It had been four days since finding the apparent research station. The translations provided some insight into the planet, but the temple seemed to be on some kind of "lockdown", and wouldn't respond to any attempts to access any systems, so Rebecca's team left the place in the capable hands of Sierra's research team.
A young girl with bat like wings who couldn’t have been more than 12, stepped out of the bushes. She was holding an intricate metal spear, and had several large fish on hooks. She was dressed in decent looking buck like skin clothes too, well and carefully tanned and dyed. It could almost have been mistaken for suede.
“Aja.” the girl said slowly setting down the fish and holding her spear out in defense looking right at Hailey who was talking on her cell phone to Heart Island.
“I’ll... get back to you base,” Hailey said as she carefully put away her phone and held up her hands to show she didn’t have a weapon.
There was rustling in the bush near the girl for a second and another girl came out of the bushes. She looked almost like the first girl, but she had purple eyes instead of pink. She looked at her friend holding the spear, “I think you have her plenty scared cousin.”
“Wait, you speak Galactic Trade?” Hailey laughed as she lowered her hands again.
“No we speak Edeian.” the girl who was holding the spear stated. “Same language your speaking right now.” She lowered her spear. “Sorry for scaring you, but you scared the life out of me too. I thought you were some kind of new monster.” She blushed.
“There’s some really big fish in the waters nowadays.” the girl with the purple eyes stated. “Lots of strangers around as well.”
“We’re still trying to figure that last one out, ourselves,” Hailey admitted. “This world’s... gods, for lack of a better word, have been bringing us here from across the universe for some time now.”
“Eden, and the gods are crazy. Yes they elder storiess say the gods drank the water here and went off the bend.” The pink eyed girl nodded as she picked up her bundle of fish. “Aja and I are scouts.”
“Me as well,” Hailey said, “First generation,” she added with a small giggle. “My group are scientist-explorers operating from an island we call Heart. I’m Hailey, of a race called Furren. I used to be human, before the gods changed me,” she grinned. The pair looked at each other.
“Strange days,” Aja said. “I know these words, Furren and Hew-man, from the old stories.”
“The spreading is just a silly bedtime story though,” the unnamed girl with a spear shook her head.
“And yet a real live furren stands before us,” Aja laughed. “We should bring her back to the village. She seems friendly, and she knows about the strangers.”
“Mother might get mad.” The girl with the spear sighed.
Aja took the other girl’s hand for a moment, and they closed their eyes. Aja opened her eyes again and smiled warmly. “The Queen says she looks forward to meeting you.”
“So you’re telepaths like Ella’s people,” Hailey said thoughtfully. “Can you read others’ thoughts, or just communicate?”
“We can read others’ thoughts among our own,” Aja said. “Though we’ve never tried it with an outsider.”
“Lika says that mind speak is bad with strangers because they don’t understand.” the girl with the spear stated.
“There you are,” Ella said as she approached, and then stopped in her tracks. “Oh, wow.”
The girl with the spear raised it again. “Oh more strangers. Just great.” she sighed.
Hailey laughed. “No stranger. That’s Ella. She’s not only a good friend, she’s also a member of my expeditionary group, and a telepath like you.”
Aja giggled, “We call all those who come to Eden’s Islands Strangers. It’s our word for you. No disrespect intended.”
Ella grinned. “None taken. I sense your peaceful intentions. You have nothing to fear from us.”
The girl with the spear smiled broadly and put her spear on her back. “You have powerful psychic defenses. It’s an honor to meet you Ella.” She took Ella’s hand, and they locked gazes for a moment, almost like they were sharing some unspoken, secret ritual from across time and space.
“How many more of you are there anyway?” Aja asked.
“Loads.” Hailey explained, “We haven’t done a census yet. Only a few of us in the expedition group though. Our ship is moored not far from here, if you want us to get the others?”
“Please do,” Aja nodded. “As I said, the Queen wishes to meet all of you.”
“I’ll go get them,” Ella said after a moment, and the girl let go of her hand. Ella turned to walk back toward the ship.
“That was remarkable,” she said. “Can you swim with all that fur?” she asked, looking Hailey over now.
“You know,” Hailey laughed, “I didn’t think I’d be able to, but I think I’m an even better swimmer now than when I was a furless human. Can you guys fly with those wings, or are they largely vestigial?”
Aja giggled and spread her large wings out and lifted off the ground, “I can hover. We can also do this.” she blinked out and appeared behind Hailey, “Hello.” she tapped her shoulder.
Hailey spun around and laughed as the other girl giggled. “If we teleport to a high place, we can ride the air currents. It’s strange, but the more time we spend talking, the more I feel as if I know you - not personally, but in general.”
