Xorsis : Invasion\Lost
“Operation initiated: searching for element X323.”
“Operation terminated: search successful.”
A few moments of silence, shared by the ten of them. Holding their breaths, they waited. A few glances at each other and then at the device. Five, four, three, two… it was time.“Operation terminated: all elements found. Alpha directory in full health. World Stats. Compatibility: 100. Resources: 100. Checked and verified. Usage potential: 100.Ready for use.”
Arc 1: The Death of Hope
Chapter 1: A Free World
“And then, the war began. The third war. Nevidilandi and Crilania. For the second time,” Nia read, her eyes fixed on the lines on the yellowish paper of the book, “The war was short-lived, unlike the second major war, which went on for six years. That’s because, in the third war, there were merely any soldiers left for both of the nations-”
Knock. Knock. An interruption. Nia lifted her face from the book and walked to the window. Looking down at the street from the first floor, she smiled. He was there already.
In that instant, her grandmother called her. “Nia, check the door.”
“Well, we both know who it is,” Nia said, as she quickly adjusted her straight ash blonde hair. Okay, this looks fine, and yes, my eyes don’t look sleepy today, she thought, taking a look at her dark brown eyes. Then she walked downstairs, smiling, “He’s getting so excited, it's almost as if he is inventing all that stuff.”
Nia’s grandmother was crouching on the floor, pouring food for Leo. The large golden coloured dog enthusiastically wagged his tail and started eating.
“Well, you can’t blame him, it’s what he really loves. Just the same way you love reading history, love sports. Though, I’m not sure whether the later one was just an excuse to run away from your classes.” Nia’s grandmother replied with a short laughter.
This was what Nia loved to see. To see that genuine smile, spread from the mouth to eyes. Her skin was wrinkled, her eyes were smaller than how they appeared when Nia was little. And when she smiled, they looked even smaller. Yet, she loved seeing them like that. Her toothless aged smile, so heartwarming.
“Well, I’ll head off now,” Nia said, walking towards the door. “He won’t let me stay sane if I waste one more minute,” she said, grinning.
“Be safe,” her grandmother replied with a smile, still sitting where she was. “Have a good time, you two.”
Her legs were getting worse everyday. It was kind of unsettling. From her childhood, she was there, the energetic woman, alone working on everything, from looking after the child Nia to doing chores. Then when Nia brought Leo home, she had to look after him. She grew angry back then, it was just Nia adding extra chores to her already never-ending list. But over time, it felt so good to see how Leo had become such a company for her old grandmother, like he had become a company for her and Aez. On the days she wasn’t there, at least her grandmother didn’t feel so alone, because Leo was there.
Seeing her grandmother being unsteady as she stood up, or taking moments to talk sometimes, or forgetting stuff casually - it was weird, but it was something she’d have to get used to. After all, in this house, they were the only three remaining. What a beautiful house they owned, yet, how hollow it felt. It had been so many years, yet it was a feeling that never went away.
The pain of their absence was always there. But.
Brushing off those lingering feelings, Nia opened the door and walked out. The sunlight hit her face, and she squinted at the sun. What a bright sunny day. I shouldn’t have worn this long-sleeved t-shirt, it’s gonna get really hot later today-
“Oi, Nia, quick, we’ll be late! Well, we are probably late. When I was out, it was ten already. And I’ve been waiting forever.”
“I swear it wasn’t even two minutes, you impatient geek.”
Aez was waiting just outside the house. That same old blue t-shirt? Again? And his hair - looks like he couldn’t figure out how to brush the messy thing it was. Well, it’s not like he ever knew that, did he? She sighed. This boy really doesn’t know anything except science, does he? Though truth to be told - that messy hair does suit him. Then she corrected herself. No, it isn’t like he doesn’t know anything except science, it’s just that he doesn’t care how he looks. After all, he is such a good cook. Nia thought dreamily. The last meal he had brought her in school. It was delicious. Aez started to speak, breaking her string of thoughts.
