#1 - A War Far Away
Author: Kris Me
Jax is not your normal run of the mill, Prol. She has some rather special gifts. Unfortunately, something she discovered had a wider impact on her life than she expected. She just wants to go home.
Copyright © 2020 Kris Me - All rights Reserved
This story is the work of Kris Me. Before you copy more than one page or ten percent of the content, you must contact me as per the Copyright Act 1968, Australia.
Last updated: 26/04/2021.
While some of the facts and events pertaining to World War II are true, such as the bombings of Darwin, most of those facts centred around the characters I invented are not.
The brave men of the Australian 2/2 Independent Company were in Timor in 1942. However, they were, in fact, located further south and west of the events I described. The Ghost Ship is also fictional. You may need to do a bit of reading to ascertain what is and isn't true.
Lest we forget.
~~ Adult Themes ~~
This book is part of an erotica science fiction series. It is NOT recommended for people under the legal age to access such stories, depending on the reader's country of origin.
The books may contain what some people consider vulgar language, references to religious icons, violence, coercion, murder, and-or rape scenes.
Some scenes may describe intimate heterosexual, bi-sexual, gay and-or group sexual activities. If you are homophobic, you may find some scenes in this series of book distasteful. In most cases, these scenes are integral parts of the story.
Some of the books include imaginary races capable of changing their gender and/or form into other animals. Copulation, while the characters are in their alternate animal forms, may be described.
This book DOES NOT contain descriptions of bestiality or coitus between persons closely related by blood.
If you find any of my assumptions fabricated, I would like to remind you this is a fictional story, and I have probably taken liberties with reality, as you know it. The humanoids in this story are not based on anyone I know or have read about.
Australian based dictionaries were used for reference, and Grammarly was used as part of the editing suite. The story was written in Microsoft Word.
If you find grammatical or spelling errors, they are not the fault of my editor or proofreaders who did try to fix my work. However, I do tend to fiddle around after the fact, so all errors are my own.
If my Australian colloquialisms or terms need clarification, or you just wish to correspond, I'm more than happy to answer your emails. You can send them to:
The Wiki contains information about the Keltrian people, wizards, the Keltrian magical items, colloquialisms and adapted words that have been created for this universe. Maps, character lists and other information that may relate to this book could be found.
This is the first book:
The books should be read in sequence, as some references to events or information about a character may not be explained in full in the next book if they were mentioned or introduced in this one.
Additional Data on this book:
This story is set in the Keltrian Universe, and it takes place on several planets, including Earth.
Many thousands of years before the start of this story, these planets were colonised by refugees from the Keltrian Home Worlds that could no longer support them because one of their suns was going nova.
Many planets across the galaxy were visited by Keltrian wheelships. These desperate explorers terraformed some of the planets to suit their needs. Many years later, refugees arrived in settlement ships. These ships were not designed to go back.
Some of the Keltrian people can draw on and use the magical energy of the cosmos with the assistance of magical items. The items decide who are worthy of wearing them. The wearers are supposed to use their magical gifts for the betterment of the people.
Note: Pounds and old British measurements are used in some parts of the story because Australia didn't change over to metric until the mid-sixties. The people of Tara use the base-ten metric system.
I wish to thank J. Konietzko, Anna Dapter and all of the readers, who, in the past, have pointed out I do make mistakes and have helped me to fix them.
Special thanks to Lazeez for your patience and assistance in helping me with my weird requests and questions.
I hope you enjoy the story.
List of books in the Jax Series:
Jax #1 - A War Far Away
Jax was a Prol, well; at least she knew her mother had been one.
Jax had worked out at a very young age that she wasn't like other Prols. For one thing, the brothers and sisters birthed by her mother, all ten of them, couldn't do what she could. Also, she looked different from them, other than a vague resemblance to Ala, their mother.
Ala had given birth to five sets of twins, boys, girls, boys, girls and then boys again. This isn't that unusual for a Prol family. She'd had them roughly two to two and a half years apart and then hadn't had any more for five years until she fell pregnant with Jax.
Ala had been very sick while pregnant with Jax, having caught some virus that had been going around. She then had trouble delivering Jax as she was a bigger baby than she had birthed before. Hence the community wasn't that surprised that Jax was Ala's last child.
Unlike her other children, Ala never bonded that well with Jax. She hadn't been able to feed her due to her reoccurring illness, which plagued her for the year following Jax's birth. This wasn't such a problem, as the Prols had a formula they used to supplant mother's milk.
Hence, the oldest girls took turns feeding and caring for Jax. Ala told the girls that it was good practice, as they were now thirteen. This meant they weren't far off marriageable age. Typically, this was fourteen to fifteen for Prol females.
While the girls were not considered adults until sixteen or married, they could be sexually active. Since Prols have much shorter life spans than other Keltrian races, this was normal for them too.
Most of the parents of Jax's community didn't let their girls marry until they were fifteen or sixteen unless something happened to the parents, and their rules were invoked.
The Prols didn't believe that their females should be left unmated unless they lived with or under the protection of a male relative. They did make the rare exceptions for older women who could support themselves and weren't considering or able to have more children.
Boys didn't tend to marry until they were closer to the eighteen-year-old mark, as they had to prove they could support a wife first. They could get dispensation and marry as young as the girls could.
Getting a girl pregnant was a sure way to find themselves married.
The Pickon family lived in a village called Pimol.
Pimol was on the north side of a mountain near the northernmost point of the island called Sigma. The conclave only consisted of about five hundred souls, as their race wasn't common in the Tear Islands.
The Tear Islands were in the northern hemisphere of a planet called Tara. Not including the tiny ones, more than twenty islands were in a group that was strung out from close to the Northern Pole to near the equator. Sigma was one of the largest and southernmost of these islands.
Being 6km to the north of Pimol, Alpha Point was their nearest township and major port. The processing plant for the iron ore that the Prols dug up was between the two settlements. Hence the two lanes wide road that led up to the community was well used and had, over time, been paved.
Most of the townspeople living in Alpha Point were of the Burgis and Pix races. While Prols could breed with both races, particularly the Burgis, who were a cousin race, it was their tendency not to do so.
