The Chokota are not made for hot climates like the jungle with their thick rabbit like bodies made to stand bipedally and their thick fur; even their long ears are padded to avoid heat loss. It is any wander the expanding Chokota governments have stayed mostly in the temperate and arctic northern territories. However they know there are temperate zones further south on the other end of the Earth; with their advancing technologies and search for resources they have created outposts in places such as this where they normally would never venture.

The fort built deep in jungle up from a road leading to the giant river they used as a supply route to the ocean, stands out on the outside as a massive wooden wall covered in sharp barbs with latches so gunners can fire out and stay shielded. This is done so as the jungle is home to many giant predators that would gobble up the diminutive Chokota; including rumors of a previously unknown race of sapient reptiles. There had been reports and signs of such from the temples and records taken from the Kachink settlements defeated and taken during the last great war but they had been dismissed as psychological warfare, after all bipedal crocodilians, lizards, frogs, salamanders, and even giant snakes all with the arms and mammalian chests, including the year round enlarged breasts only found (officially) on Chokota and Kachinka; it was absurd. Although that said none of their expeditions have found proof, only anecdotes from hunters and soldiers, but no photographs or one captured or brought in for study. However such rumors only add to the misgivings of the fort as recently they were forced to build an airstrip, which forced them to cut down more jungle, stirring up its creatures, and expose a large section of land to a mostly now open end of the fort. They had done well for years with a river as their supply line and armed escort of the supplies, however their government insisted upon the air strip for aerial surveys of the jungle for further, safe, exploration and mapping.

This day sees a small red bi-plane bringing in two such royally appointed cartographers. At least that's what the official papers say that the fort's general has on hand, but seeing the two men in their expensive gear he has misgivings, he's seen plenty of men like this, including the one's who had insisted the fort be built in the first place and have a functional town inside it to establish not only a base but a potential future jump point for a colony going further south. Of course in the years since there have been no orders to move to another site and the town inside the fort has grown to its edges with entire families inside its walls needing to be protected.

"Afternoon gentlemen," says the general of the base looking over the paperwork from the two well dressed men, "I am General Orkol, and you are?"

"Sir Isaac of the royal cartographers," says one of them and this is my apprentice soon to be his own master, "Rocko"

The man, Isacc brushes some dust off his coat, "not to rush anything but we still have ten hours of daylight and we did radio ahead for a guide and supplies to be ready,"

"Of course," says general Orkol, "our guides however are not soldiers and are paid for their services, we have assembled a room of them for you to choose from."

"rather unusual," says Isaac.

"Not at all," responds Orkol, "the fort has grown into a town within these walls, and we get explorers more often than you'd think. Some stick around and become guides, others are from some branch of the military or high society or else some scientists looking to find whatever they are looking to discover in these jungles. Being a guide is surprisingly competitive. Some of them even go exploring on their own but lack the connections or the knowledge on how to do what you lot and the scientists do to really know what you are looking at and have the royal mappers or scientists accept what was found as fact."

"Like the giant intelligent reptiles?" asks Isaac, "heard some odd rumors of those, no proof however. You'd think if they were real they'd be attacking this fort all the time."

"I can assure you," says Orkol, "those are not real, neither I nor any reputable member of the military has ever seen such a creature, giant snakes and lizards however are real so your porters will be armed as well."

Isaac turns to Rocko, "no doubt some have seen the natural predators and assumed them something else more malevolent out of fear."

General Orkol takes the two men to a tavern with about ten potential guides.

"Gentlemen," says General Orkol, "these are Sir Isaac of the royal cartographers and his apprentice Rocko, they want to start their expedition today as I informed you so we'll make this quick."

"Thank you general," says Isaac, "I am looking for a guide to take the team up north of here past the plateaus, there is a silver tower up that way inaccessible by air or boat that we'd like to take a closer look at before scouting out the rest of the region and.."

He is interrupted by a chorus of laughter from the ten men. Isaac looks around confused, Rocko shrugs and Isaac leers back at the general and huffs between his whiskers.

"Shut it!" shouts the general quieting them down, "may I ask what is so damned funny?"

