Chintamani Chronicles. Crystal of Truth

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“The world piles up such mountains of evil!

Their eternal oppression over the heart is so heavy!”

But if you tore them up! How many wonderful

Shining diamonds you would find!

O. Khayyam

“I’ll wake up one day, and around the world is different

Bright, pure, infinitely beautiful …”

N. Noskov

“To J. Lafazanos, A. Rickman and M. J. Jackson

with thanks for the endless inspiration.

May the Force be with you!”



…A flash of dazzling light that lit up the sky made everyone gathered frightenedly cover their eyes with their hands. It was followed by a terrible rumble, and then the earth trembled violently. Not understanding what was happening, people ran out of their houses, looking in horror towards the sea. Pressing the frightened girl close to her, the young woman, frozen, did not take her eyes off the blinding fireball, which was getting closer and closer with every moment…

— Queen, hurry, we must leave…

The girl who ran up to her looked inquiringly at her mistress. However, she just shook her head.

— No, Rada. I must be with my people at this hour…

— But… queen, the city is doomed. Come on, the gates will open soon…

The young woman seemed to hesitate for a moment. But only for a moment… Then she shook her head, and resolutely said, turning to the girl:

— No, Rada, I can’t. Please, take care of Darina…

— Mother, what are you talking about? — firmly squeezing her mother’s hand, the girl, eyes full of tears, looked at the queen. She hugged her daughter, but immediately released her from the ring of her arms and looked intently into her eyes.

— Darina, do you remember what I taught you?

— Y-yes, b-but…

— Then you also know that nothing in this world disappears without a trace. I’ll always be with you. But remember — now you have a big responsibility, as a future princess… Please, fulfill my last request — do not step on the path of chaos and darkness, try to bypass it… For I do not want you or your children to repeat the fate of Daaria…

Sobbing, the girl hugged her mother, but she resolutely stood up and looked up to where the flame flared up. Having made up her mind, she, having kissed her daughter, took out a pendant from behind the collar of her dress and put it on her neck.

— It will protect you. Don’t take it off, never… Promise?

— Yes mom…

— Rada, please. As soon as I leave, run to the grove. There you will find my father. Here, give him this… He knows what to do.

With these words, the Queen gave the girl a sealed bundle and with a firm step went to the stairs leading down. The earth shook violently. Grabbing the princess in her arms, Rada rushed to run away from the palace. Hugging the nurse tightly by the shoulders, the girl hid her tear-stained face on her chest. She did not see how a terrible roar was heard, and the palace collapsed. But already when she stood at the Star Gate, she remembered a huge wave that was rushing towards the city, sweeping away everything in its path. Then something incredible happened: a bright ray of light rose over the city, from which the night became clearer than day. The wave receded. And then there was a blinding flash of light and everything was enveloped in darkness.

Volume One

Chapter 1 Message from the Ancients

A deafening rumble of thunder made the girl flinch and open her eyes. Trying to catch her breath, she ran her hand over her eyes. Again this dream. He so often dreamed of her, all the time supplemented with new details and details… Getting up, she went to the window and opened it. The wind that blew into the room refreshed her flushed face. The ringing Skype call distracted her from her thoughts. A familiar number popped up on the screen…

— Arthur?

The holographic image that had taken the form of her colleague looked oddly confused.

Anna, we need to talk.

— I’m listening to.

— No, could you… could you come? To me.

— What, right now? Have you looked at the time at all? In fact, there is a curfew in the yard and it is strictly forbidden to leave the house at this time…

— As you wish… I thought you were the person I could rely on when… Well, I guess I was wrong.

Anna hung up the phone in anger. What the… She walked around the room, trying to calm down. How dare he turn to her, HER, after everything that happened?! “I thought you are a person I could relied on,” the girl chuckled. Who would have said… But still, the tone of the man’s voice alerted her. Why did he call her and not one of his girlfriends? Gritting her teeth and clenching her fists, the girl went into the dressing room…

At night, the city was almost deserted, so the light train quickly brought her to Arthur’s house. Stepping outside, she breathed in the fresh air with pleasure. How she loves the night. Her acquaintances, who were not so sensitive to the change of time of day, did not understand this passion of hers, because the girl was used to wandering alone. Especially now, after the end of the Third Cold War and the constant supervision of the Patrol, such walks have become absolutely safe. Under the vigilant control of the Watch and the Guard of Order, humanity was finally able to forget about the fears of the past. Tougher punishments and rules common to all have reduced to nothing the ridiculous and cruel behavior of people. But still, due to the silent confrontation between the two superpowers and the incitement of opposition factions, absolute calm was still very far away…

“I wonder what time is it?” As soon as she thought about it, the time flashed before her eyes, pointing to half past one at night. Hmm, it’s still too late for walks and visits. The girl frowned as she looked around. Still not enough to arouse the interest of the Night’s Watch! She did not want to spend a couple of days in a punishment cell and receive a reprimand from her superiors. Approaching the gate, the girl pressed the call button. Passing through the opened gate, she quickly crossed the dark courtyard and knocked on the door. Footsteps followed her…

— Anna you are here. Come in.

The behavior of her colleague was more than strange. The girl frowned — something was clearly wrong. She glanced at Arthur, but he averted his eyes. The girl took off her coat, and they went into a large room that served as both a living room and a dining room. But this time there was complete chaos on the table, there were some maps, books… Books everywhere?!

— Arthur, what the… Where does all this come from? Do you know how much paper books cost now? Have you robbed a museum?!…

The young man interrupted her.

— Sorry for the mess. But first, give me your word that what you learn will remain between us. Promise?

— Yes, of course, — the girl looked at her friend with growing astonishment. Always so calm, confident, now he looked very strange (she would even say “excited”, using the old vocabulary), and his blue eyes were shining, as if in a fever.

— Arthur, are you okay? You’re acting strange… Where are Sarah and Boris?

— She and her son are in some kind of vacation… I didn’t want to… involve them in this.

— What are you talking about?

— Long story. Do you remember Professor Johansen from the University of Berlin, the one who replaced Dr. Karpatov?

The girl closed her eyes, the memory of the loss still fresh.

— Oh sure. He came to our forum two days ago…

To be honest, she never liked Johansen, nor did many of those dark and slippery personalities with whom Arthur interacted. But it didn’t seem to bother him at all.

— That’s when we met and talked to him. It turned out that he knew my father well and even more than that, they were friends in their time. In general, he said that he would like to invite me to Berlin to work with rare manuscripts in the archive of the institute, since they are written in Latin, and this is precisely my profile. You know my passion for learning languages.

— Oh, yes… Who else could master French in a couple of years, — the girl looked at the man with irony, but he did not notice this, immersed in his thoughts. — And what? Did you agree?

— That’s not the point… Later, in the evening, Skype rang. I was surprised when I saw the professor. He seemed extremely excited and asked me to come to his university immediately. You should have seen him at that moment! He seemed to be out of his mind. Glancing back at the door, he took out something wrapped in a thick green cloth and handed it to me. But just as I was about to open the bundle, behind the door, in the corridor, someone’s heavy footsteps were heard. Opening the window (the office was on the second floor next to the fire escape), the professor ordered me to leave, but first he asked me to take care of the bundle that he gave me, even at the cost of my life. There was no time to think…

Rising from his chair, the young man went to the secretary and, pulling out one of the drawers, took out a bundle. For a moment he seemed to consider whether he should give it to the girl, but then he handed it to her.

— Look. But keep in mind that this secret should not go beyond this room.

— Okay, — the girl took the bundle, it felt like something weighty was wrapped in it. Opening it, she froze. — Arthur, it’s…

— Shh… Quiet, calm down, — the young man grinned and put his finger to his lips. The girl nodded, unable to take her eyes off the stone. — Yes, this is something that should not fall into the wrong hands in any way. Now do you understand how important it is to keep what you just saw a secret?

— You can be sure, I understand. I will be dumb, like… walls.

— Agreed, — Arthur smiled. — But you can barely keep up. I’m sorry I dragged you out of bed at a time like this.

— Nothing, I…

— Night bird, I already understood that.

The girl snorted — no sarcasm anywhere — but then the sound of an approaching car was heard outside the window. The door slammed. The young man rushed to the window. Anna noticed how he turned pale and, out of habit, bit his lip.

— Arthur, what’s going on?

— What a night! We have guests…

— Are you waiting for someone? — the girl looked at the man in disbelief. He shook his head.

— No, but some people have a habit of showing up without an invitation, — under the girl’s blank look, he quickly took out a travel bag and put a tablet and a computer in it. It’s good that I always keep things ready. Thanks to the eternal business trips, — he zipped up the bag and, throwing it over his shoulder, looked at the girl. — Are you going?

— Wait, but where?

— All questions after, we have little time!

Without even bothering to close the door (they would break it anyway), the young people hurried to the car parked behind the house. Arthur started the engine, the light engine roared, and the car started abruptly. Stripes flickered outside the window, into which the lanterns flying past merged. Finally, as they pulled onto the freeway, the girl decided to break the silence.

— Maybe, of course, I’m interfering in other than my own business… But what’s going on?! And, in case you forgot, my house is on the other side.

— Sorry, Anna, but you won’t be coming home today.

— What?! The girl looked dumbfounded at the man. But he did not react to her indignant exclamation, still continuing to follow the road. — Arthur, is it a joke?!”

— This is not a joke, Anna, everything is much more serious.

— Yes, it’s much more serious when you are pulled out of bed at dawn, thrown into a car and taken away to no one knows where. Arthur, if you decided to kidnap me, you could say so.

Despite her, the young man stepped on the gas, and his black jaguar, easily maneuvering, overtook a couple of cars in front. The girl chuckled.

— Yes, once again I am convinced that my intuition does not fail me. All because of this cobblestone? — having received an affirmative nod, the girl leaned back in her seat with a sigh. — That’s what I thought. And now what? Although… you can stay with me for a while. True, the apartment is rented, but…

This plan won’t work. Besides, you too have been figured out for a long time.

— God, Arthur! What have you got me into?! The Night Watch will not leave it like that… — the girl looked at her friend with anger. Couldn’t you have warned? And where are we in such a hurry now? Well, yes, of course, the airport… Where to now?

— I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you that. But as long as you are with me, nothing threatens you.

— Yes? Oh well…

Without answering, the young man got out of the car. The girl clutched the arms of her chair with helpless fury. Although she herself is to blame… He always acted on others, like a boa constrictor on rabbits. That’s why she went to him, she could have guessed… She would be lying in bed now, watching the tenth dream.

Opening the door, the man looked at the girl impatiently. Looks like she got kidnapped. Without uttering another word, Anna got out of the car, slamming the door with force. Ignoring Arthur’s indignant exclamation, she moved to the airport entrance and looked at him. She understood that something irreversible was happening, but curiosity prevailed over fear of the unknown.

— If you want to incinerate me with a look, that won’t work. Although I’m not holding you, you can take a taxi and go home. True, you are unlikely to expect a warm welcome there, dear Anna… But now we are late for the plane. And you’ll have to keep me company.

