To Boldly Go, Out of Sheer Boredom
A little more than a mile from the Guild Hall, tucked into an alleyway that only extended the length of about two houses from Avrong Street, was a very small door by a trash bin. Above this door was a round window, the only thing viewable through which was a narrow stairwell leading up a short flight and turning sharply to the left. If one were to proceed through that doorway and up that stairwell, as Pasuu was doing at that moment, one would find at the top the living quarters and office of Doctor Voloi (as he liked to be known, though he was no doctor). A sound, heard from street-level below, would be exacerbated the closer one came to the top of the stairs. A low rumble, periodic, followed on occasion by a bit of whining and little puffs of air.
Pasuu stuck his head around the corner. He glanced at his watch. Just about noon, when Doctor Voloi said he wanted to see him, and yet there he was lying on a pile of opened books, adding to already present water damage on their pages through his slightly opened mouth. His tongue hung mostly out, lying across what looked to be the ink on a title page, propped up slightly by one long canine. His glasses lay off to one side. Probably they fell there after he'd drifted off.
Ears back, Pasuu contemplated either knocking or leaving and coming back later. His body wanted to go rigid as it usually did when confronted with such a choice; both seemed to have dire consequences if he were to take them, and his only other recourse would have been the embarassing option of merely waiting in the stairwell until the old coyote woke up on his own. But by then it would no longer be noon, and he would hence be late. So to let him sleep and be late, or to wake him and risk his anger? What was that old saying? Let sleeping dogs lie. And yet...
"You weren't going to just stand there all day, were you?" a voice called out, waking Pasuu from his little day-nightmare. He looked back to the coyote and found his faded yellow eyes watching him from above a grinning muzzle.
"No, sir, of course not." Pasuu entered the office, being careful not to trip over any manuscripts laying scattered about the floor. "I was just... I was thinking about how to..."
Doctor Voloi leaned back in his chair and wiped some drool from the side of his face. His ruddy red vest was, as usual, open, as he wore it even during class. "I've often wondered if there was a spell anyone was researching to give someone a more sturdy spine. I'll bet Penn could do figure it out; that guy has one of the most rock-solid spines of anyone I've ever met. But I suppose there's a good reason you chose to become a mouse."
He waved a hand vigorously, beckoning Pasuu into the apartment. "Enough with the 'sir' nonsense, yes? You're my colleague now. 'Sir' was for back when you were still a fleshy ape thing."
The mouse walked inside, clutching his arms across his thin ribcage. He was still getting used to the new body, in actuality. All of the new ways of seeing the world, and especially hearing the world and smelling the world, were a bit frightening to him as yet. It was sort of like moving to a new city full of people from a new culture, none of which you completely understand, and yet you know you're going to be living there for the rest of your life. Calling his old professor and new colleague 'sir' was just his way of clutching to the last few remnants of his old life that he cared to hold on to for the time being.
But he explained none of this to Doctor Voloi. He merely sat at the table across from him and watched him with wide, black eyes.
"So," the coyote said, stroking a little tuft of fur sticking off his chin, "I was wondering if you were going to be busy at all this week."
Pasuu's whiskers twitched. "Sorry?"
"Do you have anything important you need to attend to during the week? Classes to teach, being sent somewhere, laundry to do, anything?"
"Ah, well, no... not yet. I don't start classes until after I'm finished with my adjustment period, which is--"
A clap resounded, and the coyote shot up from the table, nearly knocking it over in the process. "Fantastic! Neither do I. We should take a trip."
"I... I don't understand."
Doctor Voloi began pacing back and forth, carelessly stepping on books and papers. From the look of them, this was something he'd done before, many times. "Pasuu, I'm approaching eighty-five years of age, and for the past forty two of those years I feel as though I've done nothing but study and teach what I learn to others."
"But..." He wrang his hands. "But didn't you just return last week from shielding a village against a tsunami?"
He waved the notion away. "Bah... it was a boring village. All they had to offer was fruit and pleasant music. The tsunami wasn't even that big. I need something new in my life, don't you think?" He stopped and looked to Pasuu, eyes shining and tail upright and bushy.
