After twice defeating an invading army of cyborgs, my life returned to a relative calm. There was that sense in the time between the two invasions, but I felt by sealing away the relics they sought in another dimension, the problem had been solved for good. Although that strange place I had traveled through during my first quest had many mysteries yet to be solved.
It was this other space that had called back to me. Or rather, I was called back to study it. This time, it had been from a research institute. I don't quite remember where they were located, as they had used this other dimension to transport me to their base. They were at least confident enough to use it to travel between places on the surface of the planet. However, they wanted me to aid with sending a crew further than anyone has gone before with this kind of technology.
They wanted me onboard the ship as I had the most experience with this other realm. It was known portions of this place were filled with air and portions of it were empty. I remember brief visions entered my mind when I went through it. I heard two of the researchers on the project argue if it was right to bring a child into space.
The crew I was to travel with included a beaver who reminded me of a maple syrup salesman, a buzzard hawk, a bear with a thick Berezyan accent, and a baboon. Leading the ground team was Dr. Lutran, an otter who was the prisoner of the cyborgs until he was teleported off the airship through the same dimension he discovered the secrets behind reaching. His son, Splash, was one of my partners during the second invasion after I freed him from the cyborg horde.
A lot of what I heard after that point I kind of tuned out as unimportant. Hey, I'm just a pup after all. And the memories of before the jump were dull and boring compared to what I witnessed after it.
With the final signal given, the craft sealed, and the chamber surrounding it pumped out of all air, we began our journey. In a flash of blue and purple light, our path was opened and it expanded to engulf the ship in a flash. I saw yet another brief vision of some parallel Earth, then focused on the task at hand. I thought of the view of my own planet from a distance, as did my crewmates who had a more precise idea of the distance needed. In another flash, we returned to normal space. "We made it," I said as the rest of the crew radioed in their own messages of success to the base waiting below.
I looked out the window of the spacecraft and couldn't help but stare. A blue oasis of life shrouded in white clouds standing out from a black cosmic void. It was like staring at the photos taken by the last people to be this far from Earth. They were on rockets to the moon, but we were only going out this far as an experiment. And we took a route through another dimension. Floating there weightless, I reached out my wing to cover it. I could still resolve it through the thin skin of my wing. I wanted to reach out and wrap my wings around it. To protect it from harm. I felt an even stronger connection to the lives of every sapient being on this world I saw from afar.
"You okay, kid?" one of my crewmates asked.
"Huh, I was just enjoying the view." I replied, still lost in thought. I regained enough sense to notice it was the other flyer among the crew, a bird of the genus Buteo, who was speaking to me.
"That's why we wanted you on here," he explained. "We wanted to give your generation that perspective. That sense of connection to every person on the planet you can only get by seeing it from afar."
"The kind most of us will only ever see in photos?" I asked.
"Yeah. We wanted to make sure it really resonated with you." the hawk said.
"I already felt something like that before just through looking at those photos. But this is deeper." I said.
"When we land, tell your friends about this voyage." the hawk instructed.
"You think I won't?" I asked rhetorically.
"I guess I am sort of used to it. I've flown into space before. The only thing that threw me off was that jump to strange-space." the hawk said.
"I'm pretty sure that's not the official name of the dimension we hopped through." I said.
"That reminds me. When we were in that strange dimension I saw something unusual" the bear said.
"Short visions happen to anyone going through there." I replied, thinking of a bat by the name of Bloom Le'wing.
"I saw some sort of Space Shuttle, like the kind Betuland flies." the bear replied.
"In space?" I asked.
"Nyet, on the ground. And a little bat was on the outside of the fuel tank." he explained.
"Like me?" I asked.
"Smaller, with a long tail. Then, I saw the shuttle take off." he replied with a grim look on his face.
"But why would they take off with someone in danger like that?" I asked.
"I don't know, that's all I saw," he replied.
"But what does it mean, anyway?" the baboon asked. "I saw a world where no one ever reached that other dimension because Dr. Lutran was never captured by cyborgs."
"How are we sure these visions aren't just manifestations of our own mental state and not anything to do with external realities, eh?" the beaver responded.
"Must you always cast doubt on things?" I asked.
"Is that not the way of science?" the buzzard asked rhetorically.
"Right, and how fast are we falling towards the Earth?" the baboon asked.
