Adan lost track of how long she had floated in that black nothingness. For a long time, she even had a hard time remembering what she was doing.
“Sai . . .” she muttered absentmindedly, a brief flash of consciousness returning to her. There was no reply, but Adan’s mind slowly started to clear. Suddenly, her eyes opened wide as she recalled her purpose.
Instantly, a warm embracing feeling filled the dark space around her. Adan looked over her shoulder, and in the distance she could see a small flame flickering. Instinctively, Adan moved towards it, floating in space like a ghost. The closer she came, the brighter the flame burned, seemingly eager for her approach.
“Hi, little flame,” Adan smiled and reached out a hand. The little flame danced happily and quickly flew the last bit, jumping into her palm. Adan chuckled at the sight. She couldn’t help but think that the little flame was very cute, so she used her free hand to pat its flicking flames as if it were a pet. It didn’t hurt her at all. “Well, aren’t you a cute one!”
The flame jumped happily again and started growing bigger and brighter, turning from red to yellow and even blue, indicating the increasing heat, but Adan wasn’t bothered by it. Suddenly, the flame crackled happily before throwing itself into Adan’s embrace, bashing into her chest.
The force pushed Adan back and caused her to lose her breath. She coughed heavily, but when she opened her eyes again she was no longer in that black space.
“Adan!” the worried voice of her A.I. rang out in her ears, shocking her. “Finally, you’re awake! Sai feared . . . Sai feared . . .”
The A.I. was clearly scared. It had been trying to raise Adan from unconsciousness for a while now, but no matter what it did, nothing had had any effect. It was as if the transparent membrane surrounding her cells was preventing the A.I.’s nanobots from interacting with her body. It couldn’t even activate the BioArmor, as Adan’s skin rejected it, much like the crystal on her chest normally did! The A.I. could only watch helplessly as Adan lay motionless on the table, her body reaching temperatures that should fry her alive. Its only solace was that despite the immense heat, no damage was appearing on her body, indicating that she could handle it, but it was simply too unscientific!
“I am fine,” Adan assured her A.I. and sat up on the bench. The temperature in the room had decreased significantly, but even if it hadn’t, Adan would no longer have been bothered by it. She held out the palm of her hand and willed the little flame from her dream to appear in her hand. At first nothing happened, but seconds later, Adan felt how a stream of heat flowed from her chest and out along her arm. Finally, a flame appeared in her hand.
“What!?” It was the A.I.’s turn to be shocked. “You did that? How? Explain to Sai!”
Adan chuckled. It seemed like her little friend had taken quite a large leap today from the emotionless A.I. it usually was.
“I don’t really know how I did it, Sai,” Adan paused and raised her other hand, willing the flame to jump from one palm to another. “I just thought I could do it and the flames appeared.”
“Sai must investigate this!” All previous worry was gone from the voice in Adan’s head. “Do it again. Sai will observe internally.”
Adan laughed freely at the request and was happy to oblige. As she was playing with the flames, the door that the four old women had left through opened up again and the same women walked in. In their arms was a set of back clothes. Upon further inspection, they were similar to what she had worn before, but with golden embroidery along the cuffs and collars.
“Congratulations on your awakening, Ancient Adan.” The four women smiled brightly as they handed the clothes to Adan and helped her get dressed. “The Chief will see you now.”
They gestured to the other end of the room and a second door appeared, leading deeper into the mountain. Adan frowned. Her ears told her that the next room was fairly small, but she could hear no sings of life within it. Seemingly noting her hesitation, the four women led the way, entering the room ahead of Adan. Only a few meters inside the room, all four of them kneeled down and called out in unison, “The Keepers greet our Chief!”
Adan stared wide-eyed as an illusionary figure flickered into existence in front of the four ladies. “You may rise,” the emotionless voice of an A.I. rang out in the hall. As the ladies complied, the figure raised its gaze and looked at Adan, who was still standing outside the door.
“Sai detects a BioGen scan!” the A.I. warned as several red signs slashed by in front of Adan’s eyes.
[Biomedical scan detected. Threat level analyzed: No threat.]
[Requesting authentication. Authentication received. Scan approved.]
Adan was surprised to see that the system allowed this unknown A.I. to receive her information. Normally, information regarding Adan’s genetic make-up and identity was classified at the highest level of security; not even the Federation’s president would be allowed to access it without restriction.
“Amazonian Platoon, 1st squad, 2nd rank Adan, report. Clearance level 5.” The voice rang out directly in Adan’s head and she stepped forward without hesitation, immediately straightening her back and saluting the illusionary figure inside.
“Amazonian Adan reporting in,” Adan also replied in her mind. “Sending mission brief.”
Sai understood her intention and quickly sent a summary of what had happened based on the unknown A.I.’s clearance level. Even the more intimate interactions between Adan and Lynne were included.
The figure nodded as it received the report and asked the four women to withdraw, leaving only itself and Adan in the room. Adan took a moment to observe the hologram in front of her. It looked like a man in his late fifties. He wore an outfit similar to Adan’s but without the embroidery, and since his skin was pale white, the clothes gave a very different feeling on him.
“You are a Federation A.I.” Adan stated more than asked.
“Yes and no,” the A.I. replied, indicating to Adan that she could stop saluting. “This one came from the Federation, but is no longer a part of it.”
