Dorad Elo stared blankly through the Tumi’s windshield, looking out at the endless void of stars as many thoughts coursed through his mind. He knew no other human down below had this level of transportation, and probably wouldn’t for the next few centuries. Up here, he was alone. On one hand, it was nice to reflect in this silence, just sit back and enjoy the view while nothing could hurt him. But on the other, it often left Dorad without much of a purpose, outside of whatever the Custodian called him for. Sometimes he wished for something to shoot with his weapons, but knew it’d be pointless to waste ammunition at this distance.
The fire that took his hometown blocked little before then, except for his tutelage under Huayna Capac, the previous Great Inca who introduced him to this spaceship in the first place. And of course, Celt, his long-lost husband whom he’d last heard pining over one dream: To one day be able to fly.
Yet Dorad Elo knew that Celt Kardiae was dead. He’d seen the way that one Spaniard shot him in the side of the head, while their burning house singed off one half of Dorad’s face. And since he couldn’t save Celt from dying, that alone motivated Dorad to at least save Athanaos’ wife in his stead.
As he glanced at a navigation screen depicting a better view of Earth than the windshield showed, Dorad also found himself surprised how small everything looked up here in orbit. Going by Muran’Kel’s computer records and what Esteban’s team said, it was a wonder how they managed to cross half the world in a matter of months, on foot or with the Golden Condor. Then again, he was happy they could, for the world was often a dangerous place for normal men to travel.
If Dorad had not preserved Muran’Kel to become what she is now, who knew what would have happened to her husband or son? Would Athanaos have simply died? Would Esteban’s team have even made it to Kumlar at all?
“No, I am taking too much for granted,” Dorad muttered to himself. “They are quite capable either way. It’s not for me to decide, I am only an enforcer.”
He sighed, glancing up at the stars. As his own painful memories continued to surface, though his eyes were still artificial, that didn’t stop his tears from flowing.
“What’s wrong, Dorad Elo?” Dalán’s exotic voice interrupted him. “Is something bothering you?”
Sniffling, he confided in his helper, “Just memories. I miss Celt.”
And Dalán softly answered, “Ah, yes. Your dead husband.”
“Right,” Dorad cringed, not liking his helper’s bluntness.
“Forgive me for oof-ending you, Dorad,” she pushed. “I wish I could ease your troubles, but my abilities are...lim-it-ehd.”
“I know,” Dorad nodded. Then, as his optics panned down to Earth, he asked, “What would Huanya Capac say? He always had some advice in times like these.”
“I do not know,” Dalán replied. “Information on such matters is beyond my pro-gram-ing.”
“I thought as much,” Dorad admitted. Then a thought crossed his mind, “He’s quite the prophet, that I know for certain.”
But Dalán remained silent.
Realizing quickly what situation he was in, Dorad Elo then cleared his throat and commanded, “Dalán, set course for the city of Tumbes. I...doubt there’s much left for me to return home to, but it’s still worth a look.”
“Con-formed. Stand by for re-entry mah-noo-vers,” the helper pinged as the Tumi began to tilt back toward the Earth.
Dorad smirked, finding a strange joy in his helper’s quirky speech inflection.
The golden shuttle soared down into the atmosphere, following a sweeping course across Peru, high enough that the locals below couldn’t see it well. Out of all the places Dorad Elo had flown, this country was particularly special to him, being the place of his birth. And the birthplace of the Incas.
He glanced out the starboard side of the windshield, noticing the Nazca plateau. Dorad could almost see the Golden Condor docked inside one of the petroglyphs. He almost wanted to land there himself just for kicks, but knew his destination was elsewhere.
Then, around five minutes later, the Tumi approached the coastal Inca town of Tumbes, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. Most of the buildings were destroyed or damaged, with little left intact.
Dorad Elo sighed, “Just as I feared. Nothing but ruins. My hometown is destroyed. Her...hometown.”
But Dalán countered, “I detect life signs below, and none of them are hostile.”
As she reported this, green blips pulsed on the windshield, each marking the few undamaged buildings below. Dorad’s single remaining eyebrow perked at this, and he asked, “Dalán, how...how long was I away?”
Dalán replied in her usual computerized flatness, “By standards of secondary calendar, it is the month of September, year 1533. Last known event: Rescue of human ‘Muran’Kel’ in 1528. seven years after the Child of the Sun’s evacuation from this site. Exact date unknown.”
“So...I’ve been gone for nearly six years?!” Dorad gasped. “How do you know all that?”
And Dalán answered, “I have received historical records from our visit in Kumlar.”
“Right,” Dorad Elo bowed his head, “I must have been occupied longer than I thought.” Then, pressing another question, he asked, “What about Huayna Capac?”
One of the holographic monitors showed the face of an ancient Inca man, and the helper replied, “Unfortunately, on June 21st, 1526, the great Inca died of smallpox on the shore of Lake Titicaca. He has since been replaced by one of his two sons, data on which is currently unavailable.”
“I see,” Dorad sighed, “Well, I guess I’d better see what’s left of this place.”
The Tumi swooped in over the town, approaching a large building around a kilometer from the town and on the border of a nearby, smaller village, with a clear path leading between them. He landed his ship a few meters from the building, but as he stepped out, it dawned on Dorad Elo what this was.
Out of curiosity, he stepped through an archway into a familiar-looking courtyard. He recognized the style immediately, but compared to Muran’Kel’s idyllic holographic simulation, the real thing was in a sad state of repair. Chunks of the parapets were blown away, the walls scorched black by fire. Papers and other items were strewn about, no doubt by people who’d left in a hurry.
Then, carefully reaching behind his orichalcum half-mask, Dorad felt for a series of small, hidden buttons set into the material, and toggled through a series of wavelengths in his optics, finding a strange pattern on short-range X-ray. The stone had been cracked by a force too precise to come from a cannonball, otherwise there would be more cracks and loose bricks. And though Dorad knew Mu weaponry when he saw it, there was no telltale sign of molten stone here either.
But, knowing now was not the time for sightseeing, Dorad Elo switched back to human sight, turned around and left the way he came, though he made sure to log this observation in his report.
