The medical bay was a small room; two beds and a long steel bench piled with things my tired brain couldn’t process. The cuff was back on my arm and blinking in time with my heart. The only interesting thing about it was the bright blue neon that zipped across the top every time it registered a beat. It was mesmerizing. I started counting the beats in my head as I watched it.
“How are you feeling?” Beth asked, leaning on the door jamb.
“Fine, actually. My hand seems a little stiff, but it’s better than I expected.” My voice was a little off, words a bit slurred.
I scowled, trying to figure out if the little ritual from, when was it, last night?- had been the cause. Beth must have sensed what I was thinking.
“I’ve given you a sedative, to keep you from stressing your hand too much. It’s still healing, though faster than would be normal, and there is still the risk of infection.”
I nodded, somewhat annoyed even though I understood what she was doing. I reached out for the cup on the side table, missing the first grab but finding it on the second.
“What’s with the bracelet?” I set the cup aside after having only a quarter of the contents, not sure she hadn’t drugged that too.
“It’s a monitoring cuff. It comes from a very advanced civilization called the Phages, people who spent their entire lives combining science and magic. If you ever get to meet them, they are a fascinating race. The bracelet’s made of an ultralight alloy infused with nanotechnology. The nanobots check every single part of your system and feed the results to this tablet.” She held up the device I had seen her using the last time I was in here.
“It’s how I knew you were awake.” She admitted.
“Oh. Is there more stuff like that?” I sipped my water slowly, not wanting to make myself sick again.
I wasn’t sure whether the thought of having a bunch of nanobots inside me was terrifying or interesting.
“There’s more here than I have ever known what to do with.” Beth ran a hand through her hair, something I noticed she did often.
“Anna managed to save a lot of stuff from the Estate, and the twenty or so Chronians before her had lifetimes to collect things they found interesting. There are a dozen or more rooms filled with what she saved and collected. I haven’t had the heart to go through it all.” Beth frowned distractedly.
“Why not?” I pretended I didn’t see the flash of annoyance pass over her face at the probing question.
“Anna died quite violently, about three days after I arrived. All she could talk about was her mission to save the Estate and it’s contents.” Beth shut her eyes tight and took a moment.
“What else is there on the ship, besides what you showed me?” My stomach rumbled and Beth swapped my water for the steaming mug of soup she had brought in with her.
“There’s a solarium, which I converted into a small garden. Anna managed to save a lot of plants from the ruins of the Estate, many of which are either rare or extinct in most of the modern earth-like places we’ve visited. There’s a theater, I don’t recall setting foot in there for more than a decade though. There are forty or so guest suites, some of which are storage rooms now. The upper deck has three pools, two of which house planter boxes for several trees. It’s quite lush up there now. There are so many places for you to see. It took me several months to work my way around the ship after Anna left.” Beth relaxed as she spoke, letting go of the hurt she had obviously felt when talking about Anna.
“At least I wont get bored.” I fiddled with the cuff, irritated by its unfamiliar weight.
“There is also a chapel, by the theater. Although, it’s more of a memorial hall than a chapel. I’ve been working on a map for the past few months, my coding isn’t all that great but I can do some basic things, I doubt I’ll be able to finish it now.” I finished my soup as Beth continued to talk about her home, and it was obvious she carried a lot of fond memories of the airship.
We talked for a while longer before my eyes started slipping closed, and silence stretched out between us, awkward and tense, I still wasn’t sure I believed her.
When I woke next Beth wasn’t around but my head was clear and my hand had healed to a barely visible mark. Beth said the last time she’d inspected it that the scarring would fade within a week and the only visible part would be the slight bump where the charm was.
It connected to the heart-stone, which had once been the cornerstone of the Estate. Anna had brought it here, fusing it with the ship so that future Chronians might still have a haven, at least until Chronus had another fit of temper. I took my time getting up, keeping my weight off my healing hand, and made my way towards the helm. Beth said she spent most of her time there, and if I needed her that would be where I could find her. She was at the chart table, a stack of maps displayed on the table top and a stylus twirling around her fingers.
“Good to see you up and around. We’ve still got a lot to cover.” She gestured to the stool opposite her, absently tapping the stylus with her other hand.
“Firstly,” She slid the De Vrai book towards me from beside the stack of maps, “you need to reset the return phrase for the Charm. Make sure it’s something you won’t say accidentally.”
I took a look at the open page, staring in wonder as the sketch seemed to glint, spears of light playing over its dark surface. The book was truly incredible, every page seemed alive. The Charm was a silver disc about three centimeters wide with an inky black pearl in the center, stunningly rendered in the book. The disk itself looked complex, ringed with line after line of runes and combinations of symbols I was completely unfamiliar with. The only line on the thing I could read was the line closest to the pearl. ‘De tempore et de loco fac citius focis.’ Roughly translated, it says ‘Out of time and out-of-place – to my hearth, make all haste.’ Clutching the Charm whilst saying a key phrase would send me back to the Pleiades from wherever I was no matter what time or place I was in if I was in mortal peril. That made it the single most valuable thing in my new life. Pity it wouldn’t send me home properly. The page was titled with the same phrase that ringed the pearl on the Charms surface, and held a short incantation and a simple set of instructions.
