Rain fell over the land of Infinit Zoak, then increasing in strength, it fell harder. The water covered the roads and flooded the trails in the forest. In fact, an awe-inspiring black skyscraper, which sat on the outskirts of Infinit Zoak, was nearly invisible in the night due to the rain. The flying machine that was seen previously by the bridge landed on the roof of the skyscraper. It belonged to Skull, who was the Leader of a faction called the “Brown Skulls.”
John, Liara’s son, stepped out from inside the machine that had landed and looked around. He seemed removed - cold and unemotional. He pulled the drawing that he had found in the tent out of his pocket and studied it while walking towards the stairs that led deep down inside the Brown Skulls’ building. He folded the paper with the drawing and put it back into his pocket as he descended the stairs.
Inside of Skull’s big office was an oversized picture of black waves. The waves began to move on their own accord, and suddenly Skull stepped out of the picture. Katy fell out after him, landing beside his feet. Groggy, Katy was lying on the cold hard floor, completely unable to move. The room was in shadow and the silence was broken only by the sound of someone running down an outside corridor.
The footsteps belonged to a female creature, Swan Nebula, who ran along the corridor. She was thirty human years young, and was the height of a child – one meter from the ground. Her pupils were gray colored and she had large blue wings on her back. In fact the wings were the full size of her body which appeared as if she were a human. She wore a contoured white costume, which was comprised of long pants, sleeves, and a high collar covering her entire body. Her long, black hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail. She frowned exhibiting her concern.
The doors along both sides of the corridor were wide open, and Swan Nebula briefly scanned inside each room as she passed by. Inside one room, a man sat on a sofa, in front of a picture with moving green waves. The man was all dressed in black, his face was severe. A tall woman stepped out of the picture. She wore a black t-shirt with short sleeves and dark blue jeans. There were long, brightly blue colored feathers lining her hands, the skin of which shifted to a neutral human tone as soon as she sat down beside the man on the sofa.
Running further, Swan Nebula arrived at the door of Skull’s office. She entered and froze, sensing Skull’s anger. He sat in a large chair in the center of the room. Katy was on her knees on the floor before Skull. Swan Nebula closed the door slowly, looking from Skull to Katy. Katy trembled as she stared at the floor in front of her as Skull strong armed her and caressed her hair. He locked eyes with Swan Nebula who was frozen, terrified and unblinking.
“Please, what has happened?” Swan Nebula tried to maintain calm in her melodic voice, her eyes intent on Katy.
“You’re late.” Skull stood up, glaring at Swan Nebula, squeezing his fists.
Katy’s body curled forward as she screamed.
“No, no!!! Stop it!!!!!” Swan Nebula raised her wings and rushed flying towards Katy, but Skull raised his hand to stop Swan Nebula in mid-air as Katy fell onto the floor moaning.
“Sit!” He bellowed and pointed to the chair in front of him.
Two identical Guards wearing black coats and black masks covered with black diamonds appeared behind him, stepping out of the darkness.
Swan Nebula did as she was commanded to do - flying to the chair and slowly took a seat.
“You want to know what’s happened?” Skull was staring at Swan Nebula with his right eye, his left eye was covered with a black, skull-shaped patch.
Katy was moaning, her body shaking uncontrollably.
“Yes.” Swan Nebula stared at Skull fearlessly, her voice gathering strength.
Standing up, Skull grabbed Katy and rushed towards the fireplace and threw her on the floor which was brightly lit from the fire.
“No!” Katy screamed crying, thrashing about in the iron grip of Skull.
Moving quickly to her, Skull raised his hand high, gripping a sharp knife, as he threatened to slice the skin from the nape of Katy’s neck.
“Don’t’! Don’t do it! I will find the one and bring her to you!” Swan Nebula shouted out loud.
She flew over to Skull and Katy landing next to them. Skull slowly let go of Katy’s head. Katy was breathing heavily, loudly.
“I will find and bring you the one who will lead you to the last bridge for you. Just please I beg you do not kill her. Please.” Swan Nebula placed her small hands over Skull’s hand looking down at the glinting knife in his hand.
