Orn and a number of Haven’s other technicians were crowded around an information device back in the main chamber.
“Any news?” Laquin asked him.
“The picture of what happened is starting to come together,” Orn answered. “We’ve located a journal and a few historical documents on the crystal registry.”
“What’s a crystal registry?” asked Mills.
“It’s how information is stored,” Laquin answered. “The structure of the material allows it to be coded with an incredible amount of data.”
“Ah,” said Mills. “Of course.”
“So, first of all, the timeline is difficult,” continued Orn. “The years on Alm are much longer, as it has a longer orbit around the sun.”
“How can a year be longer?” Mills asked.
“Our planet spins around the sun faster than Alm does,” explained Orn. “So, for example, in the time it takes us to reach, say, twenty years of age, it takes someone on Alm approximately four times as long to reach the same age. So we have to do some math to figure out the timeline we’re dealing with.”
“Oh,” said Mills. “So, does every planet have a different time it takes to orbit the sun?”
“Probably,” answered Orn. “From our studies, all of the planets in the Arum System do, anyways. In another solar system, it may be different.”
“Here, this is what I was looking for,” announced one of the women working alongside Orn at the information device. “But it’s not what I expected.”
“What do you have, Vuna?” asked Orn.
“The spaceship that crashed was not sent directly from Alm,” said Vuna. “Apparently, the planet is besieged by catastrophic meteor strikes that come every thousand years, their time.”
“Every thousand years, exactly?” Orn asked.
“That’s how this reads,” said Vuna. “Apparently, there is a family of asteroids that move through our system that are in a direct impact loop with the planet every thousand years.”
“That must be the Doliar Family,” offered one of the men in the room.
“It could also be the Erta Family,” said another.
“Either are a possibility,” said Vuna. “Apparently, there was an effort to stop one such destructive collision with Alm, during which spaceships were sent to plant explosives on the asteroids. The mission failed, but…”
“What is it?” Laquin implored.
“This is hard to believe,” Vuna said, reading the log on the display, “But apparently the astronauts established a colony on one of the asteroids. When they were unable to complete their work, apparently they didn’t have enough time, the colony went on, to continue in the asteroid family’s trajectory around the galaxy. And when they came near enough to Valor, just recently, two volunteers went out on a ship to try and see if our planet might be habitable. That was the craft from which we recovered this information.”
“So the rest of them are still out there, spinning around the galaxy?” asked Orn.
“Unless their asteroid collides with Alm during its next pass through Alm’s orbit,” answered Vuna.
“I wonder if the people of Alm are doing anything to stop the collision,” said Laquin.
“That would be good for them, but possibly mean death for those on the asteroid,” said Vuna.
“How strange,” said Orn. “It makes me wonder, what other mysteries are spinning around our galaxy?”
“We’ve got confirmation on the amulet,” announced another of the technicians working the information system. “It’s compatible with the mother ship.”
The residents of Haven stopped and turned to one another in nervous anticipation.
“That must mean something big,” Xala said, breaking the silence.
“You’re right, it does,” said Laquin. “The first settlers of Valor came here in a massive spaceship, around which Gnirean was built. It still sits at the core of the city. The amulet we are speaking of could, theoretically, turn the ship on. Which hasn’t been done since the original amulet was destroyed by the third generation of Gnirean’s High Council.”
“Why did they destroy it?” asked Xala.
“To destroy the idea that we came from Alm completely,” answered Laquin.
“Why would they want to do that?” asked Xala.
“Because the people of Gnirean were unhappy with the High Council’s near-total control,” said Laquin. “They spoke of how the people of Alm would return one day to free them. Created a religion out of the idea. And the religion started to gain more traction in the hearts of the people than the elites were comfortable with, so they blocked off and buried the mothership, destroyed the amulet to power it, and burned down the peoples’ temples. Very few in Gnirean today remember this. They don’t need to. They have their automated servants, they pay their taxes and stay obedient because they don’t know their true heritage. The High Council has them convinced they’re subservient by nature. But this amulet we’ve recovered could change everything.”
“Could, if there was any way to take it back in,” Vuna said with a sigh. “Though there are none of here without the mark.”
“Aren’t there?” Orn asked, throwing a raised eyebrow toward where Xala, Anaxis, and Mills were standing.
“We couldn’t ask these strangers to go on such a dangerous mission,” said Vuna. “The chance of success is near zero.”
“What sort of mission are we talking about?” asked Anaxis.
“Never mind,” said Laquin.
“Tell him,” said Orn. “Let him decide.”
“It’s impossible,” said Laquin. “To make it into the city, to locate the buried mothership, to plant the amulet. Who knows if the mothership would even be responsive?”
“I’ll do it,” Anaxis said.
The others in the room stared at the boy.
“You don’t know what you’re saying,” said Laquin.
“I think I understand the situation fairly well,” said Anaxis. “And I’m offering to try.”
“Anaxis…” Mills whispered.
“No,” said Anaxis. “I have already come all this way from Talx. You say that there is no one here that could reenter the city, save for the three of us. I want to try.”
“But why would you sacrifice yourself for those people?” Mills asked. “Who are they to you?”
“They’re human, aren’t they? And it sounds like they are being oppressed. Plus, I don’t want to go back home. They want nothing to do with me. I’ve dreamed my whole life of something greater. And now, this opportunity presents itself. If there’s any way I can help those people in Gnirean who are under the foot of the High Council, I have to at least try.”