The chaos was spectacular and alive with incredulous energy; people were running every which way, everyone telling the same story. Their faces were animated with disbelief and amazement; the stream of people running to see was unbelievably long. Several paramedics were the first to arrive; it stumped them to find the bullet wound was but a scar, right over the sarsh’s heart. He was fevered and unresponsive; no one could understand what had happened. Artemis was mobbed with questions. Rune’s siblings refused to leave his side. Lyris sobbed to see her adopted son’s face, filled with life again.
Hope filled the air, it was abuzz with voices. The sun slunk out from behind the clouds, giving the workers below harmony and a light step as two races, once at war, joined hands to undo the mistake that happened so long ago.
Amarillius sat beside her brother in the medical ward in Zenith; she gazed in wonder at his still face. Tycho padded into the room after getting a snack; he smiled his huge smile as he saw Rune, and struggled up the high bed to curl up beside his brother, tears sparkling in his eyes. Sharn sat quietly in the room's corner, his sketchbook in his lap, his pencil hard at work. Then, his scratching pencil paused, and he lifted his head. “Amarillius?” He whispered.
“.. He’s going to be okay, right?”
She smiled faintly, dazed gaze frozen on Rune’s face. “Yeah.” She murmured. “He is.”
Sharn let a rare smile cross his face. “Good.”
Artemis entered Rune’s room in the medical ward. The evening came suddenly; the rebel spent most of the day in a daze, wandering around with wonder in his eyes. Inside the room, Rune’s siblings sat quietly. The youngest was sleeping beside Rune; the oldest and middle sat on either side of the bed, books in their laps. They glanced up when he entered, offering small smiles. “How is he doing?” Artemis asked, though he could clearly see.
“Still sleeping.” The Eldest answered quietly.
Artemis heaved a sigh and left. He wasn’t sure what do to with himself; the grief of losing so many of his comrades left him hollow, but this new restoration of hope blended with that darkness, growing brighter like the dawn. These mixing emotions stole his attention resulting in him wandered aimlessly, slowly processing everything.
Many days came and went, and Rune still slept, fever burning in his body. Rune’s siblings refused to leave, no matter who passed through the room. Outside the ship, things progressed quickly; there were so many people working, it made for quick building. The sarsh and rebels built homes, schools, hospitals, all high in the massive trees. The sarsh would build more over the years, but with much of the work done, the rebels bid the sarsh farewell, and on a note of peace and joy, they left. Only Artemis remained behind, he wanted to talk to Rune when he awoke. The sarsh emptied their ships of supplies and furniture, and soon, a large quantity of the homes were filled. Everyone worked extra hard to build Rune and his family a beautiful house.
A bright darkness filled the empty headspace; a peaceful blanket of void. Then there were voices, soft and murmuring through the space. Rune forced his eyes to open, but they were heavy and crusted with sleep. His head pounded terribly; he turned it slowly, realizing his arm was trapped beneath his little brother, who was fast asleep, head on Rune’s chest. His other siblings lay side by side on the tiny guest bed in the room’s corner, sleeping soundly. Out the window, Rune could see enormous trees silhouetted against the glow of sunrise as the day began. He blinked. He felt his breath against his top lip; his chest rising and falling. His heart thumped in his chest, pumping blood through his veins. I’m alive. I’m alive. A smile found his lips. “I’m alive.” He whispered roughly. Tears of pure joy filled his eyes with the brightest light; they coursed freely down his cheeks. Thank you, Father, for a second chance.
Amarillius woke slowly, glancing over at her brother. Her breath caught in her throat. He sat erect; his deep purple eyes found hers; his eyes brimmed with a joy which erased Amarillius’s fear and doubt. She ran to him, throwing her arms around his neck. He laughed softly, and Amarillius smiled. “It’s very rare that I hear you laugh,” She realized.
“I’m sorry,” Said Rune.
“You haven’t had much reason to laugh, it’s not your fault.”
“No, I’m sorry because I have been a stranger to you most of your life. When our parents left, they took a part of me with them. I didn’t feel like I could care for you all, so I avoided you, and I’m sorry.”
Amarillius’s eyes searched Rune’s face and found guilt, buried pain, and hope. The young sarsh smiled. “It’s ok. Your absence was hard for us, but it taught us to care for ourselves. I mean, we had Lyris, but she’s not our mother. She’s so different from how momma was...” She trailed off, sighing. “How long has it been?”
Rune shook his head. “That doesn’t matter. They left us, and we went on without them. That’s the end of it. Now, I need something to eat.”
Amarillius grinned. “I bet you do. You’ve been asleep for a week.”
Rune’s sister blinked. “Well,” She seemed unsure of how to word it. “You were.. dead, I guess, for three days. And then you had a fever and were sleeping for five days.”
Now Rune blinked, he slumped against his pillow, adjusting his grip on Tycho.
“Rune,” Whispered Amarillius.
He glanced up.
“You were dead. I saw you. Not breathing, heart stopped. What happened?”
