[!]:./action . SYSTEM . REBOOT
[!]:./action . VISUAL . ERROR
[!]:./action . AUDIO . ENABLED
[!]:./action . TRANSLATOR . ENABLED
"So this is what went down eh? Drones were saying there were two heat signatures earlier, now there’s only one."
"Ande maybe the wild claimed one."
"Why would they only take one? Why leave one?"
"Why ask me? I’m not the wild."
<ruffling, metal clanking and grinding, and footsteps moving>
"Ande! Efan come here! They’re still alive!"
"What? After that crash?"
"They’re trapped. That might be the wild left them. There’s this metal thing crushing their legs."
"Emme it’s just a boy. Help me free him, I think the drones are coming back."
<metal screeches, disorienting the audio>
"-ionu. Can you get them?"
"Eh, legs are a bloody mess though. Reparable but they won’t work properly."
"Suppose the King should know about this."
"Eh, but first we ke-"
"Let’s go then. Don’t want the drones catching up around a Mianal ahem."
<footsteps retreating, one heavier and more uneven than the other>
<snuffling, a howl, and then a crunch>
[!]:./error . BACKUP . BATTERY . TERMINATED
[!]:./action . SYSTEM . SHUTDOWN
"Is that all? You said this might help but all it does is confuse me. Two heat signatures? The wild claiming one? This makes no sense. Did anyone think that one of the heat signatures came from the engine itself? They heat up." Ma sighs, running a hand through her hair before placing it on my shoulder.
"I've told you before, technology like this isn't allowed. Have you thought that maybe it was one of your crewmembers ande? I've heard that your kind is very resilient." She hums, her English heavily accented to where the a’s were soft and wide, the e’s light, and r’s basically nonexistent. This time I sigh, leaning more on the wooden cane Pa had fixed me after I had woken up three weeks prior in their spare room.
"Not when it comes to crashes like this. I mean look at the door," I huff, knocking my foot against the misshapen piece of scrap that had been the door when the ship worked. The door groaned and collapsed, causing ma to jump. "I won’t get my hopes up Ma. I don’t think I can handle it." My head finds a place to rest on the destroyed wall next to the now empty door frame, the cool of it helping dull the pulsing headache my leg was causing me. "It’s been weeks with no sign of anyone else, and you don’t have to tell me that maybe they went off their own way because I already know, and I don’t believe it. If they were alive I wouldn’t have been left on your doorstep, which is something else I don’t understand. Why leave me? Assuming these are the people who got me, why was I brought to you and left? Why didn’t they take care of me? And they were talking about letting the king know, so why bring me to you and not whomever this king is?"
"Ande I’m not sure. Fate has a strange way of working eh?" I open my eyes to take her in again, my eyes staring at the stern, sad smile blessing her oval face that was perfectly framed with her short green hair. I stood up as straight as I could, noting once again the roughly seven inch difference between us. Her thick arms were crossed in front of her chest, the short, dirt covered nails of her left hand drumming again the upper part of her right arm. The ratty overalls she wore were loose and worn over a worn red tank top, the legs tucked into ankle high work boots. Her sun-toned skin glowed eerily in the setting sun, and once more in the three weeks that I’ve been staying with her I was shocked at how different we were. From a distance maybe you wouldn’t be able to tell any difference, but as soon as you got close enough to see the details, this alien and I were just that.
"There you go with fate again. You know I don’t believe in fate’s rope." I limped over to her, keeping far enough away to where I wasn’t looking directly down at her. "Why do you have to be so vague about it anyways? I bring up the king and you don't give me a lesson on who he is?"
"This land here belongs to two different kings, so even I do not know who exactly they were talking about; but that does not mean it is not true. I mean you did not think we were real and we are. Think about it ande." I sigh and roll my eyes. It wasn’t like ma to not go on a tangent about the customs and the people on this planet. I moved back over to the wall, pressing my right shoulder against it to help take the weight off of my left side. "The two kings that own this land are-," she went on, and I sighed, shaking my head and tuning her out. I didn't say I wanted to hear her go on about it.
"I wish you’d use my name," I cut in, shifting to my left leg while leaning on the cane again. "I had a crew of six people and there aren’t even bodies left. Do you know how that feels? Those people were my family."
"Eh, but that is life’s cycle ande. You live, you die, and the world reuses your body while you’re soul’s reused." Ma shrugged, uncrossing her arms to wave me onward. "Let us head back. I think Pa was making emal for dinner." She started walking back towards the farmhouse and I sighed, hobbling after her.
"Pa makes chili almost every night. Don’t you guys eat anything else?"
"It is harvest season so it is easy to make while we are all out working." She gave me a pointed look and I shrugged.
"I’m useless as you’ve already determined, and you offered to bring me to the wreckage." Ma just laughed at that, slowing her step to walk beside me.
"Eh but I was not talking about me being gone, I am talking about how you always fought us to help."
"You weren’t really talking about either of those," I grumbled, and she smiled, nodding.
"You were the one who said actions speak louder than words. It is why you do not say thank you to us right? Because you do not think it would be enough to equal us saving your life and caring for you."
"Well ya, I guess so. I mean my brother," a pang hit me and I stopped walking, squeezing my eyes shut at the tightening in my gut. I heard Ma stop walking as well before she started rubbing my arm.
"It’s not the end you know. Your brother isn’t completely lost. He lives on in your memory, and his spirit has blessed another with life." I clenched my hands into fists, shrugging her off.