Taking the girl by the elbow, the man led her into the building. There was no point in resisting…

Chapter 2 Secret Expedition

On May 14, 2050, the Moscow Institute of Geology sent an expedition to the quarry of the taiga river Vilyuy under the command of the famous scientist Professor Alexander Karpatov. This place has long attracted scientists from all over the world, but natural conditions did not allow the planned enterprise to be carried out. However, a group of enthusiasts, led by a professor, decided to defy the difficulties and, taking with them the necessary equipment, kindly provided by the sponsoring company JSC Zaslon, set off. The cars that they planned to get to their destination had to be abandoned halfway, the helicopters also had to be abandoned due to strange interference that prevented them from contacting the base, and the unusual behavior of all navigation instruments. Therefore, the expedition members had to rely only on the strength of their legs. terrain, how, unfortunately, it turned out to be completely overgrown with forests, in places almost impassable, as well as covered with unsteady quagmire of swamps and marshy marshes. But on one of the cloudy days, the tired and exhausted detachment stumbled upon the parking lot of local residents — Evenks, who allowed them to spend the night with them. The professor, wasting no time, went in search of a guide. All the nomads knew these places and especially the river, but they refused to show the way. The fault was, as always, legends. Others argued that the terrain is very difficult and there are only swamps around. All the nomads knew these places and especially the river, but they refused to show the way. The fault was, as always, legends. Others argued that the terrain is very difficult and there are only swamps around. All the nomads knew these places and especially the river, but they refused to show the way. The fault was, as always, legends. Others argued that the terrain is very difficult and there are only swamps around.

Of course, it was a pity for the wasted efforts, and the management would not have liked it, but there was nothing to do. It was necessary to turn back… But in the evening an elderly man unexpectedly approached their fire. It was an old Evenk, an old-timer. He listened to the stories of the expedition members and requests for help in finding a place where, judging by the geophysical map, there was a huge pool of minerals. Without thinking twice, he agreed, adding that in his youth he wandered a lot through these forests. And when the professor asked about the strange behavior of the nomads, the Evenk only grinned and shook his head.

The next morning the detachment set out. The road was difficult, and besides, everyone had to be very attentive and careful, while the guide was looking for a safe path through the marshy swamps, or to wade through the thicket, where the fir trees strove to stab the travelers more painfully with their needles. Finally, a small clearing opened before them, where it was unanimously decided to make a halt and kindle a fire. It turned out that the Evenk, whose name, by the way, was Loko, was not only a first-class guide, but also an interesting storyteller. Here is the story, word for word.

“I was young then. The year was calm, the winter was mild. I remember they sent me somehow to fish in the river. You call her ‘Vilyuy’. I mean, I’m walking through the forest and suddenly I see a clearing. But not the usual one, but this one, quite even. And then I look, and in the clearing there is a large round stone. Did Satan put it there? Don’t know. I hung the fish that I caught in the river on a tree, so that he, therefore, would not be angry with me. And when I approached the ball, I see that it has lichen and moss on it. So it’s been here for a long time. Well, I touched it, and the ball is warm. Believe it or not, it’s winter all around, there’s snow on the trees, but there’s no snow in the clearing and it’s even warm. Well, of course, I decided to get out of there as soon as possible. But I still remember the way to this place and I will show you.”

His story made an impression. Many, including Professor Karpatov himself, were eager to see this clearing. The next morning, having collected things and thrown a fire, the detachment set off. However, they had to make a small detour, because of the trees felled by the storm, as a result of which a lot of time was lost and they managed to approach the clearing only late in the evening. But even then, no one regretted that he had come all this way. An absolutely flat area opened up before the travelers, surrounded by a ring of trees, and in the very center of it a huge ball overgrown with moss was installed. It had such an ideal shape that there was an assumption that it was deliberately made and left in the thicket of the forest by unknown craftsmen. But by whom and when? Nobody had an answer to this question.

All this seemed so unexpected and strange that people froze, not daring to step into the clearing. Loko actually moved away and muttered something under his breath. Probably asked for the protection of the spirits. The most daring, to everyone’s amazement, was Professor Karpatov. He, without hesitation, approached the stone and began to study it carefully.

Suddenly, a loud scream came from behind. Turning around, Karpatov saw that Stas, a geologist, in some unknown way soared above the ground and hung, helplessly looking around. The scientist, of course, wanted to rush to his aid, but he felt that he himself was tearing himself off the ground. He did a somersault and, flying up to his comrade, grabbed his hand. At that moment, an unknown force loosened its grip, and they fell to the ground. The professor most likely lost consciousness from the blow, because when he opened his eyes, he saw that he was lying in a blanket by the fire, surrounded by the team, and Dr. Savchenko was watching him carefully. Noticing that he was awake, she breathed a sigh of relief and urged him to refrain from asking questions and try to sleep.

Karpatov woke up very early. The entire detachment was still fast asleep, the fire went out and twilight reigned around. But then he noticed a barely noticeable glow from the side of the clearing. This surprised him very much, and at first he even thought that everything that was happening was just a game of his imagination, but he decided to find out what was the matter. Carefully, so as not to wake his comrades, he got up and, trying not to lean on his sprained leg, took his lantern and moved into the light. It turned out that a soft bluish glow emanated from the ball. Most likely, it could be brighter, but a thick layer of lichen prevented this, which made it seem as if the ball was glowing from the inside. Without taking his eyes off him, Karpatov left the path and stepped into the clearing. Immediately, the ball exploded with a blinding radiance, and an unknown force threw the scientist many steps back. Rising to his feet with difficulty, the professor noticed that the light

Returning to the camp, Karpatov saw that they had all woken up long ago and had been looking for him for half an hour. It was unbelievable that he couldn’t stay in the clearing for that long. When the professor told them about what he had seen, everyone was struck by the behavior of the Evenk. So wary of anything out of the ordinary, he looked quite unperturbed, but complained that the professor had probably angered the forest spirit and that he had warned them about the secret forces guarding this clearing. And then he said that such phenomena are not uncommon in these places. Sometimes, for example, the sky lights up with an unusually bright radiance, or such a heavy fog rises that nothing can be seen even at arm’s length. Once, having fallen into such a fog, the Evenk got lost there for a minute, but it turned out that he had not been in the village for half a day. Furthermore, he reported rumors and legends among the tribes about mysterious iron circles and caves in which it is warm even in the most severe frosts. When asked why he did not report his observations to his fellow tribesmen, Loko replied that it was impossible, since they would simply leave these places.

Words cannot describe how impressed everyone was by his story. Several people from the team even wanted to go in search of these amazing and anomalous places, but there was no time, as the council was waiting for a detailed report on the expedition. Therefore, it was decided to postpone the campaign and go to the quarry. Safely arriving at the place and taking a few pictures, the team was forced, having received a message from the head of the committee, to return to the city.

Arriving in Moscow, Professor Karpatov sent a report on the expedition to the director of the institute by light mail, hiding, however, what happened to him in the clearing. The fact is that, after consulting with his close friend, engineer Vyazemsky, he decided to keep everything he saw a secret, explaining that the scientists on the council are skeptics and they are only interested in the percentage of income from the extracted minerals, and his story can cause interest only in a small group of ufologists. But the professor nevertheless decided to leave the data on this incident in the archive, hoping that perhaps someone would still be interested in this discovery…

Chapter 3 Second Expedition

Entering the office, Professor Vyazemsky, Deputy Head of Zaslon Joint-Stock Company, the largest scientific and technical center with competencies in the development, production and supply of information and integrated automated control systems, software, instrumentation and microelectronics, turned on the ionizer. Immediately, the scent of pine needles and mountain air spread throughout the room. Sitting in a chair, the man picked up a tablet. As always, nothing new. A little about politics, then advertising, advertising and more advertising. It seemed that everyone thought only about how best to sell their product. The professor shook his head. Now everything was built on a market economy. And the competition in the international market was getting more and more intense, although their company still managed to stay in the top five. Then the silence was broken by the loud rumble of a helicopter flying over the house. Instruments rattled. The professor looked out the window — yes, everything, as always. At the same time, he heard a call. Approaching the table, the professor ran his hand over the touch surface and selected the Skype function. Immediately, a hologram of a young man appeared in front of him.

— Good morning, Valery Stepanovich.

— Hello, Arthur. Are you not at home? Something happened?

— Yes. We urgently need your help…

Professor Vyazemsky frowned.

— Arthur… I told you to be careful. As your guardian, I…

— Valery Stepanovich, we have something that may interest you. However, the information is highly confidential…

— What?!

Professor Vyazemsky raised his eyebrows.

— Arthur, urgently come to the institute!

— Yes, we are already here. But, as you know, without a pass…

Professor Vyazemsky pressed a couple of buttons. A voice over the speakers grumbled:

— I’m listening…

— Andrei, a visitor should be waiting for me at the entrance to the institute…

— So this is for you? I was wondering what these two are rubbing about here about the access code… Well, then let them in. I’ll take it now.

Professor Vyazemsky paced the office nervously. Hearing footsteps in the hallway, he opened the door.

— Come on, Arthur…

The young man who entered nodded, letting the girl go forward.

— Valery Stepanovich, let me introduce you to Anna, our staff journalist and specialist in ancient texts.

— Very glad, — the professor shook the girl’s hand. — So are you a linguist?

— Yes, I have studied rare languages since childhood…

— Well, in that case … — the professor sat in a chair, and turned on the speakerphone. — Martha, bring us some coffee, please.

— Don’t, professor. We won’t be long, — Arthur lowered his voice. — Whatever I say must remain between us.

— Of course. Martha, you don’t need coffee. And don’t let anyone in, I have an important conversation…

The professor turned off the connection and lowered soundproof shields over the windows.

— Lucky for you, I only recently had a soundproofing system installed… But in any case, we cannot be protected from tracking chips…

— Our chips are deactivated.

— That is… Arthur, it’s against the law!

— Professor, let’s get down to business. You promised to help us.

Professor Vyazemsky spread his hands in confusion.

— Arthur, what are you getting me into?

— Well, since we understood each other, there is something else… — he approached the elderly man and handed him a vial with a strange, blue liquid. — Drink this.

— What is it?

— Neutralizer, experimental nano-version, in the form of a syrup. He will block on the chip if you drink the full dose, but half is enough to turn him off for an hour and a half. We don’t need the Magisterium to see everything we’re about to show you through your eyes…

Professor Vyazemsky looked uncertainly at Arthur. He nodded.

— Arthur, you are a scientist. Don’t you know what Chip really is. Our company took part in its development many years ago, so…

— … So do you want to hear my story or not?

Valery Stepanovich caught his breath with difficulty, drops of sweat appeared on his forehead. The chip has been a part of a person’s life since birth. Embedded in the brain, it replaced all the best quantum computers, allowing a person to literally take fate and the world into his own hands. He gave everything, depriving the main thing — freedom. And, among other things, making the world gray. In the truest sense of the word, since the introduction of the chip took away all colors from a person. But in return, opening before him almost inhuman possibilities…

— Good.

Raising the flask to his lips, the professor took a sip of the tart-tasting liquid… And immediately everything swam before his eyes. He curled up in his chair and put his head in his hands. It seemed that his brain was about to explode… He rushed to the door.

