Hero the Llama
Chapter 1: The Comet
This story is about a llama named Hero. Hero grew up on a planet named Sunny Sunshine Shoe. He could tell you a thousand things about his home planet, maybe even more, but if you asked him the one thing that stood out, he would not hesitate. He would look at you right into the eyes, take a deep breath, then grab your hand and lead you to the park behind his house. The flowers, the wind, the trees. Such a perfect little paradise tucked away in space, on the verge of the Void: the big unexplored part of space.
He was a simple animal. He always had been. Llamas never felt many complex emotions at once. They were very focused creatures, and knew what they had to do at all times. They weren’t particularly smart- that varied from llama to llama- but the ability to concentrate on single thoughts was a very powerful one. Hero, on the other hand, was not stupid. Underneath his house was his lab where he worked on gadgets to help with his daily life. He did not make weapons, but tools that could feel like magic for the common animal. They were not though. Hero had read many books and self taught many subjects from electronics to biology, from law to geology. His knowledge was plentiful, yet there was so much more left to know about, and it made the llama giddy with excitement.
Hero lived a peaceful life. His days were filled with hope and his nights with dreams. Nothing else mattered but his home and his companion. All that mattered was love. Her name was Plan. Hero loved Plan, but most important of all, Plan loved Hero. They had been living together for as long as he could remember. Life before her did not matter at all. As far as Hero was concerned, his life truly started when he first felt love towards her, and so did she towards him.
Not a single day was spent alone. They woke up together, ate together, and slept together. If a love could ever be purer, it would have been pure light. You truly had to be there to understand it. The two llamas often had conversations about the future. Their present was a gift from life, but thinking about what was coming was something they liked to do on occasions. They would lay down on the grass, while two suns orbited around Sunny Sunshine Shoe, and wonder whether the weather would one day wither away.
Until The Comet came.
The Comet was the name of a horse, and not any horse at that. The Comet was a pony. A pony disguised as a horse. As far as the whole universe was concerned though, he was a horse. A fierce horse. A courageous horse. A cruel horse. A deadly horse. The day The Comet crashed on Sunny Sunshine Shoe, it was raining. It had been raining for a week, and it would not stop but a week later. The planet was dying already, and it was not The Comet's fault: he was just a pony disguised as a horse. His costume had been shred to pieces during the crash, and he felt disoriented. He couldn't remember where he was or what he came here for, but he knew he had to be a horse. He could not be a pony. Suddenly he saw two llamas running towards him, their white furs almost shining in contrast with the surroundings.
Hero and Plan approached the massive crater. Smoke had been filling the grey sky and forming its own menacing clouds. The plants surrounding the huge hole were dying slowly but surely; the planet was unrecognizable. Even the air tasted differently, Hero could feel it.
"Stay here," he told Plan as he let go of her hand. She did not reply but the look on her face was enough. It was the last time he would ever be feeling her touch.
He was inches away from the crater when all of a sudden he heard a familiar voice screaming. He turned around and what he saw he did not immediately understand. Was it a pony, or was it a horse? Why was he holding Plan in his mouth? Why was she unconscious? More importantly, why were they slowly disappearing into thin air?
“You shouldn’t have seen me like this,” The Comet shouted as he was slowly becoming nothing. “You cannot escape the jaws of wisdom. You shall not observe the fate of the stars!”
“What are you talking about,” Hero replied as he was running back towards Plan. “Leave her alone! Stop!”
You probably were not aware of this, but llamas are not known for their speed. By the time he reached them, it was too late already.
“She will die, just like your planet will. Remember this: The Comet never stumbles”. The Comet’s last words echoed throughout the plain and they were gone.
Hero fell to the ground, his eyes filled with tears. He looked around, but only saw desolation. His mind was already made up: he had to rescue her. He could not leave her with that nut job of a horse. Or was he a pony? It did not matter. What mattered was getting Plan back from him. He got up and ran to the only vehicle on the whole planet: the Gruyère, his space shuttle. He lived alone with Plan on Sunny Sunshine Shoe. He had never left his home planet, yet his guts told him he had to venture into deep space to find The Comet. He would have to travel to the nearest metropolis, get help, and resources. As he started up the engine, he could not help but wonder about The Comet. Who was he, what did he want, and what was he? None of this made sense. Everything was happening so fast.
