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.
By R. Peterson
Thirty-six hours remained before Mėnulis, the large moon orbiting Aquaduna 13, would be on the far side of the planet and the massive tides pulling the oceans eight miles into the atmosphere would return to normal. Until then, Keeper thought it was too dangerous for Yanadax to try to steal the iridium gas antidote from a Swarm hive that would save Teuth’s life. Leika had decided to accompany the young space cadet on the dangerous mission. “Putting those two together is like tossing two Laderian wildcats into a sleeping pod.” First Officer Jeff Bland told Keeper as they studied a layout of the underwater shelf where their crew of volunteers and the Aquadunans were hiding from Gorwat’s food gathering ships. “The fur is going to fly … and someone is bound to be hurt.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me if Leika and Yanadax eventually become inseparable,’ Keeper said as he made note of all the entrances to the area under the shelf.
“The queen of interstellar female domination and another rival?” Jeff laughed. He was studying a computer file of their enemies weapon capabilities. “Yanadax will be lucky if Leika doesn’t poke her eyes out with one of those spines she has instead of hair!”
“Great friendships - even the greatest love affairs, often start out with inordinate animosity,” Keeper told him.
“If that’s true, Leika and I are destined for a legendary romance that will be envied and talked about for a thousand years!” Jeff twisted his facial features into hopeless blissful exaggeration that quickly became devilish. “If we don’t dice each other up with combat lasers and destroy the entire universe first.”
Two Aquadunans, Gogt and Streng, swam into the chamber where Keeper, Bland and Dorg were working inside containment bubbles. “For millions of years we have ruled this ocean world,” Streng said, his eight tentacles spreading outward in all directions. “Our only problems seemed to be deciding how best to use the sea life around us with our available technology and what we should conserve. Little did we know that in less than a century the Swarm would arrive, dehydrate all plant and animal life-forms on the planet for their food supply and decide that cephalopods were an exotic dish destined for elite Vabalas cooking pots.” The large eyes in his bulbous head stared sadly at the chamber floor. “Compared to the Swarm we know almost nothing about warfare and can only flee from our enemies.”
“We’re working on a defense system for your shelf,” Keeper said. “If the information I’ve received is correct most of your species is safely under these rock plates?”
“Yes,” Streng said. “For millions of years these gardens under the stone plates have kept us from being yanked out of the oceans when Mėnulis passes over. Now they provide our only refuge from Garwon and those procuring food for the Swarm!”
“We believe that when the tides retreat Garwon will try to vacuum you out from under the rock shelves with a specially constructed suction beams,” Jeff explained. “Because your light-emitting photon fish, the Šviesos, eat the metal his ships are made of, he dare not navigate his cigar ships under the rock ledges.”
“Garwon’s suction beams will be very powerful,” Keeper added. “Everything but rock will be strained inside the open ends of his vessels.”
“So we’re going to make sure he sucks up some very heavy rock first,” Jeff told them.
“We have detected extremely dense dark and light matter elements under this entire area,” Keeper said. “If we can blast loose large chunks of this metallic rock from the ocean floor into the mouths of his ships when he begins the suction process we should be able to overload him and leave him helpless on the ocean floor.”
“He’ll have to shut down his shields to remove the weight from the outside!”
“That’s when we drive the Šviesos out from under the shelf and let our light-emitting friends feast on his disabled ships.”
“Blasting that much rock off the ocean floor will require enormous concussive force!” Streng and Gogt’s tentacles wavered over their ears; as though even thinking about the blast was painful.
“Anti-matter particle rumblings deep under the ocean floor!” Jeff was ecstatic. “It’s the kind of massive amplification waves that would have made Jimi Hendrix an inter-galactic guitar God!”
Streng had allowed Keeper to move the cigar-shaped vessel designated as 419419 under the shelf so that Keeper’s crew would have a place to stay and he posted guards to keep the Šviesos photon fish from feasting on the metal. Leika went looking for Yanadax and found the young student in a remote and very cold storage area of the ship. “You don’t have to hide your tiny friends from me … I know what you’re doing!” Yanadax had been trying to hide the box in her travel bag and with a sigh she placed it on the frosty floor. Leika felt surprised as her animosity toward Yanadax had dissipated, so hard her aversion to the Ledos strange singing.
“I know I’m spending too much time with the Ledos,” Yanadax said. “But I feel wonderful when I’m with them … and they are an educational diversion.”
“More like an obsession,” Leika told her.
“I promised my cadet training supervisor that I’d place them in a DSU, but shrinking exotic life-forms this tiny to a manageable size seems a waste of time and I don’t want to lose them.” Yanadax looked Leika hopefully. “I know you don’t like me … but you won’t tell on me will you?”