“In the presence of the heart-stone, clench your fist around the Charm and light the candle. Incant the spell and where there is a blank space, speak the phrase or word you have chosen. This will link the Charm to your words so that you may use them as your key to the Estate.”
The word Estate had been scribbled out and Pleiades had replaced it. I looked over to Beth, but her maps had her full attention again. The heart-stone was in a receiving area, as using the Charm would transport you directly to the heart-stone. It was under a copper platform that had been inscribed with the same rings of symbols as the Charm, a green patina making them stand out against the soft copper. I took a few wrong turns before finding the receiving room, and the Pleiades former life seemed most obvious there.
Marble, gold leaf detailing and plush cream rugs thrown over the dark polished stone floors decorated the room surrounding the platform. I stood in the center of the copper ring and held the book in front of me. The language was semi-familiar, Greek I guessed. Ever since he saw the TV show Hercules, my older brother Ben had begun to obsess over ancient Greece. He’d spent three weeks laid up with a broken leg and watched every single episode. I knew I was going to botch the pronunciation, but I crossed my fingers and hoped it wouldn’t matter.
“Οποτε, μην αφήσεις αυτους να μας χωρίσουν
μέχρι να μας χωρίσει ο θανατος
όπως λέω αυτές τις λέξεις, Weewa Chee ασ γίνει.”
The translation read ‘So let them not divide us, till death parts us, as I say these words, so mote it be.’
I went with Ewokese because I very much doubted I would use it, ever, and certainly not the phrase ‘home free’ in general conversation. It didn’t hurt that no one who mattered would be able to make fun of me for knowing Weewa Chee meant home free in Ewokese. There was a tingling sensation in my palm as I spoke, though that may have simply been pins and needles, as I had taken a bit of time to go over the translations under the words. On the way back to Beth, I stumbled as a dizzy spell passed over me and had to catch myself on a railing as what felt like a shower of sparks fizzled through my brain. It lasted only moments, but it was a good ten minutes before I could push myself back upright.
“What were the fireworks?” I asked, setting the book on the chart table and sat heavily in the empty chair.
“Fireworks?” Beth didn’t look up from her map.
“Yeah, fireworks. After the spell there was nothing but tingles until I was halfway back, and then there was this rush of -I don’t know- sparks inside my head.” I put my arms on the table and laid my head down.
“I didn’t feel anything when I reset the Charm. I’m sorry, but I don’t know what that might have been. You can check the Archives, another Chronian might have recorded a similar experience.” She tapped her stylus on the edge of the glass table top and a layer of maps disappeared.
“That could take hours.” If it sounded like I was sulking, I was.
It felt like I was being given homework.
Beth pulled a physical map off the table and I recognized a particularly rich blanket of green from the map that had disappeared a moment before.
“Not if you use the Index.” Beth spread out another map and I watched, fascinated, as the table top seemed to grow a 3D version of the map.
“The Index?” I scrunched my nose up.
“There is an enchanted copper panel on the desk. Place your hand on it and say what you’re looking for. Make sure you are clear and precise otherwise you could wind up in a hailstorm of books, and that hurts.” Beth chuckled, replacing the map again.
“Well then, if I scream I’m probably buried in books.” I was a bit concerned about using the Index if it would cause an avalanche.
“Just place your hand on the panel and say ‘return’, if you’re not holding a book it will go back to the shelves.” Beth glanced up, amusement written all over her face.
She went back to her dwindling stack of maps and I took that as a dismissal. The Archives seemed cavernous as I entered on my own. Before, when Beth was showing me around, it had seemed grand. Now, it was just daunting. The desk was under a window, an antique looking cherry wood monster on intricately carved legs, with copper and white mother of pearl inlays. I sat down gingerly at the winged back chair behind it, fingers traveling over the smoothly polished surface in wonder. I had never seen such beautiful or decadent furniture up close before. The panel Beth mentioned was on the right, a palm sized section of the tawny leather desk top outlined in a thin copper border, elegant scroll work tooled into the corners of the box. I wiped my hand on my shorts before placing my hand on top of it. Clearing my mind, I thought only of the sparkles in my brain.
“Reactions to Charm reset.” I said, pressing lightly against the rectangle.
Twenty or so books came flying off the shelves to arrange themselves in a messy pile on the table. I exhaled the breath I had been unconsciously holding, glad there hadn’t been a squall of books. There was still a heap on the table to go through however, and my elation at not dying was dampened by the thought of so much reading for one measly question. Taking a moment, I sent the books winging back to their places and decided on a new wording.
“Abnormal reaction to Charm resetting.” I closed my eyes and pressed firmly on the rectangle, focused on only finding useful books and having them open to the correct pages.
I cracked an eye open and peeked at the desk once the sound of rustling pages subsided. One book was on the desk, open just a few pages in. I flipped the cover over so I could see the book’s title. It was a Chronian journal, marked with the number two. Intrigued, I sat back and began to read.