Rune opened his mouth. “I...” He frowned. “There was a man,” He mumbled, deep creases as he struggled to remember. “It was like a dream. But he said I had a choice.”
Amarillius’s forehead puckered, regarding her brother with a suspicious side-eye. “Are you okay? Were you dreaming while you were asleep?”
Rune’s head snapped to her worried face. “No. It wasn’t a dream. There was a man on the water. I asked him who he was and he said ‘you know I am.’”
Amarillius shook her head, eyes filled with fear, backing away. “I’m going to get the doctor.”
“No, Amarillius! I’m not lying!-” His sister cut him off as she closed the door behind her.
Tycho woke up at the noisy argument and he beamed widely to see his brother’s face. “I love you.” The little sarsh whispered happily. Rune smiled.
“I love you too.”
Tycho frowned, his dark cheeks dimpling. “Why did you leave?” He asked with an adorable lisp.
Rune choked on his tears. “I’m sorry, Tycho. I won’t do it again, okay?”
Tycho’s frown turned upside down. “Okay.”
The doctor appeared after a moment or two, Amarillius absent this time. It was the same woman from however long ago, and she smiled to see Rune. “Good to see you again,” She said. “How are you?”
“I have a headache. And I’m starving.”
The woman rolled her eyes, smiling. Rune cocked his head. “Last time I met you, I didn’t realize you had a sense of humor.”
“I wasn’t in the best of moods. So, your sister said you mentioned a dream you had? Can you tell me about it?”
“It wasn’t a dream.” Rune said, staring the doctor in the eyes.
“Well, can I hear about it?”
The doctor’s mouth turned down at the corners. “Why not?”
“I... just don’t think it’s time to share it. Not yet.”
“... Okay. Do you need anything?”
The doctor left, casting a glance over her shoulder before she closed the door.
Amarillius returned, handed Rune his bowl of steaming soup; then she quickly retreated to the corner of the room; watching her brother warily. He ignored her gaze and devoured the soup in a few minutes. Tycho hopped down and left with Sharn at his side.
“I’m going outside,” Amarillius mumbled, getting to her feet.
“Wait!” Rune called. “Are we on Tamaska?”
“Yes. All sarsh have agreed to come here.”
A look of immense relief came over Rune’s face, and he smiled. “I love you, Amarillius.”
The sarsh girl swallowed, nodded, and left.
Rune sighed, slumping back on the pillow. Silence pressed on him. He closed his eyes; and behind them were the dark brown, vibrant eyes of the mysterious man. You know that I am. What is that supposed to mean? Rune wondered. The door interrupted his thoughts, swinging open to admit Artemis, whose face was bright with joy. After a moment of excited silence, Artemis spoke. “Are you okay, Rune?” He asked in a choked voice.
Rune smiled softly. “I’m okay, Artemis.” He swung his legs over the side of the bed and staggered upright. Artemis rushed over to his friend and embraced him in a mighty hug; the rebel’s shoulders shook, and he cried like a newborn infant. When he finally stepped away, Rune sat down, his legs shaky. He was smiling softly. “Artemis,” He whispered. “I’m really okay.”
Artemis swiped his arm across his face, flushing, embarrassed. “How?” He inquired. “How are you okay?”
The sarsh sighed. “I... It’s difficult to explain.”
Artemis sniffed, pulling a chair close the sarsh’s bed. “Can you try?”
“... It was a heavenly being, a man, who brought me back to life.-”
Artemis interrupted him. “You mean, like, an angel?”
“What do angels look like?”
“I’ve heard they wear white and have massive wings, and they glow.”
“That sounds nothing like the man I encountered. He wore plain clothes and definitely had no wings. But he seemed to glow. From the inside.”
“Did he say anything to you?”
“He told me I had a choice; to do His father’s work in the world, or go with him to his kingdom and live in eternal peace.”
“... And you stayed?”
“Of course. I cannot leave my siblings, and I made a promise to a friend.” Suddenly Rune froze. “Did anyone in a massive robot come looking for me?”
“Actually, yes. Three people; a young boy and girl and a short man. They said they knew you through some peace movement.”
“Are they still here?”
“No, they left a day ago. I’m sorry.”
Rune cursed. “They still think I’m dead,” He whispered. “I have no way to tell them.”
“I might, where do they live?”
“Too far to reach with any normal device.”
“Oh... I’m sorry to hear that.”
Rune lifted his head. “How did everyone end up here on Tamaska?”
“After you..” Artemis hesitated. “passed away; it was like a wake-up call for your people and they restrained Gallas-”
Rune stopped the sarsh. “What happened to Gallas?”
“He’s in this ship’s brig.”
Rune nodded. “Alright. You were saying?”
“They restrained Gallas and mingled, helping all the wounded together. They worked together to carry the dead.” Artemis’s voice broke and he bowed his head. “There are so many gone, Rune.” A tear slipped down the older man’s face. “Colden, Wolfe, Serene and all her brave soldiers.. Your father.”
Rune’s eyes went wide and his head whipped up. “Orlan?” He whispered.
