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
Like a dark stain moving across the vast fabric of space time, the Swarm advanced. So great was the volume of dark-matter powering their enormous ship engines, light from a billion stars was bent temporarily inward, visually turning the telescopic images of thousands of galaxies into massive black holes. Forgotten for the moment were the millions of worlds in the midst of being ravaged and consumed. A subliminal message delivered without the constraints and laws of physics had spread throughout the universe.
It was not unusual for the egg-layer to be alone. After thousands of compliant workers had constructed the hive, Derhaka had leisurely eaten them. The Vabalas’s enormous matriarch always removed herself to a remote and secret location to lay her millions of planter-eggs; otherwise the insatiable appetite of the Swarm would consume their own future generations. These millions of eggs in turn would quickly hatch and mature to lay trillions more on un-ravaged but defenseless worlds carefully set aside for that purpose. The Swarm was not one mass migration but an endless series of waves each one hundreds of thousands of years apart.
Derhaka could inexplicably feel the end of her own wave approaching or some new threat perhaps this was the last laying … surely no more than a hundred more hatchings and a host of new royals would emerge. Each would then fight their sibling to the death to become godlike. The safety of this small hive had now been breached and she was furious. Her senses told her of an intruder and she began to search. Derhaka would have laughed, had she been capable of such a non-insectile emotion, if she had focused any one of her twenty six eyes on the by-form half-Porosities female creeping into her chamber. Such a tiny spark to ignite a firestorm.
The royal guards would arrive in minutes to fight to the death to protect the eggs from the hungry hordes that would follow. The eggs would eventually be consumed, so great were the numbers of Swarm responding, but the egg-layer would be saved from whatever danger threatened … for as long as this wave lasted.
The terrified crew of the Centurion orbiting an iridium gas cloud many light years from Aquaduna was hurtled into a cataclysm as a thousand Vabalas ships streaked past blocking all starlight, bending gravity and ignoring them completely. There was no time for the Swarm to destroy a pitifully insignificant vessel of little value … the royal egg-layer Queen Derhaka had called.
Keeper, Jeff Bland and all those closest to the opening were blown backward tumbling end over end in clouds of debris and water vapor when the anti-mater charges detonated under the shelf entrance. ‘Let’s not do that again shall we?” Jeff groaned struggling into an upright position, thankful for the containment bubbles that had protected them from the worst of the horrific explosion.
“It worked,” Keeper said pointing toward the entrance where hundreds of house sized boulders had buried the advancing cigar ships. “But it looks like we sealed off our only way out!”
The Aquadunans searched through the wreckage looking for lost family members. Jeff watched as a mother and father joined tentacles with at least seven offspring forming a kind of circle. Soon other groups were joining, sometimes attaching all eight appendages until the cluster numbered more than a thousand. “This is the way Cephalopod societies communicate and exchange information. If one member is missing or is injured or harmed in any way the entire group knows it.” Keeper said.
After a few minutes the clusters began to break up and Gogt swam over. “How bad is it?” Keeper asked knowing there had to be fatalities.
“About a third of our species are dead or are missing,” Gogt said. “It could have been worse. If Garwon’s ships had not been stopped we would have all been suctioned to our doom.”
“I blame myself,” Keeper said. “I didn’t believe the Vabalas would share such advanced technology with a race of amphibians.”
“The Swarm is driven by hunger,” Gogt said. “They will do anything to satisfy their enormous appetites.”
A pulsing ring of light surrounded Keeper’s head and he tapped it with his finger. The light ring instantly became a hologram of Second Officer Squem, a gaseous life form who had been left in charge of the Centurion. The swirling cloud of vapor took the shape of a humanoid as it communicated. “We have tracked 1,243 Vabalas ships hurtling past us at close range,” Squem reported. “At least a hundred times that many are moving toward your location from this part of the universe.” The swirling vapor that formed his face transformed into a smile that looked like an exaggerated version of Jeff Bland’s infamous expression of sarcasm. “I don’t know what you guys did … but you made a bunch of warrior insects very mad!”
“A pile of rock is not going to keep the Swarm from getting to us,” Jeff waved his arms in the air.
“There is nothing we can do now except wait,” Keeper did not seem to be stressed.
“As long as the wait is not too long,” Gogt said. “Our species relies on ocean currents flowing through the shelf opening to supply nutrients and oxygen. With the entrance now blocked off, we’re like fish drowning in a pool of stagnant water.”
“How long?” Keeper asked him.
Gogt looked around at the clusters of Aquadunans several members already seemed to be in distress and were moving their gills at an accelerated pace. “I’d say no more than two hours,” he said, “then things are going to get very ugly!”
“I don’t think we have to worry about that,” Jeff said. “The Swarm will be here in less than an hour and then none of us are going to have to worry about breathing!”
“Actually, by my calculations the first wave of Vabalas should reach the surface of Aquaduna in roughly eighteen minutes and twenty-three seconds,” Squem reported.