“As the Organic Science Officer on this ship I should … but I won’t!” Leika smiled. “Keeper won’t miss a few microscopic life forms in his gumball-machine and I actually enjoy having someone around who creates more trouble than I do.”
Yanadax looked like she wanted to open the box. “Go ahead,” Leika said. “Let’s see what you’ve got!”
The wide-eyed student opened the box and a mist like frozen vapor billowed out. Tiny points of light rose into the air and sparkled like glitter. “It looks like your little friends are growing,” Leika said. “There are at least double the number than before!”
“When they get warm they get happy and I guess they also breed!” Yanadax closed her eyes and smiled. “I think that has something to do with why they are only found in very cold areas … but I’m not sure.”
“Is that singing I hear?” Leika turned her ears to listen. “Parts of it sound strangely familiar!”
“Keeper says no small sound or thought is ever lost. The Ledos are so tiny they sift through the fabric of the universe like dust through a carpet. They are rebels without conviction and they ignore the laws and motions of all energy. They are thieves who steal and then hide beyond reason. Ideas and memories are cast like seeds throughout the galaxies to sprout in old worlds and in new times,” Yanadax said. “I’m not sure, but this sounds like an antiquated language from Officer Bland’s home planet.”
Leika closed her eyes and concentrated on listening to the tiny vibrations. There were more Ledos singing now and the sounds were louder. She could hear them and felt as if she were tumbling headlong into a dream. After a few moments the vibrations formed into the noise of an expectant crowd and a type of delicate rhyme of enchantment … being boldly delivered from an ancient wooden stage.
Thou speak’st aright
I am the merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon and make him smile.
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile.
Leika looked at readout of her translator. It said: 16th. Century/ Sun 3. “It appears your friends have visited Earth sometime in the past … or in the future,” Leika said. “When time no longer functions then it really doesn’t matter.” She allowed herself to smile. “In less than ten hours we’re off to retrieve the antidote for Teuth’s illness from a Swarm hive … it will be very dangerous I suggest you try to get some sleep.”
“There were Ledos on Earth?” Yanadax gently brushed her hand in the air to move the tiny creatures back into the box.
“Ledos are everywhere,” Leika said. “On Earth I think they were called fairies!”
Yanadax followed Leika to one of the napping chambers and after Leika placed her inside a pod and adjusted the temperature for sleeping she closed her eyes. Sounds were still coming from inside the box and she rubbed it gently with her fingers. Even a small amount of heat seemed to affect them. And when she held her breath and listened … she could still hear the Ledos singing softly!
Riding plodding beams of lore.
Sand in thine eyes turn wink to snore.
Push and pull tug weary lid.
Through empty fields of seeing hid.
To restful sleep … drag worried dreams.
All is nothing what it seems.
With Mėnulis on the opposite side of Aquaduna 13 the tides returned to normal. Leika and Yanadax prepared to journey to the hive while Keeper and his crew prepared for another assault from Garwon’s forces. “Try not to get caught,” Jeff Bland ordered. “We’re gonna have enough problems force feeding those cigar-ships a bunch of rocks!”
“Thank you for reminding us,” Leika said, her voice dripping with venom. “What would we do without you?”
“We’ll be back soon with Teuth’s antidote!” Yanadax gave Jeff her brightest smile.
“Remember to watch where you’re going … and also watch your back!” Jeff told her as he watched Leika follow the young student out the ship’s decompression bay.
“You really like him don’t you?” Yanadax said as they moved through the undersea garden and passed through the shelf entrance.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Leika laughed. “The guy has the brains of an Alortian wine-slug and he has the manners of a Hobor goat!”
“But still,” Yanadax whispered. “He is kind of cute!”
Leika turned her head so Yanadax wouldn’t see her smile.
They passed through the ruins of a once great and thriving underwater city. All the buildings appeared to have been blasted into rubble. Deep craters made the streets appear as mountain ridges. Huge tangled clumps of wire looked almost like trees. Underwater vehicles of all types lay partially demolished among a clutter of broken pipes, scorched plant-life and broken rock. They passed a long landing pad that had once been used to launch clam ships from the ocean floor to the surface of the planet and then into space. Twisted metal and melted glass were all that remained of the advanced technology that had evolved from the sea. What had once been a park with light arrays, gardens and ornamental arches now was a blackened wasteland. Shadows of humanoid like figures had been burned into polished rock platforms by photon weapon strikes.
They passed a large transparent chamber broken in hundreds of places. “I know what this is,” Yanadax said. “They have one on Mateusz 17. It was a dry room where children could learn to walk on land!”
Leika stopped to pick up a child’s slider, one of the footrests was charred and broken. “This must have been a very happy place … before the Swarm.”
“Is there anyplace in the universe where you don’t have to fight to survive?”
“I know of lots of places,” Leika said. “But no-one wants to live there.”
