- Chapter 8 -
the dark side of the larger Tolan moon, Khintok, near the Plain
The jagged cavern entrance yawned on the side of the gray/green cliff and faced the level plain that reached out to the distant horizon. From within the complete darkness of that solitary cavern, a female voice muttered aimlessly, interrupted occasionally by a demented laugh or an angry shout without purpose. No one responded to the voice. No one else was there.
In the soft dust of the surface of this moon, no footprints marred its smooth contours. There was nothing to indicate a humanoid's passage to or from the desolate cavern. Perhaps the simplest explanation for the lack of any signs of passage could be proved or disproved with the raising of a hand. For although there was a thin carbon dioxide atmosphere, certainly enough to carry the strange sounds from the cavern, no winds blew strongly enough to shift the dust over footprints to hide them. Hide them, that is, if they existed. Yet, they did not exist and there was nothing to hide. The possibilities reduced quickly to only one.
The inhabitant of the cavern flew.
"My apologies," A'ya said to the absolute darkness around her, "but I forgot that you all are mere mortals and cannot see without light. As always, I will allow you the means to see clearly."
Two brilliant red beams lanced out from nearly the same point in the blackness to slowly heat a pile of rocks to a white, glowing brightness. The dull light filled the narrow cavern exposing the rough hewn features of a low and very coarse ceiling over an uneven sandy floor. The cavern wasn't more than twenty feet wide here and extended deeper into the desolate moon's interior, deeper where the light from the glowing rocks would dare not go. Along one wall, a ledge had been quickly chiseled into the rock and six oval boulders had been placed in a neat row along its irregular surface. A'ya stood before them proudly, her hands on her hips.
"Now, that must be better for you. It is always better when you can see me, isn't it? I know none of you never minded seeing me, especially you, Micv. Do you remember? Do you remember when you told me you loved me?"
The boulder of Chief Council Micv did not respond except in A'ya's mind where his smile and subtle nod pleased her greatly. He didn't speak, leaving A'ya to continue uninterrupted.
"Of course, I too remember when you came to me that warm evening, looking so nervous, thinking that it all was somehow so important. You were so foolish to think that I could love something like you in return, but you came to my lair anyway, expecting the privilege of my body perhaps. So foolish. Do you remember how angry you became when I told you that? Your stupid Rho pride wouldn't let you see how silly it was ...how silly it all was...how.....silly......"
A'ya's face became blank as she fell deep into a sudden thought. Slowly she sank to her knees, staring at the dusty ground. There were voices in her head telling her too many things, calling to her, demanding so much of her. Some boomed loudly, others were so shrill that she couldn't think! She tore at her hair and screamed to drive them away, but they stayed. Somehow by their very presence, they burrowed deeper inside her. Deeper, where the light would dare not go.
Her pained face turned up toward the six boulders and she looked at each in turn. Her voice became so strained that it sounded as if someone else was trying to use it. Someone else, far behind the voices and behind the pain.
"Gone. You're all gone now. Rho.....my planet, Rho, is gone now. Did you hear the reports, the rumors? They told me Rho was harvested to its core. It isn't even a planet anymore. Just a lifeless rock, nothing more than a rock. My people, all of them, were tilled into the surface as compost. No one from Rho even exists anymore. My people. My planet. My...." A'ya's vacant stare blinked away just before her eyes turned slowly to the first boulder.
"Tell me you love me again, Micv." she said, almost pleading. "Say it again."
The boulder remained passive and silent.
"Please, Micv. I know you said you hated me after that night, but I know you still love me. Say it now."
Again the boulder ignored her. A'ya jumped to her feet.
"DAMN YOU!" Heat beams shot out from her eyes at the boulder. The sudden heating exploded the rock instantly. "Damn you all!" A'ya swung her arm shattering the rest of the boulders into dust. "I don't need your love; I don't need a people or a planet; I don't need any of it!" She suddenly spun around and screamed at the darkness deep within the cavern. "AND I DON'T NEED MY OATH! LEAVE ME ALONE!"
A'ya's eyes darted around wildly. She was surrounded by sights and sounds that haunted her. Finally, her eyes bore into the darkness and filled with torment as she fought away the tears that battled to take her over. Gasping, she covered her ears to try again to keep out the demons and fell hard to her knees.
"I....I am damned! Damned! DAMNED!!"
