ASTROCOHORS CLUB Period 5: Let Us All Unite!

The Old Internet was the Internet of legend, greater than distance or time. Once, under the wise rule of the Public and the protection of the Common Sense, the Internet throve and grew. But as often happens when wealth and power pass beyond the admirable and attain the awesome, then appear those evil ones who have greed to match.

So it was with the Internet at its height. Like the greatest of trees, able to withstand any external attack, the Internet grew rotten from within thought the danger was not visible from the outside.
Aided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within and the massive organs of commerce, an ambitious Executive caused himself to be elected President. He promised to reunite the disaffected among the people and restore the remembered glory of the Internet.
Once secured in office he declared himself Savior, shutting himself away from the populace. The cries of the people for justice did not reach his ears.

Having exterminated through treachery and deception the Common Sense, a stronghold in dark times, propagandists and bureaucrats prepared to institute a reign of terror among the disheartened worlds of the Internet. Many used the imperial forces and the name of the increasingly isolated “Savior” to further their own political ambitions.

But a small number of systems rebelled at these new outrages. Declaring themselves opposed to the backward-looking politics they began a battle to restore the Old Internet.
From the beginning they were not outnumbered, but they were scattered. In those first dark days it seemed certain the bright flame of resistance would be extinguished before it could cast the light of new trust across the Internet. But the tide of events is round – round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, never ending or beginning on an ever-spinning reel…

This is the time; this is the place when we look for the future. This is the time for YPSILON!

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, Gentile, black Men, white… We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. In this world there’s room for everyone and the good Earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful. But we have lost the way…

Charlie Chaplin: “The Great Dictator”, Final Speech, Beginning

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Greed has poisened men's souls
Has barricaded the World with hate
We think too much and feel too little (We think too much and feel too little)
More than machinery we need Humanity
More than cleverness we need kindness
Without these qualities life will be violent
And all will be lost (All will be lost)

Do not despair!
The hate of men will pass
And dictators die
And the power they took from the people
Will return to the people
Let Us All Unite!
Let us fight for a new world
To do away with greed
Now let us fight to free the world
To fulfil that promise
Let Us All Unite!

Soldiers! Don't give yourselves to brutes
Men who despise and enslave you
Tell you what to do, what to think, and what to feel
Who drill you, tire you, treat you like cattle!
Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men
Machine Men with Machine Minds and Machine Hearts!
You are not machines, you are men!
You the people have the power
To make this life free and beautiful
Let us use this power
To make this life a wonderful adventure (A wonderful adventure)
Let Us All Unite!

Let us fight for a new world
To do away with greed
Now let us fight to free the world
To fulfil that promise
Let Us All Unite!
Let us fight for a new world
To do away with greed
A world where science and progress
Will lead to all men's happiness
Do not despair!
The hate of men will pass
And dictators die
And the power they took from the people
Will return to the people
Let Us All Unite!

Charlie Chaplin, from that same speech, as a Poem of Hope

War never Changes

It was a time of war.

A time of rebellion.

A time of freedom.

Anarthia battles the people of Ruvalara.

It was a time when the people rose up against an evil dictator and took back their planet from the clutches of tyranny. It was a time when people fought for freedom, for justice, and for the right to choose their own destiny. It was a time when the people were able to rise up against those who would oppress them and take back what had been stolen from them: their freedom!

Fla’mic, Ruler of Anarthia.

The dictator who ruled over this planet had long ago become corrupt and vicious—but he wouldn’t stop until he had conquered everything in sight and destroyed all who opposed him. He was known as Py-Wa Fla’mic, an ochre-skinned humanoid with dark hair whose hatred ran deep into his heart. He ruled over Anarthia with an iron fist; there were no dissenters in his empire, only those who supported his rule and wished to remain under his protection until their dying days on Anarthia, on Earth known as Titan, on of Saturn’s moons. Long time ago, they conquered one of Jupiter’s moons, Himalia, and called it Anarthia Minor. From there they attacked their neighbour, called Ruvalara by its own inhabitants, but known as Amalthea by the people of Earth.

It was a fierce battle. But there were those like the rebel leader Bawyn Wyslaker, who refused to be silent. Who refused to just let it happen. Resistance! Right from the start, the odds were slim for the little Ruvalara folk. But fueled by the courage of desperation, led by their president and the intrepid rebel leader Wyslaker, they not only managed to resist the invaders, but even pushed them back a little. But they knew that in doing so they had provoked the dictator’s wrath.

