The Valleys – Jaak’s House
Jaak lay in his bed. He tossed and he turned. He stared at the ceiling. He stared at the wall. It was very late, long after midnight, however no matter how hard he tried to fall asleep, he remained wide awake, his head full of thoughts, memories and images.
Aoraki – Committee of Resource Allocation – just over a year ago…
Eliza pulled out from the underground carpark beneath the Committee of Resource Allocation building, where she worked as personal assistant to the General Secretary of CoRA. She drove around the block to the back of Aoraki Junior High School, where she knew Jaak would be playing basketball with his friends, while he waited for her to finish work. As she pulled up she honked the horn a couple of times to attract Jaak’s attention. He gave her a wave and was soon gathering his bag and saying good bye to his friends.
Jaak: See ya tomorrow Diets!
Dieter: Laters Jaak!
Jaak: Hiya Mom! Whoo! These new basketball boots are awesome! I beat Dieter three games to two!
Jaak paused and laughed
…but then he does have this habit of stopping to chase his tail every few minutes!
Eliza: Hey Jaakie! Glad to hear you had a good time. We need to stop by the mall canal on the way home – I need to pick up a few things and you can get a hair cut, you’re starting to look like a mop head!
Jaak: Awww Moooom! I don’t need one yet – I can still see… mostly.
Mother and son continued to exchange banter regarding the pros and cons of needing haircuts as they drove on though the busy evening rush. As they approached the central mall canal intersection, the light was already beginning to fade and the misty fog that had been hanging around all day was beginning to thicken. A bus began to make its turn in front of them.
Eliza: Well its too long and I say you need a hair cut…
What happened next became one of those blurred mixed up kind of memories, being hard to know exactly what happened when. All Jaak could remember was the sound of screeching tyres – the car sliding across the wet road and a sickening thump as the driver’s side of the car slammed hard into the right hand side of the bus.
Aoraki – Aoraki City Hospital – several days later
The last few days had been a blur. Initially Jaak stayed the first few days with Dieter’s family until his Dad arrived. The bad weather had closed in over the mountains, which had delayed all the flights from the valleys for three days.
Altai walked wearily down the corridor from the ICU. Jaak had gone to one of the vending machines for a snack, while his Dad was in yet another meeting with the doctors. Altai met Jaak and motioned him over. They walked over to the waiting area outside the ICU and sat on one of the plastic bench seats, the kind that public buildings seem to have an over-abundance of.
Jaak: What’d they say Dad? Is she gonna be OK?
Altai was faced with one of the hardest and worst things a person ever has to do. Tell a family member that another member of their family has died.
Altai: Well… as you know, Mom has a really bad injury to her head.
The Doctors have said that that her brain has died. The ventilator is only keeping the rest of her body functioning, but there is nothing more that they can do. It’s time us to let her go.
Aoraki – Church of Saint Felix
The church. The service. The flowers – white lilies. The people with well meaning words. The cemetery.
Feelings of loss, pain and guilt.
Eliza: Well its too long and I say you need a hair cut…
Tenzing: Still wearing those city foosball boots Jaak? Hasn’t anyone told you? Snow leopard feet are natural snow-shoes!
Dieter: Arrrwoooof!! Jaak! Where you been?
Jaak: Aww Dieter! I’m so glad to see you – anyone actually – you would not believe how backward they are up here! I just had to climb a freaking mountain to get some phone service!
Suddenly the image of Dieter flickered, and he disappeared from the screen…
Layan: I am Layan – you can call me – Layan…
… Did you manage to get any Tet-Net signal?
How about you try that signal on your phone again?
This one stone releases enough energy to power this entire station … This my boy, is a cyan stone. They are mined exclusively right here in the valleys – nowhere else. In fact, you know those Tets up there in orbit? That’s how they are powered.
A well aimed spit wad hit the back of his head.
Thar: Thee three! Oot!
Ounce: YOU’RE ROAD-KILL LITTER-BOY!!
Layan: What brings you up here again on this fine snowy day?
Jaak suddenly found himself again stumble-tumbling all of his pent up words out to Layan – like the sudden torrent of water and debris released from a breached beaver dam in the spring thaw.
Mom’s accident. Moving to the valleys. Leaving his friends behind. The difficultly of adjusting to life in the valleys. Feeling cut off from the modern world. Finding it hard to make new friends in the valley. The school bus. Thar. The spit-wad boys.
