Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
TO SAVE TEUTH
By R. Peterson
Even at reverse light speed it would take the Centurion over forty-eight hours to reach the Vandens Galaxy where Teuth’s home planet was located. The ship’s navigator was frozen in a cryonic state of hibernation until the ship’s medical staff could find a way to save him. The crew used the time to give instruction to the space cadets on board the vessel. “Who can tell me how a gravitron device works?” Keeper asked the students.
A short, round student from the polar regions of Earth, was the first to raise his hand. “Gravitron is an adulteration of the phrase gravity turn and it refers to reversing the distortion of space time by causing selected assemblages of matter to repel each other. Alvin Sullenger did the first experiments with gravity and dark matter in the early twenty-first century.”
“Very good, Tiguak,” Keeper said.
“Excuse me,” a female student with the name badge Dee attached to her tunic spluttered, “Sullinger may have been the first Earth scientist to develop a reverse gravity device but the scientists on Mateusz 17 have been experimenting with dark energy, the force behind the Big Bang, for centuries!”
“Which proves there is nothing new under any sun,” Keeper said.
Dee shook her head, obviously mystified by her teacher’s reply.
“It’s from Ecclesiastes - a religious text on Earth,” a third student by the name of Yanadx snapped. Her eyes darted toward where First Officer Jeff Bland was helping Helmsman Dorg plot navigation coordinates into the computer system. Keeper noticed the brilliant student with partial Porosities parenting sigh as her large green eyes became a soft powdery blue.
‘I see you’ve been reading up on Earth culture,” Keeper smiled. “I’m impressed!”
Yanadx seemed to be in a trance and continued to stare at Jeff.
“He’s not worth it!” Leika bumped the young student with her elbow and then leaned in to whisper. “So point your sticky little spines somewhere else!”
“Alvin Sullenger also did some of the earliest work on Balance Theory,” Keeper said. “Who can tell me what that is?”
“Balance Theory states that for everything in the universe, including matter and non-matter of all types, physical and conceptual, there is an opposite-form that brings all things into balance,” Tiguak answered.
“Balance Theory also implies that any obstruction can be altered or defeated by thinking of its opposite,” Keeper said. “Can anyone think of an object, thought or idea that has no counterpart?”
“There is no opposite for a dream,” Yanadx whispered still staring at Jeff.
“Wrong,” Leika said, nudging the girl. ‘It’s called reality.”
Alarms sounded throughout the Centurion as the massive ship once again encountered three of the cigar shaped spaceships. They were anchored next to a vapor cloud and appeared to be transporting crew members from one ship. “They must be fleeing toward the same galaxy that we are headed to and think we are pursuing,” Helmsman Dorg said checking the remote systems scanners. “My guess is that the vessel they are abandoning was slowing them down, although it does not appear to be that badly damaged.”
Sure enough, two ships sped away leaving the third. “My sensors show there are still life forms on board,” Dorg said. “Shall we pursue?”
“No,” Keeper said. “Let’s find out what our amphibious friend left for us … and if that ship can be repaired.”
“Garwon is a lot smarter than you think,” First Officer Jeff Bland joked. “All he has to do to make our captain stop chasing him is offer the man a cigar!”
Keeper smiled. “I don’t smoke … but that ship might prove to be very useful.”
Three armed shuttlecraft streaked from the Centurion and scouted the outside of the cigar-shaped ship, sweeping all exterior surface areas and moving in opposite directions. “The shields are down and there doesn’t appear to be any hostiles aboard,” the commander of the first shuttlecraft reported.
“Let’s investigate the life forms inside,” Keeper suggested.
“It could be a trap,” Jeff Bland was hesitant.
“This is one of Gorwan’s ships … remember.” Keeper smiled.
Jeff laughed. “I keep forgetting. That self-serving amphibian probably left so fast he forgot to turn off the stove.”
Leika joined them just as they were closing the doors to a boarding shuttlecraft. “Going to see if your x with the extra-long tongue left you any gifts?” Jeff teased.
“I’m here because Keeper thinks my attraction abilities might make a difference between life and death,” Leika said, then she wrinkled her nose as she looked at the first officer. “Although I doubt anything could help you!”
“Thank you, but I’m not perfect.” Jeff winked. “Even I could use a little help now and then.”
“What’s that old Earth saying … you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear?” Leika laughed, “and they have me working with the whole pig!”
