Nio No More
Targo stared in disbelief at the demolition. Nio did not even look like a planet anymore.
He had been born and raised on Nio, and Targo Nevin had lived here all of his eighteen years since. Yet he barely even recognized his home planet.
Swirling masses of smoke could be seen throughout the wasted landscape. They drifted upward on the slight breeze that blew through the air; like so many gray, translucent ghosts.
Ghosts were all that remained of Nio anymore. Indeed, there was not one sign of life.
Flora and fauna alike were all gone, and neither buildings nor structures remained. No complete ones that is. The few homes and businesses that did linger were now decrepit, shattered, and crumbling.
The only sound was an eerie silence that was so loud, it hurt Targo's ears to listen to it. And the acrid smoke, along with the stench of ash, mingled together into one potent odor that stung Targo's eyes, and threatened to choke him every time he inhaled.
When he did inhale, Targo could taste the destruction. A bitterly dry and charred flavor.
Targo knew that no one had survived the desecration. This included his family and friends. Everyone that Targo ever loved or cared about, they had all perished…
"Targo?" A voice brought him out of his reverie.
He shook his head slightly as if to rid his mind of the image before him. Though Targo knew that this image was now imprinted upon his mind forever, like a seal in wax. It was branded into his memory for the rest of his days, to haunt him every time he closed his eyes.
He had almost forgotten that Kyla was there. It had been she who had informed Targo about what had happened. He had been three planets away when he received her transmission.
Kyla Taylor and her family were natives of Nio's only neighboring planet, Tomus. Though they had lived on Nio for close to nine years. Her family and Targo's were close, and the two of them had grown up together.
They were back on Tomus now. Kyla's father's business had required them to move back a year ago. But with Nio and Tomus only three hours away from each other, the two families still saw each other quite often.
Targo did not know how to respond. He was still in shock and his whole body felt numb.
He glanced over at Kyla, who was watching him through teary eyes. Her tufted ears, drooping slightly as though they reflected her sorrow.
"I should have been here." He finally managed.
Kyla shook her head. "That wouldn't have made any difference, Targo. And if you had been here, you wouldn't have survived either."
Targo knew that Kyla was right. Yet at the same time, he wondered if it had been worth it for him to survive after all. Nio and its people were gone. What was there to live for?
"Kyla, where are the bodies?" Targo asked. For no one had survived, but the bodies should have been here, amongst the damaged remnants of the planet.
Kyla hesitated. "They burned the bodies."
"The attackers…the Throgs."
This information sent a wave of fury over Targo. Of course, Throgs were not known for their sentiment. But still, the Nionians deserved to have proper burials and final resting places.
Targo began walking over to a pile of rubble and ash, which had once been his home.
He registered beams of light overhead, illuminating the surface of Nio, and looked up. Nio's two moons, silver-colored Atoma and golden Chromos, were glowing serenely in the musky sky above.
His boots kicked up small clouds of dust as he walked, and he could practically feel the waves of heat emanating from the surrounding trees, houses, and such that had burnt down.
Targo hated it. For he knew that some of the people had undoubtedly been inside these structures as they came down in a blaze of fire. The humidity surrounding Targo made him reflect on the final moments of those unfortunate souls; knowing that the last thing they felt was the insurmountable heat.
Targo reached the remains of his home, and tears came to his eyes that had nothing to do with the atmospheric smoke.
He thought of his mother and father; then of his older brother Darel and his younger sister Ava.
Targo reflected on the last time that he had seen them. Three days ago, when he left for Militar. Targo's father and brother had served in the Golstar Galaxy Military, and Targo himself had just graduated from the Nio Military Academy. He had left for Militar to register for his training on the Military Base when the attack happened.
This led to him thinking about the Throgs. They were a dangerous race of creatures and this was the third time that they had struck.
There were seven planets in the Golstar Galaxy where there had once been eight. Now that Nio was also destroyed, there were only six remaining planets.
Targo began pushing aside some of the rubble with his foot. He was not looking for anything in particular, as he did not expect to find anything anyhow.
So he was surprised when he saw a glint of silver gleaming through all the ruin.
Targo knelt and began sifting through; trying to reach the unidentified object. The dirt and dust swirled about his head as he continued this excursion. It went in his mouth and his eyes, so that by the time Targo had reached the object, he was choking and half-blind.