Prol men were rather protective of their females and their way of life. It was a common practice in their society to adopt any females under fourteen or marry off those females who were over fourteen if they no longer had a male protector.
Hence, a man could end up with several wives. Not all Prol women liked this practice, but it was what it was. Miners die, and wives become widows.
The Prol race didn't tend to live much longer than fifty-five to sixty years, with seventy being an extreme age. This was a short life compared to some of the other races like the Pix and Genteli. They could live twice as long as the oldest Prol.
The Burgis people lived some twenty to thirty years longer than the Prols.
Jax's brothers were typical Prol males.
All of the brothers had slightly shorter limbs than the Pix people, big feet, stubbier fingers, and heavy-set bodies. They were very strong and had large, roundish ears - compared to the Burgis, and big, broad noses were commonplace.
Prol women tended to be more proportioned like the Pix people, but they also had a heavier frame with wider hips and larger breasts. Shades of brown were the most common colours of these people's skin, eyes, and hair.
Milky-chocolate skin tones and light brown eyes with gold flecks ran in Jax's family, except for her. Most Prols were darker-skinned, but not many were lighter, except for Jax, and she had dark-blue eyes, not brown.
All of Jax's sisters had developed large breasts for their frames and wide hips, typical of the females of their race. Amongst her people, Jax's sisters were considered rather handsome like their mother had been.
Their one major difference was that all of the Pickon family members were taller than the average Prol for their gender.
Ala died when Jax was six.
Ala had cut one of her rather large feet on some sharp rocks. The wound had gone septic, and she had developed blood poisoning. By the time she got treatment, it was too late, and she died.
After that, Jax had run pretty much wild. Also, by then, her two oldest sisters and two oldest brothers had married and left home. Her two next oldest sisters, who were thirteen to her six, were in the process of completing their schooling and more interested in boys than looking after her.
As long as Jax didn't get into trouble, she was basically ignored. The fact that she had learnt to feed and dress herself and get off to school meant that she wasn't underfoot.
Jax had always been very self-sufficient.
When Jax was nearly eight, her father, Max, remarried.
Hana, his new wife, was a mining widow and only eighteen compared to Max's age of forty. Hana had two daughters. One was three, and the other was a year old.
Max soon had Hana knocked up. They didn't practice birth control once a girl was married. He was a rather lusty man and expected his wife to put out. So, Hana didn't really care what Jax did as long as she stayed out of her hair or was useful.
Not long after Hana's arrival, Jax found that she had become a convenient nanny. She also gained the chore of being the primary cook and washerwoman.
Over the next eight years, Hana gave birth to a boy, then a girl and then a set of male twins. Caring for the twins had been hard work for Hana as she wasn't as tall or as robust as Ala had been.
One night when discussing Jax's state of matrimony, Hana used the argument that due to Jax being so ugly, they had little hope of marrying her off even if she was a good cook and a midwife. Although Jax was nearly sixteen, Hana wasn't in any hurry to lose her drudge. It wasn't that she was lazy, but large families are a lot of hard work.
Hana considered Jax to be too tall, pale, and skinny for the liking of most Prol men. Her shocking, chestnut-red, curly hair, dark-blue eyes, and no tits or hips worth mentioning were all detriments as far as Hana was concerned.
On the planet Tara, Prol males averaged about 145cm tall, and Jax was already as tall as her father at 152cm. Due to the lower gravity compared to their ancestors' homeworld, they had grown a bit taller here. Mind you, so had most of the other races.
That night, Max had to explain to Hana why he favoured Jax. He explained that Ala caught a virus when she fell pregnant with Jax and had nearly died giving birth to her. Plus, she was Ala's last baby. He also believed that Jax was a throw-back to an ancestor of his.
Max explained to the shocked women. "My grandfather was the first son that was born to my great-grandmother. He told me that Nana's first husband had been washed overboard during a storm that hit the ship while it was bringing our ancestors to this island."
"They had escaped from someplace in the south, but I have never found out from where or why. Nana was left with two young daughters to support. Most of the other men already had two wives, so, to survive, she had become the lover of one of the sailors."
"It was only later that she learnt that he was a male-born shifter. He didn't stay with her for more than a year before he sailed away. He did, however, make sure she had a new protector before he left."
"My grandfather also told me that because he was a son of a male-born shifter, the men in our family tend to have more sons than daughters. While men like me carry the shifter gene, we can't shapeshift."
"This is why none of my relatives can shift their shape or gender, and our heritage has been able to remain a family secret. It is also why all of my kids have the auburn highlights in their dark brown hair when you see them in sunlight."
"And it is why Jax managed to get the dark-red hair like my ancestor. Apparently, he was tall, had the same colour hair, blue eyes and a lighter skin colour that Jax has."
This information had come as a shock to both Jax and Hana. Hana realised that Jax's unusual looks and uncommon height also explained why Max had indulged Jax; she was rather exotic for a Prol.
Unbeknown to Hana, Max was also the only person who knew Jax's secret. Jax was the oddball in the family that could shift her shape and change her gender.
Jax was a true throw-back.
Because Jax was going to the college in the town, Max didn't force her into a marriage.
One of the few ways a Prol female of childbearing age could possibly escape being married off was for her to gain a profession. Most Prol men didn't really approve of the wife working outside the home.
However, for a woman that most men didn't want, to become a teacher, midwife, or doctor was acceptable. Typically, these women were widows who were past thirty, not sixteen-year-old girls.
Jax had screamed through school. Because she was a Prol, her teachers had no problem letting her progress faster. After all, her race tended to mature quicker than the other races.
The schools on Tara taught using achievable levels rather than years of age. Each term lasted for twelve weeks, with three weeks of breaks between them. If you did every term, you would do four terms a year. If you didn't achieve a level, you repeated that term. You could even test out of a level and advance.
Because of the lengths of lives of the various races, two kids of the same chronological age but of different races may not be at the same mental or even physical level in their development.
