by Paul D
Humans come to Gemistal.
Sanistia sat under the Boxensol tree, holding the Boxensol cage fruit between her hands. Do I have the right to ask him to make this choice? Is this truly the only choice? Time seemed to stand still as she stared at the cage fruit. Tears began to flow from her eyes. What else can I do?
Captain James Sleen examined the cargo that had been set aside for Captain Thorne's ship, Bounty. He chuckled to himself whenever he thought of the name. He'd chosen it because of Star Trek. He had always enjoyed that mod and watched it whenever he had an opportunity. His free time on Gemistal was non-existent. Perhaps on the return trip to Earth next year, he would see that mod, again. Aliens mod would be good too.
He tilted his head and saw a vid-screen before his eyes and said, "Bounty; manifest; add container B45 through B100; 4500 tons of Peresom logs."
He watched, as the Bounty manifest changed, satisfied that most of the cargo would bring a good price. The pair of Kaloos looked like Koala bears. Buyers might not believe they came from another planet, which could effect his bottom line.
His enterprise could only continue if he made a good profit. These creatures consumed food. He looked at John Klaxon, the trader who worked for him. "I will pay only supply price for the Kaloos."
Klaxon nodded his head, and his white beard that flowed to his waist bobbed up and down. "Agreed."
Then the Captain said, "PCC; menu; financial; transfer; Klaxon cargo total; to John Klaxon's PCC."
John tilted his head and said, "PCC; menu; financial; funds transfer from Captain Sleen." He looked at the screen and said, "Transfer verified."
Sleen had told him more than once to bring creatures that were unique. Klaxon seldom made a mistake, but when he did, he needed to show him the painful consequences.
Captain Sleen said, "Bounty; manifest; add container B200; live; gallery supply."
The existence of this system had not been revealed to the League, and he hoped they never learned of it. He planned to strip Gemistal of everything of value and move on to Anelkisterlas.
* * *
Beauregard Denis sat near the razor-wire fence, watching the space port, eagerly anticipating the scheduled launch in a few minutes. He came here, as often as he could, knowing that with no hope left in this world; perhaps, on another planet, he would find another life.
He remembered from school the story of the pilgrims; now, he wanted to be a pilgrim to the stars. He graduated from school this year where he specialized in AI tech, but there were no jobs. So many jobs in recent years were performed by AI's; although many people protested the AI invasion, no one listened, and he saw no future here as a result.
An oxy-ex that replaced his entire left arm was already programmed for Gemistal. Last month when he learned of Gemistal from one of the crew who had been on the planet, he hacked into the ship's AI to get the scientific data on the planet and learned that it was almost completely non-tech.
He inherited his parent's house when they died several years ago and sold it to buy the oxy-ex and to pay for the surgery. He used the rest of the money to buy wrist and ankle gravs, a nano-tex ensemble and a nano-ton with one hundred projectiles.
His thoughts returned to the present when he felt a tremor in the ground, then the ship lifted off. He continued watching until it was out of sight. He would be on a ship headed for Gemistal in ten days.
Beau had been watching the routine at the space port for close to six months. He also hacked the space port AI to check on the arrival and departure of ships; most came on an irregular schedule, but one, J.S. Enterprises, landed here at least once every six months. He found out what ship of theirs would be here next, then he examined the schematics on the net and started working on a plan to get on that ship and reach Gemistal without being discovered.
* * *
Captain Jolly looked at the star chart on the vid-screen. The AI determined all the jump points; still, he verified them before any jump. Some captains scoffed at his archaic habits, but AIs were as susceptible to error as humans were to colds.
His next jump would take him to Earth. He missed home; this last six months away had dragged. He would be a stranger to his family and would have only two weeks before the next launch. Being a space captain was not as glamorous as portrayed in mod casts he had watched as a kid.
After his stop on Earth, he would head for Gemistal, which was in the Triasphon System. Wilson Klerg, one of the captains he served under as a junior officer, discovered the system ten years ago.
This system had one star: Helion and three planets: Anelkisterlas, which had not been explored yet; Nileon, which was not habitable; and Gemistal, which was rich with natural resources. There were also many unusual creatures there.
He would have only a few days off there, but he planned to explore some places he had not seen.
* * *
John Klaxon walked toward the Gemistal space port, which was two miles long and three miles wide. The Captain told him he had built for the future, but it seemed overly excessive to John.