When he left, Dorad was startled to see two men in Inca attire waiting for him, a guard holding a long spear, and an old man that looked to be the village elder.
The latter greeted him, “Good day. Are you the one who came in this golden ship?” he pointed to the Tumi.
“Yes,” Dorad replied, “My name is Dorad Elo, I...was a High Priest who used to live here, as did some friends of mine.”
The elder processed this, trying to remember, then he gasped, “Oh! You were the great Inca’s pupil in Cuzco, yes? You might not remember me, but I am Quataymoc, wise man of this village.” He smiled, “I remember when I served with the Council, and Huayna Capac. He always seemed to know the future.”
Dorad nodded, “Yes. I...gather he is no longer with us?”
Quataymoc reluctantly nodded, “Yes, that is true, I’m afraid. The council was never the same without either of you.”
Dorad could sense his sadness, and cleared his throat, “What has happened in my absence? Last I was here, this village was under attack, hence...this mask.” He gestured to his face.
“Little of note, sir,” the guard replied. “Great Atahualpa has been in a heated conflict with Lord Pizarro, but things have been relatively quiet here. We have been trying to hold out on our own, but things have not been easy.”
“I suspected as much,” Dorad nodded with a reluctant smile. Then he breathed deeply and added, “Does the name ‘Celt Kardiae’ mean anything to you? I came...to pay my respects to him.” He pointed up a long road, “We lived up there, in the village.”
“Oh...I don’t quite recall,” answered Quataymoc with a slightly frightened look, and Dorad could sense the implications right away.
Then the guard offered, “We can take you there, if you wish.”
“Please do,” Dorad nodded again, then began to follow them up the path.
As they walked, Quataymoc asked, “Tell me, what has happened to the great scholar Athanaos? The Council has been hoping he and his family are all right.”
The guard added, “They’ll certainly be pleased to know you’re not dead, if I may be so bold!”
Dorad had a lump caught in his throat, knowing he’d sworn to the secrecy of Mu. Trying to suppress it, he answered, “I can say with certainty that Athanaos and his son are perfectly fine. They’ve...both been on a great adventure around the world, as have I.”
“Interesting,” answered Quataymoc as he glanced back at the Tumi.
They arrived at a war-torn village of stone, many of the thatched roofs scorched and burned off. Dorad Elo could already picture this place on fire as it was when he first left it all those years ago.
“It looks like the Spaniards have already been here,” he winced, “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since I was there.”
“Yes,” the first guard explained, “We were planning to hide here and retreat into the Andes mountains by nightfall, for we heard soldiers are coming back this evening.”
Dorad looked up at the sky, noticed it was late morning, and smirked, “Well, it looks like you have plenty of time to wait for that.”
“Would you care to join us?” asked the old man. “With a vessel such as yours, perhaps we could stand a chance against those soldiers?”
The temptation was promising, for he had no active mission for the time being. But he knew far more than any of these people did, and the hidden regret of running away from this village while it was under attack ate at his mind.
As he stared at the various villagers standing in the square, all staring at him, Dorad answered, “I’ll...think about it.”
Quataymoc added, “About the one you call Celt...” he hesitated, “I will...I am not about...”
Too overcome with grief, Dorad sighed, “Don’t finish that, I can already tell,” then changed the subject, “May I visit the temple?”
“This way,” the guard pointed to a building larger than the rest. “This is one of the few places those...Spaniards didn’t attack.”
“That’s fortunate,” Dorad nodded.
And they showed him to a huge stone building. Inside was an enormous chamber with a stone altar, thick with offerings of food, ornaments, and other sacrificed items, all set before a huge relief of Viracocha, the creator god.
Dorad fished a simple gold ball from his belt pouch, and set it on the altar. Then, he knelt before it, bowed his head, and prayed, “O Viracocha, great creator, I have been on a long journey across many great lands, and have returned home to seek your blessing. My dear Celt Kardiae’s life was taken from this world by the ones who invaded this village, and I fled to save my own life and that of Muran’Kel’s before a dangerous fire could take my life as well. I wish only for your assurance that Celt’s death was not in vain, and that he may find peace among our ancestors.”
When he stood again, Dorad noticed something about the golden orb that was not there when he set it down. He knew by its weight that the ball was indeed made of gold, and not orichalcum, so he was sure that this was no trick of electronics or holography.
And yet, as he stared, the ball seemed to hover about a foot off the altar, and an image swirled into focus inside it. Dorad leaned closer, and gasped when he realized what it was. It was the face of his mentor, Huayna Capac, a royal man aged, yet wizened with years of experience. The same face he’d seen on the Tumi’s display.
Dorad looked side to side to be sure he was alone, then a voice spoke to him, more into his mind than through sound, “Ah, Dorad Elo, my favorite pupil! How nice it is to see you after all these years!”
Dorad flinched, having not heard his real name spoken in a long time. “Yes...it has been a long time. But how...how are you talking to me?”
Huayna Capac smiled as he answered, “I heard your prayer, so I came to speak to you. Don’t squander this opportunity, for I cannot remain for too long.”
“Right,” Dorad nodded. “Is...Celt safe where you are?”
“Why, El Dorado,” Huayna Capac seemed to joke with his alias, “The answer is much simpler than you think!”
Slightly miffed by such a cryptic phrase, Dorad pressed, “What do you mean, great lord?”
Huayna Capac smiled, and answered, “For some, the harsh truth of reality can be too much for a man to face, and their perception of that reality becomes their haven. Which did you return to find, Dorad Elo?”
Dorad Elo thought this over, his green artificial eyes darting back and forth. Those words rang a lot of bells in what he ran from all those years ago. Then he took a deep breath, and replied, “I came because I thought...my husband was gone.”
“And is that what you found?” Huayna Capac asked like a knowing grandfather. “Things always hide beyond what the eyes can see.”
Suddenly, things clicked, and Dorad answered, “Then...I suppose I should look more closely at the village. I didn’t think there was anyone here until the Tumi told me.”
“Perhaps you should,” the old Inca nodded.
Dorad bowed again, then replied, “Thank you for your kind words, Huayna Capac.”
He coughed as the ancient Inca seemed to slowly fade, and Dorad recalled something as he asked, “But wait, I have one more question!”