It was only a matter of time before Anarthia would strike back…

ASTROCOHORS: Tempora Mutantur, nos et mutamur in ilis

Tempora Mutantur,
nos et mutamur in ilis

The Winds of Change are blowing hard in our direction
We can’t go back and we can’t stand still

Mike Batt: The Winds of Change

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Mission to Kemet

The deliberations had been very brief. It was an extraordinary situation. On many planets. On Uranus. On Earth. ASTROCOHORS ‘senior officers agreed with Admiral McCloud that something needed to be done about Earth. Somebody reiterated that the state the earth was in was possibly a result of the so-called “ERTL lamp” that stood on Mars and bombarded the earth with rays that restricted the brain’s capabilities . And if you looked at the earth like that, you would have been inclined to believe that. In that case, all of this would not have been a homemade Earth problem, but an attack. But there was no evidence of such an attack.
McCloud convened a committee that was to direct the fortunes of ASTROCOHORS CLUB from now on. Ostap Yefimov was appointed, Dozon Rasun, Zomm Arrghl, Fulmen Grancolline and Nat Anders. You had made a special contribution to the crisis surrounding the PURPLE DEATH. In addition, more should be added. Soraya Mahdar, an expert on the Asian part of the planet. Victor Araujo Sousa for Brazil. The CLUB should from now on help planet Earth. A big job. But after the darkness that one had experienced in the last few days and weeks, also a ray of light. But there were still some things missing. Two new departments would have to be set up. Yes, McCloud thought, it really is a fresh start! Let’s do this… mission to Kemet.

Encounter with Evil

The ATLANTIS base conference room was hectic. Messages were passed on as they came in.
“The BOURGOGNE reports, second squadron of enemy spaceships destroyed, a third is on the way to Uranus!”
“The HEART OF GLASS destroyed another squadron.”
“The radar has lost contact with the alien space station.”
At the last report, Admiral McCloud pricked up his ears. He crossed the room to one of the tables. It was Commander Gibeur herself who was in charge here.
“What was that?” Asked McCloud. “Enlighten me.”

Gibeur called up an image on a small pad that showed a section of the solar system. In the middle of the picture was the planet Uranus and two markings: “BOURGOGNE” and “FREEDOM BALLOON”.
“We have received a message from BOURGOGNE”, explained Gibeur. “During the fighting, a huge space station suddenly appeared, here.”
Another point appeared in the picture. The point moved out of the shadow of the planet.
“How can such a huge thing come to this planet unnoticed?” Asked McCloud.
“We don’t know, sir,” admitted Gibeur. “We did not receive any radar echo before either. Perhaps the surface of this station consists of something that camouflages it. In any case, the FREEDOM BALLOON shot at the alien space station, whereupon it withdrew. See, here!”
The screen showed how the point of the alien space station was moving faster and faster from Uranus. The course was away from the planet’s orbit towards the edge of the solar system when suddenly the point disappeared.
“What has happened there?”
“We don’t know, sir! The station may have made itself invisible to the radar again. We also have no further sightings of the station. It seems to be something like a command ship. It seems to be identical to a station, that Grand Admiral Prawn was looking for. “
“Prawn,” McCloud growled. “Could it be that he was on the space station?”
“Possibly. We don’t exactly know. But it would look like him and his HIGH HAND.”
The HIGH HAND! Yes, in fact, fueling a conflict is exactly what the HIGH HAND would do. An internal war in the solar system. At the end of the conflict, someone will be the leader. Scurra thought it was him. He would be the space emperor. But the mysterious leader of the HIGH HAND, Prawn’s Commander, wanted this title for himself. And he wouldn’t share, not even with Scurra.