Artemis nodded. “I’m sorry, Rune.”
A mournful silence overcame the young soldier; it was as sudden as shattering glass when he spoke again. “Artemis.”
“I’d like to go outside.”
“There are many people eager to see you. They have been waiting through the night to see you. Are you up for it? Also, I’d like to talk to you about something else.”
“I don’t have the strength to tell them the entire story now. I’ll just tell them the gist of it. That’s alright, we can do it out there.” Rune stood, taking slow, unsteady steps. Artemis gripped the sarsh’s forearm, though his smaller stature did little to support the cybersoldier’s weight. Together, they staggered out the door and slowly made their way through Zenith. Upon exiting Zenith, the sunlight stung Rune’s eyes as he stepped onto the dirt of his new home. The sarsh could feel the sun-warmed soil beneath his feet, damp with recent rain; a chilly spring breeze swirled around Rune, tousling his hair and tickling his twitching ears. The sarsh felt a presence, surrounding him and smiling proudly at him; peace whisked away the ache of heartbreak and war which festered inside Rune’s mind. He smiled, closing his eyes and feeling the warm sun on his body.
Excited voices reached Rune’s ears as the sarsh spotted the unmistakable figure among the unruly grass, his frame silhouetted against the sunrise. Rune’s siblings, apparently having forgotten their wariness of him, burst out of the grass and knocked their big brother backward with the force of their hugs. Rune lifted Tycho, twirling him through the air. The little sarsh’s face lit up with glee, laughing in his big brother’s arms. More sarsh drew near, calling out happy greetings. Soon, there was a crowd of several dozen sarsh; couples and their children, elderly and young. Never had Rune seen his people with such vibrant joy filling their faces, lighting up their eyes and transforming them into something too beautiful to describe.
One man stepped forward, waving. “Lieutenant!” He called.
Rune stopped him. “My name is Rune.”
“Rune, then. Can you tell us how you came back from the dead?”
“I’m not sure you believe me if I tell you,” Rune stated calmly.
“Tell us anyway, we’re eager to hear it.”
Rune filled his lungs and let it out slowly. “Have you heard of God?”
Another man spoke up. “I worked in the earth patrol, and I heard about God. I believe it, too.”
“Good. Then at least one person will understand this. It was God who resurrected me. He gave me a choice to come back to my people or leave with him to go to his kingdom. I came back; because I have a family I cannot leave behind, and I made a promise to a friend. And because I have my people to protect.”
Silence laid heavy on Rune, but slowly, voices rose from the crowd. Only murmurings at first, then rising in volume and number quickly. Rune’s eyes went wide as the crowd moved toward him. Artemis stepped forward and attempted to tell them to quiet down; the din drowned out his voice. The cybersoldier’s eyelids fell halfway into an extremely annoyed expression; he took a deep breath. “QUIET!!” He roared. The cutoff of noise was almost as deafening as the crowd. They all looked sheepish and surprised. “I do not have the strength to deal with this right now. You will hear more eventually. May I see the homes you all have built?”
The man who worked in the earth patrol nodded, a knowing grin spread across his face. The children, listening intently until now, giggled with excitement. Rune frowned at them, making them squeal and run away, covering their mouths to keep some unknown secret from spilling out of them. The cybersoldier’s siblings stuck to their big brother like glue, making walking very difficult.
The crowd dispersed some, half a dozen followed as the leading sarsh, who introduced himself as Eldon, led Rune down a path in through the woods; the dirt was well-trampled from the constant action which depressed the soil into a hard road. The houses, high in the trees, were all small and crude, but to all the sarsh, it beat living in a metal can in space.
Eldon grinned as they near the end of the line of houses. He pointed to one home, looming fifty or more feet in the air. It was the biggest and the most carefully built. “That one there,” Eldon said with pride. “is yours.”
Rune frowned, glancing around at the beaming faces around him. “Why?”
“Why?!” Eldon exclaimed. “Because you changed the course of our history! Because you showed us the error of our ways and gave us a new home! Because you are rapidly becoming a legend and are an object of awe in all of our eyes!” Eldon paused, catching his breath. His eyes sparkled with passion. “That is why.”
Rune blinked, unsure of how to react. “I do not deserve more than anyone. I am but a sarsh, maybe not a completely normal one, but a sarsh nonetheless.”
Eldon grinned, shrugging indifferently. He respected Rune, but also feared him, and couldn’t see any reason to argue with the brawny soldier. “Would you like to see inside?”
Rune nodded. He, his siblings, Artemis, and Eldon all climbed the ladder up to the home. Rune remembered the thousands of times he did the same thing back when his life was normal, and it brought tears to his eyes, but he blinked them back. Though his life was simpler then, he wouldn’t go back if he could. I’ve had so many experiences, mostly bad ones, but without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am now. And because I learned from those unpleasant experiences, I’m back with my family and peace is finally here. Rune grinned wryly. “For a little while.” He mumbled. Tycho glanced down at his big brother. “What did you say?” He asked, lisping adorably. Rune smiled, a genuine smile this time.