DOCKING BAY 904
…nothing. Seriously. Nothing happened. We either didn't hit the ground or we did and were immediately transported to the afterlife.
I was squeezing The Dark's cloak in my fists. The Dark had me held to her by my satchel's strap, and Molly, somehow, was holding The Dark by their ankle. And we were just hanging there.
Somewhere I heard an unnatural voice say "Gravitational systems engaging in 3..
2… 1…" We then gently drifted to the ground. Our relief was interrupted by a loud, metallic crash just to the left of my head.
"My helmet!" Molly said, jumping to her feet. "That was so intense! Wasn't it?! I mean the near death thing I could do without but everything else was fantastic. And just like that, BOOM, we are in another world! This has been like the best day ever T'Jax, Seriously like the best ever! Well, I mean the day I met Lucky was the best too but it's number one and one-A, You know what I'm saying? OH WOW! Look over here you guys! Are we in space? I really think we are in space because look out that window right there because that looks like outer space like in the movies and tv shows about space travel and flying from star system to star system which is what this looks like! Am I right?! Huh?! Am I?!"
The Dark, laying face first on the ground, turned their head in my direction and said "What… was that?"
"I think it has something to do with being in a very stressful situation," I said.
"Makes sense, I guess," The Dark replied.
Then I shrugged and said "Or she could just be really over-excitable."
"That makes more sense," The Dark said.
We both got to our feet and were taken aback by the view. We were definitely in outer space. All three of us stared at a vast array of stars. There were planets and their moons dotting the vastness before us. There were also, as Molly called them, "spaceships" darting from one point to another.
I turned back and The Dark watched as they removed their mask. Not only did the headpiece pull away, but so did the bottom part of their face. I had thought we would see a muscular, athletically inclined man behind that mask because that's what the bottom half of their face showed. But that strong chin covered by beard stubble was part of the mask too.
The Dark was actually a lighter shade of brown with soft feminine features. The long, black hair fell about their shoulders. She was beautiful in every way.
"I thought you were a man," I said.
"Did you?" The Dark laughed.
"I can't believe a woman lives inside that costume!" Molly said.
"Weeeelll… That's sort of true," she laughed.
"Oh, I see," I said. "You live in both a male and female state, embracing both."
"It's a bit more complicated than that but you're on the right track," they said.
"People in my realm hold those who share your gift in very high esteem," I explained.
Their face looked curious and then they asked "Why is that?"
"Because you have a greater understanding of the world you live in. In a way, you contain inside two souls that have come together to form a more complete 'you'," I told them. "I am honored to have met you."
"Thank you, Tearan. I appreciate your kind words," they said.
"I just think you're hella awesome," Molly told her.
"Thanks," they said. "By the way, you don't have to keep calling me 'The Dark'. My name is Renne Vasquez."
Molly stuck her hand out and said "it's nice to finally meet you Renne."
"...and then, when I put the key from my necklace in that little hole in his chest, Lucky began to shimmer and shine and then he was alive!" Molly said as she finished the story of how she met her friend Lucky.
"That's a really amazing story," Renne said. The City of Ancients sounds like an interesting place to live."
"I think we need to discuss the Realm Initiative," I finally said.
"I can tell you what I know, but it's not a lot," Renne said. "All they care about is money and control. They make rules that everyone hates but nobody can do anything about because they have all stolen the power in each of their realms. They know that if they can keep people scared, in poor health, and always struggling, then they can keep control over the realms and the people subjugated.
"Why do they want to control weavers?" I asked.
"Oh, it's not only weavers, Tearan. It's everyone and anyone who has a gift or a power or even a talent. They use these 'specials' as they call them to distract and confuse the populous. The gifts of people like you can be used to accomplish the goals I just mentioned. But it takes years of training and behavior modification to make them willing to comply."
"So someone like me…" I began.
"Is invaluable to them, she finished. "You've known about your gift one day and are doing things that someone with a lifetime of training wouldn't be able to do. They're scared of you."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because you're a badass!" Molly chimed in.
"Well, she's not wrong," Renne laughed.
"When I woke up this morning I had no idea this day would be like this," I said to myself, but out loud.
"We never know the day we will be called to greatness," she told me as she put one arm around my shoulders, "but we still have to believe in ourselves and answer that call when it comes."
We never heard the footsteps coming from behind us, which is why the three of us jumped when we heard someone say "Just why are y'all sittin' in my cargo bay, and how did you get here?"