The engine roared. He closed his eyes, fired up the vertical thrusters, and in an instant he was speeding through the emptiness of space. First stop: Metroroots.
Chapter 2: Tran Police
Somewhere between Sunny Sunshine Shoe and Metroroots
Hero shifted his behind towards the left, then back to the right: he was feeling very uncomfortable in his seat. It clearly was not designed for llamas. Monkeys maybe, some felines perhaps, but llamas? Not a single care had been given as to whether llamas would be driving this space shuttle. The Gruyère roared as it passed through a Mistake: small pockets of nothing scattered across the galaxy. Deep Space was often referred to as being empty, but that was not technically true. Mistakes were truly empty little wonders of science. No one knew where they come from, although races after races had claimed ownership. A company even tried to use them as advertising tools, but the whole thing backfired on them when one filled up an entire region of coupons for kiwi flavored condoms, each with a sample of the product. Needless to say they had to shut down after the fiasco. The story goes that the CEO fled to Earth to seek refuge, only to get emasculated by the High Ordered Council of the Court of the Milky Way. “Someone should have told him Earth is completely loco” thought Hero as he passed through yet another Mistake. “They still haven’t abolished politics”.
A red dot appeared on his main screen. It was Metroroots. He was just a few light years away. It had been a full day since he had left Sunny Sunshine Shoe. A full day alone with just a single thought running through his mind. A horrible one, yet he could not just ignore it or make it go away. It just did not make sense: was The Comet a pony or a horse? He had carefully examined the question long and hard, and had come to a conclusion that seemed as absurd as the tragedy that had happened. Was the pony wearing a horse costume? It seemed silly. His screen beeped, chasing away his thought exercise. He had arrived. The shuttle had automatically docked itself into a parking station in orbit above the planet. Hero grabbed his backpack made out of golden kitten hair that had been stretched and solidified, and left the Gruyère. He could feel a cold gust of wind on his face as he exited his shuttle and walked towards the teleporter. The whole structure was empty, not a single soul. His footsteps resonated, the sound waves colliding with the surrounding walls. Hero stepped into what looked like an elevator and closed the door.
“WHERE TO” a robotic cat female voice declared.
“Metroroots main station” Hero shouted into the mic.
He had to shout. He had heard stories of people not speaking clearly or loudly enough, and having to look for their dismembered body parts across planets. Not a fun experience by any stretch of the imagination. He closed his eyes as a white light flashed and illuminated the teleporter. The door opened, and what lied in front of him he could have not foreseen. What used to be literally a forest of buildings and concrete was now nothing more than grass, trees and plants, with very little buildings left here and there. Very familiar plants, though Hero could not quite place where they were from. Something else was off.
“Where are all the people?” Hero wondered, shocked.
Metroroots, biggest metropolis in the area, known for its very active business district, highly sought out hospital care (the best in the region) and peculiar working hours. You worked all the time, but every two nights, the planet’s temporal axis stopped for an uncertain number of time - how can you be sure how long had passed when you could not quantify it? - so that its inhabitants could rest in cryostasis pods. The system was odd, but it worked: Metroroots had one of the highest employment and productivity rates of the Recorded universe. Whenever time stopped, the sky would change to a very unique shade of yellow. Hero looked up towards the clouds: the sky was blue.
“Something very strange is going on here” Hero said out loud, speaking to himself. “What should I do?” he wondered, when he was all of a sudden daunted by a very scary thought: he had no weapons. Nothing to protect himself from what ever might want to harm him. This was not a normal situation at all. Hero reached for his backpack and took out his Maps Made More Mailable, or M4 for short. The device buzzed and vibrated, then scanned the entire planet and produced a sphere which looked a lot like a figurine. It could fit inside the palm of your hand, but when activated, it would display a 3D hologram map of a selected region with your position, any nearby animal and, of course, where to find the nearest bar. Five dots appeared on the hologram: two bars, one hospital, one animal and a half grey half black dot.
