{BtHE} The Journey Begins: Chapter 1

Chapter 1 – The Last Giraffe


Every journey begins with the first step… unless you step into oblivion.

Then your journey becomes quite short and manageable.

Until oblivion spits you back out.


“Come on JD! I want to see the giraffes!”

The little girl continued to tug on the coat sleeve of a young man, beautiful amber puppy eyes doing their best to control the willpower of anyone within a five-foot radius. The individual in question sighed, before rolling his own eyes in exhaustion.

“Julia, I’ve told you before. We already promised to meet mom and dad at the main gates. We don’t have time to go look at anything else.”

“Please! Pretty please! Just a quick look, then we can go!” The little girl smiled her best and most adorable smile, all while pretending not to notice the “aww”s from any nearby passerby’s.

At first, it seemed if all her hard work was for naught; but then her older brother grinned.

“Ugh, fine. I suppose one look won’t hurt.” He scooped her up as she cheered in happiness, landing her atop his broad shoulders. “Come on little sis. You gotta be higher if you want any of the giraffes to notice you!”

Taking a quick turn at the next corner, he continued to follow the posted signs leading to the proper animal enclosure. “And here we are! Current home of the..” He squinted at the sign in front of the fence. “Cervus Camelopardalis? Ehh, or the giraffe, as it’s most commonly known. Say hi sis.”

The little girl gleefully obliged, waving both hands erratically in the hopes of gaining the attention of some of the nearby long-necked creatures. After a few minutes, it seemed to work, and one of the animals stretched forth its head towards the duo in the hopes of obtaining some food these weird two-legged creatures always seemed to bring. The little girl gasped as a rough tongue licked over her fingers, and quickly jerked back her hands against her chest, though she couldn’t stop giggling at the proximity of one of her favorite animals.

After several minutes had passed, the young man jerked and pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Alright Julia, time to say goodbye. Mom and dad are waiting for us.”

“Awww…” a drawn-out sigh was her first response, but she quickly brightened up and began to wave a farewell towards her new friend. “Bye buddy! Have fun eating trees!”

Her brother set her down on the ground with a laugh. “I’m sure that’s all he does here. Eat and eat and eat till he pops!” He gave her stomach a quick tickle and grinned as she squealed and tried to escape.

“Alright, come on. We’re really late now, and I’m definitely getting in trouble. We need to hurry, ok?”

The little girl nodded happily, and together they began to move quickly along the winding paths of the zoo. The young man was fairly sure of a great shortcut through the bird compound that would cut off a few minutes, and so took his little sister’s hand and directed her through the expansive glass ceiling enclosure. The cacophony of noise in the building was weirdly pleasing to the ears, though it did restrict the senses quite a bit. Keeping a tight hold on his little sister, the young man began to speed quickly through the maze-like jungle interior. There were only a few people in the building, probably because of it being so late in the day, and so close to closing time.

On the one hand, this was great because it allowed a fast pace while traversing the bamboo covered pathways, but on the other hand, it was hard to tell where people were exiting. Somehow, he misjudged a turn, and together they found themselves in a dead-end facing a large bamboo wall. “Well shoot. Gotta backtrack a bit. Wonder where I went wrong?” The young man murmured to himself as the little girl watched. Turning around they began to head back towards the center of the building… until they were jerked to a stop.

“What the h…” the young stopped speaking as he glanced towards his sister. “Sorry, sis. Uh, can you walk at all?”

She shook her head, muscles in her legs straining to take a step, but unable to.

“What’s happening JD?”

Frowning, the young man tried everything possible, but it was as if his legs were glued to the floor. An icy itching sensation began to climb its way up his feet, quickly winding it’s way to his waist and continuing higher. The little girl was crying at this point, but neither one would let go of each other.

It was then that he noticed the lack of sound around them. Where once birds had called incessantly, now only a soft murmur could be heard.

“It’s going to be alright Julia. Just hang on ok?”

His encouragement sounded fake even to his own ears as he desperately tried to pull his phone out of his pocket. Every muscle in his body felt heavy and unresponsive and he started to hear a crackling sound that seemed to fill his consciousness. “Come on!” He finally managed to grasp his phone and yank it free, but by this point, his chest and shoulders were also feeling that freezing itch that had spread so quickly. With his right hand grasping his sister, he fumbled with his left thumb quickly trying to dial 911 on the device. A moment passed and the call was initiated, but only a few seconds later the freezing itch reached his hand and to his terror, the phone slipped out of his grasp and rebounded off the floor.

“Aargh! Just hang on Julia, I know it hurts but just hang on!”