Skull looked down at Swan Nebula then took a step back.
Swan Nebula immediately checked Katy’s body. She exhaled a sigh of relief as she felt in Katy’s trembling arm, a slight pulse in the veins just under her skin. She looked at Katy’s hands, noticing that Katy clutched something tightly in her fist.
“Find me ‘the one’!” Skull interrupted Swan Nebula who took Katy’s hands in her tiny ones, as she helped her stand up.
The hoarse voice of Skull made Katy shiver.
“Everything is going to be all right,” Swan Nebula muttered under her breath.
Swan Nebula opened her wings and levitated above the floor so that her tiny shoulders could align with Katy’s. Katy grabbed Swan Nebula’s right shoulder as they moved slowly towards the doors.
“Thank you.” Katy looked directly at Swan Nebula again pressing Swan’s tiny hands in hers and kissing them as the two stopped near the entrance of Skull’s office.
The infinity shaped necklace sparkled in Katy’s hand and it caught Skull’s eye.
“Stop.” Skull commanded as Swan Nebula and Katy were about to open the doors to exit Skull’s office.
He reached them in haste looking for the necklace in Katy’s hands. Katy looked at Skull, pressing herself up against Swan Nebula, who protectively wrapped one, deep blue wing around Katy from behind.
“Give it to me!” He roared as he grabbed Katy’s hand, snatching the medallion out of her tightly closed fist.
“No! No! Please!” Katy rushed to him, reaching out to get the medallion back as Swan Nebula held her back.
“Let go! LET IT GO!” Swan Nebula shook her, looking into her eyes, and then pushed Katy out of the office.
The doors of Skull’s office closed with a terrible clanging sound behind them.
“You don’t understand! We can’t leave the key in his hands!” Katy whispered as Swan Nebula held her firmly.
“Ok, ok! Just keep quiet please. Let’s go.” Swan Nebula held Katy’s shoulders with her tiny hands and directed her down along the corridor.
Swan Nebula held her breath and pulled Katy back as John stepped out of a corner. They nearly bumped into each other. John briefly looked at them, meeting Swan Nebula’s gaze and then gingerly walked towards Skull’s office and disappeared inside.
“Let’s go. You need to put your head down.” Swan Nebula looked at Katy.
They walked down one stair and arrived in a corridor with many doors. Swan switched the light off, helping Katy enter one of the rooms. She helped Katy cross over to the sofa and lie down. There were pictures with colorful, moving waves all over the ceiling and walls.
“You stay here and try to get some rest.” She sat down next to Katy, stroking her head with her tiny hand as she gazed out of the window.
Drops of rain slowly rolled down the glass from outside Swan’s office. The deep indigo of night lay over the city, covering the restless streets with welcome darkness.
It was in this darkness that Sam roamed the abandoned streets where no other soul walked. She felt trapped by loneliness and hopelessness. She kept her head down, observing her legs as if they belonged to someone else. They carried her farther and farther. She folded her arms across her chest, trying to keep her body warm. In her mind, she saw the image of the man violently grabbing Katy. Shaking her head, she tried to return her thoughts to the here and now.
In the distance, she noticed a house with a small porch. The size of the house seemed smaller than a normal human’s, even the stairs and doors. Sam hurried, walking up the stairs on her toes and moving to hide under the roof of the small porch. Lying down on the dry floor in the corner, Sam fell asleep.
She dreamt of her childhood. In this dream her mother entered the room and little Sam ran into her open arms. Sam’s mom kissed her and slipped the cherished medallion necklace over her head… the infinity symbol sparkled in the light.
In her sleep, Sam smiled there on the porch, in the darkness. Something blue lit up the inside of the small house as seen through the window above Sam who slept deeply.
At the same time, in Skull’s office, a similar blue light shone from the huge picture-map on the wall next to the fire place. There was a map of the Infinits with the tunnel-bridges as well as the Infinits themselves. Skull was deep in thought standing next to the picture observing it. He tightened his jaw and his cheekbones became visible on his gaunt face. In the picture, the pale, colorful lines symbolized the bridges that connected the Infinits. Each was made up of a round shaped orb and they were of various colors: blue, green, yellow, silver, red, white and there existed one that combined all of the possible colors – Infinit Zoak. All together: the tunnel – bridges and Infinits formed the Universe of Infinits.