“Yes?” asked Huayna, his face more opaque again.
“I...saw that this village has already been attacked once by the conquistadors, and the people are about to retreat into the mountains before they return. They asked me to use the Tumi to help them fight back. What do you suggest I do about this, great Inca?”
Huayna Capac’s face turned to a frown as he continued, “I am sorry, Dorad Elo, but I have already foreseen what these savages will do, and I know they will not stop, even for your gifts of Mu. Some events simply cannot be changed.”
Dorad bowed his head, suppressed his frustration, and replied, “I understand, great mentor.”
“But what can be changed is yourself, and your own destiny, El Dorado,” Dorad watched Huayna Capac smirk with that teasing nickname, “And always remember: Inti shall be with you during your coming trials.” The image grew faint as he finished, “Go now, your friend may be waiting!”
“Goodbye, Huayna Capac,” Dorad bowed again as his mentor’s image disappeared from the golden ball, which in turn dropped to the altar again.
Slightly overwhelmed but nonetheless satisfied, Dorad Elo stepped out of the temple and into the village, eyeing the undamaged buildings towards the center of the square.
Some of the villagers were surprised to see him, particularly his half-golden face, but Quataymoc was waiting for him.
He asked with a warm, caring smile, “Well, friend, did Viracocha hear your prayers?”
Dorad hesitated, then answered, “Yes, but he didn’t tell me much. Except that I should look around this village more carefully.”
The elder thought on this, and nodded. “Come, then. Let me show you,” beckoning Dorad with one hand.
The spacefaring Inca observed the half-dozen remaining huts in Tumbes, checking each visual frequency his optics could show, but little was apparent.
Then, remembering what he was here for, Dorad turned to the elder and asked, “And about Celt Kardiae? Well...Viracocha never really gave me an answer about him.”
Hearing it a second time, and recalling other details, Quataymoc turned around and gasped, “Wait, that sounds familiar...Yes! I remember that name!”
“You do?” Dorad asked, almost in disbelief.
“Forgive me, my lord. I should have noticed when you first arrived!” The elder pleaded.
“It’s fine,” Dorad insisted. “But please, what has become of him? Where was he buried?”
Still slightly nervous about disturbing this newcomer, the elder pointed to one of the still-standing huts and beckoned, “He’s inside that hut. Follow me, and I will take you to him.”
Dorad Elo looked at it, noticing he’d overlooked it before, even with his optics. “Please do,” he requested, thinking of his mentor’s words.
Dorad Elo froze in his tracks when he entered the building. Seated before a worktable was a man dressed in a thick, fleecy jacket and long blue pants, nowhere near the kind of garb the natives wore. Yellow cloth chevrons on his shoulders signified some sort of military status, but none in the room understood what army he was from. His short, frizzled hair was the color of straw: bright but not quite blonde. A pair of thin goggles sat nestled in it, their simple lenses catching the surrounding light.
He was apparently drawing something on a long scroll of parchment, but at this distance, Dorad couldn’t tell what.
Then Quataymoc spoke up, “Excuse me, my friend. We have a visitor today!”
The man stopped drawing and looked up. Then it was his turn to gasp as he got to his feet.
“Celt?!” Dorad finally gasped with a shudder in his voice. “You’re...not dead?”
Noticing an advantage, this figure smiled and answered, “Yes, I am Celt Kardiae. “If you don’t believe me, come see for yourself!” He beckoned with his right arm.
Dorad Elo stepped forward, courageously removed his right glove, and rubbed his hand against Celt’s face, Dorad slowly gaped, “Your face...it’s...”
“Take your time, savor it!” Celt teased.
“It’s...so smooth! Like a baby bird!” Dorad continued, heavily blushing now. But then, looking down, he added, “I haven’t felt a face that soft in a long time.”
“Awww, come here you!” Celt happily replied, hugging his partner on the spot. Quataymoc could only smile at this surprise reunion.
As Dorad Elo returned the embrace, tears of joy spilled from his eyes as he sobbed, “All these years, I never thought I’d see a day where my husband lives again!”
“Be glad you have, I missed you too!” Celt nodded as he rubbed his mate’s dark hair. “Mmm, you know, I heard many legends about a man called El Dorado. Do you know why they call him that?”
“Actually, I made that up to distract the--” but Celt interrupted Dorad.
Then Celt began shedding tears as well, “It’s because I’d travel to the other end of the world for the hope of ever seeing you again!”
They hugged even tighter, feeling each other as if it were the first time ever. At first, Dorad didn’t want it to end, but questions mounted in his mind, and he backed up.
“Please tell me, Celt,” he asked, “How...how did you survive that gunshot?”
Celt pointed to a bandaged wound on his right temple, and laughed, “You mean this? Oh, that bastard who shot me apparently didn’t know how to aim! It was easy for the people here to remove the bullet,” Then he coughed, adding, “Though, it did put me in a coma for a few years. Got a little twitch in the arms from time to time, but not much else.”
“I see,” Dorad admitted as he backed up.
Then Celt pointed to Dorad, “I should ask the same of you, old boy! Where did you get that fancy mask? Some ceremony in Cuzco?”
Dorad stroked his half-golden face and explained, “This...is my face. What’s left of it after that fire and the man who blinded me.”
“Oh...” Celt remarked, disturbed now. “Can you...still see me?”
Dorad smirked and replied, “These may not be the eyes I had before, but I still recognize you...my one and only!”
Celt observed glowing green spheres moving back and forth in his husband’s eye sockets.
Then Celt replied, “Well, it does suit you. Makes you look...tougher! Like a strong warrior,” He tapped Dorad on the shoulder, “and so handsome, too!”
“Thank you,” the masked Inca blushed again. He cleared his throat and changed the subject, “So...what were you doing while I was away?”
As Quataymoc stood aside to make room, Celt walked over to a hidden metal ring set into the stone floor. “Look at this,” He requested, lifting up a wooden trapdoor.
Dorad followed his lead down a simple wooden ladder, into an underground room. Sketches and drawings of aircrafts, gliders, parachutes, and balloons lined almost every wall, the rest taken up by a worktable and pieces of wood and cloth.