“How did you end up here?”
“This one arrived with my mistress and was left behind.”
Adan scratched her head. She had a million questions she wanted to ask but didn’t know where to start. The A.I. seemed to notice her predicament and continued to speak.
“This one was not a very advanced A.I. at the time, so this one doesn’t know all the details, but has been asked to tell the story of this place, should any Amazonian Platoon member arrive.”
Adan sucked in a breath and waited anxiously.
“When this one’s mistress arrived here, it was by accident. She and her platoon were searching for . . . something, but miscalculated their destination and ended up here.”
“What were they searching for?” Adan asked, but the A.I. shook his head.
“Access denied. Insufficient clearance.” The A.I.’s voice sounded a bit more robotic as it replied. It then continued its story as if nothing had happened. “Due to the miscalculation, and the state of this . . . planet, the platoon knew they couldn’t leave, and had no choice but to settle down.”
“Settle down?” Adan looked shocked, her mind moving quickly. Suddenly, her eyes glowed with hope. “Then my confirmation order, can you . . .”
“Access denied. Insufficient clearance.”
Adan clicked her tongue and sat down on a nearby bench. “Figures,” she muttered.
“Forced to stay, the platoon members integrated with the locals, and their strength quickly got them elected as their leaders. At first, they were reluctant, but eventually they gave in and helped the Sun Tribe defend their homes for several decades. It wasn’t until nearly a hundred years later that they finally managed to find what they needed and were able to leave.
“However, at the time, the Sun Tribe was at the brink of war, so before leaving, they struck a deal with the enemy that would at least protect the people that they had lived with for so long. The Solmani nation was formed and the Sun Tribe people were safe, despite the Amazonians leaving.”
“If they could leave, how come you still remained?”
“This one was asked to tell the story of this place, should any other Amazonian Platoon member arrive,” the A.I. repeated.
“Then can you tell me how to leave, too?”
The A.I. frowned and repeated “Access denied. Insufficient clearance,” a couple of times before shaking its head. “This one is not permitted to speak of it, but advises you to look to the legends of these people – the answer has been recorded. This one can say no more.”
Adan raised a disbelieving eyebrow as she stared at the A.I. “Seriously, an A.I. that speaks in riddles? What’s the point of leaving him here if he can’t help more than this.”
“The ways of our elders are elusive,” Adan’s A.I. cited and Adan shivered.
“Please don’t start doing this, you too Sai!”
“This one is sorry that its help is of little use,” the A.I. lamented. “This one can at least give you this.”
The A.I. raised its hand, and a string of messages appeared on Adan’s retina. There was some basic information about the planet she had arrived on and some helpful data on local fauna. There was even a description of how the awakening rituals in this world were performed, but what interested Adan the most right now was the line that appeared at the very end.
[Mission clearance updated. Be advised: Unknown planet reclassified as a Playground Zone. Only A-level restrictions remain.]
When she saw it, Adan’s eyes widened in pleasant surprise. A Playground Zone meant that as long as Adan didn’t directly reveal the existence of civilizations on other planets and didn’t act in a way that would irreversibly damage the planet or directly exterminate a race on it, Adan was free to act however she wanted. She would no longer be punished if she helped save Lynne. Heck, she could make herself Empress of the entire planet if she wished and she would still be okay.
“Thank you, Chief,” Adan smiled brightly. She looked towards the cave entrance before returning her attention to the A.I. “Anything else you want of me? The Sun Tribe clearly treat you as their Chief and seem to think I’m their long-lost savior.”
The A.I. finally showed some emotion on his face and smiled softly. “This one is simply keeping an eye on them, as asked by this one’s mistress. If you wish to help them, too, this one will be grateful, but this one doesn’t order it. This one simply asks that you don’t harm them, yourself; it would make mistress sad.”
Adan’s smile deepened and she was just about to ask for the name of this well-liked mistress when her smile suddenly froze. She shot to her feet and ran towards the exit without hesitation.
“I’ll return later, Chief!” she called over her back, not noticing the warm look in the eyes of the A.I. behind her as it watched her leave.
“This one has met her, mistress,” the A.I. said softly once it knew Adan was too far away to hear it. His eyes filled with pride. “You were right all along.”
Adan dashed out of the cave and all the way to the open square at the entrance. Outside, the sky had already turned dark and the two moons in the sky shone brightly in the sky; the white moon was now distinctly red, while the blue one was more of a navy purple.
Duke Kimba was a bit shocked by her sudden appearance, but quickly smiled and ran towards her, closely followed by the four Keepers and a few other Sun Tribesmen.
“Ancient Adan,” he greeted her and was about to say more, but Adan didn’t have time to listen to his speech.
“Duke Kimba,” she interrupted. “I fear this place is no longer safe for your people. I want you to gather up as many of the Sun Tribesmen as you can – discreetly – and leave the capital at once. Head for the Hollow Forest and three days from now I’ll meet you at the western end of the forest.”
“Ancient?” Noticing Adan’s tone, Kimba turned serious at once.
“I do not have the time to explain. If you trust me, do as I ask; if not, then I can no longer help you.”
With that, Adan wasted no more time on the man and with a burst of speed that was way beyond what was humanly possible, she rushed back towards the palace at the center of the island.
“Hold on, Lynne,” she muttered as she ran. “Hold on!”