The thing about teeth, Tara wondered as she sat in her grandmother’s house, was that people were awfully concerned about them. ‘Don’t eat this, you’d get cavities. Don’t eat that, your teeth would fall out.’ She was frankly very tired of the word teeth and Grandpa not allowing her to have that extra chocolate was the last straw. It was midnight and both her grandparents should be asleep, she crept into the kitchen and found the chocolate in the little light that her InfoPad provided. It wasn’t the best source of light but it would have to do, she thought to herself.
She had just managed to get the chocolate out of the wrapper when the kitchen light switched on and a robotic voice chided her.
“Miss Tara, you are not supposed to consume the chocolate, your parental unit has been very vocal about this issue.”
The robotic voice was just loud enough for Tara to let out a scream of surprise and she could hear the moment, her grandparents woke up. There was the sound of slow footsteps coming out in the hallway and then a few moments later, her grandpa had appeared in the door of the kitchen. Tara was sitting with her head down, the chocolate almost half-forgotten in her hand. She had given up on the treat after realising her doom was near.
“Oh, Tara. Why do you never listen? Your gran is going to have words with you in the morning, now off you go. Have some sleep, alright?” His disappointed tone cut deeper than any shouting or angry words could have. Tara left the chocolate on the kitchen table and left the room without once looking at her grandpa. What was the point? He was only going to add disappointed looks to the whole scene.
She went to sleep in her bed.
Almost within moments, it seemed someone was calling for her. Was it morning already? How could it be? She had just lain down on the bed! Then the voice came through the fog of sleep.
“Tara, Tara, wake up. It’s time to get up. Hey, are you alright?”
The voice was familiar but it wasn’t her grandpa. She opened her eyes and looked at the face hovering over hers with worry written all over it. She gasped as everything came flooding back. It was a dream. A memory. She wasn’t six years old and living with her grandparents. She was almost thirty and she was a researcher on Utopia, a Dogma build spaceship. She grimaced as she got up and forgot that Hari was leaning over her in concern, her head hit his and both exclaimed in immediate pain. Cursing lowly, she rubbed her hands over forehead as Hari grumbled, “See if I ever worry over you again.”
Tara rolled her eyes and winced, nope, not awake enough to not feel the pain of rolling her eyes. Her eyes adjusted to the light in the sleeping chambers and she asked, her voice rough, “What happened? Is everything ok? Do we need to call backup?”
Technically, Shahid was their team leader and she should have asked him directly but at the moment, she couldn’t care less about the hierarchy. Hari shook his head, jamming his thumbs in his trouser pockets, he shrugged as he answered, “Nothing serious but the tree people are out and about. They knocked, almost rocked the fucking ship. I am telling you we should have gotten out while we still could. They seem far too good to me. Shady if you ask me.”
Tara got up and went about ‘making the bed’ as she listened to Hari talk. Hari was one of the sweetest man she had ever met but boy was he paranoid. He never trusted things on face value and always had some doubts and doomsday words to impart to others. Of course, once he got to understand and know people, he really was one of the best. However Hari was stuck in the initial phase of ‘doubt everything and trust nobody’ so Tara knew better than to ask him to keep an open mind. She had her own doubts about the creatures of Megror 11.
The tree people called themselves the Jhaaks and they had managed to understand the team’s purpose on the planet however they weren’t warmly welcoming them into the fold. They had talked some more last night, the Jhaaks had been on the planet for over a millenia and had to leave the land upstairs because of some natural calamity that had occured many centuries ago. The whole planet had been covered in trees before, green and living and thriving. The lizard-snake creatures had also been living on the land before the calamity but even those started going ever down afterwards. There were water sources under the earth and the people very obviously needed them. However any more information the Jhaaks were not really comfortable sharing.
The young Jhaaks they had spoken to had been but a sentry, he didn’t have the clearance to share any more so he had promised them that proper authorities will come above land and talk to them. The snake-lizards had left as soon as the Jhaaks had left, it seemed there was some unspoken communication happening between them which had made the whole team very curious indeed.