Skull looked closely at the map, tracing the routes between the tunnel-bridges with his fingers. Two identical guards stood very still watching over Skull, as Swan Nebula halted just outside of the office door that remained ajar. She had returned to speak to Skull.
“Let’s begin,” Skull said.
He looked at his guards from the corner of his one good eye, then turned from the picture-map and faced into the room, where John sat in the center on a chair. His dark green uniform was illuminated by the fire and sparkled in places. The handle of his sword was visible on the right side of his waist. His eyes were closed, and a silver web consisting of millions of threads was attached to his head. These silver threads were found coming out of the picture with the dark black waves.
Swan Nebula silently hid behind the door, spying on what was going on inside of the office. She spied on John observing the silver threads attached to his head. She squinted, curious to know what they were. John began to twitch as one of the guards stepped closer.
“Wait!” A low voice slowly emitted from inside of the framed picture.
“Yes, my master?” Skull stepped up closer to the framed picture.
Swan Nebula stepped back, sensing danger that caused her to shiver. She crouched, then opened up her blue wings which were affixed to her back. Her gray colored pupils looked out somewhere in front of her searching for an answer as to whom the voice might belong to. The voice she heard did not sound human at all. It sounded like that of an animal. The guards turned towards the door as they heard the movement of her wings and she quickly rushed to escape.
She made her way out, flying quietly along the corridor towards the massive doors that led out of the building. She landed next to them looking back. She recalled the five years she had endured spying on Skull, getting closer to him in order to prevent a massive tragedy for the Infinits, trying to lead him away from the last bridge. She knew that Skull was preparing to attack all of the Infinits, and to isolate everyone and everything from each other, using the ultimate power of ‘the one’, as the prophecy foretold. She could only imagine that there was someone darker, more powerful behind Skull.
She realized that there was nothing she could do; her hope vanished as she stepped out of the building and flew down the stairs, the tears rolling down her pale cheeks. She felt helpless and cried loudly getting into her jeep and started the engine.
This car was custom made for her type of Creature. There were only two seats. Her seat did not have a back on it so she could freely fit her wings inside. Swan Nebula started her jeep- like car by plugging one of her feathers into the hole on the dashboard. The feather lit up with the brightest blue light. The car began to speed along.
Skull turned to the window as he noticed a brilliant blue flash from Swan Nebula’s car. He clenched his jaw and the lines imprinted on his skin. He then looked back to John who silently awaited a command.
“Let him be taken deeper into the dream,” The low voice emitting from the framed picture articulated slowly.
Skull approached the picture-map, looking at it in silence.
“Now, let him follow her.” The voice commanded as a reptilian claw appeared from inside of the picture. The claw sparkled for a moment as a lightning bolt cut through the threads attached to John’s head.
Skull turned to John who silently stood up and met Skull’s gaze. Skull nodded to him, giving him a signal to leave. John’s face was unemotional, but he noticed the picture-map behind Skull. John leaned his head to the right trying to see what was on the map.
“Leave!” Skull commanded as he followed his gaze.
John followed Skull’s command and exited the office. Stepping out onto the stairs that led out of the building, he noticed Swan Nebula’s car speeding along the road towards the bridge ahead. As John looked up into the sky, the rain began to fall, the drops slowly crept down his face as he negotiated his way to a large truck in the parking lot. He moved quickly towards the truck and jumped in. Starting the engine, he followed Swan Nebula’s jeep.