Suddenly, all the voices stopped except one. The familiar one. The one that had led her across all the galaxies of the Universe. The one that spoke of her supreme place in that Universe; of her absolute power; of her incomparable beauty; of her very existence being a challenge even to Skietra. The Universe, it said, was hers, stolen by the pretenders in the form of anyone who opposed her. On Velor, they tried to blind her to her true place in the Universe by conditioning her with all this Protector nonsense, but she soon saw clearly. The voice saw to that.
Skietra and the Protectors scattered throughout the Universe were there solely to prevent A'ya from achieving her rightful place at the pinnacle of the Universe! Of course! It all made perfect sense! They were watching, waiting, ready to counter her every move! Well, she shed her petty Protector duties and lashed out against them all with a violence befitting the injustice of their crimes. She struck without mercy and every blonde Velorian female who died at her feet brought A'ya closer to her true destiny. How dare they stand against her! HOW DARE THEY!
A'ya stood and peered over her shoulder at the outside scene of the gray/green plain through cold, hate-filled slits of steel-blue eyes. Her powerful fist closed as she curled it toward her chin and her arm expanded into a carved mass of muscle. The voice had spoken enough to her this day. It was A'ya's voice that now filled the cavern with venomous hate. A hate that scarred the night with words that burned deeply.
"Damnation, seize....my...... soul."
A'ya rocketed out of the cavern so quickly that her wake vortex swirled the dust on the Plain of Tears. High above the horizon of the moon, she arched wide to the right and toward the planet of Tolan.
Tetra, at that same moment
Her subtle giggle as her bright grin scrunched her nose didn't change the way he looked at her body.
Her bright blue eyes watched every reaction to her movements and delighted in them. Lillith's sensuous body twisted slightly, turned slowly, moved with a delicate style that kept William enraptured. This dance was her tease, a display of her raw sexuality for her lover. She did it because it had such an overwhelming effect on William and she loved to see that effect. The way his eyes moved over her, the way his breathing sped, the way his pulse paced, all of it was music to her. Her senses picked up on every physiological change within him the instant it occurred and she loved every minute of it. Pleasing her lover was of paramount importance to Lillith.
William reached forward, placing his fingers just above her breasts. With the gentlest touch, he lightly ran his fingers down through her cleavage and along her sculptured belly, tracing the shifting contours of her muscles as she moved. Lillith had her hands around his forearm, gently caressing his arm approvingly. When his fingers reached her navel, she urged them lower, down across the tenderness of her skin and through the silkiness of her soft pubic hair. Her strong legs parted wide as his fingers settled lovingly into the wetness. A sensitive discovery caused Lillith to gasp loudly just before she arched her back deeply, offering herself entirely to her lover. In a voice little more than a glorious moan, Lillith whispered, "Oh, darling, your touch sets me on fire!"
Her cupped feet slipped lightly up and down along the outer sides of his thighs and her glistening, wet lips parted to speak, but her burning arousal kept her voice momentarily overwhelmed into silence. Finally, as if driven by some internal need, Lillith curled her powerful, sensuous body slowly up to him, pushing her hard, erect nipples into his chest. He could feel the puffs of her rapid breath on his face with her lips so close to his. He loved the way her hair always seemed to fall across one of her eyes; a face whose eyes were nearly closed with pleasure, whose cute nose flared with desire, and whose lips pursed and parted with his every touch, an erotic appearance beyond anything imagined in his deepest fantasies. Every part of her body displayed her fiery arousal, her insistent need, her glorious want. As his hand encircled one of her firm breasts and his other slid down the deep crevice of her steeply curved back to caress her hard, dimpled ass, Lillith slid her own hands down between his legs, wrapping her long, slender fingers around his shaft. Slowly she undulated her hips as she worked the tip of his member up and down along her sex. William felt a sudden rush of warmth wash through him, closing his eyes in pure ecstasy. Their lips touched lightly as first, barely making contact while letting their tongues find each other instead. Yet, within a few moments, their lips joined their tongues in sharing the richness of the kiss. Their bodies seemed to flow together as time stopped and all there was in the Universe was the kiss and the lover. That sweet kiss soon came to a gentle end and William eased his eyes open to meet hers.
Lillith's eyes. William could not imagine life without them and he took a few moments to just fall into them with his gaze. Suddenly, Lillith spoke, her voice sounding different somehow.
"Would you prefer that I remain steady while you perform the screwing operation or would it be wiser for me to rotate clockwise?"
"Wh...what?" he muttered as he woke from his daydream. There in front of him, a small machine screw clattered noisily in its hole in the Sabre's bulkhead as Phil peered through at him from a similar, vacant hole a few inches to the left.
