Copyright (c) 2018 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.
Keeper and the
PLANET OF GOLD
By R. Peterson
The hologram didn’t do justice to the Gorwat flagship’s reality. As soon as Leika and I were transported aboard I noticed the density of the hydrogen and oxygen swirling around our feet. It felt so strange, as though we walked, or rather, paddled through warm water. Naturally this created condensation, humidity was off the scale and we might as well have been inside a Turkish steam room. This wasn’t at all where I wanted to be but Leika’s mother was onboard and where Leika went … I followed. Lizard-like crew members crowded us. I felt like a meal-worm about to be eaten by these creatures. Leika had to push her way through to where Delicia was.
The queen looked to be more than half plant. Stems and leaves had replaced several fingers and one half of her face was a yellow blossom. “Momma!” Leika cried throwing her arms around the mutant creature that lay on the hospital bed.
“Your dear mother has lost the ability to correspond vocally,” Gugo Ventbong, the military leader of the Gorwat, said. “Perhaps if you try some other method of communication?”
“What have you done to her?” Leika’s eyes were like laser beams coming to full charge.
“I only tried to make her comfortable while we journey to Viridio.” Ventbong held his webbed hands outstretched as if in surrender. “You and your friend ….” The War Chief glared as if daring me to suggest there was more to our relationship and be killed on the spot. “are of course welcome to come along.”
“Thanks,” I said. “But I think Organic Science Officer Leika, her mother, and I, will all be returning to our own vessel.”
“What are these?” Leika pointed to a cluster of what looked like IV tubes connected to her mother’s veins.
“Nutritional feeding lines,” Ventbong said. “Your mother’s new chlorophyll structures need a constant supply of nutrients to grow and flourish. Queen Delicia is now a composite of two distinct species groupings plantae and animalia …. Kill one and the other will die.”
“The only thing your mother has going for her on this ship is fertilizer,” I told Leika loud enough so all the Gorwat could hear. There was a humming sound … laughter … and then everything went black.
Leika was standing over me wiping my face with a damp sponge. That wasn’t like her! “Where are we?” I tried to sit up but she pushed me back onto a bed.
“About three-hundred and eighty-five light years from Promo 4,” she said. “Ventbong Left about two-thirds of his armada blockading Midas 7; the rest of his ships are traveling with us. They just enabled their reverse light engines so we’ll be much farther away in a few seconds.”
“I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck,” I moaned.
“What’s a truck?”
Leika finally allowed me to sit up once she was sure I would crumple to the half-liquid floor. “I’ve been examining my mother. I think Lizard breath is right. She needs help from someone who understands this cross species mutation. The Viridians evolved much faster than any other plantalia life-forms in the galaxy. Their vastly superior technology is far reaching and difficult to understand. If only I could communicate with my mother. She might be able to tell us what’s going on with her body.”
“Do you think your mother knows you’re here with her?’
“I’m sure she does. She only has one working eye. The other side of her face is a blossom but that eye follows me as I move around the room.”
“Ventbong said for you to try another form of communication. What did he mean by that?”
“I don’t trust this king of lizards,” Leika said. “Obviously Ventbong has tried to communicate with her, but my mom probably resists. I think they want to use my mother as an interpreter when they enter the Viridio galaxy.”
“I guess returning to our own ship is out of the question.”
“The Gorwat know I won’t leave without my mother and they’re right … she won’t survive unless we get her to Viridio.”
“Why didn’t they kill me?”
“I told them you were my servant.”
“Don’t thank me. I’m a harsh and demanding mistress. When you’re able to walk I’ll have you running errands all over the ship.”
“How is your mother doing?”
“Not good. I was glad when Ventbong increased his ship’s velocity. The leaves where my mother’s fingers used to be … are turning brown!”
Leika was good for her word. In less than twelve hours she had me running errands to all parts of the ship while she was attending her mother or arguing with Ventbong on the bridge. I brought her costly pilfered Disperian designer shoes from a storage level dozens of times that were either too large, too small or the wrong color. I took demanding instructions to the ship’s galley about how she wanted her food prepared along with numerous complaints and ended up being chased through six levels by a Master Chef with centipede legs and twenty rows of teeth. Before twenty-four hours had elapsed, I was exhausted and took her flashing pager from around my neck and flung it across the room as I collapsed on my bunk.
I was back on Earth dreaming …. Before …
Leika was shaking me. “I just need a few minutes sleep,” I told her.
“You’ve been out for twenty-two hours,” she said. “I told Ventbong you passed out from one of my beatings.”