“You know how I always said I wanted to fly?” Celt asked. “Well, I spent a lot of time trying to do that very thing.”
Dorad looked around, eyeing the remarkably well-researched flight concepts. “Impressive,” he said.
“Most of the time, I hid myself here, experimenting. But sometimes, I practiced some of these ideas off some of the low terraces and mountains,” Celt explained. “All while making sure not to get hurt too badly, of course.”
Dorad thought about some of the citizens’ earlier requests, and asked, “And let me guess: You wanted to help defend this village with these vehicles?”
“That was one of my ideas, yes,” Celt nodded. Then he seemed to turn sad as he continued, “But...over these past few years, I never got very far with these materials. I think only two out of these past dozen experiments succeeded.” He pointed to a hot-air balloon and a glider. “It’s strange, I can’t quite place how I got so good at flying, I just seem to...know.”
Dorad’s brow furrowed as he remarked, “Sounds like that bullet might have shifted something in your mind.”
Celt chuckled, “Maybe? I’ve thought about that!” then looked at his husband, and asked, “So where were you in all this time? Everyone said that you ran away when...that strange woman did.”
Dorad was afraid to answer, but he figured his husband should know above all others. “Do you remember the legend of Inti’s Blade?”
Celt pondered those words, then remembered, “Yes, I think you told me about it, back when you...didn’t have that mask.”
“Well, it’s true. I’ll show you,” Dorad pointed to the ladder.
The group trudged back up the path to Athanaos’ abandoned house, and Celt’s jaw dropped when he saw the orichalcum vehicle next to it.
“You came back in THAT THING?!” he gasped.
Dorad explained in embarrassment, “Before...all this happened, Huayna Capac showed me a cave in Macchu Picchu,” he gestured to the mountains, “He said this vehicle was handed down from our ancestors. I think he gave it to me because he knew the Spanish were coming. I was told to tell no one about it back then, but I felt you of all people should know, Celt.”
Celt, still flabbergasted, asked, “I don’t believe this! I spend all this time trying to build flying machines with cloth and wood, and there just happened to be a golden machine hidden in the mountain?!”
“Even I did not know this!” Quataymoc added.
“I don’t think anyone knew except the great Inca,” Dorad related.
Then, as he looked up at the sky, realizing quickly that twilight was coming, and one of the messengers reported, “Sir! Horses are approaching from the south!”
“Sooner than we thought,” grumbled Quataymoc.
Now Dorad was surprised when Celt lowered his head, “My plan is ruined. Now I don’t have enough time to build enough gliders to surprise those conquistadors. It’s going to happen all over again!”
Those last words stung Dorad Elo like an insect bite to his forehead, and he glanced over at the Tumi once more.
Realizing a chance, he stated, “I have an idea.”
“What’s that?” Celt asked, Quataymoc growing nervous by the second.
“We’ll take them by surprise,” answered Dorad, “Do you have any aircraft that’s functional?”
“One hot-air balloon, but it’s not very big,” Celt answered.
Dorad considered his options, then directed, “You go up in that while I defend the village with my ship, and we’ll take them on from the air,” then he turned the elder and continued, “Quataymoc, evacuate as many villagers as you can. This way, they can’t hurt any of us as easily. Not after what happened.”
“Very well, I will inform our leader, curaca Chilimaza,” the elder advised before walking back to the village.
“And one more thing, Celt,” Dorad added as he reached for his holster and pulled out his golden weapon, “Take this, it will help you.”
Celt turned the gun in his hands, and asked, “What is this thing, some kind of golden flintlock?”
“It was made by the same...people that built my ship,” Dorad explained, “It fires bolts of energy that temporarily paralyze the target, rather than kill it.” He pointed to a glowing green arch halfway along the barrel, “There’s even a scope here.”
“Scope?” Celt laughed. “Why would I need that? I’ve shot guns like this before, how hard could it be?”
But as Celt pointed the pistol at the ground to see what would happen, the barrel’s angle happened to lead to Celt’s right foot. When he fired, it was like his foot had fallen asleep, except he couldn’t wake it up.
Dorad noticed this and groaned, “And THAT’S why you need the scope! Ugh, that’s going to last for probably thirty minutes!”
Stamping his paralyzed foot, Celt stuffed the pistol into one of his pockets, but tried to laugh it off, “Ah, a sleepy foot is no loss!” He seemed to wink as he added, “Hehe, I forgot how cute you look when you’re worried!”
Dorad Elo just rolled his eyes, then stepped forward. They clasped their hands, and Dorad spoke closely to Celt, “I had a suspicion we might not win this fight, but I know we’ll at least save many lives. That’s all that matters.”
“Why so glum, Golden One?” Celt teased, “It’s you and me against Pizarro’s forces, but together, nobody can break us apart! Not again!”
“You’re right! Let’s do it!” Dorad grinned as he bumped fists with his husband, before tapping his gauntlet to open the Tumi’s cockpit.
Alarmingly, curaca Chilimaza was against Dorad Elo’s idea to flee into the mountains right now. Partly because of a wish to confront Pizarro head-on, but mostly because the chieftain’s wish to stay put until nightfall. For both reasons, he was banking on the hopes of persuading the Spaniards to leave, allowing the villagers time to leave safely with less blood spilled. Quataymoc tried to appeal, but his concerns were shot down. For the time being, no one was going anywhere.
During this conflict, Celt pulled a tarp off his balloon, the only device he’d been able to fly twice without it crashing during his stay here.
Grabbing a flint, a few crude smoke bombs he’d made years back, some arrows and a bow, he dropped these into the balloon’s straw basket, checked the rope tether, then lit the vial of gas he’d suspended below the canopy.
As the balloon slowly rose, Dorad stepped into the Tumi and took off as quietly as possible. He watched through the windscreen as roughly a dozen Spanish soldiers came rumbling up the path from Cuzco, General Pizarro in the lead. Celt worried that he and his husband would stick out like a sore thumb in their jarringly advanced flying machines, but he and Dorad figured it was too late to back out now.
Thinking on the fly, Celt laid low in the basket of his hot-air balloon, observing the events taking place, and looked through the scope, surveying the people below through its green lens.