Businesses, living quarters for workers, and company offices sat under a dome in the southeast corner. Three launch pads stood in the northwest corner. The VLC area shimmered under Helion in the southwest corner, where twin two mile long landing strips and an enclosed area for six VLCs glistened from the frost that covered the large building. The northeast corner had not been developed.
John depended on his oxy-ex to keep him breathing. Only those who worked away from the space port on a regular basis needed one. Everyone else wore an environ-suit of nano-tex, which came with three condensed oxy-cells, which gave the wearer less than three days away from the space port.
Captain Sleen expressed satisfaction with most of his latest capture, but now he wanted the near impossible: dragons. John told him that taking dragons could be dangerous. The Captain showed displeasure at his opinion by shouting, "I want dragons."
He held out his left wrist at the port security booth, and his PCC was scanned, then an electronic voice said, "Enter." He continued toward the VLC area. Various members of the Captain's staff attempted to track the dragons but failed. For some reason, the dragons had a poor signature return; as well, the mountain ranges where they lived allowed for no return at all on sat-intel.
John opened the door to the VLC office and entered. He had reserved a VLC for three days. He signed the log, and the tech tilted his head. "VLC; Albert25 Victor12 Zebra18; system access." John held out his left wrist, and the tech scanned it. "It's all yours; bring it back in one piece. It's in bay W27."
He left the office and walked toward the Vac. He entered a cube and scanned his wrist. When the door shut, restraints came across his waist and over his shoulders, then the cube moved toward a large tube. His ears popped as the cube became pressurized, then the cube entered the Vac. Two seconds later, the cube disembarked from the Vac and stopped.
He continued on his way to W27. When he arrived, he held his wrist to the scanner and a door opened, then he entered the bay. The nano-VLC-A series; the first of the nano-VLC-series, didn't have all the bells and whistles of the nano-L. Still, it functioned well, and its size, twenty feet high and thirty-eight feet in circumference, with a twelve foot cargo area, worked in most situations.
He held his wrist up to the scanner on the wall, then a door in the VLC opened and steps extended down to the floor. He walked up the steps and entered the cabin. He tilted his head and said, "VLC verification; cargo area; manifest detail." A list of items appeared before his eyes.
He lifted his wrist to the small door and it opened, he stepped into a small lift and pressed a button, then it descended to the cargo area. He continued to C1 and said, "Verified five Lev-Paks; verified fifteen Lev-Pak cells; verified, secured, and located in C1." He moved on to the next location.
His PCC beeped. "Yes."
"John," Roberto Klerk, his assistant, said, "I'm here."
"I'm almost finished with verification of cargo manifest. Start verification of VLC systems; acknowledge."
Some VLC drivers cut corners, but the VLC was their lifeline, and he did everything by the book.
* * *
Although the ground below looked solid, Klerk set the VLC down slowly; nothing was guaranteed. Their systems check had taken longer than it had taken to fly to the Grand Weydom Mountain Range, which had been named for Alexander Weydom, one of the first explorers of Gemistal. This range spread out for more than a thousand miles to the north and five hundred miles to the west.
They landed on the plains near the mountain range because for some reason scanning devices didn't work in the mountains.
"Where do we start?"
John laughed. "I have a question."
"Suppose someone came to your home and parked their butt in your yard, what would you do?"
"I'd go outside and see what was going on?"
"We are trying to park our butt in the dragon's yard."
Klerk laughed. "Your sense of humor is warped, John."
"Perhaps, 'cept I ain't jokin'."
"I still don't get it."
"You will, Klerk. You will."
* * *
Captain Sleen made it a habit to inspect at least one area of the space port daily. He was examining maintenance bay one when he heard a noise. He looked up and saw Support Officer Glen Johnson, running toward him, then he came to a sudden stop. "Captain . . . Captain . . . the AI has gone berserk. Thorne says nanotage and Code Zebra."
"Why did you come here instead of using the com?"
"Sir, the com is down too."
"Code Zebra? Johnson are you sure he said, 'Code Zebra?'"
"Yes, Captain, he repeated Code Zebra twice."
Sleen was furious. Code Zebra meant the AI had to be shut down and would more than likely need to be replaced, which would cost millions. The thought of nanotage bothered him; a saboteur could have a weapon as small as a dot. Bio-weapons were too random to be used regularly on a large scale basis, but nano-weapons could be case specific and were almost impossible to detect.