The entry hatch on Gorwan’s vessel was sealed but not locked. Keeper and the boarding crew found themselves inside what looked like a huge cargo ship. “Brrrr it’s cold in here!” Leika shivered. She made her eyes turn baby powder blue long enough to remove a coat from one of the security officers and put it on herself. He offered no resistance and gaped at her with a puppy-love face as her eyes turned back to green and she ignored him. Keeper ordered a search of the entire vessel and made sure the jacketless officer left with them to get him away from the troublesome Porosities.
The inside of the ship was like a dozen stadium sized meat lockers stacked end to end. Frozen aquatic bodies hung upside down from hooks attached to hundreds of horizontal rails that ran the length of the cargo area. “There must be a million pounds of seafood in this section alone,” Jeff gasped, “and still it’s not even a quarter full.”
“They’re not seafood yet,” Keeper said. “These creatures are alive, frozen by some type of cryonic technology almost the way Teuth is inside one of our biosphere oceans.”
Thirty minutes later a medical team from the Centurion had succeeded in bringing several of the creatures back from frozen hibernation.
“You’re lucky to be alive,” Keeper told a cephalopod who resembled Teuth. The ship’s communication system translated his words into twenty-three different versions of Teuth’s home planet language before they got a response.
“I thought when I awakened it would be when I was dropped in a pot of boiling soup,” the creature said. He swam leisurely in the transparent tank filled with sea water that the medical team has supplied for him. “My name is Gogt and I thank you!”
“I thought the invaders were ravishingly hungry,” Jeff said. “Why weren’t you devoured as soon as the Swarm opened its ugly mouth?”
“Most all life forms, plants and animals are ground into a paste which is dehydrated and made into a powder,” Gogt said. “When the powder is reconstituted it becomes a soup that feeds 99.99% of the Vabalas. The other one-hundred of one percent, the high ranking officers and elite, enjoy devouring living flesh especially aquatic creatures. Live species such as ourselves are frozen and transported to the most elegant kitchens of the Swarms many conquered galaxies where we often are sautéed in Garma blood and nibbled on slowly, an eye here a tentacle there, sometimes taking a week or more to lose consciousness.”
Jeff blanched, and cradled his stomach. “Vabalas? Is that what the Swarm call themselves?”
“Vabalai, kurie užkariauti … it is what we call them,” Gogt said. “The insects who conquer!”
“Our navigator Teuth has been infected by a poison gas that a dying member of your species named Blad said you had developed an antidote for,” Keeper said. “Do you know if anyone is left on your world that could supply us with a sample?”
“There were almost twenty billion of our species on our water world before the Swarm came,” Gogt said, “too many to process even for the Vabalas. We were pushed to one edge of the largest ocean and fenced in like milking dolphins. Both ends of these cigar ships open and living creatures are strained through filters before being sorted and frozen.”
“Just like baleen whales back on Earth,” Jeff commented, “without the freezing.”
Gogt did not know what a whale was. “I would estimate that at least half of our species remains although thousands are processed every hour. I’m sure someone there can help your navigator.”
“This will be like cows breaking into a butcher shop,” Jeff scoffed.
“You already know what I’m thinking?” Keeper looked approvingly at his first officer.
“Yes,” Jeff said. “We can land this cigar ship on Gogt’s ocean world and pretend to be harvesting food while we search for someone who can cure Teuth … there’s just one thing I want to know.”
“What’s that?” Keeper asked.
“Do the Swarm consider human meat a delicacy … or will I be turned into powdered soup?”
“Only time will answer that question,” Keeper told him.
Keeper ordered all the life-forms aboard the cigar ship re-animated and transported into one of the biosphere oceans inside the Centurion. It took almost seven hours for the engineering staff to make the necessary repairs to the cigar ship and Jeff asked a hundred men to volunteer for what was likely going to be a suicide mission.
It wasn’t until Garwon’s former ship was well on its way that Leika appeared leading the entire group of space cadets. “What do you think you’re doing?” Jeff was furious.
“Insuring your safety,” Leika said. “I may not be able to help you … like I’ve always said … you are beyond that …. but dangerous situations often call for new faces and fresh ideas.”
The cadets all smiled proud to be considered stowaways on a dangerous mission.
Keeper shook his head and tried to look stern … the situation was too damn dangerous to smile about .
TO BE CONTINUED …