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Cause [1.4.7]

Vasa was sat sleepily on the roof of the apartment building in Zion, as Ephra and Joseph trained with the spear. As Ephra was infinitely better than he was, he had thought it best for her to teach Joseph the spear. He seemed to be picking it up quite naturally and impressively quickly.

As they cut and thrust back and forth across the roof, Vasa yawned. It was an hour after the time he would have usually gone to sleep.

“Hey, don’t you think you two are going to annoy the neighbours?” he said.

Ephra blocked Joseph’s advance in such a way that he fell over. “Possibly, yes.” she replied. “Perhaps we should pick it up tomorrow morning.”

“Y-yeah… please…” Joseph panted. “Y-you… really… don’t let up…”

“Time is short.” Ephra said simply. “We train hard, you get better faster. Something like that, anyway.”

They descended around the outside of the apartments before arriving on the bottom floor and entering their apartment. It was quiet and empty, and there was a sense of gloom about the place. Both Vasa and Ephra fell quiet, and cast their eyes over to Raziel’s room.

“Should we, uh, eat or something?” Joseph asked.

Vasa shook himself out of his reverie. “Yes, yes, of course. I’ll prepare something quick – Eph, do you want to introduce Joseph to the viewport?”

He bustled off to the kitchen without another word, leaving Ephra and Joseph stood in the centre of the hub room, awkwardly staring at one another. Ephra removed her helmet and walked over to the sofa. “Please, sit down. This is your home now, so I’d like you to be somewhat comfortable.”

Joseph took her up on the offer and seated himself next to her. “Thanks.”

“Remarkable clothing, by the way.” Ephra said as she leaned over to get the remote for the viewport. Joseph, taken by surprise, glanced down at his blazer. “Um, thank you.”

Ephra gave a quick smile. “I have a bit of an interest in fashion. Earth fashion isn’t usually my cup of tea, but one can’t argue with a blazer like this.”

“Well, I like to look nice.” Joseph said. “My uncle tends to be a bit… dishevelled, because he’s always busy writing and stuff. So I prefer to look my best; image is important.”

“I suppose you’re right. You’ll note that here, we all wear very similar-looking armour. I don’t know the details – that’s more Cassil’s thing – but our fashion is based on very subtle differences in design. For example, my helmet on the table over there: see how the lower portion of it looks brighter?” Ephra explained, pointing at the relevant part of the helmet while Joseph looked on in interest. “It’s made out of a slightly different alloy than the rest of the helmet, and so when I wear this, I’m making a statement – I have the latest helmet, I have the best combative ability… I’m the alpha. Pretty much.”

“I see.” Joseph said with interest. “So your armour dictates social rank?”

“To an extent, it does.” Ephra replied. “Armour’s the latest fashion, but not every Zionid or Voidian is competitively able. Older Zionids and Voidians, and younger ones, tend to just wear normal clothes, which also make statements. Things like – I’m not a fighter, but I’m still important. I perform vital roles within the administration of Zion. You get that?”

“Yeah. I think that all makes sense.” Joseph said with a nod.

“Of course, you have to keep up with armour trends. For example, my helmet isn’t actually that new anymore… R-raziel had the latest helmet. Cassil always made sure to borrow the newest designs the day that they came out.”

“Right.” Joseph replied. “It’s so strange how different, yet how similar this place is.”

Ephra nodded, then gestured to the viewport on the wall. “There is a reason for that. You see, when we first discovered viewports, we didn’t know how to configure them.”

“These things watch everything in the universe?” Joseph asked.

“They can be configured to find pretty much anything in the universe. We type in our search, a signal is sent out through the portal on the edge of Zion, through the Reaches and into the universe. By subtly adjusting the frequencies and angles, we can see a good 90% of the known universe. It took many years to figure out which planets were populated.”

“Right.” Joseph replied.

“But, at first, we couldn’t adjust the signals. So the very first signal was the only one we had, and that one was centered directly on Earth. So a lot of our culture – same for Void, too – is heavily inspired by Earth. That goes for our weapons, too – Zion use spears and Void use swords.”

“I see. That’s really interesting. So, your language was the same, too?” Joseph said, thinking carefully.

“Yes. We used to speak something different. Vasa can still speak it, to an extent; nowadays we all just use some form of Universal.”

“…Universal?”

