Drakian flew over the edge of the crater, letting Krestean and Bast go before landing on the lush grass himself. The flora under his feet grew carelessly, blissfully unaware of the sudden cut-off in the land just next to it, and the swift end that was put to their neighbors. Bast walked away from the edge to sit on a dry stump of a fallen tree, while Krestean headed the opposite way, kneeling down at the edge as she observed the mostly smooth wall.
“Yes, it is… was a perfect sphere,” Drakian’s voice sounded in Krestean’s mind. “Nature does not like perfection though, so it will not last long.” As if to confirm his words, a small chunk of dirt fell out of a distant cliff, rolling down with a distant rumble until friction got a hold of it, halting the journey to the center.
“Are you reading my thoughts?”
“I do not need to do so to know what you think,” he let her stand there in silence for a minute, before speaking up again. “I myself, however, think you should not be tempting fate by standing so close to the edge.”
“I wouldn’t dare to,” Krestean stood up and pulled the grass at her feet apart, revealing that it was growing not out of dirt, but out of a slab of gray stone. “Made sure the place is safe, even though I don’t think falling would do me that much damage.”
“Could you still come here?” Bast raised her voice so that she could be heard by the other two. “The gigantic hole won’t go anywhere.”
“No, but it will get flooded and erode over time. But I do think you’re right,” Krestean picked up the hammer she left on the ground and headed towards Bast. “It’s not much more than a gigantic hole. An artificial crater from an energetic battle.”
“I would say the rock composition is more interesting than the crater itself.” Krestean paused her stride to give the dragon a confused look. “It is very uniform, even deep underground where the crater bottom lies.” Wanting to check for herself, she turned around and came back to the edge, shortly joined by Bast.
“You’re right…” the latter spoke as she moved away from the edge. “It’s like there has never been any geological activity on the planet… but there are mountains, so that’s impossible.”
“The planet may be as artificial as the crater itself,” Krestean stated absentmindedly, consumed by thought. “Created by a Type 0 perhaps?”
“That would work, if it was hastily made – created to exist, perhaps to hide something inconspicuously.”
“More than that, it would have to be recent,” Bast stated as the group returned to the dry stump. “On a planetary scale at least. Various rocks would form through pressure, heat and time. We’re looking at a few thousand years here, maybe in the teens or low tens at most.”
“That would check out.” Krestean sat down on the mossy log next to the stump. “Original Raphael found the cloning device, and prepared two Earth replicas to house his clones, protecting them with some time-altering technology. Meanwhile Nycombs located a new planet in one of their many scans of their region of the galaxy, and discovered the planets. Before they could inform anyone to update the maps, they were attacked – perhaps specifically so that the planets wouldn’t be put on maps. Possibly by the clone here, who honestly seems unstable enough to warrant such destruction for such a small trespassing.”
“But wasn’t the whole reason why I was brought here that he couldn’t leave the planet?”
“Yes, but that lock was of our doing?” Krestean lifted her hammer, giving it a spin before grabbing it properly. “Although… Raphael could’ve placed a lock on his clone after seeing the destruction it brough to Neastia. That would explain why we never saw more of it. And he could’ve also used the hammer before it-” the hammer flashed bright yellow to that comment, breaking Krestean’s train of thought. “He didn’t use you?” A pair of flashes gave an affirmative response.
“Could’ve used something else of similar technology, archtools aren’t uncommon, they’re more of a needle in a haystack than anything else.” Bast was pleasantly surprised when the hammer responded with two blinks. “I can’t believe you can actually communicate with this thing…”
“We never attempted to. Besides I am uncertain whether it would want to speak with me,” the lack of response to the dragon was telling of what the response would’ve been.
“But it does ‘speak’ with me…” Krestean “I wonder if I can make it release you?” The hammer flashed once, followed by a second, almost reluctant flash. The front cover of the hammer’s head opened, and the display inside lit up with an amber silhouette of a dragon, next to a gray silhouette of an angel. In the bottom right two buttons appeared with similar symbols that undoubtedly described their function in the language of whoever constructed the tool. “Will either of these release him, or do I need to hit a specific one?” The hammer stayed silent.
“Can it not talk with the cover open?” Bast asked, curiously tapping the dragon on the screen. A dashed rectangle outline surrounded the silhouette, slowly moving around it.
“No, I just need to be more specific. Let’s go with one blink for either button working, and two blinks if we need to use the right one.”
“What if we need to use the left one?” Drakian asked, not wanting to meddle with functions they were not certain of.
Krestean opened her mouth to respond, but got interrupted by a single flash from the hammer. “Guess we can use the left one,” she spoke brightly, and touched the left symbol with her claw. This opened a pop-up in the center of the screen with more unreadable symbols and another pair of buttons: on the left one that looked like the right half of an arrow pointing up, while the other was the right half of an arrow pointing down. “This must be some sort of confirmation dialogue, so let’s just press left one again and see what happens.”
Before Drakian could object, she did as she said, and the display went dark. There was a crackling whizz coming from the inside, and a small hatch opened at the bottom, from which a thick amber goo emerged, congesting together before dropping to the ground. The amber drop was shortly followed by a gray one, and both of them evaporated the moment they made contact with the ground.The hatch proceeded to close, alongside the front cover.
