It was on the day the stars began to die, when I first met him. He knew of my future yet I had no recollection of his past. Somehow, strangely, I knew him. Like one knows a reflection they see in the mirror, even though he looked nothing like me, I recognized a part of myself as I looked into his eyes…
I sat by the fire gazing up at the fading stars. My mind wondered if I’ll ever find a solution to a spell I dedicated a lifetime to decipher. I let it wonder, listening to the silence. It spoke softly to me, giving me answers I so longed for. If I could only understand them.
Since the sun set, I sat helplessly watching the constellations fade one after the other. Just how long would it take until the night sky would be reduced to nothing but an empty, black void? Something wicked was at work. I could sense a malevolent presence, and a feeling of an unknown doom overcame me.
"Beautiful, aren't they?" I stumbled back at the sudden voice, appearing out of nowhere. A figure sat in the shadows. How long has it been there?
“Present yourself!” I demanded from the figure. It was a man. He wore a grey coat, tattered at places and a brown scarf. Half of his face was covered with some metal, like a half-helmet and one of his arms appeared to be covered with armor.
He tore his gaze from the stars and looked at me. “There is no time. Come with me,” he said.
I narrowed my eyes. “I’m not going anywhere. First the stars begin to abandon the night sky and then a stranger teleports to my world-”
“Not teleport. I traveled through time.”
I nearly choked. “What?!”
“Yes, it is possible,” the man said, noticing the disbelief in my eyes. “I know all about your efforts to fabricate a time-travel spell and I came to offer help.”
Indeed, that is what I have been working on. How did this man know?!
“Who are you, stranger?”
“Please,” he said, his voice softening. “I will explain everything. But you must come, now. My time in the present is fading.”
His form seemed to quiver.
I looked up at the sky. Like sparks sputtered by the fire eventually burn out, so did the stars continue to die, one by one. What is happening?! I looked at the man. He smiled. It was a weak, tired smile, but it said a lot.
“Alright, I will come.” If there was but a sliver of a chance that I could learn that blasted time-spell, then I had to take it.
I stood up and the man offered his hand. “AYR,” he said.
“My name. Well, it’s more of a code.”
Interesting. I met his hand. “They call me-”
“Ah, so you have heard of me?”
“This isn’t our first encounter, not for me at least.”
There was something in the tone of his voice that rang true and sent shivers down my spine. This man knew me, yet I had never seen him before. But I was not given time to marvel at this revelation, as a bright light flashed suddenly, and before I even had the time to blink, reality around me had changed. I was no longer in my world, there were no mountains, no fire. I appeared to be in some sort of room, made entirely of metal and lights.
“Welcome to my ship, Harken,” AYR said.
“We are at sea?” I asked.
“You could say that,” he laughed and ushered me to follow him. We walked down a hallway of steel. “Harken, I need your help. A terrible fate has struck humanity and is threatening to spread to every corner of the galaxy. In the time, the present we are in right now, humanity has created an omnipotent being, an ultimate soldier. We call it Zeltrex. We created it in hopes for peace and prosperity, but Zeltrex turned against us. It brought humanity and all of galactic civilization to the brink of extinction. All but me.”
“You created a god?”
“Not one I’d ever bow down to,” AYR replied. “I fought against it in my time, but it managed to trap me in a prison of its own making, a time rift. There, I am powerless. My time machine is broken, unpowered. But luckily, you come to my rescue.”
“Rescue?” AYR noticed I wasn’t following, so he turned.
“How?” I asked. “I don’t know how to travel through time.” It sounded ridiculous.
AYR smiled. “Not yet you don’t. But that’s why you’re here. To learn the spell.” He motioned to follow and we continued walking. “You see, I need you to learn the time-travel spell, so you can rescue me in your future. Then we have to defeat Zeltrex, else it will destroy everything, including you and all of Earth’s timelines. You probably noticed stars beginning to die already.”
By the Void... “Was that Zeltrex?”
“Yes,” AYR replied. “We haven’t got much time. We need to help you finish your spell.” He paused by the wall and touched it with his hand. A rectangular screen of light appeared and a voice spoke from somewhere.
“Immense gravity detected. Supermassive black hole inbound.”
“We’ve arrived,” AYR said.
I was bemused as to what sort of magic AYR was using, but my puzzlement was brought to a halt as we came to the front of his ship. There, a sight I previously thought was reserved only for the gods, awaited me.
“In space, yes.”
I stared through the glass dome into the clearest night sky. The stars seemed so close I could touch them.
“What is that?” I asked, pointing to a particularly black point in space. It seemed to consume all light within.