Targo lifted the object and was so surprised by what he had found that he gasped and inadvertently inhaled a mouthful of dust.
Coughing some more, Targo stood up and brushed dirt and debris from his D-Faser.
Cadets were required to bring their own weapons to the Military Base with them when they began their training. This gun was a graduation gift from his family, to take to Militar with him.
The handle of the gun was made of the finest steel, and emblazoned with his initials at its base. The double-barrel was made of sleek, shiny silver and the D-Faser was one of the finest fasers on the market.
Targo knew that the weapon must have set his family back a few hundred dollars—if not more—yet they made no mention of it. Still, it had become Targo's most prized possession.
That was when Targo realized that there was something to live for after all.
He felt that there must be a reason that his D-Faser had survived the desecration when
nothing else had.
Kyla walked up beside him. She looked at the gun and asked, "Is that yours?"
Targo nodded. "My family gave it to me for my graduation."
"It's one of the best fasers out there, isn't it?"
Targo nodded again.
"It should be really useful for your training on Militar."
Targo did not reply. Training was one of the last things on his mind anymore.
"Kyla, I have to leave." Targo stated.
"I know." She replied. "But your training doesn't start until next week. And tomorrow there's going to be a memorial service on Tomus for the Nionians. You can stay with my family until you leave. Besides, it only takes a couple of days to reach Militar—"
"—I'm not talking about my training." Targo interrupted.
"What are you talking about?"
Targo glanced down at his D-Faser. "Revenge."
"The Throgs destroyed my planet and murdered everyone who lived here." Targo explained. "I'm not letting them get away with it...and I know where to find them."
"On Anthium." Kyla stated.
The last planet in the Golstar Galaxy had been the Throgs' second attack. Their first being Anthium's neighbor, Sinuin.
Sinuin had been the planet of silver. All of the silver in the Galaxy came from Sinuin. The Throgs attacked when the Sinuinites refused to trade silver with them. They had destroyed that planet too, and no one had survived.
The attack on Anthium had been motivated by the Throgs' desire to have a planet of their own. The planet had not been completely demolished, but the Throgs invaded and many Anthiumites had been slain. Many had also survived however, and these people had fled to the other planets.
But what was their motive for attacking Nio?
"You can't fight them alone." Kyla was saying.
"The Throgs. You can't fight them alone."
"I'm afraid that I don't have a choice."
"But if you waited and fought the Throgs after your Military training," Kyla persisted, "then you would be better prepared—"
"—The training takes an entire year to complete." Targo cut in; he would not stand for any delays. "I don't have time for it."
Kyla however, was not finished. "If you went to Anthium with the Golstar Military, then you would have a whole army to fight with—"
"—I don't have time for it." Targo stated firmly. He understood Kyla's concerns, but he was growing weary of her insistence.
Kyla threw him a skeptical look. "You plan to go over there and fight the Throgs alone? Take a look at what they did to your planet, Targo. And the Nionians fought back too. If a whole planet couldn't defeat them, how do you expect to do it on your own?"
Targo did not have an answer for this query.
He considered this for a moment and then responded, "I'm not the only person in the Galaxy who hates the Throgs. Maybe I won't be alone. Maybe I'll meet other people along the way who want to join me."
Even as he said this, Targo doubted it.
Anyone that he approached about fighting Throgs was more likely to run from him, than join him. But it mattered not to Targo. Alone or with an army, he would go to Anthium, he would fight the Throgs, and he would win.
Kyla still seemed doubtful herself. However, she conceded defeat and asked, "So when do you plan to leave for this quest?"
"Immediately. Tonight if I can."
"You should get some rest first." Kyla protested. "You've just returned from two days of travel, and you said yourself that you didn't get any sleep."
This was true of course. As soon as Targo had learned what happened to Nio, he had boarded the Space Track Transport and headed home. He had not slept any, due to the anxiety of what awaited him on his home planet.
Targo could probably sleep now if he tried to; he was tired. But sleep would only be another setback.
"And what about the memorial service?" Kyla finished quietly.
These words had a harsher impact on Targo. At that moment, he knew that all of his plans would have to be put on hold until after the service. He would not and could not leave beforehand. He would pay his respects to his fellow Nionians first.
His family, his friends, his neighbors…Targo would never see any of them alive ever again. He glanced down at the D-Faser in his hand. And Targo knew that if he missed the memorial service, he would never forgive himself.