“Weird. A black dot means an animal but a grey dot means an unknown.”
Hero zoomed in on the weird dot. It was located a few miles south of where he was, in what appeared to be a naturally formed canyon. He turned his attention to the other dots. The person picked up by the scan was actually in one of the bars, half a mile north, called Tran Police, and not too far away from the hospital. Hero closed his map, put it back in his bag, and started to go to the bar in question: maybe whoever was there could explain just what the hell was going on here. Everything just kept getting stranger and stranger.
Five thousand feet below Metroroots
Lori looked at her watch. The day had been very stressful. Hell, the whole week had been very stressful, and stress was not something tigers were accustomed to. Rage sure, stress no. This was different. Tough choices had been made in the past few days. She had done something she would probably never forget. She was not feeling guilty, or sad, or even happy; just stressed. She lowered her eyes from the main screen to look at the floor. She had been underground for so long she was starting to feel the effects of Sun Withdrawal. Simulated sunshine was not cutting it anymore.
“Come on” she thought to herself, “One more week. Just one more week and it will be over”.
A siren started playing through the speakers of the underground facility. The screen flashed red, while hundreds of words and numbers scrolled down.
“Ma'am?” her assistant asked.
“What’s going on P?” she growled, without even looking at her.
“Looks like an intruder was found downtown, near the main station’s teleporter” she promptly replied.
“What? How is this possible?” Lori shouted, her rage building up. “How can it be happening during the process? How the hell is there still enough power for the teleporter to work? And why the hell was the intruder not located while in orbit?”
There was a short pause.
“I don’t know ma’am. I’m sorry ma’am”.
Lori turned her head and looked at her assistant. Blue and green feathers, half blue half green down, a black beak, red claws: the California Condor was not what you would call typical looking. It was all a hundred percent natural somehow, everyone in the facility had been tested and she knew all of their genetic makeup by heart. The condor kept looking at the screen in front of her.
“Should I alert sir Bronson Butkus Briswald, ma’am? This classifies as a level fo-”
“I know what this classifies as, P!” Lori interrupted the condor.
She took a second to think. Butkus was a madman. A nut job. He had been drinking heavily for the past month and was out of control, not to mention the problems with his messed up son. Her superior was the cause of all of this when she thought about it, and how she had to clean his mess up. “Such a cliché” the tiger thought, mentally sighing. “The second in command cleaning up after the broken commander. I hate this”.
“Don’t alert him.” she shouted at P. “I’ll go on the scene personally to assess.”
“I have made my decision P! Get out or deal with the consequences, I don’t have time for this.”
“No ma’am I-” the condor tried saying.
“WHAT?” exploded Lori, her rage now spewing out of her.
Silence invaded the little control room. For a full five seconds, only the buzzing of the machines and flashing of the screens could be heard. The condor breathed in and turned towards her superior.
“The invader just arrived at Tran Police.” P said quickly.
Silence again. A heavy silence. A painful silence. An interminable silence:
“I guess this is a job for you, miss Police.”
“Understood.” the assistant replied calmly.
Maybe the day was getting better, Lori thought to herself. Maybe.
Back on the surface
Hero pushed open the main entrance of the bar. “What a weird name for a bar” he wondered as he walked into the place. He wasn’t sure what “Tran” meant, and the decoration was not reminiscent of the police in any way. In fact, it was a pretty standard bar. A few tables, some stuck to the ground, others floating with the help of their Anti Gravity Ground Animosity device. The actual bar, like in all bars everywhere, had a display of the selection of drinks rotating above the wooden counter top. Each drink was magnified in turns, with additional information displayed next to it, usually a bit of history or a poor thought out joke. “Tropical Treadmill” Hero read on the display, “Feel the heat of a thousand jogging sessions at once. Ask the bartender for the special brew. Doesn’t sound tasty at all” he thought to himself as he scanned the rest of the room.