"Sir," says one of the men, "it sounds to us like the road paws here has been talking to old Joe, and his tall tales of the magical guardian's tower."

Isaac pulls a photograph from his pocket, "This gentlemen, and I use the term loosely, is a photograph, know what that is? An image captured using light and lens on special film with a mechanical device, I assume you know what it is as the technology is nearly a century old and perfect to produce instant photographs now. My apprentice and I arrived not a half hour ago, and on the way in via our air plane spotted an obviously artificial structure tucked away among the plateaus, well hidden one imagines from ground view through the dense jungles and rocky terrain. We estimate it a twelve hour hike, given the time we'd have to make camp after only three hours to set up before dark, and pack up and head out immediately at dawn to reach the structure and make camp there. We fully intend to study the previously unmentioned by any reports we've received from this fort, and given this response its no wander. This is an unexplored region, and instead of investigating an anomaly you apparently chose to ridicule the discovery without investigation."

Isaac looks at General Orkol, "If this Old Joe is still on sight he sounds like the man we'll need for this first excursion."

Old Joe, despite the name the man is not that old, a few grey hairs about the ears and tail but not much older than Isaac, it surprisingly didn't take much for him to agree to join the expedition, reluctant at first but a good hard look at the photograph and agreeing to put his real name on the discovery charter and he was good to go.

Old Joe leads them through the jungle north of the fort, along with Isaac and Rocko there are four porters and three armed soldiers. The soldiers are on edge as they head into the rough terrain, the rocks and thick jungle make it hard to see danger coming. After only three hours of hiking old Joe states they need to set up camp.

"We have four more hours of daylight," objects Isaac.

"Yes," says Old Joe, "but we won't be able to reach safe terrain for six hours at the pace we are going. Too many people, too much stuff, we're going too slow."

"We need to document everything," says Isaac having a porter set down a pack and taking out a camera.

"Fine," says Old Joe, "but we either stay here or we end up trying to set up camp in dense jungle by the water where we won't be able to see three feet in any given direction at night. Anyone here can tell you these jungles are filled with very large and very hungry predators."

"He's right," says one of the soldiers looking around, "we'll set up camp and post a rotating guard through the night."

That night Old Joe is sitting with Isaac by a lamp in their tent looking at the aerial photograph of the silver tower.

"No one ever believed me," says Old Joe, "been there three times, each time couldn't get anyone else to go with me."

"Why is that," says Isaac.

"Because of the stories," says Old Joe, "they may joke about it but these soldiers believe in the reptile people, they've seen things in the jungle lurking just beyond their scopes as they guard the fort. Something out there watching us, the jungle getting too quiet. I think they believe the tower is where they come from, their home, none of them want to stay here. Hell no one wants to stay in thus muggy hell hole; we were all promised it would be a temporary post and then move out to found a town; instead its been ten years and the town has grown inside the fort. They all want to keep their heads down, tough it out, and move on."

"What about you?" asks Isaac, "you've been to the tower three times you say, how come?"

Old Joe thinks a moment and drinks from a bottle, "The first time was scouting, I had kept it a secret what I found, but I got drunk at the tavern and spilled too many details. Between my drunken haze and the facts it sounded too outlandish and I was mocked. I tried to insist it was real and had kept it a secret to not cause panic...the opposite I suppose occurred, not so much panic as ridicule. The second time was to bring back proof, I got too close, I was lucky to escape with my life. I know a ridge where we can set up base camp so you can safely study the tower, take pictures, your video cameras, bring back proof."

"You are not leading us directly to the tower?" asks Isaac.

Old Joe pauses, "I said I was lucky to escape with my life, that tower isn't some dead ruin. Its full of deadly traps. If not for...well I got away, the third time I thought I could bring back real proof but..."

He takes a swig, "In the morning we can head to the ridge, its a good seven hours hike at the pace we were going, so I suggest we get as much sleep as we can."