Jax was incredibly bright, and Max was happy for her to achieve, as he wasn't sure she would ever marry unless forced or she married outside the race. He knew most of his community wouldn't be happy if she did, but he'd not had any offers for her. Hence, he couldn't see why they should complain.
Max didn't push her to leave home, as he did have a big soft spot for his unusual daughter.
A year after the discussion of marriage, the unthinkable happened.
Max was killed in a mine accident with his oldest son, Ron, when the tunnel they were mining had an explosive cave-in and flooded with water. This was terrible news for Hana and Jax as they no longer had a protector.
They were given three months to mourn, as per tradition.
Hana was still a healthy, good-looking woman at twenty-seven. For most men, she would make a fine second wife. Some were even considering her as a replacement wife, as women dying in childbirth was still common enough. The fact that she had born six healthy children was also a plus, even if her children weren't.
With Hana's two oldest kids being girls, they could be off the new husband's hands in a few short years, or he could also marry them, so this wasn't so bad. Because Hana was Max's second wife, his sons had first rights to offer for her because her younger children were their siblings.
As it turned out, the third son, Marx, from the second set of twin boys, had recently lost his wife. She had fallen off a cliff into the sea when collecting eggs from the seabird nests. He also didn't have any children.
Hence, it was simple for him to just move back home. Since Max's possessions became his wife's, another good reason not to leave Hana unmarried, this meant that Marx effectively inherited.
Jax's second oldest brother, Ray, had already taken in Ron's wife (whom he had always fancied) and her three children. Not that Ray's first wife was happy about it, but so be it.
The law was the law.
Jax was a problem for the Prol community.
While a brother couldn't marry a sister, he was honour bound to protect and support her if no one else wanted her. However, none of Jax's elder brothers wanted her hanging around, even if she was a good housewife and a midwife.
Hana liked having a younger man in her bed, and she decided that she would rather have Marx than Jax when he made his opinion known to her. The problem was that Marx didn't know how to ask Jax to leave, and he would lose face if he kicked her out.
Jax solved the dilemma by packing her bags and telling her family that she was moving to the town of Alpha Point. She was going to finish her studies and become a doctor.
She even showed her brothers a letter that Max had written for her. It gave her, her freedom, so they had to abide by it. They showed the letter to the Elders, who also agreed that Jax could do as she pleased.
If anything, they were all relieved that, as usual, Jax solved her own problems and theirs.
The women of the village would miss Jax's midwifery skills.
Jax hadn't lost a child or mother in the two years she had been practising, as long as she was called in time. Jax had finished her primary nursing qualifications and had her midwifery certification when she was fifteen. She was currently studying for her doctor's requirements.
Since Jax was now seventeen, legally, she was an adult and could do as she damn well pleased as far as the Laws of the Land and her people went. As to whether she came back to the village or not after her training depended on her.
Most of the people in her village thought she was rather strange, and she had only been tolerated because of her father being a prominent leader. Jax didn't look or act like a Prol woman should.
She was one of the few unmarried women that the men didn't try to force into marrying one of them. The other men were as relieved as her brothers that none of them had to make an offer for her.
Not many men of her race liked their wife to look down on them, literally as well as figuratively. Jax stood at 155cm by that time, and she was often mistaken for a Burgis woman.
Plus, she talked about things that were way above their understanding as most Prols left school when they were fourteen. Her height and manner were also why many people in Alpha Point thought she was a Burgis, even though she was slim, even for their race.
So Jax packed her bags and left home.
Jax wasn't that unhappy to leave her old life behind her.
What the family didn't know was that Jax had found a medallion and a cavern filled with Quaz crystals during her explorations of the mountain when she was fourteen. Quaz crystals were very valuable as they could store both magical and electrical energies.
Jax hadn't shown the crystals she had collected to anyone until she was sixteen. Her father making noises about her marrying since she was an adult had worried Jax because she didn't wish to marry.
In Max's defence, he wasn't getting any younger, and raising kids was expensive. He was also worried about Jax's future. He had been very excited when Jax showed him what she found.
Jax told him the crystals had been in an old box which she had found. It had been in a small cavern off one of the old shafts in an abandoned area of the mine. She had found the crib-box, but at the time, it didn't have any crystals in it.
At first, Jax wasn't sure why she didn't tell Max there were more crystals, nor that she knew how to find the cavern they had come from, again. Perhaps it was the greed in Max's eyes when she gave him the old wooden crib-box.
Jax had even left the other odd items like the flask and cutlery in the box to back up her story. She wasn't really surprised that they had all believed her. They were just excited about the crystals.
Jax didn't tell Max or the family that she now wore the three-gemmed magical medallion with the gems and symbols for three magical disciplines. It had a diamond and a book symbol for Lore, an opal with a tree symbol for Nature and an emerald with a hill symbol for Earth.
The other three disciplines that determined the types of magic you could do were: Psychics - topazes and an eye symbol, Physics - amethysts and a cloud or wind symbol and Energy - rubies with a flaming torch symbol.
The most common magical items were medallions, rings, wands and diadems. If you had all four items, you were deemed to have a full set. Other magical items, such as vambraces, were as powerful as a full set, but they were rare in the Tear Islands.
If you found a set with the same types of gems and symbols on them, you were classed as a mage or higher. The higher ranks were High Mage, Apprentice Wizard, Wizard, High Wizard, Lord Wizard. Otherwise, you were simply a novice mage.
The more disciplines you had gems or symbol for on your items, the greater the variety of magic you can perform. The number of gems was also relevant as to how powerful you were and your rank.
Working magical items are also possessed by an entity. Whether that entity is a soul or an alien being has never been determined. They helped keep a magician honest and provided some protection.
Unlike most of the other races, Prols didn't tend to show a high affinity to magic other than possibly Earth and Nature magics.
Jaz's medallion wasn't really that powerful, but it did give her magical abilities a good boost.
Max had used the crystals Jax had given him to boost his fortunes over the next year.
He carried out extensive repairs to his house and splashed out a bit on Hana and the kids. The extra coin made a huge difference to the family. It was also one of the reasons that he hadn't forced Jax to marry.