"Sir?" Phil tapped on the bulkhead. "Sir, I am holding the nut device in place on the end of the machine screw. Would you prefer that I hold it steady while you perform the screwing operation?"
William cleared his throat gently, more than a little embarrassed about becoming lost in his daydream, not to mention his obvious erection. His tan pants were fully tented.
"Ho....uh,, hold it steady, Phil."
"As you wish, sir."
Faster than any automated screwgun, William's hand and the screwdriver in it were a momentary blur as the screw snugged up against the bulkhead rapidly.
"The bonding seems much improved, sir. Would you like to proceed to the next required project?"
"No, Phil," William said. "Why don't you take a break."
"Shall we meet at the ladder, sir?"
"No, no, you go ahead." William could still feel the pressure against his pants. "I'll be along in a second."
William heard the clatter as Phil set the wrench down on the metallic hull. The staccato rhythm of Phil's feet on the same hull followed by the metallic rattle of the ladder indicated to William that Phil had left the Sabre. William rolled onto his back with a sigh, letting his arm cover his tired eyes.
He missed her. He missed her so much. Right now she would probably be poking her head up through the hatch, wanting to know how it was going and when he would be able to come out to be with her. He missed her smile, those big inquisitive eyes, the sound of her Velorian accent, the way she would want so much to help. He missed the way she'd try to help more than anything. As much as she would drive him crazy sometimes, he was always so glad that she was there.
The sound of tiny footsteps on the hull made William quickly raised his head to see who it was. There, looking up to inspect his tented pants, was Mina. She looked concerned.
"Looks all swollen. Did you bump it on something?"
A panicked Mina nearly fell over herself trying to vacate the compartment while William cursed himself for yelling at her like that. Probably frightened the shit out of her, he thought with a sigh.
Running the preflight checklist through his mind, twice, settled his response to the thought of his lover and William was soon outside, apologizing to Mina, even though by now she didn't even remember that he had raised his voice to her. She was much too busy trying to catch another moth.
"Excuse me, sir." said Phil from behind. William turned to see Phil and four other Tetrites, one holding the mysterious weapon that he had brought back from A'ya's ship. "Sir, I believe we have information for you regarding this weapon. Toomethatilutus has `heard' of this weapon and can provide valid information"
"That's great, Toomey," said William with a smile, "what have you got for us?"
Toomethatilutus looked at Phil, his head slightly rotated to the left.
"Toomey?" he asked.
In a low voice, Phil explained.
"The William abbreviates for efficiency."
"Splendid!" exclaimed Toomethatilutus. "Most admirable!"
"Thanks, Toomey." said William. "Now, what's the story on this thing?"
Toomethatilutus cleared his throat and began.
In the total silence that followed, everyone merely stared at each other, waiting for anything more that might be said. While one of the Tetrites noisily scratched an itch, William blinked twice before speaking.
"A real revelation, Toomey. Did you have to come very far to get here?"
"Perhaps," muttered Phil to Toomethatilutus, "you could elaborate."
"I abbreviated!" said Toomethatilutus proudly. The other Tetrites nodded their approval. "For efficiency!" he added.
William groaned and sat down wearily. This would require a much more formal request, evidently.
"Toomey, I require information about this weapon. I know it is a gun. I know it is a terribly powerful weapon. Other than that, I don't know squat. Would you be so kind as to provide valid information to me regarding this weapon?"
William's years on Tetra were not wasted and Toomethatilutus brightened immediately.
"My goodness, I have much information for you! Much valid information!"
One of the other Tetrites saw something nearby that caught his complete attention. Out of curiosity, he trundled off to get a better look. William watched him go.
"Are we gonna need him?"
Toomethatilutus shook his head and leaned forward to whisper.
"He is the brother of my mate. He came to visit during the Time of Troubles and it is now late summer and he still has not left. Please believe me, sir, I have no need for him at all."
William laughed. "Your brother-in-law has moved in with you?"
"It would appear so, sir." Toomethatilutus sighed. "He eats rather large quantities and provides little information."
William took the weapon gingerly from Toomethatilutus.
"You'd better let me hold on to this, Toomey. I wouldn't want you to get into trouble." William patted the side of the weapon. "Okay, guys, now what's the deal on this bad guy."
"Well, sir," began Toomethatilutus, "it is a very rare weapon that truly should not be found in this part of the Universe. It was developed by the Enquitai, a race of rapidly developing semi-humanoids whose system existed near the expanding boundary of the Universe. So near, sir, that parts of their sky had no stars. The Enquitai inhabited their entire planetary system of twelve planets and thirty-three moons through their development of interplanetary travel. They had not, however, developed the ability to fold space/time and thus were restricted to their own system."
