1 I. The Path

"Hurry up babies, the time has come! Wake up, everybody!"

The old lady walked down the room, yelling to the kids, still asleep in their tiny, messy beds.

She opened the curtains, at the top side of the huge dormitory room, then shouted again:

"C'mon youngsters, today is the day! Are you not curious to know more about your destiny? Are you not tired of staying here, with this old, wrinkled woman?".

When she opened the curtains, no sunlight came from the outside. A dim, artificial white light passed through the steel bars and the window's glass, enlightening half of the room.

"This grandma, walking up and down in the room, should trip on her own feet someday… is asking too much?"

A hand popped out from the low level of a bunk bed, grabbing some blankets on the top.

"What are you talking about Hiro? You say the same things every single day..."

"I'm talking about this woman! She yells every morning! She always scares me while I'm sleeping, Daggy! Yaawn…"

In a second, the Lady turned her head towards the two children that were speaking bed to bed: "You, boys! You know perfectly that I've always been kind to you, every single day. I allowed you to stay in your beds more than permitted so many times, but not today. Today is the day! It's your day!"

Right after a few minutes, every kid in the room was on his feet, ready.

Directed by the woman, and two other ladies that entered the room, the children lined up, forming a tidy queue and walked out of the dorm.

"Finally you finished your lessons, and today you must prove what you've learned. The rigor, the discipline.. be careful in front of the Xis. All the Great Court will be watching you" the oldest Lady said.

The kids started to murmur something.

"You all know what they did for us. We owe them our survival, our lives. The only thing that is required of us in return is to follow our path, our path: we are destined to live as well as humans lived before Dark Day. Only by leaving Earth can we finally fulfill this important task" the woman continued.

After these words, the group of children arrived in front of two huge metal gates, which opened to let them pass.

A huge circular hall, housed hundreds of people, seated neatly, watching the children intently.

In front of that crowd of people was a long stone table, to which three men and a woman were seated.

They wore dresses embellished with precious stones and embroidered with gold. They looked like noble clothes.

Accompanied by the three nannies, the children stood in a row in front of the stone table.

One of the men seated, he got up and walked slowly toward them, his hands crossed behind his back.

His long black and gold dress crawled behind him on the polished marble floor.

"Welcome, children to the Great Court of Xis" the man said, looking at them.

Dag and his friend Hiro, stood in line next to each other and looked closely at the man.

From the tales of the nannies, the Xis were just like humans: two legs, two arms and no kind of tail or some other strange alien bump.

"Look at his eyes" Hiro whispered in Dag's ear.

The man's eyes were of intense purple: the light coming from the large chandelier of crystals hanging from the center of the ceiling reflected on those eyes, which seemed to be made of glass.

"We took care of you and your planet since the year X1, which as you well know, begins immediately after the death of your fragile star, what you used to call 'Sun'" the man continued.

Soon after these words, Dag suddenly felt chills on his arms. The temperature in the room had dropped dramatically.

"You, human beings. You killed the Earth. Your gesture has caused a cosmic imbalance, which, although small, must be filled. Your planet, whose lands and seas were teeming with life in the past, no longer has an atmosphere. After our arrival, we helped you stay alive, allowing you to live under the first layers of the continental crust".

The children stood still and listened intently.

"All male individuals of your species have been exterminated, to allow us to implant our fertile, lab-created seeds into females, which act as incubators. In this way, new generations will proliferate and give birth to a new, more evolved human race".

Dag turned to look at Lady Ysabel, the oldest of the nannies. She too was still listening to the words of the Xis man, with a smile drawn on her face, as if she were trapped inside a dream.

"From now on, you will faithfully obey the rules that bind the balance of the Universe, facing the path of redemption that we have decided for you. The only moment of absolute truth and genuineness of your short history belongs to your past, to your ancestors. You will retrace their steps, living and dying like them. You will be the only architect of your lives, this is the gift that we Xis give you. Get ready, children, to immerse yourself in your Ancestral History".