"You're right." Targo said. "I'd forgotten about that, but I wouldn't miss it for anything. I'll come to the service...and then I'm leaving."
Kyla nodded, seeming relieved that the matter had been settled.
"Let me know when you're ready to go back to Tomus." She stated.
"I'm ready now." The longer Targo stared at the desolation, the more depressed he felt.
He followed Kyla to her space rover and climbed in beside her. Targo caught a final glimpse of his shattered home planet, as the rover's glass top slid shut over them, and Kyla took off.
Targo was silent during the three hour trip to Tomus, and Kyla did not say much either. This recent tragedy was still sinking in for Targo and his grief was already insurmountable. He began to wonder if he would ever feel cheerful again. This heavy pressure of sorrow seemed to be closing in all around him, so that he felt trapped in it, and doubted that he would ever escape.
The only other emotion that currently ran as high as his grief, was Targo's fury at the Throgs.
Once they entered Tomus' atmosphere, it was only another fifteen minutes to Kyla's house, but it seemed to take much, much longer.
They walked into the house to find Kyla's mother, Marin, approaching them. She was in the other room but had apparently heard them come in. This however, was no surprise given that the Tomusians tufted ears were gifted with excellent hearing. Marin met Targo's eyes and fixed him
with a sympathetic gaze.
Though Targo had expected this, it was not any easier to endure.
Targo was not looking forward to the pitying looks and words of condolences that he knew
for a fact would be coming his way.
Marin seemed as though she wanted to say something, but found herself unable to find the right words. She compromised by giving him a wan smile, followed by a hug, before leading the way into the kitchen and set out a pitcher of juice.
"Have a seat, Targo." Kyla suggested.
He felt hesitant to do so. Sitting down at the table would open him up for conversation, and Targo was not in a most talkative mood at the moment.
He obliged however and Marin said, "Help yourself to a sandwich if you're hungry."
Targo was not anymore hungry than he was conversational, nor he had not felt very hungry in the past two days. Nonetheless, he picked up a sandwich, took a bite, and then set it back down on his plate, intending to pour himself some juice.
No sooner had he stood and reached over for the pitcher however, when Marin picked it up instead and said kindly, "You sit back down and relax, Targo. I'll get that for you."
Now people are going to start doing things for me that I'm perfectly capable of doing myself? Targo thought.
He graciously thanked Marin however, when she handed back his cup of juice. Targo knew that Marin was not purposefully demeaning him, yet he still could not help but to feel slightly irritated. He could sense the assumption that he could not—or perhaps should not—do anything that required more movement than eating and drinking.
Kyla's older brother, Nalton, came downstairs at that moment. He took a seat beside Targo and looked over at him.
Here it comes, thought Targo, more sympathy.
"I was very sorry to hear about what happened to Nio." Nalton stated earnestly.
"Thanks." Targo mumbled.
"The Nionians put up a good fight." Nalton continued as he reached for a sandwich. "Especially those with Military experience; like Darel and your father.
"We will deeply miss your family." Marin added, taking a seat across from Targo.
Targo spotted the mist in her blue eyes as she said this. He had noticed the same in Kyla and Nalton, yet he had a feeling that they were holding back their tears in his presence.
They're trying to be strong for me. Targo realized with uneasiness.
The front door opened and, seconds later, Kyla's father, Winton, entered the kitchen; her younger brother Trey followed. Both of them stopped short at the sight of Targo.
Targo found himself wishing that he could turn invisible, or sink through the floor. Something that would free him from the awkward sympathy and sorrowful gazes.
Winton and Trey wore the same compassionate expressions that the others had.
"Targo, I am very sorry." Winton said, as he and Trey joined the other four at the table. "If there is anything that we can do for you, just let us know."
Targo nodded. There's only one thing that can be done now. And I'm the one who must do it.
"I'm feeling sleepy." Targo said quietly. There was truth in this statement, but he also wanted to escape the pitiful glances and the torment of conversation. It was more than he could bear at the moment. "I think I'll lie down for awhile, if that's okay."
"Of course." Marin replied. "I'll show you to the guest room."
Targo followed her upstairs and down the corridor. Marin stopped at the second door to the right and opened it. The daylight filtering in through the rectangular windows on the side walls lent a certain brightness to the room was at complete contrast with Targo's disposition.