"Hm," mulled William. "Good thing they stay home if they make this kind of stuff."
"Quite, sir." continued Toomethatilutus. "However, it was not used as an offensive weapon. It was used by their penal system."
William looked down at the weapon. It's black metal gleamed in the sunlight.
"They used this to execute criminals?"
"A most proper deduction, sir. The Enquitai were a homogenous race. There were no territorial, ethnic, religious, or any of hundreds of other differences that conflicts can be based upon. They were, in fact, quite comfortable with each other. However, they also were quite strict with their law. A weapon of this power was required since eighty percent of the Enquitai body was covered with semi-rigid scales that formed a very effective armor. They were quite impervious to standard weaponry, sir."
"I know the feeling." said William. Phil nodded his agreement with such a valid statement as William leaned forward onto a nearby rock. "So tell us, what are the Enquitai up to lately?"
"Their sun went nova quite a number of seasons ago, sir." Toomethatilutus responded. "Life in their system no longer exists."
William winced. "A whole race?"
Phil spoke calmly. "It happens all the time throughout the Universe, sir. Life is insistent, but not perpetual. It is quite sad, but normal."
William thought in silence for a moment, then raised the Enquitai weapon, pointing it upward.
"Alright then, what's it called and how's it work?"
"Ah, yes, it was referred to as the `Khogh ver Brie Q'. We are not conversant but we have surmised that this phrase would translate to something rather similar to `Final Judgment'. It does seem rather appropriate."
William hefted the heavy weapon. "Yes it does."
"It is a plasma/fusion type weapon, very similar to the Arion shipborn down-firing siege guns."
"You talking about those big-ass primary weapons on the Arion ships?"
"Yes, sir." said Toomethatilutus. "They are much too large to be accurately aimed but are quite useful to the Arions for planetary assaults."
"Yeah, we know."
Toomethatilutus shuffled uneasily at the memories, but continued.
"The large size of the Arion siege gun is due to the massive structures required to develop the magnetic containment for the plasma discharge. The magnetic containment must be projected to the target in a coherent manner in order to focus and direct the plasma. Otherwise, the plasma would become unstable and disperse. It is a technology quite unique to the Arions. They are most protective of it."
"I would imagine so." said William. "But still, you guys know all about it."
"We have merely `heard', sir. Nothing more."
William nodded. "I think I understand now why the Arions came after us the first time, but go ahead with your information. How does all this relate to the Enquitai weapon?"
"It is equivalent, sir."
"What are you saying? This thing is smaller."
"Smaller, yes, sir, but it is equivalent."
"Yes, sir. Comparable. The Arion version has a much broader beam, of course, so the density is less, but the actual power developed is about the same."
"You're shittin' me!!"
Toomethatilutus looked at Phil with concern, but Phil quickly explained.
"It is a slang Terran expression of exclamation."
Toomethatilutus nodded his understanding. "I am most grateful for the information."
Turning to William, Toomethatilutus quickly gave an enthusiastic reply.
"You may be assured, sir, that I am properly shitting you."
Phil tapped Toomethatilutus once and whispered additional information to him.
"Incorrect response. One should choose the negative response for all inquiries or exclamations regarding shitting."
"How embarrassing." moaned Toomethatilutus as he slumped.
"Fellas, fellas," William called out as he waved a hand. "Let's get back to this thing. You're telling me that this is a miniaturized Arion siege gun? How the hell did they make it so small? I mean, those Arion things are built into the lower five decks of their ships and must be just as big around. They must weigh tons!"
"Indeed, sir. In excess of twelve hundred Terran metric tons."
William shook his head. "This isn't just making it smaller, guys. This is new technology on a huge scale. The physics involved here must be astonishing! Jeez! Toomey, how many of these things are there?"
"My information is that there were only five such weapons ever manufactured. One was missing and presumed stolen. The other four were confined after the theft for greater protection. They were most likely destroyed when their sun consumed their solar system."
William pondered the weapon like a history professor might gaze upon an artifact. "The only one left."
"So it would seem." said Phil.
A few moments passed as each kept to their own thoughts. Finally, William sighed once and spoke.
"Toomey, would this harm Lillith?"
"It would kill her, sir."
William raised an eyebrow at that, prompting Toomethatilutus to explain.