"Oh, Captain. Thorne also said he found grey goo in engineering."
"What? Grey goo?"
"Idiot! You should have told me that first." Sleen nodded his head. "PCC; Bounty; com-link; Thorne; Launch! Launch! Launch! Acknowledge!"
"Launch acknowledged, Captain. Count down at ten . . . nine--"
Grey goo meant his ship and everyone on it were lost. If grey goo had been released on the planet---he didn't want to even contemplate the unstoppable disaster that would follow. He glared at Johnson, commanding, "Report to Dr. Nelson. You are under quarantine until the next ship arrives."
Glen frowned. "Yes, Captain."
Sleen watched as Johnson turned and walked away. He might be contaminated and could never be allowed on this planet or any other one for that matter, and he would never allow him on another one of his ships. Unfortunately, he wore an environ-suit made of nano-tex.
He said, "Bounty; engineering override; input coordinates to nearest star; facilitate jump soonest; code GG; acknowledge."
"Acknowledged," the computer generated voice replied.
He sighed. The ship would jump into the nearest star, ending the threat of grey goo. He had just lost a billion dollar ship.
"Dr. Nelson, space port."
"Officer Glen Johnson is headed for your office. Code GG. Isolate and terminate."
Chapter TwoTreegestal village, located at the foot of the Vegnes Mountain Range, which was the second largest range on Fyrsoul, like most Faegala villages lay quietly under the morning sun. A wide, well worn path wound its way under large Peresom trees, which provided lots of shade for the scattered homes of rock and wood.
Sanistia sat on a large outcrop of rock that overlooked Treegestal where she'd lived all her life. She enjoyed adventures and had been curious about everything since birth. Most Faegala were happy to remain in their quiet villages and let the bustling world come to them.
Her Momau told her, more than once, Sani, if I had not birthed you myself, I would think that you were not a Faegala at all.
Sani tried to tell other Faegala of the wonders she saw, but none of them showed any interest. The welfare of their village mattered more than anything else, and everything outside of the village held no interest for them.
Sani approached that age when she would be expected to make a bond with another Faegala. She couldn't imagine being required to make such a bond agreement and be trapped here for the rest of her life. She had already told Momau not to accept any offers of a bond payment, but Momau seldom listened to her.
A ground shaking noise interrupted her thoughts, and she frowned at the sight of an Aireth flying craft. These intruders, from the planet Aireth, used tools that no one here could match. The first Aireth ship arrived ten years ago, ever since disturbing rumors about them drifted into her village like leaves after a storm.
She wanted to explore a cave she noticed on her last flight. She stood up and flew up the cliff face.
* * *
Beau learned earlier today that the ship's layover of two weeks had been canceled, and it would launch tonight. He felt nervous and excited because today he was leaving Earth.
He put on his wrist and ankle gravs, taped the case holding the nano-ton and projectiles to his stomach, then started putting on the nano-tex ensemble. A short time later, he pulled the hood over his head, leaving only his eyes exposed. He put the shoes on, then he put his nan-glas on and tilted his head. "PCC; nano-tex interface; activate; environmental; 72 degrees." Immediately, he felt the difference.
"Gravs twenty-five percent." Instantly, he felt lighter on his feet. He would move much quieter now.
"Situational; negative refraction." He was now invisible.
"Space port; detailed map; avoidance path to launch pad; stealth." Now he saw a green line line on his HUD, and he followed it, walking at a normal pace because the green line could change at any moment, then he would need to change direction to avoid contact with someone.
Twenty minutes later, he entered the space port. His progress here would be much slower because even though it was late, there were still a lot of people around.
Move wall; right; now came up on his face screen. He pressed hard into the wall on his right and kept still. Two men were walking his way. As long as Beau didn't move, they couldn't see or hear him. However, if one of them ran into him, that could be a problem. He sighed with relief as they continued on by.
Beau arrived at the launch pad area an hour after entering the space port. He'd stopped five times on the way to avoid detection, but the hardest part of his journey lay ahead. "Launch pad area; electronic avoidance; camera avoidance; initiate." A green arrow appeared on his HUD, showing a zig-zag path leading to the space ship.
He lay on the ground. "Gravs ninety-five percent; manual input." A keyboard appeared before his face. He almost floated, then he touched his fingers to the ground and gently pulled forward.
