Four strangers awoke in a sealed, circular room, on four differently colored slabs, surrounded by scattered equipment. One was a male 'Red Zox' (Zox = Zebra Fox, red zox meaning red and white striped), one was an 'Anidutu' of indeterminate gender -- a four-winged bird/bug creature, one was a human woman, and one was a female lutrai (ottermorph). None of them knew their names, but some of them recognized some of the things surrounding them -- none of them recognized which clothes were theirs or anything, although with the zox being nine feet tall that part was pretty obvious.
A burmecian (giant rat) in a trenchcoat walked in while they were getting dressed, and addressed them. He introduced himself as Dr. Hey Itsaboy, and told them that they'd been resurrected in order to tell him what had happened during the schism. Upon finding out that their memories were missing, he proclaimed the experiment a failure.
The zox objected -- all he needed to do was heal their memory, which was surely easier than the initial resurrection. But Itsaboy didn't know anything about that. This sort of magic was all highly illegal, and he had to go consult with his fellows about how to deal with them.
This sounded a bit too much like 'how to dispose of them' to the zox, who picked up a katana and tried to threaten the doctor, but the rat retreated through a door which sealed itself closed, locking them in. The Anidutu was able to read a spellbook among the scattered stuff, and started casting a spell to figure out how to open the door, but it took an hour to cast, and before he'd finished the burmecians were back.
Apparently, they didn't intend to kill the amnesiacs after all, but they were worried about how to get them a place in their society so that they wouldn't be made the playthings of the citizens of their moon during the dreamtime, which was starting in four hours. They'd need $100,000 each to buy citizenship, which was really expensive -- selling off the valuable things from the pile of equipment that had been resurrected with them only gave about $5000 each. If they could gain a bunch of notoriety, somehow? They asked about whether they could pledge themselves temporarily to the doctor's company for protection, but unfortunately that would make them into slaves, which was a virtually permanent condition that would cost millions of dollars to reverse.
Zox: "So wait -- you're not allowed to work for money unless you're already rich?"
Dr: "We told you that we hated our society. That's why we're realists." Realists being people who thought the real world was more important than the dreamtime. "Besides, you're allowed to work, you just become a slave. 98% of the population are slaves."
Zox: "Doesn't that defeat the purpose of having slaves? With so many slaves you'd have to treat them so well that they might as well be citizens... unless the dreamtime magic simply lets you oppress them and suppress any revolt."
Dr: "The translation magic didn't get all those words, but I think the second option is closer to the truth."
They were also taken outside to get a look at the world, which was... strange. They remembered a normal world, where the ground was flat and the sky was blue with a sun and moon and stars -- but the sky here was cloudy, and the ground was obviously curved, and not even the other moons were visible through the clouds, let along the stars, for which they didn't even have a word. They were on a moon named Morpheus, one of dozens, this one ruled by the lords of the dreamtime.
As they watched, a falling *untranslateable* crashed over the horizon. The doctor suggested that retrieving... whatever it was... would be a start towards notoriety and therefore a place as a citizen of Morpheus. But for now, it was important that they get into bed, because it was almost dreamtime and sleep during dreamtime was mandatory.
So they dreamed. As non-citizens, they had very little control over the dreams, and were taken advantage of by whoever managed to notice their presence. Worse, when they woke up they were exhausted, as if they'd stayed up all night. This wasn't normal -- the burmecians were refreshed by the dreamtime's lucid sleep. The nurse examined them, and found that not only had they not gotten any sleep, but their souls were unstable and liable to dissolve. She gave them a stimulant and a pill to stabilize their souls, but this was pretty awful news.
Oh, and they were also asked to pick names for themselves, since their actual names were lost. The Zox decided to call himself Cane, since he was striped like a candy cane, and the human girl called herself... er... Tanara? The other two couldn't come up with anything yet, so they got called otter-girl and birdy.
They had remembered a little more about themselves, though -- they remembered what skills they *had* had (although they weren't very good at them anymore) and things like that Cane was a samurai, sworn to uphold Bushido. Which had really hadn't been doing.
The doctor told them that they'd get to drive their prototype automobile to go get the falling *untranslateable*. It was actually more of a train locomotive than a car, although it had rubber tires. It was also really, really a prototype, and had three speeds: stop, 10mph forwards, and 10mph backwards. Since Cane had an eidetic memory (at least for new memories) and was strong enough to work the steering wheel, he listened to the engineers explain how to work the machine (easy) and fix it when it broke (not so easy). Note: not 'if' it broke.
They named it the 'For sale: $400,000' and set off. Cane only ran into a couple of buildings on the way out of town, but the thing kept breaking down in the wilderness and needing repairs, and eventually, within sight of the crater, the boiler burst, which wasn't something they could repair. But they were able to walk the rest of the way, and find... an empty crater, which horse tracks indicating that someone else had gotten there first.
Birdy did some scouting, and spotted the horse-riders in the distance. They weren't carrying anything obvious -- maybe the thing was small? Otter-girl suggested he spook their horses to slow them down enough for the rest of them to catch up. But while he was doing that, Tanara examined the crater and pointed out the impression a big spiked ball had left making it -- there was no way the riders had taken it with them. Well, maybe in a bag of holding or something. Cane started digging at the bottom of the crater in case it was just buried.
But then Birdy came back to report a partial success -- he'd spooked two of the horses, so the other three only had one horse between them. They used some alchemical paste on a tower shield (they weren't sure whose shield it was) to make a makeshift sled, and then ran after the (other, more successful) theives to get back their *untranslateable*!
Since the no-longer-riders weren't going very fast anymore, they caught up quickly. Cane tried to use the floating shield as a ram to charge at them with, but one of the nobles, a girl with a bow, shot an arrow in the shield and made it go haywire, pinning him to the ground and then flying him up in the air when he tried to flip it off him. Birdy shot the last horse to spook it into running off, and otter-girl tried to talk to the enemies... but then Cane slammed the flying shield down on the guy with a sword, knocking him out, and the third enemy -- a slave -- stole an arrow from the girl and stabbed her in the back, killing her. Although only Birdy noticed this. The rest just saw her fall over dead for no reason -- WTF?
They negotiated with him to trade information, and he told them that whatever had landed had been (a) highly magnetic, and (b) carried off by a large flying creature. They told him in return that they'd been brought to the world against their will by poweful magic they didn't understand, which was why they didn't serve any lord yet.
Otter-girl thought she could make a compass, and since the moon had no actual magnetic field, that would probably be enough to track the spiky thing. Cane invited the murderous slave to come along with them, since he was seeking the same object and might get there first if they didn't work together.
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