“Is that all?” Krestean asked, underwhelmed by the procedure. The hammer flashed twice in response. “I guess so… See if you’re free, Drak.”
The dragon nodded, disappearing with a “I will return shortly.”
“Let’s hope you’re right this time,” Krestean responded to empty space, earning herself a puzzled look from Bast. “Last time he said he will be back soon he went to Earth, and we both know how that ended…” Bast gave an understanding nod, staying silent as the two waited for the dragon to return.
“Hope it did not take too long down here,” he said as he reappeared moments later, exactly where he disappeared from. “I decided to test the freedom by going a bit further than the orbit, but I believe the time down here flows slower so it should not have been much of a wait?”
“It was merely a moment,” Bast replied to him. “Where did you go?”
“I went to check up on the station we created, but all I found was brightly shimmering gas. Turns out whatever it was that happened to the Heart in the center was severe enough to warrant throwing it into the star in the center, which made it go supernovae. Big one too. It is going to be a spectacle worth rewatching. Most of the beings on board made it out safely, but some did not leave the premise when told, and… they are part of the bright gas now.” Drakian paused to let the information sink in before continuing further. “The news may have already reached the rest of the galaxy, or at the very least will certainly do so soon. We will provide protection if needed, and help with building a new home for you. At least the other abilnos will.”
“What about you?” Krestean asked in a concerned manner. “You’re not planning to get stuck on some planet again, are you?”
“No. But when I did so last time I went out to look for Archike, and I still have not found him. I have some questions for him, ones that should not wait for another few thousand years.”
“Can you at least inform me where you’re going? So that when you do disappear, I have somewhere to look?”
“As long as you promise to not-” Drakian’s speech got interrupted by an exaggerated cough from Bast.
“I’m glad you two are having a family reunion, but I think I have enough energy to go back now. Can you help me navigate, Drak?”
“Of course,” Drakian’s form turned into a cloud vaguely resembling a dragon, and Bast eyes began to glow amber. “That anchor should do it, ” he said as he returned to a solid form, letting Bast’s eyes return to normal as well.
“Wait, what’s happening?” Krestean didn’t know which one of the beings she should give a bewildered stare, instead opting to rapidly switch between the two, as if to underline her confusion.
“Helping her set up an anchor that will allow her to travel near Earth, from where she can take it herself.”
“But… how will she travel there?
“Rotation,” Bast answered nonchalantly. “Just as you are Drakian’s link, I am Ra’s, or “Archike’s” as Drak calls him.” She stood up and stretched out her arms. “You can keep the hammer. I think you’ll put it to a better use than I ever could.” With that, she disappeared, leaving behind a small puff of purple smoke, while the hammer in Krestean’s hand flashed twice.
“Wait… I thought that… How did she… ” Krestean moved over to the stump previously occupied by Bast, trying to get a hold of her thoughts. “What did I just witness?”
“Rotation. Named teleportation by those who don’t know how to do it. Main method of transport for abilnos across the universe.”
“But… isn’t it supposed to be limited to abilnos? Something about energy composition and biological matter.”
“In theory, yes. But when I said that ‘anything I can do, so can you’, I meant it. Even if all your body would get somehow converted to energy, you would still be able to retain your form, similarly to how I will still look similar even if I’m not solid.” To visualize, Drakian returned to his ghostly form. “To rotate, I need an anchor. Think of it as a place I am rotating around. If it was you, I would appear right behind you, like so.” the dragon disappeared, instantly reappearing behind Krestean. “I am sure you understand the premise, it is similar to how your ships travel faster than light. Just manual, and as such when the anchor is in the middle of interstellar space, it can be rough to set-up properly for beings unused to this type of travel. And the further you go, the more precise you have to be.”
Krestean watched in awe as he explained, taking time to process what she was hearing. “Teach me, please!”
“I will, in due time. Not right now though,” the spark of joy disappeared from Krestean’s face, replaced with a disappointed pout. “It takes time to learn, and in this place time is not something that behaves properly.”
“You’re right. There is still Monsele’s crashed ship here we can use to get out, but it’s on the other side of the planet.”
“I can take you there,” Drakian crouched down and flattened his wings, motioning for Krestean to get on his back.
“But when we get out of this planet, you give me the first lesson on the spot, okay?” Krestean grabbed the hammer and put it between spikes on Drakian’s back, allowing her for a decent grip on the extremely smooth surface that was his body.
“Patience,” Drakian spoke as he lifted off with an unnecessary wing movement. “It is going to be much safer for you to do it in an open field, rather than a crammed spaceship.”
“I just don’t want to have to wait for millennia again, after having learned I can do that.”
“You will not, I promise. I will give you at least one lesson before each search I go out for. With how quickly you worked out the hammer you may even learn everything before I find the answers I am looking for.”
“I hope you find what you’re looking for. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if I can do anything to help.”
“Thank you,” Drakian looked back at the crater they were leaving behind, “but some things are better searched for behind the scenes,” he sped up his pace, cutting through clouds with his wings as if they were razors trimming cotton candy. “Sometimes that’s the only way you can figure out what really happened.”