Two hours later, Beau arrived at the space ship. He typed: Gravs fifty percent. He stood up, looked at his nano-tex, and smiled because it looked pristine. Any other clothing would have rips, tears, and dirt all over it; this was the greatest stuff ever invented.
He nodded his head and typed: Dragon's Wing; schematics; avoidance entry; map. He saw a green line and followed it. A few minutes later, he stood on the other side of the ship.
He squatted for a few minutes and waited. If he got caught, he would be in prison for a long time, but he saw no other choices on Earth. He typed: Dragon's Wing; rear service entry port dz17; entry sensor dz17 bypass; entry access adz17 open. A small opening appeared to his right, and he crawled inside, then he typed: Entry access adz17 close. Entry sensor dz17 remove bypass.
* * *
On the third day after leaving the space port, John began to wonder if his strategy had missed the mark. They stayed in an area for a few hours, then jumped fifty miles to the north. This eighteenth location showed no more promise of dragons than the previous seventeen. He could extend his time here, but he didn't know if it would do any good.
"Look," Klerk said excitedly.
John looked at the vid-screen and saw an object in the sky. "VLC coordinates." He listened to the response. "Zoom; coordinates 40:26:46.302N 079:56:55.903W." The object came into clear view. "Looks like a dragon to me."
"Yeah, looks like you were right, John."
"Log VLC coordinates; dragon sighting; menu close. Klerk, let's get back in the air at hover speed. I want to follow the path that the dragon flew. Let's see if we can find something."
"What exactly are we looking for?"
"I don't have a mod on dragons."
Klerk laughed. "Yeah. Right. That would be too easy."
John watched the window carefully. Even at a slow speed it was easy to miss things, then he saw a large lake below. "Let's land near the lake. Dragons would need water."
Klerk set the VLC down in a small clearing near the lake. "It is really beautiful here, John."
"True and if we find dragons, that would be even more beautiful. Let's do a zoom on the cliffs across the lake."
"No go, John."
"I kind of figured that. The sat-intel lookdown didn't work either, but I came prepared."
Klerk laughed. "I knew you were going to say that."
John opened the door, went down the lift, and entered the cargo bay. He went to C-12 and removed a small metal crate. He opened it and took out two bi-noks. "Com-link; Klerk; bring two chairs."
A short time later, John handed a bi-noks to Klerk and sat in a chair. "PCC; menu; bi-noks; levitate in front of my nan-glas; setting sixty X; five feet per second scan." The cliff came into perfect focus.
"Klerk start on your right and scan from about three thousand feet below the mountain to the top and move to your left. Keep an eye out for caves."
* * *
Sani often visited a special place near the Feingla River, where she watched various creatures that came to the river and explored caves in the cliffs. She enjoyed this place far from the village because most Faegala never came here.
She also came here to bathe. She removed her clothes and leapt into the water, which was deep enough that she could hover in the air and then drop into the water. It was a lot of fun, and she played in the water for a long time.
Several hours later she dressed and decided to do some more cave exploring. She explored a few of them every time she came; most of the caves were shallow, so she could see okay. But one day, she wanted to bring a lantern to check out the deeper caves.
She leapt to the air and flew up the cliff face, rejoicing that she could fly. She could not imagine how difficult it would be to climb up here. She landed on a narrow rock ledge and walked toward a cave opening.
Some of these caves were occupied by creatures, and she stopped outside of the cave to examine the ground. She did not see any prints on the ground and continued forward.
This cave was typical of most in this cliff with chunks of rock of various sizes, scattered on a solid rock floor, where parts of the roof had fallen. She had only found one cave with a dirt floor. She looked up at the roof and saw nothing. I don't know why I keep returning to these caves; they're all the same. But how would she know unless she looked? Sani sighed and walked back to the ledge and moved on to the next cave.
* * *
After lunch, John began to feel tired. Are we wasting our time? "John, I found one." Klerk's voice startled him.
"Get the sextant. We need to log these coordinates." It took too long not being able to use all of the VLC functions here, but they would get there. "I'm going to get the Lev-Paks."
He tilted his head. "VLC; cargo door; open." He watched the large door slide into the wall of the VLC, then a ramp extended to the ground. He entered the cargo area and went to C-1. "Cargo C-1; release restraints." The solid bar at C-1 slid into the wall.