“Thank you!” Jeff sneered. “I think we all feel better now!”
Leika listened intently to the rapid breathing of the young student; Yanadax who had once again taken humanoid form was obviously terrified. “Try to keep away from her if you can,” she whispered.
“It’s not easy,” Yanadax gasped. “This place is like a maze with thousands of rooms filled with eggs; every passageway seems to lead to the Queen’s chamber!”
Leika closed her eyes and tried to remember everything she could about insects especially those who lived in colonies. “The queen is probably almost blind,” she said. “Her sole function is to lay eggs and direct the swarm from a dark and warm place. She seldom leaves the hive and probably relies on perception, instinct and telepathy rather than physical senses.”
“You’re right about it being warm!” Yanadax said. “It feels like I’m inside some kind of womb. It must be a hundred degrees in here … with at least 60% humidity. The box that I keep my friends in is bulging … I think they want out!”
“You brought the Ledos inside the hive with you!” Leika was almost shouting.
“Sometimes they feel like my only friends!”
Leika noticed the orb shaped objects with spikes protruding from the outside had reached the ocean floor and were racing toward the base of the pyramid. Their searchlights swept the ruins of the Aquadunan city. “I think the Swarm has started to arrive and I need to find a place to hide! Will you be okay?”
Yanadax sounded out of breath. “I can’t talk now … she’s coming … and I can’t hold the box lid closed!”
Leika swam away from the base of the pyramid looking for a place to hide. She spied a partially collapsed tunnel that had once formed part of an underwater building. Seconds after she dropped into it the first ship arrived. Whoever was inside the vessel was feeling bloody, highly concentrated laser beams swept the area obviously searching for any life forms left in the ruins. A school of sickly sun-flower fish swam past and was instantly vaporized along with three skeletal looking crab like creatures and a group of battered Cetacea.
Suddenly from inside the pyramid there came the sound of singing. Yanadax said the Legos were happy where it was warm and from the way she described the inside of the hive they must have now thought they were in heaven. The voices grew louder and more plentiful as if the tiny creatures were doubling in number every second.
“Through countless ages long we search.
For mother’s warm embrace!
Through frozen planets want of sun.
To perpetuate our race.
At last this world we seek and find.
We finally do arrive.
To make our home in ruins of
A torn Vabalas hive.”
The Swarm’s guard ships were now tearing down the outside of the pyramid. “Derhaka! Derhaka!” Stone blocks some weighing as much as five tons were flung in all directions along with piles of eggs. The singing of the Legos had now reached insane levels exceeding 200 decibels and rising beyond 20,000 Hz. Leika had both hands covering her ears when the last black was flung away and the Queen’s chamber lay exposed. Yanadax stood in the center of a large platform separated from the water by some kind of pressure field. The box that had held the Legos lay open at her feet. The monstrous Queen of the Vabalas loomed over her like a giant sized wasp trembling with unconstrained fury. Laser beams erupted from the Swarm ships and began to sweep toward the terrified girl. “Derhaka! Derhaka!” Only Yanadax’s close proximity to the matriarch kept her from being instantly vaporized. Suddenly the Queen stood erect the two sets of fronts legs becoming arms that spread outward. “No! She is mine!” the alien words seemed to explode inside Leika’s head and she fought to remain conscious.
From a massive insectile abdomen as large as a shuttlecraft a barbed stinger appeared more than ten meters long. Tapering to a needle sized point the spear-like projectile hovered in the air above Yanadax. A vile yellow liquid dripped from the stinger’s end.
Leika screamed a second after Yanadax did. There was a corresponding echo that seemed to rise in pitch and volume coming from the chamber and then Leika watched horrified as the Swarm’s Queen joyfully plunged the massive stinger through Yanadax’s chest and stomach and out the other side.
The Swarm ships were removing the rocks and debris that covered the shelf entrance. One of the cigar ships was now free and it began to fire on the Aquadunans huddled in one corner of the shelf. Keeper and Bland resolved that they would protect the one hundred students they were transporting at all costs. Two more of the cigar ships were almost uncovered. Keeper, Jeff and Gogt dodged one blast that vaporized hundreds of terrified Cephalopods. Jeff Bland tried to return fire with a laser as a wall behind him disintegrated but the hand held weapon had no effect on the enemy vessel.
“It’s no use,” Keeper said. “Gorwat must have also acquired shielding technology from the Swarm.”
The Aquadunans were being killed in mass all around them.
“So what do we do?’ Jeff always looked to Keeper for answers.
Ionized bolts of dark matter leaped from Keepers outstretched fingers and slammed into the front of the advancing cigar ships. For a moment the ship appeared to be knocked backward but then it advanced again seemingly without damage.
“We fight anyway,” Keeper told him.