“Sir!” Someone called at that moment. “Message from Jupiter: the alien forces are withdrawing!”
“The same from Mercury!”
More and more identical messages came in. It was always about the attackers withdrawing. But the radar revealed that they were not gone. They withdrew to the edge of the system. The blockade would then remain.
Commander Gibeur activated the large main screen again and looked at the map of the solar system. “For now it looks like we’ve won,” she said. “But something is wrong.”
“Yes,” confirmed McCloud. “Because we didn’t win. We just held out long enough for the enemy to lose interest. Now this enemy is gathering at the edge of the solar system and is waiting to strike again.”
Gibeur looked at her pad. “What I see here, we are lucky enough that Lokubami is under control and we will see a new praetor today.”
McCloud nodded weakly. “Still that. But we saw how sensitive it all is. We stood on the precipice of fascism. One step further and the solar system would have plunged into chaos. We have to do something.”
“What do you have in mind, Admiral?”
“I’m going to make a very lonely decision now. Maybe it’s wrong. But like I just said, we have to do something. Our weakest point is undoubtedly the Earth. The Terrans are unable to cope with the diversity they offer Galaxis offers to deal with. We have to do something first! Make Terra wise again. Something like that. “
“And how is that supposed to work?”
“I will consult with my fellow admirals. But I think we will transfer this task to the ASTROCOHORS CLUB. We had this team, this Ostap Yefimov and his people. They seemed to be quite capable. They should take over the task To redesign ASTROCOHORS CLUB. Hell, we have to redesign ASTROCOHORS as a whole.“
The admiral turned to the door. “I’ll have a talk with the officers in a moment,” he said. “If the enemy shows up again, let me know!”


Photo by Lou Levit on Unsplash

Location: ASTROCOHORS C.L.U.B. Headquarters

Time: Not so important

Situation: Will be clearer soon…

Captain Bill Stryker went into the office of Admiral Jeanette Piqué. He looked worried.

“Do you think this is a good idea?” He asked.
“You don’t agree?” She asked back.
“Well, I know we have to do something. This Earth thing ist getting out of hand..:”
“Oh, that’s an understatement, Captain! ‘Out of hand’? The Earthlings are gone completely crazy. If we go on supporting this area of the planet, we have to do it right another way.”
“What do you suggest?”
“We have to re-organize it. The Secret Service reported a group of promising Terrans who were on the case of this Scarsdale Manor thing.”
“Scarsdale Manor?” Stryker seems shocked. He’s read something about in secret reports. “And they…?”
“Just did it.” Piqué’s response sounded casually. Just like she was talking about the wheather.
“Earth just had the season’s tipping point” She went on. “Midsummer. How symbolic. Maybe a good opportunity to rearrange everything. We already have the Battlefields up in the front. But we need more! We should not only gather knowledge, we should bring it right to the people. Build an Academy! And there’s something on the front line. We need to cover this. And we need a special team.”
“But all this can’t be done in one day!” Stryker exclaimed.
“Of course not.” Piqué nodded her head. “It will take several days. We will put on the task one by one.”
“What to do first?”
“Well, at first we will assemble a special team. A fellowship, if you will.”
“The Fellowship of the Ring?”
“Oh shut up, Stryker! Are you crazy? Do you think I want these people to run around, wearing rings that have an inscription saying something like One Ring to bring them all and bind them in eternal Frienship?”
“Would be some big rings” Stryker murmured.
“To answer your question: No! We will use something more suitable. These people will channel the positive engergy and bring it together. So I think… Canalis Tremendum is a good name.”
“If you say so.”

“Prepare the ship. We will travel to Earth! And everything else will be sought out on the way!”
“Yes, Ma’am!”

To be continued right here: CANALIS TREMENDUM – The Gathering


It was never meant this way. Karen Rendall shook her head. But well, that’s the way it is now. Admiral McCloud told her that he was serious.
“Take back Earth!”, he ordered. “All has gone to far. We need to do more. We need the Nerds to bring the humans back to their senses and save the planet.”
“But Sir”, she’d replied, “this would make up a…”
“A Battlefront, yes! Do it!”

See the story from ASTROCOHORS BATTLEFRONTS unfold here…

Admiral McCloud turned away from the screen. “And in addition”, he said to himself, “we have to bring more structure into the whole project. I’ll inform ASTROCOHORS C.L.U.B.’s headquarter…”

Walking Bombs

Finally a time of silence … of peace …
How long did he wait for it? He couldn’t say that. Jarmo Dorak looked at his own picture in the mirror.

Have you gotten older, old buddy? He asked himself. His brown hair – has it gotten lighter? His blue eyes, did they show he was almost 34 years old?
He hoped they don’t.