"C-1; activate; pal-lev; two feet; four feet on my PCC." A flat surface below the Lev-Paks rose up two feet and followed him at a four foot distance as he left the cargo area.
Klerk said, "Coordinates are logged."
"Good. Put one cell in each of the Paks, and we'll take two cells each with us."
A short time later, all the Lev-Paks were ready to go. John said, "PCC; menu; Lev-Paks; LP12, LP15, LP18; activate; eight feet on my PCC; LP10; activate; to my PCC control; levitate 200 feet." John floated above the ground with three Lev-Paks eight feet from his left arm. Klerk floated on his right, and they headed toward the cliff.
A short while later, John stood outside the large cave, examining the tracks on the ground. "It appears that something lives here. Klerk, remain here. If something happens to me, return to the port."
"That's an order not a suggestion."
"Lev-Pak LP10; levitate six inches." He entered the cave with the three Lev-Paks behind him. "Lev-Pak LP10; low illumination; manual." Low light surrounded him, and he moved forward slowly. His nano-ton hung from his belt on his right hip, but he doubted it would be useful on a dragon. Avoiding trouble offered the best protection, and he looked left and right as he slowly floated forward. Light did not penetrate the deep dark, and he depended more on his hearing to warn of danger.
This place breathed quieter than a tomb, and he tried to push that image from his mind as he kept moving forward. Every sound would carry in the cave. His PCC on manual would slow things down considerably but keep him from inviting trouble. He had almost a day on one Lev-Pak cell, and he hoped to be out of here before long before much time elapsed.
After what felt a long time, the sameness of the cave began to bore him. His life depended on alertness, and he refocused. He saw a smaller cave on the right, and he turned into the cave.
He almost missed the three shapes lying on the cave floor, The closeness of these eight foot dragons made him nervous. He quietly opened a bag at his left hip and pulled the nano-net out. He tilted his head and saw a keyboard before his eyes. He typed: Menu; nano-net; activate.
The nano-net spread out in the air like a blanket, and he typed: nano-net move 200 feet north. He watched the net move over the creatures, then he typed: nano-net move 15 feet east. The net was now in a perfect position. He typed: nano-net engage. The net dropped, and the creatures leapt to their feet, but the net wrapped all around them; the creatures continued to struggle, but they could not escape.
The nano-net would give off a negative return so far as heat signature and vocal sounds. Still, he wanted to get out of here as quickly as possible, and he typed: Menu; Lev-Pak LP12, LP15, LP18; release from my PCC; attach to the nano-net at ten foot intervals. He waited until they all attached, then he typed: Lev-Pak LP12, LP15, LP18; reattach my PCC; twelve feet; hover on my PCC.
He turned and floated from the cave with the Lev-Paks twelve feet behind him. When he reached the entrance, he levitated high in the air and began his return to the VLC.
* * *
Half an hour later, the VLC lifted off. Almost, immediately, Klerk began to descend; the cargo door indicator light had turned red. Fortunately, he had not gone from hover to mach that could have been very bad. He set the VLC down in a clear area not far from a river and looked at John. "Cargo door indicator."
Two hours later, they finished a system check, a physical check, and found nothing out of order. "I'm calling the space port," John explained. "We're staying overnight, and we'll do a detailed check tomorrow."
Klerk nodded his head. He wasn't happy, but he didn't want to get splattered all over the VLC either.
* * *
The ship's landing jolted Beau awake. He sighed with relief to be on the ground again. He tilted his head and typed: Dragon's Wing; entry sensors; entry sensor dz17 bypass; entry access adz17 open.
He slid out of the small space and stretched. A strong arm latched onto his arm. "Ah, a stow away, I see. The Captain will be waiting to talk to you."
Beau's stomach churned and with every step his anxiety increased. He had been so sure his plan would work. He exited a cube at a huge building that looked like glass, but it must be a nano-tech of some kind. He didn't pay much attention to his surroundings as his thoughts were occupied with this soon to come meeting.
He walked into a large office with a thick plush carpet on the floor. Paintings of space ships hung on every wall. The expression of the old man, who sat behind a mahogany colored desk, seemed to be one of anger. "What should I do with you, lad?"
Beau didn't know what to say and shuffled his feet nervously.
"You have a very creative mind, lad. You have a choice: lock-up or you work for me for five years for room and board only."
Beau didn't need to think about his choice. "Work for you, Captain."