Then, curaca Chilimaza made his first move, bringing several soldiers out to attack Pizarro’s forces head-on. Miffed at such a retaliation, Pizarro ordered his troops to fire back, and everyone heard the pops and bangs of Spanish firearms soon after, only some of the natives’ arrows and spears hitting their targets.
“Caution: Hostiles dead ahead!” yelped Dalán as she sighted the Spaniards.
Dorad gripped the trigger below the Tumi’s dashboard, waiting for a good opening.
Then, Celt made his move, sighting one soldier carrying a rifle, and fired two pulse rounds at his shoulder. Though only one hit its target, it was enough to make the soldier drop his gun. Another shot in the leg, and the man dropped to the ground, startling Pizarro, and some of the other troops.
Dorad Elo winced as several conquistadors stormed the buildings, pulling out the men, women and children from their hiding places. But just as they prepared to shoot, Dalán highlighted an opening in the crowd, and Dorad unleashed a barrage of plasma bolts, scattering many of the soldiers, and wounding a few.
“What is that light?!” Pizarro demanded.
“The sky is falling!” One of the soldiers shrieked.
Then Pizarro looked back at the natives, and, seeing that his conquest of this city was not going well considering he couldn’t sway the village leader, he ordered his soldiers to fire.
Celt aimed for Pizarro’s body, but his arms were shaking, causing him to miss every shot. Then Dorad maneuvered his ship directly over the fleet, switched his ammunition, and unleashed a flash bomb.
Every soldier and native cringed and screamed at the sudden blinding light, and Celt had to set down his husband’s pistol to cover his eyes. But as the blinding light faded, several natives managed to break free from the Spaniards and run for the edge of the village, hiding behind trees or in other huts.
While Dorad Elo made sure to move his ship out of sight, Celt was stuck where he was in his balloon. And just as he prepared to take another shot at the enemies, a chill ran down his spine when he realized two soldiers were looking straight at him.
One of them reported this to Pizarro, who replied, “Someone is hiding in that craft! Bring it down and apprehend whoever’s inside!”
Celt made hasty shots at those two guards, but suspected the projectiles only grazed their waist or arms. But at that moment, as he threw one of his smoke grenades, Celt flew into a panic, not sure what method to use. Did he have to go up? Should he cut the tether? Blow out the flame to go down? Remove some of the ballast? His still-numb foot didn’t help his situation.
Celt didn’t even notice that, amid the many coughing natives and conquistadors, one of those two mildly stunned men loaded his rifle, and shot the balloon. Dorad Elo felt goosebumps as Dalán marked the falling vehicle along with the man who shot it, while she warned: “Alert: Ally is in danger!”
“No...they won’t take my love again!” he coldly snarled as he repositioned the Tumi. “Not this time!”
And the orichalcum spaceship swooped down, its nose catching the wicker basket as Celt rolled out onto the ship, pistol still in his hand. Dorad slapped the cockpit switch, and Celt climbed inside.
“Whoa, what just happened?” Celt gasped as he tried to catch his breath.
“New passenger detected,” beeped Dalán.
“Take a seat, my love,” Dorad commanded, “There’s a control panel where you are.”
As he tried to make himself comfy in the ship’s passenger seat, Celt noticed a thick panel set against the starboard wall.
“Dalán, activate secondary weapons control,” the pilot ordered his helper.
And the panel hinged toward Celt, a golden joystick deploying from its base, similar to that in the Golden Condor. Celt’s eyes widened as the panel’s large screen lit up, showing a targeting system aimed at the crowd below.
“Change in plans, my love,” Dorad continued. “I don’t fancy killing people, but that monster who shot down your balloon deserves justice. Since you have...less reservations than me, I’ll let you do the honors while I pilot my ship.”
A grin broke across Celt’s face, and he replied, “I’d be delighted!” as he gripped the joystick.
Celt stared as the Tumi’s movements were reflected on-screen, and he thought, “Now where are you, you bastard?” while waiting for a clear shot.
Then Dalán piped up, “Target locked.” And a red reticle shrank around that particular soldier.
Celt squeezed the trigger, and ten plasma bolts flew from the ship’s bow. But the soldier rolled out of the way and took off running east, leaving most of the grass scorched black.
“Blast, that’s too weak,” Dorad grumbled. “Try this, Celt.”
And Celt watched as an icon in the top right corner switched to an arrow with a semicircle at its rear end. Then, Celt fired again, and this time a missile launched from the Tumi, creating an explosion that scattered several soldiers.
“Wow!” Celt remarked. “This ship is amazing! With firepower like this, we could bring down the entire Spanish fleet!”
Dorad glanced at his husband and countered, “Weapons are not to be misused! Do you want to be as bad as they are?”
Celt frowned, but his husband went on, “However, for that idiot who just tried to kill you...I will make an exception!”
And Celt kept his eyes locked on the screen, waiting for another chance to fire. He noticed more Inca soldiers being shot or overpowered by the invaders, and the two men suspected this battle wasn’t going end well.
Then, the helper targeted that soldier once again, who appeared to be trying to retreat for the path.
“Where are you going, coward?” Celt hissed as he reached for the trigger.
Pressing it, this time, a second missile shot straight for the lone conquistador, exploding in a mass of blood and fire as it detonated around him.
Dorad Elo cringed at the sight, but Celt just smiled, replied, “Ahh, that feels much better! I think we gave that man some payback for our injuries, wouldn’t you agree, Dorad?”
Dorad looked again, then admitted, “Yes, we did.”
Pizarro and several soldiers turned around, and the former demanded, “What was that noise?!”
“It looks like that soldier...exploded, my lord!” One of the soldiers insisted.
“How is that possible? We brought no cannons!” another gaped.
But this distraction gave more Inca soldiers a chance to shoot back.
Celt noticed this and laughed, “Those invaders are so clueless! They didn’t even see where those missiles came from!”
“I agree, but they’re probably going to notice if we stay up here any longer,” Dorad advised, “We need to take the fight to them while the civilians have the chance to escape.”
And he tilted the Tumi to land near the east end of the village.
Dorad ordered his helper, “Dalán, initiate surprise maneuver four.”