A rumble shook the shuttle. Landing. The arrival. They had finally arrived.
“Commander”, said the pilot from his seat, “we are now in the parking position. Shall I wait?”
“What are your general orders?”
“To ask you if I should wait.”
Thanks for that exact answer, thought Dorak. He moved his hand around his chin.
“Well, as far as I know, there are many transports waiting, it won’t be wise to keep you waiting here. Contact VERI’S BASTION and let them know that you are ready to depart. I will inform you if I need a return transport. “
“Yes sir!”
The door opened and Jarmo got off the shuttle. The little ship had landed in front of a castle-like building made of sand-colored stone. A shipyard. In front of it lay a ship that was almost ready to sail. A sailing ship. But Dorak knew that inside the building was one of the most modern shipyards for spaceships. He walked towards the building. A guard stood near a staircase leading up to the stairs.
“Sir,” he said, “may I see your ID?”
Dorak took his identity card out of the pocket of his uniform trousers. Of course he was wearing the ASTROCOHORS uniform, but the guard had to make sure. He took the ID card and inserted it into an electronic reader. A few seconds later, the device confirmed the identity.
“Everything’s alright, Commander!”, Said the security guard and gave Jarmo his card back, “You can pass!”
“Thanks very much.”
The commander went up the stairs to a door. He opened it and finally entered the building. Inside was a large room. Dorak was in a kind of gallery, a path along the wall to the other side of the room, where he disappeared into a door. The shipyard’s construction hall was located below. And there was a small ship in it. It was in the shape of a rounded triangle. To be precise, all of the shapes on it were round, even the front went up in a round. It looked sleek and elegant. On the front there were some letters that read:

SCSV 1512

He could only see one side from where he was, but assumed that name was on both sides of the ship. A prototype. A development from other ships. Something completely new. “SCSV” stood for “Space Cruising and Submergence Vehicle”. It could fly in space, in the atmosphere of a planet, and it could even dive, swim, and submerge in water. At least in theory. But half a dozen technicians ran around and climbed onto the little ship. One repaired the hull with a welder. Sparks flew everywhere. Another was looking at a blueprint.
Suddenly Dorak heard a woman’s voice. He could not understand the first words, but thought they were spoken in a language of the continent of Europe. The next few words were in the common language so that he could understand them.
“No! No!” Said the woman, “That belongs here and that belongs there!”
Then Dorak saw her. Before she had stood behind the ship, now she came around, another technician followed her. She looked like she was under stress. The technician looked like that too. But she wasn’t a technician. The overalls she was wearing indicated that she was a pilot. And she had a hard hat on. After all, it was a shipyard and they worked hard here.
Dorak walked down the path to the other side. When he came through the door, he finally found another flight of stairs down. He went down the stairs and now entered the construction hall on the lower level. Up close, the ship looked even more impressive. But now Dorak saw the other side of it and saw that a part the size of 1 square meter had been removed from the fuselage. And there was a technician working there.
The woman came back around the ship. She looked at a data pad and again said something Dorak couldn’t understand. But he thought it was Portuguese.
“Excuse me,” he said.
“Yes?” She looked up and was surprised to see him.
“I’m Lieutenant Commander Jarmo Dorak from ASTROCOHORS CLUB,” he said, “Are you the officer in charge of the ATLANTICA project?”

Beatriz del Almeida

“Yes I am,” she said.
“Nice to meet you!”
“Nice to meet you too, Commander Jarmo Dorak.” Jarmo found the way she called him a little strange, but he didn’t let it show. “May I introduce myself,” she continued. “I’m Lieutenant Commander Beatriz de Almeida. I’m Brazilian. Almeida comes from my father’s family. He was from Portugal.”
“He was …” began Dorak.
“Yes, he’s already …”
“I am sorry!”
“That’s okay! Actually, both of my parents are dead. They died in an accident. It happened during a trip to Earth seven years ago.”
As she talked, she moved back to the spaceship. She gave the technicians some final orders and let them go on with their work.
“It’s noon,” she said then, without taking her eyes off the hull of the spaceship. “Would you like to join me for lunch? We could talk about the project. That was what you wanted to talk about in the first place, right?”
“Yes, that’s right. I accept the offer. Let’s go!”