The bed and nightstand stood beneath one of the windows to the left, while the dresser sat to the right, beside the closet.
Targo turned to Marin and asked, "What time is the memorial service tomorrow?"
"At ten-hundred hours in Lewel Memorial Park." Marin replied. "We'll be leaving at nine-hundred though. Lewel Park is a forty-five minute flight from here."
Targo nodded in response and walked over to the bed.
"The bathroom's down the hall to the left." Marin told him. "And if you need anything, just ask."
Targo thanked Marin as she withdrew from the room and softly closed the door.
Targo sat on the edge of the bed and laid his D-Faser on the nightstand beside the lamp. Then he pulled off his boots and laid down on his back, gazing out the window.
Targo enjoyed a few seconds of the clear, blue sky and white, fluffy clouds, before the whole scene grew blurry and was obstructed by tears.
He had been through numerous emotions today, or rather, over the past two days. There had been the initial shock of Nio's destruction, anger at the Throgs, determination to fight them, and the resolve to defeat them.
The grief and the sadness had been there all along, underlying the other emotions. But now, this sorrow rose to the surface and his tears flowed freely. Targo did not attempt to gain control of his mourning; he would not have been able to anyway.
The hard truth of this tragedy sunk in now, more than it had since Targo had heard the news. He looked away from the window, spotted his D-Faser, and cried all the more. This weapon was the only solid memory that remained of his family anymore.
Targo did not recall falling asleep, but he woke up later that evening to Kyla's voice outside his door.
"Dinner's ready downstairs." She said. "But if you're not hungry, Mom says that she'll save some for you."
Targo did not respond. Nor did he feel any hungrier now than he had felt earlier.
He rolled over and gazed out the window once more. The blue sky had turned black, and the soft clouds replaced by shimmering stars that gleamed brightly in their inky backdrop.
Tomus' light green moon Pageo, glowed luminously amongst the stars, casting soft, pale beams of light down upon the planet's surface.
Targo closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep again. He did not wake up until Marin knocked on his door the next morning.
"Breakfast is ready." She announced.
It took Targo a few seconds to remember where he was, and a few seconds more, to remember why.
He climbed out of bed and headed for the bathroom to wash up. He stopped at his bedroom
before going downstairs to pick up his D-Faser. He did not expect to need his new gun at the
service, but he did expect to leave immediately after the service was over. And straight from Lewel Park if he could.
Besides, he found parting with his D-Faser an impossible task for the time being.
Targo headed downstairs. He still did not feel like talking to anyone, but he also knew that conversation would likely be inevitable.
He was halfway down, when the mingled scent of bacon, sausage, potatoes, and freshly-baked pancakes drifted up to greet him.
Targo's stomach grumbled and he realized that he really was hungry. He was about to continue when Targo heard his name in the discussion below. He stopped where he was and stood out of sight to listen.
"…and Targo's leaving right after the service." Kyla was telling the others. "That's his plan. He wants to fight the Throgs."
Aside from Kyla, Targo had not told anyone about his travel plans to Anthium. He figured that Kyla might tell the rest of her family; they had a right to know after all. And if she did not tell them, Targo would end up doing it anyhow.
"By himself?" Marin asked worriedly. "He plans to fight the Throgs alone?"
"He won't wait until after his training." Kyla informed them.
"I'll go with him." Nalton declared firmly.
"Targo would never allow that." Kyla replied.
"Kyla's right." Winton put in. "It sounds as if Targo is set as stone to do this on own."
"He really shouldn't." Marin added. She still sounded troubled.
"Try and stop him." Kyla said grimly.
Yeah. Try and stop me. Targo thought.
"Where is Targo?" Trey asked.
"I knocked on his door." Marin answered. "Maybe he didn't hear me, or else went back to sleep. I'd better go and check on him."
Targo heard Marin's chair scrape across the floor as she stood up. He hastily descended the remaining stairs, before she could catch him eavesdropping.
"Oh Targo, there you are." Marin said as he entered the kitchen. "I was just coming to check on you. Have some breakfast."
She indicated the table, where there sat three plates, one of toast, a second of cooked potatoes, and another containing bacon and sausage. Two platters, one with scrambled eggs and another with a stack of fluffy pancakes, adorned the table as well. In the midst of all the food, there was a carton of milk, and a pot of coffee.
