“Just like old times!” Hailey called over to Wendy as they took their respective passengers for a wilder ride than either expected. Candy doubled up with Hailey, while Brie rode with Wendy. By the time they reached the temple, Candy climbed down off the back of the ATV and shook her head.
“Old times indeed. That brought back memories of my mandatory zero gravity training from the survival girls.”
“That was fun,” Brie giggled.
“The temple is just past this tree line,” Sasha said as she climbed off her ATV to show them the path.
The temple was massive, but the architecture was more advanced than ancient, However the ruins that were written there were definitely in a language that wasn’t Human or written in any language that was documented by the GTC. Hailey and Wendy both took pictures of all the writings to show Aria later.
“I don’t think this structure was brought here like the others,” Sasha said. “With the others, there are clearly defined... Ah, how to explain it in laymen’s terms. The layout feels random, with the other two. But the temple structure, it lines up perfectly with what my compass tells me is magnetic north for this planet.”
“Yeah, it also looks like it’s been here awhile, you can see the plant life growing on and around it.” Hailey nodded. “It’s like the jungle’s been trying to take it over for a really long time, but there’s something stopping it.”
“Wonder how we get inside?” Karen asked. “I don’t see any visible doors.”
“Ask?” a soft-spoken female voice answered.
Hailey jumped about a foot off the ground and spun around. “Holy cow, you snuck up on 3 cats.” she giggled.
The voice, which giggled, belonged to a vaguely humanoid form dressed in black from head to toe. She walked past the group, and passed right through a section of the temple wall. A second or two later, the wall dissolved. A soft light in the floor flickered to life, and the figure beckoned with her hand for them to follow her.
“I found this place a long, long time ago,” she chuckled. “My ship crash-landed here, and I thought for certain that this planet would be my final resting place, but somehow, I just kept on living.”
“Another space traveler?” Candy asked causing Hailey and Wendy to snicker at the unintentional reference. “How long have you been here?”
“I stopped keeping track honestly,” the woman - or girl - it was hard to tell with her features obscured, but her voice sounded somewhere in the late teen to young adult area - answered. “It’s been long enough my ship rusted and is long gone. Do the Makari still rule?”
“The Makari are long gone.” Ella spoke. “They have long since bred into other species.”
“Then I truly am alone,” she chuckled. “Ah, well. I suppose that’s just time’s way. I tried to get out a distress call, but I could never cut through the sun’s radiation. There were terrible solar storms back then.”
“The Makari are what?” Hailey asked.
“They’re an old race, that was around when my species first started traveling the known galaxies.” Ella spoke, “They were not evil people, but some had very big ambitions. When we discovered them, they welcomed us and then as time went on, they welcomed other races, and slowly just melded in.”
“We found we shared enough common DNA that we were compatible,” the woman nodded.
“You said your people are from this galaxy right?” Hailey spoke.
“Yes. I found this planet, which wasn’t on any of our star charts, and when I came close to investigate, my ship was brought down by the same solar storms that prevented me calling for help.”
“So you have no idea about its origins then?” Hailey sighed.
The woman shook her head. “I’m afraid not. I’ve spent my years here, trying to decipher the alien language. I’ve made some headway, but much of it is still illegible, or encrypted,” she explained, as she brought them into a large, central chamber that looked, to Wendy at least, like something right out of Star Trek - a mix of stone and metal, like the Bajoran ancient temples in Deep Space 9, to her mind.
Karen leaned against a stone, and suddenly the temple lights came on. Everyone half expected torches, but they were actual lights.
The woman laughed. “That surprised me the first time, too. I couldn’t understand why anyone would build a structure like this out of stone, if they clearly had understanding of electrical engineering.”
“It’s not all stone. It seems there’s metal here too.” Brie spoke up.
“And forcefield technology,” The woman nodded. “That little trick with the door outside was a weakened holographic forcefield.”
Hailey spoke up again, “Where you at the big warehouse earlier?”