"A Velorian Protector is invulnerable to temperatures up to about 10,000 degrees Terran Fahrenheit, sir. A plasma/fusion discharge reaches temperatures of 100 million Terran Kelvin. She would not only be killed, but she would cease to exist. That is why Velorian Protectors avoid being struck by the Arion siege gun. A most simple thing to do, fortunately."
William sat stunned at the thought. My God, he thought. My God in Heaven! He shook his head and spoke quietly to the gathered Tetrites.
"Gentlemen, if the Arions find out we have this thing or even that something like this exists, we are gonna be picking those bastards out of our hair forever. Hell, we can't really even use the damn thing on them `cause then they'll know we have some wild-ass weapon. Shit."
"Would you prefer to destroy it, sir?" asked Phil.
William thought. He thought of his daughter and he thought of Lillith. He thought of Tetra and of the creatures who lived quietly on it. He thought of right and wrong, good and bad. As the Tetrites looked to him for a decision, William just nodded with a slight smile.
"Toomey," he said calmly. "Do you know how to disassemble this thing?"
"I believe I could perform such a service, sir."
"Alright, here." William handed the weapon back to him. "Take it apart. All the way apart, alright? Pass the individual pieces to your fellow Tetrites. Everyone gets a piece. Have them put their pieces in a safe place. If we ever have to use it, we call everyone together and put it all back together. Alright? If someone doesn't believe that we should use the weapon, then that piece will not be available and we don't use the weapon. It's that simple."
Phil tapped his foot in thought. "Are you sure that you wish to proceed in this way, sir?"
"You guys trust Lillith with your lives." William stated matter-of-factly.
"Then let me trust you all with hers."
Phil nodded once and turned to his fellow Tetrites.
"We must protect our Protector. Distribute the weapon parts, if you please, and this information is not to be provided to anyone. It is vital for the well-being of the Mother of Us All."
As Toomethatilutus and the other Tetrites trundled off to take care of the weapon, Phil looked up at William and cleared his throat.
"Well, sir, that is settled. Shall we continue our work?"
The skies over the Ghent on the planet, Tolan
Her blonde hair fluttered as she moved slowly through the air. Flying just a few thousand feet over the ground, Lillith patroled the area below. She wore the heavy Vendorian steel chains across her hips, just as Carpathia would. They had the most annoying rattle whenever she moved, even just a little, and they certainly weren't as comfortable as nothing. On her left shoulder, a steel plate curled around and down her arm to her elbow. On this was clipped a small transciever that squawked occasionally, making Lillith jump every time. All of this Tolan military stuff was not a lot of fun and Lillith missed home a lot. The radio squawked loudly, making Lillith swerve again.
"Protector Two, Steel Blue One"
Lillith pulled the radio off her shoulder, looked for the button, pressed it, and spoke.
"Uh, hi, uh.....hi, hello." Pistu! I don't remember what I'm supposed to say!
The pause was starting make her feel embarressed. She stopped flying and merely hovered inverted.
"Uh, Protector Two, Steel Blue One. We have contact with the intruder at four-one-two mark three-four mark one-two-niner. ETA Protector One is two-zero mics."
Lillith spun upright instantly, her face showing the seriousness of what all that meant.
"Where..." She pushed the button. "Where is that? Where do I have to go?"
A different voice came on the radio.
"Lillith? This is the General. It's on the other side of the planet, just a little north of a large series of inland seas. Carpathia is nearby and on her way there. We have a squadron on station right now to stall the intruder. What do you need?"
Lillith looked up at the sun overhead. Their plan to use Lillith as a decoy worked. Now Carpathia could catch A'ya in time, but Lillith needed to get there fast. The sun wasn't telling her what she wanted to know. It was about noon.
"General, how does your planet rotate?"
"Say again, Lillith?"
"Alright, your sun, General. Which way does it rise? I'm over Ghent. Would it rise over the estuary?"
"Yes. Yes! The sun rises from that direction!"
"Thanks! I gotta go! Bye!"
Lillith shot straight up, accelerating rapidly to escape the planet's atmosphere in a ballistic course that took her in the opposite direction that Tolan rotated. It was a move she used all the time on Tetra to cover a lot of territory quickly, but Carpathia, for some reason, had never tried it. As the planet turned below her, she could soon see the far side of Tolan. High in the thin, cold, darkness of near-Space, Lillith could see quick, bright pinpoints of light burst repeatedly within a small area on the planet's surface.
The battle had already begun.
The Fallen continues....
and suggestions are always appreciated!