At this point, tears were streaming down the little girl’s cheek, and her large eyes were completely focused on her brother. In agony, he stretched his head to look at her; quickly noticing their surroundings. A light was beginning to seep through the ground, and small motes of azure energy began to crawl across the branches of the trees around them. An intense motion had began to circulate, centered on the two of them. Crackling electricity and waves of light began to dance in an ever-building crescendo of power and momentum, following a beat of unknown potential that contained a rushing, tearing force of the universe behind it. It demanded attention, it declared its intensity through laws written in time. A vortex… that slowly began to revolve with profound presence.

This feeling could not be described, for it wasn’t purely pain. It was both destruction and rebuilding, a separation of atoms and a combination of something else. In that singular moment, the young man realized that death had called… and he could do nothing to prevent it.

With eyes wide open, he could only watch as the building energy spiraled around them, collecting every particle in the nearby area. Another few seconds passed as the buildup increased… and then, the crescendo. Both the young man and the little girl disappeared in a flash of powerful energy and a void of space, leaving behind the only world they had ever known.

A few minutes more passed and gradually, the birds began to resume their songs.



{BtHE} The Journey Begins: Prologue



DATE: ????-???-??//# 13 Sols AFC [AFTER FLUX CAUSALITY]

LOCATION: Inner Core of the Planetary Space Station “Grand Haven”…



With a nearly silent hiss, the hatchway swung open into a pitch-black corridor. Two figures crouched behind the lip of the opening, staring warily forward.

“You know Ben, the last time one of our family decided this was a good idea, the Grand Council was formed.”

Ben smiled and stepped into the corridor, shaking his finger back and forth. “Now now brother. No dissing Echo Squad. They had reasons for it, just the same as us.” Pausing, he looked back over his shoulder. “Seriously though Daniel, I can’t think of any other way to help the Travelers. At least not within the timeframe we have.”

Daniel gingerly stepped through the hatchway and nodded somberly. “I know man. I know. It just feels a little sacrilegious.”

Ben huffed and started walking again. “It’s only sacrilegious if you don’t know the truth. And lucky us, we happen to be one of the only families alive who are aware of that fact. And now we’re going to use that knowledge to help others. It all comes full circle if you ask me.”

“Too bad no one asked you,” Daniel grumbled.

“Besides,” Ben stopped in front of a massive symbol imprinted against the inner wall. “Dad said I could do this. Practically commanded me to, remember?” He pricked his palm quickly, then pressed it against the middle formation.

Daniel leaned, arms crossed, against the opposite wall. “Yep. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

“It’ll be over in a minute anyway. Now keep a lookout. I doubt they can find us down here, but I’d rather not risk it.” The formation surged inwards, the wall collapsing on itself as it broke down and scurried backward. Ben paused once again and looked towards his brother, who nodded worriedly, though a little relieved.

Pushing himself upright, Daniel proceeded back the way they came. Faintly, Ben just could make out his brother’s whisper. “Don’t lose yourself in there. I need you.”

Grinning at his brother’s confession, Ben touched a hand into the broken formation. He felt no resistance. Carefully as to not disturb the still fluctuating edges, he crawled into the hole. For several feet, he could feel nothing more than solid metal beneath his palms, but that quickly began to change to a much more rubbery and skin-like texture. A dull glow began to emanate from somewhere in front, though he couldn’t tell from what exactly. Finally, he felt the floor drop out into emptiness. Taking this as his cue, he lept down. It was a good ten feet, but the surface bowed beneath him, taking virtually all the force of his fall away.

Spinning in place, Ben noticed once again the historical oddity of this place. It appeared to be a circular room containing broken machines and equipment from pre and post-colonial days, odd wires leading to nowhere and plugged into nothing, and several small (and ancient) spacesuits hanging respectfully in place between two giant consoles.

The consoles were covered in early Norkishian writing, a pre-galactic standard that had long faded into obscurity. Multiple lights blinked off and on in a slow rhythm, a pattern that if watched very closely, seemed almost reminiscent of a heartbeat.

Ben watched the lights for a moment but heard nothing more than the beat of his own heart. Still, he had been allowed this far. Solemnly, he bowed to the lights.

“Greetings once again. I come before you as a descendant of my ancestors, a remnant of the ones you hold dear. I have both a boon to request and an explanation to give.” He held his breath this time. Long enough apparently, as a clear and sonorous voice sounded in the room simultaneously as a bright pulse was emitted from the right console.

“Speak clearly, young one.”

“Of course elder.” Ben straightened and continued. “13 sols ago, my father and his team unveiled the results of the Great Experiment. You might recall he came to discuss this topic with you several years ago.”

“Of course. His solution to the greater expansion and discovery of our universe.”

“Preciously. The initial test, however, proved something… else.”