Targo sat down beside Kyla and began filling his plate. Marin meanwhile, poured him a glass of milk. He found himself annoyed with this gesture again, though he could not figure out why it bothered him so. Targo knew that none of this kindness was meant to be as condescending as it felt.
At nine-hundred hours, the six of them, split evenly into two space rovers, left for Lewel Memorial Park.
They arrived with fifteen minutes to spare, and Targo found himself using the majority of this extra time, avoiding the gazes of others and ensuring that he not stand near enough to anyone to invite conversation.
This of course, did not stop people from seeking him out. And so he was irritated, yet not all that surprised, when he heard a voice calling him from somewhere to his left.
"Mister Nevin? Targo?"
He did not recognize the voice and at first pretended not to have heard anything, hoping that
the stranger would give up and let him be.
Instead, the longer that Targo ignored him, the more insistent this man became.
Recognizing defeat, Targo sighed inwardly and turned around to see a short, balding, middle-aged man, gazing at him grievously through wire-rimmed glasses.
"Hello, Targo. My name is Arvin Travis, and I'm the head coordinator for the memorial service."
Arvin extended his hand and Targo shook it in silence.
"I was wondering if perhaps you wanted to speak at the service." Arvin continued.
"Yes. Of course, you don't have to, it's not expected. I just wanted to give you the opportunity. No obligation. After all, you are the last living Nionian."
Targo stared blankly at Arvin for a few seconds as this last statement washed over him.
Something in that statement hit Targo with a more forceful impact than anything else had since Nio's destruction. The last living Nionian. These words pained him like a knife through the chest.
It was true, Targo realized; he was the last Nionian. And while Targo figured that he had known this all along, he had not quite comprehended it yet. This fact was as hard to accept as the fate of Nio.
And while Arvin may not see any obligation, Targo certainly did.
Being the last Nionian in the Golstar Galaxy, Targo felt that he should say something. That everyone else would be expecting it.
On the other hand, Targo did not feel much like talking to anyone lately; least of all the majority of Tomus' population. Not to mention that he did not have anything prepared. If he did speak, what would he say?
No. He could not do it.
"Targo? Are you alright?" Arvin asked him, sounding concerned.
This brought Targo back to his surroundings, and he responded, "Listen, about the speech, I don't think I can do it. Thanks for the opportunity, but I'll pass."
"That's absolutely fine." Arvin answered. He smiled and added, "Just wanted to make sure."
Arvin turned and left, while Targo headed for the seats, still grappling with the depressing fact that he was Nio's only survivor.
Rows upon rows of white folding chairs adorned the short-cut, pure green grass of the park's lawn, and more than half were already full. To the front of the chairs, there stood a white table where many people had placed candles and cards.
A flag was positioned on either side of the table and one was placed behind it; all three of them at half-mast and blowing slightly in the mild breeze. Targo recognized each of them.
The flag to the left was Nio's flag. A pale orange backdrop with a bright orange sphere in the center that was the symbolization of Nio itself. The gray square in the upper-left corner represented Nio's allegiance to the Golstar Military, while the lower right corner, held a smaller, yellow sphere that illustrated Tomus, and its close ties to Nio.
Tomus' flag stood to the right of the table. A flag very similar to Nio's, only with a pale
yellow backdrop and Tomus symbolized as a bright yellow sphere in the center. The upper-right
corner exemplified its close ties to Nio, and the gray square in the lower right corner represented Tomus' allegiance to the Golstar Military.
The third flag, with the inky black backdrop, and a depiction of a blue ring inside a purple
ring, was the flag for the entire Golstar Galaxy.
The two rings were arranged to resemble a galaxy, and the inner blue band contained eight
gold-colored circles that represented the eight planets of the Golstar Galaxy. The external purple band meanwhile, held twelve silver-colored circles that symbolized the Galaxy's total number of moons.
Kyla approached and took a seat beside Targo.
"Are you going to speak or anything?" She asked him.
People are expecting it. Targo thought. Not wanting to relay his conversation with Arvin however, Targo merely shook his head.
"A lot of people came to pay their respects to Nio." Kyla observed.
Targo glanced around. He had not noticed how quickly the strings of chairs had filled up. Every seat was occupied and there were hundreds, possibly thousands, of people standing. Indeed, Targo began to wonder if there was not one Tomusian who was not attendant.
