“I HAVE NO WORDS!” Keilo grabbed his own head in unrelenting excitement.
Jik laughed, “YOU SEEM TO HAVE A LOT.”
“I HAVE NO SMART WORDS! WOW! JUST…WOW!! HOW DID HE DO THAT?!”
“PURE INSTINCT!” She yelled over the roar of the crowd, as well as the translators around her, “THERE’S HALF A SECOND OF HIM PICTURING THE FLOCKS OF BIRDS. HE…HE JUST FOUND A WAY THROUGH. BUT HE’S DOOMED NOW.”
The roar started to subside while she explained what Keilo was now remembering.
“HE COULDN’T STOP THE DIVE. TO GO THROUGH THE BIRDS, HE STOPPED…he stopped it. He lost a second he couldn’t so now he won’t reach the teleporter.”
“Oh no, don’t say that, that can’t be how it ends!”
“I’m afraid it is…the only diver to survive the birds…was actually killed by the clouds right at the start.”
“Well I guess that’ll be another notch on Rybkin’s belt,” Keilo said, honestly disappointed and disgruntled with the while situation.
But by this time, my melancholy and, I remind you, my disbelief had been expunged. This was no longer just another week, no longer just another event of freefall destiny. This was no longer just a job. The man was a champion and as I meticulously pushed my map skills to their limits, my calculation and vector predictions to the brink of my intelligence to find a solution, the only thing I could hear was the memory that was now flashing before Celár’s eyes.
“I know you’ll come back to me alive, Ocklo.”
“And I know you’ll be here waiting for me.”
“Of course I will,” the female voice of his wife giggled. The only commentary I heard was Keilo whispering “wow, that is harsh. I suppose that’s the last they saw of each other?”
“Seems that way.”
He didn’t have a wife, everyone knew at least that. He had no family members.
Now, it is hard to describe what it was like. What came next.
He had burst through a dragonfly, and survived the birds. I was already as stressed with it all and as involved in a contestant’s fall as I had ever been, so it is hard to explain what happened next.
Whatever going beyond one’s limits of enthusiasm and anxiety feels like, that was how Ocklo made us all feel. And it all started when I noticed he was about to pierce a sea of thundering clouds, beneath which was the massive storm I had initially wanted him to avoid. This storm was generating a massive swirl in the ocean below. The swirl wasn’t simply a normal spiral, it started as one on the surface but then became a tunnel that curved around erratically for a few additional miles, completely carved by the raging winds and crazy tides.
The planet is insane.
More accurately described as an F5-level hurricane, I watched as the case containing the teleporter dove right into it, carried by the wind into these sea tunnels, all the while Celár was crossing the storm-clouds.
“CELÁR!” I yelled as high as I could. I could hardly believe what I was about to suggest, so I could only imagine how someone who was actually there, Celár, would hear it. “YOU BROKE TO EVADE THE BIRDS. THAT WAS AMAZING. BUT YOU LOST TIME!”
He penetrated the storm, his surroundings suddenly grew dark and dangerous with flashing lights that crossed the sky menacingly and powerfully.
“YOU’RE NOT GETTING TO THE CASE ON TIME ANYMORE. BUT THERE’S A MASSIVE SWIRL. THERE IS A CHANCE, CELÁR, THAT THE WINDS WILL KEEP THE CASE OUTSIDE OF THE WATER, SO THAT YOU CAN CATCH IT.” I steeled myself and allowed myself to believe in him. “BUT YOU’RE HEAVIER, YOU NEED TO FLY WITH THE SWIRL!”
I paused because I could not believe I had actually said it. But I wanted him to win, and I was…I believed in him.
I think you can do anything if someone believes in you.
“I WILL TELL YOU WHAT DIRECTION IT TURNS, YOU JUST FOCUS ON TURNING!”
I saw him fall close to the water, and from his point of view…it literally made me swallow the profanities that went unsaid. The swirl was the most intimidating thing I had ever seen, even comparing against the dragonfly’s mouth. Celár looked around, the whole scenery was surrounded by thunder, lightning, and massive tornados. A giant thick mist was advancing on him with a taint of electricity and the swirl itself was made of water that was rampaging into bellowing waves.
“YOU CAN DO IT!” As I said that, someone else echoed my voice, someone from his past, though the memory was just sound.
“Oh! A visionless memory! We know what that means!”
“Triggered,” Jik pointed out, “Ocklo Celár triggered it, what does he mean he can–no, no way.”
“LADIES!” Keilo got up so fast he flipped his screen off the table. “AND GENTLEMAAANN!! OCKLO CELÀR IS ABOUT TO NAVIGATE HIS FALL THROUGH THAT RAMPAGING SWIRL!!!”
People didn’t even have time to react. By the time they had processed what Keilo Farkto had reported, the vision feed lost focus and went wild. The only decent and discernible feedback anyone now had were the 3D holographic representations.
“Right turn, spiraling twice,” I said, as a monotonic yell started to rise from the crowd.
“Once. Twice. Turn.”
He turned left, the vision suddenly showing the switching in trajectory, the whole vision of it getting tunneled due to his speed. And meanwhile, more and more people joined their voices in a near continuously growing monotonic chant.
