell asleep on his father's lap, drawing comfort from his musky scent and steady heartbeat. Strongh was no longer unsettled, and fell contently asleep on his father's arm.

Jaliq sighed then, as it dawned on him again what it was he was trying to achieve. He couldn't do this alone. In fact, now that he looked at things properly, he realised that it was a very bad idea.

But he couldn't lose his children either. Whatever Jasper had meant, he had a week to keep his sons safe. And while keeping them was hopeless, and would probably age him twenty years in a decade; giving them away was crazy, and would kill him in a day.

 

 

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