Jax had effectively bought her own bride price from him and then some. As a thank you, he had given her the letter that said she didn't have to marry and was now a free woman. They even had put away a small nest egg for Jax to help pay for her to stay in school.
At the time, she had kept that information to herself.
Unfortunately, Max selling the crystals had ramifications.
Three months before her father died, Jax had become worried. Two men of the Burgis race had come to talk to Max about the crystals he had found and sold.
Hana hadn't been home at the time, and Jax, not having school that day, was at home. She had listened in on the men and her father talking. The men had given Jax the creeps, and her medallion had warmed. This was a sign of danger.
Jax knew that there were some very unsavoury people, even in her world. The men hadn't been happy to learn that Max hadn't found a cavern, but something left by someone lost in the passages in the mountain.
Many people who were not Prols got lost in Mt Sigma, even the odd mage looking for precious gems. Max knew that rumours said that the mountain could have the Quaz crystals in it, but he hadn't considered them when he sold some of the rocks.
Despite the rumours, no one else had ever reported finding a cave filled with crystals of any kind in the mountain. The Prols just mined iron ore and the odd gem out of it. Plus, many people would find it hard to keep that sort of secret.
Jax had been careful to conceal the cavern entrance she found. It was near an area that was considered dangerous because poisonous gases had once come from that area, and they had killed some miners in the past.
On the day Jax had entered the small cavern, she hadn't detected any gas. She had noticed the new crack in the wall as the men often used explosive charges to break up the iron ore. Making and using explosive powders were two of the Prol miners' secrets.
After the Burgis men had visited, Jax's father found a more discrete contact to sell the rest of the crystals. Since then, the men hadn't come back, so Max and Jax had forgotten about them.
Unfortunately, the men hadn't forgotten about her and her father.
When Jax left home that day, she took a circular route to backtrack into the mountains.
Despite the money her father had put away for her, Jax knew that her training was going to be very expensive, and now she had to support herself as well. She was going to need more coin and had three weeks to get herself established in the town.
As she walked, Jax decided that she would tell people that she was a Burgis and an orphan so that she wasn't bothered. Single Prol women not living with their clan weren't trusted. Her status as a Prol would cause her problems.
Jax was glad that her height and features would leave doubt in people's minds. She didn't dare claim to be a shifter as they weren't trusted either. Some people feared a shape-shifter impersonating them.
Jax was deep in the old mine when she ducked into a side cavern she had explored before. She retrieved her mining clothes from one of the old lockers.
The lockers had been in use some twenty years earlier when her people had mined this section of the mountain. It had long since played out, and they had moved on.
The finely-woven woollen clothes had been dyed a cacky-green. We'd call them, khaki but they didn't have that word. Surprisingly, they looked a lot like World War II uniforms that were worn by the men in the Australian Army.
Jax's leather, lace-up boots were made with the new method of stitching the leather upper to the thicker soles. You would have to look carefully to realise that the soles were strips of leather rather than rubber. They had been dipped in a tar-like solution to seal them.
Her father had splashed out and bought a pair for her, and everyone still at home when he had been on his little spending spree. He had received a lot of coin from selling the Quaz crystals.
Jax hadn't had many opportunities to wear the boots since, so they still looked new. She had just finished lacing her boots up when her medallion got hot on her chest.
Then she heard a man say, "She came this way, but there are four tunnels. Which one did she take?"
"Buggared if I know. I remember that the one to the right went to the old change and crib rooms, but we didn't get far down any of the other three the last time we were here. So, I have no idea where she went," the second man grumbled.
"Shit! The boss really wants to know where she got the damn crystals from," the first man replied.
"Well, from what her father said when we interrogated him, she came here a lot, and this is the only way out of here. Why don't we set up a tripwire and then wait in the crib room?"
"He said that she hasn't been in here for ages. So, I bet she won't waste time going to get some more crystals. We can nab her when she comes back," the second man responded.
"Yeah, I can't think of a better plan; let's do that. I sure hope that she isn't gone long; I hate these tunnels. They reminded me of when we were in the tunnels in Mount Dragon with that idiot, Kerr. Fuck knows what lives in these ones," the first man complained as he shuddered.
Jax quickly and quietly packed her other clothes and town shoes into her pack and carefully re-shouldered it. She had planned to leave it in here, but now she couldn't.
She knew that a rear tunnel led to a latrine area, and she could climb up and out through a little known fissure that was higher up in the wall.
She could also use it to get to where she needed to go.
Stealthily, Jax headed down the rear passage.
She was very agile and had scaled the 5m high, steep, sloped back, rocky cliff in little time. She was working her way across a small ledge to the crack in the wall and stopped when she heard a rock being kicked.
She looked down to see a stream of piss arc out into the light shining from the man's hat onto a wall. She had to cling to the rock and wait for him to finish his business.
While she couldn't see him clearly, her night-vision and magical abilities let her see enough to know that he wasn't a Prol but a man of the Burgis race. Jax had a pretty good idea who he and his friend were.
She wasn't happy that they had returned and guessed that they had been watching the house to have seen her leave. She wondered who told them that she was moving out as she only told Hana and Marx a few days before.
This didn't bode well for her setting up in Alpha Point if they were still interested in where she got the crystals from. Single women disappeared all the time in the port city.
She didn't want these men anywhere near her.
To Jax's disgust, after he peed, the man started playing with himself.
From what she could observe from her angle and being above him, he didn't have a lot to play with. She could barely even tell what was in his fast-moving hand. Thankfully, he was also quick off the mark.
In a surprisingly short time, he grunted and moaned. Several rather weak spurts later, he was done. The man sighed in contentment and put his wee Willie away. Jax did wonder if all men came that quick.
The man swung his head around to see where he was. He located the doorway and headed back to his friend. He had just made it back to the entrance when Jax felt the rock under her left boot crack away from the wall.
With her pack on, Jax couldn't move as quickly as she wished. After hanging for a moment to gain her balance, she felt for the ledge again. Once she found it, she scrambled across the last metre to get to the cleft.
The man shouted out for her to stop. As she squeezed into the gap, his hat-light shone over her. Jax cussed as she moved deeper into the narrow defile and away from his beam of light.