A restaurant in an ASTROCOHORS spaceport isn’t exactly a glamorous place to be, but that wasn’t a “real” date anyway. Beatriz felt awful when she excused herself to go to the bathroom and saw those big black bags under her eyes in the mirror. The result of three nights of work without sleep. She worked pretty hard on the ATLANTICA project and because of her intense commitment, her superiors decided to give her a very special mission. As always, she looked in the mirror and started talking to herself again …

“Do I really look thirty-four? My friends say I don’t, but how can I trust them? They like me. I don’t really like that light brown color in my hair. I should have listened to my brother and kept the red as he did. It’s too late now! “

She left the bathroom feeling even worse. She felt older and even more tired. Still, she managed to resume the conversation and ask Dorak what he wanted to eat. They also found something on the menu. Jarmo wanted to be polite and asked if Beatrice would like to drink wine.

“Not for me,” she declined. “I’ve worked so hard these days. A glass would make me fall asleep for days … Sorry!”

“No problem.” In his mind he rebuked himself. What’s the matter with you? He asked himself. You act like this is a date. You don’t drink alcohol yourself, so why now?
He tried to focus his mind on something else.
“Are you telling me about the project?” He asked her. “Something tells me it’s busy. Is that correct?”
“Yes, that’s right and I’m glad you came because I was supposed to see you earlier, but I really didn’t find the time.”
“Well, then I’ll tell you what I know about this mission. Very little, actually. Our mission, in a few words, is to get the ATLANTICA up and running and to test it.”
“Yeah, pretty much that, but we have to do ‘something extra’, Mr. Dorak.”
“Please call me Jarmo. What would that ‘extra something’ be, Miss Almeida?”
“You can call me Beatriz, okay? We’re partners now, so … I’m telling you everything I know. ASTROCOHORS has some reason to believe that there might be a place on Earth that is hidden underwater Its location is not entirely clear yet, but scientists believe it is somewhere in the southern hemisphere. Geologists say volcanic activity has submerged large areas of land. Just think of Doggerland. “
“But … if it was a volcano, then there shouldn’t be anything left of the land masses.”
“Special laboratories have been searching the oceans for some time. They use special ships like the ATLANTICA. They found significant evidence that there is life in certain regions. And it is underwater.”
“I understand. In addition to flying, our ship is also equipped for underwater trips.”
“Yes,” confirmed Beatriz, “we also have diving suits on board for a wide variety of water depths. However, the armor for the extreme depths must be touched up again. Something is wrong with the energy generators. If someone uses such a suit, he is at the moment more som sort of walking bomb. “
“But wait, what exactly is that land mass we are supposed to find there?”
“I’m not sure yet. That’s why they want us on this mission. What I know is that this is the first time we are to use our ship underwater. We will be the first to dive with the ATLANTICA. Isn’t it great? Aren’t you looking forward to it? “
She was very excited. It was almost contagious.
“Okay,” she smiled. “I’ll tell you what I know. Have you ever heard of the Cita Nalur icosahedron?”
Dorak’s eyes lit up. “Now it’s getting even more interesting!” He said. “The icosahedron is said to be part of a network to which the temple of the wind harp also belongs. It could be a trace to the temple.”
Now Beatrice smiled too. “Yes, and what is hidden under the water is supposed to be Cita Nalur itself! And what do you say now?”
Jarmo was flabbergasted. He was silent. Then he hugged Beatrice. Simply that way. Quite spontaneously. He had to express his exuberance of emotion. Beatrice was surprised, but not averse. It had been a long time since anyone had hugged her.
Then Dorak broke the embrace again. “Sorry,” he muttered. “That … was the excitement.”
“That’s fine,” she replied. “With the enthusiasm we both have, we should have succeeded in locating Cita Nalur!”
“And to see what is true of all the legends and what is not,” added Jarmo.
The waiter came and brought them the drinks, chilled mineral water.
“Mineral water or not,” said Dorak, “we can toast with it. I think this is a great moment. And we have something great ahead of us! To a good cooperation!”
Jarmo and Beatriz raised their glasses. “To a good cooperation!”, Said Beatrice.
The glasses rang and both looked into each other’s eyes. Then they each took a sip.
“This is how we continued the story of the ASTROCOHORS CLUB,” said Dorak. “Maybe at some point we should open departments.”

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.