“Two minutes! Do you even know what we can miss if we are even one minute late? The importance of being very proper in measurement, you did-”
“Okay, okay, let’s go,” Nia said, laughing, “We won’t reach there if you start explaining stuff like that now. I don’t even have the basics down.”
“Yeah. It’s sad. Someone did skip too many of the science classes,” he eyed her. “Let’s go.”
The two started sprinting. The road was packed with office-goers, students, and small vehicles. Nia missed being a student. A month ago, the final exams were over, and it was only one week till the results were out. Aez would be passing with flying colours. He was the best student after all, praised by everyone always, how talented he was, what an intelligent guy. He used to be so popular. Girls looked at him a lot, and some even tried to approach him, as Nia had heard, but no one got his attention because he was only dedicated to his studies! Not that she was complaining about that.
What a shame, these people would never get that Aez wasn’t only an intelligent guy who stuck his face in his book always. No. Aez was pretty much against studying from books. As he liked to call it, he preferred ‘practical knowledge over books’. And Aez loved the world and how everything worked. Physics, chemistry - there were plenty of things to study in school already, but he wanted to know more and more about everything. “I want to know everything about this world,” he told her so frequently, “Everything.”
“Did you check today’s newspaper?” Aez asked, his eyes glimmering.
“Nope,” Nia replied, “no time.”
“Ah, reading another history book again,” he said, sighing.
“What’s with that expression?” Nia said, scowling, “Yes, we’ve been reading the same history for years now, but I still can’t believe that there was so much fight over a mythical scroll. I’m amazed. Wow. Like what even.”
“Human stupidity, as always taking the upper hand everywhere,” he replied, laughing, “Well, our country was lucky. Dottonex didn’t take part in any of the wars. We were lucky, truly.”
Nia remained quiet. Lucky? That could be said about others. But for them? There was no such thing. Those words didn’t suit them. No, Dottonex, their country, might not have taken part in the war, but that didn’t mean there was no loss.
Aez lost his parents when he was four, not due to war, but due to the country where that scroll was said to exist. And her own parents, well, they died just before the third war started. Thirteen years had passed since the war ended, but still, there were so many days that she sat silently, looking at the only blurry photograph she had of them, trying to remember more about that one year in her childhood. When she was four. When they were still around. The walls in their house still had the faded drawings that she and her father, and Aez drew together. But the people, they weren’t here anymore.
She often thought of them. The thing was, she couldn’t remember anything too vividly about them. How did they talk? How did her father make jokes when they sat down at dinner? What was the rain like on those days? Though a lot of memories were forgotten, she hoped to cherish whatever she had now - whatever memory she had of them.
Some said that both of her, and Aez’s parents died doing great jobs for their country. That, the country was helped in many ways, it was memorable. Brave. Amazing even. But what good was it? In their lives, their parents were nothing but names, and a few fragments of memories. The names were only to fill the gaps in the forms, except, only to write a deceased after that.
Noticing her quietness, Aez sighed, and said in a low voice, “I’m sorry. Let’s not talk about that today.”
“Mm-hm,” Nia nodded.
“But still, you should have looked at the newspaper. Tokreian inventions… their suggested society - Electricity in every home, ballpoint pens, wristwatches, colour photography - so many inventions…” Aez kept naming random things - though they weren’t really entering Nia’s head, “So many things. The more we learn, the more things to know.” His black eyes were shining, “They have so many things to offer. And I want to know... everything about it.”
Nia smiled. They were already eighteen; five years had passed when they met in school again, and there was a single thing that didn’t change about him - his childlike curiosity. Nia met many people, in school, in the neighbourhood. But there was no one who had such a face, full of dreams and hopes. It was amazing.