She knew they would try and follow.
The cleft opened out wider as Jax carefully hurried along the rocky floor.
She hit a point where the cleft opened into a bubble-shaped room, some 10m across. At some time, super-heated volcanic gasses and lava had eating out the rock to form the room and then subsided as it tunnelled away through softer rock.
Two tunnels branched off around a particularly hard section of rock. Jax took the right tube. She knew that the left would take her back to the main shaft, which led back to the change room. Previously she had gotten to this point from that way.
The right tunnel was a much tougher challenge even for the fittest of miners. The two city-based Burgis men would be lucky to navigate it without help. Jax took a gamble that they would be at least ten minutes or more behind her and turned her hat light on.
She was glad she had used magic on her lamp so that the light didn't reflect behind her. She scrambled down the long, sloping tunnel until it ran into a second larger cavity.
It was close to 18m across at its widest, but it wasn't as high as the other room. This cavern had two other exits at the ground level and several that were higher in the walls and even in the ceiling.
Jax pulled off the rope and hook that she had strung over her right shoulder. She moved to where she could see up into a tunnel that was 3m above her head. The opening was roughly 2m wide and 1m high. It angled back towards the centre of the mountain.
Holding onto the end of the knotted rope, Jax swung the grappling hook around and tossed it up, underhand, into the opening. She let the rope feed off her hand as it flew up the tunnel a good 8m.
When she heard the clang as the hook hitting the rock, she pulled the rope sharply. The grappling hook slipped back for a metre before it dug in. She pulled on it several times, making sure it was well anchored.
Taking off her pack, she tied the end of the rope to the loop on the top and then proceeded to climb up the rope, using the knots in it to aid her. She had to scramble for handholds to help pull herself into the tunnel with much kicking and grunting.
Once she was stable on her butt with her feet locked onto a small ridge, Jax pulled up the slack of the rope. She looped the rope around herself to tie it off so that she could brace against the floor while she pulled her backpack up into the tunnel.
The pack was heavy, as it held all her worldly possessions. With a struggle, she got it over the lip of the tunnel mouth and pulled it up to herself. Jax grumbled to herself that she really needed to learn some better levitation spells.
She lay back and mumbled a small healing spell and felt her body push the toxins out of her shaking muscles and repair her burning hands. Jax had to rest for a bit to let the spell and her fatigued muscles push the burning feeling out of them.
It took several minutes to get her breathing back to normal and for her to consider going on. She was so glad she had pulled her gloves on before she went to scale the wall in the latrine. At least she still had all the skin on her hands! Healing spells took a lot of energy to work.
Jax flipped over onto her stomach. She looked further up the sloping tunnel to where the hook was. The bottom of the lava tube seemed to flatten out more on the other side, so using the rope, she worked her way towards the hook while on her hands and knees.
When she got to the hook, she realised the tunnel sloped back down on the other side but at a lesser angle. The old lava tube was also high enough for her to stand in. Jax pulled up her rope, rolled it and then released the hook with some effort.
She tied it off onto the side of her pack before she donned it again while still on her knees. She struggled to her feet, hitched the pack, and adjusted the straps until it was comfortable.
She made her way into the unknown.
Jax sat on a rock and guzzled from her water flask.
She didn't wish to admit that she was lost, but she estimated it had been two days since she lost the Burgis men in the tunnels. She had been heading down for most of the day and was worried that she wouldn't find an up passage soon.
She had managed to find a small trickle of water running down one wall of a lava tube that she was in. The wall had cracked under the pressure of the water behind it. She had been able to drink some and refill her flask.
Jax closed her eyes and sent out her feelings to search for an indication of which way to go. She had two choices in front of her. She felt a tug to her right, so the decision was made.
She corked her flask, placed it back in the holder on her hip and stood. Readjusting the backpack, she trudged off in that direction with her magical hat lamp bobbing along with her, showing her the way.
As she proceeded, Jax felt the air getting warmer as she descended and wondered just how deep she was. She was still going down as well, which worried her more than she wished to admit.
A little while later, Jax noticed that that the walls of the crevice she was traversing were easier to see. She hurried a little as she got closer to the light source, hoping she had stumbled into an area of the mine her people were working.
The crevice led her down into a massive chamber. When she stepped into the room, she had to gawk at the array of crystals over her head. This chamber was huge, being a good 60m across and half as high.
The roof seemed to curve, forming a dome over her head, and the floor was flat and even. Someone had to have done that as it wasn't natural. She wandered around the warm room and found six areas with low bund walls, each surrounding a pit.
The pit that she looked into was very deep, and the heat and slightly sulfuric smells were coming from it. The magma in it was sluggish but still active. She found that two pits were active, and the other four had solidified lava in the bottom of them.
In the middle of the room was a dais that was three steps from the floor. On top, it was 6m across. About half a meter in from the edge was a dark metal ring that was 15cm wide.
An odd pattern, in small blue and white tiles, was set in the middle. Obscuring most of the design was a layer of green-yellow dust. The dust and tiny sulphur crystals were everywhere in the room.
Jax walked around the room but couldn't find another exit. She even touched the walls hoping to find some magical switch that she could trip. She had read about them in one of the books she had found in the old library.
She was relieved when about a third of the way around the room, from the tunnel she came in from, she found a spot that made her hand tingle. Jax performed an 'Open door' spell.
She was delighted when she perceived a section of the wall shimmer into a doorway. Her delight was short-lived. After she walked through, she found the tunnel ended abruptly after 10m. At some time in the past, a quake had collapsed the tunnel.
Jax couldn't find any other doorways in the section of the tunnel that was left standing. Disappointed, she walked back into the main cavern and continued her search.
About a third of the way from the lava tunnel entrance in the other direction, one section of the wall had a rockslide blocking where she had a feeling another door might once have been.
A 20m wide section of the curved ceiling to the side wall that had been at least 15m above the floor at one time had cracked away and slipped to the floor. To her surprise, the rubble had chunks of crystal protruding from it.