"Hardly at all." the beaver replied. "The gravity this far out is only a few hundredths of what it is at the surface."
"Well, we would need to bleed off any speed before we make the hop back to the vacuum chamber," the bear remarked.
"The time it takes to completely enter that dimension is almost nothing, so what if we just enter one of its airy regions directly from space and then slow down there?" the buzzard said.
"Well, the sooner we make the jump the sooner we slow down so we make a soft landing wherever we plan on landing this thing." the baboon explained. "If no one objects, we're jumping in five."
"Da," said the bear
"Four." counted the baboon.
"Go," I shouted.
"Yea." said the beaver
"Aye" said the buzzard hawk.
"One and go!" said the baboon as we made another entrance into that mysterious place. A gust of wind blew past and behind our craft as the portal closed. I can only assume my thoughts were guiding the craft into the right region. And one second in I saw a vision of a cyborg queen covered in metal armor from her neck down. I assume this time I was seeing a vision of another world's equivalent to the armored tyrant I defeated twice in battle. I was distracted by this for a few seconds, but regained focus as our mission wasn't over yet.
"Is anyone else still getting used to that?" the bear asked.
"The spontaneous visions that occur in this otherworldly place? Not quite as disorienting as rocket flight." the buzzard mentioned. The properties of this other kind of space made our craft slow down as the Earth's gravity ceased to influence the craft.
"You should be the most used to sudden jolts, eh?" the beaver said.
"I assume you said that because I'm a raptor." he replied.
"No time for this. We still haven't decided where to land." the bear said sternly.
"If we go back to normal space in midair a few meters above the surface, we'll surely be noticed by sensors of whatever country we emerge over." the baboon explained.
"And work out how to start their own expeditions into this violet and blue void?" I asked.
"Well we know the Talpan cyborgs used to come here. Also, I wouldn't call a place full of air a void." the hawk said.
"Wait!" I shouted. "Didn't I seal those relics here specifically so that they can't get them?"
"I said they access this dimension, not those weird surfaces that protect the Jade Leaves. In fact, every time they tried they couldn't get into the seal so it looks like your wish has held." he squawked.
"But what aboot the ship's speed?" the beaver asked.
"Deploying the 'chutes to slow down as we coast." the baboon replied as he operated the instrument panels by hand. With the dynamics of this place in play, we were slowly drifting to a halt from the air resistance. Every so often, at least one of us would space out for a few seconds. The gradually slowing beeps of an indicator paired with a light would help us re-orient to reality as the speedometer dropped slowly.
"We need to drop below a 7" the bear remarked.
"7 kilos per hour sounds aboot right if we don't want to break this thing," the beaver said.
"But where on Earth do we want to land?" the baboon asked.
"Well I guess we'd pick one of our home countries. Do we go near the Equator or the poles?" the beaver asked.
"I thought you were an expert in spaceflight?" the baboon asked.
"Well, teleporting this way is a big difference between the way we used to do it." the beaver replied.
"Does your country even have a space program, or do you just piggyback on the Betuland one?" the bear asked.
"At least my country didn't dissolve at the end of the Cold War." the beaver retorted.
"Hey, you don't hear me bragging about how we beat you to the moon." the hawk added.
"Shut your beak, we started that race" the bear cosmonaut shouted.
"How come in regular space we were all awe-struck by the view, but as soon as we go into crazy space we start arguing like a bunch of kids?" the baboon shouted.
"But I AM a kid." I said.
"And oddly, you weren't even involved in the shouting match." the baboon noted. "I say we land wherever we can minimize how much jet lag the crew gets."
"Hey, what does my dad have to do with this?" I asked.
"What do you mean, son?" the hawk asked.
"Unless your name is Jet and you're a bat, I'm not your son." I said sharply.
"Anyway, Since the kid is the most likely to be thrown off by even a few minutes of space travel, II vote we choose an isolated beach on the island of Arboria Ferra." the baboon said.
"I agree. So open up a portal to radio that decision back and let's go home." the hawk said.
With that decision in place the rest of the trip went very smoothly. With a sudden jolt of gravity we returned to solid ground and I exited the hatch. How the rest of the crew returned to their homelands I wasn't quite sure. I was, after all, the first to get off. Besides, it is harder to see the world as individual countries anymore once you have seen it from space. To think, I have seen it from space firsthand. Or I guess in my case, firstwing.