"Dead is dead ma and there’s nothing anyone can do about that okay? Don’t try to make me feel better with your emotional bullshit. Even if what you're saying is true, his soul is no longer my brothers." I spat, opening my eyes. I avoided looking at her as I starting to hobble off again.
Ma walked with me in silence, and I couldn’t help but be glad. She always seemed to know when I wanted her to talk and when I didn’t, but Collin always used to say that I was emotionally expressive in everything but my words; that came from the guy who spent his life spinning words to get what he wanted though. He wasn’t bad at it either, or a bad person for that matter. Collin was always the better one of us. When I would try and knock birds nest out of trees as a kid, Collin would always come up to lecture me on how the birds had yet to live their life or something like that. If he were in my position he would have always found a thousand different ways to thank these aliens, even in my position. Thinking about him though made my stomach clench again, and I stopped walking, taking deep shaky breaths.
"Ande are you okay?" Ma came around in front of me, reaching a hand towards me, but I waved her off. "Jack what is wrong?"
I took another shaky breath, tears involuntarily sliding down my cheeks as my breathing turned to sobs. "I shouldn’t have let him come with. I was supposed to protect him damn it I’m his older brother! I was the one who took care of him. Collin should have been the one to survive not me, he was always nicer. People liked him. They looked up to him. Why was he taken? Why not me?" I sobbed, using the cane for support as my knees gave out, though I still slid to the ground. Sobs tore through my body and Ma knelt down next to me, hand rubbing up and down my spine.
"You do not know he is gone Jack. There is so much here you do not know. This world is not as plain as you will believe."
Eventually we make it back to the farmhouse, and I make my way to the guest room, collapsing on the bed in hopes to be accepted into a deep nothingness, but ever the cruel joker, sleep avoided me. Instead I lay awake thinking of how I managed to be stuck in a farmhouse on an alien planet being hosted by people who looked human but who thought natural hair colors were unnatural and who honestly all looked like elves. How could our mission have gone so wrong? All we were supposed to do is come to Planet X to see if people could really live there and then head back. My team and I found the answer to the first part, even though it caused the death to the majority of the crew, and there was the inability to do the second part.
I sat up quickly, scrambling to get out of bed and out to the kitchen. "Ma, Pa I need help!" I snapped, standing in the doorway as they both looked up at me, startled. Ma was in their chest of a fridge, digging around, and Pa was at their stove, stirring the contents of a large pot.
"What do you need Jack?" Pa grumbled, looking me over to make sure I wasn’t hurt. His eyes lingered at my side, where I would normally have the cane, but was currently empty, adrenaline keeping me on my feet.
"When my ship was shot down we had just finished a call with our home ship. The entire point of my mission was to make sure this place was hospitable or not. From what we could tell it was, and that’s the information we told them. They’re going to show up and things are going to go bad for them. We barely hit your ozone layer before getting shot down. I have to warn them but I don’t know how."
Ma stopped chopping whatever sort of thing she had started cutting, it looked like a weird cross between a carrot and a potato, and turned towards me. "Jack we can not help with that. The only people who are allowed that sort of technology, or any technology, are the people in the capitol, and that is only because they create the drones."
"But I have to do something! Do you know how excited we were to actually be near another carbon based planet? I told you already there weren’t very many of us left, and those that are left are tired of living on a ship. That message might as well have been an open invitation and there’s no doubt they would have tried to contact us again." I moved to the table, sitting down in one of the chairs as Ma resumed chopping.
"Well ande, the best you can do is ask the capitol for help. I hear the prince is kind."
Pa snorts, shaking his head. "Which one? Last I heard they were all-"
"Careful ande," Ma snapped, cutting him off. "Do not insult our future rulers to a guest." Pa rolled his eyes at that, speaking in a language that was native to them but foreign to me. They argued back and forth in that for a while before Pa huffed, waving a hand to signal that Ma had won whatever they were arguing about.
"The capitol is a two days ride to the east. Rest tonight, Pa will take you with him in the morning." With that Ma left out the back, calling for their kids to come in for dinner. I took my place at the table, legs starting to buzz with numbness as the adrenaline petered out. I watched as Pa set everything out on the table, finishing with the weird ingredient before putting it on a plate and on the table with the chili.
"I can not guarantee you will get the help you ask us for, and I can not guarantee that you will get help at all. Ma does not want me telling you but the princes are known to be cruel, and they do not take audiences with many."
"When we went out earlier she started talking about there being multiple princes owning the land, and you said just as much. What do you mean by that?" Pa finished setting the table, looking out the open backdoor for Ma and the kids.
"The princes are the children of the kings, with the kreanda being trained specifically as the next king. The princes are tasked with overseeing the different cities, though the minor tasks like dealing with those of us that live around here and brawls is left to the ethba. Does that help at all?" The chair creaked as Pa’s weight settled on it, his hands folding on the table in front of him as we waited for Ma and the kids.
"It would probably help more if I knew what some of the words mean. I think I can sort of get a picture though. It’s a monarchy right?"
"Eh ne de. The title of king gets passed down through family but all major decisions are decided by a council of the chian leaders, with representatives from each hamaus, along with some of us teah."
"Are you one of the representatives?"
"Oh no, my mother was a very long time ago and she taught me how it would work in hopes that I would be chosen, but I was not so lucky."