“That’s one of your most endearing qualities,” I told her. “You never lie.”
Leika ignored my sarcasm. I was beginning to believe that being prisoners of the Gorwat had changed her for the better. “I’ve had a breakthrough communicating with my mom,” she said.
“You spoke to her?’
Leika pushed me to one side and lay beside me. “I was holding and stroking the leaves where my mother’s fingers used to be until I became exhausted,” she whispered. “I went to sleep and my mother appeared to me in my dreams. I know what you’re thinking … but I’m sure it was really her. It makes sense. You make contact with plants by touching their light-receptors and then they communicate to you via your subconscious. Mom said it is very dangerous going into Viridio and that we have to watch out for something called carriers.”
“I wonder what she meant by that?”
“I don’t know. Her leaves are very brown now and are turning brittle. It’s getting very hard to make contact with her.”
“I’m sure that once we get to Viridio your mom will recover …. Although you might be taking a large house plant back to rule Promo 4.”
I was expecting at least a slap or a large chunk of my hair pulled out for my insensitive humor but Leika just snuggled up next to and went to sleep holding my hand. Leika was changing. Who would have thought that on a ship filled with Gorwat lizard warriors … she could become so human.
When I woke up Leika had peeled my clothes off and was shoving me into a cleansing chamber. “I’m going to send you to the engine and navigation levels today,” she said. “I want you to become familiar with every part of this ship. When the time comes for a mutiny, we have to know exactly where we’re going and what we’re doing.”
“Mutiny?” I laughed. “There must be ten-thousand Gorwat aboard just this ship. If you can’t control Ventbong with your charms, how do you expect to control his crew?”
“Ventbong wears a Bosh armband that blocks almost all of my seductive powers,” Leika said. “So far, I haven’t been able to persuade him to take it off.”
“So what’s your plan?”
“The Bosh armbands are insanely expensive. Only Ventbong and a dozen of his highest officers wear them. I’ve already caused a few accidents with his lower ranking crewmembers.”
“Yeah. Yesterday an airlock and an exterior hatch came open at the same time and sucked about a dozen lizards out into space before the emergency systems kicked in and sealed everything.”
“Gorwat system controls are almost impossible for humans to learn. How did you manage that?”
“I didn’t have to,” Leika smirked. “I promised I’d kiss the first crew member who brought me a rock from a small moon we were passing. How was I to know they would be so competitive?”
I laughed. “This is indeed … a ship of fools.”
“Not really,” Leika said. “One very large lizard with a very long tongue actually held his breath and did return with a rock when the others didn’t. Uggghhh I still can’t get the taste out of my mouth!”
She was silent for a long time. I was almost asleep when I heard her whisper. “You don’t have a moon rock, do you?”
Leika began to spend more and more time in her mother’s medical chamber. Days passed, and I didn’t see a glimpse or hear a whisper from her. I couldn’t believe that I was actually missing her. The atmosphere inside the Gorwat command ship began to change. Crew members were on high alert. I knew we were getting close to Viridio.
The entire Gorwat command vessel began to shake rattle and roll as ear-shattering sirens exploded on every level. I was on my way from the engine levels and searched for Leika but couldn’t find her as I transported to the bridge.
Ventbong and his commanders had turned the ceiling and all the walls into a three-dimensional holographic display so that they could watch the ongoing battle. The Gorwat armada was being attacked by what looked like giant insects. Interplanetary rhizomes connected hundreds of planets called hives. We watched what looked like a giant bee land on a Gorwat Destroyer, pierce the hull with a humongous stinger and fill the insides with explosives. The tremendous blast that followed made the power in our ship flutter for a few seconds. This same thing was occurring hundreds of times as we watched. The distant stars were suddenly blocked out by constant explosions and massive clouds of flying monsters.
“What are they?” I yelled.
Ventbong was too busy frantically directing his fleet’s defenses to answer. His warships were sending out thousands of decoy vessels to try to keep the invaders at bay. Exploding rings a thousand kilometers in all directions were not enough to stop the onslaught.
“Carriers …these are creatures that prevent harmful species from entering Viridio.”
Leika spoke from somewhere behind my shoulder. I spun around and stared. Leika’s anxiety over her mother had revealed her softer side. Although we’d not even exchanged a kiss, over this past few weeks I’d come to know the Organic Science Officer more intimately than any lover.
Stems and leaves had replaced several of her fingers … and a small part of her face was now a yellow blossom.
TO BE CONTINUED …