According to the time band on Leika’s arm they still had more than six hours to travel when a shadow loomed up ahead. She and Yanadax both looked up. The Swarm’s hive loomed like a mountain before them. It was shaped like a pyramid with each base side more than six miles wide. “I didn’t know it would be so huge,” Yanadax gasped. “Most of it must be above the ocean’s surface.”
“It makes sense,” Leika said. “The Vabalas are creatures of the air. They only go underwater when they want something!”
Leika noticed Yanadax trembling as she followed behind her. She tried to keep a positive attitude but the shadow of the hive suddenly made the water feel cold and forbidding.
“Here they come!” Jeff Bland shouted to Keeper and a group of Aquadunan fighters. A monitor showed a half dozen of Garwon’s cigar-ships as they cautiously approached the shelf opening. Sure enough, each of the vessels was equipped with massive hydro extraction turbines mounted on each side.
“I had to place more anti-matter charges about a hundred yards past the shelf opening,” Jeff said. “We won’t be able to use the first ones.” He looked at a very nervous Streng. “A computer simulation showed a chance of a cave in. We have to somehow lure them in a little closer!”
Keeper studied the long tubular ships as they lined up side by side. “I’m sure Garwon is inside one of those ships and if so perhaps we can use his greed to make him do something stupid.”
“Where is Leika when we need her?” Jeff grumbled.
“What does Garwon treasure more than anything else in the universe … besides Leika?” Keeper asked.
“He’s a gluttonous slob,” Jeff said. “I’d say something like Imporvian eels fried in Plado butter.”
“We don’t have any of that,’ Keeper said. “But we got something he can trade for it. I noticed a large deposit of Crorelliam crystals in the far corner of the shelf. Have the Aqualudans break some of the rocks into smaller pieces and make a trail going under the shelf.”
Jeff helped Gogt and some of the others spread the valuable crystals on the floor going under the shelf. “Here pig - pig - pig,” he called. “Here pig - pig - pig!”
Yanadax changed herself into a creature that resembled a Karilian eel and then crawled into one of the small holes at the base of the hive. Leika stood guard outside and monitored her progress with a density meter. “Remember, you get into trouble there is no way I can come inside and help you,” Leika told her.
“Just keep me going in the right direction,” Yanadax told her. “If the antidote is there I’ll come back with it!”
As Yanadax drew near the center of the hive, Leika’s monitor showed the presence of a very large chamber. “Be very careful,” Leika warned her. “There’s something about this place that makes my skin crawl.”
“There’s an odd smell and a kind of buzzing,” Yanadax said. “And there is some kind of light up ahead!”
Keeper and Bland watched as the cigar ships approached the shelf entrance. “They’ve spotted the Crorelliam crystals now let’s see how greedy Garwon really is,” Jeff said. He held his breath as the ship picked up the first crystal and then moved forward. “So far so good!”
Suddenly all the ships stopped and engaged the extraction turbines. Jeff could feel everything under the shelf being swept toward the entrance.
“Their turbines are a lot more powerful than we figured,” Keeper yelled. “He was trying to hold onto a rock wall while bits of stone tore loose and were being pulled away. “Detonate the anti-matter charges now!” Jeff fought his way against the ever growing current to the blast consul and detonated all the secondary charges. Huge boulders tore loose from the floor and were sucking into Garwon’s ships. Instead of overloading the vehicles an instant later the stones were expelled with a tremendous force.
“Garwon’s ships are far more capable than I figured,” Keeper said. “He must have borrowed technology from the Swarm.”
“We can’t hold on much longer,” Jeff said. Everything under the shelf, including thousands of Aqualunans, was being dragged toward the cigar ships.
“Detonate the first set of charges!” keeper ordered.
“But that might bring down the ceiling!” Jeff was already reaching for the switch.
“Hopefully it will,” Keeper said. “It’s our only chance!”
It seemed like hours since Yanadax’s last communication. Leika kept trying to reach her. “I’m inside the chamber,” Yanadax’s voice sounded fuzzy and there was a slight echo. “There was some kind of gooey slime I had to crawl through.”
“The lab with the antidote should be right below you.” Leika had the hive superimposed over a schematic of Streng’s former research facility.
“Streng was wrong about the Swarm using this as a food supply control lab,” Yanadax said. “It’s like one huge storage area!”
“Storing what?” Leika detected strange objects moving toward her at high speed.
“Eggs!” Yanadax yelled. “This whole chamber is filled with about a billion eggs.”
“Can you find a way to get into the lab just below you?” The objects streaming toward Leika looked like spiked orbs with millions of spikes on the outside. “You’ve got to hurry I think we’re in trouble.”
Yanadax’s horrified scream made Leika’s blood run cold. “The queen!” Yanadax sounded as if she were injured. “The Swarm’s queen knows I’m here!”
TO BE CONTINUED …