Shattering Doom

Jarmo Dorak had survived the strange experiences and the escape from the strange organization injured. Marion had delivered him to an ASTROCOHORS hospital in good time. He was able to recover, but as soon as he felt better, he became restless. Marion had been called to another mission. And he was still searching for the Temple of the Wind Harp. He had a new lead he was dying to pursue.

Photo by Kal Visuals on Unsplash

Jarmo had been on the planet Neptun for three weeks now. His mission was to find a space ship that had crashed on the planet two years ago. The ship carried a slab with a map that lead to the sunken palace of Oogramosh, located somewhere in the depth of the oceans of Neptun. It was said that the palace contained treasures beyond anyone’s imagination – and a hint to the Temple of the Wind Harp, the slab with the map. Jarmo, being an adventurer at heart, hoped that the temple was finally at hand.

Neptun was a water planet with only small islands dotting its vast ocean. Jarmo had to use dive gear to breathe under water, which made his search for the sunken space ship even more difficult. He had been diving for days, covering a large area of the ocean floor, but he had yet to find any trace of the ship.

On the fourth day, as Jarmo was diving near a small island, he saw a figure swimming towards him. It was a woman, about his age, with long blonde hair and green eyes. She looked human, but something about her was different. As she approached, Jarmo noticed that her skin was slightly shimmering, almost like it was coated with a thin layer of water.

“Hello,” she said in a soft voice as she came closer. “My name is Tashana Oyan. Are you lost?”

Jarmo was surprised by her sudden appearance, but he was glad to see another person on this desolate planet. “No, I’m not lost,” he replied, trying to sound friendly. “I’m looking for a sunken space ship. Have you seen anything like that around here?”

Tashana nodded. “Yes, I have. I can help you find it, but you have to promise me something in return.”

Jarmo raised an eyebrow. “What do you want?”

“I want to come with you,” Tashana said with a smile. “I’ve been watching you. You are very goal oriented. Something drives you. You want to find something that you have been looking for for a long time. And believe me, I also know these longings. So, will you take me with you?”

Jarmo thought about it for a moment. He didn’t know much about Tashana (he knew nothing about her, to be exact), but he could use all the help he could get in finding the ship. “Okay,” he finally agreed. “You can come with me. But be warned, it’s going to be a dangerous journey.”

Tashana smiled. “I can handle danger. I’m an amphibionid, which means I can breathe under water. Can you?”

Jarmo shook his head. “No, I have to use dive gear. But let’s not waste any more time. Show me where you saw the ship.”

Tashana led the way, swimming effortlessly through the water. Jarmo followed closely behind, feeling a little envious of her ability to move so gracefully. They swam for hours, until they finally came across a small group of looters who were trying to pry open the door of the sunken space ship.

Jarmo and Tashana quickly swam towards them, their dive gear making a loud hissing noise as they moved through the water. The looters turned around, startled by their sudden appearance.T hey also wore scuba gear. Jarmo could see that their helmets were equipped with a communications unit and he wondered if he would be able to talk to them.

“What do you want?” one of them growled, brandishing a harpoon. Jarmo could hear his voice clearly in his comm unit. So he was hooked into their system.

“We’re here to find a simple slab,” Jarmo said, trying to sound confident. “We don’t want any trouble.”

The looters looked at each other, unsure of what to do. But before they could make a move, a large water creature appeared out of nowhere and attacked them. Jarmo and Tashana watched in horror as the creature devoured the looters one by one, leaving only scraps of flesh and torn pieces of cloth floating in the water.

Jarmo and Tashana quickly swam away, not wanting to become the next meal for the creature. They swam for a while longer, until they found the entrance to the sunken space ship. It was partially buried in the sand, and the door was almost completely covered. Jarmo and Tashana used their strength to push the sand away, revealing the door.

Jarmo opened the door, and they swam inside. The ship was dark and damp, with water dripping from the ceiling. Jarmo turned on his flashlight, illuminating the interior of the ship. They searched through the debris, trying to find the slab with the map. After a few minutes of searching, Tashana finally found it. It was lying on the floor, covered in dust and sand. She picked it up, and they both swam back to the surface.

“Now that we have the map, we can finally find the target – the sunken palace,” Jarmo said, looking at Tashana. “Are you still up for the adventure?”

“Of course,” Tashana replied, her eyes gleaming with excitement. “Lead the way.”

Jarmo placed the slab in the sand and studied it for a few minutes. The map was carved into its surface. It was written in a language he didn’t understand, but there were some symbols that he recognized. He pointed to one of the symbols, which looked like a seashell that was native to Neptune. “I think this is where we need to go,” he said.

Jarmo got new scuba tanks and they both went back into the water. They swam towards the region that was marked on the map with the seashell symbol, which led them deeper into the ocean. As they swam, they saw more and more strange creatures, some of which were bigger than they were. Jarmo and Tashana had to be careful not to disturb them, as they didn’t want to get attacked.

Finally, after a few hours of swimming, they saw something in the distance. It was a large structure, made of white marble and adorned with intricate carvings. Jarmo and Tashana swam towards it, their hearts beating fast with excitement.

As they got closer, they saw that the structure was indeed a palace, and it was completely submerged in water. But what was even more amazing was that there were lights shining from inside the palace. It seemed that someone was still living there.

Jarmo and Tashana swam towards the entrance of the palace, which was guarded by two large creatures that looked like sea serpents. Jarmo pulled out his harpoon, ready to defend himself. But the creatures didn’t attack them. Instead, they simply watched as Jarmo and Tashana swam inside the palace.

The interior of the palace was just as magnificent as the exterior. There were marble pillars lining the walls, and the floor was made of polished white stone. But what really caught their attention were the treasures scattered throughout the palace. There were jewels, gold coins, and precious artifacts, all of which were worth a fortune.

As they were admiring the treasures, they heard a noise coming from one of the rooms. Jarmo and Tashana cautiously swam towards the room, their harpoons at the ready. They entered the room, and saw a figure sitting on a throne. It was a woman, with long dark hair and piercing blue eyes. She was dressed in a white robe, and had a regal bearing that made Jarmo and Tashana feel small and insignificant. Apparently she too was an amphibionid. When she spoke, her voice could be heard through the water.

“Who are you?” the woman asked in a commanding voice.

Jarmo stepped forward. “My name is Jarmo Dorak. I’m an adventurer, and I’ve come to explore this palace.”

The woman raised an eyebrow. “And who is your companion?”

“This is Tashana Oyan,” Jarmo said, gesturing towards Tashana.

The woman studied Tashana for a moment, her piercing blue eyes scanning over her features. Tashana felt a chill run down her spine as the woman’s gaze lingered on her for a moment longer than necessary.

“What brings you here?” the woman asked, her voice still cold and commanding.

“We’re searching for something,” Jarmo said, taking out the slab with the map. “This map led us here.”

The woman’s eyes widened slightly as she saw the map. “I see,” she said. “And what is it that you’re looking for?”

Jarmo hesitated for a moment, not sure if he should reveal his true intentions. But then he decided that he had come too far to back down now. “We’re looking for the sunken treasure of Oogramosh,” he said. “Legend has it that it’s hidden somewhere in these waters.”

The woman’s expression changed at the mention of Oogramosh. Her eyes became distant, and she seemed lost in thought for a moment.

“Oogramosh,” she repeated. “I haven’t heard that name in a long time.”

“What do you know about Oogramosh?” Jarmo asked, getting a little bit closer to the woman.

The woman looked up at him, her eyes filled with a mix of sadness and determination. “I know more than you can imagine,” she said. “But before I can help you, I need to know that you’re worthy of this knowledge.”

“What do you mean?” Tashana asked, confused.

“I mean that you must prove your worthiness,” the woman said, swimming towards them. “If you want to learn the secrets of Oogramosh, you must complete a task for me.”

Jarmo and Tashana exchanged a glance, both of them unsure of what the woman was asking for. But they were determined to find the treasure of Oogramosh, no matter what it took.

“What kind of task?” Jarmo asked.

“I need you to retrieve a necklace for me,” the woman said, gesturing towards a chest at the other end of the room. “It was stolen from me many years ago, and I’ve been searching for it ever since. It was brought back to me in this chest, but there’s a magical curse on it. So far no one was able to take the necklace out of the chest. If you can retrieve it for me, then I’ll help you find the treasure of Oogramosh. Perhaps you are worthy.”

Jarmo and Tashana swam towards the chest, their hearts beating fast with anticipation. Jarmo opened the chest, and inside he found a beautiful necklace made of pearls and gold. As he reached out to grab the necklace, he heard a noise behind him. He turned around, and saw that the woman had disappeared. In her place was a group of armed guards, their weapons pointed at Jarmo and Tashana.

“What’s going on?” Jarmo demanded, his harpoon at the ready.

“You have stolen from the queen,” one of the guards said, his voice cold and emotionless. “You will be punished for your crime.”

Jarmo and Tashana backed away, realizing that they were outnumbered and outmatched. And they have been tricked. But then Jarmo had an idea. He took out the slab with the map, and showed it to the guards.

“We’re not thieves,” he said. “We’re explorers, searching for the treasure of Oogramosh. The queen promised to help us if we completed this task for her.”

The guards looked at the map, their eyes widening as they realized what it was. “The map of Oogramosh,” one of them said in awe. “It’s real.”

Jarmo and Tashana saw their chance. While the guards were distracted, they swam towards the entrance of the palace, determined to make their escape. They swam as fast as they could, their hearts racing with adrenaline as they dodged the guards’ attacks. Tashana led the way, using her amphibionid abilities to navigate the underwater terrain with ease.

Finally, they made it to the surface, gasping for breath as they emerged from the water. They looked back towards the palace, seeing the guards still standing at the entrance, their weapons raised in anger.

“That was a weird experience,” Jarmo said, grabbing Tashana’s hand. “We have the map, but we still need to find the treasure.”

Tashana nodded, her eyes filled with determination. “Maybe we try if there’s another entrance to the palace,” she said. “Let’s go!”

They swam back towards the location marked on the map, navigating through the treacherous waters with caution. The sunken palace of Oogramosh was a sight to behold. It was located deep in the ocean’s abyss, surrounded by shimmering schools of fish and brightly colored coral reefs. Jarmo and Tashana swam around the palace, their hearts racing with excitement. No guards were in sight. What was all this about? They found a small hole in the wall.

As they entered the palace, they saw that it was filled with treasure beyond their wildest dreams. There were gold coins and jewels scattered everywhere, along with ancient artifacts and valuable works of art. So was the encounter they had before just a distraction? Strange things were going on here.

Andthe true treasure of Oogramosh was something else entirely. It was a scroll in a sealed bottle, written in an ancient language that neither Jarmo nor Tashana could read. But they knew that it was important, and that it held the key to unlocking the secrets that Jarmo wanted to find.

They took the bottle, along with some of the other treasures, and swam back to the surface. As they emerged from the water, they saw that the sun was starting to set, casting a golden glow across the sky.

“We did it,” Tashana said, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “We found the treasure of Oogramosh.”

Jarmo nodded, a smile spreading across his face. “And we have the scroll,” he said. “Who knows what kind of knowledge it holds.”

They hugged each other, their hearts filled with a sense of accomplishment and adventure. They knew that their journey was far from over, and that there were many more mysteries waiting to be discovered. But for now, they were content to bask in the glory of their victory, and to dream of the wonders that lay ahead.

Flaming Torture

Marion Alsy slowly opened her eyes and blinked, trying to adjust to the dim light of her prison cell. She groaned as she tried to sit up, feeling a sharp pain in her head. Memories of what had happened flooded back to her, and she realized with a jolt that she was alone.

“Jarmo?” she called out, her voice hoarse. There was no answer. She got up and walked over to the door, but it was firmly locked. She looked around the cell, trying to find anything that could help her escape.

The cell was small and bare, with only a narrow bed and a toilet in the corner. The walls were made of a smooth metal that seemed impenetrable. Marion sighed, feeling a sense of hopelessness wash over her. She knew she had to stay strong and keep trying to escape.