— Poor fellow, I was rinsing for about five minutes… — Arthur looked sympathetically after the professor. Finally, the office door swung open. The professor at the door looked around in amazement. Arthur walked over to him and helped him to a chair.

— Well, how do you feel?

— I… This… It’s even hard for me to describe… Anna, you have hair…

— Dark chocolate, yes. It’s such a special color.

Arthur chuckled.

— Will there be more… But now you are ready to listen to our story? There is no way back.

The professor nodded. Arthur made a sign to the girl, she took out a stone from a secret pocket of her jacket. Arthur looked at the professor. Looking extremely dazed, he picked up the stone with trembling hands.

— For the first time I have no words… But, although I have seen a lot in my life… This is the greatest find, it has no price… — the professor ran his hand over his eyes. “Now I can say with certainty that I have seen everything. It means that it exists… But it is the greatest value, I don’t know any place in the world where this Stone will be safe…

Arthur leaned his hands on the table and looked at the professor intently.

— That’s why we turned to you. You are a friend of the great scientist — Professor Karpatov believed in you… You must help us get to Elyuya Cherkechekh.

— Valley of Death? Are you seriously? Why else is this? — Professor Vyazemsky looked at the young people with amazement. Just don’t say you…

— Yes, it was not easy, but we managed to decipher a few tablets. And we found a map — the man took out a wooden board from his briefcase, covered with intricate symbols. “According to the data on it, it leads us straight to the Gates of Eternity…

— Stargate? How…?! Oh, yes, yes, yes, I heard about them… But why do you need them?

— Well, it’s clear… Your scientists, who put me in an unflattering light before the Council, need proof of the existence of the Higher Worlds. They will get them. And you will do everything possible on your own to make our expedition successful. Otherwise, I will leave here right now, and you will have to explain to the Council at length and in detail how you got this card…

— Alex, are you… kidding me?”

The man smiled coldly.

— So what? You know perfectly well that leaving this stone in this world and this time is too dangerous… Wouldn’t it be better to hand it over to those who created it?

— Atlantis? No, it seems that my brain will overheat now…

— Well, as I see it, our conversation has reached an impasse. I have the honor to bow out.

The man looked like he was about to leave. Professor Vyazemsky shook his head wearily.

— Well, you took it. I think that many people can still believe your words. For example, my friends — employees of this institute — are the same romantics at heart. Denis Zudin is simply obsessed with the study of extraterrestrial civilizations and (secretly from everyone except those he trusts) created a mini astronomical laboratory at home, Alla Vels from the Chemistry and Biology Department, constantly read Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Stas Shevchenko, like a true design engineer, he sits for many hours in the library and laboratory of the institute, hoping to find a solution to restore the Stargate. By the way, no earlier than yesterday I found him re-reading the works of the famous science fiction writer Ray Bradbury for the third time…

Valery Stepanovich sat down in a chair next to him and plunged into thought. Then he looked sadly at the young man.

— Yes, Arthur, you will go far… I warn you — treat this with all possible caution. Without the chip, you are an excellent target for the Guardsmen and the Watch. Catch you… The casemates of the Magisterium are not the most pleasant place. Therefore, if you still find the Gate… Do not go back.

Arthur nodded. The girl looked at her friend in shock.

— Arthur… you didn’t tell me that we…

— Sorry, Anna, but we have no other choice. Didn’t mean to drag you into this…

— But you pulled it in! — the girl, on the verge of hysteria, retreated to the wall. The professor, looking reproachfully at the indifferent Arthur, approached her, holding out a glass of water.

— Anna… Alas, sometimes we have to accept the challenges of fate against our will.

— But my family, my friends… How can I leave them here? They’ll go crazy if I disappear!

— Believe me, I understand your despair, but think… Your alibi — going missing while carrying out a dangerous mission of the institute — is much safer for those around you than your arrest. For everyone else, you will go on a reconnaissance expedition, the purpose of which will be to protect the ecology of this region. The fact is that quite recently the Council decided to build an atomic energy plant in the upper reaches of the Vilyui River…

Arthur nodded.

— Thank you, professor. I knew you could be trusted…

Chapter 4 Death Valley

The news had the effect of an exploding bomb. The members of the future expedition were completely delighted. It’s necessary — to go hiking along the taiga paths and see in reality the confirmation of ancient Yakut legends. And the meeting with the mysterious Atlantes and, perhaps, passing through the famous Stargate (everyone remembered how many adventures had to share SG1 — the team from the famous television series of the same name!), spurred on no worse than red-hot iron. True, some were embarrassed by the need to lose the Chips, but the craving for adventure overcame. In addition, outside of Chip’s control and without the use of an antidote, the world around began to sparkle with hitherto unseen colors… So many unknown emotions, such a range of colors and sensations, many of which still needed to be understood! And Stas, as the best engineer of the team, immediately got into the system and projected portable computers,

As promised, the professor spoke with his acquaintances and a week later Alex had the opportunity to introduce the well-known scientist to everyone — Dmitry Ushakov, professor at the Archaeological Institute of the Russian Federation, who replaced Professor Karpatov. Together they began to prepare for a grand journey. Since the institute could not sponsor their trip (it was impossible to make public the true reason for the campaign), and the funds allocated by Valery Stepanovich were clearly not enough, they had to rely only on their own strength. But, fortunately, the collected funds were enough not only to stock up on provisions and uniforms, but even a small amount remained for extreme expenses. The team consisted of six people: Denis Zudin, a specialist in nuclear energy, Alla Wels, Doctor of Biochemical Sciences, Stas Shevchenko, researcher and technician, scientist, Well, respectively, Anna and Arthur himself. The meeting was scheduled for seven o’clock in the morning on September 1. So that no one at the institute would find out about the impending enterprise, all the participants pretended that nothing was happening. But still, many the day before could not hide their excitement. Even Denis absent-mindedly examined the structure of basalt instead of pumice through a laser microscope for three hours, not understanding why the rock had changed so much…

Finally, the long-awaited day has come. Getting up early in the morning, the expedition members, having loaded heavy equipment, equipment and all the necessary things, including food into cars, stopped by Arthur, who was planned to have breakfast, and only then set off.

— So, Arthur, — Stas put a glass of coffee on the table and looked at him. — What are our plans?

— Yesterday I reviewed our itinerary again. Airplanes and a light train do not suit us in any way, since, having appeared in society, our group can raise many unnecessary questions. And we have absolutely no need to attract the attention of the Watch and the Guard. So, the plan is as follows: we leave Moscow, then we will pass cities such as Novgorod, Kazan, Ufa, Chelyabinsk, Omsk, Novosibirsk, then through Ust-Kut, Tynda and Aldan we will get to Yakutsk. From Yakutsk we will go to Vilyuisk, and from there we will move along the mouth of the river to the Valley of the Boilers. If you’re lucky, we’ll get helicopters.

Stas interrupted him.

— Helicopters? Who in their right mind would agree to give us a helicopter? If the owners find out exactly where we are going to fly, you know what will happen…

— Come on… For the money they will take you wherever you want.

— Not really. Remember what the professor was talking about — this area is little studied, and during the flight, the navigation system often starts to fail and the engines fail. What sane person would do such a thing?

“Well, then, we should only hope for the power of our machines and the strength of our legs. I must warn you — the road has long been abandoned, which means we will have to move through difficult terrain — this is the taiga, and it means swamps, mari and swamps…

— But it’s wonderful. Just imagine how many new things we learn! — Alla Wels exchanged glances with Anna. True, the girl did not tell her the true reason for their trip, but nevertheless over the past week they found a lot in common and managed to make friends.

— Then let’s go! By cars!

It seemed that nature itself favored their undertakings. The weather was wonderful, the sun was shining brightly. Having got out of the city, we drove onto a superhighway, and without incident, reached Yakutsk for three and a half weeks. But there we had to make a short stop due to heavy rains, and then we could easily get to Vilyuysk. However, upon arrival there unexpectedly new difficulties arose. None of the locals agreed to show the way or be hired as a guide. And it was worth mentioning the mysterious valley, as if their interlocutor was blown away by the wind. As it turned out later, the reason for this was not swamps or impenetrable forests of the taiga, but… legends. Most often, it was about the mysterious forces guarding the path to the valley.

Arthur lost heart. Having traveled such a long distance, they will be forced to turn back! And how he would look the professor in the eyes… And then it dawned on him! How could he forget, because Valery Stepanovich told him before leaving: “You have a difficult path ahead, but I foresaw this. When you arrive in Vilyuisk, try to find an old Evenk. His name is Loko and he was Karpatov’s guide. With his help, their group then safely reached the quarry and, by the way, it was he who showed them the way to the clearing, where the laws of gravity collapse. By the way, from his words it was clear that he knew many such places, and could easily show them to us if the team had the time and the necessary equipment… So, in parting, the professor gave him a satellite navigator with a built-in radio beacon and taught to use it. So that,

Immediately, Arthur took out his GPS and adjusted the ultra-sensitive satellite navigator to the coordinates given by the professor. A small red dot flashed on the screen.

— That’s where he is! But it’s very close!

Wasting no time, Arthur threw on his jacket and, without answering the questions of his comrades, quickly left the room. Going downstairs, he went out into the street and, crossing the road, entered the old diner. He saw shabby tables, covered in spots in places, and the bartender standing behind the counter looked so bored that it became clear that very few people looked here. Walking up to the bar, Arthur ordered kvass for himself.

— Looks like you don’t have a lot visitors today.

— Yes, but to be honest, I’m not surprised. Although in winter there are more people here.

The young man looked at the bartender in surprise.

— Really?

— Oh yeah. The fact is that in winter there is an important event for all residents — reindeer sleigh races. Then a lot of people come here, including nomads. They are excellent riders…

— It’s right.

Arthur turned to the speaker. The words belonged to an old Evenk sitting in the corner of the bar. A smile played on his face.

— Have you been to competitions? — the young man approached him. — May I sit down?

— Yes, I have been to competitions many times, and my team always win prizes.

— Really? And you, probably, are perfectly oriented in these places? Arthur looked at the Evenk with interest. The elderly man was wearing a leather jacket with fur and warm quilted trousers. The weather-beaten face of an Evenk and a serious look, said that this man had seen a lot, but was not used to sharing his thoughts with anyone.

— Well, yes. Recently, I even helped one of your scientists get to the valley where you mine ore. He was a good man.

— Do you remember his name?

— And then, how! His name is Alexander Karpatov.

— And your name?

Evenk gave Arthur a suspicious look.

— Why do

— Excuse me, please. My name is Arthur Dalivin, I am a professor’s student.

— Well, yes?! True, right? I am glad! What brought you to us?

— That’s exactly what I wanted to talk to you about. But, if possible, as they say, face to face.

Loko nodded and they paid and went out into the street. Arthur looked around and, making sure that no one was interfering with them, said:

— It concerns your journey with him. The professor was very grateful to you for the help rendered to him then and told a lot about the places where you visited with him. And especially about that mysterious clearing.

Evenk nodded.

— So, the professor, unfortunately, did not have time to tell anyone about what he saw, except for close friends, before the epidemic claimed his life.

