"Please explain," Data said.
"The Spirit Charge can only be observed on battlegrounds that the Noznians have won," Katina explained, "The spirits of the fallen soldiers from our side, both Noznian and human, stand on a hill… all the battlegrounds we've fought on have hills… in the formation that they stood in at the very beginning of the battle. They then perform what is known as the Spirit Charge, where they do the Phoenix Dash, the standard opening move of our warfare, and charge at where the enemy stood. The spirits then go on to reenact their final moments on the battlefield, and fall where they had fallen in battle, echoing their last words as they vanish once again." Katina smiled as she remembered something her grandpa had told her. "Sometimes, a solider will know in his final dying moments that the battle will be won, and that his ghost will remain on the field forever, so he'll say something special that he will want to have echoed for all eternity. My grandpa says that those messages are the most important."
They walked further through the forest, Katina leading the way, until they came to a clearing behind a few bushes. There was a giant hill leading down into the forest. "This is it, this has to be," Katina said. She looked down at the bushes in front of them and noticed a number of large, blue, rectangular berries, some slightly bigger than her own hand. "Hey look!" she exclaimed, "Blockberries!" She sat down and picked a couple berries, offering one to Data. He took it and examined it, sitting down on the ground next to Katina, who was trying to come up with a good way to puncture the thick skin of the berry.
"The phenomenon you have just described, although quite intriguing, seems theoretically impossible," Data said.
"How so?" Katina asked, looking up from her berry.
"Ghosts and spirits do not exist," Data explained, "If one sees a ghost, it is usually a trick of the mind. My positronic brain only perceives my surroundings exactly as they are, with no influence from imagination. Even if you ended up seeing this 'Spirit Charge,' I would most likely be incapable of witnessing it."
"But it does happen!" Katina argued, "My grandpa has seen it himself twice! He saw the one where the first General, his great-grandfather, died! And the feeling I have right now is so strong… I know it will happen here!"
"I am still highly skeptical," Data said, "But I will wait here with you."
"Thank you," Katina said, smiling, "Now, let's eat some berries!"
Before Katina attempted to bite a hole in the skin of the blockberry, Data stopped her. "It is not a good idea to eat any random berry you find," he explained, "It could be poisonous."
"Trust me, Data, I know a blockberry bush when I see one. There are tons of them growing in the field around my grandpa's house," Katina explained, "Test it yourself first if it'll make you feel any better. I assume it won't affect you if it is bad, right?"
"No, it will not," Data said. He put half the berry into his mouth (since it was too big to eat whole) and bit down on it, and was instantly squirted with deep blue juice in his face and on his uniform. Katina couldn't help rolling on the ground with laughter. After a momentary pause where he adjusted his hold on the berry so it wouldn't spill anymore, Data finished biting off a piece and proceeded to chew it, which took a while, as the skin had the consistency of saltwater taffy. He then swallowed and processed the information he had gathered. "It is safe," he concluded, wiping the blue juice from his face with his hand, then wiping that on his pant leg. It didn't show on the black parts of his uniform, but there wasn't much he could do about the juice that had gotten on the yellow part. "You were correct."
"See? Told ya!" Katina laughed. "But you went about eating it the wrong way! Do it like that and you'll get squirted every time! See, what you're supposed to do is bite a small hole in it first, like this," she explained, demonstrating by biting off a corner of the berry, "And then you drink the juice, and when that's done, you eat the skin." She then proceeded to drink the juice from the berry. Data followed suit, drinking what was left in his berry. When they were finished, Katina picked a few more and put them in the pockets of her vest, saying she wanted Captain Picard and Commander Riker to try it too, but she couldn't hold very many since they were so big. As she picked a third berry, one for Geordi, a dense mist started rolling in, resting on the ground around them.
"Quite unusual," Data commented, "I do not recall there being any bodies of water nearby that could produce such a mist."
"It's starting!" Katina exclaimed, "The Spirit Charge!" She turned around to face the hill. "THERE! See them?"
Data turned his head to look in the direction Katina was looking, and much to his surprise, he DID see ghosts on the hill. Many were humans, and almost as many were smaller figures who appeared to be hooded, with long, tentacle-like arms and no legs, but they had feet that resembled flippers. Data assumed (correctly) that these shorter warriors were Noznians, though he'd never seen one before. Most of them stood, with weapons and shields in hand, while some were mounted on horses, and others mounted on large reptiles that resembled raptors. And… he could hardly believe what he was seeing… one was even mounted on what appeared to be a dragon.
Katina noticed it too. "Ooh… they lost a dragon in this one? Must've been one hell of a fight!" she commented.
The ghostly figures on the hill were joined by one more: A man on a horse who appeared at the very top of the hill and raised his sword. Even from this distance, Katina could tell who it was.
"No…" she gasped, "It can't be! That's… That's my grandpa's dad!"
Data, using his superior vision, examined the ghost that Katina was referring to. Sure enough, at least from this distance, he bore a striking resemblance to General Klopford. But of course, this could not be the General Klopford that they knew, since Data knew full well that he was safe at home on Noz.
The man with his sword in the air pointed it forward, as if giving an order to charge. On this signal, the soldiers spread their arms wide open, holding them slightly behind, and charged forward at full speed; the humans running as fast as they could towards the enemy, while the Noznians waddled, hopped, or even rolled down the hill. They did a surprisingly good job of keeping up with the rest of the army.