She sat down on the bed and closed her eyes, trying to think of a plan. She remembered something she had learned during her training as a BUREAU 07 agent – always look for weaknesses in your environment. She got up and examined the walls again, running her hands over the smooth surface. Suddenly, her fingers brushed against a small bump. She pressed it, and a hidden panel slid open, revealing a control panel.

Marion grinned triumphantly and quickly scanned the panel, trying to find a way to unlock the door. But the controls were written in a language she didn’t understand, and she cursed under her breath. She had to find someone who could help her.

She walked over to the toilet and knelt down, peering into the bowl. To her surprise, she saw a small camera mounted on the rim. She realized that whoever had captured her was watching her every move. She decided to use that to her advantage.

“Hey, whoever’s watching this, I need your help!” she shouted, hoping someone would hear her. “I need to get out of here and find my friend. I promise I won’t cause any trouble.”

There was no response. Marion sighed and leaned back against the wall, feeling frustrated. She wondered where Jarmo was and what the sinister group wanted from them. She had to find a way to escape and get back to BUREAU 07.

Suddenly, the door to her cell slid open, and two burly guards stepped inside, their weapons trained on her. Marion quickly got up, ready to fight, but one of the guards shot her with a stun gun, and she collapsed to the ground.

She woke up later in a different cell, feeling disoriented. She got up and looked around, but it was the same as the previous one. She realized with a sinking feeling that her escape attempt had failed. She shook her head, trying to clear the cobwebs, and got up to examine her surroundings. This cell was similar to the last one, with smooth metal walls and a narrow bed. But there was one key difference – the toilet wasn’t mounted to the floor, and she realized with a spark of hope that it could be used as a makeshift weapon.

She took a deep breath and tried to stay calm, focusing on her training. She remembered something her instructor had once told her – always keep your enemies off balance. She decided to try that tactic.

She waited for a few minutes, trying to listen for any sounds outside her cell. When she didn’t hear anything, she lifted the toilet and positioned herself near the door, holding it like a club. Then, she started to make as much noise as possible, banging the toilet against the walls and shouting.

It worked. A few moments later, the door to her cell slid open, and a guard stepped inside, his weapon at the ready. Marion swung the toilet with all her strength, hitting the guard in the face. He stumbled back, dazed, and she took advantage of the moment to grab his weapon and shoot him. She knew it wasn’t a permanent solution, but she had to keep moving.

She ran down the corridor, looking for any signs of Jarmo or a way out. She heard footsteps behind her and knew she had to act fast. She saw a door ahead of her and ran towards it, hoping it would lead to the ship’s bridge.

When she burst into the room, she was surprised to see that it was empty. But then, she noticed a window at the far end of the room, and she ran towards it. When she looked outside, she gasped in shock.

Photo by Andy Watkins on Unsplash

The space ship was hovering near the corona of the sun, its surface gleaming with heat. Marion realized that the sinister group had been using the sun’s energy as a power source for their ship. She knew she had to escape before it was too late.

She looked around the room, searching for any kind of escape route. That’s when she saw a spacesuit hanging on the wall. She quickly put it on, taking a deep breath as she opened the window and stepped outside.

The heat was intense, and Marion felt her suit heating up rapidly. She knew she had to move quickly before the suit failed. She saw a hatch on the ship’s surface and ran towards it, praying it would lead to an escape pod.

When she reached the hatch, she pressed a button on her suit’s wristband, and it opened with a hiss. She climbed inside, her heart pounding as she activated the pod’s engines. The ship started to shrink in the distance, and Marion felt a sense of relief and triumph.

She had escaped the sinister group and saved herself from the sun’s deadly embrace. But she knew she had to keep moving, to find Jarmo and get back to BUREAU 07. She smiled grimly, feeling ready for whatever came next. She couldn’t believe that she had managed to escape the sinister group’s clutches and survive being so close to the sun. She knew that she had to keep moving and find Jarmo.

As she flew through space, she noticed that her communications system was picking up a faint signal. She tried to boost the signal and heard Jarmo’s voice come through, crackling with static.

“Marion, are you there?” Jarmo asked.

“I’m here, Jarmo,” Marion said, feeling a wave of relief wash over her.

“Thank goodness,” Jarmo said. “I managed to escape from my cell as well. But we’re not out of danger yet. The sinister group has a powerful weapon on their ship, and they’re heading towards Earth.”

Marion’s heart sank at the news. She knew that if the sinister group reached Earth, it could mean the end of everything they knew and loved. She had to find a way to stop them.

“Jarmo, I’m on an escape pod,” Marion said. “I’m not far from your location. We need to come up with a plan.”

“Agreed,” Jarmo said. “I’ve been analyzing the ship’s schematics. There’s a way to disable their weapon from the inside, but it’s a risky move. We’ll have to work together and use all of our skills to make it happen.”

Marion nodded, feeling a sense of determination wash over her. She knew that they had a slim chance of success, but she also knew that they had to try.

She piloted the escape pod towards Jarmo’s location, and when she arrived, they quickly devised a plan. They would sneak onto the sinister group’s ship, make their way to the weapon’s control center, and disable it from the inside. It was a dangerous mission, but they knew that it was the only way to save Earth.

They donned their spacesuits and climbed into an airlock, making their way towards the sinister group’s ship. They managed to evade the guards and sneak onto the ship, making their way through the corridors towards the control center.

As they approached the control center, they heard the ominous hum of the weapon charging up. They knew they had to act fast.

They burst into the control center, surprising the guards inside. Marion fired her weapon, taking out the guards as Jarmo quickly went to work disabling the weapon’s controls.

As he worked, Marion held off the remaining guards, fighting with everything she had. She knew that they couldn’t let the sinister group succeed, no matter the cost.

Finally, Jarmo succeeded in disabling the weapon. The hum stopped, and the room fell silent. Marion and Jarmo breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that they had saved the day.

As they made their way back to their escape pod, they knew that they had done the impossible. They had survived the sun’s deadly embrace, escaped the sinister group, and saved Earth from destruction.

At least that’s what Marion thought. Her heart started pounding as Jarmo pointed his gun at her. She couldn’t believe that the person she had trusted with her life was not who he seemed to be.

“What’s going on, Jarmo?” she asked, her voice trembling.

“I’m not Jarmo,” the imposter said, grinning at her. “I’m a member of the group. And now that we have you back on our ship, we can finally get what we came for.”

Marion’s mind raced as she tried to think of a way out of the situation. She knew that she had to keep her wits about her if she wanted to survive. The imposter motioned for her to come with him, and she reluctantly followed him back to the bridge of the ship. The leader of the group, a sinister figure in a black cloak, stood waiting for her.

“Well, well, well,” the leader said, sneering at Marion. “It seems that you’re not as clever as we thought. We have your friend Jarmo, and now we have you. We’ll stop at nothing to get the artifacts that you found on Mercury.”

Marion glared at the leader, feeling a surge of anger and defiance. She knew that she would never give up the artifacts without a fight. The leader motioned for her to be taken back to her cell, and as she was led away, she quickly formulated a plan. She feigned exhaustion, pretending to be too tired to fight back as her guard led her through the corridors of the ship.

But as they reached a dark corner, she struck out, kicking the guard and knocking him to the ground. She sprinted down the corridor, her heart racing as she heard the sound of footsteps chasing after her. She ducked and weaved, dodging past guards and sliding around corners as she made her way towards the shuttle hangar. She knew that her only hope was to steal a shuttle and escape once more.

Finally, she arrived at the hangar, panting and out of breath. She quickly found a shuttle and climbed aboard, frantically punching in the launch codes.

The shuttle lifted off, and Marion breathed a sigh of relief as she soared away from the sinister group’s ship. She knew that she had narrowly escaped death, but she also knew that the fight was far from over.

As she piloted the shuttle towards safety, she knew that she would never rest until she found Jarmo and the artifacts were safe. She vowed to take down the group, no matter what the cost. They were a force to be reckoned with.

Marion’s hands shook as she piloted the shuttle through space. She knew that she had to find Jarmo quickly, but she had no idea where to start. She needed a clue, a piece of information that could help her track him down.

As she scanned the data logs of the shuttle’s computer, something caught her eye. It was a coded transmission, sent from the sinister group’s ship just before she had escaped. She quickly decrypted the message and began to read.

The message was from the leader of the group, and it contained coordinates. Marion’s heart leapt as she realized what they meant. The group was hiding Jarmo in the asteroid belt, just somewhere. The asteroid belt of the solar system was huge. But Marion wasn’t one to give up easily. She knew that she had to get to Jarmo before the group could extract the artifacts from him. She quickly plotted a course to the asteroid belt, her mind racing as she tried to work out a plan.

As she approached the belt, she began to scan the asteroids, looking for any sign of the group’s ship. It took hours of searching, but finally, she spotted it, lurking behind a large asteroid.

Marion grinned to herself as she approached the ship. She knew that she had the element of surprise on her side. She piloted the shuttle into position and prepared to board the ship.

As she disembarked from the shuttle, she could feel her heart racing. She knew that she was walking into danger, but she was determined to save Jarmo and the artifacts. She moved stealthily through the corridors of the ship, avoiding the guards and keeping to the shadows. She could hear voices up ahead, and she knew that she was getting closer.

As she rounded a corner, she came face to face with the leader of the group. He sneered at her, brandishing a weapon.

“Well, well, well,” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Look who decided to come back. You’re too late, though. We already have what we came for.”

Marion didn’t hesitate. She leapt forward, her fists flying as she attacked the leader. They exchanged blows, each one determined to come out on top.

Finally, Marion got the upper hand. She knocked the leader to the ground and pinned him there, her gun trained on him.

“Where is Jarmo?” she demanded, her voice fierce.

The leader laughed, spitting blood from his mouth. “He’s long gone, my dear. You’ll never catch up to him.”

Marion’s heart sank as she realized that she had failed. But she wasn’t one to give up easily. She knew that she would find Jarmo, no matter what it took.

She bound the leader and left him there, making her way back to the shuttle. She piloted the ship away from the asteroid belt, her mind racing as she tried to come up with a new plan.

She knew that Jarmo was out there somewhere, and she would stop at nothing to find him. She set a new course for the outer reaches of the solar system. She had seen other coordinates in the shuttle’s database, but discarded them as they were far out, near the Oort cloud. Who should establish a base there? Of course, a criminal organization would do that!

Marion’s shuttle soared through the darkness of space, headed towards the location she had discovered in the database. She felt a mix of adrenaline and anxiety as she approached, knowing that Jarmo’s life was in danger and that the mission was far from over.

As she neared the coordinates, she could see a large asteroid looming ahead of her. She maneuvered her shuttle carefully, hiding it behind the asteroid’s rocky surface as she surveyed the area with her instruments. She could see several small ships docked at the asteroid’s surface, and she knew that Jarmo could be on any one of them.

Marion took a deep breath, trying to calm her racing heart. She knew that she had to act fast and decisively if she was going to save Jarmo and retrieve the artifacts. She activated the shuttle’s cloaking device and began to slowly move towards the closest docked ship.

As she approached, she could see that the ship was heavily guarded, with several armed individuals patrolling the area. She knew that a frontal assault would be suicide, so she began to think of a different approach.

She reviewed the ship’s schematics that she had downloaded from the database, looking for any weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Suddenly, she noticed a small air vent on the side of the ship that led directly to the ship’s cargo hold.

Marion smiled to herself, feeling a surge of excitement. She maneuvered her shuttle towards the vent and managed to land it on the side of the ship. She climbed out of the shuttle and made her way towards the vent, using her tools to pry it open.

The inside of the vent was dark and cramped, but Marion crawled through it with determination. She emerged in the cargo hold, which was filled with crates and containers. She began to search through them, looking for any sign of Jarmo or the artifacts.

After several tense minutes, she finally found what she was looking for. Jarmo was lying on the ground, unconscious but alive, and the artifacts were in a nearby crate. Marion quickly gathered them up and checked Jarmo’s vitals. He was stable, but she knew they had to get off the ship as quickly as possible.