The uphill hike was grueling, especially for the porters, it took them nine hours to get to the clearing on the ridge and start to set up camp. But from here they could see it, the porters and the soldiers gasping when they exited the jungle, sticking out of the jungle was indeed a strange silver tower, unlike anything they'd ever seen, too sleek, spiral structures defying their understanding of architecture or function.

As the soldiers are setting up camp Isaac sees movement, a part of the structure on a railing opens up and something grey comes out and moves along it.

"Quick bring me the camera and the telescopic lens." whispers Isaac to Rocko as he shushes the soldiers.

"My god," says Rocko looking through a telescope, "what is that?"

They have no words to describe what they see through their telescopes, the soldiers and Old Joe's binoculars, and what the camera is recording. A tall thin creature with no fur only exposed pale skin, esave for long silver hair, clearly female, and wearing a wide grey dress and elbow gloves.

"Recording this I hope," grumbles Old Joe,

"Y, yes," says Isaac, "wait. the camera. I Sir Isaac, member of the royal cartographers and my apprentice soon to be his own master Rocko with the assistance of local guides and soldiers."

He pauses and looks at Joe bringing him into frame as Rocko pulls back the footage, "This man, a local guide dubbed Old Joe has lead us here to an artificial structure deep in the jungle which we are observing at a safe vantage point for now."

He signals Rocko to zoom back in on the figure as he narrates, "The structure is clearly artificial, and while the local forces were reluctant to come out here for fear of a rumored reptilian civilization we have instead found proof of another Guardian. As we can see, hard to estimate her height from this distance although on average all past Guardians have been at least twice the average height of any Chokota, this one appears to be active, but not engaging any enemy."

He turns to Old Joe, "You told me before the tower was full of traps and you were lucky to escape with your life, there seemed to be more to your tale. Tell me did it involve the Guardian?"

"I...what?" asks Joe, "there's a name for? How do you know?"

"This footage will be released to the public in due time," says Isaac, "for now it will be kept secret. I cannot divulge all the details, just know this is not the first of their kind our people have encountered. For the sake of not causing a panic we have kept their existence secret, I know you can understand that feeling."

Old Joe grumbles, "Yes, I didn't want to tell anyone. That, being, released me from the traps, told me to...scurry along, acted like I was some animal or child. That was during my second trip to try and bring back some proof; the first time I had only seen the tower, and this being and ran off I mistook her from a distance for some giant snake as I saw her from below with that big dress she wears. The third time I was more cautious scouted out ridges, and...made contact, the long short I couldn't convince her to come back with me as proof."

"You spoke to her?" asks Isaac.

"Yes," says Joe, "but it was very onesided, she seemed nice, but very unsettling to be around, she drank a hot tea and ate baked goods, offered me some, she talked about the beauty of the jungle, said she looked over it, knew about the fort. I tried to convince her to come back and meet the people, but she said she'd only scare them and had to stay with the tower."

"Interesting," says Isaac, "well,"

Rocko motions to the tower and looks from the lens in disbelief.

The woman at the tower is waving in their direction, the soldiers see it too and clutch their rifles.

"It sees us," says one of the three soldiers.

"She has eyes and ears everywhere," says Old Joe, "she knew we were coming long before we started up the ridge. Only reason we made it this far."

"You just said you know this...creature," says the soldier, "why lead us all the way over here and not right to it then?

Old Joe pats his belt where he keeps a small pistol, "Because I'm not carrying a rifle, I said there were too many of us before we started. She's friendly, but those traps are deadly, and alive. Metal that walks around on its own with eyes and teeth, spits out fire, electricity, and burning beams of light."

"Metal Devil myths," scoffs another of the soldiers.

"They are not myths," says Rocko

"Hush," says Isaac, "our guide is right soldier. That is a Guardian, I cannot tell you everything as I was sworn an oath, however the situation calls for this much, Metal Devils are real, Guardians are something else, a kin to metal devils, sleeping in their hidden palaces, usually deep beneath the ground; or like here, in isolated locations. Our plane was not the first one to see this tower, there is an old record from two hundred years ago before the knowledge to build flying machines had been lost, till a few years ago at least, the same recovered archive that taught us how to build motors for boats, and flying machines, planes, also had a map of this region, including locations of Guardian lairs; I can't say more than that, however other than confirming they are still there; our job is to make contact with any Guardians we can find."