Pasuu looked away. "If you say so, si... ah, I mean, if you say so."
The pacing renewed. "You were always my favorite student. You never said a damn thing in class. And the presentation of your dissertation modeling the evolution of the winged chameleon's chromatic ray was one of the best naps I've ever taken in an academic setting. Even better than when I used to fall asleep during Jules' lectures on artificial intelligence in magical constructs."
"Um... th-thank you."
"That was an insult."
His ears fell back. "Um..."
"Young man, you must learn that not all insults are meant to be insulting. So, will you come with me?"
"Don't call me sir."
Pasuu cleared his throat. His heart was beating just as rapidly as it had been when he'd presented his dissertation. "Um... where... where are we going, exactly?"
Doctor Voloi threw his hands wide. "Brilliant! I knew I could count on you. Pack your things and be ready to leave by tomorrow morning."
"Ah..." He sat for a minute, blinking rapidly, ears folded as far back as they would go. The coyote stared in his black eyes, a look on his canine face that seemed to imply devilish things should he decide to decline the offer, this offer to travel with a complete madman to an unknown destination on no official business. Very slowly, he moved his chair back from the table, stood up, and said, "I will... see you tomorrow morning, then."
The coffee smell was almost overpowering, despite that it came from only a single mug of the stuff. The serving girl seemed to know Doctor Voloi, and that he enjoyed his coffee very strong, and so she had decided to bring one mug of the kind that Voloi apparently enjoyed for each of them. Pasuu was now wishing he'd spoken up and asked for something a bit weaker.
"I've been thinking about where we should take our trip," Doctor Voloi said as the serving girl was bringing them both their breakfasts. He had ordered two steaks with some eggs, all three items barely cooked. Pasuu had ordered only two crumpets; he hadn't been feeling all that hungry since yesterday. "I learned the other day of a tower, built by the humans long ago but since quite abandoned. It was one of those shows of economic and military prowess, you know, that ended up serving no real purpose but which is still quite a sight to behold. Large chunks of it are collapsing at this stage, so it's very dangerous to enter, and I believe someone said it may have been inhabited by fire demons or some such."
Pasuu almost choked on his crumpet. "Fire... demons, you say?"
"Too boring? I suppose it is. And anyway, it's been explored quite a bit. I think Girard has some rather extensive notes on the structure. I don't suppose you have any ideas?"
He looked to his new partner briefly, then lowered his eyes and shook his head.
Doctor Voloi put a foot on the table and pushed his chair back a bit. "You know something that's never been done before?"
Half-eaten crumpet lay cooling on his plate. Pasuu was being cautious on eating it until they had decided on a location. His coffee still sat almost untouched. "What?"
"Someone came up with a pretty funny technique a while back, that was deemed too dangerous. He called it 'teleportation roulette', or something like that. If you do it right, you can include a random variable in your destination when you cast a teleportation spell, allowing you to end up just about anywhere on the planet."
Pasuu swallowed. "Including... in three dimensions?"
This got a nod. "Yes, of course. That's why it was deemed too dangerous, since most of the planet is made up of molten material. You can constrain it a bit, if you want to only land on the surface, but you'll still probably end up in the depths of the ocean seventy percent of the time. So while it's theoretically possible, no one has ever been brave enough to try it out."
"And you... you wish to try it out."
The chair slammed back onto the floor. "Hey, young man, you're braver than I thought you were! You really want to give it a shot?"
"Ah, well, I mean..."
"Too dangerous, you think? It might be. I was thinking maybe if there was some way to constrain it only to habitable places, but that's a bit complicated to figure out in one day." He smiled brightly, displaying his full set of sharp teeth. "Maybe you could work on that for your research project in the coming decades, since you seem interested. I would have myself, but I hadn't thought about it until just now." He began sawing into his bloody steak with a knife he brought out from his pocket. "In the meantime, though, we should think about where to go. You really don't have any ideas?"