Marion made her way back to her shuttle, keeping a low profile and avoiding detection. This wasn’t easy as she couldn’t wake up Jarmo completely. He was more unconscious than conscious, stumbling, falling. She was more or less dragging him. Then she loaded Jarmo and the artifacts into the shuttle and set the course for Earth.

As the shuttle sped through space, Marion felt a sense of relief wash over her. They had made it out alive, but she knew that they would have to be careful. This organization was still out there, and they would stop at nothing to get their hands on the artifacts.

Marion set her jaw and gripped the controls of the shuttle, determined to finish what she had started.

The Destroying Ray

Jarmo Dorak and Marion Alsy stepped out of their spacecraft onto the surface of Mercury, the closest planet to the sun. The heat was oppressive, and they both struggled to adjust to the extreme temperature. They had come a long way in their quest for the Temple of the Wind Harp, and they were eager to find the next signpost that would lead them to the Cube of Knowledge.

As they approached the temple, they were struck by its ancient beauty. The structure was made of a strange, shimmering material that seemed to change color depending on the angle of the sun’s rays. The carvings on the walls were intricate and mysterious, depicting scenes from an unknown culture. Jarmo, being a culture specialist, was particularly fascinated by the carvings. He studied them carefully, trying to decipher their meaning. Marion, meanwhile, kept watch for any signs of danger.

As they made their way deeper into the temple, they came across a large room that seemed to be the central hub of the structure. In the center of the room was a pedestal, upon which sat a strange, box-shaped object. Jarmo immediately thought that this was the second signpost they had been searching for. Excitedly, he approached the pedestal, eager to examine the signpost more closely. But as he reached out to touch it, a loud rumbling noise echoed through the temple.

Startled, Marion drew her weapon and scanned the room for any signs of danger. Jarmo, meanwhile, realized that the signpost was connected to a mechanism that had triggered the noise. He quickly scanned the carvings on the walls, looking for any clues as to what was happening. And then he saw it – a depiction of a massive stone door, sealed shut by a complex locking mechanism. The stone door itself was in the opposite wall. And yes, it was locked.

Jarmo knew that they needed to find the key to unlock the door if they were to make any further progress in their quest. He and Marion searched the temple, examining every nook and cranny for any sign of the key. As they searched, they came across more carvings that shed light on the ancient culture that had built the temple. They learned of a powerful ruler who had commissioned the construction of the temple and had used its secrets to gain dominion over his rivals. In one of the pictures, the ruler could be seen looking at a large, black cube.
“The Black Cube of Knowledge!” Jarmo exclaimed.
The two looked more closely at the picture. The ruler had raised one hand and was pointing to the image of a small statuette. In addition to the statuette, three other objects were depicted. One item appeared to be the crystal Jarmo, Marion, and Aisha found on Mars. The other two items could not be seen. At this point the relief was too weathered.
“Look!” Jarmo explained. “The four signposts. And it looks like we’ll have to look for this… small statuette here. Whatever it’s supposed to represent.”
Marion nodded. “Then we shouldn’t waste any time.”

Finally, after what seemed like hours of searching, Jarmo and Marion found a hidden chamber deep within the temple. But before they could enter, they were interrupted by a loud noise from outside.

Marion immediately went into high alert, but Jarmo knew that they needed to press on with their quest. He and Marion stepped through the doorway, into the unknown depths of the Ruy’i Koolian caves.

Photo by Jussara Romão on Unsplash

Jarmo and Marion stepped into the first room of the Ruy’i Koolian caves, and their eyes widened as they took in their surroundings. The walls were covered in carvings similar to those in the temple above, but these were even more intricate, depicting scenes of battles, sacrifices, and other strange things.

Jarmo quickly began to search the room, while Marion still kept a lookout for any signs of danger. As they moved deeper into the caves, they encountered strange creatures they had never seen before – small, winged creatures that buzzed around their heads, and slimy, slug-like creatures that crawled across the walls.

The deeper they went, the more humid the cave became, and they soon realized that there must be a source of water somewhere nearby. Jarmo began to speculate that the ancient culture that had built the temple and the caves must have found a way to tap into the planet’s resources to survive in such a harsh environment.

As they made their way through the first few rooms, Jarmo and Marion talked about their thoughts on the environment and their situation. They speculated about the creatures they encountered and marveled at the carvings on the walls, wondering what secrets they held.

But as they entered the fourth room, they suddenly heard a loud noise, like the sound of rushing water. They quickly realized that they had stumbled upon the source of the humidity – a massive underground river that flowed through the caves.

Jarmo and Marion stood in awe as they gazed upon the river, marveling at its power and beauty, watching as the water flowed swiftly past them. The water was clear and blue, and they could see fish swimming beneath the surface.

“Wow,” Jarmo said in amazement. “I’ve never seen anything like this before. The power of this river must be incredible.”

Marion nodded in agreement, taking in the sight before her. “Yes, it’s amazing,” she said. “But we need to keep moving if we want to find that statuette.”

They both fell into a moment of silence, considering their options. Jarmo spoke up after a while, “How far into the caves do you think we should go?”

Marion looked thoughtful. “Well, we know that the statuette isn’t in this room, so we have to keep exploring. But we also need to be careful. We don’t know what other dangers lie ahead.”

Jarmo nodded, “You’re right. Maybe we should stick to the edges of the river for now and see if we can spot anything.”

Marion looked at the river, “Actually, examining the river might also yield a clue to the small statuette. But since only I can breathe underwater, I should explore it.”

Jarmo looked at Marion, “Are you sure you want to do that alone?”

Marion smiled confidently, “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. Besides, if I find anything, I’ll come back and let you know.”

With that, Marion quickly took off her uniform. Much to Jarmo’s amazement, she was wearing what appeared to be swimwear underneath. Was she always ready to go in the water? She couldn’t have expected that here, in the middle of the desert. Before Jarmo could have asked her, Marion dove into the water. She felt the cool rush of water against her skin as she descended into the depths, the light from the cave entrance fading behind her.

As she swam, she marveled at the underwater landscape. She saw schools of colorful fish darting around her and strange, slimy creatures clinging to the rocks. She dove deeper, feeling the pressure build in her ears, until she saw something glinting on the riverbed. It was a small pendant, about the size of her palm, lying on the riverbed. She picked it up and examined it closely, marveling at its intricate design. As she made her way back to Jarmo, she couldn’t help but feel a sense of excitement. They had found a clue!

Jarmo waited anxiously on the bank of the underground river, his mind wandering as he thought about the past few months. He couldn’t help but recall the days when he and Aisha were so in love and how it all began just a few months ago on the beach. It also went well when they later along with Marion were searching for clues to the Temple of the Wind Harp in the library of Aresium on Mars. Aisha was with them until her mother fell ill, forcing her to return to Earth to take care of her. They kept in touch for a while, but as the weeks passed, their communication became less frequent until it finally stopped altogether. Jarmo feared that he had lost Aisha forever, but he knew he had to focus on the task at hand.

Lost in his thoughts, Jarmo didn’t notice Marion emerging from the river until she was standing right in front of him, dripping wet. He looked up at her, relief washing over him as she held out the small pendant she had found in the river.

“Jarmo, I found it!” Marion exclaimed, holding out the small pendant.

Jarmo let out a sigh of relief and a smile spread across his face. “Good job, Marion,” he said, taking the pendant from her.

They both sat down on the bank of the river, catching their breath and taking a moment to rest. Jarmo couldn’t help but ask Marion about her experience in the water.

“What did you see down there?” he asked.

Marion smiled, “It was amazing. The water was so clear, and I saw fish and other creatures I had never seen before. It was like a whole other world down there.”

Jarmo smiled, “Sounds incredible.”

Marion nodded, “It was. But I’m just glad I found this.”

They both sat in silence for a moment, reflecting on the challenges they had faced and the ones that lay ahead. Jarmo couldn’t help but think about Aisha again and the pain of her absence. But for now, he was grateful to have Marion by his side.

As Jarmo and Marion entered the next cave, following the rive, they were awestruck by the artistic design on the walls. The reliefs depicted an ancient god of Planet Mercury, the God of a Thousand Doors, in various poses. Jarmo took a closer look at one of the reliefs and noticed that the god was holding a small object in his hand.

“Look at this,” Jarmo said to Marion, pointing at the relief. “The god is holding something. It could be the small statuette we’re looking for.”

Marion nodded in agreement and they continued to explore the cave. They reached a dead end, with two stone doors in front of them. The river flowed into a hole in the wall, and they could hear the sound of rushing water.

Jarmo looked closely at the doors and saw that there were inscriptions carved into the stone. He read them aloud: “Two doors stand before you, one leads to the end, the other to the beginning. Choose wisely and the path will open.”

He turned to Marion. “This must be a riddle. We have to choose the right door to continue.”

Marion nodded and they both looked at the doors. They were identical and there were no markings on them. They tried pushing and pulling them, but nothing happened.

“We need a clue,” Jarmo said, looking around the cave.

He spotted another carving of the god holding the object again, but this time the object was glowing.

“Look at that,” he said excitedly. “The object is glowing. Maybe that’s the clue.”

Marion took the pendant she found in the river. She held it up to the doors and the pendant began to glow brightly.

“That’s it,” Jarmo said. “Let’s get closer to the doors!”

Marion held the pendant first to the left, then to the right door. The one on the right began to glow. They pushed it, it opened and it lead to the next cave. As they entered, they heard a faint clicking sound and realized that the door had locked behind them. They exchanged a worried look but continue on their quest.

The room was dimly lit, some sort of crystals on the walls providing a faint glow. In the center of the room stood a pedestal with a stone statue of a god holding out its hand.

Jarmo and Marion approached the statue and saw that there was an inscription on the pedestal. The inscription read:

“Speak my name and I shall reveal the path. But beware, for with each incorrect guess, the room will unleash its wrath.”

Jarmo looked at Marion, and they both knew that they had to be careful with their guesses. He examined the statue closely. It was again one of the gods of the planet Mercury. He wore a crown and had strange markings on his chest. Jarmo had an idea of the name of this god. He had studied the gods of Mercury in the library on Mars. Now he just hoped he got the pronunciation of that name right. Jarmo took a deep breath and said, “Is your name Atzi Nechi?”

There was no response, and the room shook slightly. They heard a grinding noise, and a section of the wall slid open to reveal a second statue.

Marion approached the second statue and read the inscription on its pedestal:

“The more you take, the more you leave behind. What am I?”

Marion looked at Jarmo and said, “Footsteps. The answer is footsteps.”

The room shook again, and they heard a grinding noise. Another section of the wall slid open, revealing a third statue.

The third statue held a large book in its hands, and Jarmo and Marion could see that there was an inscription on its pages.

“If you seek knowledge, then answer me this: I am not alive, but I grow. I don’t have lungs, but I need air. I don’t have a mouth, but water kills me. What am I?”

Jarmo thought for a moment and said, “Fire. The answer is fire.”

There was a moment of silence, and then the room shook violently. They heard a grinding noise, and a section of the wall slid open, revealing a door.

Jarmo and Marion breathed a sigh of relief and walked through the door, ready to face whatever challenges lay ahead. Then they heard a loud noise coming from the room they had just left. They realized that they had to move fast.

The next room was pitch black, and they could hardly see anything. They could hear water dripping and the sound of footsteps. Jarmo and Marion exchanged a worried glance. They knew that this room could be dangerous, and they had to be careful.

As they walked through the dark, they stumbled upon a small, glowing object. Jarmo picked it up, and they saw that it was a small lantern. Jarmo lit the lantern, and they could see that they were in a narrow tunnel. They walked down the tunnel and saw that the walls were covered in ancient carvings. The carvings depicted the history of the ancient civilization that had built the temple. Jarmo and Marion were amazed by the intricate details of the carvings.

Suddenly, they heard a noise coming from behind them. They turned around and saw a group of small creatures, no taller than their knees, running towards them. Jarmo and Marion were startled, but they quickly realized that the creatures were harmless. They seemed to be carrying something, and they ran past Jarmo and Marion and disappeared into the darkness.

