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A Budding Friendship

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Jabe had been many things throughout the centuries: an oak tree, a Flarerose, a Draconian Funnelbush and once she had even been an Ionian Cactus, but eventually her life ended and her remains were returned to the nursery groves of the Forest of Cheem to be reborn. No longer. The Forest was gone and she was all that remained, carrying trillions of years of accumulated knowledge to be used in building the foundation of the next universe. Her current physical form, that of a Shimmering Elm, would be her last and once her task was complete she looked forward to her final rest. For Jabe had lived an extraordinarily long life and looked forward to some peace and quiet.

It was important to focus on the mission rather than the devastating loneliness Jabe felt at being the last member of her race. Fortunately she had once met someone in a similar situation and she drew on the example of his strength to keep her focused as she navigated around the various darkmatter reefs of the Condensate Wilderness.

Jabe had not originally intended on landing on Malcassairo but she had realised that it would be remiss of her not to say goodbye to the one remaining branch of the human race before moving on. Once she reached orbit she made contact with the garrison and was informed of the danger from the Futurekind. After a brief discussion it was decided that she could land her barkship within the settlements guarded perimeter.

During her descent the barkship provided readings informing Jabe of the cool temperature, non-existent weather cycles and the abandoned conglomerations to the south of the humans silo. It seemed prudent not to spend too much time on Malcassairo, as Jabe would certainly not be able to thrive there.

Once the barkship had landed and was secure she disembarked and greeted the human guards waiting for her. “I am Jabe of the Forest of Cheem.” She offered her hand.

The guards seemed awestruck by the shimmering rainbow effect her bark created but the man with Lieutenant insignia recovered himself quickly and shook her hand. “I’m Lieutenant Atillo. I apologise for our rudeness Lady Jabe but no one here has ever seen any species other than Human, Futurekind or Chantho. We actually were beginning to think we were the only people left alive in the Universe.”

“I’m afraid I cannot stay long Lt. Atillo. I came here to pay my respects to the human race before I passed on into the next life.” Jabe paused before asking. “Forgive my asking but who or what is Chantho?”

“Oh, Chantho is the last of the Malmooth. The Malmooth were native to this planet but they slowly died out and now Chantho is the only remaining member of her species.”

Jabe was intrigued by the notion of another lone seed in the wilderness and hoped that she might offer comfort to her in some way. “I wish to meet her.”

“Of course.” Atillo checked his chronometer. “She should be finishing up in the environmental control unit. If you will come with me I will take you to her.”

Jabe gestured for Atillo to lead the way and she followed him into the complex. The halls were crawling with people who looked at her with expressions of pure amazement. It was mildly discomfiting but Jabe could see the glimmer of hope in their eyes and so bore it with good grace.

As they walked Atillo quizzed her on whether she might have any information useful to the Utopia project but she had had to answer in the negative. Whatever scientific knowledge she had required the use of various raw materials that the refugees here did not have access to and for her to make head or tails of their jury-rigged systems would take far longer than any of them had.

Eventually they reached the sealed airlock that led to the buildings environmental control unit. Atillo checked whether Jabe would need an escort back afterwards (she didn’t) and bade her farewell, at which point Jabe bent to the task of moving the very heavy airlock. After a great deal of exertion the airlock gave a groan of shifting weight and Jabe pulled it open to see a very perplexed looking blue insectoid biped with beautiful long antennae. “Greetings. I am Jabe from the Forest of Cheem. You are Chantho I believe?”

“Chan-I am she-tho.” Chantho ducked her head in embarrassment. “Chan-I was not expecting visitors-tho. Chan-How can I help you-tho?”

Jabe noted Chantho’s unique sentence construction as she entered the room and closed the airlock behind her. “I am told that you are the last of your kind. I too am the sole survivor of my race and so I hoped that I might help you by giving you someone to talk to.”

“Chan-It can be difficult-tho.” Chantho’s expression saddened. “Chan-Malmooth live for much longer than humans, no-one on Malcassairo remembers my race except me-tho.”

“Tell me about them. Please.” Jabe encouraged Chantho as she sat down on the floor making a space for herself amongst the tools and discarded machine parts.

Chantho sat down next to Jabe and told her what she remembered of her people. She told Jabe what little she remembered of her colony and the proud oral history that had been passed down to her. She explained the intricacies of Malmooth social interactions, described masterpieces of art and literature lost forever and eventually when all other topics were exhausted she talked about the loneliness of living in the last human colony in the universe but not really being a part of it.

“You are strong and brave Chantho of the Malmooth.” Jabe noticed the deep blue of Chantho’s chitin darkening and took it to be the young Malmooth’s equivalent of a blush. She reminded Jabe of when she was a sapling, smart and talented but also shy and unsure of herself. Jabe was resolved to do something about that before she left.

Chantho, unsure of how to progress the conversation, asked a question that had been on her mind since the internal airlock had swung open to reveal Jabe standing before her. “Chan-Forgive my asking-tho. Chan-But why are you here-tho?”

“I have lived a long time and had many encounters with humans. I wished to say a final goodbye to their race before carrying out the mission my race left to me to carry out. I will not get the chance afterwards.”

“Chan-What is your mission-tho?”

Jabe had been touched by how much Chantho had been willing to share with her and decided that she could at least share the truth of her mission with Chantho. “My race was aware of beings that existed from before the universe. They existed in the previous universe but somehow made their way into this one.”

Chantho interrupted. “Chan-I remember legends of such things-tho. Chan-The Great Intelligence, Animus, Magog-tho.”

Jabe nodded. “After gathering as much information as possible the Forest of Cheem believed that we could duplicate their feat so that all the knowledge of this universe would not be forgotten. I was chosen to carry the burden.”

A spark of recognition and awe flickered in Chantho's eyes. “Chan-You are a member of the Great Forest-tho?”

“Yes.” Jabe smiled serenely. “That is one of the names we are known by.”

“Chan-When I was a hatchling the elders used to tell stories of how wise the Great Forest was-tho.” Chantho’s mandibles twitched, conveying her nervousness. “Chan-May I ask a boon of you-tho?”

Jabe put her lips to her fingers and then placed her fingers on Chantho’s temple. “Of course my child.”

“Chan-I wish to help Professor Yana in his attempts to complete the Utopia rocket-tho.” Chantho explained that she felt that the Professor could use some assistance in his lab due to his rapidly approaching old age and they amused themselves briefly with talk of humans and their short lifespan. “Chan-But I lack the confidence to approach him and discuss the issue convincingly-tho. Chan-Can you help me-tho?”

Jabe softly caressed Chantho’s antennae. “I know of many techniques that could improve your confidence. Would you care to learn them?”

Chantho’s deep blue carapace darkened once more. “Chan-I would appreciate it-tho.”

Jabe got to her feet and offered a hand to help Chantho up, once they were both standing Jabe looped her arm through Chantho’s. “Then please do me the honour of escorting me to your bedchamber.”

The next morning as Jabe made her way back to her barkship she made a brief detour past Professor Yana’s laboratory where she overheard Chantho making her case for why she should be Yana’s research assistant. Jabe allowed herself a small smile of satisfaction before moving on towards her destiny.