“I feel you as family as well.” Aja nodded. “Maybe there is something to the old stories,” she added, as Rebecca and crew joined them.
Rebecca bowed slightly upon approaching. “We brought some good faith gifts for your people,” she said, and motioned to the large hand-woven basket Ella was carrying. “Actually, we always carry spare supplies in case we encounter another colony.”
“We’re good. These islands are our home since the beginning of the dark waters.” Aja pointed to space. She knelt down and drew a crude map in the dirt. She pointed to the largest drawn island. “This is where you landed. Our main village is inland from here. These outer islands are where we gather fish and other things the ocean brings.” She stood up again.
“My mother awaits,” the young pink-eyed girl said.
There was a whole village of them, mostly females, oddly. They were slender and slight compared to the other races, but they were definitely humanoid. The two new friends led the group to a large hut in the middle of the village, as everyone around them stared and whispered.
Inside the large hut - ideal for the tropical climate, really - were several females working, doing odd cleaning, and painting, but what set everything off from a normal hut was there were two large chairs in the middle of it, and on the larger of the two sat a woman, and next to her a man.
The man shared some strong feminine features with the woman, like a complete lack of facial or body hair. He glanced at Ella, and then leaned over to speak softly to the woman. “That one is the psion, but she lowers her guard for us.”
The woman nodded, and smiled at the group, “Welcome to our home. The gods must smile upon you to be blessed with a Psion.” She looked them over, and then laughed. “Please relax. You are our honored guests. My name is Adana. My advisor Bli,” she motioned to the man.
Bli nodded his head, “I am the villages war chief.” he laughed when he saw the look in the girls’ faces, “Eden is not always a safe place. We Edeians have tribal wars, and there are beasts on some islands, and new ones every day.”
“Yes,” Adana said, “To answer your next question, we have always been here. This is our people's home, but we also know about the strangers - Star people as well.” At that, she stood. “Please come, dine with us. You must have many questions.”
“Uh... Thank you,” Rebecca said, still a little dumbfounded. “At ease crew,” she said to the others and winked, letting them know they could join or mingle, or whatever they wanted.
Hailey had met up with Aja outside the hut along with Candy. “So, you two are hunters?” she asked.
“Soldiers.” Aja stated.
“Soldiers in training,” the other girl said, “But we’re allowed to go out on our own because of our scout training.”
“The confusion is understandable though,” Aja said. “We live with the land, hence the spears. We fight using our minds.”
“Interesting.” Hailey said. “So these creatures the Queen spoke of, how come we haven't seen any?”
“I’d guess that you haven’t left the core islands yet.” Aja stated.
“Good grief, there’s more?” Candy asked.
“The elder stories say there are more islands than grains of sand on the beach,” Aja nodded.
“Thats a hell of a lot of Islands.”
Aja’s as yet unnamed friend giggled and nodded. “If you’d like, we can show you our sea charts. They’re unreliable of course as the islands change, but would give you an idea the scope of Eden.”
“Oh, Rebecca would die to see those,” Hailey giggled. “If you’re sure it’s alright, I’d be honored.”
Aja grinned and nodded. “Tari’s mother has said to treat you as family.”
Tari nodded. “Ohana, in our dialect,” she said. “The charts are stored in the temple. We’ll show you the way, and you can bring the others later if you like.”
“Did you say temple?” Candy asked, and then looked at Hailey.
“Does your temple have its own power source?” Hailey asked, as they followed Aja and Tari.
Aja nodded. “Of course. They all do. The ones we know of, the gods’ memories are locked, but they still function well enough as reliquaries and libraries, protected from the elements.
“We’re very interested in learning more about these gods,” Hailey said as they drew near the temple. Unlike the one they had found previously, the native Edeians had clearly taken care to keep this building clear of vegetation. A garden of what vaguely resembled roses had been neatly manicured around the front and sides, with a clear, well worn stone pathway winding around.
Other members of the race came and went, paying little mind to the outsiders, except to give them a warm smile or a respectful nod in passing. Most were dressed in Sylvan cloth, generally short trousers or tunic dresses, rather appropriate for the weather. A few wore ringed metal armor and carried spears on their backs similar to Aja’s but even they reacted similarly to the furren.
“You’ll find a wealth of knowledge here, then,” Tari laughed softly.
“Yes we know lots about our gods, but there is much we don’t know as well.” Aja smiled. “Most of it comes down from legends and myths.”
“But we know there’s truth behind the legends,” Tari added as they walked inside. The temple was well lit, with a different layout than the one they had found previously. It was much larger. In the large, main hall, Brie stood next to a pedestal where a long, somewhat cylindrical device sat behind a glass case. She was talking to an Edian with long, blonde hair in a braid.