“A black hole,” AYR replied. “And that speck you see next to it, that’s where we’re going. It’s a planet where an ancient civilization of Rettlings druids live. They’ll teach you to fabricate the time-spell.”
I observed with awe at the tiny speck, suspended afront the black behemoth, like a tiny fly that buzzes at the mouth of a toad.
A whole new world…
I closed my eyes for a moment, to recollect my thoughts. I’m in the future. The lives of everyone are at stake. The whole universe threatened to be destroyed by a rogue god.
“I will do it. I will help you.” I opened my eyes. “For decades I’ve been prodding into the secrets of life, gazing inwards to see beyond. To see the birth of everything. And to see if there’s an end. The time-travel spell is key to my research, but that is not the main reason why I’m helping you, Ace. I cannot stand by and watch the universe burn.”
“Ah, Ace” AYR said. “I always wondered where that came from.”
“Well, AYR is too long to spell.”
“But, it's just three letters!”
“Don’t argue with a wizard!”
AYR shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. Look!”
The ship sailed close enough to the druids’ world that it nearly filled our entire view. It looked so different from my world.
There was one thing that caught my attention more than the color. It was the atmosphere, getting ripped off the surface of the planet and consumed by the black hole.
“It’s already begun,” AYR said. “We have little time. We need to get you down there, learn what you need, and then get out.”
I frowned. “What about the people living there?”
AYR paused. “Collateral damage. No time to save them.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. “Ace, one life is just as important as a trillion. If we cannot risk everything to save one, then the universe doesn’t deserve to exist anyway.”
His voice became stern. “We can’t, not when we have all of galactic civilization at stake! Besides, my ship is too small to harbour an entire race.”
“There’s no need to bring them aboard,” I said. “We’re going to save the whole planet.”
AYR raised an eyebrow. It was my turn to smile. “I’m a wizard, Ace. And we’re in space. I wonder what else is possible?”
“What do you suggest?”
“I was hoping you could tell me,” I replied. “I’m kind of new to this timeline.”
I could see the man’s brow furrowing in thought, but his face was sceptical.
“How does the ship sail anyway?” I asked. “Is there wind in space?”
AYR blinked at my question and then shook his head. “The ship has engines that push it forward. They’re anti-gravitational particle accelerators.”
I must have pulled the most dumbfounded face, not having the slightest clue how to decipher his babble of words.
“Really powerful stuff,” he simplified. “Makes the ship go fast.”
“Can it tug a planet? Like a horse pulls a cart?”
I have never heard anyone laugh as heartily as AYR did that time. He almost seemed to forget about his burdens.
“What?” I asked, a bit insulted. “How else do you move planets around, then?”
“We... don’t...” he said, wiping a tear from his one human eye.
“I bet I could move one.”
“Say that again?”
“How hard can it be?” I said. “I can give your ship a boost. Hopefully it’s as sturdy as you are smug, Ace.”
AYR stopped laughing and looked at me with incredulity. “You’re serious?”
I smiled. “My magic is ‘really powerful stuff’. I can cause the engines to burn the cleanest fuel there is in the universe - pure magic. You might call it consciousness.”
I saw him hesitate at first, but then he looked me in the eyes and agreed. I saw that same trust in him that I myself felt when he appeared by my campfire.
“Alright,” he said. We went to the engine room. “I’ll activate the tractor beam and start pulling the planet. When the beam is set, I’ll give you the signal to use your magic on the ship’s engines. Be careful. I don’t know how much the ship can take.”
I placed a palm on a metal support beam and ran across the smooth surface. “Don’t worry,” I said, feeling the ship’s heartbeat. “She can take it.”
He pointed me towards two enormous metal cylinders, that hummed with inner energy. As I approached one, I could feel a tingling sensation in my chest.
“Oh, and don’t blow us up, wizard,” AYR said and ran to the bridge.
“No worries,” I said, more to myself, and placed my hands on both cylinders. I closed my eyes and felt the heartbeat within. It was like touching the egg shell of a baby dragon. The insides were alive and kicking!
“Alright Harken,” I heard AYR’s voice coming from somewhere within the wall. What strange magic, this technology, I thought.
“The beam is set! Are you ready?”
I took a deep breath. As I exhaled, my consciousness sank into the metal and merged with the engine. I am you and you are me, I spoke to it. The engine responded with soft explosions, it’s voice excited.
Are you my fuel? It asked.
You’re gonna feel a slight pinch, I said and let my magic flow through me.
The whole ship shook and the engine burst with life, sputtering at first, and ejecting a torrent of energy.
“It’s unreal!” AYR’s voice sounded from the wall. “Energy just spiked 400%! What did you do?”