The woman nodded, and then pulled back her hood. They expected some hideous hag or some monstrosity, for her to have hidden her face, but she was in fact, quite beautiful - extremely beautiful, with dark purple hair and pale skin. “Sorry if I scared you earlier. I was shadowing you because I was curious. It’s been so long, I thought you might be a mirage.”
“It’s fine. At least I know i'm not insane.” Hailey laughed.
“Feeling’s mutual. In truth I’ve been following your ship since yesterday at dusk.”
She unfolded two large sets of wings from her back, causing the robes to fall away, which in the process, revealed an hourglass figure clad in a leather outfit that would have Vanessa drooling with envy. “These are relatively new actually. Not “new” new, but I got them about a month after I had been here.”
“Yeah we noticed that the planet changes people.” Rebecca laughed.
Brie blushed, “I forgot to ask, do you mind if I take a DNA sample?”
“By all means,” the woman said as she offered Brie her arm without hesitation. “I’m as curious as you are,” she laughed.
Brie took the sample and watched her machine work, “Well you're definitely Makari, “ she paused, “At least, as far as I can tell. This thing only has base reference DNA based on ancient computer records. And I’m seeing shared markers with the rest of us that were brought here.”
“Interesting... So my DNA stayed the same, but some dormant genes were just turned on?”
“Yes, Hailey and Wendy were human like Rebecca and Karen, but they turned into a Species known as Furren. Their DNA still comes up as Human in our systems.” Brie nodded. “They have Furren Markers now, but it still comes up as Human.”
“That does explain the wings,” Ella nodded. “It is said that a very long time ago my people had the ability to fly. We always thought it was just a metaphor though,” she chuckled. “I bet your skin is as hard as dolarite armor, too.”
“Yes, but we are not strong like you are.” the woman chuckled. “It was one of the major reasons my species adapted to yours so easily though - shared psionic and physical traits.”
“They’re cousins, like my people and the Furren,” Brie giggled, as she looked around, taking scans of every little thing. “Remarkable. Like us we are from different systems, but we share a common ancestor. The funny thing is though all of share an even more common ancestor somewhere.”
“That’s what perplexed me, and kept me sane all these years,” the woman laughed. “Some of the runes in this temple I was able to translate based on their similarity to other languages. There’s no Galactic Standard language here, but I’ve found hints at Makari, Gellfax, even Ryl.”
“What we need is a xenolinguist, “ Hailey laughed.
“A Cunning linguist you say?” Candy giggled.
“A master of tongues,” Wendy giggled now.
Brie looked at the woman, “Furren humor.” She did that pretend to try to analyze the joke thing she does and then laughed a little.
“If you did have a xenolinguist, I could share my notes with them.” The woman laughed. “I was no scholar in my previous life. I only made this temple the focus of my energies because it kept me sane, with no one but the stones to talk to.”
Rebecca spoke this time, “If you don't mind me prying, what did you do before you crashed here?” she was busy looking at different things when she asked.
The woman looked sheepish. “Ah, well...” she chuckled wryly. “I was a finder of rare treasures of which the previous owner had no real use.”
“A tomb raider,” Hailey giggled. The woman, still looking sheepish, nodded.
“And a smuggler on occasion. That’s why I was so curious about this planet. Anything that was this far off the beaten path, with no known location on any star chart I’ve ever seen, had to be hiding something valuable. I’ve had many, many, many years to rethink my life choices,” she laughed. “Oh, I’m Erynn, by the way.”
“Hailey, Candy, Ella, Rebecca, Karen, Sasha, Wendy, Zarra,“ Brie pointed them out, “And I’m Brie.”
“I know it’s a long shot, but you could always join one of the guilds? Most likely the export/import guild.” Rebecca offered.
“... Guild?” Erynn asked. “You mean there’s more of you?” she sounded hopeful.
“Yes.” Brie nodded, “Our main colony is 10,000 or so strong, there’s a smaller colony of about 2,000.”
“This might sound crazy,” Hailey began.
“No crazier than the fact that I am older than some stars,” the woman laughed.
Hailey giggled. “Well, we were all brought here to this planet, by some unseen force. We have no idea by whom, how, or why. We have no way off-planet, but we banded together to make a new life for ourselves here.”