“Fancy meeting you in a place like this.” Hailey laughed and waved to Brie.
“Oh hi guys!” Brie said as she waved them over. “I was just talking to Rigala here about some of their artifacts. They haven’t functioned in anyone’s living memory, but I think this one was some kind of a portable scanner. ... Or a holovision remote control,” she giggled.
“Leave it to Brie to find the divine... vibe...” Candy giggled, causing Hailey to start laughing too.
“I’m picking up good vibrations,” she sang under her breath.
Brie laughed. “Well, that’s just a cursory examination. Out of respect for the Edeians I haven’t tried to scan it. Honestly, given the level of technology we’re dealing with, I’d be afraid of setting off a security measure and blowing up the entire temple.”
Hailey looked at Candy. “I don’t know what’s scarier, that she’s right, or that I can’t tell if she’s serious.”
Brie snickered quietly, and Rigala nodded. “Caution is understandable. Our people do not appear primitive for nothing,” he chuckled. “We were once ambitious in our evolution. The gods had grown silent, we attempted to become like them.”
“What happened?” Hailey asked.
“The story goes, that our researchers made great progress in deciphering their language, but they pushed too hard, and fire sun lashed out at us. A third of the population, gone in an instant. We resolved instead, to develop our mental abilities, and to keep out of the areas designated as ‘hyper testing’.”
“If my hypothesis is correct,” Brie said, “The sun is no ordinary star. Somehow the err, ‘gods’ have control over it, using it as a kind of weapon to protect this planet. The upside is that the Edeians have developed their telepathy to a level not seen elsewhere in the known universe. They can actually bend space using only their thoughts.”
“I just hope our gifts don’t offend you,” Candy said now, her psychological training kicking in. “I mean, we share our technologies with everyone we encounter.”
“As long as it’s not wired to explode,” Rigata laughed. “We chose our path, but by that same token, your arrival shows us that the gods are once more active. They wouldn’t have let you find us, if they didn’t want us to cooperate. I only wish that we had more to give you.”
“Just the knowledge that there is bad things out there.. That’s a gift enough, it allows us to prepare.”
“Speaking of.” Rebecca smiled at Hailey, “You should go radio that bit of info in, and then get yourselves something to eat.”
Zarra giggled. “The things they can do with starfruit. I didn’t know it was possible to make them taste even better.”
Hailey laughed and gave Rebecca a playful salute. “Yes ma’am.”
Hailey and Candy walked back to the ship, it took a bit and they were mostly alone, there were more Edian’s on the island than they had realised most were either coming or going from the village. Some even lived outside along the path to the beach.
As they neared the ship, one of the Edeians appeared in front of them. “You must shelter, quickly!” she said. Before either of them could ask, a horrible shriek rang out across the island, like some kind of giant reptile or bird.
The Edeian woman grabbed their paws, and in an instant, they were aboard their ship, under the deck. The woman let out a deep breath and leaned against the wall of the cabin, exhausted, as the screech sounded out again, this time practically on top of them.
“Are you alright?” Candy asked. The woman nodded.
“Yes. Teleporting others just takes a lot out of us,” she said. “It’s to be done only in emergencies like that one,” she added, as the screech repeated, sounding agitated now. Hailey hazarded a peek above deck just in time to see a large feathered creature seemingly being driven off by the two young warriors, Aja and , right out on the beach where they were standing moments before.
“That is a belfar. If one touches you it lays its eggs under your skin,” The woman stated. “The only way to remove them is by fire. They don’t usually stray this close to the mainland.”
After the two had finished fighting off the strange, large quasi-reptilian monster, Aja teleported onto the ship’s deck and peeked inside. “That’s the third Belfar this week. Thank you for getting our new friends to safety.”
The woman nodded. “It was all I could do to get to them before the belfar. I’m grateful you came so quickly.”
Hailey let out a giggle. “For a second there, I thought your people were psychic too.”
The woman laughed and shook her head. “Oh heavens no. I was on my way to do some fishing when I saw it heading straight for you. I hope I didn’t startle you.”
“Nah, not at all,” Candy lied, but giggled. “Thanks for saving us.”
The woman nodded, only now beginning to look around. They had landed smack in the middle of the open space where Wendy and Brie stored some of their lab equipment when not in use. “By the gods,” she whispered.
“Mother has agreed to let them share their knowledge with us,” Tari giggled. “She believes with their help, we can avoid repeating the mistakes of our ancestors. Plus, Brie assures us that their technology is less prone to exploding.”
“Oh the gods have smiled on us then, our scientists will be pleased.” The woman nodded.
“Relay’s connected,” Candy called over to Hailey.
Hailey picked up the transceiver. “Hailey to Heart, condition is green. You’re not going to believe what we’ve found...”
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