Loco interrupted him.

— Did professor die?”

Arthur nodded. Loko lowered his head and sighed heavily.

— Very sorry. He was a good man, not like some of yours. The mind was open, understood a lot… But why did you come here?

Arthur lowered his voice.

— There is a reason. Now everyone is only interested in money and, in addition, everything has been swallowed up by the global market economy. And in what ways to sell a product and how to produce it — it does not matter to anyone. And so, recently, the board of directors decided to build a huge nuclear power plant on your river. Previously, people thought about environmental protection and anomalous zones, sent expeditions to these places, but everything has changed. Now for such stories, unless, of course, you can provide evidence, it is quite possible to lose your job. Therefore, the professor informed me of this under the strictest confidence. In secret from everyone, we gathered an expedition and decided to go in search of these places. If our enterprise succeeds, then it will be possible to declare your land reserved and inviolable for such encroachments. And if you help us…

Loko thought for a moment, and for a moment there was silence, broken only by the rustle of the beginning of rain. Then he looked at the young man again and nodded.

— Okay, I’ll be happy to help you. But remember, these places are for those who know them and whom they know. Therefore, we must be very careful…

— Thanks, Loco. We will try.


The next morning, having collected the necessary provisions, the detachment set off. It was decided to move along the river, as going straight ahead would have taken too much time. Trees dressed in gold and scarlet outfits and untouched by man, nature, beautiful in its originality, and clean air fascinated. It seemed as if you were transported to another planet, and the smog and stuffiness of the cities was just a forgotten dream. During the campaign nothing unusual happened, except that several times small herds of deer were shown in the distance, still living in the local forests. Finally, on the fifth day of the journey, the travelers, accompanied by Loko, approached the foot of the hill, all overgrown with young birches and pines, where an amazing phenomenon awaited them — the trees were dancing. Their trunks bent into sometimes simply incredible shapes — from helical to intricately curved,

— Incredible! — Stas approached one of the trees. — How is this possible?

— It’s impossible to explain this logically, — Arthur examined the tree from all sides. — Although I saw something similar on the Curonian Spit on the Internet…

— Of course, while sitting at the institute, there is little you can see with your own eyes, — Ushakov grinned and turned to the conductor. So, it looks like we’re almost there?

— No, for a long time. From this hill, do you see the trail going up? We’re just there. Then everything is straight and straight. Go to the valley a day and another day.

When the group climbed to the top of the hill, they saw a stunning view of the river and the hills overgrown with forest. And behind them was an open space with the tops of rocks of bizarre shapes rising to the sky.

It was decided to arrange a halt in a small clearing. The sun went down, the temperature dropped sharply, and a fire had to be lit. The rising flame dispersed the cold, and everyone felt quite comfortable. After supper with stew warmed over a fire, the expedition members went back to their tents.

Chapter 5 Not one step back

Anna woke up early in the morning. All around you could hear the predawn singing of birds and the sound of the river in the distance. She stretched and, trying not to disturb Alla, who was sleeping sweetly nearby in a sleeping bag, left the tent. To the surprise of the girl, the whole space around was filled with a milky-white fog, in some places the outlines of tents were still visible, but everything else was hidden by a white curtain. Anna hesitated in place, as strange sounds were heard in the distance, like call signs. Taking a long stick she had saved up from the evening, the girl, as if enchanted, unconsciously moved towards these sounds. They became clearer and clearer, when suddenly Anna slipped and felt herself falling. She screamed loudly and plunged into darkness…

She woke up from the fact that someone gently moistened her forehead with an alcohol wipe. Opening her eyes, the girl froze. Most likely she is still sleeping… How else can one explain the conditions in which she found herself? An oval-shaped white room, bright light reflecting off the walls, and a young blond woman in light silver jumpsuit leaning over her.

— Who you are? Where am I?

The young woman smiled.

— Don’t worry, Anna, you’re safe. My name is Saima, I’m the chief paramedic of Aldabra Medical Bay.

— Aldabra? The girl looked at the young woman in disbelief. — What is it?

Saima spread her hands.

— I think you should meet with the captain, he will explain everything to you. Just be careful not to make sudden movements.

— But what happened, may I ask? I was walking along the path, I heard strange sounds and… I blacked out.

— No wonder, — Saima helped the girl to get up. — You have to look at your feet. Then you would see an open hatch… and a ladder.

The girl frowned angrily. So here’s the thing… Rubbing her bruised head, she got to her feet. Apart from a slight dizziness, Anna felt quite tolerable, so she followed the doctor without much difficulty. Leaving the medbay, they descended a long spiral staircase down. Touching the wall, she felt metal. So it is — the stairs and the walls of this strange room were metal! Finally, the stairs ended, and Anna, accompanied by Saima, went out into a large hall, consisting of several levels, where battened-down compartments opened. An incredible guess flashed through Anna’s head: “Really… An alien ship… I’m in an alien ship! Fantastic …” However, all her doubts disappeared by themselves when two people approached them in the same silver overalls, but with gold stripes on their chests.

— Saima, is everything okay? How is your patient?

This voice… Anna, not believing, peered into the alien’s face. But an alien? She took a couple of steps back in shock. It’s impossible…

— Anna, calm down, — the man, noticing her confusion, held out his hand. — I’ll explain everything.

— Alexander? But you… you…

The man gently took her by the shoulders.

— Yes. But a lot is not what it seems… I’m alive, but in a different way.

A familiar image flashed through her mind’s eye: the hospital, the same one she had volunteered for during the last epidemic, ten years ago. A tinted window, bright lamplight, a table with an artificial lung ventilator and… a hospital bed on which an unconscious man lies. They became friends in practice… Although they were separated by a tangible age difference, he never refused to help his wards, he could give wise advice, and at the same time remained himself, without arrogance or arrogance. And he was always so kind to her… But the outbreak of the epidemic had its own plans. The girl felt that her strength was leaving her. If the young man who accompanied Alexander had not supported her, she would have fallen.

— Alex?! You… But how?! I have seen with my own eyes…

— Hush, hush … — the man hugged the frightened girl. She immediately felt the anxiety dissipate, disappear. — Everything is fine. I know that this is unexpected for you, but… You will understand everything soon, I promise, — the man gently ran his hand through the girl’s silky hair. “Do you remember that vision, a few years ago?

The girl nodded uncertainly.

— So, it was you! And I thought I was going crazy…

— No, you’re fine. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before. And by the way, my real name is Art…


Arthur woke up as if someone had pushed him in the side. Tired from the long journey, he was drawn to fall asleep again, and, waving his hand at everything, he was already falling into the world of dreams, when he heard someone scream. The dream immediately vanished. The man started up and, having risen on the bed, began to listen. However, the cry was no longer repeated. He put on his jacket and left the tent. There was such a thick fog around that almost nothing could be seen, except for the vague outlines of neighboring tents. Trying not to make any noise, he groped his way to one of them, but lifting up the canopy, he noticed that Anna’s bed was empty. The young man was seized with an unpleasant presentiment. In agitation, he touched Alla on the shoulder, she started up and looked at Arthur incomprehensibly:

— Arthur, what are you doing here? What the…

— Alla, where is Anna?

— And how do I know… I was sleeping! What is it?

Arthur jumped out of the tent and called again:

— Anna!

However, there was no answer, and the young man hesitated. To wake everyone up meant to sow panic, and it never leads to anything good. Finally, what does he lose if he tries to figure out what happened himself? Having made up his mind, Arthur moved forward along a path barely visible in the fog. And then… he heard them. Strange signals, similar to the callsigns used on ships. As if in a dream, the young man walked towards them, when suddenly…

He didn’t notice how it happened. Losing his balance and clutching at the air with his hands, Arthur collapsed into the void. However, the flight ended before it even started. The skill and experience of climbing made themselves felt — grabbing the edge of the crevice, he tried to feel the bottom with his foot and, to his amazement, found a light metal ladder. There was no way back and, slowly but surely, the young man went downstairs. The light of day had faded and a slight twilight reigned all around. As his feet touched the floor, the young man looked around. It looks like he is in some kind of dungeon. Complaining about the lack of a flashlight, he groped his way forward. Metal! The walls of the room were completely made of metal! Cautiously moving along one of them, he noticed another staircase leading into darkness and began to descend again, as a bright light flooded the entire surrounding space. Discouraged, Arthur stopped, shielding his eyes with his hands. There were voices from below. The young man quickly overcame the remaining steps. Before his eyes appeared a huge hall, from which the doors of the compartments departed in different directions. But then, at one of the doors, near an incomprehensible device in the form of a type-setting panel, he saw three people. They turned around and Arthur saw Anna among them.

— Anna?

— Arthur? The girl approached the man. — How did you get here?

— Where here? Anna, where are we?

— And what do you think?

— I… — Arthur looked around in bewilderment. Then he met the gaze of a tall man in the clothes of an astronaut. As if reading his mind, he nodded. -Does it mean…

— Surprised? — Anna smiled ironically. — But you yourself wanted to find “something extraordinary,” didn’t you?

— Yes, — Arthur pursed his lip. The slightly mocking look of the girl almost pissed him off. — Thank you for the reminder. I already realized that I was visiting aliens. Aren’t you afraid we’ll be their guinea pigs?

The girl frowned.

— Looks like someone has been watching The X-Files too much. Yes, Arthur, we are indeed in an alien spacecraft. And let me introduce Art, the commander of the expedition, and Mikkel, the captain of the Aldabra.

The astronauts bowed, placing their hands on their chests.

— Very pleased to meet you, — Commander Art waved his hand around the room. — Welcome to Aldabra — the fastest ship in the Orion Constellation.

— Well, nice to meet you, — Arthur held out his hand and Commander Art smiled and shook it.

— Forgive me for interrupting you, — the young man whom Anna called the captain of the ship took a step forward. Graceful, dressed in a silvery suit, with black hair pulled back, he looked like the hero of some fantastic movie about elves. Noticing Anna’s enthusiastic gaze fixed on the alien, Arthur felt an unexpected pang of jealousy mixed with envy. The man pursed his lip, and his hands clenched into fists of their own accord. Not noticing the complete hatred of the look of the man, the Captain looked around everyone with a serious look of chocolate eyes. — We don’t have much time.

The commander nodded, turning his gaze to the girl.

— Oh sure. Anna, now I hope you understand the reason for your being here.

— Not quite… — Anna replied with a shrug. — Although… if you want to say that, once on your ship, we ended up in, so to speak, an alternate reality…

— What?! Arthur looked at Anna in shock. Anna, are you out of your mind? What is another alternate reality?

The astronaut shook his head.

— No, — Commander Art exchanged glances with Mikkel, who impatiently crossed his arms over his chest, and hastened to add. — You are in your own time and space, but we are all connected by one common mission, thanks to which you found our base and our ship.

Seeing that the young people still did not understand him, he sighed.

— Apparently, explanations are indispensable… I think you have heard about the spirits that protect your planet? So, we, of course, are not one of them, but our mission is to observe the life of earthlings.

— Like “Men in Black”, or what? — Arthur chuckled.

— Something like that, — Commander Art nodded. — Of course, this sounds fantastic, but I’m sure, Anna, you are not one of those who need to prove that your planet is not the only one inhabited in the Universe.