"Good answer. Be here at six am sharp in the morning. Frank, find a place for him to stay. Now, get out of here."
Sani woke, while it was still dark, excited to get an early start today. She packed some fruit in a bag, left her house, and took to the air, flying in the direction of her special place by the river, again.
She landed and sat under a Synapta tree, which stood taller than most trees and provided welcomed shade on a hot day. She opened her bag and began to eat while drinking in the beauty of this wonderful place.
* * *
"John," Klerk said, excitedly. "We had a return on a good sized flying creature. It landed near the river."
"The cargo door--"
"Go. I'll recheck the door."
John Klaxon walked near the river where he suspected the creature, Klerk had spotted on the vid-screen, might have landed.
* * *
Suddenly, some of the quellas stopped in mid-song. Then a large flock of them fled to the clear sky. A creature is coming. Sani decided to seek higher ground until she identified what was on the way.
* * *
The trilling of the birds stopped just before John saw the unusual creature. He squatted quietly in the forest and watched. The female creature appeared almost human, except for the wings.
He took aim, then lowered his nano-ton as the creature leapt into the air. If he shot now, it might fall into the river and drown. A moment later, he lifted his nano-ton and fired, and the creature fell to the ground on the other side of the river. He smiled--another perfect shot. The Captain will be pleased with this one.
John said, "PCC; menu; Lev-Pak10; levitate twelve feet." He flew over the river and landed near the creature. Then he put a nano-tex ensemble on her. He attached a Lev-Pak to her. Then he flew back toward camp with her in tow.
* * *
Sani felt disoriented. She lay on something hard. She opened her eyes and saw bars. Bars? She sat up, dismayed to see that she was in a cage, then she saw a two-legged creature, walking toward her. Is this an Aireth? She said, Let me out.
The creature ignored her and began talking to another two-legged creature. Their voices grated on her ears; they were too loud and spoke to fast, and she couldn't comprehend any of it.
Then she realized that she wore an odd kind of clothing. She pulled at it and got a slight shock, which surprised her. She pulled at it harder and received a much harder shock.
Then her situation hit her. I've been locked up like an animal. These creatures more than likely thought of her as an animal. How can I communicate? She banged on the bars with her hands.
One of the creatures pointed at her, then they both walked toward her cage. Their loud noises frightened her, and she backed away from the bars. Then to her great surprise one of them opened her cage, and the creatures backed away almost as if they wanted her to go.
She ran from the cage, leaping into the air; she couldn't comprehend their actions and flew only twenty feet when needle like pain struck her. As her body began to convulse, she turned and quickly flew back. The pain decreased as she drew nearer, then it stopped. Now she knew she couldn't escape from these creatures.
* * *
Beau awakened early the next day. He ate breakfast then met Frank at the entrance to the Captain's office as ordered.
"You're with me today. By the way, what's your name?"
"If you don't want your name to be mud, listen carefully. The Captain inspects the space port daily. It's our job to make certain that every area is up to par."
Frank tilted his head. "Space port; detailed area maintenance; download PCC per scan." He held his wrist to Beau's.
Beau tilted his head. "PCC; download PCC scan." He saw the various areas of the space port and said, "Space port; detailed area maintenance." He saw a long list of things to do. "Where do we start?"
Frank smiled. "We are not the only crew. The assignment board should be up. "Space port; maintenance; assignment; Frank."
Beau checked the VLC Bay office one last time before he left. There were three offices: the VLC Bay office; the Space Port office; the Space Port Security office. Frank had gone to the security office while he cleaned the VLC office. Now he walked toward the port office.
Frank said that if all went well they would be off by four. Beau hoped that all went well.
* * *
Sani was surprised when the cage rose into the air and began to move on its own. It moved toward the large craft, then it went inside where it stopped alongside of another large cage, then her cage settled to the floor. She looked at the other cage. What ever was in it was wrapped in some kind of black net. I wonder what's in there?
My name is Red Petal, a soft voice said.
My name is Granite, a gruff voice replied.
My name is Sun's Ray, and I will be the next Queen of Fyrsoul's Hold.
These creatures had taken Fyrsouls? I am Sani, a Faegala. There are two creatures with two legs that have taken us; what will they do with us? Her question went unanswered
The two leg creatures are Aireth's. Fyrsoul's Hold will not survive without a Queen, Petal said. Sun's Ray is the first Fyrsoul Queen in more than a thousand years. She will birth the next Queen; without her, the Fyrsouls will cease to exist. Therefore, she must be freed at any cost.