He looks sternly at the three soldiers and four porters, "If our people are to have a future, if we are to claim new lands for the prosperity of our people, we must make peace with the Guardians."

"Or," says the soldier shouldering his rifle, "we could just kill that creature."

"No!" shouts Isaac, "you cannot make it angry, just one Guardian has...could...destroy an entire military base, kill everyone. We have to show them we can be trusted with the wellbeing...that we can be trusted."

"With," says Old Joe eying Isaac, "the wellbeing of the planet. That's what she told me. You've met one before haven't you?"

"No," says Isaac, "not personally, but I was there. At the dig site...I...I am not allowed to say anymore, I took an oath."

"Alright," says Old Joe, "then I can take you and your apprentice to go see her."

"I have to insist," says the first soldier, "that I go with you. You are a guide and two cartographers, I am the most senior soldier here representing the fort. If this thing is so dangerous and so important and we're right down the mountain from it, then I have to insist someone is in on any talks you have."

He eyes Isaac, "so we don't get any, can't talk about it stuff, so I have something to report back to the general."

"Fine," says Old Joe, "I mean, its the client's choice."

"It is appropriate," says Isaac, "Rocko will go to run the camera and bear witness as I once did, the rest of you keep the camp guarded."

Up close the silver tower is incredible, Isaac and Rocko can't stop gawking as a section of the wall around the base of the tower opens up on its own and inside is a garden and things they can't describe, metal devils with bodies like silver silvers and legs with bits of blue metal plates and a stop light like head move about, in this garden the woman greets them "Welcome back little Chokota, care for some tea?" she smiles, her silver lips unnerve the soldier, she looks like them, but also as much like them as a she could be said to resemble a Kachink, her nose is unlike anything he's ever seen, her lips in shape could like them or a Kachink, her ears though are more like a Kachink's only smaller in proportion to her head, the long hair hanging from her head like vines however is not like anything he's ever seen before save maybe on some birds in the jungle, her eyes are too white and he has never seen silver irises before.

Several small metal things like spiders mixed with people have brought out a table and chairs, including four with ladders built into them so they can climb up to her height. On the table are biscuits and tea.

"So what brings you back to visit me little Chokota?" asks the woman addressing Joe.

"These people," says Joe, "are from the empire, they wanted to see the tower, but these two act like they've met another like you."

Joe turns to Isaac, "well royal cartographer?"

Isaac stammers, "Y, yes, my people have been mapping the world, we need to expand to new lands and well...we keep encountering your kind. One referred to herself as a Guardian, said your people watch over the natural order of the world. My people wish to gather resources from the jungle,"

"No," says the woman setting her cup of tea down, "your people do not need to gather resources from this jungle. You need to continue moving on, find environments better suited for you."

"We wish," says Isaac, "to advance and prosper, we cannot do this, two hundred years ago..."

He looks at Joe and the soldier, "you both are about to hear something you shouldn't but I need to plead my case,"

He looks back to the woman, "two hundred years ago a city in the desert dug down too deep, they awoke metal devils that devastated our civilization, we lost most of our more advanced technology. We taught this event in our history books a war with the Kachink, which did result afterwords as they took advantage of our loss of military might. The Guardians had risen up and destroyed the Metal Devils then, but did nothing to aid us."

"The Metal Devils," says the woman, "the Mecha-Nation, are our concern, they destroy life and desire only death. This world was once home to another species that nearly destroyed it, they did such damage to these jungles. My job was to revive the jungles, restore its life, and watch over it all. I am the administrator of this region."

"It talks like its a god," grumbles the soldier, "fighting demons of corruption and restoring life, like old pagan myths."

The woman continues, "We were created by and descended from the species that nearly destroyed this world, as are the Mecha-Nation. Two sides of the same conflicted people, life or death, creation or destruction. I can tolerate some construction, however I will not allow much further damage than has already been done to this jungle. Only that which is naturally part of the ecosystem can be allowed to spread."