The girl nodded. For many years she studied astronomy, the Vedas and Ancient Texts. And Arthur’s recent discovery seemed to have prepared her for the last step of accepting what Commander Art was hinting at. But Art?

— I… of course I understand, but… If you died, then… Now you…

— What? — Arthur threw a perplexed look at the astronaut, but he impatiently waved his hand, interrupting him:

— Yes, you can say that. I don’t want to go into details, but I don’t seem to have a choice. Well, we can actually live one or more human lives in order to awaken those who are ready…” He glanced pointedly at Anna. — Midgard is not just a planet, but what earlier spiritual leaders called a kind of Purgatory. Having come here from our world, your souls, through several rebirths, can receive healing from negative energy…

— So does karma exist? I knew it…

Art continued, ignoring Arthur’s irony:

— … We have been looking for a suitable planet for this experiment for a long time, but without success. The worlds to which we sent expeditions already had developed civilizations like us and did not want to participate in this. Finally, about five hundred billion years ago, we discovered an undeveloped system called the Milky Way. There was no point in delaying. The Intergalactic Council decided to send several ships in order to establish contact between Midgard and Wyrda… Initially, it was supposed to use a device called the Star Gate for communication between the planets. It allowed, with the help of an instantaneous wormhole, to move from one world to another. But the hopes placed on the Gate were misguided. The power of Chaos in the hearts of people is too great, the catastrophes that destroyed civilizations on Mars and Phaeton…

A dreamlike vision flashed through Anna’s mind — a flash of light, a city collapsing… Art, watching her, shook his head.

— We often want to intervene… Stop everything. But we have no right. Our mission is to see that history takes its course, but does not slide into chaos. Of course, sometimes we still have to protect your world from attacks from the outside, such as meteorites, comets and the invasion of unfriendly Space Hulks… But everything that concerns life on the planet is taboo.

— But why? — Arthur looked at Anna. To his amazement, the girl looked quite calm, as if Commander Art’s words didn’t surprise her at all.

— It’s hard to explain, but I’ll try. The thing is that your world is special.

— Really? — Arthur looked at Art in surprise. He spread his hands.

— The history of Midgard is not like the others. During the Second Last Great Battle between Orion and Sirius, a large intergalactic ship of the Vaitmar type, sent by the diplomatic delegation of the Constellation Cygnus, was damaged and stopped for repairs in the solar system to settle in several planets: Orea (Mars) and Deya (you know her as Phaethon, from which now the asteroid belt remains), they housed space navigation and communication stations. But closer to Waitmara was the unexplored Earth, which the Ancients called Midgard. After the death of the civilizations of Orea and Dei, it was decided to settle on it. The air, land and water samples taken showed its suitability for life, and part of the crew landed on Midgard. After the repair, Vaitmara continued on her way, but some of the settlers remained to settle down and ennoble the Earth, on which at that time there were no people, but only plants and animals. The mainland on which the Ancients settled was located at the North Pole and was divided by rivers into 4 parts. They called the mainland DAARIA, i.e. “Gift to the Ancients”, now it is better known among Earthlings under the name Hyperborea. After Midgard was mastered, about 40,000 years ago, many other Races of the Great Commonwealth and Midgard moved to it — the Earth began a new life…

— So everything that is written in ancient texts is true? — delighted Arthur looked at Commander Art. He nodded.

— Yes, Arthur. Your planet is one of the youngest we have discovered, since it is part of the plan, the experiment that has been carried out on Midgard for many billions of years. Our Council is constantly watching you… And the fact that you were sent to find us is also part of the plan. As I said, the Ancient Races came to this planet from outer space. Our galactic system has developed rapidly, reaching hitherto incredible heights in the field of technology and medicine, making our avatars simply invulnerable to external destroyers. But we did not take into account the fact that, while improving the body, we began to forget about the soul… Being proud, we allowed the Darkness to penetrate us, which led to selfishness and a thirst for power. It was then that the Council of Elders decided to create a quarantine zone, a boundary… All this is part of one Great Intergalactic Plan, the purpose of which is to get rid of the inferno. The Earth is just at the junction of two forces — Darkness and Light, therefore it was chosen as a kind of Purgatory. You have probably heard that in your world there is an ancient struggle between two forces — Darkness and Light. The name “Midgard” itself implies the line between the two worlds, a kind of frontier where, through spiritual trials, it is possible to expand consciousness and get rid of Chaos and darkness in our souls. This experience helped our civilizations stop the Intergalactic Wars. And that is why your planet does not have Stargates… The truth is that now this struggle in most of the Universe known to us simply does not exist, except, perhaps, for some distant destructive civilizations, subject to the Darkness, where we prefer not to fly in… There, all the negative is present in in full: selfishness in an exaggerated form, hatred…

— So, this is the reason why strife never ends on Earth… But wasn’t there another way? — Anna asked.

Captain Mikkel shook his head.

— Unfortunately, no. We have tried many things… Our task is to wait for the Awakened, and then we take them and return to our galaxy — Cygnus, Sirius or Orion, and the next expedition takes our place. Several times every hundred years, some of us leave the Hall of Meditation to be reborn on Earth. This is because often earthlings need help, they need someone who will guide, give advice when history comes to a standstill. Chaos must not be allowed… Our mission is to remind the world from time to time of the importance of such things as spirituality, faith, hope and love. If you want to change the world, you need to start with yourself, work on yourself… Only then you can take the path of Truth. And the fact that you have found us means that everything is going as it should… Yes, you are not the first awakened ones. The Intergalactic Council will be happy to know that our plan to get rid of the inferno is going well and there are those who are proof of this. For you, my story may seem like a fiction, but in fact everything that happens is part of the great plan of many generations of scientists of the Intergalactic Federation… Now you understand how important your return is? Yes, I know that there is no way back for you, I know about the danger that you expose yourself to… But this is for the best, believe me… and it means only one thing — it’s time for you to return home.

— I guessed, — the girl looked at Mikkel, he smiled. — But this transition… Will we be able to withstand it?

— Well, you usually come to us after dropping this avatar, — seeing Anna’s incomprehensible look, Mikkel hastened to clarify. — Your body. It is too primitive for the Higher Worlds.

Arthur, eyes wide with horror, looked into the impassive face of the astronaut. Then he turned his gaze to the girl, as if seeking support from the inevitable that awaited them.

— Arthur, you said it yourself, we understood what we were getting into, didn’t we?

— Very witty, Anna, — the young man brushed his hair back from his forehead. He suddenly couldn’t breathe. — I am amazed at your calmness… Why would it be?

— Maybe because for the first time I clearly realize the importance of my actions. Arthur, here on Earth, we are stuck in the networks of virtual reality… We complain about anything… not understanding the truth — you need to start with yourself, take responsibility for your actions, for your developed infantilism… Find the answer to the question — what is it for? everything we want to say with our lives, what we want to leave behind? Have you never thought that your existence is not just a series of natural needs?…

— Did you think so? Unlike some people whose brains are cobwebs in the dark bookshelves, I love life and don’t want to give it up so soon. In general, I expected that we would hand over this accursed stone to you and, covered with glory, return home calmly. And I voted for plan B.

The girl looked at Captain Mikkel, who shook his head.

— Sorry, Arthur, there is no other way. We checked the ratio of your Natal Charts… If you do decide to return, you will be caught and the last thing that awaits you is a week in a punishment cell and execution in a gas chamber for breaking the rules. And what we offer is not death at all.

— And what is it? You yourself said that life on your planet in our bodies is impossible, — the young man crossed his arms over his chest. — If I had known, I would never have picked up this bundle…

— Arthur…

Without listening to the girl, the young man jumped to his feet. Panic surged through him.

— No. I didn’t sign up for this! And if you, Anna, do not care about your life, then I do not!

— Arthur, have you forgotten? We have no choice…

— I don’t care… I don’t want to, I…

Suddenly, he felt something prick his forearm. His legs buckled, the captain’s assistant came up and supported the losing consciousness of the man, helping him to get to the chair. Looking at the peaceful face of Arthur, the girl whispered:

— I didn’t think it would affect him so much… Arthur was always so staunch, cold…

— Be more forgiving, Anna. Everyone is tied to this world in different ways… Sometimes the connection is too strong and breaking it is not as easy as it seems… — Art turned to Anna. — Are you ready?

— Absolutely. One question — what about Stas and the others?

— Don’t worry, they won’t remember anything about what happened. Tomorrow morning they will wake up, as usual, and rush to fulfill the tasks of your leadership… Everything that happened to them will be erased from their memory… By the way, — he thought. — We can alleviate the feelings of those who are dear to you in the same way.

— What? But, how?..

— It’s simple — we will make them forget about you. Everything that reminded you of your presence here will be hidden…

— They will forget… but if we return one day, will it be possible to cancel… this?

Commander Art nodded.

— Undoubtedly. Our memory is multidimensional, what is removed can be returned if necessary.

— Then I agree. And lastly, should I be afraid?

The Commander placed a hand on her shoulder.

— Just not for you…

— Good. You know… For so many years I have dreamed of finding out if we are alone in the Universe. Now my world has turned upside down… And I’m glad about it.

She noticed the glittering needle in Aldabra’s doctor’s hand. The girl closed her eyes… A discharge of current… And her consciousness began to float away. She felt weightless, feeling herself rising up…


…Throwing away the sword, the Warrior fell to his knees. He no longer wanted to fight. Emptiness enveloped him… Emptiness and pain. What did he fight for? For peace? How can you fight for peace if you sow pain yourself? He clenched his teeth. He saw too much pain and injustice in his life. Probably, it’s time to get used to it… But the Soul didn’t want to get used to it. He looked at the sky, where the scarlet sunset was smoldering and… wept. For the first time in a long time, sincerely, since he cried only once, a long time ago, when he realized that he was returned to Earth again, that he could not, did not complete his Mission to the end… That was His Birthday…

He remembered how much bullying and ridicule he had to endure in childhood, in his youth… Before, he wondered — FOR WHAT?! And he tried to reach out to the hearts and souls of other people… Then he met LOVE. Did His Soulmate answer him?… His Soul flared up with a bright light… But it soon went out. Again the door of the Heart was slammed before him. His Sincere Feelings were rejected… He knew loneliness. It has become a path to distrust and deep resentment…

It was then that he first picked up a Weapon… It became his Mind… But not for attack, but for defense. Protection from those who enjoyed his pain… Who didn’t need excuses and understanding of others… He decided to prove to the whole world that he could be strong, invulnerable and rebellious… But did it bring relief? Hardly… more likely even greater disappointment in Life and the World… The battle with the Windmills turned out to be pointless… Hopeless… If there is no point, then what is all this for? Why live if there is no peace even with yourself?!!! And he hated himself, his reflection in this world of Mirrors… Plunging into darkness, where he felt freedom… But the Darkness was full of unbearable loneliness… It seemed to haunt him… FOR WHAT?! Throwing away his sword, the Warrior fell to his knees. He no longer wanted to fight. Emptiness enveloped him… Emptiness and pain.