They continued to delve deeper into the underground labyrinth. The air grew more humid, and strange creatures lurked in the shadows. As they entered a new chamber, they were greeted by the sound of rushing water. The walls of the cavern were lined with crystals, which glimmered in the dim light of their headlamps. In the center of the room was a pool of water, fed by a waterfall cascading down from above. Jarmo and Marion carefully made their way around the edge of the pool, searching. Suddenly, Marion’s foot slipped on a mossy rock, and she fell into the pool with a splash.

Jarmo rushed to her side, but she was already standing up, dripping wet. “I’m okay,” she said with a grin. “But I think I found something.” She held up a small shard of pottery, decorated with intricate carvings.

Jarmo examined the shard closely, trying to decipher its meaning. “This pottery looks like it could be from the same culture as the temple above,” he said thoughtfully. “I’ll take it with me, and we should take a closer look at it. Maybe it tells us something.”

Marion nodded in agreement. “We should keep searching,” she said. “There must be more clues down here.”

As they entered the next chamber, they were once again met with the sound of rushing water. They saw a vast underground lake that seemed to stretch out as far as the eye could see. They were on the bank of the lake and could see nothing but darkness ahead of them.

Jarmo looked around and saw an inscription on the wall. He read it aloud, “I am the beginning of the end, the end of every place. I am the beginning of eternity, the end of time and space. What am I?”

Marion thought for a moment and then exclaimed, “Water! It’s water. It starts and ends everything, and it flows eternally.”

Jarmo nodded, “That must be it. But how does this relate to the clue to move forward?”

Marion looked out at the lake and said, “Perhaps we need to cross the lake. It could be the only way to move forward.”

Jarmo was hesitant, “But how can we cross the lake? We don’t have a boat or any equipment to do so.”

Marion thought for a moment and said, “Maybe I could swim across the lake and see if there’s anything on the other side that will help us move forward.”

Jarmo agreed, and Marion dove into the water. The water was icy cold, and as she swam deeper, she realized the lake was much deeper than she initially thought. She kept her focus and continued to swim until she finally reached the other side.

She looked around and saw a small tunnel leading out of the chamber. She signaled to Jarmo, who had been watching from the bank, to follow her. He did, although the water was really cold, and together they crawled through the tunnel, which led them to the next chamber.

They both caught their breath, relieved to have made it through. The chamber was filled with a strange, otherworldly light, illuminating a statue in the center of the room. They approached it, and Jarmo recognized it as the statue they had been looking for all along. It was a small figurine of the ancient god of the planet Mercury, the “God of a Thousand Doors.”

Jarmo and Marion shared a look, feeling a sense of accomplishment. They had come so far and overcome so many obstacles to find this statue. It was an almost celebratory moment when Jarmo picked up the statuette. But then something unexpected happened: There was a loud, hissing noise and the two saw that a jet was shooting out of an opening in one of the walls. It hit the opposite wall, where the stone began to glow red.
“Damn it!” Jarmo shouted. “Of course, a protective mechanism!”
“We have to get out!” Marion replied.
The two crawled back through the tunnel they had come in. But it was not yet over. Now they were being attacked by the small creatures from earlier. The creatures were quick and nimble, darting in and out of the shadows as they tried to swarm the two explorers. Jarmo and Marion tried to fend them off with their weapons, but there were too many of them.

“We have to get out of here!” shouted Marion, her voice barely audible over the screeching of the creatures.

Jarmo nodded in agreement and they started to run, dodging the creatures as best they could. They could see the entrance to the cave up ahead, but it was still some distance away. As they ran, Jarmo realized that they were heading straight for the lake.

“We can’t go in the water,” he shouted to Marion. “We don’t know what’s in there!”

“We don’t have a choice,” she replied, gesturing to the creatures that were closing in on them.

Without hesitation, Jarmo and Marion plunged into the icy water. They could feel the creatures nipping at their heels, but the water slowed them down enough for the two to get away. They swam towards the entrance of the next cave, their hearts racing with fear.

Jarmo and Marion struggled to catch their breath as they emerged from the water, their clothes and hair dripping wet. They quickly scanned the new cave, but this time, there was no visible riddle or clue. Instead, the cave was filled with large, craggy rocks and a thick, dense mist.

Jarmo rubbed his hands together to warm them up and tried to peer through the mist. “What do we do now? I don’t see anything that could help us move on,” he said with a sigh.

Marion thought for a moment and then looked up. “Look! There’s a small opening up there, in the ceiling. It looks artificial. If we could examine it, we might find a way forward,” she said, pointing to the narrow hole.

Jarmo studied the opening and nodded, “But how can we reach it? The walls are too steep to climb up.”

Marion’s eyes brightened up, “Hey, you’re still in your uniform! Remember the gear I got us through BUREAU 07? The cable with the hook hidden in your belt buckle? Maybe we can use that to reach the opening. It should be strong enough to carry both of us.”

Jarmo nodded in agreement. He quickly retrieved the cable and grappling hook from his belt buckle. But he found that she was more skilled, so he gave it to Marion and she began to throw the hook up towards the opening. After several attempts, the hook finally caught onto the edge of the opening.

With a firm grip on the cable, Marion climbed up to the opening and peered inside. “I can see a mechanism. It looks like we need to turn some wheels to unblock the passage.”

Jarmo quickly scrambled up the cable and joined Marion. Together they located the wheels and began to turn them. Suddenly, the ground beneath them shook, and the mist swirled around them violently.

Jarmo and Marion clung to the wall for dear life, but soon the shaking stopped, and the mist cleared. They had opened up a new passage.

“Quick, let’s go!” Jarmo shouted. Both let go and fell into the water.

The river flowed into this new passage, carrying them along with it. The passage twisted and turned, and the water was choppy, making it hard to keep their heads above the water. As they rounded a corner, they saw something glinting in the water ahead of them. It was a small, golden key, floating in the water. Jarmo quickly snatched it out of the water and examined it closely.

“A key,” he said with a grin. “A real key. Maybe this one will open the door in the temple above.”

With renewed energy, they continued down the passage, following the river as it flowed towards the next chamber. The water was getting colder and the current was getting stronger, making it harder for them to stay afloat. Finally, they entered the next chamber of the cave, and the river abruptly stopped flowing.

The room was completely dark, but they could hear the sound of rushing water coming from somewhere. Jarmo and Marion swam around, feeling along the walls, trying to find the source of the sound. After a few minutes, they found a small waterfall on one side of the chamber, but it was blocked by a large boulder.

“We need to move that rock,” Jarmo said, pointing to the boulder.

Marion nodded in agreement. “But how are we going to do that? We can’t push it, it’s too heavy.”

Jarmo thought for a moment. “Maybe there’s a lever or something we can use to move it. Let’s look around.”

They swam around the chamber, feeling along the walls and floor for anything that could help them move the boulder. Finally, Marion felt something protruding from the wall, and when she pulled on it, a section of the wall moved aside to reveal a small room.

Inside the room, they found a lever that looked like it could move the boulder. But when they tried to pull it, nothing happened.

“It’s stuck,” Jarmo said, frustrated.

Marion looked around the room and noticed something written on the wall. “Hey, look at this,” she said, pointing to the inscription. “It says ‘the lever can only be moved by the power of two’.”

“What does that mean?” Jarmo asked.

“I don’t know, but there are two of us. Maybe we need to do something together to activate the lever.”

They looked at each other, unsure of what to do next. Suddenly, they heard a loud noise coming from the waterfall. The boulder was starting to move, and water was beginning to flow through the small opening.

“We did it!” Marion exclaimed, relieved. “But how?”

They swam through the opening and followed the river into the next chamber. As they exit the river, they were surprised to find themselves in a massive underground cavern. The chamber was filled with stalactites and stalagmites, forming a natural maze of sorts.

As they made their way through the cavern, Jarmo and Marion stumbled upon another small underground lake. The water was again crystal clear. On the other side of the lake was a massive stone door, with strange markings etched onto its surface. Jarmo and Marion examined the markings, trying to decipher their meaning. Suddenly, they heard a loud rumbling sound coming from behind them. Turning around, they saw that the water level in the lake had risen significantly, and the lake was now overflowing into the surrounding area.

Panic set in as they realized they were about to be swept away by the flood. Jarmo grabbed Marion’s hand and they ran towards the stone door, hoping to find shelter from the water. As they approached the door, they saw that the markings had changed and were now glowing a bright blue color.

Without hesitation, Jarmo placed his hand onto the markings and the door began to move, opening slowly to reveal a small room beyond. They ran inside and the door slamed shut behind them, cutting off the sound of the rushing water.

Panting heavily, Jarmo and Marion looked around the room, trying to catch their breath. The room was small, with a single pedestal in the center. On top of the pedestal was a small statuette, similar to the one they found earlier.

As they approached the pedestal, they noticed that the statuette emitted a soft, blue glow. Jarmo picked up the statuette, and suddenly the room begins to shake violently.

“You had to do this, right? Quick, we need to get out of here!” shouted Marion.

They ran towards the door. As they exited the room, they found themselves back in the underground cavern. The water level had receded, and the natural maze had shifted, forming a new path for them to follow. Heart pounding, Jarmo lead the way, with Marion close behind. Finally they emerged from the underground river into a large chamber. The walls were adorned with intricate carvings, depicting scenes of ancient Mercurian mythology. In the center of the chamber stood a pedestal, and upon it sat a small, ornately decorated box.

Jarmo and Marion approached the pedestal, and Jarmo carefully lifted the box from its resting place. As he did, the walls of the chamber began to shake and rumble, and a deep, ominous voice boomed out from all around them.

“Who dares to disturb the sacred chamber of the Mercurian gods?” the voice asked.

Jarmo and Marion exchanged nervous glances, but they knew they had come too far to turn back now.

“We seek the Temple of the Wind Harp,” Jarmo said, his voice shaking slightly. “We mean no disrespect to the Mercurian gods.”

There was a long moment of silence, and then the voice spoke again.

“Very well,” it said. “If you truly seek the Temple of the Wind Harp, you must prove your worthiness. Solve the riddle before you, and the way to the temple will be made clear.”

Jarmo and Marion looked around, but they saw no riddle anywhere in the chamber. Then, Jarmo noticed a small inscription on the bottom of the box he held.

He read it aloud:

“In this room, there are three doors,
Each with a different symbol, you must explore.
The first door has a crescent moon,
The second door has a sun at noon,
The third door has a starry night,
Choose the right one, and the way is bright.
But beware, behind two lies a trap,
Choose the wrong one, and you’ll take a nasty slap.
So think carefully, and make your choice,
For one door leads to the next room and a joyful rejoice.”

Both looked at each other in astonishment. As they examined the walls more closely, they recognized the doors mentioned in the riddle in the carvings. However, they looked as if they were part of the relief. Probably another trick to hide the exit. But what was the riddle supposed to mean?

“I’m not an expert,” Marion said, “but what if the riddle is meant literally?”
“Literally?” Jarmo asked back. “What do you mean by that?”
“It says we should choose ‘the right door’. We understood that in the sense of ‘the correct door’ as opposed to the wrong one. But what if it literally means ‘the right door’, i.e. the door which is on the right?”
Jarmo read the riddle again. Finally he shrugged. “I can’t think of anything better,” he admitted.

