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Friday, August 7, 2009

The Rilovians, Chapter 6: The Unknown

Twenty-two more years passed on the crowded, but peaceful planet of Rilovi, and little changed. Crime was non-existant, but for the most petty of offenses. The air and sea remained healthy. Leaders were praised by common citizens. Customs, ethics, regular events, industries, technologies... everything about life seemed comfortable and settled. Then came The Unknown.

Witnesses first spotted this unidentifiable individual streaking across the sky on his personal air vehicle on a quiet afternoon. He never landed, but apparently covered a significant amount of terrain before disappearing, as he was seen above the lands of the Rallo, Nofi, Tiallo, and Mikau. The Forans weren't known to look to the sky very often; if they did, I would assume they'd have seen the visitor as well. Ten days later The Unknown returned, this time landing first in a busy Tiallo town square, surveying the area quickly, and mysteriously travelling to 4 other locations spread far around the planet, repeating the same behavior with apparently no delay between each stop. All attempts to greet & communicate with it failed, and it again disappeared as quickly as it had first appeared.

The elder council quickly convened with most of its members plus a handful of advisors and local officials to discuss these odd events. Among the gathered was a commerce administrator named Thedon who handled various affairs in the Tiallo district The Unknown had visited. A retired battlefield commander from the old warring days, Thedon approached the investigation of the incidents methodically. He did his best to pinpoint all five landing locations by correlating witness accounts, and then plotted them onto a world map. As he began looking for some sort of pattern indicative of a premeditated effort, he noticed that many pairs of points were identical distances apart. As he started following them in an arcing motion around the Syanic Sea, he also noticed that the angles between sets of three points were identical. Then, suddenly, it all became crystal clear. Stepping some distance back from the map, he saw that the points in fact formed a perfect pentagon around the land. As more witness accounts streamed in, something even more disturbing became apparent. At least three of the contacts with The Unknown had occurred at the exact same time, and the remaining two overlapped. The Unknown was not an individual, it was a race, of which five members had been sent to size up Rilovi after first discovering the planet.

The room went silent. If one of The Unknown had come the first time, and five the second, how many would arrive next? Immediately an order was given to warn all police forces to be on full alert. The elders, for the first time since the beginning of the global civil war, were terrified, and speechless. Thedon excused himself from the meeting and hastily sped off on his rahi mount. He had always firmly believed in the elders' assertion that Rilovi would be forever in peace. And yet, what he had just seen challenged that notion. It appeared that The Unknown could be scouting in preparation for an invasion. Thedon sincerely hoped he was wrong, but he was not about to wait & see. He had to find Gelaeus.

Ah, Gelaeus. Visibly aging with each passing day, the giant had retired years before and now spent alternating days tinkering with theatrical robots in his small home workshop and taking them out to "play" on his plot of wild land. When Thedon approached on his steed, panicked, but exhausted, Gelaeus was conflicted. Half of him was offended that someone would tresspass on his protected land, while the other half was delighted to be receiving a visitor -- something that had become increasingly rare over time. The second half won out and he prepared to warmly greet his dismounting visitor, only to be immediately interrupted.

Thedon: "Gelaeus! The Unknown are coming. You must prepare your robots."

Gelaeus: "The Unknown?"

Thedon: "Surely you haven't become such a hermit that you've not heard of their visits.

Gelaeus: "Their visits?"

Thedon: "Just one the first time, but five at once the second. They were scouts. Their landing sites where at equal distances apart and formed a circle around the entire land. It's no coincidence. They're preparing something. Now, where are those robots?"

Gelaeus, pointing to his miniature performers on the field: "Robots, do you mean these?"

Thedon: "This is not the time for modesty, brother. I cannot believe I could even think this, but today may be the day you've always warned of. I've heard of your secret lab, and I've heard that you built quite a wide assortment of war machines years ago. You're too smart, and too passionate about your work, to have destroyed them. Now, let's go get them out. I fear Rilovi is going to need all of the help it can get, and soon."

Seeing the ruse was up, Gelaeus punched a button on a small remote transmitter in his right hand, deactivating the playful little machines he had been enjoyably observing just a minute before. He began to walk towards a nearby rocky cliff.

Gelaeus: "My 'wide assortment of war machines' has long since been dismantled, brother. Come this way, and I will show you if you don't believe me."

Thedon: "Surely you jest! It is not like a Giant to abandon his dreams, his conviction!"

Gelaeus: "No, it is not. My dreams were simply... upgraded."

The two entered the unassuming cave just above the base of the cliff, rode the cleverly hidden elevator, and walked through the half-barren underground factory floor to the lab, both very dimly lit. Gelaeus opened the wide, sliding doors to the testing chamber, but did not enter. He reached just inside the door to activate a switch on the wall, then walked back to a drafting table and calmly began writing something down. In the next room, the sound of electrical devices powering up drew Thedon's attention, and he slowly and cautiously approached the doorway. In a timed and deliberate sequence, all of the celing lights came on, revealing the first Maxxa, then the second, on to the fifth.

Thedon: "I... I..."

Gelaeus, handing off a piece of paper: "Names and locations. These were my closest colleagues. Find them, tell them they're needed in the shop. I'll start dusting things off."

Thedon, caught in what seemed like a gasp that would never end, couldn't muster a single word, but forced himself to take the list from Gelaeus and hastily depart.

The two would never meet again.

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