Chapter 3:

The Impossible Encoutner, Part II

Lysithea's Orphan


Soaring above the blue-tinted woods, our helicopters blended into the azure night. Abandoning the shining lights of civilisation behind us, we travelled into the embrace of the northern stars, towards a phantom whose face we did not know. We were the greeters, sent out to welcome our heroine who had returned from the jaws of the moon; or maybe we were the bouncers, sent out to apprehend those who had the audacity to steal our heroine’s name. Which way it was, we did not know; all we knew was that we prepared for both possibilities. In my hands were a box of medical supplies and engineering equipment; in Henrietta’s hands was the trigger of the on-board 7.62mm machine gun. Carrying both intentions and responsibilities, Major Miller flew the helicopter in utter silence; it was hard to think that he was the same person who yelled profanities at the walkie-talkie. The other soldiers, like Major Miller, refrained from talking.Bookmark here

And in the tense silence three helicopters flew, like a flock of birds, casting long shadows on the moonlit lands. The three helicopters were all different, however; like a grown bird leading her children, our camouflaged military helicopter led the way, and two white choppers, a flying ambulance and a TV helicopter, followed. I wondered what the crew in the other choppers were doing. Were they also silent, like we were? Or were they excited to fly such an unprecedented mission, one to rescue a ghost who disappeared 35 years ago? I couldn’t tell. I turned my eyes towards the equipment and let out a sigh.Bookmark here

The Atlantis, huh. To think I could have my hands on on such that legendary spacecraft…Bookmark here

“Mr. Este, I hear you are an expert on the Atlantis? The Director and the Chief Engineer both recommended you, since both of them have to man their posts.” Major Miller finally broke the silence, and continued, “I am a soldier, so I am not really into this type of thing. Could you explain it for me?”Bookmark here

Atlantis is a rocket-launched spaceship built for Project Zeus, a lunar landing mission. It was a colossal spacecraft, but when it gets back, only the return module would remain, and it would engage its parachutes once its inside the atmosphere. The landing spot would then be found by calculating its trajectory, but that will be rather inaccurate.”Bookmark here

“That’s why the search zone is so big…” Major Miller sighed.Bookmark here

“After parachuting, it should give out a radio signal and we can calculate its location by trigonometry. When it finally lands, the door will open itself once the cabin pressure equalises, but there is no telling whether it had been damaged, or the astronaut had the strength to get out. If it comes down to that, we can open it by shutting it down from the outside, draining the fuel, then using a plasma cutter to cut open the top.”Bookmark here

“You really know your stuff, Mr. Este.”Bookmark here

Atlantis was my dad’s brainchild. He told me many stories about it since my childhood. He often brought me to the space centre museum to check out the training ship --- the mock that is identical to the Atlantis. He would often make up scenarios where things go wrong and ask me how to solve it. This was one of the scenarios...”Bookmark here

“But that is only useful if the unknown object is indeed the Atlantis.” Henrietta quipped.Bookmark here

Smart as ever, Henrietta guessed what I wanted to say. Bookmark here

“As Henrietta said, I found this situation to be a little be suspicious. Project Zeus failed when Atlantis entered Lysithea’s atmosphere, at which point we lost contact with it. Further unmanned missions from the NSA as well as from the Empire and the Commune failed in a similar fashion. It was later discovered that there is an ion storm enveloping Lysithea and the spacecrafts would be destroyed, or at least heavily damaged, if they flew into it. The storm had been weakening, however; by now, it should be possible to survive, if we carefully navigate through ion streams.Bookmark here

“That said, it doesn’t mean that Atlantis would have survived the initial crash, let alone be in a condition to return to Titania after 35 years. Several of NSA’s newer spacecrafts had broken down despite constant maintenance. Even if they were incredibly smart, the crew would not be able to maintain the ship themselves with the limited resources. To begin with, why was the unknown object identified as the Atlantis and why was the pilot identified as Fey Terrania?”Bookmark here

“Right, I haven’t told you,” Major Miller answered, “According to Mission Control, the unknown object was detected at the lunar orbit and had a course towards Titania. They originally thought it was an asteroid, but just before it entered the atmosphere, that rusty old radio telescope picked up something. It reached out to us, seeking guidance using the decades-old code for Project Zeus. To begin with, there are only three countries that can send a spacecraft to the lunar orbit: the Empire, the Commune, and us. There are no reasons for the Empire to deceive us with an old, defunct callsign; and while the Communards are probably barbaric enough to do that for a laugh, they are not stupid enough to launch a spacecraft just to embarrass us. That means…”Bookmark here

“Whether this Atlantis is real or fake, it must come from somewhere else… possibly from Lysithea. And we have to intercept it either way. I get this now, but why Fey?”Bookmark here