Renne had been gone for a good twenty minutes while Molly and I remained under watch by the Captain's first mate. I'm not sure why Molly thought it was so funny to keep calling him "Number One" but, unlike the first mate, she seemed to get a kick out of it.
The door release clicked and in walked Renne with the ship's captain, Duke Starwounder. The captain looked like a grumpy old hotshot who was well past his prime, but he had seemed like a nice enough guy.
He walked over to us with Renne by his side and said "So The Dark here has filled me in on everything, except a real name I'm guessin', and I will admit to bein' just a bit curious about you, Mr. Blueboy. The problem is that I've had run-ins with the R.I. before and they are real trouble, I'm tellin' you."
"Captain Starwounder here has smuggled fugitives from the Realm Initiative to safe havens before so he knows a bit about how they operate," Renne explained.
"How long have you all been on my ship?" the captain asked.
"I'm not really sure. Maybe an hour," I said.
"Then we ain't got a ton a time to get movin'." He said. "Here's what we're gonna do. See, the R.I. can track you. There's some sort of trail that a jump leaves behind. So, we're gonna fly at full warp toward the outer star cluster which plays hell with those trackers. Then when we're shootin' through it, you're gonna make a jump to any realm you want."
"And at the same time, you'll send me back to my realm," Renne added. "The two simultaneous jumps occurring at the exact same moment should confuse the trackers and get you to safety."
I looked at them like they were crazy. "I can barely make one jump myself and you want me to send three people to two different realms at the exact same time? That's crazy! I can't do that!"
"Y'know," Molly said from behind me, "I've heard you say that an awful lot today. And yet, here we are. Every jump to a new realm a success. You even jumped us here while we were falling to our deaths."
"He did that?" the captain asked. Renne nodded and the captain whistled then said "Impressive."
We were all strapped into seats outside the cockpit and the captain had begun his disengagement from the docking bay. Molly and I were incredibly excited to actually get the chance to travel through space! When tha captain gave the order, the first mate (and pilot) let the ship do a controlled drift until it was clear of station 904.
When we hit our mark and were given the ok to fly, the captain took us to Warp One. Our speed increased quickly and we were about to go to Warp Two when a ship dropped out of warp in front of us. The captain was barely able to maneuver around it and as soon as he did, the ship set off in pursuit.
"What is happening right NOW?" Renne shouted over the din of the engines.
"Is that the Realm Initiative?" Molly shouted out in response.
"I don't know what they want but it ain't the R.I." the captain called back.
The first mate yelled over to the captain and said "From the engine signature, it looks like it may be the Gorlan."
"What's a Gorlan?" Renne called out.
"They deal in two things," the captain said."Weapons and people."
"Do you have weapons on board?" I called up to him.
"Yep," he replied, showing no sign of concern.
"What kind?" Renne asked.
"They're sittin' right back there," he laughed, pointing to Molly and me. "He's the weapon, she's the people."
The captain made a few pretty dazzling maneuvers but was unable to shake the Gorlan. Our ship had started to take some blasts from the Gorlan ship, but the captain didn't seem too concerned about that either. Then, without warning, a second Gorlan ship dropped out of warp, again, right in our path.
"Yeah. I was afraid this might happen," he said. "I think the R.I. put out a bounty on you two," he said. "The only time Gorlans move in sync with one another is when they are on a huge bounty job."
"What do we do now?" Molly cried.
"We put our plan into motion a bit earlier than we intended," the captain explained. "We're gonna race 'em to the Galifran Nebula. When we enter it, you drop outta this realm, got it?"
"Yes," I said. I've got this."
"Do you?" Renne asked, looking a little worried.
I nodded and said "Trust me." Renne nodded back and I saw the trust she had in me. Now I just needed to not let her down.
"Hitting the nebula in 10. 9. 8." The first mate called the countdown.
I reached into my satchel and pulled out two cards. One I knew was Renne's realm. I was keeping the ones I could identify in a separate pocket inside the satchel. I had no idea about the other.
"7. 6. 5." The first mate continued to count.
"Hold the card with me," I said to Molly. "Do not let it go. Renne, concentrate on the symbol, do you understand? "
Again she nodded but her full focus was on the card. She was a pro. She had this. I was sure of it.
"4. 3." The count went on. I closed my eyes and saw, not a particular realm, but a vision of two portals working in perfect synchronization.
"2." The count continued. There was a cluster of blasts all around as several new ships appeared all around us.
"1" I said out loud, taking control of the situation. At least I was in control in my own head.
I said "Zero" and the blasts that were all around us…