The central square in the middle of the crumbling ruins had been abandoned for some ten millenia. The scout ship probably would not have noticed it were it not for a number of anomalies immediately evident from orbit.
The first anomaly was the well. A beautiful, fresh spring still burbled up through the arid rocks - deep scans of the crust revealed an aquifier that had inexplicably meandered to a point just below the town before returning to the water table. The technician operating the scanner had found the town by focussing a telescope at the point of the strangely parabolic underground meander.
What he saw were some seemingly primitive stone structures and a monolith, made of the same stone, standing in the middle of the square, seemingly untouched by the ages passed.
A landing party was inevitable. Also inevitable was the presence of the one who had made this first interstellar voyage possible, Bllmrrai Sej'wi. Bllmrai and his people had come very far, very fast. They had advanced from roving packs of mildly telepathic, cat-like predators to a high level of technology within a scant two thousand years. Bllmrrai had then opened the gateway to the stars with his research on the phenomena of telekinesis and teleportation, just as his previous seven incarnations had done, starting with the founding of a tiny, helpless rogue state in the volcanic swamps west of the cradle of their civilization.
The saucer slipped slowly into the atmosphere. It seemed hesitant and diffident as it approached the ground in a sloppy spiral distorted by wind currents and magnetic field variations. Tiny arcs of lightning discharged as the hundred meter wide disk touched down in a clearing by the town.
After a long wait, the first figure emerged from the spacecraft, clad in a bulky white pressure suit. Turning to face the external cameras, the figure took out a glass tube filled with white powder and broke it open.
The crystals turned azure.
The figure then took a plastic bag, filled it with air, and returned to the ship.
As the orange sun rose the next day, a party of five cat-like bipeds emerged from the vessel. They spoke to each other in a growling but strangely graceful language. Two of them, both female, were dressed in crude coveralls and carried backpacks filled with surveying equipment, and wore thick leather belts with a rockhammer, a knife, and a few pieces of electronic equipment. Another two, males, were huge, with a bear-like build, enormous halberds in one hand, and a rifle strapped to their backs. They guarded an old, lightly-built male wearing elaborate spectacles and even more elaborate robes, who rode a tricycle-like electric scooter.
"It is only a short way?"
One of the technicians turned to the old man.
"No, sir, but the ground is flat. You will not have to walk."
"Excellent. I think we will arrive before the sun reaches zenith."
"Likely," growled a guard.
They proceeded to the town square.
The journey went quickly. The sun was still low in the sky as they arrived in the square. A technician noticed something white on the ground, next to the crumbling foundation of a stone building. She picked it up, and dusted it off.
It was a skull with a disturbingly flat face. Some teeth remained in the front of the upper mandible, flat, knife-like incisors. The old man spoke.
"Be careful. That skull still has a strong aura."
He wheeled over to the technician, took the skull, and wheeled away. The technician nervously scratched an itchy spot beneath her lower pair of breasts where a gust of wind had blown some sand into her coveralls.
"It was a paranormal. Invulnerable. That explains the condition of the skull. This specimen is at least ten thousand years old."
A guard spoke. "A paranorm? Like Mighty Chelm?"
"Quite similar. He could probably fly, much like Chelm. The similarity to the specimen in the Hall of Lies in the Sacred Citadel is remarkable."
The old man rose from his tricycle and approached the obelisk.
"This, too... this also has some strange properties." The old man adjusted a knob on his spectacles. "It is alive, barely. I will try to -"
The obelisk was a tapered rectangular prism of stone, capped with a pyramid, seemingly hewn from a single piece of stone. To the suprise of all, the pyramidal cap suddenly rose a short distance from the base as a deep hum emerged from the ground below.
The two guards immediately threw down their halberds and pulled the rifles from the scabbards on their backs. They fired almost simultaneously, and a pair of sizzling cracks shocked the technicians into seeking cover.
The old man examined the two spots of light the laser rifles ineffectually cast upon the ageless stone dispassionately. "Stop. You achieve nothing."
He came a step closer to the obelisk. An eye opened in the floating pyramid and a beam of pink light struck the old man in the head. Bllmrrai Sejwi suddenly stood straight and still, and placidly gazed into the beam.
He saw a room, and three men in elaborate clothing and powdered wigs. They were sitting in a circle and drawing some kind of symbol. All three were instantly aware of the old man's presence.
"Welcome. We have been waiting for you."
"Who- ?" The language they spoke was utterly alien, yet he had not only understood them perfectly; by reflex, he had spoken it as well. Bllmrrai felt awe and fear, and a deep curiousity.
"Do you like our seal?" One of the strange, flat-faced creatures had spoken, and now smiled expectantly, showing the strange, knife-like teeth the old man had seen on the skull.
"What... what does the inscription mean?"
Another man, portly with a powdered pigtail, spoke up. "A new secular order. You see, we have many great plans. We wish to overthrow the absolute rulers, who would use the Divine to justify their tyranny. We wish to be awake..."
"...again" The vision was interrupted by another pair of crackling blasts of coherent light.
"STOP! THIS IS SENSELESS!!" cried Bllmrrai in his newly found language, and the guards, to his shock, understood. The old man returned his gaze into the pink beam.
His ordeal lasted three sunrises, and three sunsets. What he learned changed everything.
A very long, eventful period followed. After the war, the cat-people - the Fe Arrans - had colonized a score of planets, and fought a brutal war. More on this, later...
"Ack on one eight three niner, OK on approach vector."
"Ack. How's fuel?"
"2-3's at point-nine creds a hundredmole."
"That's fucking expensive." The fat cargo ship captain took another swig from his bottle of Heroin Dry.
The dispatcher narrowed his eyes and dropped his furry, triangular ears. "You'll have to talk to Guido if you don't have cash. He's a full service banker. You got any equity on debt?"
"Debt, fuck yeah. I also got some sweet cargo. I'll talk to Guido."
"Righteous. You're in berth nine, c'mon in. I'll call Guido."
The ugly cargo hauler pulled up to a set of enormous robot arms. The arms held the front of the ship steady as a collapsible gangway extended from the station and pressurized.
The cargo hauler met Guido and a dimunitive female he recognized from the vids. "Holy shit! You're Arcana!"
"The name's Jinx. What you got?"
"Can I get an autograph?"
Jinx shrugged her thin shoulders and looked at the fat cat-man through her mane of curly black hair. "What you got?"
"Uhh... LSD. I got a metric ton of acid in the hold."
Jinx turned to the black-clad banker. "Let's make a drug deal!"
David White, all rights reserved, 1998