Sani heard the sorrow and desperation in Petal's voice. What can we do? We are prisoners.
In body--yes, Granite agreed. However, our minds are still free to think, since our time is limited, we need to think quickly and clearly.
I can't see a way to escape, Sani admitted. We are powerless to do anything.
So you would give up without a fight? Sun's Ray asked. Your words make me very sad because I cannot imagine living life in such a manner that I would give up hope and quit. We are prisoners, but we still have hope. Will you help us? Will you try? Or will you do nothing?
Her voice lingered in Sani's mind; her words hurt because they were so true. She didn't answer; how could she answer? The truth as she saw it was that there was no escape.
Will you do nothing? Echos, from Sun's Ray voice, kept sounding again and again in her mind; please no more! I will try. I do not know what I can do, but I will try.
She felt the craft land; she worried not knowing what terrible things awaited her. One of the Aireth's came and took the Fyrsoul's cage, and it floated away with him. Then the other Aireth came and took her cage, and it floated behind him.
It would be dark soon. She looked around and did not know what to make of this place. The ground looked like greyish white rock, except it was too smooth to be rock; she marveled at structures of heights beyond anyone's vivid imagination, then she gasped at the sight of a huge garden area and in the midst of it a Boxensol tree. I must be dreaming.
She had never seen a Boxensol tree before. Its fruit resembled a cage. After eating the fruit and placing blood into the cage, one would receive twice their natural abilities.
She looked at the tree almost as if she had received a miracle, except even a doubling of her abilities would not be sufficient to mentally reach Fyrsoul's Hold. She would need the help of another. Then her cage floated past the tree almost like her hopes, drifting slowly away.
Sani's cage floated around a corner, and she saw the Fyrsoul's cage. An old Aireth and one of those who had captured her were talking. Her cage came to rest next to the other cage.
* * *
Captain Sleen said, "I want to see this faerie, Klaxon."
"Is that safe, Captain?"
"It will be okay."
Klaxon walked to the cage, and the creature backed away. "I won't hurt you." He scanned the cage with his PCC and entered, hoping the Captain was right. He tilted his head. "PCC; menu; nano-tex; release." He lifted her right foot and removed the shoe then removed the other shoe. He stood up and removed the hood, took off the shirt, then watched in surprise as she pulled the pants off. He left the nano-tex on the floor, walked from the cage, shut the door, then scanned the cage with his PCC again.
The Captain stared at the faerie in the cage. "You were right, John. She is remarkable, truly exceptional. Get Klerk. I want you to return to where you found her and bring back more."
"Yes, John, right now!"
Klaxon sighed. "Com-link; Klerk; meet me at the VLC office."
* * *
Frank said, "Captain is checking cargo. He wants to talk to us there; hopefully, we'll get our release for the day."
Beau nodded his head. He turned a corner and saw two large cages. The creature in the second one caught his attention immediately. Wow! She is so beautiful. I didn't know faeries were real.
My name is Sani. I am a Faegala, a female voice sounded in his mind.
Beau looked around. The only female he saw was the faerie. Surely not. You, in the cage, did you speak to me? By the way, my name is Beau.
I am as surprised as you are, Beau. Yes, I spoke to you, and I must speak more to you. Do not tell these others of this, Beau, please.
Frank spoke to the Captain for a moment then returned to Beau. "We are taking the cages to the cargo holding area, then we are done for the day."
As the cages floated behind him, he heard: I need your help, Beau; the three creatures in the other cage are Fyrsouls, and they also need your help, Beau. There is nothing we can offer for this help other than our thanks. The future Queen of the Fyrsouls is one of those three. Her people will be no more without her; please, there is no one else, Beau; will you help?
Beau kept silent as he considered what Sani said. If she escaped, he would be first on the list of the Captain's suspects, then he would be locked up for the rest of his life. He knew nothing of this 'Sani' other than her name.
They arrived at the cargo area and began to get the cages secured in their assigned areas, which took only a few minutes, then they left.
He had walked only a short distance from the cargo area when he heard: Please, Beau! You are the only hope we have; there is no one else; please help. I am asking more than I have a right to ask; I know it is not fair to you. Still I ask; I plead for you to help me, Beau.
