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"Hapsby is busy right now interfacing with its computer, and it's almost ready to go!"
Before anyone knew what was happening, the mad stranger who had met them their first time in Bortevo came bounding towards them. Alis, Noah, and Myau quickly jumped to their feet, as Odin flicked on his light saber. Seeing this, the stranger skidded to a halt.
"Is this any way to greet a friend, now?" came his eerie, booming voice. "I knew you were violent from very first meeting, I did!" Alis waved at Odin, and he turned off the saber.
"What do you want of us now?" she questioned forcefully. "We will have none of your games..."
"Ah, you wound me, madam! Here I come to lend assistance, and yet again you hurl insults as me!"
"What are you talking about?!?" said Myau angrily as he stepped forward.
"I speak of the future, my would-be friends! Your future! I can tell you of it, no?"
"...continue..." Alis commanded. Odin was not sure whether she was humoring this lunatic or genuinely interested.
"Ah, finally, a sane voice in your madness! I know what you're going to do, who you are destined to face! The dread Gorgon Medusa will prove your most terrible challenge!"
"Medusa!?" Odin yelled. "What would you know of the gorgon? Answer!"
Slowly, the stranger swayed from side to side, his face still hidden beneath his robe's hood. "The Gorgon is in your future, she is! You will all face her for the mystic axe of Laconia! It is indeed sad that she will destroy you all, eh? Very sad..."
"You're mad, stranger! You cannot know of our futures... you who have no identity!" Odin seemed ready to explode.
"But it is true, I tell you! You cannot defeat Medusa without the legendary shield of Perseus! You will fail and be destroyed because you do not have the shield! I shall indeed miss you all... you have become my only friends in this world. I will mourn your passing..."
"Why you..." Odin lunged forward, reaching out to grab the man, but the stranger's movement was lightning quick. In an instant he was bounding back down the lane, out of Odin's reach. "Come back here, you madman!"
"I will miss you all! Even you, brash warrior!" he continued to yell as he vanished from the town.
"That man strains every fiber of my being!" shouted Odin in frustration. "Who is he and what does he want of us?"
"Whomever he is," Noah replied, "perhaps there are kernels of truth in what he says."
"You can't seriously believe that he knows our futures, Noah?" Myau asked.
"...no, of course not. But if he's right about needing the shield of Perseus to defeat Medusa?"
"I've long sought the Mystic Axe that is supposedly held by the gorgon," said Odin, "it is regarded as the most powerful weapon in the world... but to listen to a man as insane as that..."
"Certainly we can investigate..." Alis suggested. Noah turned to her.
"There are rumors among the Motavians that a lost town among a field of poisonous gas is the resting place of the shield... if this mystic Laconian axe is as valuable as claimed..."
"It is," came Odin's interruption.
"...then we can at least visit the town."
Doctor Luveno joined them. "The ship is ready, friends! Hapsby and I have restored the craft's operating systems... it's as good as new! You are off to Drasgow now, then?"
"Not solely, doctor. Myau and I will travel to Drasgow, after you show me how to operate the craft, of course. Odin, you and Noah take the doctor back to Gothic in the landrover. Then I want you to take the ship to Motavia and check out this town Noah spoke of. We will await your return in Gothic." Everyone was shocked at Alis' declaration.
"Do you really think it's a good idea for us to split up, Alis?" asked Myau.
"We'll all be safe, as we can now use the vehicles to protect us from attacks. Noah knows Motavia well enough, and the people of Drasgow will definitely receive you and I well, because of my brother. We can accomplish more this way. As time stretches on, more people die. We can't afford to waste time unnecessarily. Odin, Noah, after you return, we shall decide whether to proceed to Dezoris, or to search for this Medusa."
"Medusa?!?" said Doctor Luveno startlingly. "The dread Gorgon?" Odin nodded. "That ravenous beast inhabits a tower deep within the mountains southwest of Gothic. I learned as much from the guards of Gothic prison!!"
"Then that will be our next destination," Alis stated firmly. "Come, doctor, show me how to run the hovercraft."
It handled like a dream. The hovercraft was slicing through the waves effortlessly as Alis and Myau made their way to the floating city of Drasgow.
The town had long been an unrealized dream of business-hungry entrepreneurs. Designed to service ships from all over the planet, it was hoped to be something of a rest stop across the vast Palma oceans. It was centered directly in the main shipping lanes that ran from Scion to the western coast. Initially its population consisted only of those who serviced ships and their crew, but soon after its inception it became somewhat of a novelty: it attracted many tourists, this nearly-self-contained city on the sea. In fact, there were quite many people who came to live on Drasgow only because of the prestige and adventure associated with it.
But these feelings soon wore off as people realized it was nothing more than a town that just happened to be in the water. Tourism lessened, and only the diehard individualists remained in residence there. The town made just enough money to survive, but more reliable and maintenance free ships were being built all the time, reducing the importance of the island.
And then Lassic closed the shipping lanes. Sea traffic ceased altogether, save for the occasional troop transport that never stopped at Drasgow anyway. The town's main source of revenue had been destroyed. They had been smart enough to greatly subsidize their food supply with home-grown gardens, but they still depended on Scion for much. How they fared now was unknown.
But none of these thoughts entered Alis' mind as she guided the hovercraft to a stop at one of Drasgow's many port dockings. All she considered was how this small town might aid her in her quest.
"Are you sure that the landrover can protect us from the gases surrounding the village?" Noah asked Odin as they shot along the Motavian sands. They had arrived half an hour ago in the spaceship, and had set out immediately to the west to visit Sopia, the village of mist.
"Yes, we can run our own air supply for about an hour. After that we're out of luck, because we have no way of refilling the canisters." Odin was silent for a moment, but then turned again to Noah. "If this place really is surrounded by poisonous gases, what makes you think anyone in town is going to be alive?"
"Everyone in the town is unharmed. The mist is mystical in origin; it doesn't affect the town, but no one can enter or leave without some sort of protection," he replied.
"What kind of protection?"
"There are masks called 'gas shields' that allow people to brave the mist. They are not entirely effective, though, as continued exposure of the gas to the skin has disastrous results. And I don't know where one might even get a gas shield anymore. I've not heard of one being used for a long time."
Odin raised an eyebrow, as he often found himself doing when Noah would speak. "How is it that you know so much about Sopia? And everything else for that matter?"
Noah continued to stare forward out the windshield as he answered. "We Espers lost a few of our own to gas not so long ago. They had tried to get to Sopia to see if everyone was alright... they had erected magical shields to protect themselves..."
"But their shields were useless against the mist. Whatever magic that created it is incredibly powerful... and Espers are very vulnerable to its effects, moreso than regular Palmans. If only we had known that before allowing them to journey in..." Noah was lost in self-thought, but Odin wasn't finished.
"Are you going to be affected by it?"
Noah returned. "I don't know. We'll soon find out. And to answer your other question... we Espers value history and experience above all else. Everything that each of us learns or experiences is eventually shared with the others... through this we gain knowledge and wisdom."
"Sort of a mind melting pot, eh?"
"In a way. But recently, this time honored practice has been deteriorating... the Espers, since banishment, have split up, often going months without seeing each other. Our society is crumbling, and I fear that all that we have become will be lost. Even now, our tribe is spread across all three planets of the system, and separating more and more. We who were once a firm and concentrated caste on Palma now die a little more each day."
"There's a lot of that going around, since Lassic turned," was Odin's only response. He couldn't think of any other words of comfort, for this person who was fast becoming a friend. Odin had always thought the young Esper to be cold and arrogant, but now it was clear that the man carried around a great burden... the warrior's respect for Noah was growing.
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