He threw back his hood and golden curls scattered over his shoulders… Yes, he completely forgot about who he was… In this world, it is not surprising to forget that you are a girl… Are you a girl? No one has ever seen HER in HIM. She used to defend herself, got used to relying only on herself in everything… NOT A SINGLE TEAR. YOU ARE STRONG! So it was accepted… The strong do not cry! And never complain, never look for excuses… You can’t… Stop it… ENOUGH!!!… They say that despondency is a sin. So laugh, LAUGH IN THE FACE OF FATE, LET’S… Do not give her pleasure… Otherwise, she will definitely laugh at you. Who has seen little, cries a lot. No one wants your tears, everyone wants comedy! Did you fall, does it hurt? HA_HA_HA! Like in an old silent movie… We used to make fun of each other, it’s so funny. But do we have fun when we ourselves stumble and fall? Not, we will never admit it… Those who have seen a lot… can no longer, will not laugh at the fallen. He would rather extend his hand. Get up…

…There is no Light without Darkness, just as there is no Life without Pain… We all experience bodily or spiritual torment in one way or another… We are born with a cry, so at least we need to live with laughter! Shadows cast across the dark ceiling. Another night without sleep. As time drags on, the hands of the clock keep moving. No, you are not sad, because your destiny is to be strong, no matter what. It’s already a habit. The habit of waking up, living, relying only on yourself. Fight. And to be silent, to laugh, hiding yourself behind a mask… Another day passed, but again it did not bring relief. They say that coffee invigorates. Nonsense, it only takes away strength… For a long time there is no point in waiting for something… Time is running, taking years. All the same notorious “Groundhog Day”… And again a new day… And again everyone repeats: “You are strong, you cannot be broken!” Yes, strong, you see, I’m smiling! Straightening the back, gait from the hip… Faces, so many faces, acquaintances and not so… And it is strange, going home in the evening to hear the ringing silence. You go online … 0 friends, 0 of them are on the site, and there is no one to talk heart to heart with. And when you go into the bedroom, you see a big empty bed… And you decide to sleep on the couch today. How could this happen? Why was it necessary to be born into this world? Starless blue sky. Answer… Silence. No answer. Dreams, darkness, cold, fatigue… The labyrinth of the subconscious. I CAN’T DO THIS MORE!… She was sick, physically, from hospitals, doctors’ prescriptions and their prohibitions. A weak, puny body… how it limited her! Like a butterfly in a hateful cocoon… Yes, she understood that there are people much more unhappy in fate, she endured and tried not to grumble. But I so wanted to be stronger both spiritually and physically … 0 of them are on the site, and there is no one to talk heart to heart with. And when you go into the bedroom, you see a big empty bed… And you decide to sleep on the couch today. How could this happen? Why was it necessary to be born into this world? Starless blue sky. Answer… Silence. No answer. Dreams, darkness, cold, fatigue… The labyrinth of the subconscious. I CAN’T DO THIS MORE!… She was sick, physically, from hospitals, doctors’ prescriptions and their prohibitions. A weak, puny body… how it limited her! Like a butterfly in a hateful cocoon… Yes, she understood that there are people much more unhappy in fate, she endured and tried not to grumble. But I so wanted to be stronger both spiritually and physically … 0 of them are on the site, and there is no one to talk heart to heart with. And when you go into the bedroom, you see a big empty bed… And you decide to sleep on the couch today. How could this happen? Why was it necessary to be born into this world? Starless blue sky. Answer… Silence. No answer. Dreams, darkness, cold, fatigue… The labyrinth of the subconscious. I CAN’T DO THIS MORE!… She was sick, physically, from hospitals, doctors’ prescriptions and their prohibitions. A weak, puny body… how it limited her! Like a butterfly in a hateful cocoon… Yes, she understood that there are people much more unhappy in fate, she endured and tried not to grumble. But I so wanted to be stronger both spiritually and physically… How could this happen? Why was it necessary to be born into this world? Starless blue sky. Answer… Silence. No answer. Dreams, darkness, cold, fatigue… The labyrinth of the subconscious. I CAN’T DO THIS MORE!… She was sick, physically, from hospitals, doctors’ prescriptions and their prohibitions. A weak, puny body… how it limited her! Like a butterfly in a hateful cocoon… Yes, she understood that there are people much more unhappy in fate, she endured and tried not to grumble. But I so wanted to be stronger both spiritually and physically… How could this happen? Why was it necessary to be born into this world? Starless blue sky. Answer… Silence. No answer. Dreams, darkness, cold, fatigue… The labyrinth of the subconscious. I CAN’T DO THIS MORE!… She was sick, physically, from hospitals, doctors’ prescriptions and their prohibitions. A weak, puny body… how it limited her! Like a butterfly in a hateful cocoon… Yes, she understood that there are people much more unhappy in fate, she endured and tried not to grumble. But I so wanted to be stronger both spiritually and physically… she endured and tried not to grumble. But I so wanted to be stronger both spiritually and physically… she endured and tried not to grumble. But I so wanted to be stronger both spiritually and physically…

Blow… silence… blow… hush… hush…

She seemed to be gliding along a warm river, fragments of memories flashed and faded in her mind… Is it really the end? But there was no end. She was carried by the current of the river… A bright flash of light… As if through a dream, soft music burst into her brain. So strange and calm… But then her memory began to come back to life. The whole meaning of what was happening suddenly dawned on the girl. She’s in space, in a starship! But all of a sudden she just dreamed it all? The girl squeezed her eyes shut and then slowly opened her eyes with excitement. Her eyes fell on the ship’s cozy cabin, apparently the medbay. She was lying on a capsule-shaped bed, under a soft warm bluish light. Squinting her eyes, next to her, on the same bed, she saw Arthur. Covered with a light blanket, he did not move, breathing evenly and calmly, as if sleeping.

So it wasn’t a dream? The girl stretched out her hand… In the bluish glow, she seemed to be fashioned from ivory. What does she look like then? However, as soon as she moved, the door opened and a pleasant young woman in a snow-white suit entered the room.

— Are you awake already? Perfect! — She took the girl’s hand, looking at the monitor. — Everything is okay.

— Right? — the girl fell silent, not recognizing her voice, unexpectedly high and melodic.

— Exactly, — the young woman smiled. — You’re doing great, Anna.

— Saima? What happened with me? And where is Mikkel, Alex? — the girl raised herself on her elbows. Looking around herself, she turned pink — she had no clothes on at all. — Ouch…

— Don’t be embarrassed, — the young woman approached a strange-looking device that looked like a 3D printer. — As soon as I’m sure you’re all right, you can meet them. How do you like your updated avatar?

— I… don’t know what to say, — the girl sat down. Every movement now came to her with unprecedented ease and grace. — It looks like I need time…

— I’ll help you, but first, please get up here.

The girl obeyed. The doctor led her to a circle in the floor. From somewhere above, warm water poured onto her, immediately evaporating upon contact with the body, at the same time giving a feeling of freshness. Observation did not let her down — the robot-printer quickly “printed” clothes for the girl. Dressed in a silver-colored outfit consisting of a thin sweater and tight-fitting trousers, Anna turned to the now mirrored wall and gasped. Looking at her was a graceful young girl, about eighteen years old at the most, with short black hair that beautifully framed her face and turquoise eyes.

— It’s me?

— Well, certainly not me, — the doctor laughed merrily. — How do you feel?

— Perfect! That’s just… I have a strange feeling. I smell, but I have absolutely no thirst and hunger. This is fine?

The Doctor nodded.

— Yes. Your body is no longer a biorobot, although it retains a set of former qualities, including the consumption of food as a pleasure, but not a need, although your digestive system is much more perfect than before and is not subject to any negative influences. You don’t need any more of this nourishment, as we have long since learned to draw energy from a special spectrum of light waves, emotions and sensations. So, positive emotions give strength, and negative ones drain us. We are also not subject to the destructive effects of the external environment, but nevertheless we can be destroyed by a special type of energy weapon. Over time, you will understand everything, working in space expeditions…

The girl glanced at Arthur.

— Will he… wake up?

— Yes, — the doctor approached the motionless young man. — But he needs time. Arthur is more difficult, he is too attached to the past. Midgard won’t let him go so easily… But his will is strong, he can handle it. We are sure of it.

Anna nodded as she walked over to the capsule and looked at it. Arthur’s face breathed calmness, the wrinkles smoothed out… He looked ten years younger. The girl smiled softly — all resentment, pain evaporated without a trace. There was an indescribable lightness in her body… as if she woke up from a serious illness and now her whole being rejoiced. Saima went out, and the girl turned once more in front of the mirror. Yes, she will also need time to get used to the new sensations of freedom and strength that overwhelm her body. It was as if she woke up from a serious illness and now her whole being rejoiced. Mikkel, Art! She must find them, thank them… Glancing at Arthur once more, the girl went out into the corridor. Entering the elevator, Anna was a little confused, but then she remembered, Mikkel’s words, that the ship was also controlled telepathically. It was worth a try.

— Please, captain’s quarters. I don’t really know what level…

Contrary to her fears, not even a second passed before the elevator opened again, and the girl found herself in a long corridor, on the sides of which there were several doors. Interest overcame shyness. As soon as she approached one of them, it immediately opened, and Anna saw a spacious bright hall, and in the middle of it a huge pool with such clear blue water as she had never seen in her life. As soon as she entered the room, a small shining white ball lit up in the middle of the hall under the ceiling, it became warmer around and from somewhere a pleasant sea breeze blew. Yielding to the environment, the girl resolutely took off her clothes and, running up, dived into the water. She gently accepted it, and Anna gave herself the opportunity to sink to the very bottom — the depth of the pool was at least two to three meters! Then, with a few swings of her arms, she surfaced. To her delight, the water turned out to be so warm that it was possible to stay in it indefinitely. It was nothing like the disinfected sports clubs where she sometimes ventured to swim. In addition, there she always had to make a lot of effort to stay afloat, but here the water itself kept her! It was wonderful…

— You are a great swimmer!

From surprise, Anna almost went under the water again. The girl looked around in amazement and saw a young man standing nearby. The dark gray suit beautifully fitted the man’s slender body, and his tall stature and soft movements gave him a resemblance to a flexible and strong cat… Panther, that’s how she could characterize him. Brown eyes followed her, and her lips parted in a half smile. Adjusting a strand of dark curly hair, he put a hand to his chest.

— I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.

— No, you’ll forgive me for allowing myself…

Then it dawned on her that she was in front of a stranger in what her mother gave birth and blushed. But most of all, she was struck by the behavior of a man who calmly watched her.

— Uh, mmm, could you turn your back… Or give a towel?

— Of course, here you go, — the cosmonaut, holding out his hand, helped her out and held out a towel. The embarrassment of the girl obviously did not bother him.

— So you won’t turn away?

— In terms of? Ah, I get it. Do not worry, soon you will understand that we have not been shy about the beauty and perfection of our bodies for a long time. Our Body is the creation of the Almighty, so why should we be ashamed of what is given to us by the Universe?

The girl nevertheless turned away and, wrapping herself in a bathrobe given to her by a man, decided to translate the conversation.