Jax opened her pack and found the two small sacks she had brought to put crystals in, and she also pulled out her three pairs of long socks. Since she had found some crystals, she might as well collect as many as she could.
She proceeded to fill the bags and the socks with the crystals she could dig out.
To her delight, Jax also found some other rather interesting rocks.
She picked up one and examined it. She was sure that her father had told her that these were raw diamonds.
Quaz crystals tended to be squarish in shape and a dark green when not charged. The crystals lightened to yellow and then to a transparent white when fully charged, and then they would glow.
The gem in her hand was not shaped the same. The ones that she thought were diamonds were more octahedral in shape. They were less transparent and reflected or refracted light rather than glowed.
Some of the new gemstones were smoky grey, some an unusual reddish pink and others were olive green. Jax knew that jewellers cut these gems into pretty shapes. Diamonds, in particular, were very popular gems to own.
Her medallion had one on it, and she knew they had magical properties too. The men loved finding special crystals and other gemstones because they were worth nearly as much as the Quaz crystals. Not that anyone had located those unique crystals on this island other than herself.
Jax used her magic to locate the gemstones in the rubble by having them glow for her. She spent some time digging in the side of the slip that contained the other part of the volcanic pipe that had broken off in the quake.
She ended up filling a sock with the special gemstones that she found. She didn't bother collecting too many of the smallest crystals for her other socks and sacks, except as space fillers.
Happy with her haul, she spread out her blanket in a clear area near the tunnel she had used to come into the cavern. She ate the last apple from her packed lunch and drank half of the water.
After eating, she curled up and slept for several hours.
When Jax awoke, she was very thirsty and hungry.
However, she did feel recharged magically from being in the cavern. She drank the last of her water, rolled up her blanket and tied it back to the top of her pack. She walked the perimeter once more.
She still had no luck finding any other exit other than the way she came in. Depressed, she wandered back towards the dais and stopped to pick up a strange device that glittered.
It was in a pile of dirt near the base of the bottom step. It looked a lot like a solid-metal, open-band style of bracelet that was 2cm wide and 5mm thick.
She brushed the dirt off it and noticed that it had a dusting of tiny pieces of Quaz crystals embedded in the top of the band. She wasn't sure what the metal was as it had an odd pinky-orange hue.
When she looked at the underside, it had some odd writing engraved on it and four modestly large gems embedded into the metal. Three were similar to hers, but it also had a topaz for the Psychic discipline, and they were interspaced by three large, square and flat, Quaz crystals.
Jax absent-mindedly slipped the bracelet over her right wrist and up her arm a little way, so it touched her skin, causing it to tingle, and she shuddered slightly. More magical items were better than less, she decided.
She surveyed the cavern floor near the dais once more. She then noticed a second gleam in the fine dirt, a few metres from her. Going over to it, she picked up another bracelet.
It was like the first one. It had the same word but different gems. The disciplines of Energy, Lore, Earth, and Physics were represented. Jax thought that the word said, 'Traveller'.
She climbed up onto the dais to stand in the middle as she pocketed the second bracelet. She set her pack on her back and took a deep breath. She had no idea if this would work or not, or even where she would end up if it did.
However, she was running out of options.
Jax said aloud, "I wonder if this thing can get me out of here?"
Jax no sooner finished voicing her query than she felt her body lurch. It was as if she was pulled apart, but she felt no pain. She felt as if she was moving, but then again, she felt as if she wasn't.
It was a bizarre set of sensations and would have upset her stomach if she could feel it. Before Jax could panic, she felt herself become one again. Then gravity took over.
Jax felt her body was plummeting to the ground. She screamed as she fell for several metres and then crashed into the ground.
Now, she really did feel pain, as she had landed on hard-packed sand and rocks with a jarring thump. She also banged her head on an outcrop of rock when she fell over in the dark due to the uneven footing.
The intensity of the pain rendered her unconscious.
When Jax awoke, she found herself lying on her side on the damp sand.
That in itself was odd since she had been in a dry cavern deep under Mt Sigma. As she pushed herself up, she noted that she could hear a strange sound and then the smell hit her nostrils.
As she listened to the lapping waves and breathed in the salt-ladened and fishy-smelling air, she determined that she was in a grotto that seawater had found its way into.
Jax felt around and located her hat. She touched the crystal lamp so it illuminated. She shone the light around so she could get a better idea of where she was.
It wasn't a very big cavern, barely more than 12m in any one direction and about half as high. Sharp, encrusted rocks stuck up between the patches of sand. Shells and bits of plants that she couldn't identify littered the sand.
Jax rubbed her forehead and felt the lump from when she hit the rocks near her. She also felt the dribbles of blood that was drying on her skin.
At least she wasn't bleeding very much.
Jax surveyed the space she was in.
She noticed a cleft in the rocks. It was to her left if she faced the sea and at the level where water was lapping against the wall. She could look up into the cleft and see some light.
She suspected the seawater came in under the wall and doubted she could go out that way. The seawater took up half the floor area of the small cavern. Jax also noticed that most of the debris that had made its way into the grotto was pushed against the back wall.
She also realised the high tide marks were higher on the wall, and most of the sand would go under when the tide came back in. This was not a place she could stay for long. She would have to climb up.
As Jax tried to stand. She also realised that her pack seemed a lot heavier and her arms and body felt more leaden. As she went to walk, it took more effort to lift her feet.
She realised that the gravity here was pulling her to the floor more strongly than at home. She had a good idea of why -- somehow, she was no longer on Tara. Jax grumbled as she started to climb.
This wasn't supposed to be happening to her.
Jax had been fascinated by the sciences at school.
Since she managed to spend a lot of time in the library, she delved into many of the old books they had. She devoured a lot of knowledge that most of her people didn't think was worth knowing.
The college library had a particular room that you couldn't enter unless you wore a magical item. Jax hadn't wanted to reveal that she wore a magical item, so she was cautious when she went to the room.
The books she found were a collection of old books. Some dated back five thousand years to when the people of Keltria had first come to her planet called Tara.
That was when she learnt about gravity, different types of energy that could be harnessed, and how various elements were formed into compounds. Geological formations, planets and stars, and other worlds different to the planet she had been born on also fascinated her.