Thoughts did flit through his head. He had, in fact, just recently been reading about a cave in one of the southern island nations that housed a species of insect that could emit small electrical charges to ward off predators and kill prey. He had wanted to take a look for himself at some point, but he felt this would be much too boring for his old professor's tastes. So instead he mentioned something he knew he would come to regret later. "Miss Karya and I had a conversation the other day about life on other planets."
It was, in fact, immediately that he came to regret stating this, as the coyote's eyes lit up immensely upon hearing this pronouncement. "You don't say?" He stared off into space for a time, lapping at his coffee at disturbingly regular intervals. "Other worlds... I never would have thought to try THAT..."
"Ah, well, we estimated that atmospheres and other such environmental factors would make it more or less impossible for life on this world to survive in any capacity on--"
"That's right! The underground moon society!"
He said this so loudly that everyone else in the restaurant turned his or her head to stare at them. Pasuu swallowed. "I'm sorry?"
"Surely you've read conjectures about it?" He began to speak and tear into his food at the same time, a somewhat unappetizing sight. "The surface of the primary moon appears to be lifeless, yes? So the astronomers tell us. But for a long time there have been signs from a number of brief experiments done that the moon's underground has many large, spacious, hollow caverns. And there are a scant few records in our own libraries hinting that long ago, the humans learned how to travel through space. Do you see what I'm hinting at, here?"
In fact, Pasuu had previously heard of the 'underground moon society'. It was mostly joked about these days as a fringe theory some old eccentric named Huvalo had devised some one hundred fifty years prior after one of the Guild's astronomers had discovered a large open hole on the moon's surface, revealing a deep cavern, possibly a lava tube. While there was some evidence that ancient people had been working on a technology to explore the stars (prior to the as-yet-unknown incident that had brought magic to the world), the records were incredibly incomplete, and so any conclusions drawn from them would have to be mostly conjecture.
He nodded, and replied, "Yes, I suppose I do."
Doctor Voloi reached across the table and clapped him hard on the back. "Pasuu, you're brilliant. I knew I picked you for a reason. We should set out right after breakfast. You have everything you need?"
"Okay, good. Let me just finish up here and hit the bathroom before we go. You can start preparing the teleportation spell now, if you like."
Pasuu's ears fell back again. "But, sir..."
"Don't call me sir."
"But, uh, Doctor... aren't you at all worried about the... ah, the lack of atmosphere? On the moon?"
This invoked a shrug. "If there's no atmosphere, we'll leave. We shouldn't be too much the worse for wear. Maybe just a few popped blood vessels or what have you. But if there's really a society there, it shouldn't be a problem, right?" He continued to tear into the steaks and eggs. The sight of the egg yolk mixing with the blood from the meat was making Pasuu a bit queasy.
"This just seems..." He stopped there, suddenly afraid he was going too far. The coyote looked to him expectantly, both ears pointed right at him and head tilted a bit to the side. "I mean," he started again, "that it feels as though you aren't thinking this through." His voice shot down a level in volume. "That you're doing this whole thing completely on impulse." He felt his heart was going to stop. Did he really just say that out loud?
The coyote smiled again. His teeth had gained a nice varnish of red. "There you are. That's how you do it."
Pasuu watched the coyote for a time, trying to understand. "I... don't..."
He shoved his plate away for the time being. "Look, Pasuu. I know you're still going through adjustment, and I recognize how hard that is. I remember how hard it was for me, and that was over forty years ago. But, you understand, you are a member of the Wizards' Guild now. You see?"
The mouse looked down at his plate. He was being lectured. In some ways, though, it made him feel better, more at home. He'd been lectured before, in the same manner, so it reminded him of the old days.
"You recall what the Guild does, yes?" Doctor Voloi continued. "We help people. We solve problems they cannot resolve themselves, we quell disputes, keep the peace, bring a quality life to as many people as will allow it. This means we make important decisions. Do you see where I'm coming from, or not?"
He nodded, slowly. "I... believe so. You were trying to get me to stand up to you."
"Yes, absolutely. We are colleagues, now. I don't want you to call me sir, and I don't want you to go along with my every whim. I want you to think independently from here on out. You understand?"
"Yes si... ah... I'm sorry. Yes, of course. I understand."