Just gave it a little pinch.
“Keep doing it, we’re gonna need more to move a whole planet!”
Alright engine, let’s see if there’s a power-limit in this timeline. I poured everything I had into it, using my soul’s fire to burn as fuel. The shock of acceleration made the entire ship quiver and it’s haul moan.
HereWeGoHereWeGo, the engine sang.
I felt like one with the ship. My arms became metal wings, my legs ancillary thrusters, my heart the engine. I became the ship. The ability to travel between the stars at my fingertips.
I thrusted forward eagerly and felt an enormous weight yank on me. The planet. I turned around and noticed a beam of bright blue light acting like a rope, trailing from my back and wrapping the planet. The tractor beam. I could feel the power of the black hole pulling on the planet, so I pulled back. Like a tug of war between myself and the cosmic powers of gravity, I gave my all.
And the ship moved. I moved. The planet was starting to budge.
“Yes!” I heard AYR’s voice. “It’s working!”
I kept pulling. I felt my body, the ship’s haul, starting to crack, the strain too much for the metal plating. But then, just as I thought everything would fall apart, the pressure eased.
“We did it!” AYR said. “The planet is out of the event horizon!”
I opened my eyes and my consciousness returned to my body. Every muscle ached like, well, like I was pulling a planet!
AYR raced to the engine room, his face hopeful. “The planet is saved! Reaching surface level now.”
I nodded. “Sure, Ace. Just give me five minutes to catch my breath.”
We descended to the planet’s surface where we met with the indigineus stellar druids. We expected to see them in terror of their near destruction, but they explained to us that they knew we would save them. They saw the future and knew they had nothing to worry about.
The solution they proposed for the time-spell was simple, yet its application would require years of experimentation. I decided it was best to stay with them and learn as much as I could. Ace didn’t have the luxury of time, as his form was fading again, being pulled into the time rift.
“Find the Negamass crystals,” he said. “They power my time machine. Use them to summon me to your time. Learn your time spell and watch the sky. I’m trapped among the stars where the archer fires his bow. Look for the faint blue flicker.”
We clasped each other’s forearms, my tattooed, his bionic. “Take care, Harken. We will meet again.”
“Take care, Ace,” I said as he disappeared in a blinding flash.
I spent years learning the time-spell under the guidance of the druids. I experimented and worked tirelessly until finally I mastered the spell. Though I did blow up my hut a couple of times in the process.
Once proficient enough, I traveled back to my homeworld. I needed to summon Ace’s past to my timeline first, so I could help him fix his time-machine, so he could then, in turn, come help me in his future, so I could learn my time-spell. My mind finally began to understand the complexity at work here. I realized I only knew half the story, and had to write the other half.
I summoned Ace to my timeline and took him with me on a tour of my world. It turned out that the Negamass crystal from Umtuk’s lair was what Ace needed for his time-machine. Perhaps magic and technology wasn’t that different after all. After his machine was repaired, I sent him back to his timeline, where he would come to my past self and help me. When all was done, I returned to my fire.
Each night I observed the stars, watching them die one by one, waiting for AYR’s signal. Years passed. And then, finally, I saw a flicker. My mind was weary from observation, but I knew it when I saw it. A blue flicker at the end of Orion’s bow. The last remaining constellation in the sky. I’m coming, Ace.
I performed my time spell and found myself back on Ace’s ship. This time, it was my turn to startle him from the shadows.
“You know, you could have made it easier to find you,” I told him.
He shot straight up, overwhelmed with joy by my presence But then, darkness fell on his face. “It’s coming”, he growled in terror. “It knows I’ve escaped, and is now heading this way. Zeltrex is coming.”
Outside the ship, stars continued fading. Void help us...
“I hope you’re ready for battle,” he said. “Because this will determine the future of mankind, and all of galactic civilization yet to form.”
I watched him as he raced towards his gadgets, as if struck by inspiration.
“The reason Zeltrex didn’t kill me,” he said with a smug smile, “why it let me live while it killed billions, was because it knew that I would win, when the two of us would face. And killing me would not save it’s life, as history cannot be changed, and time always finds a way to organize itself. So it trapped me in the rift to delete me from existence. And now that I know why I’m alive, we have all that we need to defeat it.”
“But how do we stop an omnipotent being?” I asked. “How do we kill an unkillable soldier?”
“I’m going to face Zeltrex head on in its present. I need you to travel back its past and face it there.”
I frowned. "What good would that do? You said history was unchangeable by small actions, that it would always correct itself and time couldn't be rewritten."
"We're not going to rewrite history,” Ace smiled. “We only need to write our future. And it all begins from here on. I have an idea…”