It did sadden her that no one had ever entered the room to bother her in the three years she spent in that special room.
With the knowledge she had, Jax came to believe she wasn't on Tara anymore. She had no idea why she had come to be where she was or how she was ever going to return home.
There were no crystals in this cavern or a dais. She was going to have to find a cavern with one somewhere on this planet. She was rather daunted by this task.
Jax had no idea how big the planet was or how advanced its people might be, or even if it had any people like her. Her most immediate problem was that she had to learn how to function with the slightly higher gravity that made her feel sluggish.
The head wound and pain weren't helping either.
Jax shuffled over to the wall.
The cleft wasn't very wide, and she had to use her Earth magic to widen it in places so she could squeeze her way along it, as she also had to climb up about 5m.
She had to stop about halfway and put her hard hat in her pack as she kept knocking it off her head. She was so intent on doing this that she didn't think so much about the new gravity as she made her way out. She was nothing if not adaptable.
Jax was more cautious as she approached the small top entrance to her crevice. Obviously, it was daylight outside, and the hot, muggy air that wafted in at her was a lot warmer than she was used to. Her home was a lot cooler than this place.
When she looked out, she realised that she was on a rocky escarpment that led back down to the sea behind her. If she continued to climb up another ten or so metres, she would be at the tree line. She didn't fancy walking far with her heavy pack and in the hot sun.
She decided to go up.
Jax scrambled out of the hole.
Once free, she started making her way higher up the rocky hillside to enter the tree line. As she wove her way up, she noted that many of the plants had some familiarity, but they weren't exactly the same as at home.
Some of the trees had strange yellow-white bark that peeled off like paper and exposed, red-streaked wood underneath. The leaves on some of the bushes looked like they had a waxy coating, and most had flowers that were very pretty and unusual to her way of thinking.
Going by the undergrowth, she determined that they had recently had rain here, and everything was very green and damp. She had to watch her footing, as many of the rocks were loose and the leaf matter was slippery.
When Jax saw the first, odd-looking, red-mud pillar, she was perplexed. It was a metre high and at least a metre long but only a third of that wide at the base. It looked like it had been sculptured into a sort of waving curtain of dried, red mud.
She had to go and investigate. When she broke a piece of the dirt away, she was fascinated to find that small, white-skinned creatures were scurrying around inside.
They quickly disappeared into the tunnels as if they didn't appreciate the blazing sun upon their backs. She couldn't blame them as she wiped her sweaty brow and tried to ignore her hunger and thirst.
Jax moved through the edge of the tree line, aiming for the large white shapes that were further around the small peninsula. She guessed that was another fifteen-odd metres above her position but still some distance off.
She was just about to step out of the trees onto a wide, black road when she heard a strange roaring noise and turned around. From her new position, she had an excellent view of the bay, and she looked out to sea from her vantage point.
She saw the strange, long, grey boats that were floating out in the harbour. They were the oddest boats she had ever seen, with bits and pieces sticking out all over them and no sails. She at least recognised the few wooden vessels with masts as sailing ships.
It took her a few moments to realise that the ones without sails were possibly made from steel. She had seen designs for boats in the libraries books that looked somewhat like the freighters but nothing like the other ships.
There had even been talks at home to use the steel they made to construct bigger, stronger ships with electric motors. Some of the ships she was looking at were really big, and some just enormous.
That was a lot of steel to her way of thinking. Her people would have to mine half their mountain to provide their refinery with enough ore to make that much steel.
Back on what she deemed a wharf, people were running around, and other strange objects were moving quickly on the roads. She then realised that most of them were autos and carriers.
They didn't have a lot of electric autos on her island. Her people only really had a single design for the small ones for people, being the autos, and the larger ones for goods, being the carriers.
So, she was amazing to see so many different shapes, colours and sizes. Her father had joked that if she found more crystals, he would buy her one. At the time, she didn't take the hint.
Then, the multitude of spots that appeared in the sky became more visible and attracted her attention again. These birds were very peculiar. They didn't flap their wings, and they flew in odd formations that birds didn't normally take.
Jax also realised that it was these birds that were making that weird droning noise. She watched in fascination as they got closer and larger. She noticed that the smaller birds seemed to flank the larger ones in the centre.
As the birds roared towards her, she judged that they were moving far faster than any bird she had seen before. As they went to pass high up over the ships that were further out in the bay, the birds started dropping large eggs.
This had Jax totally confused.
She watched as one egg hit the sea near a boat.
Then she hit the deck as the mighty explosion sprayed water to what seemed to her to be hundreds of metres into the air.
When she looked up again, other eggs were landing on the ships or very close to them. She was horrified as she realised the eggs were some type of huge bombs that were ripping apart the vessels.
Great gouts of black smoke filled the sky.
Flames and fire took hold of the ships.
To her horror, tiny people scurried over the tops of the vessels and jumped off into the sea as she watched. She was sure that some of the people were screaming as they burned. Thankfully, she was too far away to hear them over the explosions.
Then another noise coming from her left and on the land started up. It was a horrible whining noise as if some giant creature were screaming at the birds to go away.
She watched with stunned fascination as some of the boats listed. Then, one of the massive ones rolled over in the water as if mortally wounded. Tears welled in her eyes as people were thrown into the sea.
The large flock of birds flew overhead. Some peeled off and dived down over the ships and the wharf. The drone they made was enough to make Jax shiver in terror. Then the smaller ones started screaming a strange rat-a-tat-tat sound.
She wanted to run, but the horror made her stand back up to witness this insanity. The big birds now dropped their deadly eggs as they passed over land.
Now, it was dirt, trees, autos, people, and buildings that were blown high into the sky. Smoke and fires added to the confusion.
Then a new noise entered the theatre. Jax heard other booming noises and saw puffs of black smoke appear in the air near the birds. Then one of the birds started falling down below the others. Smoke billowed from its strange tail, and she realised that it wasn't a bird at all.
More booms added to the bewildering noise, and Jax could see that some of the ships that hadn't been on fire before were now aflame, and something in the boats had caused belated explosions.