“That’s strange” he said thinking out loud, “I can’t see a backdoor. Is this bar just this one room?”
“Freeze!” a male voice yelled.
Hero stopped. He could hear electricity crackling in the air.
“Don’t move llama. I’m armed and I will shoot you if you so much as itch your nose.”
The voice sounded like a condor’s. It was getting closer, and so was the weird crackling. Was it a Dischargeable Portable Bone Paralyzer Drive, or DPBPD for short? Or something more serious? He needed to buy some time to figure something out.
“I don’t want any trouble” he began saying. “I was just hoping to find people. I came here looking for help, but the planet-”
“Shut up llama! I really don’t give a damn.” the voice exclaimed.
The crackling got louder. The voice must have been twenty five feet away by now.
“I’m sorry! I just want to know what hap-”
“I said shut up!” the voice cried as it overcharged the device.
Everything happened in slow motion. As the device discharged, Hero jumped behind the bar’s counter top while the front door exploded all of a sudden: another condor had entered the bar. A peculiar looking female one with blue and green feathers and red claws.
“Police?!” the male voice said in astonishment.
Everything became quiet. The two condors stared at each other. Hero, still hiding behind the bar, started rummaging through his backpack. He needed an exit strategy and quick.
“What are you going to do, shoot me?” Police asked. It sounded less like a question and more like a joke.
“I’ll do it, Police! You are not the same as before. Do you have any idea of what you have done?” Tran yelled, his DPBPD pointed straight at the female condor.
“I did the right thing, Tran!” she replied shouting. “You should have listened to me!” She lowered her voice. “You should have trusted me.”
Nothing in the llama’s backpack seemed helpful. He looked around but could not find anything of value. The two condors were standing between him and what appeared to be the only exit: the main entrance, now a huge hole. Wind came in and Hero felt once again a familiar sensation. He couldn’t place it. Something felt off. This whole planet felt off.
“You should have told me what you were about to do” Tran said, his weapon still in the air. “You should have told everybody. Now everyone is dead!”
“If you had let me explain Tran, you would have figured out that I was trying to protect my home!” Police said, her voice breaking down towards the end.
“You hid it from me for months! What kind of wife lies to her husband’s face for months?”
There was another uncomfortable silence. Hero could hear a buzzing sound from far away.
“I love you Tran.”
Tran closed his eyes.
“I can’t love someone who betrayed me like you did.”
His DPBPD discharged once more, the bolt of electricity racing towards Police. There was a white flash of light and smoke engulfed the bar. Hero could not see a thing.
“I know you’re still hiding behind the bar llama.” Tran started saying. “I know you work for her. You are next, llama!”
Hero got up and faced the male condor. Police’s body was lying inert on the floor. He could not believe that animal had just killed his own wife. Had the whole galaxy gone mental?
“Why did you not step in and save her? Don’t you work for her?” Tran asked the llama.
Hero continued to stare at him. He was not feeling angry. He had not felt angry when The Comet had taken Plan away: llamas could not feel anger. They did feel love however, and Hero was certain of one thing right now: love was not in the air.
“I don’t really understand what is going on. I have never met any of you before in my life. The love of my life was taken away from me and I came on this planet to get help and find her. I don’t know what happened, I don’t know how it happened. All I want is to leave this place and get back to my ship.”
Tran lowered his weapon. The expression in his eyes seemed to shift from anger to understanding. Had he been through something similar too?
“I apologize llama.”
He holstered his weapon and looked down at his wife.
“You cannot escape the jaws of wisdom.” he whispered, just out of ears’ reach.
Hero took a long look at him. He seemed so broken, so disconnected from whatever life he lead before.
“My name is Hero” the llama said, stepping forward and raising his hand.
Tran’s eyes turned away from his wife to the hand, then to the llama. They slowly started to water.
“I haven’t felt someone else’s touch for a week now.” the condor said, weakly.
He collapsed in Hero’s arms, unconscious.
To be continued...
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