Lady Ysabel lowered herself to the children and in a low voice, said: "children, you are ready. One by one, face your destiny. For eight long years, you have prepared for this glorious moment. May the Xis be merciful".

Another man rose from the table and said aloud: "turn on the Temporum!"

To those words, four Xis men wearing white coats carried a big machine towards the table, barely moving it on wheels. It looked very heavy.

The "Temporum", as the man sitting at the table had called it, was an imposing cubic-shaped alien machine, about three meters high.

On the front, a metal hatch sealed the inside of the machine.

The men in coats looked like scientists. All four simultaneously began to press bright buttons and turn knobs placed on the side of the machine, until, after a few seconds, the metal hatch opened, revealing a narrow cylindrical room.

Then they turned to the stone table, waiting for the signal of their superiors.

"Let's begin!" the man in the black suit said, after noticing the machine was turned on.

A Xis guard, in blunt silver armor, approached the group of children and violently grabbed one of them by the arm, pulling him toward the Temporum and forcing him to get in.

The child did not resist, despite his eyes expressed a strong fear.

The men dressed in white made the child sit, tying his hands and feet to the walls of the Temporum, made of thick glass.

"Look, Hero! They got Rami! He's the first one!" said Dag to his friend, touching his shoulder to get his attention.

The two men got out of the machine, leaving the boy stationary in that position. One of them nodded with his hand and another pulled a lever, which once operated shut the hatch.

The children were silent, trying to hear what was happening to their companion locked up in there.

They heard a steady, metallic noise of gears.

On the metal hatch, a large porthole allowed seeing the interior, illuminated by an intense green light.

The noise of gears stopped suddenly and Rami began to scream in pain.

Dag tried to look better, shifting his head slightly: 3 thick metal tubes had come out of the machine's inner cavities, sticking the kid's flesh with their sharp, spine-like spikes.

The children began to whisper to each other, frightened by that scene.

Dag remained focused on Temporum. The tubes were tucked into three precise points of his friend's body: one behind his neck, and two behind his back.

It looked like they were sucking up to his bodily fluids.

In less than a minute, the process was completed and the three tubes retreated into the holes, emitting the same metallic sound.

As soon as they detached from little Rami's body, he lowered his head, as if he was about to faint.

From the top of the cubic machine, a monitor lit up, rising with a metal arm and turning toward the stone table, showing the analysis' results:

- HUMAN C0DE _ RAMI 82346

- OTTOMAN: 83%



"The human 'Rami' was classified by Temporum as belonging to the Ottoman Pantheon. His destination is Planet Nehir" exclaimed the only woman sitting at the stone table, standing up and addressing the crowd.

To these words, two guards who had witnessed the whole process standing by the scientists, after the hatch of the Temporum opened, untied the child and dragged him away on his knees, exiting the circular room.

"Next!" the black-dressed Xis said.

Another kid was taken from the group, undergoing the same treatment.

The monitor displayed:

- HUMAN C0DE _ NANT 81197


- _DELETE_N0_987654567

"Oh no! Another..." gasped lady Ysabel in a low voice.

This time, the guards lifted the newly analyzed child and dragged him in another direction, from the opposite side of the hall.

" Not all individuals of your race can take part in our cosmic project. This is also part of your life cycle" concluded the Xis.

"Will he die?" a child asked frightened to the old Lady.

"Yes, my dear. It's not up to us to choose. Everybody dies".

All the children, listening to those words, stood still and terrified.

"Next!" continued the Xis man.

This time, was Hiro's turn.

Dag grabbed his hand, but the guard was already dragging him away.

- HUMAN C0DE _ HIRO 87003



" The human 'Hiro' was classified by Temporum as belonging to the Japanese Pantheon. His destination is Planet Mokuzai".

Hiro looked at Dag, standing still and powerless among his comrades.

His eyes began to sparkle and a little smile appeared on his face.

Dag started to cry, staring at the ground. Probably his friend was gone forever.

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