In her Jeep, Swan Nebula sobbed in frustration, no longer having the power to pretend. She didn’t know what she could do to stop Skull as well as the one who lurked behind him. She let go and the tears flowed from her gray eyes. Many years ago, she had committed herself to help every remaining human and living creature on Infinit Zoak. Her strong will to help them revealed her own personal abilities. She learned that she was gifted with the power to guide someone through the system of bridges. This was how she recognized herself as a Swan Nebula. She drove even faster, pushing harder on the gas pedal and driving her car along the massive bridge. Out of nowhere, John appeared in her way. She slammed her foot down on the brake, the wheels turned and screeched. The car slid towards him on the wet pavement as the rain beat down in sheets.
“Get out of the way!!!!” Swan Nebula shouted, trying to prevent an accident.
While the car slowed down, it lost control and slid in John’s direction. John unsheathed his sword, sticking it forcefully into the asphalt of the bridge at his feet. The asphalt melted away as the steel of the sword touched it, causing it to crack into huge chunks, forming a barrier, which raised itself between John and the car. The bridge was broken and the pieces of asphalt made terrible sounds. Smoke covered everything as the car slammed into the wall of asphalt. Swan Nebula raised her head from behind the wheel and touched her forehead, coughing. Her fingers came away wet with blood. She squinted, trying to make out the man’s features through the cloud of smoke. John stood beyond the layers of asphalt watching her. Swan Nebula recognized him, from Skull’s office. Slowly, she stepped out of her car feeling the asphalt under her feet, shaking. She looked ahead to find that John was gone. Looking for him all around, she was dismayed, then got back into her car as the cracks began to spread all over the bridge. As she tried to calm down, she looked at the dashboard and found a crushed piece of paper that was left there. She looked around and found there was nobody outside. She was alone.
She grabbed the paper, still looking from side to side. A drop of blood fell from her forehead onto the crushed piece of paper in her hands. She instinctively lifted her head, pressing her hand to her forehead that was still bleeding. She exhaled closing her eyes then lifted the piece of paper, keeping her head up, and unfolded it. A drawing of a bridge that connected two dots, symbolizing two Infinits, was revealed. Swan Nebula’s eyes followed the painting of an oasis with a waterfall and lakes then following along the bridge that dropped straight down to a golden castle on a sandy mountain. There were people next to the golden castle on one side of the bridge, and robots on the other side. The figure of a young girl stood in the middle of the bridge. Swan Nebula looked up as she felt another shake of the bridge then placing the piece of paper back on the dashboard she turned on the ignition.
She drove around the asphalt pieces slowly and carefully. She looked from side to side in search of John but there was no sign of him. She pushed the gas pedal just as the asphalt crack on the bridge caught up to her car from behind and the car quickly sped away from the bridge to a road that led into the woods. Then all at once the bridge collapsed and a huge cloud of dust was visible in the mirror as Swan Nebula looked into it.
In a few minutes, the forest ended and her car slowly pulled up to a small house. She sat still, resting her head on the steering wheel as she turned off the engine by removing her feather from the key hole. In a moment she took a deep breath and lifted her head, getting out of the car. She grabbed the drawing in her hand.
The rain stopped, but left the ground wet and slippery. Swan Nebula walked slowly and carefully towards her house. Pulling the feather key out of her pocket, she froze. Someone or something was moving in the corner of the porch. Swan Nebula shivered and lifted her wings protectively while at the same time she moved closer to see who it was. Sam twitched in her sleep, her face was muddy, her hair tangled. Swan Nebula looked out of the window that was lit with blue light from inside and she knelt down beside the girl, closing her wings.
“Hey…” Swan Nebula touched the girl’s shoulder gently.
Sam opened her eyes, pulling away from Swan Nebula and pressing herself into the wall.
“It’s okay. It’s okay. How did you get here?” Swan Nebula held up her hands to show the girl that she meant no harm.
Sam stared at her in fear, breathing heavily. It was clear that she was too frightened to respond.
“Let’s go inside. It is not safe out here.” Swan Nebula stood up, walked to the door and looking around in confusion she wondered where the girl had come from.
Sam stared at Swan Nebula’s deep blue wings. She had never seen such a creature before. Sam was standing up looking down at the little creature, Swan Nebula.
“What’s your name?” Swan Nebula asked.