"Well good." He began cutting his steak again, more slowly this time. "So I'll leave it up to you. Do you want to check out the primary moon's underground, or shall we pick another destination? To be honest, you do seem like you could use a good old fashioned adventure."
What he preferred by a large degree was to simply stay at home and do some reading. "I was thinking, perhaps... maybe if we spoke with Jules, we could borrow one of his constructs and send it as a probe?" Doctor Voloi raised an eyebrow. "Ah... to the moon, I mean. To test the environment and see if it's safe for us."
"That's the spirit. We should speak with Jules." He placed an arm over the chair and turned around. "Hey Jules!"
The old owl had been, apparently, sitting at a nearby table this whole time, across from Renmark the gargoyle. His little orb friend floated nearby, as usual, and began to glow with a vaguely lavendar light when Doctor Voloi caught his attention. His angry face did not alter its expression as he stood up to come speak with them.
"Doctor, how pleasant it is to see you again. How was the tsunami?"
Doctor Voloi just waved a hand. "Not worth talking about, really. We have a proposition for you."
Jules' eyes wandered over to Pasuu, where they seemed to lock. An owl staring hard at a mouse. Pasuu's heart once again tripled its rate. "I'm sorry. I feel I may not have made your acquaintence?" the owl said.
"It's... it's Pasuu, sir. Er, I mean..."
Those massive eyes widened even more, dragging feathery brows with them. "Ahhh, Pasuu! So your dissertation was accepted, then. A mouse seems a fitting choice for you, as I recall. You hardly made a sound during my lectures, though your homework always demonstrated very clear understanding of the material." The orb turned yellow, for some reason. "Welcome to the ranks. Are you still adjusting?"
"I... yes." No, no he wasn't adjusting very well.
"Very good. Very soon this whole thing will feel quite normal, like it's never been any other way." He turned back to Doctor Voloi. "So what is this proposition?"
He pointed a claw at Pasuu. "I believe my colleague can explain better than I. It was his idea."
Pasuu's eyes shot back and forth between the two. Between the overpowering smell of coffee, the bloody mess on Voloi's plate, and the presence of two enormous predators staring directly at him, waiting for him to make a move, he felt as though he was going to be sick all over the floor. "I... ah..." he tried, but his mind had gone almost completely blank. He was part of the Wizards' Guild, now. He was to make peace between warring civilizations, cure diseases, bring prosperity to the people below, make new discoveries and visit exotic foreign lands. "I..." His stomach lurched. "I'm sorry. I have to go. Something... something I ate."
And with that pathetic excuse, he darted for the facilities.
Doctor Voloi walked in after a few minutes and stood at the sink with him. His whiskers were still dripping from the water he'd splashed on his face, that pointed rodent face with the black orb eyes and large rounded ears that was still unfamiliar to him. It was the attention, he'd realized as he was dumping yesterday's dinner into the basin. The attention his new form garnered. The form he liked; it was pleasant to look upon, handsome in a way, cute in others, but the way people now looked at him, the respect the students now showed him, the deference he got now from the common folk in the city even as he shopped for vegetables in the markets. And now these two highly respectable men with years of experience under their belts were treating him as a colleague. It was simply too much to handle.
The coyote put a light hand on his shoulder. "He agreed to let us use one of his recent constructs, to test the water. I could see he was interested in coming along himself if it panned out, but I let him know it would just be the two of us."
"Th-thank you." His tongue was still dry and spicy. The rodent sensory system in his head now would probably be picking up touches of that scent for days to come. "And I am sorry, I just--"
"I know. It's all right." His image reflected on the glass smiled. "And if you desire, we can call the venture off. It may be too much while you're still adjusting."
But he was shaking his head as Voloi was getting the words out. "No, no, let's not call it off, please. I think... I do think I can use an adventure, something harsh and difficult and terrifying so that when I get back, everything else will seem so tame and inviting. I think it's the most efficient way for me to... to get over this..."
"I will be honest that this was my thinking."
He shook some of the water from his whiskers. "May I ask who wished for you to mentor me?"
This garnered another smile. "I may be in trouble for telling you." He paused briefly, then, "But it was Barrow."