The two walked across the room and to the door on the right. It was decorated with a few stars.
“Hey!” said Marion. “I even know that! That is the star constellation of the God of a Thousand Doors, which can only be seen in this form from Mercury.”
The sign consisted of 20 stars, matching the God of a Thousand Doors. Marion took a closer look. Finally she pointed to a star in the center of the constellation.
“Take a look at this!”, she asked Jarmo.
He moved closer to the stone. The star was carved out of the stone, about two inches tall, and had seven points. At first Jarmo didn’t see it, but then he realized what Marion had meant. In the middle of the star was a slit that was almost impossible to see.
“The star is called Rulan, it belongs to the Soaron Cluster,” said Marion.
“How… how do you know that?”
“Does the name GOOD HOPE ring a bell?”
Jarmo thought. Wait, GOOD HOPE! Yes, he had heard of this spaceship before. It was considered lost. Their final mission was… mapping the Soaron Cluster!
“You mostly ‘the’ GOOD HOPE?” he asked.
“Yes. I have…” She stopped herself. One could see she was struggling with herself. “Can you keep a secret?” She finally asked Jarmo.
“Yeah, sure. What’s that secret?”
“You know I belong to BUREAU 07,” she began. “Twice a year we have a gathering. Old files are called up with unsolved cases. Last year there was a file on the GOOD HOPE. The Soaron Cluster is in a poorly mapped part of the galaxy, almost on the edge of the ORION arm.”
Jarmo frowned. “But that’s no secret,” he stated. “I heard that too. The tragedy of the GOOD HOPE. Lost in space, near the barrier.”
“I didn’t mean that!” Marion said firmly. “With the files was the last report that Fleet Headquarters had received from the GOOD HOPE. The Captain reported an attack by an unknown force. They were able to route the enemy, but the ship was damaged. The Captain had decided to to look for a planet to land on and then carry out necessary repair work. After that, nothing was heard from the ship.”
Dorak took a deep breath. “And they wanted to keep that a secret so nobody would panic because of the unknown force that attacked the GOOD HOPE?” he asked.

“Does that have anything to do with the riddle here?”
“No. But you wanted to know how I know the name of this star. And I answered that for you.”
Jarmo nodded. “Right. That’s what I asked.”
“I know even more. The Rulan system has already been mapped by the GOOD HOPE. It has seven planets, Rulan Piemi, Rulan Feri, Rulan Cati, Rulan Fua, Rulan Itra, Rulan Ume, and Rulan Erse.”
“Wow. But my question again: does that have anything to do with the riddle here?”
“No, not yet. But I have a suspicion about the door. You found that key, didn’t you?”
Jarmo put down the two statuettes he had been holding. He reached into his uniform pocket and pulled out a small key. Marion took the key from his hand and inserted it into the slot they had found in the surface of the carved star Rulan. A click was heard.
Marion breathed in audibly. “Now we will soon find out whether I was right.” She turned the key. With a crunch, the door moved to the side. The passage was free. Jarmo picked up the statuettes again. They went through the passage.

Much to their surprise, they found themselves in the first room of the temple on the surface.
“Look!” Marion said suddenly. “The door! We were on the other side of the door we saw at the very beginning.”

She looked directly at Jarmo. His face showed a pained expression, but also looked kind of surprised. Marion had to laugh out loud. It lasted a moment, then Jarmo laughed with her. After all, despite all the obstacles, the mission had been a success. With the statuette they had found the second signpost to the Temple of the Wind Harp. And they were a little closer to the temple.

Battling the Sea Beast

Aisha and Jarmo sat on the cold metal floor of their cell, the only light coming from a small crack in the door. They had been here for almost a month now and every day was the same routine. They would receive a bowl of fish soup, then be allowed to exercise for an hour in the small courtyard, before being locked back in their cell.

“It seems like STAR COMMAND doesn’t even care about us,” Aisha said, frustration clear in her voice.

Jarmo shook his head, “They do care, Aisha. They just have to be careful. The Shark Men are a powerful force on this planet.”

Aisha sighed, “I know, but it’s just frustrating being stuck here. I miss the sunshine and fresh air.”

Jarmo put his arm around her, “I miss it too, Aisha. But at least we have each other.”

As they sat in silence, they suddenly heard a loud bang from outside the door. A figure quickly slipped through the crack and closed the door behind her. It was a woman, about 30 years old, with brown hair and a determined look in her eyes.

“I’m Marion Alsy, from BUREAU 07,” she whispered, “I’m here to get you out.”

Jarmo and Aisha stared at her in disbelief, unsure if they could trust her. But they knew they had no other choice. Marion pulled out a small device and placed it on the door. It beeped twice and the door slid open. “Quickly, we have to go now,” she said, leading the way.

Marion brought with her advanced underwater technology, including special breathing apparatuses that allowed Aisha and Jarmo to breathe underwater for an extended period of time. Aisha and Jarmo should quickly find out why. For not the entire city of the Chardadon was filled with air like the cell in which the two had been held captive. Some parts of the cave system in which the city was built were submerged. That was only logical, since the Chardadon were amphibians.

With Marion’s help, Aisha and Jarmo managed to escape their cell undetected. Then something strange happened: Marion put the breathing gear on the two before they were supposed to climb down into a tunnel that was flooded with water. Only Marion didn’t put on any equipment. Jarmo wondered if she could hold her breath that long, but then he realized it was different: she was breathing underwater! How was that possible? But now was no time to think about such details. They swam through the maze of tunnels and caverns that made up the underwater city, careful to avoid the Shark Men’s patrols.

As they swam through the dark, murky waters, they could see the glowing lights of the city growing smaller and smaller behind them. They knew they had to move quickly if they wanted to escape before the Shark Men realized they were missing.

Marion led the way, using her knowledge of the city’s layout to navigate through the twisting tunnels. Aisha and Jarmo followed closely behind, their hearts pounding with fear and anticipation.

As they swam, they could hear the sounds of alarms ringing out across the city, signaling that their escape had been discovered. They could also hear the sounds of the Shark Men’s weapons firing, echoing through the water.

Photo by Kris Mikael Krister on Unsplash

Marion led them to a small, hidden chamber, where she had stashed a small underwater vehicle. They quickly climbed aboard and Marion piloted the craft out of the city and into the open sea.

As they sped away from the city, they could see the Shark Men’s submarines in hot pursuit. The chase was on.

Marion expertly maneuvered the small craft through the twisting underwater canyons, using the terrain to her advantage to stay one step ahead of the pursuing Shark Men.

Aisha and Jarmo manned the vehicle’s weapons, firing back at the Shark Men’s pursuing craft. The water exploded around them as the two sides exchanged fire.

Finally, after what felt like hours of intense fighting and heart-pumping action, Marion managed to outmaneuver the Shark Men and lose them in the maze of underwater canyons.

Exhausted and exhilarated, Aisha and Jarmo collapsed onto the floor of the small craft, their hearts still pounding with adrenaline.

“That was close,” Aisha said, looking over at Marion. “You’re a mircale.”

Marion smiled, “Don’t thank me too early,” she said, “We’re not yet at our destination.”

With that, they set course for the surface, leaving the underwater city of the Shark Men far behind them. Aisha and Jarmo were amazed when they looked out through the submarine’s portholes and saw countless jellyfish. Wasn’t that the case before? But it had already been a month since her trip to the city of the Chardadon. Finally they surfaced in a small cove and Marion turned to Aisha and Jarmo, “I’m sorry it took so long for BUREAU 07 to find you. We had to wait until we had a safe opportunity to get you out.”

In the cove a small, sleek submarine was waiting for them. “This is our final ride out of here,” Marion said with a grin.

The trio climbed aboard the sub and Marion set the coordinates for a nearby STAR COMMAND base. As they began their journey, Aisha and Jarmo couldn’t help but express their gratitude to Marion for rescuing them.

“Thank you so much for coming to our rescue,” Aisha said. “We thought we were goners.”

Marion smiled at them. “It’s all part of the job,” she replied. “I’m just glad I was able to get to you in time.”

Aisha McClure, Jarmo Dorak, and Marion Alsy had finally made their way back to the beach where they had found the slate with the map to the Temple of the Wind Harp. They were exhausted and battered, but they knew that they had to press on with their mission.

As they sat on the beach catching their breath, they noticed something moving in the water. At first, they thought it might be a school of fish, but as the creature came closer, they realized it was something far larger and more dangerous.

It was a sea beast, a giant creature with multiple tentacles that reached out from its massive body. The creature was heading straight for the beach, and it was clear that it was not going to stop until it had caught them.

Marion quickly sprang into action, grabbing her laser gun from her bag and firing a shot at the creature. The blast hit the creature, causing it to thrash and writhe in the water, but it didn’t slow down.

Jarmo and Aisha also drew their weapons, ready to fight off the beast. Aisha fired her blaster, but the creature’s thick skin absorbed the blast, leaving no visible damage.

Jarmo quickly realized that the creature was impervious to their laser guns and decided to try a different approach. He grabbed a nearby piece of driftwood and charged toward the creature, hoping to use it to block the tentacles.

As the creature got closer, Jarmo jumped into the water, holding the driftwood out in front of him. The tentacles wrapped around the wood, and Jarmo tried to push them away, but the creature was too strong.

Marion quickly realized that Jarmo was in trouble and fired another shot at the creature, hitting it in one of its eyes. The creature roared in pain and released its grip on the driftwood, giving Jarmo a chance to swim back to shore.

As the Sea Beast let out a deafening roar, Aisha, Jarmo, and Marion tried to dodge its incoming tentacles. Aisha and Marion took cover behind a large rock, while Jarmo tried to keep the creature distracted by firing his blaster at it. But it seemed that their efforts were in vain, as the Sea Beast kept coming at them with a relentless fury.

Suddenly, Marion had an idea. She remembered that she had a special device in her backpack that could temporarily stun the Sea Beast. She quickly retrieved it and activated it, aiming it directly at the creature’s eyes. The device emitted a bright flash of light, causing the Sea Beast to writhe in pain and confusion.

Seizing the opportunity, Jarmo fired his blaster again, aiming for the creature’s vulnerable spot. This time, the shot hit its mark, and the Sea Beast let out a blood-curdling scream before collapsing into the sand.

Panting and exhausted, Aisha, Jarmo, and Marion looked at each other in disbelief. They had just battled a Sea Beast and emerged victorious. But their victory was short-lived, as they realized that they had attracted the attention of the Shark Men, who were now approaching the beach in their submarines.

Without hesitation, the trio started running towards the nearby jungle. They knew that they had to find a place to hide and come up with a plan to continue their journey to the Temple of the Wind Harp.

As they ran, Aisha noticed that Marion was struggling to keep up. She had sustained an injury during their fight with the Sea Beast and was limping. Without a second thought, Aisha went back to help her, while Jarmo continued ahead to scout the area.

Aisha and Marion found a small cave that they could use as a hiding place. They quickly made a fire and tended to Marion’s wound. As they waited for Jarmo to return, they talked about their past experiences and how they had ended up on this planet.

Marion explained that she was a member of Bureau 07, a secret service within… well, that came up as a surprise to Jarmo and Aisha. They expected that Marion would say “Star Command”, but she said “ASTROCOHORS”.

“No, really!” Jarmo exclaimed. “They really did it?”
“That was to be expected,” Marion replied firmly. “After all the problems the space agency has had, this had to happen. This will be the case from next year. So starting tomorrow.”
“Wait,” Aisha interjected, “does that mean the organization has changed its name?”
“Yes, because of all the problems that have been going on lately,” Marion explained. “Besides, it has long been felt that STAR COMMAND sounds too terran for an interplanetary organization. ASTROCOHORS simply fits better.”
“At least literally,” said Jarmo. “Otherwise nothing changes. ‘ASTROCOHORS’ simply means ‘Starfleet’, just in GalStan.”
Aisha looked at him with mock severity. “Hey! Who’s the linguist here?” And to Marion she added: “And this Bureau 07 is what exactly again?”

“Bureau 07” was not known to everyone, but at some point the space organization had to recognize that it needed a secret service. A secret service that dealt with high-risk missions. Marion went on to explain that she had been sent to rescue Aisha and Jarmo after they went missing.

Aisha and Jarmo shared their stories as well. The Temple of the Wind Harp and all that. But they had never expected to end up in a situation like this.

As they sat in the cave, listening to the sounds of the jungle and the approaching Shark Men, Aisha, Jarmo, and Marion knew that they had to work together if they wanted to survive. They had battled a Sea Beast and escaped the Shark Men’s city, but their journey was far from over. They had to continue their search for the Temple of the Wind Harp, and they had to do it quickly before the Shark Men caught up to them.

As the Shark Men’s footsteps grew closer, the three braced themselves for the worst. Marion was still in severe pain from the sea beast’s attack, and they knew that they couldn’t outrun the Shark Men.

