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She was in another world, in another time. Nero raced alongside her, laughing. She saw the buildings rushing past her; she was running, but her legs felt still. It was as if she were floating down the lane. She began to fall behind Nero, who looked over his shoulder, shouting something that seemed to make him laugh even harder. But there was no sound. His lips moved, and there was silence. He pulled farther and farther away from her, as she tried to catch up. Soon, he was over the distant horizon, out of sight. She was alone, and her world stopped moving. The trees and buildings and lanes disappeared. She floated in emptiness. She felt a sudden loss of perception overcoming her.
"Alis?" The voice echoed in her head. Slowly, ever so slowly, her vision returned. Blurred shapes began to crystalize, to define themselves. She was lying down, Suelo was sitting next to her. There was a cool pressure against her forehead.
"Alis, can you hear me?" She could now see Suelo's face clearly, could see the concerned look in her eyes.
"Suelo," Alis said weakly, "...Suelo, I'm... in your home..." As she spoke, Alis became aware of a throbbing pain in her head.
"Yes, you are here. I found you on my doorstep. You were badly injured. You *are* badly injured. Was it the monsters?" Suelo removed the cloth from Alis' forehead, and dipped it in a water bowl that sat on a table near the bed where Alis lay. She rung it out, then replaced it.
"Yes. I was coming back from Scion... for a long while, it was safe, there were nothing but empty fields..." Here Alis tried to rise from the bed, but noticing her grimace, Suelo eased her back down. "All of a sudden, there was a whole swarm of flying creatures... they were attacking me from all sides... I did my best to fight them off, there were so many. Somehow, somehow I managed to escape them. I don't remember how... I know that I killed some of them, the others, I can't remember..." Alis again attempted to rise, and, despite Suelo's efforts to prevent it, she managed to sit up on the bed. She held a hand to her aching head, squeezing her eyes shut to fight the pain.
"Alis, you must lay back and rest. You've lost a lot of blood. You haven't had time to heal. Please lay back."
"No, I have to find him, I have to find the musk cat...to find Odin..." Straining against the pain, Alis stood up and walked away from the bed.
Mustering all her concentration, Alis began to perform the healing spell she had learned in the wild. Her mind centered, looking inward, ignoring the physical pleas of her body. She struggled, as her disoriented state made it all the more difficult to concentrate. But it was working. She could feel the power again, flowing through her. Her aches were lessening, her senses were sharpening. The clouds in her consciousness were clearing.
Completing the ritual, she turned back to face Suelo.
"Alis, what just happened? I just felt... something, something odd," Suelo said in bewilderment.
"It was a healing magic. It helps me to recover from injuries. It wasn't completely successful; I still have a headache. But I feel much better otherwise." Alis noticed her pack sitting in the corner, and went over to pick it up. "Suelo, thank you for taking care of me. I surely would have died without you. But I have to go now. I have to continue on."
As she walked to the door, Suelo rose to stop her. "But where are you going? Where did you learn that magic? Alis, you must tell me what's going on! You mentioned finding a musk cat, finding Odin. Alis, what are you going to do?"
"Suelo, dear friend, I cannot tell you what I have done or seen, what I am going to do or see. It would put you in too much danger. I have to keep it to myself in order to protect you. All I can say is that I'm going to Motavia. Wish me well." Casting a final glance at her friend, Alis passed her and exited the home. Suelo was left standing alone, filled with confusion and concern. She had never known Alis to be this driven, this obsessed. Nero's death had definitely changed her; perhaps this was not the Alis that she once knew.
Approaching the Moving Road guards, Alis brought out the fold-book that the shop owner in Scion had given her. She prayed that they'd accept it without suspicion; reaching Motavia would be her best chance to find Odin, she had to succeed.
Smiling, she held out the book. "Good day to you, sirs. I am bound for Motavia, selling healing supplies. Here is my roadpass." The lead guard took the book from her, examining it closely. Looking up, he stared at Alis. She grew nervous under his suspicious glance, but manage to maintain her smile. After a moment, the guard handed the fold-book back to her.
"Proceed," he said coldly. Surprised at his short response, Alis passed the two guards and boarded the moving walkway that would take her to the Palman spaceport.
The road was eternally in motion. All one had to do was step aboard and be wisked away to the next zone. Alongside the road that Alis stood upon, another road sped in the opposite direction. Railings stood on either side, keeping passangers from falling, as the entire construction rose nearly twenty feet off the ground. Below, a green field stretched far and away, its boundaries set only by the immense wall that separated the three central zones from the wilderness. The journey was quite peaceful, Alis thought; the terrors and injustices of the surrounding world did not reach this secluded area. It was indeed unfortunate that the quiet trip lasted only a few minutes.