His ears shot up. "Barrow? Truly?"
A nod. "He had taken an interest in you early on, actually. I believe it was your two-year thesis that first got his attention."
"About making a less brittle porcelein? But that was... that was dull."
Voloi raised both hands. "You'll hear no argument from me on that, or from Barrow, for that matter. It was more the quality of it that intrigued him. If you promise to keep it a secret, I can tell you what he said."
"I..." But the thought of hearing the praise given to his work by one of the Guildmasters himself made him ill all over again, so he vigorously waved his hand. "Please, no. Maybe some other time."
The coyote put his arm around Pasuu's shoulders and began to walk him toward the exit. "So be it. I say we pay our bill and then be off to Jules' place, then, yes?"
He nodded, keeping his head low. "Yes. Yes, of course."
Jules came back into the sitting room bearing a tray full of tea and tea accessories. He very carefully set a cup and saucer before each person, then proceeded to trickle amber liquid into each one and motioned toward the sugar bowl, which was full of cubes and one pair of very small tongs. Pasuu took one; he was still experimenting with the various flavors to see where his new sensibilities lay. Doctor Voloi took four, and Jules took none.
"I was thinking that we could try one of my newer constructs," Jules said after a few sips. "He is very sturdy; I created him out of bronze and a bit of nickel. He does not breathe, but is somewhat conscious, and so can give at least a generic report on conditions on the other side." His orb turned blue, and flickered just a bit.
"What's this one's name?" the coyote asked.
"Ah... yes. I've called this one Sameel."
"I remember that old story. I always vowed that if I ever had children, I would never tell it to them. I suppose if this Sameel explodes from a pressure difference, I shan't feel too badly about it."
"Oh, I don't think he would explode even in a pure vacuum. He is very sturdy, as I said. Some pieces of him may push outwards." His feathery brows shot up again. "Ah! That can serve as a lovely test as well."
"Or just leave him there for ten minutes and see if he's freezing cold when he comes back."
The owl nodded. "That may be effective as well."
Pasuu took a sip of the tea. Even the one lump of sugar was very strong. Perhaps next time he would forgo it.
Doctor Voloi was speaking again. "Unless you happen to have a copy of the book I'm thinking of, we may need to make a trip to the library before we send our probe out."
"You recall reading a text about the hollow caverns in the moon? Published some hundred fifty years ago."
Pasuu's eyes wandered to the owl's bookshelves, of which there were probably two dozen scattered here and there, all of different heights and widths. The whole apartment smelled musty with books. In fact, as Pasuu looked around, he found little furniture besides bookshelves. It made some degree of sense, considering how Jules often acted during lectures.
Pasuu felt his face go hot. Did he really just think that? At least he didn't say it out loud.
The owl was scanning through his shelves now, apparently certain that he had a copy of the book in question. Eventually, a feathery claw touched one of the old spines and dragged a tome out, along with a sizable helping of dust. More dust exploded outward when he set the book on the table before them all and began flipping through it. He paused a few times to read a particular passage, and then began flipping through again, sometimes forwards, sometimes back. Finally, he stopped and began to read in earnest.
The other two watched him for a time, sipping at their tea. When both of their cups were empty, Voloi spoke up again. "Good enough for a teleport?"
Jules' face changed only the slightest bit, indicating his frustration. "Possibly. It may require some more careful reading."
"Ah. Maybe we should come back later?"
"I know I read it somewhere in this bloody book."
The coyote nodded to Pasuu. "We should take a walk."
"Don't be too long, now. I will find what I need soon."
Doctor Voloi just grinned at him, and he and Pasuu walked out the door and made their way to street level. It had started off a sunny day, but clouds were now quickly moving in and threatening perhaps a thunderstorm, almost certainly rain. People glanced up frequently as they went about their business, all of them walking just a bit faster than normal. They emerged from a side-street to a main avenue with a number of fruit stands. Most of the vendors were busy putting up awnings; at least one was ferociously haggling the price of his apples with a cocky-looking young man, who was tossing one up and down and smiling broadly.