Practically every Nionian had a Tomusian who was a close friend and vice versa; this had been the case for Targo's family and Kyla's.
Yet Targo could not help but feel touched that so many people had come to pay homage to his home planet and its residents.
Arvin approached the podium that stood to the left of Nio's flag, and tapped on the microphone. Meanwhile, a woman and another man sat down in two chairs behind the podium.
"Thank you all for coming here today." Arvin began. "We are gathered here to remember Nio and its people. Most of us had befriended many Nionians, and a great number of us, myself included, lived on Nio for a time. Thus, the loss is great to each of us. Let us have a moment of silence for the Nionians."
Everyone bowed their heads and, in the following silence, Targo could hear many people sniffling and quietly sobbing; Kyla was among them.
A moment later, Arvin's voice brought everyone back.
"Thank you. Tomus had never known a better friend than Nio, and it is indeed heartbreaking that we shall never again experience the kindness and generosity of the planet's inhabitants.
"We must remember though, that they went out fighting. For the Nionians fought back against their attackers and defended their home down to the last second.
"We all have our memories of Nio as well, and we must hold on to these memories and share them with others. We shall relay our exploits to our neighboring planet and the friends we made there to future generations, the residents of other planets, and of course, to each other.
"For Nio and its people are gone, but they will not be forgotten."
Arvin stepped down and the woman seated behind him, took his place at the podium. She gave a history of Nio, and a story about her most recent trip to the planet.
The man followed her, but by then Targo was waiting for the end of the ceremony. He was uncomfortably aware of everyone in the vicinity who kept glancing over at him.
The man at the podium seemed to talk for an exceedingly long time and Targo only half-heard what he was saying.
When this fellow was finally done, Arvin stepped up once again and closed the ceremony.
Everyone stood and began moving about to talk to others, or else to leave the park. Targo hastily moved away from the crowd. For people would undoubtedly be seeking him out to offer condolences and such. Targo could not deal with this anymore today, than he could have
Besides, he had a journey to begin, and the more inconspicuous, the better. Kyla and her
family knew his plan and they were the only ones who needed to know.
Nalton caught up with Targo as he was leaving.
"Hey Targo, are you—?"
"—If you're here to stop me from leaving," Targo interrupted, "you can forget about it."
"I don't blame you for wanting to avenge your family and your planet." Nalton told him. "If the same thing happened to Tomus, and I was the sole survivor, I would do the same thing. So no, I'm not going to try and stop you."
"But I was wondering if you're planning to go alone."
"You don't think that someone should accompany you? I'll go if you'd like."
"I'm going alone." Targo stated firmly as Winton and Marin approached them. "I want it that way."
"I wish you wouldn't go by yourself." Marin told him.
Targo appreciated their concern, but it was beginning to aggravate him.
"Listen, the reason that I want to go alone is because this is my battle." Targo explained as Kyla and Trey joined them. "If any of you went with me and something was to happen to you, I would feel at fault and I would never be able to forgive myself. I don't need to lose anyone else that's close to me."
"We knew that we wouldn't be able to persuade you otherwise, but we had to give it a try." Winton stated.
"Here, take this with you." Marin said. She lifted a blue backpack off of her shoulders and handed it to Targo. "I packed some food, water, and other supplies for you. It may not last for your entire trip I fear, but it should still last you awhile. I didn't want to make it too heavy."
"Thank you." Targo stated as he took the backpack and slung it over his shoulders.
Kyla stepped forward and hugged him. "Be careful, Targo. Please."
"Yes. We don't need to lose you, anymore than you need to lose someone." Winton told him.
"You'll come back afterward, won't you?" Trey asked him.
"Yeah, I'll come back." Targo promised. "But it may not be for awhile; a long while."
Marin embraced Targo in a tight hug. "Take care of yourself. We'll be waiting for you when you do return. You're as much a member of this family as any of us."
Targo smiled. "Thank you."
"Good luck, Targo." Trey said, shaking his hand.
Nalton stepped forward and did the same. "Take it easy, and watch out for yourself. We'll see you when you get back."
Targo gave a final farewell, and then, with a pack of supplies on his back and his D-Faser hooked to his belt, Targo turned and embarked on a journey that was sure to be extensive, and unpredictable.