The cafe should have been closed, but the freezing of time meant that its owner hadn’t gotten around to locking it up and flipping the sign. The owner was instead standing at the till, counting money.
Kindyna shuddered as she opened the door and walked in. The team had been fine walking through the emptier parts of the town, but as they approached the busier high streets, it unnerved them seeing so many beings standing completely still, frozen in time and stuck doing whatever it was they were doing. They’d picked this cafe because there was only one being inside, and none of them really wanted to break into a shop.
“Wonder what they’ve got in the kitchen?” Arksi wondered as he sat down at one of the tables at the back of the cafe, one with a handful of stools. Ct’Era though opted to sit on the floor – even when sitting down, she was just as high as Arksi was.
“I’ll go look…” Verlais muttered as he glanced into the kitchen. Everything was tidied up and put away, ready for the next day. “Does anyone actually know what time it is?”
“No. The concept of time is dormant,” Ct’Era replied as she started picking at flaking paint on the table, only to have her hand slapped by Arksi.
Verlais continued to rummage around in the kitchen until he found the fridge. He opened it up, only to be disappointed. “Well, friends, I am not a good cook, and there is nothing already made here.”
“Is there any raw meat?” Ct’Era asked.
“Hm, Yeah, couple of poultry bird breasts. Some cooked salami meats as well. Mostly drinks though.”
Arksi tutted. “I hope that’s all stored properly in separate compartments according to local food service laws…”
Ct’Era gave Arksi an odd look. Kindyna though just grinned.
“We’re in Thanatian territory. Don’t bet on it.”
“Actually, we’re in Palaestra,” Verlais interrupted from the kitchen as he fumbled around with plates and stuff. “Probably the best run city on the planet. In my short stay here, I have been amazed at how civilized and open everyone is. Including the local Thanatians.”
Ct’Era nodded in agreement. “Only place a Banikan can go to a restaurant and book a table and not be turned away.”
Verlais came out of the kitchen carrying a tray of various drinks and placed it in front of Arksi, before disappearing and coming back with a larger tray covered in raw meat.
“For you, Ct’Era.”
Ct’Era smiled awkwardly, teeth sticking out everywhere. She had never been treated like this by other races before. Verlais smiled back and headed back into the kitchen.
Kindyna though ruined the moment by slamming a large sheet of paper on the table between them, with badly drawn doodles on it. Arksi rolled his eyes, took one of the drinks that Verlais had brought and asked Kindyna what she was doing.
“We need a plan.”
“Is this a map?” Arksi mocked her. “Because there’s a tourists’ guide over there on the wall with the whole planet on it, and you’ve drawn this mess.”
“We need to work out what the fuck we are doing!” Kindyna snarled. “We need to get to the north pole which is where this Stasis has this Kairos imprisoned and we need to be prepared!”
“Anyone find it weird how time seems to move normally around us but is frozen everywhere else?” Verlais interrupted as he placed three plates of sandwiches on top of Kindyna’s scribbled map. “I turned the tap on out there and left it on and when I moved away the water stopped flowing.”
“What, really?” Kindyna exclaimed. She got up and rushed into the kitchen to see for herself. She turned the tap on and watched as water poured out. “It’s flowing.”
“Now walk away from it.”
Kindyna did as Verlais suggested. As she did so, the stream of water slowed down, before finally stopping in place.
“That’s freaky…” Arksi muttered through bites of his sandwich. “So we have some… innate ability to control time or something?”
“I doubt it,” Verlais replied as he turned the tap off. “I would have noticed if I had been able to control time.”
“Perhaps we don’t control time,” Ct’Era suggested. “Perhaps time works when we are near. We normalize time.”
Arksi thought to himself for a moment. “So time is always as it should be when we are around, irrelevant of whether time is frozen around us? That’s a really weird ability.”
Kindyna shrugged and came back to the table, moving the plates out of the way. “Means we can’t be frozen in time like everyone else. But we need to get back to this plan. How the fuck are we going to get to the north pole? None of us can pilot a ship!”
Verlais dragged a chair over and say next to Kindyna, helping himself to a sandwich as well. “We can’t walk. But it’s not that far really. A day’s journey, not even that. It’s a small planet, after all and we are already rather far north.”
“Where do we get vehicles though?” Ct’Era asked as she tore at a raw piece of something. “And we will need weapons. And supplies. And fuel.”
“We can source all of that locally,” Arksi explained. “The Palaestra Arena regularly does a thing where they bring in huge monsters for competitors to fight. My brother told me about it, he works there. They bring the animals in via massive trucks, should be large enough to carry everything we need.”
“They also have weapons there that we can borrow,” Verlais added.
“Do these trucks work off-road?” Kindyna asked. “Once we get past the Majis River and into Zonta territory, it’s mostly rocky terrain.”
“The Anikta Plains… If we get the river ferries to Plasta Island, it shouldn’t be too bad. The trucks are apparently made to deal with that though.”
Verlais seemed to go pale at the mention of Zonta. “Will we be in that territory long?”
“It’s almost all Zonta lands where we’re going…” Arksi sighed, noticing Verlais’s sudden uneasiness.
“It is not a problem!” Ct’Era smiled. “Zonta will be frozen. But we also have immunities to them. We are Dessaron like Arksi’s all-yellow brother, yes?”
Kindyna nodded in agreement. “They can’t infect us. We’ll be fine. We’ll also raid the armouries and get weapons as well, so we can fend them off if they do attack.”
“I guess…” Verlais sighed. “So the plan is to take a beast-capturing truck, fill it with fuel, food and weapons, get on the ferries at Plasta Island, cross over into the Anikta Plains and drive to the pole from there until we find what we’re looking for?”
“Pretty much!” Kindyna grinned. “Alright, Arksi, Verlais, you two go and get one of those trucks and whatever weapons you think we’ll need. Ct’Era, I need you to get cans of fuel and water to take with us. I’ll sort out food and find a better map and some better navigational tools. Like a compass or something.”
Arksi finished his plate of sandwiches, feeling much better. “Sounds good to me. I suggest we meet back here at this cafe when we’re all done.”
Verlais stood up, ready to leave. “Alright. We have a plan. Come on, friends, let’s, um, go to the north pole and fix time!”