Sometimes, Nia thought of the old days. When they were still in school. When his brother had to leave him for his job in the military. Back then - this shine wasn’t present. Back then, instead of Aez, there was a hollow shell in his place - the shell which merely existed. But slowly, Nia often wondered how, but she didn’t know - Aez found his place. What he really loved. And his love was science. It wasn’t the choice of everyone in the school - such an experimental zone required some fundings, and not a lot of them could afford to send the children to costly colleges after school. However, Aez’s elder brother, Aaron told him that he’d help him to reach the place where he wanted. Like Aez, Aaron was such a kind hearted person too.
“And we are here!”
There were colourful banners hung up high. They read, “The scientific demonstrations, guided by Tokreians.”
A field had been barricaded, and inside the barricade, many chairs were put. Nia was shocked to see that almost all of them had people sitting in. What a large crowd. They all were chatting excitedly among them. And even outside the barricade, people were standing, some trying to talk the guards into letting them in. It didn’t matter whether they were standing inside. They just wanted a closer look at all those marvelous things the Tokreians would show them today. Almost like magic. But real.
The guards were tired of saying the same lines over and over again. “Not today, sorry, all seats are full. No, you can’t go in and stand there, it’ll be uncomfortable for others. Go home today, there are going to be demonstrations for all the days in the next week too. Please.”
But no one was really listening. There would be demonstrations everyday, but they’d be new ones! Today’s was exclusive today only; and later the newspaper articles wouldn’t suffice, they wouldn’t have that magic that was present here.
“Lucky us, we don’t have to worry about that,” Aez said, looking at the line of people outside, “My brother has saved us some seats. And I’m sure they are gonna be at the front!” He said excitedly.
They approached the guards, and looking at their identity cards, they let them in. Inside the barricade, there was Aaron, Aez’s brother, in the second row, waiting for them.
“About time!”, he said, waving, and then motioning them towards the two empty seats beside him.
Nia sat down next to Aaron,
“It’s her fault,” Aez complained, sitting down beside her.
“Well, a girl's got to take her time, you’ve gotta wait if you want her to come,” Nia said with an annoyed voice, and then pursed her lips.
Aaron laughed at them. “Well, it’s okay, you missed some speeches, but the actual demonstrations are going to start a few minutes later. So, it’s all right.”
“Yeah, it’s all right,” Aez said, looking grimly at his brother, “As long as you fill me in with everything they said.”
“Newspapers will do that for you, kiddo,” Aaron replied, “as if I understand these things. I’m a soldier, and I was never that brainy like you at your age. How about you make us understand whatever they are gonna show us now, and I’ll treat you both with chocolate later?”
“I’m not a kid, and I don’t like chocolates,” Aez replied, looking grumpy.
“But I do,” Nia said, smiling, “Please give his share to me too, I can happily take both of them!”
Some voices came from the front, asking the crowd to stay silent. And so they all shut their mouths and put their attention to the demonstration now.
These demonstrations started a few days ago. Recently, Tokreians, or, rather say, scientists of Tokrei started visiting Dottonex. It was weird, how on the other side of the world, there was this huge nation they hadn’t known about yet. Of course, it had been thirteen years since the last war ended, and though Dottonex hadn’t taken part in any of them, they couldn’t sail across the sea to explore freely. The north and east was blocked with mountains and forest, and the southern part was under the major neighbouring country, Cridelford. Cridelford suffered great injuries in the three wars that took place a few years ago, and had high security in every part of their nation. No one could pass through, unless they had special permits given to them by the government. And though Dottonex asked them repeatedly, they didn’t let Dottonex travel through the seas yet. It was annoying, but Dottonex didn’t want to spark any more trouble with them; and so that’s how it was. But at least, Tokreians somehow convinced Cridelford. She didn’t know how, but it was interesting. And they were lucky here, weren’t they? They were gaining access to so many inventions from them, that’d help them advance in science. Dottonex was lucky. It was strange how Tokreians only wanted to visit them, and didn’t pay much attention Cridelford, but - Nia thought maybe it was best not overthink about those things. There could be political matters that she didn’t know, and politics wasn’t worth being worked up upon.