“Sorry.” Ephra corrected herself. “English, as you know it. We refer to it as Universal, because there’s a strange quirk in the universe where the same language is spoken over a wide variety of planets… about 75% of all intelligent life in the universe speak a language that is identical, roughly, to English. We have the benefit of being able to view all this intelligent life, so we know that everyone speaks the same language. Your primitive cultures have yet to discover one another, so you don’t know that the language is the same. Once you do, though… you will probably also call it Universal.”

“You’re really intelligent, you know.” Joseph said. “Do all Zionids learn this sort of thing, or do you just have an interest in it?”

Ephra blushed. “I’m nowhere near as clever as Vasa, who could explain all this more eruditely and efficiently. But I do have some interest in our history. I like to read some bits and pieces about it when I’m not training.”

“I see.” Joseph said. “So, there’s no schooling system?”

“Oh, of course, you have a totally different culture, don’t you? You should ask Vasa about it. He’ll be delighted to tell you some stuff. For now, though, if you’d like to watch something on the viewport, you can do.”

“…Right, I’ll have a look… I use this remote, correct?” Joseph asked, holding the remote and pointing it at the viewport with a look of confusion on his face.

A few difficult minutes later, Joseph had figured out the basics of controlling the viewport, and Vasa entered the room with some food to find Joseph and Ephra watching the Battle of Bosworth, from the Wars of the Roses. He sighed.

“Somehow, I knew you’d end up watching Earth. My prediction was that you humans would be more comfortable watching your own history before venturing out to other planets.”

He came to sit beside them, and put the plates out. “It’s just something quick I made, but it’ll be fine for now. We’ll take you out for a proper breakfast tomorrow; consider it a proper welcome to Zion.”

“Thank you.” Joseph said. He, Vasa and Ephra tucked in and ate in silence, observing the opening stages of Bosworth. Joseph’s eyes had lit up.

It was an incredible thing he had been given control of here. The ability to watch the entire history of almost every planet sustaining life in the entire universe… the numbers were mind-boggling. And yet Vasa and Ephra treated it like a television! Zion was such a curious dimension, and as the surprise of Raziel’s death and exiting the universe began to wear off, it was replaced in Joseph’s heart with excitement at the coming days, where he hoped to learn as much as possible.

He also noticed that Vasa and Ephra ate in a subdued manner. They were barely focussing on Henry Tudor’s battle strategies and Richard III’s counters, and Joseph knew it was because of Raziel.

“…Um…” Joseph said quietly as they began to finish their meals. “I was just wondering… where do Zionids and Voidians come from?”

“Come from?” asked Vasa.

“Well, you said that, uh, Raziel, was going to disappear. So I was wondering if that infinite energy that the King drains also creates you. I presume you don’t get your biology from humans?”

“Our biology differs in many ways. Zionids and Voidians have much stronger bones and muscles than humans, so we can survive large falls and stuff like that. Our eyes are a bit bigger, and our noses much shallower.” Vasa explained. Ephra listened with interest, then cut in with her own explanation.

“In terms of creation, there’s no male and female, no fornication or anything like that. And especially not 9 months of carrying a small human around inside you.” she said. “We are born from infinite energy – we simply pop into existence as the universe surges and wanes. Children get sent to one of several school buildings around Zion, and after several years, we simply give them free reign – they move in with some friends, find some jobs and discover what they’re good at.”

“That sounds very strange.” Joseph replied. “Though, explaining any creature’s biology makes it sound pretty weird. I wouldn’t know much about biology; I was never very good at it.”

“It is weird, but there are some similarities. Sometimes, for example, if there’s a bit more infinite energy than usual during a surge, two or even three Zionids or Voidians can appear simultaneously. They’re known as siblings.”

“Oh, I see. That’s quite intriguing.” Joseph said. “Is it common?”

“Not too common, but you’ll tend to meet quite a few siblings in your lifespan on Zion. For example, Cassil has a sister who’s an Official. Her name is Levan.”

“Who names the children?” asked Joseph. “Since they don’t have parents.”

“…That’s a good question.” Vasa said. “I don’t actually know.”

“I think it’s the matrons, or the people who discover the children in the first place.” Ephra suggested.

They nodded in unison, deciding that the explanation was satisfactory. Joseph burned with more questions to ask, but he wanted to pace himself. He decided to just sit back and continue watching the Battle of Bosworth play out.

In the back of his mind, he had a few worries. Were Zack and Serafina going to be OK? Where had Cassil gone, and when would she be back?

And how was he, a scrawny, ungainly coin collector, ever supposed to defeat the mighty Zionid King?

Cause [1.4.6]
Cause [1.4.8]

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