"We are the children of God!" shouts the soldiers, "all of this world is ours's by right!"

The woman's expression does not change as she speaks calmly, "That is incorrect, you are Chokota, created by MM corporation as comfort companions, your ancestors were created by the same people that made us, you proved to be sapient so a section of the northern expanse of the northern continents were set aside for you to live and prosper."

The soldier looks about to speak when Isaac speaks up instead, raising his hand to tell the soldier to stand down, "Our people have expanded beyond our original valleys and forests, we need to spread out, we have tried, but every time we either encounter the Metal Devils, or you Guardians, and as you say, you watch over this world. We just want to know where we can and can't go, and also what about the Kachink, it seems as though the Guardians never target them."

"Kachink," says the woman, "I do not know this name, please elaborate, if there is an unknown species invading we must be made aware."

The Chokota look between each other and exchange a surprised yet glad look. Isaac pulls a picture from his pack, "Here this is a Kachink,"

The woman looks at the photograph, "One moment, analyzing, connecting to system."

Her eyes glow through the pupils with a blue light as she stares into space, "Analysis complete, sisters have data. Kachink, Kachinka, Kocho, new species, mutation of higher intelligence, fully bipedal, descendant of Chimpanzee and Bonobo hybrids. Determination, naturally occurring species. Will not act unless they become destructive to the environment beyond a certain threshold to allow for natural evolution."

"What?!" shouts the soldier, "we are the children of God! How can you.."

"That is enough," growls Isaac, "the Guardians are the servants of God, maintaining balance in the world, but they are limited creations even with all their great power, lords over their specific domains."

Isaac turns to the woman, "We have had many conflicts with the Kachink, our populations grow, and it sounds like your people put us in those valleys which can no longer support us. Do not we too deserve to live and prosper on this world as the Kachink do? As your own children?"

The woman pauses, "analyszing, connecting to servor, other Chokota have been asking this of other adminstrators. I am now part of the chat. Return to your town and I will come to you within the week with my decision."

She bids them farewell and as they are outside the wall the soldier says, "I don't know what that was all about, but that sounded like a decleration of war on the fort, and these special monsters you are asking permission for us to just live are clearly on the side of the Kachink!"

Stories come and go, sometimes not always the way one may hope. A week later the fort recieved their answer; they had prepared to be attacked, what they got instead they could not have imagined. Every Chokota in that fort, and indeed the entire world heard a chorus of voices in their head speaking all at once, "We are those you call the Guardians, we have ascertained that the Chokota life forms have propogated beyond expected perameters. For the safe guard of this planet and for the future health and propserity of the Chokota species we will be culling those numbers. You will not be harmed, all those Chokota outside the original designated habitats will be transported to new homes."

A bright light shone over the base, over many cities across the planet, their inhabitants vanished. Transported to stasis pods on a number of large wedge shaped vessels flying above the planet. This is how the Chokota left Earth and found themselves spread into the universe and even multiverse. Some awoke to find themselves in pastures and fertile forests with supply crates to spread out and build a new home on unknown worlds, others in zoos ran by giant humanoid birds called the Ki'ran, shapeshifting fish people called the Sojorans, Isaac, Rocko, Joe, and all those of the fort found themselves in a large domed in temperate forest being observed by giant fuzzy beings with large breasts, fuzzy tentacles, four arms *two clawed hands and two praying mantis like arms*, and a moth like head and massive flexible wings; (the Ki'an'ta), who would treat them like animals kept in a zoo, well cared for, fed, but beyond that prisoners. Generations to come would be kept as pets, even ending up as pets to the grey reptilian-mantis like Van'toase and the large fuzzy serpent like Amoana. A few would be lucky and living on worlds without aliens or Guardians or rivals would advance and build their own societies. For those left back on Earth however, the Chokota Empire fell that day, the lands outside their valleys became declared cursed and those who dared venture out into them to scavenge the remains of their civilization became ruin explorers; a job considered dangerous as unknown to them the pet and wild life trade of the above mentioned aliens marked the planet and anything outside the "reserves" as free game to capture and sell on the zoo and pet market.