Jaak: Layan? Could you help me to make a stone powered generator?
… I wonder if my Dad will be ok about that…?
Layan: Oh, I think you should be safe with the donkey engine, it is not exactly new technology is it?
Layan: OK! Now let’s give ‘er some steam!
Jaak: Whoohooo! It’s working!
Altai: One rule! Don’t blow yourself up! …and don’t let Layan blow himself or anyone else up either!
Altai: I think I know where to go. Gazza’s Gas and Grease.
Skinny boy: Hullo.
Even though they had only just met, something about Tag … immediately clicked. Jaak liked him.
Altai: … I wonder if we could hook you up to the alternator – we could use a giant hamster wheel!
Tag: Aww! I’m no rodent!
Everyone laughed – especially Jaak. He felt the happiest he had been since coming to the valleys, he now had a friend in the valleys similar to his own age – albeit a very excitable and bouncy one.
Hanne: Wait – Jaak? Jaak – full name Pukajaak, formerly of Aoraki, but now the famous resident steampunk engineer of the snow leopard valleys – and friend of Dieter?
Jaak: Wa.. What? B-but how do you know who I am?
Hanne: I am Dieter’s older sister! He talks about you – all – the – time!
Jaak: Layan? … Do you really think I could be a space engineer?
Layan: And why not?
Your Dad was one – – as I still am.
Jaak: But…but… that can’t be right – my Dad’s a mining engineer!
…and how can you be a space engineer?
Layan: Yes – he was indeed a space engineer and a highly skilled one, who worked with me on the original development team that designed and built the Tets.
I was the one who originally discovered how to harness the special properties and powers of the cyan stones and it was me that designed the stone reactors that power the core of the Tets today.
I am the Chief Designer.
Your Dad’s story is a longer one to tell …
Layan: Well? Do we have our numbers?
Altai: … a potential anomaly … I recommend that we re-run the program.
Layan: We run with the numbers we’ve got.
Altai: CHIEF! ENERGY SPIKE AT 75% – RECOMMEND EMERGENCY SHUTDOWN!
Layan: Your Dad took it badly. He felt he was responsible…
The ultimate responsibility however was mine – I made the decision to proceed.
I moved back here to the valleys and set up the remote monitoring station … this was not without controversy, and there were many heated discussions and debates at the gatherings – your Dad being one of the most vocal against.
What I really think is that he just wanted to forget.
Altai: Some people say the beavers are a pest … but they have been here long before the snow leopards ever came to the valleys … they have just as much right to be here as anyone. They – are part of the valleys, part of the culture.
Jaak: Just like some people live in the city, and some live here in the valleys.
Layan told me you were a space engineer. He told me you worked for him at CaSA.
He told me about the explosion.
Altai: PJ – I’m sorry about your mom. I’m sorry we didn’t make it work, and I’m sorry I didn’t make more effort to see you more as you were growing up.
Dad – 101? I sucked at it.
Jaak kinda forgot to mention to his Dad that his friend was Dieter, and that his friend was a hunde.
Jaak: C’mon Dieter – com’n meet my Dad.
Dieter leapt up and started to enthusiastically sniff Altai all over – finally giving Altai one long lolling lick up the side of his face.
Managing to hold his composure, … Altai simply stood, nodded and gave his face a surreptitious wipe.
Tag: You promise he won’t eat me?
Dieter: Tag! You’re it!
Tag: Hey Dieter – I’m here. I’m sorry you got stuck.
Hanne: Aroohrumph! You boys are all the same – can’t keep your whiz-sticks zipped for longer than 5 minutes!
Layan: There was one tube in particular that I found as a boy – it led into a small cave deep underground. That is where I found my first cyan stone … only someone very small and skinny – well like you actually – could ever get in there.
Tag: If I found it – I bet I could get in there – I can get into places where no one else can!
Jaak: I wonder if we could get in there – its a pretty small opening…
Jaak shone his torch around the small cave and back to the opening where they had just come from – and there it was, scratched in white chalk on the rock wall:
LAYAN WAS HERE – AGE 12 ¾
Cyan stones. Not just one or two. Not even hundreds. All around the cavern there were thousands upon thousands of stones, smooth and round, big ones, small ones, along with sharp formations of blue crystals.
Jaak: Bugs. Big bugs.