So, here they were, it was the next morning, the sun had already started to glare down on the planet and it was only 0600. Tara hoped they could go down and see more of the Jhaaks and if the shade for the sun was a side benefit, she wouldn’t turn it away.
They had already informed Utopia about their day and how they were going to proceed. Their captain had already told them to be careful and if needed, to send them a comm to rescue them. The whole team had wondered about the comm machine’s range underground. They had a good fifty feet underground range but anything beyond that and they would be toast.
Still, she accompanied Hari to the kitchen and they had a cuppa and some toast. Rarely did Tara get to eat anything remotely gourmet on the ship, her mother had mourned over that. Mostly because her mother was a celebrity chef on Noswo and couldn’t imagine a life where food wasn’t the centerpiece of life.
Finally, almost an hour later, the team emerged from the ship. There were three representatives from the Jhaaks, Grace muttered something about maybe two of them being security team. Rick and Tara nodded at that, that was the most likely reason. Generally, simple representatives did not come in larger numbers.
They had their Translater strapped to their suits and each could hear the way the Jhaaks rumbled. A moment later, the sound vibrated in their ears.
“Morning has come, be welcome. You will come and see the down world. You will explain why you study the Jhaaks and the Haaks. We will listen and you will leave.”
Shahid almost reacted to the last bit of the announcement but after a moment, he nodded and started towards the Jhaaks slowly. His team followed him, the sun was burning them even within their climate controlled suits and the weight of the suit and their apparatus felt even heavier than usual.
They entered the lift-like machine and the stone slab shut the light after a long, grinding moment. It was dark in the lift and Tara didn’t dare switch on the light, she didn’t want to hurt the Jhaaks with the bright light. Although considering their sun situation, she didn’t think her suit light could hurt them much but she wasn’t willing to take the risk. They were a tight fit in the lift and as seconds passed by, Tara could feel Grace’s breathing quickening. She wasn’t comfortable in crowds and the dark of the lift and the small space probably wasn’t doing her any wonders.
Tara could hear Rick muttering comfortingly to Grace, the words weren’t intelligble but the tone told her everything. Finally, after five minutes thirty four seconds after they boarded the lift, it finally stopped. The stone slab slid sideways and a light shone.
The corridor in front of them wasn’t brightly lit but neither was the light too dim for visibility. There seemed to be uniform lines of light spreading away from the lift. Tara followed Shahid and Hari and looked about with curiosity. It wasn’t exactly the techno hub that they had been expecting. There was, however, a coolness to the air that made it easier to breath in their suits. In fact, a few moments later, the AI informed them that it was safe to remove the helmet if they so wished. Shahid removed it first and the rest followed.
At the end of the corridor, three more hallways branched off. All were lit with the same light lines (no, they were vines almost) and Tara wondered at that, what sort of things would give off light of their own? Were they plants? Roots? Were they even alive? The questions almost jumped off but she restrained herself. The Jhaaks were silent as death as they languidly moved forward.
Finally the hallway opened up to a large space. It was large and the scene took their breath away. Everything was green, everything. Every corner of the great space was covered in tree-like things. Everything was teeming with life there and Tara gasped loudly. It was….beautiful and unnerving and absolutely stunning.
A musical and almost haunting voice called out.
The Translator answered, “Welcome to the Heart of the Leecha. The Jhaaks welcome the Other. Come, and share your stories with the Jhaaks and the Haaks.”
As the Translator was saying this, the Haaks (snake-lizards) started to slither in from every corner.
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Author’s Note : This one was hard for me, what kind of daily prompt is that! It took me some time to think up a situation where I could fit in the prompt. I almost didn’t write it but oh well. Also, this is the first time I have contiued the story and posted a second part. It might have a few more, depending on the prompts. 😛 And mostly, if you guys like what I am writing. If it’s not something you want to read further, please tell me. Why and how I can improve, ok?