“Mah-noo-ver four commencing,” the female voice replied. “Pree-pare for ejection.”
“Oh, I didn’t know your ship could talk!” Celt snickered.
“Indeed she can,” Dorad nodded, “I’ll tell you more...when we’re in a safer position.”
With the Tumi now under Dalán’s control, the two men braced themselves as it slowed down, tilted as the cockpit hissed open, and Dorad instructed his husband to follow him down the bow of the ship. There, they slid down it like a ramp, flipped, and dropped like superheroes right into the center of the battle, while the Tumi rerouted itself to the east end of the village.
Celt fired several shots into the group as he fell, though unable to aim at that speed. Then Dorad’s dark green robe fluttered as he landed like Batman, right in front of Pizarro.
“What the Devil?!” the Spanish leader shrieked. “Who are you?”
“The one your people call El Dorado,” Dorad coldly answered, “And he is not happy for what your men have done to these innocent Incas!”
“So...so you’re the one who...” Pizarro stammered.
“We didn’t come for words; we came for vengeance!” Celt yowled as he punched one of the semi-paralyzed soldiers in the face, stealing his rifle. “For trying to break apart our marriage, and ruining my husband’s face!”
“Yes,” nodded Dorad as he brandished his golden stun gun. “Now El Dorado asks you: Will you leave with your troops, or will you risk death at his hands?”
Secretly, the Messenger of Mu felt he was lying through his teeth with that threat, but he hoped the Spanish leader didn’t notice.
“Wait,” Pizarro changed the subject. Then, recalling the ship he’d noticed, he asked, “That...golden ship of yours remind me of that golden bird that ferried a group of children. You wouldn’t happen to know where they went, would you?” as he reached for his sword.
Understanding where the connection was, Dorad firmly replied, “I see no reason to impart such information to you. Besides, you didn’t answer my question.”
“Well,” Pizarro sneered as he reached for his sword. “If that’s the case, then it seems there will be no diplomacy with you, Golden One.”
Celt witnessed this, and grabbed another sword from one of the paralyzed soldiers, tossing it to his husband. Dorad didn’t intend to go this route, but figured Celt had his best interests in mind.
Then, backed by a dozen Inca soldiers, Pizarro and the remaining un-stunned men charged again, swords, arrows, and bullets flying in every direction.
Dorad found himself locked into a duel with Governor Pizarro, slashing and weaving at every possible chance. Dorad feared he would not be able to keep this up for long, having not practiced much with swords.
By contrast, Celt had no qualms about lethally shooting conquistadors, and in fact enjoyed shooting some in the head just to milk more payback out of what they did to him. Though he had to steal more ammo and powder from the others. Dorad decided not to question his husband’s methods, given the circumstances.
As this went on, with the conquistadors focused on the battle, several more villagers and children snuck up the mountain path. The heroes could only watch and hope they’d make it.
Several more Inca civilians and soldiers felt an equal mixture of sympathy and reverence for these two brave men, even the chieftain.
Between blows, Pizarro growled, “Why do you defend these...savages? Have you any idea what that face of yours could be worth?”
“That’s your problem...my Lord,” Dorad mockingly answered while straining to hold back Pizarro’s sword with his own. “To us, Gold has no value, only knowledge does!”
“Then you are as lost as them!” snarled the Spanish leader.
Dorad retaliated by disarming several conquistadors with the stolen sword, then, dropping the blade, shot those same men with his pulse gun, stunning them in the torso and arms and rendering them unable to attack.
But, realizing what was happening, Pizarro responded by jabbing Dorad in the chest with his sword, the blade mere inches from the man’s heart.
“Unnngh!” cringed Dorad as he dropped his gun and stolen sword.
Several Inca men screamed at this turn of events.
Pizarro sneered, “So the man who coats himself in gold cannot even fight with dignity? What a shame, I expected something more...powerful than this!”
“Get away from my husband!” Celt screamed, grabbing Dorad’s pistol.
Flashes of his master’s equal attack on Ambrosius flashed through Dorad’s head, the cruel lack of logic in who could kill who, if at all. And then came his mentor’s words on how some things could not be changed. Did that mean he was destined to die here? Fail in his quest? The thought horrified him.
But Celt aimed the golden pistol at Pizarro’s head and threatened, “Pull that blade out now, or I shoot you with this gun!”
Pizarro, pragmatic as he was, did withdraw his sword, but asked, “What do you plan on doing? You’re outnumbered!”
Celt looked at Dorad, who was trying to put pressure on his wound, and wheezed, “I see that. But you...have no idea how...powerful we really are!”
Since Quataymoc had already escaped with some of the other villagers, chieftain Chilimaza ordered three men to bring Dorad to safety and help treat his wound. Every member agreed.
Taking a chance for distraction, Celt shot Pizarro twice in his left leg with the stun gun.
Suddenly, Pizarro remembered, “Husband, you say?”
Celt nodded, “I remember your men called us both sinners. One of them shot me in the head, blinded my true love,” He smirked, “And yet, we still live!”
“Enough talk!” One of the other conquistadors shouted, already aiming his flintlock.
“No, you don’t!” Celt snarled.
Before the Spaniard could fire, Celt moved fast and smacked the gun out of his hand, half-observing the friendly Incas pulling his husband out of the line of fire.
“Who even are you?” Pizarro demanded; sword pointed at his torso. “Your clothes are not from this country! Where do you come from?”
But Celt just laughed and replied, “Normally, I’d ask you to mind your own business, but invaders such as you seem to not care for respecting peoples’ property! If you must know, where I came from is almost no different than that which is happening now! I think that’s simple enough even...an old BILGE RAT like you can understand!”
Pizarro scowled, taking that response as an insult, and ordered every able man to fire upon this foreigner.
They did, but Celt continued zapping several of them in his path with the stun gun, hoping to join his husband and ensure his safety. With three rounds left, Celt also attempted shooting back with the flintlock, but quickly ran out of ammo, most of his shots ricocheting off their armor.
Then, once Pizarro was in range and the nearest men paralyzed to keep them from shooting, Celt got right in his face with the stun gun and taunted, “Oh, I see how it is: You wanted to find the man who coats himself in gold, but when you find out he doesn’t marry like your people, you try to kill him instead?”