Dottonex was lucky to be naturally a place with good resources, otherwise, it could have disappeared with time too. Like the nation east of them - Nevidilandi. Once so powerful, but now gone. One could only trace the place in a map where such a prosperous nation used to exist. But as a keen history student, Nia found it strange that such a huge nation like Nevidilandi disappeared, yet there was nothing about why it was no longer there. What happened to it? No one knew. And people these days were so excited about science that they considered researching more about the past was insignificant, and said that it was a waste of time.
The Tokreians were giving a final speech again. They were very tall, and wore black coats with white shirts inside. They looked very formal in them, but how did they manage to stay so composed? Nia was sweating so much in this sun already.
They put some weird looking things on the stage. Gears and stuff. They were talking about it. “Improved automobile,” Aez whispered next to her, his eyes set on the stage, unmoving. Nia didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded interesting.
As they explained how things worked, Aez was nodding his head vigorously. Aaron next to her chuckled, “I’m surprised he actually gets everything. Unlike us.”
Nia laughed quietly too. Aez gave them a look of annoyance, and whispered, “Stop talking, I’m trying to listen!” and stared at the stage again.
The demonstration took place for around two hours. They showed some very interesting things; Aez kept whispering their names on the way back, and it looked like he was thinking hard about how to expand those inventions (“Automobiles! They are so cool! But wristwatches are so damn good - I can actually track how long I have to wait for Nia without having to find a clock at someone’s house” - at this, Nia rolled her eyes. “So many things we don’t know yet! Maybe if I could use this like this-” he spoke on and on).
Aaron was walking them home. It wasn’t necessary, but at least it made things easier for Nia. After any science convention, or fair (the ones the schools used to organise), Aez went full scientist mode and it was hard to interpret what he was thinking then. And, most of the time, he’d prefer to be left alone then. But today, Aaron was there and so Nia could talk with someone.
“It’s kind of weird though,” Nia said to Aaron, “So many years passed, and they visited us only now. We could do with their technology way early.”
“Yeah, it’s such a shame.” Aaron said, “But maybe it’s good they didn’t come. The way things were heated up here, who knows if the war couldn’t be more vicious if Cridelford or Nevidilandi knew of their technologies? It could start a world war. We were saved from that because of their delay.”
“But at least they are here now!” Aez replied, “The heroes of this world! The saviours! We all can move past that brutal age, we can start a new world now, a world where science dominates, not mad power! A wonderful place,where we can pursue our dreams. And above all, a world,” he turned to them, and Nia noticed the tears now, “A world where no one has to die for nothing.”
Nia was a bit shocked to see his tears. He had refrained from crying in front of anyone for years, though at some days, Nia would know Aez could start bursting into tears at any moment. He never did though.
Aaron smiled and ruffled his hair, “You are right. Just wait one week and you can directly go learn everything. And two years more, then you can work with them.” His voice was shaky too. “It’s a free world, this is. I want both of you to find things you can love and dedicate your hearts to it. I want both of you to have the choice I didn’t have.”
“Brother Aaron,” Nia spoke, in a very low voice, “do you regret being in the military?”
And instantly she was regretting it. What was the point of it, asking such things now? It had been years.
“At first I did. I didn’t want to leave Aez alone, you know the kind of kid he is. It was already hard for him growing up. We didn’t have anyone except them you see. And it’s a shame that they had to pass away that early too. But… I’m sorry Aez, if I’m not a good older brother, but I like being here.”
Aez was listening to him, attentively.
“Yeah. Nia brought it up, so I have to say it,” Aaron said to him, smiling, “You’re grown to be such a good boy. And that makes me say it - I don’t regret it. You’ve learnt your ways, you are a responsible young man. And I’m proud of you. Though, it’s true,” he was looking down at the road now, his eyes unfocused as if he was thinking something from the past, “After our parents died, just a few years after that, I had to leave you. It’s..”