Jarmo frantically searched the cave for any possible escape route, but it seemed like they were trapped. Aisha tried to come up with a plan, but her mind was clouded with fear and uncertainty.

Just as the Shark Men were about to enter the cave, a sudden rumble shook the ground beneath them. The Shark Men looked startled and quickly retreated back to the ocean.

“What just happened?” Aisha asked, her heart racing.

“I don’t know,” Jarmo said, looking around in confusion.

Marion’s eyes widened in realization. “The Temple of the Wind Harp,” she said weakly. “The legends say that it has the power to control the elements. We must have awakened it with our presence.”

Aisha and Jarmo exchanged a look of disbelief, but they knew that they couldn’t waste any more time. They quickly helped Marion to her feet and made their way out of the cave. They could see it then. The beach where Aisha and Jarmo had found the stone tablet with the map had changed. A hole had formed, as if the sand had simply disappeared inside the planet. The walls of the hole sloped downwards. There was some kind of building there, a rectangular structure with an Obelisk on top.
“Look!” Aisha shouted, “The top of the obelisk!”
Jarmo took a closer look. Yes! The top of the obelisk was the slab of lyranium they had discovered and excavated. They hadn’t been able to lift it and assumed it was just too heavy. But that made it clear, they hadn’t just found a plaque, they had found this building. Was that really the Temple of the Wind Harp?

As they approached the temple, they saw that it was surrounded by a powerful energy field. Aisha reached out to touch it, but the field repelled her with a force that knocked her to the ground.

“We can’t get through,” Jarmo said, helping Aisha up.

Marion nodded. “We need to find a way to bypass the energy field. The temple must have another entrance.”

They searched the surrounding area, but they couldn’t find any other entrance. Just as they were about to give up, they heard a faint humming sound coming from a nearby cliff. They cautiously approached the cliff and found a hidden cave entrance. As they made their way inside, they saw a glowing crystal that emitted a soft blue light.

“This must be the source of the energy field,” Marion said, pointing to the crystal.

Jarmo examined it closely and saw that it was connected to a series of wires that led to the temple. “I think I can disconnect it,” he said.

Aisha and Marion stood guard as Jarmo carefully removed the wires. As soon as the last wire was disconnected, the energy field surrounding the temple disappeared.

They rushed inside and saw the ancient Wind Harp, a massive instrument made of crystal and metal. Aisha touched one of the strings, and the harp emitted a beautiful melody that echoed throughout the temple.

“We did it,” Marion said, her eyes filled with awe.

Suddenly the melody changed. She formed words that the three of them couldn’t understand at first.
“Uyu! Uyu!” the voice sang. “La! La! La! La! Hear what the voice has to say. Traveler who seeks the Wind Harp Temple, let me tell you that your search is not over yet, for this is not it. But much you have achieved by finding this place. So don’t give up! This place is a signpost. Four signposts point to the Temple of the Wind Harp. You have to find them all and then you will find the temple. Four signposts on four planets. Through the You can find signposts from planet to planet, and when you have all four, they will show you the passage to the temple.”
Aisha could hear Jarmo taking a deep breath. At that moment a compartment opened in the harp they had taken for the wind harp. A red crystal became visible.
“This is the first signpost,” the voice continued. “You will find the second on the planet that gets so much love from the mother star that life is hardly possible on it, and yet it exists. In a temple like this in the caves of Ruy’i Koolyan you will find the next signpost.”
Aisha took the red crystal from the compartment. It seemed to glow by itself. Marion looked around uneasily. She had expected that once the crystal was taken out, the temple would collapse. But that didn’t happen. The three were able to leave the temple.
They were even able to exit the hole where the temple lay. Only then did the ground tremble and, as if by magic, the sand rose and buried the temple beneath it.

“So the search goes on,” stated Jarmo Dorak.
Aisha gave him a silent nod and smiled.
“Hey,” Marion said, “do you still need help? Maybe my supervisor will let me go after what’s happened here. You could use a bodyguard. Well, at least if my leg is okay again.”
“Hm,” said Jarmo. “What are you thinking, Aisha?”
“Without her, we’d still be stuck with the Chardadon,” Aisha pointed out. “She is right.”
“Well then.” Jarmo turned directly to Marion: “By the time your leg is okay again, we may have found out what exactly the mysterious voice meant with these caves of Ruy’i Koolyan.”
They heard a noise and spun around. But this time it wasn’t an enemy trying to attack them, it was a small spaceship approaching.
“My friends,” Marion said, “our cab away from this place is here!”

Captured by Shark Men

Aisha couldn’t believe it, but it was almost a month now that she and Jarmo had built the camp on that beach. The beach was a true treasure trove. Not only had they found a stone tablet with a map, but other artifacts as well. Jarmo wondered why they hadn’t found them sooner, but Aisha explained that it was definitely due to the Mag’a cult. To the Mag’a cult, anything not written in their holy book was evil sorcery and blasphemy. Since the Temple of the Wind Harp supposedly held the key to much wisdom in the universe, but according to the cultists only the holy book held the key to wisdom, all references to the temple were also blasphemy.

That morning, as always, the two had woken up together. Jarmo smiled. He had never felt such a close connection as with Aisha. The two had clearly sought and found each other. Aisha got up and looked around. She always did, every morning. Perhaps their experiences had made them overly cautious. But in this area, especially on Mars, you couldn’t be too careful. And like every morning, she went to her backpack and pulled out her sword to have it ready.

When Aisha had shown him the sword for the first time, he had been very surprised, but Jarmo had to admit that she was very skilled with it. At least what he had seen from their exercises. In fact, there were some areas on the planets of the solar system that still used such or similar weapons. There was definitely an advantage in melee combat.

Now that everything was prepared, Aisha went to Jarmo and kissed him tenderly. “Morning swim?” she asked.
He nodded. This had become their daily routine. Wake up. Prepare. Swim. Breakfast.

After breakfast, Aisha and Jarmo examined the tablet further, trying to decipher the clues that would lead them to the Temple of the Windharp. As they worked, they heard a strange noise coming from the water.

Jarmo looked up, his eyes widening in alarm. “Aisha, look!” he said, pointing towards the ocean.

Aisha turned to look, and her heart sank as she saw several dark figures emerging from the water. “Shark Men,” she whispered, her voice filled with fear.

The Shark Men were a vicious species that lived in the depths of the ocean, known for their deadly attacks on unsuspecting prey. They were tall, muscular creatures with razor-sharp teeth and powerful jaws. Jarmo and Aisha knew they had to act fast. They quickly gathered their weapons and prepared for battle. The Shark Men charged towards them, their powerful legs propelling them forward with incredible speed. Jarmo fired his laser gun, hitting one of the creatures in the chest, but it barely flinched.

Aisha swung her sword, slicing through the air with deadly precision. She managed to cut off the arm of one of the Shark Men, but it kept coming, its eyes blazing with fury. The battle raged on, with Aisha and Jarmo fighting for their lives. They managed to fend off several attacks, but the Shark Men were relentless, their strength and speed proving to be a formidable challenge.

Suddenly, one of the Shark Men grabbed Aisha by the arm, pulling her towards the water. Jarmo tried to intervene, but he was quickly overpowered by the other creatures. Aisha struggled against her captor, kicking and screaming, but it was no use. The Shark Men were too strong.

They dragged Aisha and Jarmo into the water, pulling them towards a waiting submarine. Aisha and Jarmo continued to fight, their hearts pounding with fear and adrenaline. As they were dragged into the submarine, Aisha and Jarmo felt a sudden rush of panic. They were being pulled towards an airlock on the side of the submarine.

But just as they were about to be thrown into the airlock, Aisha and Jarmo managed to break free. They fought their way back to the surface, gasping for air as they emerged from the water.

The Shark Men swam away, their angry eyes fixed on Aisha and Jarmo as they disappeared into the depths of the ocean. Aisha and Jarmo looked at each other, their bodies shaking with fear and exhaustion. But they were alive.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

A day had passed since the first attack, and Aisha and Jarmo were still hard at work, determined to find the Temple of the Windharp. But as they were searching the beach, they heard a familiar sound – the Shark Men were back.

Before they could react, the creatures charged towards them, their massive bodies cutting through the water with incredible speed. Aisha and Jarmo fought back with all their might, but there were too many of them. Within minutes, they were overpowered and dragged down into the depths of the ocean.

Underwater, the fight continued, with Aisha and Jarmo struggling against the Shark Men. Aisha swung her sword, slashing through the water with deadly accuracy, while Jarmo fired his laser gun, hitting several of the creatures in the chest.

But this time the Shark Men were too powerful, and soon Aisha and Jarmo found themselves being dragged towards the waiting submarine. They fought back with all their might, but it was no use – they were thrown into the submarine and locked in a small, dark cell.

Hours passed, and Aisha and Jarmo sat in their cell, their minds racing with fear and uncertainty. Suddenly, the door to their cell opened, and a group of Shark Men entered.

“We have orders to take you to the Kingdom of the Chardadon,” said one of the creatures, its voice deep and guttural.

Aisha and Jarmo exchanged a worried glance, unsure of what lay ahead. But they knew that they had to stay strong, no matter what. Their journey took about one hour, then the submarine arrived at a cave. The cave was sealed with a gate that slowly opened as they approached it. Aisha and Jarmo were led out of their cell and out of the sub. Now they saw for the first time where they had arrived: In a large cave with a kind of harbor where the submarine had docked. The Shark Men led them and down a long, winding corridor. As they walked, Aisha and Jarmo could feel the weight of their situation bearing down on them.

Finally, they reached the throne room of the Shark Men’s King. The room was vast, with high ceilings and ornate decorations. On the throne sat the King of the Shark Men, a towering figure with piercing eyes and a sharp-toothed grin.

“We have captured these two humans, Your Majesty,” said one of the Shark Men, bowing before the King.

The King nodded, his eyes fixed on Aisha and Jarmo. “So, you are the ones who have been causing us so much trouble,” he said, his voice deep and menacing.

Aisha and Jarmo exchanged a worried glance, unsure of what to do next. They knew that they had to stay strong, no matter what lay ahead. But as they looked around the throne room, they couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread creeping over them.

They were officially prisoners of the Kingdom of these people, and they had no idea how they were going to escape. Aisha had heard stories about these creatures, and “shark people” was an attempt to somehow name their appearance and habitat. They were amphibians. They lived in one of the few seas on Mars. They called themselves Chardadon and wanted nothing to do with the “ground people”, as they called the non-amphibious life forms. This had to do with their history, they had been oppressed for a long time by an emperor who belonged to the “ground people”. But what did they want from Aisha and Jarmo? Did they want to prevent the two from looking further? Or was the beach some kind of sacred ground that the two had desecrated?
The Chardadon king was apparently unwilling to answer the question. “Take them away!” he ordered. Guards grabbed Jarmo and Aisha and took them to another cell. Jarmo had tried to memorize as many details of the environment as possible for a possible escape on the way there. But it was just too much. The city was very impressive. The passages were carved into the rock. The walls were decorated with reliefs. Now and then there were doors.

The cell they were taken to, on the other hand, was pretty bare. Four walls. A solid metal door. And a porthole that looked out at the ocean.
“We have to be relatively deep under water,” Jarmo stated.
“How do you know that?” Aisha asked.
“See the surroundings glowing that weird blue hue out there? The light from the sun is made up of many colors of different wavelengths. When it’s sent through water, it loses one color at a time, depending on how deep the water is . In the end, all that’s left is blue. So we’re pretty deep.”
Aisha looked at him in shock. “But that means,” she stated, “even if we got out of this cell, we wouldn’t have a chance of escaping the city! We can’t hold our breath that long.”
“No,” confirmed Jarmo. “We’ll have to wait and see what the Chardadon intend for us.”

The only hope they had was that when regular reports stopped coming in, STAR COMMAND would be looking for them. But how long would that take?