"You know," the coyote said, "a long time ago, it was fashionable to wear these big giant hats. They stood up almost perfectly straight in the middle and had these wide brims, where you could put flowers or jewelry or whatever you like. I remember, this particular fellow," he said with a laugh, "actually wore bones in his. Skulls of small birds or mammals. I suppose he was trying to make a statement of some kind, though he still wore the same hat as everybody else."
Pasuu listened to the tale in silence.
"I always thought, if I were to wear such a hat, I wouldn't put anything on the brim. That just simply wasn't done; even the bone fellow wouldn't break that particular rule. So I would do it just to be rebellious. But, you know, us wizards always dress like gentlemen." He plucked at his ruddy red vest. "Or scholars. We don't get to be fashion rebels. I wonder, what would you put in your hat, Pasuu?"
"I... ah, I don't know."
"You haven't thought about it?"
He watched two young boys chase each other down the street. One of them almost knocked over a woman carrying a bag full of walnuts. "The fashion was... before my time, I guess."
"Hm." They walked a bit more in silence. "Well, maybe one of these days you should start thinking about it. Hey you!" he suddenly shouted, pointing a claw at a nearby red-headed woman. She seemed flabbegasted, and pointed a finger at her chest. "Yes, you. Do you need anything fixed at your house? I'm in the mood to fix something."
"Uh," she said, clearly confused, but a small smile crept onto her face. "Uh, well... my front door creaks very loudly. I keep trying to get my husband to--"
"Fantastic! Let's go rid you of that creak." He grabbed Pasuu's arm and dragged him in the direction of the woman. By now she was smiling broadly, and she led the way with a bounce in her step.
"Isn't Jules expecting us back soon?" Pasuu whispered to his companion as they followed the woman.
"That old bird will take a week to find that passage. I figure in the meantime we can spread a little good cheer."
He sighed. "If you say so, sir."
"Don't call me sir. Unless--" he raised a white eyebrow--"you're now doing it to bother me. Are you?"
Heat flowed back into his face. He never got a look at himself in a mirror when such a thing happened. Did his ears turn red? "I... I wouldn't think of it..."
"That's too bad. Then don't call me sir."
"Here she is," the woman said. She rocked the door back and forth, and, indeed, it gave off a rather wretched noise on every inward motion. "Been making that sound for two weeks now. Anything you two can do to help would be much appreciated."
Doctor Voloi shoved Pasuu forward. "Have at it, then. See what you can do."
"I thought... you said you were the one in the mood to fix something."
He shrugged. "Fix something, see something get fixed, it's all the same to me."
"Well... all right. I'll see what I can do." He knelt down by the door and swung it himself a few times, trying to pinpoint the source of the noise. It really just sounded like it needed some new lubricant, was all, in the hinges. He rattled the pins a bit and found them stuck fast. Honestly, the hinges themselves could have stood to be replaced, but he would settle to simply quiet them down a bit. He concentrated and placed a hand on the wood of the door.
"Oh wow!" the woman exclaimed, shattering his focus. Nonetheless, the job was basically complete. He stood up and took a few steps back, looking down at the ground, which she seemed to take a cue to try it out. "Would you listen to that," she said, swinging the door back and forth in silence now. "All fixed, just like that. How did you get those hinges to glow like that?"
"Ah... well... it was the heat from the, ah... from the change in chemistry. I used... I refashioned some of the metal into new lubricant. It should be quiet for some time, now... I think."
"Oh, thank you thank you thank you, sir." To his great horror, she ran up to him and gave him a hug. "More of you wizards should be like you two, helping out the little folk on whim like that. Bless your little heart."
Saved. "Well, Pasuu, we'd better be getting back to that old owl and see what he's come up with."
"Ah, yes, of course," he said, nearly shoving the woman off of him. "We should go."
As they walked away, leaving the woman behind to keep trying out her door, Voloi put his arm around the mouse's shoulders. The last rays of the sunlight poured through a gap in the clouds and reflected off of his glasses. "You see? This is what we do. Sometimes on grander scales, certainly, but that's the extent of it, right there. If you accept it for what it is, it really is a good feeling."
"Well... if you say so."