Nia felt bad whenever she thought about that. A year after his parents died, her own parents died too. That time onwards, Aez had stopped visiting them. Then, after his elder brother left for the military - Aez was on his own then. He was only eleven. But it wasn’t like Aaron had much choice, as her grandmother had told her later on. The government gave fundings to both of their families, however it was only until at least one of the children would come of age. When Aez turned eleven, Aaron was eighteen, and unless Aaron got a job, they’d have to starve. He chose the military because he’d have an edge there, as his parents were in the military too. So, although it wasn’t a good experience for Aez, to have spent days in loneliness, it was unavoidable.
Two years had passed like that for him. But after that, she met him again. And from that time onwards, he wasn’t alone anymore.
“Aez isn’t alone,” Nia spoke, her voice, she realised, was shaky, “I’m here. Granny’s here. Leo too. We all are together and we can keep going on.” She smiled, “It’s just like you said, it’s a free country. We can hope. We can dream!”
When they returned home, it was afternoon. Nia bade goodbye to both Aez and Aaron and walked towards her own home. It was only a minute away. Entering it, she noticed her grandmother had fallen asleep in the drawing room. The newspaper was lying down at one side, the science article was open.. Nia smiled, she must have fallen asleep reading it. It was nice to see her too, being interested in learning what they were learning - her grandmother wasn’t someone who was stuck in the past - she wanted to progress too. It felt so good!
Leo noticed her, and ran to her.
“No, he isn’t here now, and I don’t have any special biscuits today,” Nia said, showing fake annoyance to the dog. “Oh, you are circling around me, now? You ignore me everyday and now you want head pats? Bad boy.”
Laughing, she bent down and patted the dog.
Her grandmother woke up with a start. “Home already?”
“It’s been three hours, granny. Have you eaten today?”
“I- I can’t remember. Maybe? Have you-”
“Oh no, don’t worry about me. Aaron treated both of us with a nice meal. I’m sorry I couldn’t taste the special curry you made today, though.”
Her grandmother smiled, “It’s okay, it’s okay. You can just eat it with dinner. So, how was it? What did you learn?”
“If you want to ask about the technologies, how about I go fetch Aez? You know the kind of student I am. Not like him,” she said, smiling.
“Well, at least it was a good time. Mind helping me out…”
After dinner, Nia took a book and dropped it on the bed. Maybe it was a bad habit, but Nia always took a book to the bed. It let her sleep, and she even dreamt good things.
Today she was reading a mythological book. It was about underwater fiends. Fiends were these creatures who had gills, but had faces and bodies like humans, except they were bluish in colour. Some said, at least this book said, the fiends had come up from the water and now mixed with humans, and no one could distinguish them now. However, they had exceptional hearing…
People could imagine so much. Nia didn’t know for sure whether these tales were true. But there was one truth in this world, that wounded her deeply, like a razor used abruptly.These could be myths - fiends, scrolls and what not - but the wars that raged on for many years? They were true. Aez was right in the sense that Dottonex was lucky to not have faced such a war. It gave her shivers to imagine - how many lives were lost in those wars? Could they even be counted?
And how did her parents feel when they were killed brutally? Did they, she wondered, think of her perhaps? A lightness in her chest, maybe they remembered her, and then it was replaced with a heavy feeling. Hopefully they didn’t. She didn’t want to be the reason for distraction.
She shivered again. It was cold today, wasn’t it?
She put her hand on the book. A companion for her lone heart. Somewhere in her heart, she was waiting. She didn’t know what it was, what she was waiting for. But it was there. A wait. But that wait would go on forever, wouldn’t it? No matter what - so many years had passed already, and her parents would never return...
Something woke her up just when the clock struck twelve, with a loud series of sounds.
But, was it really what had woken her up? She wondered. And then she heard.
Piercing the dark night’s veil of silence.
“What…?” She hurriedly put on the slippers and walked downstairs. Fear clutched her heart. Something wasn’t right. There had been many accidents on the roads, there had been midnight deaths in many homes. But no one screamed like that.
What is going on?
A scream made her blood run cold. That voice - that was way too familiar - Granny? No, no, it can’t be her - but why?
What woke up this city?