As they approached where the enemy had once stood, they brought their shields and weapons forward, ready to strike. And strike they did, with amazing ferocity, speed, and force. It was quite a sight to behold, even if it did look rather odd that these ghosts appeared to be fighting nothing but air.
The calvary then rode in, and the dragon took flight, swooping down to claw and bite the enemies. A good deal of the ghostly soldiers had already fallen, crying out for their mothers, or families, or a comrade with their final words. Some, knowing that their words would echo forever after, shouted words of advice or even humorous remarks as they fell once again.
The army had clearly broken through the enemy line, and was charging into the forest, some leaping over the bush that Katina and Data were sitting behind. They instinctively ducked, though the ghosts would've passed right through them if they had made contact. They heard a loud roar in the air as the dragon fell from the sky, vanishing when he crashed into the ground. The remaining soldiers continued to charge into the forest.
"Should we follow them?" Data asked Katina over the cries of more fallen soldiers.
"Yes," Katina said, "My great-grandpa is in there. I want to see what happened to him." They both stood up and walked deeper into the forest, being run through by a charging soldier that they didn't see coming.
Katina seemed to be following an instinct as they continued through the forest, surrounded by echoes of the battle that had taken place long ago. Data followed her, since somehow she appeared to know exactly where she was going. They eventually arrived at a small clearing, with one small boulder in the middle. Here, they saw the General of this army, without his horse (which they concluded had already been killed), facing off against an unseen adversary. He fought well, dodging and blocking invisible blows, and then delivered one mighty thrust with his sword, and held it there for a while. Clearly a finishing blow against a major adversary.
"This must be where he killed their leader," Katina said, watching in awe.
Sure enough, whatever he had just killed had fallen, and he retrieved his sword. He stood there, with his sword and shield down, looking triumphant.
But then, he lurched forward as though he had just been stabbed in the back with great force. And with one final, half whispered cry of "As long as a Klopford leads this army... we... shall always be... victorious. My descendants... will lead us to glory!" he fell forward, through the boulder on the ground.
The cries of the soldiers eventually died down and ceased altogether as the mist vanished. And in the spot where the spirit of the General had fallen, there was a sword that had been stabbed into the ground. The name "Klopford" had been engraved on the hilt, and the pommel was decorated with red and blue stones that glinted faintly in the moonlight. In front of the sword rested a red heater shield that bore the Klopford family's insignia: A large, eight pointed gold star inside a solid blue circle with a gold outline, and four smaller eight pointed stars surrounding it.
"No way!" Katina exclaimed, "His sword and shield? Here? My grandpa would definitely want these brought back!"
"Are they not meant as a monument?" Data asked as Katina walked towards the sword and shield.
"No, that's what the boulder's for," Katina explained, "Notice he fell right through it. That means it wasn't there when he died." She examined the boulder closer. "See? They even wrote on it."
As Data approached, Katina began to read the inscription out loud:
"Here lies General Martin Klopford,
The third leader of the Noznian Army,
On the exact spot that he fell in battle.
May he rest in peace.
The sword and shield that we leave here
Once belonged to him.
They may only be removed by a
Descendant of the Klopford family."
"Sounds an awful lot like that King Arthur story, huh? With the sword and the stone and all that…" Katina commented.
"If the inscription is correct," Data remarked, "Then you are the only one here who can remove the sword, though I question the validity of the inscription… how would a sword know who was pulling it?"
"Magic, I guess," Katina chuckled. "Yeah I fit the description but I never believed something like that was ever possible except in fairy tales. Besides, no one thinks I inherited any of the special abilities my mother or my uncle or my grandpa have." She thought for a moment. "I want to test this out… You try pulling it first. If anyone else could do it, it would be you since you're so strong. Just don't break the sword or anything."
Data stepped forward, and grabbed the sword by the hilt with one hand, and pulled upward…
The sword did not budge.
Intrigued, he grabbed the hilt with two hands and pulled with all his might…
Again, nothing happened. No matter how hard Data tugged at the sword, it was going nowhere. The sword didn't even feel like it was going to break, either. He tried to pick up the shield, and even THAT didn't move.
"You're kidding…" Katina said. "You're just messing around with me, right Data?"
"I am not 'messing around,'" Data replied. "I cannot remove that sword."
"No way…! You mean…?"
She walked forward, and grabbed the hilt of the sword. The instant she made contact with it the stones seemed to shine brighter than before. She pulled upward, and the sword came out easily.
"WHOA!" she exclaimed, as the blade briefly glowed a bright shade of aquamarine before returning to normal. She reached down to grab the shield, and picked it up with ease. Even Data was surprised by what had just happened. He had struggled with all his might to lift that sword and shield, and neither would budge, no matter how much force he applied. Yet this fifteen-year-old girl had just picked them up with no trouble at all!
Katina stood there, proudly grinning as she faced Data. "And you thought there was no such thing as ghosts or magic!"
Chapter Notes: Hokay, this is where that "fantasy" genre tag really comes in. This may start to drift a little far from the realm of sci-fi but hey, you've been warned. And I assure you this is probably as weird as it gets. At least it's entertaining, right?
Also, there's an illustration that goes with this chapter, but I haven't finished redrawing it on the computer yet.
Also, there's an illustration that goes with this chapter, but I haven't finished redrawing it on the computer yet.