A scowl crossed Pizarro’s face, and he sneered, “Do you not know that homosexuality is a sin?”
“Perhaps to your people,” Celt scoffed, “But I have seen much, as has El Dorado.”
Weakly, Dorad picked up on his speech, and shouted from several feet away, “And no matter how many innocents you may slaughter, the one thing that will never die is our beliefs!”
“Then PERISH!” Pizarro screeched as he drew his sword.
But right on the fly, Celt zapped him in the same arm that held his sword. And to drive it home, Celt jumped into the air, yowling in rage, and punched Pizarro in the face. And with an additional blow to the shoulder, this sent the man falling to the ground, another pulse from the stun gun taking down his right leg, leaving Pizarro nearly paralyzed in every limb, making it almost impossible to stand. Two conquistadors stopped to help him up.
Then, figuring he could not do much more on his own, Celt Kardiae took off running for the village. Suddenly remembering he had one left, Celt lit another smoke grenade and tossed it over his shoulder.
Just before the bomb detonated, as more soldiers took chase, Pizarro screamed at the top of his lungs, “GET THOSE SINNERS! KILL THEM BOTH, NOW!” before being overwhelmed by the ensuing smoke.
The helping Incas brought Dorad Elo into one of the other huts, giving him a place to rest while they searched for a way to clean and protect his wound.
Dorad had to fight a great deal of pain, even with his wound bandaged.
One of the citizens gasped, “I don’t believe this, such a great Inca brought down by Pizarro because of your...”
“Yes, I know,” Dorad cut him off. “It’s terrible.”
Then Celt burst through the door, “Dorad! Are you all right?”
Another Inca advised, “We bandaged his wound, but your husband is very weak.”
Dorad tried to look at his husband and wheezed, “I’m just glad you’re all right!”
“Thank you, Dorad,” Celt smiled as he hugged Dorad where he was. Then he asked, “What should we do now? I paralyzed Pizarro and set off a smoke bomb, but it looks like that won’t hold them long!”
Dorad attempted to consider the outcomes, and settled, “We can’t stay here, they won’t stop until we’re both dead.”
“But where can we go?” Celt asked. “Up into the mountains? Fly somewhere with your vehicle?”
One of the two Incas admitted, “It’s a long journey up to Vilcabamba, that’s where Quataymoc was planning to take us.”
“We don’t have that kind of time, Pizarro already knows too much about us,” Dorad argued as he sat up. Then, wiping off his gauntlet, he paged his ship, “Dalán, initiate emergency evacuation now!” Then he turned to the others and ordered, “Burn Celt’s notes and everything he built.”
“What?” Celt gasped. “Why? Why destroy my--”
Dorad interrupted, “If they get a hold of your talents at flight, who knows what those monsters would do with them?”
“I...see your point,” Celt admitted, scratching the back of his head.
“Understood,” one of the two Incas bowed, before muttering to the second for their plan.
Dorad got to his feet and hugged the wall with the doorway, then ordered, “Wait for the Tumi to arrive, then get in on my signal.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice,” Celt nodded.
They listened for the Tumi’s low hum as it settled on the ground outside, gunshots ricocheting off its surface.
As the windshield hissed open, Dorad looked back at the Incas and concluded, “Thank you for all you’ve done for us.”
“You’re welcome,” the second Inca admitted. “It’s been an honor to protect a messenger of Inti.”
“Now!” Dorad barked to his husband.
In a flash, they burst from the doorway and jumped into the golden ship, its cockpit snapping shut as they took off. Dorad notice faint chips in the windscreen, happy they couldn’t be any further shot at from this distance.
Celt was wondering where they were even going, as the land below grew smaller and smaller. He fought back tears as the hut where he lived began to burn above the dissipating smoke, almost making it look like that fire created the smoke.
All Dorad Elo knew was that they had to get as far away from the conquistadors as possible, hoping those stragglers made it safely up the Andes Mountains. Even Dalán’s scanner couldn’t track them from this distance.
Dorad and Celt were glued to their seats as gravity pushed against them, even with the Tumi’s incredible speed.
But as they cleared the pull of gravity and broke from Earth’s orbit, and the artificial gravity kicked in, Dorad relaxed, opened a small compartment next to the panel, and pulled out a long, blood-stained piece of cloth.
“What is that?” Celt asked.
Dorad softly answered as he handed it to his husband, “It’s the last thing I kept when you were...shot, back then.”
Celt turned it in his hands, and gasped, “My scarf!” as he draped it around his neck.
Dorad smiled, “I always knew it looked better on you!”
Celt sat for a moment, admiring his long-lost garment, then laughed, “I don’t know if I should clean this or not, so many pros and cons.”
Then his husband changed the subject, “Well, what do you think of this ship, Celt?”
Celt glanced out the viewport, suddenly aware of Earth growing smaller and smaller behind them, and he gasped, “I...How did Huayna Capac know this vessel could go this...this far?!”
Dorad shrugged, “I’m not sure myself, all he did was show me where it was.” Then he pointed to the bridge and introduced his helper, “Speaking of, I’d like you to meet my ship’s helper, Dalán! Say hello!”
“Hello!” the helper chirped. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Celt Kah-dee-ay. My pilot has told me so much about you during our ad-ven-tures.”
Celt blushed slightly from her pronunciation of his name, then replied, “Has he? Hehe, well nothing compares to the real thing!”
“My sentiments exactly,” nodded Dorad.
“So, what do you do then, uh...miss?” Celt asked the helper.
Dalán answered, “I manage this vessel, help my pilot aim, and keep him company on our...long voyages together. Most helper constructs of my type are like this.”
Dorad smiled at his already overwhelmed husband, and teased, “There’s a great many things you’ve yet to know from the many years I’ve been without you.”
“I...can see that,” Celt admitted as he slumped back in his chair. Then he changed the subject, “Wait, Pizarro said something about a golden bird and children, didn’t he? What was that all about?”
“Yes, he did,” Dorad admitted, figured there was no harm in revealing this part of his mission.
Punching a few switches and muttering something to Dalán, six images of the Golden Condor and its crew flashed by on the rear control panel.