Layan: Three? You found… …three!? …how…? …where? That’s… that is, unheard of – that’s incredible!
… if you find a stone outside of the established mines, then the rules state that you are allowed to keep it.
Dieter: Are they magic?
Layan: Magic? Hmm. Well they certainly are mysterious.
… or were they created and left behind – and if so why and by whom?
Several moments passed. It was as if Ounce was undergoing some kind of internal conflict. He screwed up his face and his whiskers twitched. Part of him badly wanted to teach the squirt a lesson, but another stronger part wanted to recoil from him.
Tag: Did yours jump and get warm?
The stones in their pockets suddenly felt incredibly light, even to the point of being weightless. This weightlessness then spread outwards first to Jaak and Tag who rose slightly out of their seats and then the weightlessness spread to the bus itself.
Time seemed to slow. The trajectory of the bus through the air slowed.
The bus began to spin very slowly in the air. It did not dive directly downwards, but continued to spin slowly in a graceful arc out over the gully below. The bus then gradually lost height and gently flumped into a deep drift of snow coming to rest almost at the bottom of the hill.
Jaak: The thing is…
…that when the bus left the road, both Tag and me agree, that our stones definitely did something. They felt lighter – that made us feel lighter – and we think it made the bus lighter too, just long enough for it to spin around and land again without anything bad happening.
Tag: I dunno why I stuck my elbow out – I just did it. It was like at that moment, I just felt really strong – but without needing to actually do anything more.
Grandpa Snow carefully took the two stones one in each paw weighing them carefully. Then with a slight movement of his wrists, the stones began to rise and fall in graceful circular arcs as if he were juggling them – but now without actually touching them. He kept this up for a minute or so, moving his paws in different ways in a range of different patterns.
Grandpa Snow: The valley snow leopards have known about the stones found and mined here in the valleys for many generations.
Your stones are indeed very interesting… Stones do often behave differently for each person holding them.
Those truly versed in stone-lore are few and far between and much of the old knowledge has been lost. There are however stories that have been passed down through the generations.
There was one story in particular… whispers and rumours swirled for years that they had found a large cavern, one that was full of glowing cyan stones and surrounded by bright blue crystals.
So where exactly did you find these stones?
Tag: The blue cavern. It’s real. We’ve been there. That’s were we found the stones.
Grandpa Snow: Shells you say? Bug shells?
Holy excretumus! The stories must be true!
The old legend tells the story that many generations ago, an ancient race of nomadic inter-galactic bug like creatures once colonised and roamed the valleys here on Cyanos.
They came out at night swarming from every crack and fissure and devoured all the living vegetation that they could find – trees, plants, crops, everything. Eventually, they were forced to leave and find another suitable planet to continue feeding their voracious appetites.
Jaak: Eggs. They might be fossilised bug eggs.
Altai: It is possible – their last clutch of eggs were left untended, they were changed over a long period of time by the planet’s core energy. Over time the eggs may have absorbed enough of this energy to become petrified into stones, but also to have retained that concentrated energy within them.
My advice is to keep the stones secret.
Deep within Big John’s Mine, an overhead timber support beam in one of the mine’s tunnels gave an almighty crack and started to bow under the weight of the rock ceiling.
Tag: Um… Altai? I can get in. I know how to get into the back of the mine.
Altai: So this cave and entrance you found, on the old lava field next to the river – do you think you could find it again?
As before just like the first time, there was nothing for Jaak to do but wait.
And again look at the huge exoskeleton corpus bugaarium shells – and wonder, and gaze at the soft blue glow of the myriad of cyan stones.
Jaak had been waiting patiently for Tag to return. He had drifted off into a pleasant daydream mesmerised by the soft blue glow of the cyan stones surrounding him. Words began to form in his mind.
Surrounded by the light of cyan
Tri-harmonic vibrations of rhythmic energy combines
A pulse that beats – a power from core deep
Transforms that which is ordinary into new form
Drives away darkness, danger and fear
Floats lighter than air through space and through time
Three together are strong – apart they are weak
Unite all and rest, to stand against those opposed
For therein lies victory…
Both the stone in Jaak’s pocket and all those around him pulsed and glowed brightly.
Much, much later…
The sun was just beginning to peep over the valley ridges, when finally Jaak drifted off to sleep.
The sun would soon find the chink in the curtains.
End of Part Two