Her destination was approaching. From the outside, Alis could tell that this zone was nothing like Camineet or Parolit, the two local residential zones. Here, she could see three large towers, obviously used for guidance purposes, reaching high into the sky. Through the nearing gate, she could see inside the zone: flat, sterile pavement stretched on through most of the area, with a few small buildings standing alone. People, apparently crewmen and workmen, walked between buildings and the towers. She could not see the launch area from her vanage point, but she heard the loud hum of idling spaceship engines.
Two guards at the exit gate watched her closely as she stepped off the road. Appearing to pay them little mind, she walked several yards, looking for someplace to buy a passport. Noticing a small building with a sign that said, "Spaceflights", she head off towards it.
The inside of the shop was fairly bland. Grey walls marked only with a few full-standing shelves surrounded one lone desk, behind which sat a woman who was ignoring Alis. The woman was focused on the book before her, oblivious to her environment.
"Excuse me, I'm looking to get a passport to go to Motavia..." Alis said loudly, trying to get the woman's attention.
"What? Oh, yes, of course. I have to ask you a few questions." The woman bent over and fumbled around for something in a desk drawer. She returned to face Alis with a small card in her hand. "Have you ever done anything illegal?" She kept her eyes glued to the card she was reading.
Alis responded, "No, no I haven't."
"Do you have an illness?"
"Ah, no, I'm quite healthy."
"Very well. Passports cost 100 meseta, in cash." Finally the woman looked up at Alis.
"Of course. Hear you go," Alis said as she took out a small sack of money. She opened the bag, pulled out several coins, and placed them on the counter.
Taking the money, the desk attendant removed a small paper from the drawer, wrote a few words on it, and handed it to Alis. "Put your residential info on this and sign it, please. After that, you can go."
Alis scribbled some things on the paper, then turned to go. "Thank you," she said over her shoulder, as she opened the door and left the building.
"That was pretty easy," she thought. Her spirits were rising, though she knew that she was almost out of meseta. Suddenly, a loud speaker somewhere began blaring.
"Flight 201 bound for Motavia departing in five minutes."
Alis spotted the entrance gate to the launch area, and hurried quickly to it. She was stopped by the attendant. "Hold it, do you have a ticket?" he asked.
"No, no I don't," Alis replied, "but I've got my passport."
"You need a ticket for every flight. They're 50 mesetas. Do you want one, or are you going to skip this flight?" Wary of depleting her funds even more, Alis reluctantly took out her money sack and produced the money.
The man took the money and handed her a small ticket stub. "Here you go. Get moving. The ship is leaving in a minute."
Alis replaced her money sack and ran through the gate to the only ship present. She climbed the stairs to the hull, handing her ticket to the flight crewman as she held up her passport for inspection. The man took her ticket and waved her through, and she entered the spacecraft.
Having never been in a ship before, Alis was surprised to see how unexciting it was. Filling the hold were ten rows of five seats each; behind the seating area, a large cargo hold held the numerous wares that the trader passengers had brought. There were no windows here. A door at the front of the cabin, presumably leading to the pilots' chamber, stood about forty feet away. A similar door was at the back of the cabin.
Spotting an empty seat in the back, Alis took it, setting her pack down in front of her. Several passengers filled the seats in front of hers, but her row was empty. She heard the door to the cabin close and seal, as the cabin began to be pressurized. A voice came from somewhere near the front of the room, "We are beginning takeoff. Please secure all loose articles, and make sure your harness is fastened." Alis turned and found the straps on her seat, and quickly buckled them around herself.
The hum of the spacecraft began to get louder, and Alis could feel vibrations running through the floor. From far behind her, the engines began to roar, only slightly muffled by the thick walls that separated them from the cabin. The ship lurched, and Alis knew that they had left the ground and were slowly rising.
Only a few seconds later, she heard a loud blast from the engines, and felt a strong force pushing her into her seat. They were obviously accelerating very fast, as the pressure was very intense. But after only thirty seconds of this, the pressure almost instantaneoulsly faded. The remaining force against her was minimal, and she guessed that they had just escaped from Palma's grip.
Wishing that there was a window from which to view the quickly fading planet, Alis was momentarily overwhelmed by the concept of flying between the planets. A voice over an intercom informed the passengers that it was safe to remove their harnesses, and Alis did so.
"If only Nero could be here to experience this," she thought. Just like her, her brother have never left the planet. She was saddened that Nero was not granted the opportunity to live such a thrill. But her reminiscence of him stayed only a moment, as she returned to the task ahead of her. Despite her recent near-death experience, she was filled by a newfound hope. Perhaps leaving the planet that held so much evil, that was the cause of her brother's death, had helped to ease the burdens she carried. Perhaps the thought of going to a place where corruption and malice were abberations, rather than daily life, lifted her spirits.
Whatever the reason, she was feeling real enjoyment and serenity for the first time in a long while. How long would it last? She didn't know. But for now, she sat back, closed her eyes, and dreamed of another world.
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