The Tunnel of Terror

Jarmo and Aisha emerged from the Tunnel of Terror gasping for air, their hearts racing. They had faced one danger after another, but they had made it through alive. The hovercraft they’d taken through Mount Konomara made a few protesting noises, but it was still working.
“One thing I know,” said Aisha. “It wasn’t a good idea to take a vehicle that didn’t have a roof!”
“I guess I have to take my responsibility”, Dorak replied.
It had been about two weeks since they met in such an adventurous way. They had escaped the enemy city with the help of a few friendly Martians. Aisha was a linguist and was completely blown away when Jarmo told her why he had come to this place. She had heard of the legend of the Temple of the Wind Harp. She also knew that the temple obviously really existed, or maybe had existed. She was taking time off from her time as a Fleet officer, so she offered to accompany Jarmo. Maybe he would need someone who could translate languages. They worked closely together for the past two weeks. Even if the time had actually been short, a kind of intimacy had developed between the two. Maybe that came from the special circumstances of their meeting. In any case, they found that they worked well together. Almost as if they had known her not just for two weeks, but for several years. On several occasions, Aisha looked at Jarmo and was reminded of a friend she had known since she was a Fleet cadet. Then she smiled quietly to herself.

She had been able to prove her talent right away. Jarmo had photographed a stone slab in the museum in the city of Aresium. It hadn’t been easy, because the damn Mag’a cult had them hidden in the basement of the museum. To the Mag’a, the inscriptions of the ancient Martians were blasphemy. Luckily they hadn’t scratched the drawings and inscriptions out of the stone. Jarmo had seen that too, beautiful old works of art destroyed by blind faith.
The inscription on the stone slab dealt with the old myth about the so-called “Tunnel of Terror”. And that’s what it really had become, because according to what Jarmo had seen on the maps, it led through a mountain range and left the domed city at a point below ground. However, it would lead somewhere into a valley, and from there the search for clues would continue.

But, Jarmo Aisha had to agree, maybe they should have taken something other than a hovercraft. Or at least a hovercraft with a cockpit. They had indeed found the entrance to the Tunnel of Terror. And they had crossed it. They just got through.

As they stood at the entrance to the tunnel, catching their breath, they looked out at the vast ocean that stretched before them. The shore was rocky and treacherous, but they could see a path leading to a small cove where they could land their hovercraft. Jarmo quickly took out his scanner and began scanning the area for any signs of the Wind Harp. He had been searching for the ancient artifact for years, and he was determined to find it no matter what. The inscription on the stone tablet in the museum had contained a clue: a certain material, a kind of dark rock called lyranium, would show the way and the destination. Luckily, the stone tablet had a piece of lyranium embedded in it, so Jarmo could sample it. His scanner was tuned to the result of the sample and would show him the lyranium if any were nearby.

Aisha walked over to the edge of the water and dipped her toe in. The water was crystal clear and cool against her skin. She smiled, took off her top and pants, and waded out further into the water, beckoning for Jarmo to join her. He also took off his outerwear and followed her. For a few minutes, they forgot about their quest and swam and splashed in the lake, laughing and playing like children. But their fun was short-lived, as a loud rumbling sound interrupted their playtime.

Picture by Jakob Owens /

They both looked up to see a massive boulder rolling down the hill, heading straight for them. Jarmo grabbed Aisha’s hand and they ran as fast as they could towards the tunnel.

The boulder narrowly missed them and crashed into the water, sending a wave of water and rocks in their direction. They were knocked off their feet and swept up in the current.

As they tumbled downstream, they struggled to regain their footing, but the current was too strong. Suddenly, they were caught in a whirlpool, and Jarmo could see the entrance to the tunnel disappearing from view.

He knew they had to get out of the whirlpool fast, or they would be sucked under. With all his might, he grabbed Aisha and they swam towards the edge of the whirlpool, using all their strength to break free.

Finally, they made it to the edge, exhausted and out of breath. Jarmo looked at Aisha, and they both nodded, silently agreeing that they had to keep going. They had come too far to turn back now. But the hovercraft was no longer of any use to them, so they had to get their backpacks and started walking. The scanner showed a direction that went along the edge of the mountain, always along the water.

Jarmo looked out at the vast expanse of water, and he knew they had a long way to go. But he was determined to find the Wind Harp, no matter what dangers lay ahead. He turned to Aisha and smiled, grateful to have her by his side.

“Let’s go,” he said, and they set off towards the horizon, ready to face whatever challenges lay ahead.

The path ahead was treacherous, but they were determined to keep going. They climbed over boulders, crossed rickety bridges, and navigated through narrow tunnels. They had to dodge falling rocks and debris.

Finally they arrived at a wide expanse, an almost picturesque beach. They put down their backpacks. The sun was already low and created an almost romantic mood. Jarmo checked his scanner.
“We seem to be right,” he stated. “Somewhere on this beach there must be lyranium. But I think it’s too late for today.”
The two set up their camp. The sun was almost down now. But there was still light.

Jarmo and Aisha decided to take a short walk along the beach, the waves lapping at their feet. The sun had almost set, and the sky was a riot of orange and pink hues. Then, Aisha sat down on the sand, and Jarmo joined her, sitting close. They both looked out at the ocean, lost in thought.

“You know,” Aisha said, breaking the silence. “I’ve been alone for a long time.”

Jarmo turned to her, his eyes searching hers. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that I’ve spent most of my life searching for something,” Aisha said, her voice soft. “And in doing so, I’ve neglected other parts of my life.”

Jarmo nodded, understanding what she meant. “I know what you mean. I’ve been so focused on finding things that I’ve forgotten what it means to truly live.”

Aisha smiled, turning to look at him. “You know, when I first met you, I thought you were just another adventurer looking for treasure.”

Jarmo grinned, shaking his head. “I’m not looking for treasure. I’m looking for something more.”

“Like what?” Aisha asked, curiosity piqued.

Jarmo hesitated for a moment before speaking. “I’m looking for a purpose. Something that will give my life meaning.”

Aisha’s heart swelled with emotion, and she reached out to touch his hand. “You know, I think you’ve already found it.”

Jarmo looked at her, confusion etched on his face. “What do you mean?”

“I mean us,” Aisha said, her voice barely above a whisper. “We’ve been through so much together in this short time, and we’ve come so far. Maybe that’s what we were both searching for all along.”

Jarmo’s heart raced, and he looked into Aisha’s eyes, seeing the truth in her words. He leaned in closer to her, and without thinking, he kissed her. The kiss was soft and gentle at first, but it quickly grew more passionate as they both realized their feelings for each other.

As they pulled away from the kiss, they looked at each other, their hearts full of love and hope. They knew that they still had a long way to go in their search for the Wind Harp, but now they had each other.

Hand in hand, they walked back to their campsite, their hearts full of love and happiness.

The next morning, Jarmo and Aisha woke up in their small campsite, the sun already up in the sky. They lay in their sleeping bags, looking at each other with a deep sense of contentment.

“Good morning,” Jarmo said, his voice filled with love.

“Good morning to you too,” Aisha replied, a smile spreading across her face.

Jarmo leaned in and kissed her gently, feeling a surge of warmth and happiness spread through his body. “I had the best sleep last night,” he said, looking at Aisha with an expression of pure joy.

“Me too,” Aisha said, her voice soft and tender. “It’s amazing how much difference a good night’s sleep can make.” She emphasized the word “sleep” in a very special way. Jarmo grinned, he understood her perfectly.

He nodded, then got up from his sleeping bag, grabbing his scanner. “I’m going to scan the beach again, see if we can find any more traces of lyranium.”

Aisha watched him go, feeling a deep sense of admiration and affection for him. She picked up her notebook and pen, then set about translating the inscription they had found the previous day. Breakfast? Later!

As she worked, Jarmo came back, his face lit up with excitement. “I found something!” he exclaimed, holding up the scanner. “It’s about 200 meters to the east of here.”

Aisha’s heart raced with anticipation as she followed Jarmo to the location where the scanner had indicated. They started digging in the sand, and after a few minutes, they found a small stone tablet with an inscription.

Aisha examined the tablet, her eyes moving quickly over the ancient symbols. “It’s a map,” she said, her voice filled with excitement. “It shows the location of the Temple of the Windharp. I have to do some more work, but…”

Jarmo looked at her, a huge grin spreading across his face. “That’s incredible! We’re one step closer to finding it!”

Aisha nodded, feeling a deep sense of gratitude for Jarmo’s companionship and support. “I’m glad I went on this adventure with you,” she said, looking at him with love in her eyes.

Jarmo leaned in and kissed her, his heart filled with joy and happiness. “I’m just glad I get to share this journey with you,” he said, his voice filled with emotion.

As they sat on the beach, basking in the glow of their love, they knew that the road ahead would be long and challenging. But they also knew that they had each other, and that was all they needed to face whatever lay ahead. But now it was really time for breakfast.

The Planet of Peril

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash
Surface of Mars. Photo by NASA on Unsplash
Surface of Mars. Photo by NASA on Unsplash

It would have been an exaggeration to describe the planet Mars as “calm”. Scientists on Earth would have said that because the grid hid the events that were taking place on this desert planet from their prying eyes. Life had changed a lot since the climate catastrophe. Mars had previously been made up of large deserts, but it had gotten worse since the atmosphere was no longer renewed. The Martians had withdrawn to domed cities. The domed cities of Mars had always been epicentres for social unrest. And whenever the unrest increased, there was some high-ranking military member who willingly supported a politician. Then propaganda was carried out so that one could emigrate to other planets, one only had to conquer them. However, any attempt to conquer has so far failed. Not even the radical cult that followed the “Eternal” was successful. And in a world like Mars, that meant something.

The domed city Aresium was the capital of the planet. You could say that this was the most civilized place. But that was not an award. “Civilized” was a very relative description on Mars. The dome of Aresium spanned a large crater in the northern hemisphere of the planet. There was the city of Aresium itself with its tall buildings, several parks that were important for the preservation of the air and even a body of water. The water was also important for the ecological balance under the dome. The city had a whole authority that only dealt with the issues of balance.

Jarmo Dorak turned around. He stood close to a building under some sort of sun shield. He wore the black uniform shirt of STAR COMMAND, together with the trousers in khaki colours so everybody near him could recognize him as an officer of the space fleet. But he would have been recognized anyway.

Jarmo Dorak. Picture by
Jarmo Dorak. Picture by

Jarmo was still fascinated. He had seen inhabitants of other planets in the solar system many times before, but never had so many different ones in one place. They all looked like human beings from Earth, but what made them different was skin color. Of course, they looked like people from Earth, the ACELS had made them from Earth humans and adjusted their DNA. Martians, for example, were characterized by their extremely red skin tone.
“I shouldn’t be staring at her,” Jarmo said to himself. Perhaps the Martians felt that as an insult. And when they were offended, the Martians could get very unpleasant.

The dome’s waters sprang from various sources that were carefully monitored. And pretty much in the middle of the crater they ran into a large lake. The lake was the basis of life for many residents of Aresium. There were fishermen here, but also transport boats. Many goods were transported from one side of the lake to the other. Here, where Jarmo was, was the city’s residential and business district. There were large industrial plants on the other side of the lake. There was, of course, its own weather under the dome and, as so often on Mars, it was warm. The sun did not have the same power as on Earth, but there were fewer clouds. If any.

Jarmo sauntered down a sprawling promenade and reached a large structure that seemed to be made of something similar to wood. A pier, a large jetty that led from the promenade across the beach below into the water. The pier ended at a large platform. Here were small houses or stalls, to be exact. And a…
Was that a crane?

Although Jarmo had noticed the steel scaffolding and also that a lot of Martians were there, but now he realized why they were there. The crane had a winch, from which a rope was led over the boom, which hung down into the water. Jarmo had not seen it at first, but there was a person hanging from the rope! Not the way someone hanged someone to strangle him. No, the rope of the crane was wrapped around the person’s ankles, so that she hung with her head down in the water.
And that was why Jarmo had not noticed the person at first: she had been under water. Now he heard the crowd of Martians next to the crane yelling and screaming. Someone operated the crane and that was cheered on by the crowd.