Erynn nodded. “That explains the sub light vessel,” she chuckled. “Actually that explains a lot of things, like those two new buildings on the island. For whatever it’s worth, my days of shady deals are far behind me, but I still have a head for business. I would love to join you, especially if it means being surrounded by people again.”
“Well then welcome.” Hailey smiled and reached out her hand to shake Erynn’s then pulled out her phone, “Expedition 2 to Heart.” she radioed.
“Go ahead Expedition 2. What’s your status?” a different voice answered than last time.
“Green, we’re inside the temple.” Hailey spoke, “Do you guys have a way to receive images yet?”
“It’s highly experimental, but we believe we have the correct protocol set up for slow image transmission Ex 2. If you’d like to help us test it we can proceed to phase 2 now. We’ve been able to replicate the dropbox app you had on your phone as a peer to peer protocol.”
“Great.” Hailey said and loaded the app. It actually seemed to have a connection now. “Sending Images now to the shared folder, called Ex2 Trip images #1.”
“Connection is stable. We’re watching it now,” the man said, amid some mild cheering in the background.
“We’re losing the signal, but I’m boosting relay 2 to compensate,” a woman said. “That... should do it.”
“We’re going to setup a relay on the Rubber Tree Island.” another woman spoke. “Since it had a larger mountain than our hill.”
“Strange runes,” the man said. “Can we get Sierra over here? She needs to see this.”
“I think she’s at Chuck’s,” another man said. “I’ll go find her.”
Erynn meanwhile, leaned against a stone pedestal, looking all too excited at all the chatter going on. It was more excitement than she had seen in a span of time that would blow most mortals’ minds, after all, not counting that time a pair of snails decided to have a race just outside the temple door.
Rebecca laughed, “We’re getting some civilization back. I see you're excited as I am.”
“I’ll be honest,” Erynn laughed. “When I first saw your ship, I thought I had finally gone completely mad, and half wondered why it hadn’t happened sooner.”
Ella laughed, “Because our races don’t go mad like other races do. We have a much longer lifespan than most species, so we’re used to long periods of dormancy.”
“This is very true,” Erynn nodded. “Somehow the planet extended mine even further.”
“Not to embarrass you.” Candy stated, “But are you Rolly?”
Erynn gave her a confused look. “She means do you like other women.” Hailey asked to clarify.
Erynn did blush slightly, but giggled. “Well, it’s been a very, very... very long time. In my wild youth, I rarely trusted anyone to get that close - never knew who just wanted a piece of my score,” she teased, “But on the odd occasion I shared my bed with anyone - yes.”
“Then that is why.” Rebecca spoke, “I hate using the term, but non-breeders get damn near immortality in exchange for sterility, and regular breeding folk get extended life like another 20-30% on top of whatever their normal lifespans were, nearly as we can tell.”
“Ahhh,” Erynn said, nodded, and then blinked. “But why? It’s almost like...” She blinked again. Realization dawned on her. “Just a second,” she said as she pushed a seemingly random stone panel - or random in that it looked the same as any of the other dozen or so surrounding it. It slid open to reveal a metal compartment packed full of notes, written on some kind of handmade paper. She pulled them out and began to dig through them.
“I remember a partial translation here somewhere... It referenced a ‘testing area’ and ‘control’, but then there was the rune for ‘planet’, which made no sense at the time. I was sure I just mistranslated it.”
“Happens when it’s not your field of study.” Brie said. “Even I get things wrong.”
“Ah here it is,” she said as she held up a sheet of paper with the original rune rubbing traced onto it, and a Galactic Standard translation written underneath. Hailey moved in close with her phone, taking a clear image of it and uploaded it to her dropbox.
Almost on cue, a woman spoke up. “This photo is remarkable. But without a keystone, it could take ages just to decipher the first letter.”
“Hence Hailey’s dirty joke earlier about needing a Xenolinguist.” Rebecca laughed, “I think there’s some latin runic in here too.” she motioned for Hailey to take a picture of a stone at the base of the fountain she was looking at.