Jules was still reading when they came back. There was almost a full cup of cold tea sitting before him now. He only just glanced up as they entered. "Ah, you're back. I found what I was looking for."
Doctor Voloi looked around the apartment. "So, where is this Sameel we're going to send into the abyss?"
The old owl blinked a few times. "I'm sorry. He's already gone. It's been... eight minutes. I will bring him back in two. Should I have waited for you?"
But he just waved a hand. "No, no, that's alright. It's all details; we only care about the result."
The two of them sat again and watched him read for the next two minutes. A third nearly passed before Voloi coughed and brought the owl's attention back. "Oh, I suppose it's time to bring him back," he said, searching around for a clock on the wall. He stood up and hooted loudly, and with a puff of greenish light, a small bronze statue appeared in the middle of the room. It had a rounded head, and no limbs of any kind. The body was more or less a cylinder of metal, with a few protrusions here and there and numerous lines looking like sutures.
They all three gathered around it, searching out any signs of damage or otherwise. No frost was accumulating on its surface, and Pasuu could see no major indentations or perforations. If anything had been shunted outward due to interior pressure, he wouldn't know. The thing looked rather lumpy and misshapen on its own.
"Oh, this is interesting," Jules said. He pointed a feathery hand at the thing's back. "It appears our little soldier fell from something. There's a great dent on his backside here." He tapped the thing on the head a few times, and two small greenish circles on its face opened up. "Hello, Sameel. How are you?"
A monotone voice responded, seeming to come from nowhere in the room. "I am fine."
Jules looked to Pasuu. "His programmed response. He seems to be functional." He turned back to the little construct. "Do you have anything to report?"
They all waited a moment. Then, "Would you please report it to us?"
"I fell. It was dark, but there was light."
Jules frowned. Maybe. It was difficult to tell. "Did you wander and fall, or were you falling as soon as you arrived?"
"I was falling as soon as I arrived."
"I see." He turned to the others. "It appears we sent him into some kind of large cavern, but missed the floor by some amount. Sameel, was there breathable air in this place?"
Doctor Voloi lit up at that, but Jules waved a hand. "Breathable by ourselves?"
"Well well," the coyote responded. "This is rather intriguing news. He wouldn't be mistaken?"
"I don't believe so, no. Sameel, you said there was light. Was it distant, nearby?"
"It was very distant, but some became nearby as I fell."
They all were leaning in a bit closer, Pasuu realized. He slowly moved back a bit, hoping no one would notice. "Did it have a pattern? What did the source look like?"
"It was very distant, then became closer. The light that became closer was like the stars."
Voloi looked to Jules, puzzled. "What do you suppose that means?"
Jules shook his head. "Can you elaborate? What do you mean, like the stars?"
"Many small points, like the stars."
Despite himself, Pasuu was very intrigued. The construct's description was vague enough to spark any number of pictures in his imagination. A dark cavern, deep, with many small points of light on the floor of it. And more light in the distance from this. Why would there be light there at all? And breathable atmosphere... so deep in the moon's crust. He never would have imagined. He had assumed that this would all turn out to be folly, and they would have to take their inevitable trip to some less exotic location. But in reality this was turning out to be a major discovery. It was both exciting and terrifying at the same time.
And just as he had this thought, Doctor Voloi shot up from table and put both hands in the air. "Success!" He looked down at Pasuu, his new traveling companion, and gave him a thumbs up. "My friend, we're going to the moon. Pack your things."
Pasuu gazed up at him. We're going to the moon. Pack your things.
It was both exciting and terrifying at the same time. His heart was already telling him how much of a fool he was.
The first of a mini-series I've decided to write. It follows an adventure undertaken by the socially awkward mouse wizard Passu and his old professor and new mentor, a coyote known as Doctor Voloi. It's another entry in a series of stories I've written about the Wizard's Guild (another such story can be found here), a fantasy world run by a group of magicians and wizards who take on non-human forms to serve as unbiased protectors of humanity. I suppose it's one part steam punk, one part Dungeons and Dragons, and at least one part Star Trek.
Please enjoy, and look forward to the following parts in the coming weeks.