“We felt it. A disturbance in all reality. A ripple of time and space that could not be contained.”

“Not just our reality elder. All realities. Ad infinitum.”

“His theory proved correct then? Why the worry in your voice? Ah, nevermind, we see it recorded in your second-mind.”

Though he tried not to think about it, Ben couldn’t help acknowledging his discomfort with being laid so bare. To think his second-mind so easily revealed was disconcerting, and why he hadn’t forced his brother to accompany him. Daniel had always liked his secrets. Still, it did prove a much faster means of communication, as evidenced by the next words spoken.

“Why would the Grand Council demand such a thing?! Do they not see the potential of such individuals?”

To Ben’s surprise, a much gentler voice echoed in time from the left console.

“Patience dear one. You know how short-sighted such people can be. They do not think beyond, only remaining worried and fearful of the present.”

“It does not excuse their negligence, nor their lack of aptitude. If we had been more aware of how low the Council has fallen…”

“We would not have interfered. Our rules are set for a reason. We can help to grow but never destroy. Their mistakes are their own. They must learn from such events to progress.

A heavy sigh emanated from the right console. Ben shivered as he felt ripples move over his skin.

“You are right, of course. Still, they move too far in this. Young one, you have come to us for a boon and an explanation. We have heard the latter, now let us hear the former.”

Ben recovered from his lapse quickly, and once more assumed his humble stance. “My father has been left to blame for this… accident. At his own insistence. My brother and I escaped with his help and now plan to enter the Void first before any others might lay claim. Our goal will be observation, exploration, and detailed recording of all we experience and learn. We also hope to find and prepare any other Travelers, enabling them to hide if possible or resist should they be forced. It is the most honorable solution we can achieve.”


“It is to this nature I have come to you, in the hope that I might ask for something you might very well deny. Elders, these individuals will be lost and alone in unfamiliar worlds. They might be injured, both in mind and body. Though they cannot truly die, they can suffer. And of course, be more easily found by the NCF.”

Here, Ben paused for a moment. After taking a breath and gathering his thoughts, he plunged forward. “Elders… would you grant me the ability to offer them a second-mind?”

Sweat trickled down his brow as he waited, seconds passing with no response. Would they cast him out for such a request? Perhaps forcefully remove his own second-mind? And what of his brother, waiting impatiently above?

The lights pulsed.

“If we were to agree to this request, such individuals would become Norkishian in all but blood and origin.”

“They would remember their origins, yet no longer be able to return. Their home reality would be forever cut off, and they would live immortal for tens of millennium. Longer, if what your father theorized remains true.”

“You and your brother would become caretakers for a multiverse so old, so unimaginably vast, you will never truly see it all.”

“Yet you must watch over all, to help where you can, protect those who require it, and record every second, every sol of this continued Existence till Time breathes its last breath, and Space collapses into nothing. And you will record even that.”

“Can you accept this price? Will you accept this responsibility?

In that moment, Ben felt time stop and await his answer. Whatever he decided, he could never return from that choice. But it wasn’t just up to him. Quietly, he brushed the communicator on his wrist.

“Daniel, I need you here.”

The response was immediate. “I’m on my way.”

Less than a minute later, Daniel dropped down beside him, observing all with a quick eye.

Ben nodded to the lights once more. “Will you please repeat your request, so that we might both decide?”

And so they did.

Once the final word was spoken again, Ben looked over at his brother. He loved Daniel as only a sibling could. A love so strong, so boundless; it could only be compared to the universe they might soon enter. His question did not need to be asked.

Daniel looked back, dark eyes grim. Slowly, but surely… a smile began to form. He started to laugh then, a quiet huff that made the universe a little brighter for it.

“Well,” Daniel said, shrugging his shoulders, “We always did want to see the end of time. Might as well get a start on it.”

To all others, Daniel might be overly dismissive, but Ben knew better. It was just his way of seeing things.

Turning to face the consoles, he knew his answer. “My choice is made as well.”

“Very well.”

Together the echoing voices spoke, the room vibrating with the contained sound.

“Benjamin and Daniel Kragrinur. You have now been tasked with entering other realities, henceforth known as strings of time and space, to gather any and all information available to you. You will be a force of honor and trust throughout all these universes so that any who might hear the name Norki will know only respect. You will help those who require it, protect those who need it, and destroy those who deserve it. You will endure any pain, any hardship, any trial, to see your work complete. By this agreement you will be allowed to offer individuals taken from their natural reality, henceforth known as Travelers, a boon; evidenced in the form of a second-mind. Do you both understand and accept this responsibility and the responsibility of all who might abuse such power as provided by this boon?

The brothers bowed and in unison answered. “We accept, and will endure.”

“So be it.”