— Still, I’m embarrassed that I’m like this, without permission…

— Well, what are you. I didn’t mean to disturb you, but you are indeed a great swimmer.

— Thank you… And you? How do you feel about this kind of sport?

— Actually, I really like to swim, but there is not always enough time.

Anna nodded. After drying off, she threw off her robe and, still turning pink, dressed quickly.

— Mikkel, I’ve wanted to ask for a long time… Art never explained to me why his name sounds different in this world?

The captain shrugged.

— The Commander is not the first time incarnated on Midgard, so he decided to move into the category of mentors. And the name… It is not forgotten if the memory does not go out, right? He has been preparing for this for a long time, because the Commander is half Lanthean, half Alvian… Their civilization belongs to the constellation Cygnus, like yours, by the way.

The girl looked at the young man in astonishment.

— My? I thought my home was Earth. Even though I know that our meeting with Art was preordained. I saw him in one of the memories of a past life. But my family…

— So it was, — Mikkel nodded in agreement. — But now you’re back to who you really are. And soon meet your real family.

The girl lowered her head.

— It’s hard to forget the past.

The young man took the girl by the hand.

— No one is forcing you to forget them. They will always be in your soul, as a part of you. But you cannot deny your true nature. You are a purebred swan, Aria. Princess…

— I? — the girl looked at Mikkel in amazement, he smiled.

— Yes, and your people, like your family, are waiting for your return. Soon your memory will return to you… By the way, — the young man handed the girl a pendant made of a strange-looking stone, with unusual runes carved on it. — That stone did not just find you. Now you can rightfully wear it as a Guardian.

— I don’t understand.

— Everything has its time. You will understand soon…

The girl shrugged. A pleasant warmth spread from the stone through the body. Smiling, Ann… Aria looked at the astronaut.

— And you, Mikkel… also a swan?

— No, I’m an Orion, though not a pureblood. My mother is an Orion and my father is a Lyrian.

— I have so many questions … — the girl tousled her still slightly wet hair, collecting her thoughts. — I’ll start with the main thing. My transformation… is it complete?

— Completely. It remains to be trained.

— I’m ready…

The alien nodded.

— We have contacted the Council. They allowed you and Arthur (when he wakes up) to be trained on Orion. In the end, we have one of the best schools… In the meantime, the flight lasts, they offered to bring you up to date.

— And who will be my mentor?

Mikkel smiled slyly.

— And what do you think? He is in front of you.

— Well, — the girl held out her hand to the man. — We are glad to cooperate. When do we start?

— Tomorrow. True, here, in space, eternal night reigns… But time is the same for everyone.

— I have always loved the night…

— Then it’s decided. By the way, we have already entered the dimensional tunnel. A few more tens of parsecs and we will jump into hyperspace. If everything continues to go well, then in two or three days we will be ready to jump into zero-space. By the way, would you like to take a look at the tunnel itself? It’s pretty interesting.

— Why not?

Moving forward along the corridor, they entered a small round room, in the center of which stood a pair of chairs. The whole wall of the room was occupied by a huge screen. The young people sat in comfortable chairs that instantly took on the shape of their bodies, and Mikkel turned on the surveillance screen. Immediately, the whole room was plunged into darkness, and a spatial window appeared on the screen. The ship moved in such an incredible overflow of colors that the girl could not even imagine. The stars turned into white streaks that instantly swept past, and the tunnel itself shimmered with all the colors of the rainbow…

— Mikkel… It’s so beautiful…

— I knew you’d like…


Suddenly, an alarm sounded through the ship. The screen flickered and went out, and a bright light came on all around.

— What’s the matter?

— I don’t know yet, — Mikkel jumped up, but then the ship shook so that he was forced to grab onto the back of his chair. — Hurry, follow me.

They ran out into the corridor and hurried to the control room.

— What happened? — Mikkel went up to his assistant, peering into the instrument readings.

— I have no idea. Fuel is good, but the ship has exited the dimensional tunnel.

— What? — Mikkel pressed the button, causing the shields blocking the view moved aside, and their eyes had an incredible sight. The stars disappeared, and the ship itself moved as if in a light purple mist. Entered at that moment, the Commander froze. — Can’t be!

Approaching the captain, Art took from his hands a tablet with constellation diagrams.

— I’m afraid the testimony is correct, Mikkel…

— What’s the matter? — Aria walked over to the captain, who was staring intently at the purple clouds. Every now and then they seemed to flare up from the inside with bright flashes. — Where are we?

— I’m afraid that the most unforeseen happened — we got into one of the very dangerous nebulae. There’s a strong gravitational field here, which means…

The captain’s mate interrupted him.

— Mikkel, look.

The captain bent over the indicators, but, peering into the play of signals, he abruptly straightened up and, going to the dashboard, pressed several buttons. Immediately, a voice was heard throughout the ship:

— Everyone, take your seats! I repeat, all crew immediately take their seats and buckle up, in case of turbulence!

Mikkel switched off the loudspeaker and, after exchanging glances with Art, sank into a chair next to him. Aria followed suit. Soon, through the fog, the outlines of a huge planet began to be seen.

— Mikkel, what is it?

— A planet of spectral type F. In other words, a supergiant with an incredible power of gravity.

But can we bypass it? — girl excitedly looked at Commander Art. The Commander shook his head.

— Not. In addition, our engines have not yet recovered after leaving the space tunnel… Deg Lennart…

— Yes captain!

— On the left, I noticed a small satellite. We’ll be in orbit around the planet for about an hour. Send a scout robot to its surface.

— Do you offer boarding? Deg looked questioningly at the Commander.

— Yes. We have no other choice. It will take several days for our engines to restart. But, fortunately, we have enough fuel.

A few minutes later, the capsule with the robot was lowered, and the team could only wait. However, the voice of astronavigator Kama Tar was soon heard, reporting a safe landing. Everyone hurried to the observatory.

An image of a desert gorge with sharp rock ledges appeared on the screen. The robot itself, by a lucky chance, landed on a large flat area. Some time later, soil and water samples showed the absence of harmful impurities.

— The air is very rarefied, — Commander Art turned off the screen. — I think we’ll still have to use spacesuits. Let’s go.

— Are we going to land on the planet? — Aria looked at Mikkel in amazement.

— Yes, this is a common practice, we must see with our own eyes the world where we fall by the will of fate and leave a beacon there, putting the planet on a map of the constellations, this is part of our work. But I think you’re better off…

— I’m with you.

Fortunately, the spacesuits turned out to be not the bulky suits in which the people of the Earth went into space. They were made of a thin synthetic material that was like a second skin and hardly felt on the body. But, according to Sa-Ira, the ship’s engineer, they could easily withstand a hundred degrees of frost, and not just thirty degrees, which was on the planet. Putting it on, I looked in the mirror. Silver in color, it tightly fitted her slender body and, in combination with the snow-white waterproof raincoat attached to it, perfectly completed her image. Finally, making sure that the suit fit perfectly, she went up to the control room, where Mikkel and Art were waiting for her, also already dressed in similar suits, which suited them very well. Sitting in a chair next to the Commander, the girl buckled up, the captain nodded to his assistant, and he pressed the landing lever.

Aria felt an unknown force lightly push her into a chair. The ship rushed from its place and, breaking through the dense atmosphere, began to describe circles, looking for a profitable landing site. Finally, she was found — in a small gorge among the rocks. As the ship softly touched down, Mikkel unbuckled his seatbelt and leaned back in his chair, breathing a sigh of relief.

— We are in place. Well, it’s time to find out what we’re dealing with…

Rising to her feet, Aria felt how strong the gravity field of this planet was. Her whole body was constrained, and movements were difficult, but deciding not to lose her face in front of the crew, she gathered her strength and followed. As Art had predicted, the planet was freezing cold, fortunately barely perceptible through the spacesuit’s heating layer, and a strong wind was blowing, and dark cumulus clouds were crawling across the light purple sky. All together it looked like a picture of a science fiction movie. The commander turned to the people accompanying him.

— So, we’re here. But let’s agree — never go anywhere alone. And do not lose vigilance. Aria!

The girl, who thoughtfully fixed her gaze on the mountains in the distance, turned to the Commander.

— Yes?

— I say we should be careful. Do not forget — this world is not familiar to us and we should be very careful.

— Okay, — Aria nodded with a shrug.

Commander Art sighed and shook his head.

— Just be on the alert… Let’s go.

They slowly began to climb up the big hill. To everyone’s surprise, even with such a frost, flowers grew on the planet, but due to the lack of sunlight, they were completely colorless and, moreover, huge (at least two meters in height) in size. Under the gusts of wind, they bent to the ground, making it difficult to climb. Having risen to the top, the friends were finally able to look around. The entire area was completely empty. There were no trees, they were replaced by white thorn bushes. In combination with the dark brown soil and purple sky, the whole surrounding picture evoked a strange feeling of unreality of what was happening on the travelers.

Aria suddenly froze as she listened.

— What happened? Art looked at her warily.

— I do not know. I thought I heard some kind of noise…

Here everyone really heard something similar to the clatter of soft paws. Aria looked around anxiously.

— Mikkel, be careful!

The astronaut turned sharply, having managed to see a huge beast rushing towards him. But at that moment, Aria pushed him away and the beast, having missed, rushed towards her. Mikkel pulled out a stunner attached to his thigh, essentially releasing a couple of electric waves. However, the beast turned out to be completely insensitive to the action of the weapon, which only angered him even more. In a rage, he attacked the girl, knocking her to the ground. The astronauts froze in horror — the monster was pushing Aria to the edge of the cliff…

— Aria…

— Mikkel, stop!

Not listening to the Commander, the captain, pushing him away, rushed to the girl, as a bright flash of light illuminated the surrounding area. The mysterious creature, howling, rushed away and disappeared into the darkness.

— Aria! Are you okay?

— Sort of. What was it?

— An incredibly strong lightning strike, and this “something” was extremely like a big wolf, — Mikkel held out his hand, helping the girl up. — Of course, I could deal with this… beast myself. But thanks anyway.

— Don’t, I couldn’t have done otherwise.

She swayed. Despite the fact that the strong material from which the suit was made protected her from the claws of an alien creature, the fall made itself felt with severe dizziness. Art shook his head.

— Mikkel, Aria needs Saima’s help. We return to the ship.

— Yes, of course, — the young man held out his hand to Aria, and she shook it tightly. — Let’s go…

Chapter 6 New World

Finally, minor breakdowns were eliminated, the engines were restored, and the ship, having overcome the gravity of the planet, broke out of the purple nebula at a powerful speed and re-entered the spatial tunnel. Fortunately, Aria escaped with only a small concussion and a couple of bruises, and, thanks to enhanced regeneration and the efforts of Saima, she soon recovered so much that the doctor no longer considered it necessary for her to stay in bed any longer, and the girl happily returned to normal life. And she’s not alone. On the first day, after leaving the infirmary, the girl, walking around the ship, wandered into a huge room, all filled with luminous plates, standing on shelves rising to the ceiling of racks. It looks like a library. Aria took out one of the plates, which looked like a thin 3D computer. But as soon as she touched the flower depicted on its surface,

— Beautiful … — the girl turned to the voice behind her. Arthur chuckled at her surprise. — Not expected?