Leika was barely aware that the sound coming from the hive was made by the Legos. The volume and frequency rose to such extreme levels she could no longer hear but the vibrations were beginning to shatter the rock structures in the ruined city. A stone wall rose from the ocean floor and then shattered into millions of fragments as a sound wave of earthquake purport ions swept outward in all directions. Leika instinctively dove into the muddy bottom of the trench she was in hoping the bubble she was encased in would offer some protection. Still the volume and the frequency of the Legos song increased even with both of her ears covered.
Leika was aware of the mud being blown from around her and with her eyes partially open she could see eggs begin to roll away from the massive piles inside the former hive. Suddenly the sound frequency spiraled upward far beyond humanoid hearing range and there was an eerie silence like the calm just before a lightning strike.
Then the explosion came, a monstrous detonation like a thousand eon cannons being fired inside a tiny glass ball. Bits of eggs shell turned to vapor spread outward like shrapnel and the Queen of the Swarm was sliced into a thousand pieces. And everywhere the Swarm’s ships were grinding to a stop.
Jeff Bland watched as the light beams flowing from Keeper’s fingers began to tear large pieces of metal off from the cigar ships. “I don’t believe it,” he gasped. “Garwon has lost his shields!” He once again pointed his own weapon and began to fire this time with more than satisfactory results. In a matter of minutes the cigar ships withdrew and were headed for the surface.
Squem once again made contact with Keeper. His holographic image appeared to be dancing. “It’s unbelievable!” he said. “Everywhere we look Swarm ships are floating dead in space. We just watched an entire fleet being pulled into the gravitational grip of a red giant star and igniting like a box of matches!”
“Do you think it’s safe to rescue us?” Keeper asked.
“The Centurion is on its way,” Squem said.
Keeper and First Officer Jeff Bland found Leika wandering through the ruins of the hive. The students now all safely aboard the Centurion insisted that they be allowed to perform a vigil for their fallen classmate. They gathered in a circle around the ruins of the hive and sang songs that probably meant more to them than they would have to Yanadax. “She was so young,” Leika moaned, “and she reminded me so much of myself!”
“No one lives one life forever,” Keeper told her. “Death must always come before life … and life before death.” He noticed a large crack in the floor showing non-hive levels beyond and sent a team down to recover the antidote that would restore Teuth from the buried lab.
“I know Yanadax is gone,” Leika said. “I was looking for some sign of the Legos. Unbelievable as it seems, I believe it was they who destroyed the Swarm. They seemed agitated at anyone who caused Yanadax any discomfort. Her death must have driven them over the edge.”
“In the closed structure of infinity,” Keeper said. “The smallest of things and the largest become the same. I’d say the Vabalas met their match in the smallest and most insignificant things in the universe!”
With the antidote that would save Teuth safely in their hands there was nothing more to do than to leave this watery world at one edge of the universe.
Within days, Teuth made a full recovery and was once more navigating the Centurion toward the Cationic Galaxy and the student’s Deep Space Exams. A handful of cadets crowded around Keeper. “Who can tell me how the first sixteen elements of dark matter were named, who named them, and why,” Keeper asked.
“Alvin Sullinger discovered the first sixteen elements of dark matter and named them after women!” A bright member of a reptilian species named Denz was the first to raise his hand. “He said he did it because no matter how much he studied them he was never sure how they were going to react!” Most of the class members giggled. A girl named Nora asked Keeper a question about how the fabric of space time was woven.
Leika left the control room and headed for the solitude of Biosphere 3. She rode a recreational platform to the middle of a hundred-mile wide ocean and stopped at a rocky island. It took almost two hours for her to climb to the top of a granite mountain without ropes or other gear. She sat on the edge of a cliff and watched the waves roll beneath her and the stars streak past above the clear overhead dome. The universe was an infinitely large place.
A cool breeze blew across her face and felt somehow soothing. The engineers who simulated Earth and Earth-like environments were fastidious about detail. She was beginning to accept that Yanadax was gone but she wondered what had become of the Legos. Keeper said they were believed by many to be magical … Leika wasn’t sure.
Suddenly it began to snow. Large flakes much larger than normal floated from the clear domed ceiling miles above her. Leika decided to climb down before the rock ledges became too slippery. Halfway to the bottom she took shelter in a small cave to rest. Damn those environmental engineers and their realism. A pool of water in one corner looked inviting, Leika was thirsty, but the water was already frozen. It was getting colder. Leika could already see her breath. She used a rock to break the ice and took a step back as a frozen mist seemed to rise from the water. Her breath began to melt the vapor and in the stillness of the cave she could hear tiny voices … happy voices … they appeared to be singing.
Onward and forever … to the end of time.
Nothing is lost … that you can’t find.
Where matter dark … arrives on beams.
And all new things … appear in dreams.
Onward and forever … we journey on.
Meeting again … that so lost gone.
Magic is knowledge … captured by few.
And love gives meaning … to all we do.
Leika was feeling warmer and she really didn’t mind the cold. In fact a smile broke across her face for the first time in weeks. She didn’t understand all the words the Legos were singing but she recognized a new voice among them. “I’m glad you’re with friends,” she whispered.
THE END ???