Jarmo could only guess what the reason for this cruel spectacle was. But it was a very good guess. Because the person who was hanging on the rope was a Terran. And she had a dark skin, probably African roots, even if she did not even come directly from this continent.
Now Jarmo noticed a second group of people who stood aloof, but behaved completely differently. They were crowded together, talking softly. You could see that they did not like the spectacle, but they did not have the courage to intervene. That was no wonder, because all these people belonged to minorities. Green-skinned Venusians, blue-skinned Neptunians, people from Saturn and so forth. And Martian “Un-Pures”.

Jarmo had already heard about it: Amongst the Martians, a kind of “culture of purity” had developed. The pigments in the skin of an average Martians had to be red, then he was “pure”. But in the course of history many peoples had immigrated to the territory of the Solar System. Children from mixed relationships could be recognized immediately by a different skin tone or darker spots. It was simply a whim of nature, nature loved diversity, not monotony. The spots sometimes formed interesting patterns, may have different shades. But it led to exclusion. The darker and larger the spots were, the more the “pure” Martians looked down on others.

And now there had come a Terran whose skin was completely dark. An abomination for the “pure”! Such things were extremely rare among the Martians. Apparently that was reason enough for the mob to go crazy. Now you could even understand, what the crowd was yelling: “Mag’a! Mag’a! Mag’a!” It was a Martian word meaning “Eternal”. At least some of them supposedly were radical cultist. The rest were just followers.

“Please sir!” Jarmo Dorak turner around. He had been so focused on the crowd that he had not noticed how a man approached him. A Martian with a green pattern on the skin.
“Please, sir!” The man repeated. “I see you are also appalled by this. Please do something, we can not do anything without exposing ourself to the wrath of the crowd! She comes from your world, right?”
The Terran nodded. The young woman was about his age, about the end of her twenties. She had curly dark hair and wore nothing but a bikini. Apparently her clothes had been ripped off her.
She has just been pulled up again. You could hear her all over the pier gasping for air. The Martian operating the crane shouted: “Down again, yes?”
The crowd yelled. Maybe something like “Yes!” It was not understandable and it did not really matter. A button was pressed. The winch released the rope. The young Terran fell like a stone into the water. With a slpashing sound she disappeared between the waves.
“Get them up again!” Shouted the man who operated the winch. “Then she’s allowed to breathe again, and then let’s see how long she can stand underwater! They say Terrans are good athletes, let’s find out!”
Jarmo now knew he had to act quickly. But he too had no chance against the crowd. He had to do something different.
He winked at the Martian who was standing next to him. Then he ran from the pier down to the beach, under the construction.
He took off his clothes. He left his underpants on and hoped that the water would not be too cold. Above, the crowd screamed. He took his multifunction tool from a trouser pocket and went a few steps into the water. Not too cold, he noted. He went into the water and started to swim, always making sure to stay under the pier. The crowd up there should not see him.

Then it happened!

With a splash, the woman fell into the water and sank immediately. Jarmo did not understand that. Yes, her feet were tied up, but why did she sink in the water? Jarmo took a deep breath and went under.

The water was fortunately clear enough so that he could see. He saw the woman sinking to the bottom. Desperately, she moved her arms. Jarmo realized that the rope tied around her feet held a weight that pulled her down. And either she was not a good swimmer or just too exhausted, so she could not make it back to the surface.
Jarmo swam up to her. He realized that she was startled when he touched her feet. He took his tool and cut into the rope. It was tiring, but he managed to cut right through the rope.

He noticed that a large part of the rope lay loosely on the ground. The guy on the winch had given a lot of rope. He obviously wanted to make sure that the woman was really on the ground of the lake. He grabbed the woman and pulled her away under water until both were under the pier. Then they showed up. The woman gasped loudly. Jarmo hoped the waves were louder. He hoped the Martians on the pier wouldn’t hear them.
“Can you hold on here?” Asked Jarmo.
The woman was still breathing frantically, but she nodded her head.
“Why?” She wanted to know.
“I have to do something else.”
Then he dived again.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Underwater Jarmo grabbed the lose end of the rope and swam toward one of the pillars that held the platform of the pier. He put the rope around the pillar and knotted it. Then he swam back to the woman and surfaced.
“I’ll take you to the beach,” he said to the woman. Then he took her under her arms and dragged her to the beach in the cover of the pier.
Arrived in the shallow water, she simply remained face down. She was completely out of breath. Jarmo saw that her face was not in the water and let her breathe first. For now, they would be safe here. Then he saw how the rope tensed. The crowd wanted to see the woman pulled up again. But as the rope was now tied to the pillar, nothing moved. Then he heard the engine of the winch howl. The guy upstairs had given more energy. And then it happened: Since the rope did not come loose, the crane was torn from its mount. He fell forward and smashed into the pier. People screamed and ran off in panic while the front of the pier slowly collapsed.

“That’ll be a lesson to them,” Jarmo muttered.
“I do not think so.” The young woman had said that. She slowly raised her head and looked at Jarmo. “Thanks for getting me out of there.”
“Never mind,” Jarmo replied, holding out his hand. “I am Jarmo Dorak.”
The woman took his hand. “Aisha McClure,” she said. She straightened her and looked down at herself. “Where did these barbarians put my clothes and my glasses?”
Jarmo also got up. “I do not know,” he answered. “I came only when you were already on the rope.”
“I can not walk this way!” She said indignantly.
“Up there were some people who had nothing to do with the mob, I’ll ask them, maybe they saw something.”
He wanted to leave, but Aisha grabbed him by the shoulder. “Hey!” She said. “Although that’s a nice sight, but you can not walk the streets like that either!”
“Damn, I did not think about that anymore!” He walked over to the spot where he had taken off his clothes. At that moment, the Martian came running, with whom Jarmo had previously spoken. He had big towels with them.
“Fast, fast,” said he. “The evil ones are gone, but they’ll be back, and then they’ll want to know what happened.”
Aisha and Jarmo wrapped themselves in the towels.
“We bring you to our homes,” said the Martian. “You can warm up there.”
“Did you happen to find my clothes?” Aisha asked.
“Yes, we did, and your glasses are safe too, we saved everything.”
Jarmo smiled at Aisha and she smiled back.
“Hurry now!” Demanded the Martian.
“What an adventure,” thought Jarmo. “I only came here because of the library.”

New Worlds to Conquer!

Surface of Mars. Photo by NASA on Unsplash
Surface of Mars. Photo by NASA on Unsplash
Surface of Mars. Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Jarmo Dorak was a young man in his twenties. To be exact, he was 29, but he looked younger. And although he was rather young, he was the chosen one to open up this new section of STAR COMMAND. The new section was named STAR COMMAND CLUB. Let’s start with that. And at the beginning of this report, Jarmo Dorak is in a shuttle that was launched from the ENDEAVOR spacecraft to fly to the surface of Mars. Actually, the new department should just be founded. The CLUB, which should spread knowledge and understanding among the peoples of the solar system. Especially on earth. And the CLUB should look for new recruits.
The departments at STAR COMMAND headquarters had agreed. And also the branches on the different planets of the solar system. However, one has to say that the Martians were somewhat peculiar. Since the last conflict, they had returned to their religious roots and paid much attention to ceremonies. Ceremonies were important. And they insisted that a ceremony be held at the Pyra Oracle on Mars.
“Where exactly are we going?” Dorak asked the pilot.
“Does the ‘Valley Without Hope’ sound familiar?” Asked the pilot back.
“Not that I know.”
“Today it’s called the ‘Valley of Liberation’. From here the resistance that brought down the last Mars dictator was started. There are a few caves there.”
“The caves also have a special name, am I right?”
The pilot laughed. “Of course they have a special name,” he said. “They’re called the ‘Blue Sorceress’ Caverns’. The Blue Sorceress reportedly destroyed the Kagnaszax jewels there, robbing the Mars dictator of a valuable source of power.”
“I don’t understand it anymore,” admitted Jarmo. “‘Valley Without Hope’, ‘Valley Of Liberation’, Blue Sorceress And Now Jewels? Jewels Of Ka .. What?”
“Kagnaszax,” repeated the pilot. “There is a large library in the capital, Aresium, where you can read all of it. It’s actually quite interesting. But you should get ready now.”
“Get ready?”
“The spacesuit. We have to go out into the atmosphere of Mars. You should put it on, there’s just enough time.”

The sight was overwhelming. A large pyramid towered over the valley. There was something in front of this pyramid that reminded of the Gize Sphinx. Jarmo remembered reading something. Originally there was a large stone block above the entrance to the caves. After the fall of the Mars dictator, the rock was redesigned. The resemblance to the Sphinx was not accidental.
Dorak and the pilot had just got out of the shuttle when a Martian in space suit came up to them. Jarmo activated the communication unit of his suit.
“Greetings to you!” He heard the Martian’s voice over the radio. He spoke in Galstan. His voice was a little high, but he had no accent. “I assume that you are Jarmo Dorak from STAR COMMAND?”
“I am,” Jarmo confirmed. “And who are you?”
“A humble servant of the oracle of Pyra,” said the other. “Call me Hellgge.”

At that moment there was a flash of lightning in the sky. Jarmo looked up and was amazed. A shuttle had started in the distance. An old transport shuttle that was supposed to bring material into orbit, maybe a satellite. It was an outstanding spectacle.
“Yes,” said Hellgge the Martian. “Always fascinating. But we don’t have much time. If you would follow me now?”

Hellgge brought Jarmo down into the valley. Between the paws of the sphinx was the entrance to the caves. After the atmosphere of Mars became thinner and thinner, the entrance had been fitted with a pressure door. The Terran and the Martian entered an airlock. After the air pressure was equalized, both were able to take off their spacesuits and put them aside. Then the inner door of the airlock opened. Now they were finally able to enter the oracle’s cave.
“Everything visible has to go beyond itself and enter the area of ​​the invisible,” said Hellgge. It sounded like a mantra. Or a prayer.
“May the forces of forty-two be with you,” answered someone from the back of the cave.
Jarmo had trouble recognizing something. There had been a lot of light in the airlock, but the cave itself was lit only by a few lamps. Then he recognized another Martian wearing a wide robe. He seemed like a priest.
“Is that our guest?” Asked the priest.
“This is Jarmo Dorak from STAR COMMAND,” said Hellgge.
“Greetings to you, Jarmo Dorak from STAR COMMAND,” said the priest. “I am Tornagg, ordained high level priest and protector of the oracle of Pyra. The Council of Elders sends you to us, right?”
“Uh, yes,” said Jarmo carefully. “We want to create a new STAR COMMAND division and the Council of Elders wishes the oracle’s blessing.”
Tornagg laughed. “The blessing of the oracle?” He said then. “Know, stranger, that no one receives the blessing of the oracle! This ceremony is about something else.”
“Forgive my ignorance,” Dorak apologized. “But the records of this ceremony are somewhat incomplete.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Tornagg. “The ceremony is not for reading. It has to be experienced.”

The priest pointed to a niche in the wall. The niche was lined with what appeared to be glittering blue dust.
“At this place, the Blue Sorceress destroyed the jewels of Kagnaszax and liberated my people. But the magic of the jewels is still working. Stand in front of the niche.”
Jarmo did as ordered. “Now look!”
Tornagg threw a small crystal into the niche. In that moment…

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash
Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

…then it was over. Jarmo Dorak felt strange. It seemed that no time had passed while simultaneously he had the impression that a lot of time had passed. He checked his pocket computer. Half an hour. But he could not remember details. Just… something… feelings. And a message.

“You remember what the oracle said to you?”, Tornagg asked from behind.

Jarmo turned around. “Yes…”, he said slowly.

“Well, then you may go on with your life”, the priest replied. “May the Force of Somebody be with you on your task. Now STAR COMMAND CLUB will always be welcome here on Mars. Remember that!”


Jarmo walked a few steps. The message from the oracle became clearer in his head.


But why should I find this cube?, he thought, and suddenly the answer to his question appeared in his mind: BECAUSE YOU WILL NEED IT. GO FIND IT!

Jarmo was shocked. The oracle was still talking to him! Now he remembered pictures of strange places. Somethin like… a way… to the Wind Harp? Who knew?

He decided to make a report. After all, Katerina was waiting for his message. He decided to take care of the Wind Harp later…