“Sierra just came through the door now,” the woman said.
Sierra, a woman with a Spanish accent so thick one could almost spread it on toast, which was ironic for someone well versed in languages, chuckled as she picked up a radio. “Someone call for a linguist? My God,” her breath caught in her throat. “We’ve seen these before on Earth.”
Rebecca spoke, “Really?”
“Yes. There’s a chamber under the Vatican city, that some scientists have access to, where there are scrolls with these runes in them.” Sierra answered. “We thought they might be a lost dialect. They were taken during the Crusades, but that’s all we know of them.”
“Well,” Hailey said, “The other lady said you’d need a keystone to decipher them. We have a living keystone right here. The second image, whenever it loads, is a sample of her work. And I just started uploading an image of something Rebecca said looked like Latin to her.”
Sierra gave an excited squeal. “Really? If there’s Latin mixed in with this language then this could be our Rosetta stone! Quickly, bring up the image file,” she said, apparently to someone next to her.
The other woman in the background laughed, “It’s not fully uploaded yet.”
“Gahhh, this is like my college wifi all over again,” Sierra laughed.
“We have a team working on trying to boost the speeds.” The other woman laughed. “This is a work in progress, but atleast it works. Now we can get this app to the other expedition team as well.”
Wendy spoke up, “If we can get a satellite into low orbit we won't need to worry much about relays or data speed.”
“I wish I could help with that,” Erynn chuckled, “But everything you see here is all I have. My possessions from when I landed have long turned to dust.”
“That makes you our oldest Resident.” The other woman spoke. “But I wonder why your things deteriorated, when Aria’s didn’t... Oh here you go Sierra, the second image is uploaded we’re waiting for the last one now.”
“The experiment... positive... Control group... Diverse paths...” Sierra read aloud the few bits that Erynn was able to translate on the image. “This is definitely a reference to the planet as a test bed of some sort.”
“Ok the last image is in.” The woman in the background.
“That is most definitely an old form of Latin. It reads “Science”, I think that means “Station” and the numbers are pretty easy to read, 4.” Sierra laughed. “Oh, I love it. Latin was chosen as the universal language of science back on Earth because we speak so many diverse languages, and now, here it is millions of lightyears away and in a temple that’s as old as time, and it’s on a science console.”
“Millions or even billions,” Rebecca stated, “Aria wasn’t able to figure out where in the universe our galaxy fit.”
“You know,” Erynn said, “When I first found my way in here, there was a star map, right there,” she pointed to the center. “A holo projection, but the second I entered, it shut off. I must have triggered an alarm. I’ve never been able to get it back.”
“Well then.” Brie said, “I’ll see what I can do.” she headed back towards the entrance.
Karen leaned over to Zarra, who had been dead silent the whole time. “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’m just as lost as you are.”
“We have scientists back home, but none of them are this smart.” Zarra laughed. Sasha was wandering around the main area of the facility. When she triggered something and a door opened. She let out a startled yelp.
“Um...” she called. “A um.. A door just opened.” as stale air was released, as if it was vacuum sealed. She coughed. “And it smells like my grandmother’s root cellar.”
Inside the other area was a massive lab, there was ancient equipment well preserved, and Hailey took another picture of more Latin, and started uploading it. Sierra spoke up, “Damn it, make this go faster! I could probably swim there. I almost made the olympics.”
“I just got word from the team, they said the relay should be up any moment; just relax.” The other woman laughed. “Here have a cup of coffee.”
“I’m afraid to,” Sierra laughed. “If I do I’ll have to pee, and I’ve already had three Stardust Blues at Chuck’s.”
“He named a drink after us?” Wendy asked.
“Oh, you didn’t know?” Sierra said. “It’s blue like you guys, but it tastes like Doctor Pepper.”
“Well damn,” Hailey laughed, “That’s awesome.”
“¡Sí, finalmente!” Sierra cheered. Apparently the image loaded on her end. “Okay I’m going to try to talk you through each button and switch.”
“Sure.” Hailey stated.
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