— You woke up, — Aria looked down in confusion, not knowing whether to be happy or not. The unexpected appearance of a man stirred up a whole storm of feelings in her chest, from almost extinguished resentment to delight. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to smile. — How do you feel?

— Very good, — going up to the girl, Arthur looked at the plate. — Can?

— Of course, — the girl handed him the plate. Scrolling through the images, he clicked on one of them, and immediately the room was transformed into an underwater world. Glowing jellyfish swam around them, somewhere in the distance the singing of whale-like creatures was heard. Yes, here they are. The girl staggered back, grabbing onto the young man as the huge creature passed within an inch of them. The picture disappeared and she met Arthur’s smiling eyes. — Sorry I…

— Nothing. Pretty realistic, right? Arthur chuckled. — Scared?

— No… although it was unexpected, — Aria put the plate back in place. — What?

— Nothing, it’s just… It seemed to me that you couldn’t be frightened so easily, — Arthur looked meaningfully at the girl, but she just shrugged her shoulders.

Arthur, you know. We couldn’t do otherwise…

— Indeed? — from his glance, the girl again became uneasy.

— I… — the girl shrugged her shoulders. — Arthur… Please don’t do this.

— Anna, I don’t understand you. You let me in, then you push me away, like I’m a leper. What’s the matter?

— Arthur, I’m sorry… It’s hard to explain. Although you do understand. Sarah, Boris. I don’t want to hurt anyone and ruin your life.

— Anna, — Arthur stepped closer, and Anna felt a hand rest on her shoulder. Turning around sharply, the girl found herself in the ring of his arms. “We are many thousands of light-years from Earth. And if you think logically, then during this time the Earth that we knew simply does not exist…

— Not quite, you did not take into account the speed of the ship. Getting into a hyperspace tunnel, time is reduced. And we will arrive at Virdu just a month after leaving the Earth. So that…

The girl tried to pull away, but the man’s grip did not loosen.

— Did the captain tell you? Yes of course. How can I compete with an alien in the form of an Elven Knight, — Arthur smiled bitterly. — Princess…

— Arthur… Actually, it was your idea. So what’s my fault? I don’t need this title, I’m ready to change.

— Well, — Arthur smiled arrogantly and bowed in an exaggeratedly polite way. — I understand you. Who am I to argue with the future queen of Daaria. Rest easy, I won’t bother you anymore.

Ignoring the upset look of the girl, Arthur disappeared through the door. Aria thoughtfully moved to a large stained-glass window, behind which a starry abyss shone. Arthur… It’s a pity that they met so untimely. Well, it has always been that way, from the moment they met. Anna was working in the archives when a new employee came to their university. Artur Dalivin… Tall, stately (like Don Juan), the young man immediately won the attention of the entire female part of the team. But their communication somehow did not work out right away — they were too different. Always collected, with cold blue eyes and a slightly mocking smile, the young man who immediately received the favor of the leadership was her complete opposite. But something in him attracted her… And she realized that she was unable to cope with it.


Soon the ship slowed down and prepared for a hyperjump. At this time, it was decided to put the entire crew back into a state of suspended animation, with the exception of the Commander, the captain and Aria, who flatly refused to go to sleep. As Mikkel had warned her, the sensation she experienced was not pleasant. It felt like falling into a bottomless well, flying, spinning in the fog, and you don’t understand where the top and bottom are, and then a bright flash of light follows and… Opening her eyes, Aria noticed a huge number of bright stars and a string of planets rushing past at great speed. Turning around, she saw that Mikkel was smiling.

— Did we get out?

— Yes, — he looked happily at his comrades. — Welcome to the Orion Constellation!

The awakened crew gathered in the main control post and peered with undisguised delight at the silhouettes of the approaching planet. It was Wyrda, a large blue-green planet, illuminated by the rays of a huge white sun.

The spaceship picked up such speed that Aria was simply pressed into her chair. Plus, my head was spinning. She, perplexed, looked at Mikkel and Art serenely talking to each other. It seemed that they did not at all notice not only the fall into the void, but also the speed with which the starship was now moving. At the very same Aria, from the dizzying speed from which planet and stars flew by, it darkened in her eyes and, when sometimes the ship fell into an air hole, it shivered somewhere inside. Finally, she noted with delight that the pace of the ship was slowing down. The girl stretched and stretched her arms, which were numb from exertion.

— Well, it looks like we’re on target, aren’t we?

Mikkel exchanged a glance with Art and smiled as he said:

— Yes. I hope that the journey did not tire you too much?

— No, no, what are you. I just love wild speed. Only, I’m afraid now I need a second breakfast.

— Then get ready, we’re going down now.

Mikkel pressed the lever, and the ship went into a steep dive like an arrow, rushing towards the surface of the planet. Having leveled the flight path and passed through the iridescent glow of the atmosphere, the ship made a semicircle and landed on the flat area of the spaceport, located in a gorge among the mountains.

Mikkel pressed the speaker button.

— To the entire crew of the starship Aldabra! I report a safe landing and ask you to gather in the central control post!

Five minutes later the hall was filled with excited astronauts. They talked and sometimes exchanged joyful smiles. Mikkel raised his hand, and the room immediately fell silent.

— Firstly, I would like to thank all of you, friends, for the hard and responsible work you have done. This flight was very long for all of us, but it was more than successful. We not only brilliantly completed the task set by the Council of Astronomy, but also helped Princess Aria escape the captivity of Midgard.

Mikkel pointed to the embarrassed girl. Thunderous applause broke out all around. Glancing around, the girl met Arthur’s eyes. Smiling, he looked away. Biting her lip, the girl tried with all her might not to betray her feelings, which, it must be said, were in complete chaos. Not noticing her confusion, the captain held out his hand, inviting her to follow him. Accompanied by Art, all four left the hall and, entering one of the rooms, again found themselves in the familiar teleport room. Standing in a circle and holding hands, they closed their eyes.


Nefertari paced excitedly around the perimeter of the Astronomical Hall, waiting for the head of the council. Ten years have passed, but there was no news from the expedition. Although before the flight, Mikkel had told her, then still a little girl, about a possible delay on the new planet and the difficulties of the journey, such a long silence was unbearable. Unable to wait any longer, she requested an audience with the head of the Council of Astronomy.

Finally, familiar footsteps were heard. The girl turned around and met Chi Sang’s gaze. He was a tall man, whose age was betrayed only by silver strands in dark hair and eyes that burned with calm wisdom. He looked at the excited girl and shook his head.

— I know, I know why you are here. But alas, I can’t help you.

— But sir…

— Sorry, Nefert. I know it’s hard, but…

— I beg you… Is there really nothing that can be done? To know?

— How? This flight was the farthest of all that we had previously undertaken. Believe me, my girl, I’m sorry…

A siren blared throughout the hall. The Head of the Council and Nefertari looked at each other.

— What is it?

— I dont know. Maybe…

Chi Sang did not finish. Quick footsteps were heard, and Varr Go, chief astrologer of the council, ran into the hall.

— Master Sang…

What’s the matter Varr?

— Sorry, but we spotted an approaching starship.

— A starship? Chi Sang and Nefertari hurried to the huge window overlooking the runway. Something actually appeared in the sky that looked like a drop of molten silver. Then she approached, and the Head of the Council exclaimed:

— Aldabra!

— I knew! Oh Master, it’s her!

— Come on, we need to meet them! What a joyful day!

Meanwhile, the ship, shining in the sunlight, landed on the site of the cosmodrome. Council workers gathered in the Arrivals Hall noticed a bright flash of light, and the expedition commander appeared on the steps, accompanied by three people. Greeted on all sides by staff and Council members, the captain looked around as if searching for someone. Aria noticed his confusion.

— What is it, Mikkel?

— I thought she would be here…

— Who?

As if in answer to her question, a cry came from somewhere to the right:

— Mikkel!

The astronaut turned around and immediately found himself in the arms of a girl who ran out of the crowd and threw herself on his neck.

— Oh, Mikkel! Seatta! Set si ar!

— Seatta, Nefertari!

Embracing the girl clinging to him, Mikkel turned to his friends. It must be said that thanks to the classes in the study of the Orion language, Aria began to speak it more or less tolerably, perfectly understanding the greeting words of the girl, unlike Arthur, who considered such hobbies a waste of time. Mikkel squeezed the girl’s hand and looked happily at Aria, Arthur and Commander Art.

— Friends, let me introduce you to my sister — Nefertari. Nefert, these are my friends — Commander Art, Arthur and Aria.

— Oh, Seatta! Welcome to Wyrd! — the girl, according to tradition, put her hand to her chest and bowed slightly. — I’m so glad to meet you!

— I think we are all happy about it.

Chi Sang, approaching imperceptibly, looked from Mikkel to his companions. The captain bowed.

— Yes, Master. Our flight was successful and we were able to visit the third planet from the Yellow Giant.

— Wonderful! Well, then we shouldn’t postpone the meeting until tomorrow. Come on, tell me everything in order.

— Yes, but that’s not all. My friends are not just guests of our world, they are also ambassadors of Midgard. And Aria is the Keeper of Chintamani!

— What?! — The head of the Council put his hand to his heart. — How?…

— This is certainly the will of the Almighty, since the Stone has come down to us in perfect safety.

— We need to report this to the Council! — Chi Sang held out his hand, bidding them follow him. — This is a great day for all Virda!

There was nowhere for an apple to fall in the Council Chamber. Unaccustomed to this kind of attention, Aria tightly gripped Art’s arm as they entered the podium. The head of the Council, with a wave of his hand, called all those gathered to silence.

— Today is a great day for our entire planet! And not only because Aldabra and her crew returned safely from a long journey, but also because our world has found a lost relic — the Stone of Truth! Chintamani returned home again, thanks to his Guardian — Princess Aria and her companion and bodyguard Arthur.

The young man looked at Chi Sang in bewilderment, but he, not noticing his surprise, continued as if nothing had happened:

— Now I ask you to accept our guests as our Brothers, for that is exactly what they are! May the Force of Light be with you!

When they returned to the hall, Mikkel turned to his friends:

— The solemn part is over, now the Council will retire for a meeting. I have to attend…

The girl looked at the captain in awe.

— Mikkel, this is all great, of course, but what about us?

— I thought I was talking, — Mikkel exchanged glances with Nefertari. — Since you are our guest, I would like to invite you and Arthur to stay at our house.

— And you? Aria looked at Mikkel.

— Unfortunately, I can’t join you right now. Our crew is waiting in the council. But I think we can see each other in two days. In the meantime, Nefertari will be your guide. Don’t worry, we’ll see you very soon, — gently touching the girl’s shoulder, he added softly. — You will soon understand, princess, that here you have nothing and no one to fear…

— Exactly! Nefertari smiled at the girl, inviting her to follow her. Aria waved her hand at Mikkel, and she and Art disappeared into the beams of the teleporter. Accompanied by the girl, Arthur and Aria crossed the huge Arrivals Hall and exited through the glass doors that opened at their approach to the street. Aria felt dizzy from the abundance of fresh air. She looked around with delight.

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