Sam rose and stood quietly. Swan Nebula unlocked the front door and stepped inside her home. She was exhausted and cold, but still was very welcoming to Sam by holding the door open. She offered her tiny hand to Sam, inviting her in. Sam quietly entered the little house.
Swan Nebula closed the door behind Sam and suddenly opened her wings protectively. She moved rapidly over to the picture that was shining from the inside out with a pale blue light in the corner of the living room and covered it quickly with a brown blanket in order to hide it from Sam. Sam could not see what it was that was shining with such beautiful light as Swan Nebula’s wings covered her view. Then Swan Nebula closed her wings as she turned on a little lamp on the table in front of her, next to the window, revealing a brown sofa and table in the middle of the small, but cozy room.
Sam looked around then walked to the small sofa and sat down. As the sofa was a smaller size than normal, Sam occupied pretty much all of its space. She looked at Swan Nebula who watched Sam intently.
“Wait here.” Swan Nebula said with her melodic voice and walked into the kitchen, where she grabbed a towel and wrapped it around some ice from the freezer. She pressed it onto her still bleeding forehead, grimacing in pain. After a minute or two, she went back into the living room, leaving both the drawing and the towel in the kitchen. She looked at Sam who was sitting on the sofa looking down. Her clothes were wet and Sam shivered from the cold, rubbing her arms. Swan Nebula walked into her bedroom, pulling out some clean clothes for Sam.
“I have some clothes left from my human-friend. They might fit you, try them on.” Swan passed the clothes to Sam and Sam took them smiling slightly expressing her gratitude.
“What’s your name?” Swan Nebula asked again with her melodic voice, sitting on the couch next to Sam.
“Sam.” The girl stared at her wings as Swan Nebula carefully opened them up, spreading them across her back.
“Swan Nebula.” The creature smiled warmly at Sam noticing that Sam was still in shock as she most likely had never seen a creature like her.
The brown blanket fell out of the picture making a noise and revealing that the blue lines of the painting were slowly moving and illuminating the picture in the frame. Swan Nebula rushed to the portal – picture instinctively, opening her wings wide and blocking it from Sam’s view. But Sam had already stood up on her feet and was looking at the picture from over the deep blue wings of Swan Nebula.
“Amazing, right?” Swan Nebula closed her wings, understanding that there was no point in hiding the picture any longer from Sam.
Sam joined her, fascinated by the picture’s beauty. She pulled her hand forward to touch the blue paint that was moving slowly as the waves of an ocean might.
“I would not do it if I were you.” Swan Nebula flew up stopping Sam’s hand with a touch of her tiny hands and looked straight into Sam’s eyes.
Sam nodded to her slightly stepping back and letting her hand come down.
“Have you ever seen such pictures before?” Swan Nebula asked Sam sitting back down on the sofa as Sam followed her.
“No, but my mom…” Sam paused, then began again, “The woman who raised me, she used to tell fairy tales about these pictures. I was looking for those pictures in the forest.”
“How did you end up here, on my porch? Did anybody hunt you?” Swan Nebula regarded Sam with worry.
“I hunted him.” Sam suddenly seemed angry.
“And as I see, you did not succeed.” Swan Nebula continued in her calm voice as she knew that lots of people on Infinit Zoak were hunted by Skull. And Sam probably was one of the hunted – the next victim.
“No.” - Sam said quietly. – “But I will.” She continued with her strongest voice.
The memories of the events of her last night raised a storm of emotions inside Sam, and the terrible pain in her heart started to spread all over her body, freezing the blood in her veins, and filling her mind with guilt over the fact that she had not protected Katy and Paul.
Swan Nebula felt very sad for Sam. She knew that Skull’s people were separating everyone from each other and then hunted them down to steal their energy. She looked at Sam silently smiling and then flew up opening her wings. Sam felt gratitude towards Swan Nebula, who did not continue to interrogate her about the events of that previous night. She did not want to discuss it. She just wanted to lie down, letting herself fall far into the pain of her experience.
“I believe we both had a difficult day. Let’s rest for tonight.” Swan Nebula flew up to the framed painting with the blue waves, covering it again with the brown blanket.