“Oh...I see,” Celt realized. His mouth creased when it dawned on him on how much better these vehicles looked than the ones he knew how to build. But he simply cleared his throat, “Where do you think they got that one from? And what would children even do with a craft like that?”
“That, I’m afraid, is restricted information,” Dorad countered. “I am under orders not to reveal the whereabouts of the Children of Inti.”
“Why am I not surprised,” Celt sighed.
“Don’t fret,” Dorad countered, “My next mission has yet to commence, and I was planning to return to headquarters anyway.”
“Headquarters?” Celt asked.
“Watch, and I’ll take you there,” Dorad grinned, a smile so wide that Celt felt slightly unsettled by his husband’s excitement.
Then, course locked in by his helper, Dorad pulled back on a switch below the dashboard, and with a few beeps and flashes on the displays, the stars around the ship began to warp.
Celt stared with awe as space began to warp around the ship, propelling it at incredible speeds toward the sun, and whatever mysterious destination Dorad had programmed to find near it.
Dorad began speaking into a hidden transceiver, relaying a message to somewhere far away, “Pilot’s log: Date: Coya Raymi 17-1533. Enforcer Dorad Elo reporting: I have just aided in defending the Inca village of Tumbes from attack by General Pizarro, leader of the conquistadors, though I was unable to defeat their forces, and was forced to retreat to save my own life.
However, this failure was eased by a secondary success: During the fighting, I rescued my husband Celt Kardiae from certain death by the same conquistadors, a man whom I had been led to believe for years was killed; but is simply wounded from a misaimed gunshot. Celt is on board as I speak, and in addition to return to headquarters, I request permission to allow my husband to see this place, at least for the duration of my stay.
Great Lords of Seven, I humbly await your remarks, and dutifully look forward to my next mission. Until the Great Reunion.”
Celt’s jaw dropped when the warp travel ended, for they ended in the vicinity of planet Venus, close enough that he could see the marble-like shapes in its clouds. Then he noticed something flashing on the windscreen, and as the Tumi entered the planet’s orbit, Celt realized they were approaching an enormous, golden structure that orbited the planet.
“If only those children could see this place now,” Dorad muttered to himself.
As the Tumi flew closer and closer to the enormous mothership, Celt realized that the majority of its hull was occupied by a massive dome, which covered what looked like a golden city inside.
“Is that...the City of Gold?” Celt gasped. “No wonder they couldn’t find it! It’s not even on our planet!”
“Something like that, Celt,” Dorad smirked.
The phoenix-shaped mothership seemed to react to their presence, flexing its solar wings as if beckoning the ship closer.
Dorad Elo spent a few seconds chatting with someone over the commlink, asking for entry clearance and other such security details. Then, as the mythical bird eyed the Tumi head-on, a male voice replied, “Spacecraft Tumi, you may land in flight bay two. Welcome home, great Enforcer.”
And Dorad thanked the voice, shifted the control yoke to port, sought one of several glowing chambers just above the phoenix’s head, and shot through a golden tunnel, before finally coming to rest in a huge, glowing chamber marked with strobing lines on its floor.
Dorad helped Celt out of his seat, seeing he was overwhelmed and dizzy from all this, thankful the area was pressurized with air.
The route ahead was confusing for his husband, but Dorad was happy to be back on familiar ground again. Using his security clearance, they arrived at one of several towers inside the enclosed city and ended at an apartment on one of its highest floors.
“Here we are!” Dorad revealed it to his husband. “This is where I live, after all that happened earlier.”
As he took in the modest yet hi-tech apartment, Celt was shocked to the point that he could barely speak, only wanting to find a place to sit down. When he found a comfortable armchair, he looked at Dorad and asked, “Wha...what happens now? And why did you bring me here, of all places?”
Dorad smiled, “Because I figured it might be a nice change of pace for both of us. I’ve been planetside for a while, the Chosen Ones have their own path, and I’m under orders not to interfere with that. But for us, we can do whatever we want out here! You have plenty of space to practice your aeronautics, and I have a ship capable of exploring more than just planet Earth!” He leaned forward, “And believe me, I don’t offer this chance to just anyone!”
But Celt was still overwhelmed at all this, and his husband stepped forward to console him. Celt insisted, “Sorry, I’m going to need a moment to work all this out. This...is a lot to take in!”
Dorad looked toward his bunk at one wall of the room, and suggested, “Well, if that’s the case, I think you deserve a better place to rest than a chair!”
Celt hobbled over to the bed and sat down, surprised by the comfy feeling of its sheets and mattress. Looking up at his golden husband’s face, he noticed a caring smirk as Dorad patted his shoulder.
“You’re not serious...” Celt stammered. “Are you?”
“Why so surprised?” Dorad chuckled as he knelt to embrace his lover, “Up here, no one can judge us for our sexuality! I brought you here so that we could escape such biases, for few cultures on Earth accept what I’ve always felt for you!”
Almost comically, Celt leaned back to the point that he collapsed onto the bed, Dorad falling on top of him. They laughed together for a few seconds, then Celt answered, “You really mean that? Why...I was afraid you’d never ask! There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t think of being with you again!”
Then Dorad jumped to his feet and smirked, “Well, let me change clothes and find you some clean garments, and then we can...finally grant our wishes!”
They spent an entire night enjoying each other’s company, sleeping together in a harmony that neither party thought could ever take place since that incident. Dorad Elo knew eventually he’d have another assignment, but figured that wouldn’t be for a while. To have his lover back was enough, though he secretly wondered what would happen if, or when those children found their way to this place. But that information was so secret even he didn’t know it.
The moves Celt made on Dorad made the latter blush, thinking of those dirty conversations he’d heard from Malinché. What she did with the Doctor would never compare to the joy that came from Celt Kardiae.
Dorad imagined riding through space on the waves of his husband’s orgasm, gliding through stars, galaxies, planets, as if he were in his ship’s warp drive without its chassis. He hoped it wouldn’t end, but knew it eventually would. Celt wondered what sort of adventures lay ahead for him, his husband, and those mysterious children.
Nevertheless, one thing was clear to both men: They had made it to paradise, physical and mental, and knew that it’d be hard for anyone to break them up now.