I sat at Te’rnu’s side, hand placed on his arm, and hoped that this was considered a gesture of consolation on Z’h’ar, as it is on Terra.
‘It’s OK, Te’rnu, you’re too good for here anyway,’ I told him.
There was no response – no verbal or non-verbal sign that he had heard me. It was as though he had gone into shock.
I spent the majority of our allotted hour trying to get through to him, but nothing worked. He remained still, barely a sign of life in him.
Soon, the Elders came for us. A shadow loomed over the doorway as the Arellians blocked the light.
‘It is time,’ Ra’ntu announced, clearly taking great pleasure in informing us of this.
Smug little thing.
I tried to budge Te’rnu, tried to lead him out of the building, but he wouldn’t move.
Before long, the stares of the Elder grew piercing. They began to advance on me. I could sense that they would next resort to physically removing Te’rnu and me from the village.
I had to give up. I stood and began to walk to the door.
Behind me, Te’rnu followed, head held low, staring at the floor. Even in his hollow state, he finally recognised that he had no choice here.
We proceeded in silence, the two of us walking through the village as the rest of the inhabitants looked upon us. Pair after pair of sad eyes followed us – or, rather, followed Te’rnu.
We left the town without turning back, and I moved in the direction of the shuttle-bike. It was only two rotations previous that I had abandoned it in my sunstroke-inflicted haze, but it felt like a lifetime ago.
Te’rnu continued to follow, his head still hanging low, towards his chest.
‘How we doing, there, buddy?’ I asked him.
I got no verbal response from my friend, but he did at least make eye contact with me. And then, he sighed. His sigh carried all the weight of a lifetime lost.
‘I’m sorry, you know, Te’rnu. That I convinced you to do this,’ I told him. ‘It was stupid, really. For a moment there, I thought we could learn something which would change your world, make things better for you guys. I really did think that.’
Te’rnu remained quiet, brow furrowed. I could sense that he was considering this thoroughly. I continued to proclaim my regret.
‘But our plan was doomed before it even began, wasn’t it? People can’t change things, not really, not on their own. Life just works that way – it crushes you, puts you into a hopeless job, into a broken family, into an uninspiring existence. I should have remembered that.’
I shook my head, trying to rid myself of these depressing thoughts.
‘Anyway,’ I continued. ‘I’m sorry.’
Te’rnu looked up at me. ‘It is not your fault. At some point I would have done it anyway. The truth… must always be known.’
I flashed Te’rnu a hopeful smile. ‘I couldn’t have said it better myself.’
My Arellian friend laid his eyes upon the abandoned shuttle-bike.
‘Where are we going to go?’
I paused for a moment. ‘You’re coming with me?’
Te’rnu shrugged. ‘You said it yourself, back there, in the trial: you are the only person that I know, now. You are my only friend.’
He hesitated on this last point.
‘You are my friend, right?’ he followed up.
‘Of course, Te’rnu. Of course I am,’ I reassured him. ‘But… are you sure you want to come with me? I won’t be on Z’h’ar forever, and much less in the Wastelands…’
‘There is nobody else I know,’ Te’rnu repeated, his voice hollow.
I took a moment to process this. I couldn’t abandon Te’rnu here, after he had saved me, after he had agreed to help me in that doomed mission. My case could wait; I had a friend in need.
‘OK. Well how about we visit another Arellian village? Maybe we can rest there, figure out our next move?’
And maybe you’ll begin to realise that there are plenty of other places out there that you can call a home.
‘OK,’ Te’rnu replied.
I started up the shuttle-bike. ‘So, erm…,’ I began, ‘Where is the next village?’
Te’rnu pointed to the west. ‘Nu’r’ka. It’s that way.’
‘Alright, hop on,’ I told him, doing just that myself.
He stood still, didn’t move.
‘You alright?’ I prompted him. ‘What’s the hold up?’
‘What do I do?’ Te’rnu asked, looking terrified by the prospect of sitting on a shuttle-bike.
‘Just sit behind me, leg either side like I am. And hold on to me – tight. So you don’t fall off.’
Te’rnu, cautiously, did as instructed, sitting on the bike behind me and putting his arms around my torso in order to hold on.
‘OK, great! I’m just gonna…’
I pulled Te’rnu’s hands away from my breasts, where they seemed to have ended up, and moved them down to my belly.
‘Perfect,’ I assured him. ‘Now keep holding tight, yeah?’
I started up the shuttle-bike’s engine, and as it purred into life, I felt Te’rnu’s grip tighten.
‘It’s OK, Te’rnu. It’s perfectly safe.’
There was no reply.
I pulled on the accelerator and we sped west, undulating over the dunes in the early morning sun.
Before long, Te’rnu’s arm stretched out to my right.
‘There,’ he said. ‘It is Nu’r’ka.’
And indeed it was. The Arellian village sprawled out before us. It was bigger than Te’r’ok; there were more houses, more people. Most notably of all, the locals from Nu’r’ka seemed to be in possession of their own technology. Some carried transporter sonars, with which they were carrying their plentiful supply of food. Others spoke on radios to faraway villagers.
‘It has changed,’ Te’rnu commented.
‘It didn’t used to be like this? The size? And the radios?’ I guessed.
‘No,’ he replied, a cautious tone to his voice, ‘It did not.’
I pulled up outside the village, just past the last of the town’s buildings, and something caught my eye.
A tall statue, made from the local orange rock, stood tall in the central square, next to Nu’r’ka’s own Iyr beacon. Maybe this wouldn’t have been striking in and of itself, but to me, it most certainly was.
The monument, as confirmed by the nameplate at the bottom, was of Leya Raynor.
My sister had been here. Here, on Z’h’ar. In Nu’r’ka.
Maybe it was about time I looked at her diary again; and at what little I had been able to decrypt.
Note from the author: Leya’s diary excerpts serve as bonus content – they’re not vital to the story, but give a little more insight into the galaxy of the 24th century, outside of what Syl and Te’rnu directly experience. If you’re interested, check them out! Otherwise, you can jump straight to the next chapter using the links below.
Also! In celebration of reaching our tenth chapter, I’m posting two parts this week! Jump straight to chapter 11 now.
A Note From The Author
Thanks for reading this chapter of A Galaxy, Alive – I hope you enjoyed it!
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