“It was the Director’s opinion.”Bookmark here

“Grandpa’s?”Bookmark here

“They heard it. The voice from the radio. The Director was absolutely horrified, and the Chief Engineer had the exact same reaction.”Bookmark here

“Mr. Smith too? Why?”Bookmark here

“It was Fey Terrania’s voice --- the same voice from 35 years ago.”Bookmark here

---------------------Bookmark here

In a restored silence we broke through the forested area, and found ourselves above the Great Northern Plains. Blue bellflowers wildly bloomed on the equally blue grassland, their bioluminescent pollen swept away by the wind, forming shiny particles swirling in the air, like little fairies in ancient folklore. Sneaking in the torrent of winds was a breeze from the sea, signalling our arrival to the shoreline. White cliffs, dotted by overgrown adamantite crystals, extends to the edge of the horizon, where the full moon floated above, revealing several ships. The ships, emitting white beams that pierced the dark blue sky, surveyed the tranquil sea. They were the Navy’s ships; there was no doubt that they were called to help in case the Atlantis falls into the sea --- or in case things go south. Bookmark here

“Even the Navy’s newest destroyers are here. Are the higher ups planning to have a shootout with a ghost?”Bookmark here

“Maybe it’s an alien.”Bookmark here

“Never knew you believed in flying saucers.” Henrietta joked, “maybe it’s a cute alien girl like you always dreamt of?”Bookmark here

“I am not into lizards, thanks.”Bookmark here

“What if they are from the moon you love so mu---” Henrietta continued her joke, but a loud beep interrupted her. “Radar contact! Bearing 010, distance 1,000! Identification… the Atlantis!Bookmark here

“So close?! Its height?”Bookmark here

“10 metres. It appears to have landed… I can see it! It’s on top of the hill, in front of the moon!”Bookmark here

“Ready the searchlights and contact the HQ!”Bookmark here

As panicked calls propagated through the radio, I turned my gaze towards their topic: a lone, white cliff, its colourless admantite crystals turned to a fluorescent blue by the overbearing moonlight. Atop the solitary cliff sat a small, cone-shaped shadow, an unmistakeably artificial feature, a beacon of civilisation surrounded by complete wilderness. And a beacon it was: a faint red warning light blinked on top of the small, coffee-capsule shaped structure, announcing its presence to those who were sent for welcoming. 800, 500, 300... with each passing second the distance between us and the mysterious visitor grew shorter, and so did our nervous breaths. The radio started blasting the TV announcer’s voice. The searchlights were turned on, their bright beams piercing through the veil of the night. The helicopter door was open, and I could rappel down at any time. The preparations were done; we were ready to confront the distant visitor.Bookmark here

It was at that moment, I witnessed history. I witnessed the arrival of the spacesuit-clad captain and her ship, the ship that had taken her through the boundless vacuum. I witnessed the TV crew betraying their usual collected demeanour, their voice overflowing with excitement. I witnessed the medical staff waving towards the visitor with a joyfulness I have never seen. Both the spacesuit and the spaceship were decidedly Frescian, identical to the displays I were so familiar with in the Space Centre Museum; it seems after 35 years, Fey Terrania finally returned to her homeland, triumphant.Bookmark here

But then I witnessed the moment the visitor stunned the nation.Bookmark here

Tossing aside her helmet, the visitor revealed her hair of silver and eyes of crimson, a look utterly alien to the people of Titania. Possessing a small, fragile figure, she had the very opposite appearance of what Fey ever had: a strong, robust woman whose exploits on the battlefield earned her a series of accolades --- not to mention that she possessed the youth that Fey would not have after three and a half decades. She was not Fey Terrania. Realising that, Henrietta gripped the trigger and took aim; Major Miller, still confused from the unexpected turn of events, could neither give the permission to fire nor stop Henrietta’s aggression.Bookmark here

With the entire country watching, the visitor greeted the helicopters by gripping her imaginary dress, then in an elegant and sophisticated manner she spoke. From the transceiver on her suit, her voice would reach every corner of the world, and forever change the course of history:Bookmark here

“Hello, the New World. My name is Serena von Eisenstadt from the Kingdom of Celestia.” The visitor declared, her accent betraying her foreignness. “To fulfil my mother’s last wish, I crossed the soundless sea that laid between her homeland and mine, between this world,” she then pointed at the moon, “and our world.” An excitement gripped me, charmed me, and forced me to stare at those crimson eyes. As if to acknowledge this, she turned towards us, and her voice unwavering. Bookmark here

“I am here to return my mother to her final rest: to her friends, to her family, to Frescia --- to her home and native land.”Bookmark here

-----------------Bookmark here

Author’s note:Bookmark here

Sorry for the late chapter.Bookmark here

Next chapter, Henrietta and Alex are back to the present. Bookmark here

Tuflyel [2VL]
icon-reaction-1
Golden
icon-reaction-1
Bookmarked
You can resume reading from this paragraph.