“Once. Twice. Thrice. Turn.”
He turned right again, the monotonic chant breaking only momentarily before picking up where it left off, soon as it was clear he had not crashed into the waters.
“WHOOOOOOO….” Keilo joined in, grabbing hold of his head like he was literally losing his mind, his face contorting in an adrenaline-fueled happiness and consequentially sending the chant up quite a few levels of volume.
As casters do.
Again the chant broke, and when it came back, it was an all out chorus.
Emperors and kings and the galaxy’s rich were as much at the edge of their seat as everyone else, they were experiencing a very justifiable incapacity to stay composed.
Celár was riding the winds inside an underwater swirl.
“One – crap,” I couldn’t hold it in, “two – tight curve’s coming up – three and turn – it’s too tight – one – Celá – two and turn… I’m sorry…”
The moment must have gone up to my head completely by that point. Because I looked at the trajectories…I looked as the swirl did an S before ending into water. An S with curves too tight for Celár to stay inside, but also tight enough that they were close to each other…the connected tunnels.
I looked at the trajectories, I looked at the speeds, and I had my own memory flashback. One about eyes that were dedicated to be important again; eyes that wanted to live and yet see much more. Eyes that had blinked a grateful farewell to my own as the doors closed over them.
Eyes that were going to see much more.
“Celár,” I called out, “vapor gun’s charged!”
The feed blurred out, transposed with a memory, the last one I would ever see, and it was a mix of two. It showed a kid crying against a mother’s hems. The mother threw a coin at Celár’s cup while trying to comfort the boy.
“Your father was very brave, son,” she said, “he died a hero.”
“But I miss him…”
And an image overlaid to that, of a battered soldier, wounded and bleeding and crying over Celár.
“You saved my life, man! You saved me, I–damn it, my whole family, man. We’ll never be able to thank you enough for this. I’ll get to see them again, thank you so…thank you so much.”
And the feed cleared back into his vision, the vapor gun held high and steaming.
“WHAAAAAAAAAT!!?!” Keilo absolutely lost it, and I swear I shed tears.
He pulled the trigger and two walls of water disintegrated into steam to the echoing sound of the gun doing its thing, a steaming tunnel being made as result. The vision feed, him…as if turned and flipped while it crossed the walls, the second of which closed shut upon him, but he cleared it! And before anyone could really swallow and process what they had witnessed, a dark rectangular object rushed into view almost as fast as the hand that showed up, swift and quick, to slap at it. All happened too fast for anyone to discern in real-time. And when the feed suddenly died, so did all the noise.
Everything went quiet and I imagine everyone looked to Keilo who, sweating heavy breaths with his tie ripped off and his hair all messy and his eyes all glittering, looked up in visible anxiety and impatience…waiting to hear.
“C’mon c’mon,” me and Keilo both whispered and I never felt so scared in my life.
And then…abruptly…Keilo’s face flared, contorted and emitted the happiest scream I have ever heard, and everyone knew what that mean.
A roar that shook the entire blasted station followed. No, you don’t understand, I am not being metaphorical. There are reports of machines coming off their hinges in the aftermath of everyone realizing Celár had done it. The thing he had reached for and grabbed was the teleporter. He had shot off the vapor gun to connect the two underwater swirl-made tunnels so that he could intercept the case mere feet away from the end of said swirl.
I sat down, utterly out of breath. I think everyone did, except for Keilo, of course.
“THIS IS AMAAAAZZIIING! MIROSLAV RYBKIN AND OCKLO CELÁR HAVE DONE THE ABSOLUTE IMPOSSIBLE!!”
“I have to agree,” Jik’hit stated, utterly without words, in a faint whisper that probably only I, within my sound-proof room, managed to hear.
“EVERYONE IS GOING CRAZY HERE! I SWEAR I CAN FEEL THE SHIP MOVING, AND NO WONDER! FOR THIS HAS BEEN THE GREATEST SHOW IN THE UNIVERSE! CELÁR HAS GRABBED HIS DESTINY ALRIGHT! HE HAS DONE SO GLORIOUSLY!!!
“HE IS A CHAMPION!
Ocklo proceeded to wipe clean his disobedience of orders, to wipe clean the sentence given to him by the military court, and start as a soldier anew.
I do not know what name he took, no one knows. I do not know where he is now or who he is fighting, but I know who he is saving…
As sure as I live and breathe, I am sure Ocklo Celár is the greatest champion I have ever met. I am certain he is alive, and above all, I know that he is saving countless families from suffering the loss of their mothers and fathers and wives and husbands.
This was the story of Ocklo Celár, once judged the lowest of the low, and considered to have no better value than to be a mild amusement, a five-minute sacrifice to the entertainment industry, for ratings. He was a soldier, a loving father and husband, and he is now a soldier, and a hero to many families.
I learned then, along with nearly an entire galaxy, to never judge someone over their weaknesses, for you never know how overwhelmingly powerful their strengths are.
It’s not anything new but I have to phrase it in that same familiar way that you have heard and read before, because it is the truth of my experience with Ocklo Celár. Because it is the truth.
Never judge someone…until you know them.