The world was at peace. It took Artha nearly 30 years and most of his life, but the terrible dragon-human war that had threatened to destroy the planet had been avoided. Dragons and humans had finally united and formed a bond that surpassed anything that had ever been achieved before. They were at the dawn of a utopian age.
Artha, now 47, rode the elevator down to the Dragon Temple. Mortis had told him to come alone but didn't say why. Strangely, Mortis had stayed in the temple even after the conflict had finally ended.
As Artha stepped off the elevator, Mortis was there waiting for him. Now nearly 80 but still very fit and agile (seeing as 80 was only considered late middle age by the current human life expectancy), Mortis said, "Thank you for coming, Artha. There's something important we must talk about."
Mortis moved to the stone wall nearby and pressed a hidden switch. A panel slid open exposing a small control panel. Mortis keyed an excessively long security code into the keypad and placed his hand on the scanner. Artha watched as the unit confirmed his identity and an indicator light changed from red to green. As it did, the opposite wall rumbled and a large section of the wall recessed several feet and then slid sideways to reveal a hidden room that Artha had never seen before.
Mortis walked into the room which housed a control console and an adjacent platform. The platform was elevated one foot off the ground and was about five feet in diameter. Mortis threw some switches on the console and the sound of powerful machinery engaging and coming to life from somewhere deep under the temple resonated around them. A faint humming sound could be heard that was slowly building.
"It will take several minutes for the gold draconium fusion reactors to reach full power, and for the vortex generator to come online," Mortis said as he stared down at the console.
Artha gaped. "Did you say gold draconium fusion reactors?" he said incredulously. "But those are only theoretical. And the power output would be so immense that it's difficult to calculate even on a computer!"
"What we're about to do requires an enormous amount of energy," explained Mortis. "This machinery was built in ancient times by the Dragon Priests after the first dragon-human war. It took them nearly 500 hundred years to construct it. It was built for one purpose. It was built to fulfill the Prophecy of the return of the Dragon Booster and to stop the coming of the second dragon-human war."
"I don't understand, Mortis. We stopped the war. Word, Moordryd, Armeggaddon, and the rest have all been defeated. It's over. Even the Prophets finally came around to our side and are now living peacefully with humans in Dragon City."
"Yes, you were successful. But what has come to pass will not be unless you complete one final mission." Somber and serious now, Mortis continued, "It is time for you to complete the Prophecy, Artha. It will be the most difficult task you have ever done. And you must do it alone."
Artha's brow was furrowed as he tried to take this all in. He looked to Mortis for guidance, his face full of questions.
"This will make everything clear," Mortis said. Mortis raised his hands to his head and Artha's heart skipped a beat as Mortis began to unfasten his mask. Artha had always secretly suspected who Mortis might be. But Mortis was such an imposing figure, that Artha never had the courage to ask him. After three decades, would he now finally get to see the person he missed so much? Artha's heart raced as Mortis lifted the mask. Would he once again finally see the face of his fa---
Artha froze when the face was revealed to him. "It can't be," was all he managed to whisper. He couldn't move and he couldn't think how this could be. The face before him was not his father's afterall. It was not anyone he had ever suspected. Nor was it a stranger. It was... himself.
But it wasn't quite himself. The face before him was older, much older.
"Yes, Artha. I'm you. Or rather, I'm you 31 years from now from your present perspective."
The younger Artha looked back at the machine in the hidden room. He said, "Then that's..."
The older Artha said, "Yes. A temporal displacement generator. Or time machine, if you prefer." The younger Artha was beginning to understand. The older Artha continued, "The ancient Dragon Priests knew that much of their knowledge would be lost over the millennia. In 3000 years when the threat of the second dragon-human war would loom, there would be no Dragon Priests left with the skills to train the new Dragon Booster. So they constructed this device so that the new Dragon Booster could travel back in time and become his own mentor. That was the only way that success could be guaranteed. Your destiny, Artha, is to go back in time, assume the identity of Mortis and train your younger self to become the Dragon Booster and save the world. You must succeed or the peace we have worked so hard to achieve will be lost forever."
The younger Artha was still stunned, but everything was starting to make sense now. Why else would Mortis need to hide his face from Artha for all this time? How else could Mortis have been ready with exactly the right advice Artha had needed to face each challenge before him on the long journey to the present day? How? Because Mortis had lived it all already and knew what was to come at each step of the way. And Artha realized that at age 47, he was now precisely the same age Mortis was when he first met him 31 years ago when he was just a 16 year old boy.
The older Artha continued, "Here, take this," and handed his younger self a data pad. "This contains all the information you will need to know. Among other things, it details how to make liquid gold draconium and tells you when and where you need to be to meet Tyrannis Pax and how to gain his trust. When you step through the time vortex, you will arrive 31 years in the past on the night Beau chose you to be the Dragon Booster. You will meet your younger self shortly thereafter. I think you know what to do after that." With a chuckle he added, "Just remember to act surprised when things happen."
The younger Artha took the data pad and nodded. Looking at his armband, he said, "Here. I think I better leave these with you then, just in case," as he handed the gold star amulet and armband to his older self. "You'll take care of Beau from now on, I assume."
"Of course. Beau sensed who I was from the very beginning. That's why he respected me so much. He knew this day would come," the older Artha replied.
The lights on the console had all turned green and a vortex was forming around the platform.
The younger Artha, accepting his fate with the courage he had built up from many battles and feeling more confident now, asked, "So if you're me, then whatever happened to my, or rather, our father?"
The older Artha smiled and said, "I think Parmon would explain it this way: The universe requires that equilibrium be maintained. Therefore, time travel cannot be achieved unless an exchange is made between the two temporal endpoints. There was, of course, only one logical choice."
Understanding showed in the younger Artha's face. He nodded and accepted it. He would have to wait another 31 years before seeing his father again. But it was a small sacrifice considering all the prosperity and peace they had achieved for dragon and humankind.
The vortex had completely formed now and the older Artha said, "It's time." The younger Artha turned and walked confidently into the time vortex and into the past. The instant he disappeared within it, another man walked out and stood before Artha. The man that walked out was 47 years old, bald and had a red beard. Artha smiled intensely and embraced the man he had not seen for over 60 years. Artha said, "Hi, Dad. It's great to finally see you again."
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