Jax nearly died of fright when a bomb dropped near one of the huge, white objects on the hill that she had been working her way towards. The explosion made her ears ring and sent rocks into the air so they could rain down near her.
She could feel the heat from the explosion even though she was several hundred metres from its position. Trees and bushes caught fire, and strange animals bounced and scurried past her trying to escape the insanity. They simply added to the chaos.
Jax was wondering what sort of world this was, where people were blowing up other people.
[Author's Note: Jax is a shape shifter, so I will refer to her-him by the gender she-he is in when Jax has changed gender.]
The staff car nearly ran Jax over as she walked down the road after the planes had left.
The car came to a screeching halt a good 10m past her after she dived off the road. She was glad she was wearing her mining shirt and pants.
The driver backed up to beside where her body lay. She realised the vehicle had three men in it and decided it might appear more prudent to change to her male form, so she did.
The man in the back of the auto and on her side of the road leaned over the windowsill and said, "What the fuck are you doing up here, Private? What regiment are you with?"
Jax looked at the man with the strange badges and pips on his shirt. Confusion showed on her face. It took her magic with the help of the entity she had gained in her head when she had put her medallion on to decipher the words he used.
It was the man in the front seat that noticed Jax was having trouble standing and said, "Sir, I think he might be hurt and concussed."
"Go help him, David," the man in the back seat told the one in the seat in front of him.
The man, David, got out of the auto, and Jax found himself being steadied as he got back to his feet. He was somewhat surprised to be looking up into the green eyes of a Genteli. Then Jax realised his mistake.
The man was taller than a Genteli, and his skin tone was a light milky-brown more like his, and most significantly, the man didn't have pointy-tips on his ears. He did have lovely green eyes and not purple ones. They were also slightly smaller in his very pleasant-looking face.
This man's hair was an odd mixture of dark brown with red highlights brought out by the sun shining on it. It was a lot like her brothers' hair. Yet, he wasn't a man of the Burgis race either as his ears were more prominent and had lobes more like a Prol's, but he didn't have the big nose similar to a Prol male.
Jax's skin tingled as the man helped him up.
Jax heard the first man speak again.
"Stick him in with me, David. We will drop him off at the hospital later, and they can sort out where he belongs."
"Yes, Sir," the man helping Jax answered as he helped Jax around to the back of the vehicle.
The lid on the back compartment opened, and David tugged Jax's backpack off of him and tossed it into the deep boot of the car, on top of several boxes. David slammed the lid closed, making Jax flinch and put his hand to his pounding head.
Jax had no idea how he was going to get his pack back. It seemed that these men were abducting him, but they weren't being nasty about it, so he didn't fight off this tall man. If he wanted his pack back, he would have to go with them.
David then helped Jax around to the driver's side of the vehicle. (The right side). This time Jax watched as the man pushed in a button on the shiny metal handle before pulling the door back.
He helped Jax into the car and didn't slam the door this time. The Captain got pissed if they did that. David went back around the car to get back in the front on the passenger side.
The car started moving again.
Captain Ian Thornton looked Jax over.
He wondered what the young man was doing up on the hill and without a hat. Ian didn't think the lad was a deserter, as Stokes Hill wasn't exactly the place they headed for; unless the lad had planned to get on a ship and got lost along the way.
Ian also had a hard time placing where the man, or more precisely, the boy, since he looked barely fifteen, came from. He also needed a haircut. Pony-tails were not in the regulations. He could see the boy's red hair was tucked down inside the back of his shirt.
With the push on to provide more troops, they must be scraping the bottom of the barrel to find bodies to put in a uniform. Even the uniform looked odd, and Ian now wondered if the kid had come off one of the ships.
They had been sent new uniforms to equip the soldiers being sent up here from down south. Some idiot had been giving the boys woollens for Europe and not the cotton-drill tropical kit.
While Ian was Australian born, his father had sent him to Oxford in England to finish his education and study International Shipping Law. He had only been working for his father's shipping office in Darwin for two years when he got his notice to serve in early 1939. He had been just twenty-three years of age.
Ian's father had wangled a deal with a Major who was an old friend of his, and Ian found himself in officer training after he did basic training. They were desperate for officer material. He was surprised to learn that he rather liked being in the Army, to some extent.
He had agreed to be posted back to the NT (Northern Territory) if they bumped him up to the rank of Captain. He had gotten a mixed bag of men put under his command. They included a couple of Artillery Battery squads with a section of Sappers' - Engineers and a couple of platoons of regular troops.
His biggest problems were that he kept getting conflicting commands from his Colonel and the Colonels back in Sydney, and substandard or useless equipment sent to him. They were so busy building up troop numbers to ship to Europe and the Philippines that they weren't caring so much about defending the home soil.
With things hotting up in the Pacific, he had complained on several occasions that they didn't have the firepower or men to defend Darwin. Unfortunately, his whinging had fallen on deaf ears, and now his home was being bombed out of existence.
Ian was glad that his father had talked his mother, his older sister, and her two small kids into leaving on the HMAHS Manunda the month before. The ship had taken a lot of the women and children from Darwin to Fremantle in Western Australia.
Ian just wished his father had also left and now hoped that he hadn't been hurt in the bombing.
"What's your name, Son?" Ian asked in the clipped, British accent that he had adopted.
Jax looked at the young officer and then the two men in front. Jax was pretty quick on the uptake and realised the man sitting beside him was some type of leader among these very strange and tall people.
He guessed the ornaments on the man's lapel were of significance since he wore more of them than the other two men.
"J… Jax," he stammered out.
Ian frowned at the very odd accent. "Have you come off one of the ships like the Zealander?" he found himself asking.
His replacements tended to turn up in dribs and drabs. However, Ian was sure that he had processed the Anti-tank Company that had come off that ship, and he didn't remember a name like Jax. He wondered if the kid had said 'Jack', as he had a few of them. It was a common name.
Jax shrugged and looked at Ian with worry and confusion.
"Then what company are you with, Jack?" Ian asked as the car wove its way to one of the AA-gun placements.