Beau shivered; something in her voice when she said his name, spoke deeply to him. He thought about all the long years on Earth of how he had worked so long and hard to get here. Now that he was here, could he give up his dream? Her voice echoed and reechoed in his mind, “There is no one else.”
He entered his room and sat on the bed. "I must be nuts," he muttered. "PCC; manual." A keyboard came up, and he typed: Menu; nano-tex; release. He bent over and removed his right shoe and lifted a small dot with his fingernail. This Trojan Horse program had cost him a fortune. He put it over his PCC and scanned it.
He typed: Menu; Trojan Horse; activate; AI; wisk program; restraint codes; cargo deactivate; nano deactivate; timer; 45 minutes; initiate.
In forty-five minutes, the cargo hold would release all the cargo, then chaos would ensue. He typed: Menu; Trojan Horse; stealth; space port map; least time approach to cargo area; initiate. A green arrow appeared on his HUD. Sani, I am on the way. Tell the others.
* * *
Sani shook with sorrow. Beau's voice startled her; his answer had come so long after her request that she'd given up hope. Queen, freedom is on the way. Fly toward Fyrsoul's Hold. I will do my best to contact the Fyrsouls there. Do not look back or turn back for any reason.
I understand, Sun's Ray answered, thank you.
Now time, seemingly, stopped, and Sani's inner turmoil grew. I must tell Beau of the Boxensol tree; I cannot trick him into helping me. But then with the truth revealed will he still choose to help me?
Why would Beau take that chance? He had everything to lose and nothing to gain; it made no sense in her mind. And so she waited, struggling with what to say and how to say it.
Your cage is open; come. Beau's strong voice startled her. She jumped up and pushed on the bars. Even though he had told her it was open, she stared in wonder at the open cage door.
Don't stand there dreaming, Sani, he demanded. Talk to the dragons; tell them that I am going to set them free.
They are Fyrsouls--not what you said.
Fine. Whatever. Just tell them now.
Sun's Ray, the Aireth man, Beau, is here to set you free.
Sani watched Beau open the cage door and walk to the three Fyrsouls who were wrapped up in a net. He leaned down and spoke; suddenly, the net popped up into the air, then the Fyrsouls leapt to their feet.
Sani, leave quickly, right now. You and these three will not have much time before an alarm sounds.
Sun's Ray go; there is more I must do.
Beau looked at her oddly. Beau, Fyrsoul's Hold is too far for these young ones to fly, and it is too far for me to call to them for help. But with your help, I can send a message to Fyrsoul's Hold, and they will send help so the Queen can return to her people. This request I make of you may cause your death; it is unfair to you for me to even ask, but I must help the Fyrsouls; will you help me, please? Tears began to stream down her face.
* * *
Beau was moved by the emotion in her voice. Her tears tore at him almost as if he had caused this deep pain. He reached out his hand to her, and she took hold of it as though it were a lifeline; she pressed into him and wrapped her arms around him. Her tears became sobs.
I'm sorry, Sani said, I ask too much.
Beau held her in silence as she wept, then she began to shake as if her world were falling apart. He felt tears in his eyes surprised at how could he so moved by someone he had met not long ago. Am I losing my mind?
Sani laughed. I ask myself that all the time.
Beau smiled; he did not want to let her go and that realization amazed and frightened him. What is happening to me?
I am sorry, Beau. We are starting to bond; it is the way of my people. You can step away now, and the bonding will end. I hope you will choose to hold me, and the bonding will be complete soon. You must be bonded to me to help me; I know that I'm asking too much. Still I ask, please, Beau, help me.
Yes, Sani, I will help. He couldn't describe how he felt; it would be like trying to describe a sunset. Sani stopped crying and began to hum, then the hum became a song.
We are Beau and Sani; we are two,
of different worlds and people, me and you.
Different ways, different minds,
purposes, and needs, different kinds.
Bind these differences, together unite
with heart and soul, so that we might
be as one, like two who would elope,
for now we have become Fyrsoul's hope.
Suddenly, Beau's eyes widened. Oh, Sani. He felt and saw her as he had never seen anyone. You are so beautiful.
I am sorry, my precious one, our time is so very short. Let us make the best of it.
* * *
Sani walked hand in hand with Beau as they proceeded toward the garden. She had found hope and love; she had found her life, then tears filled her eyes. Why is life so unfair?
Beau squeezed her hand. I know and understand, love; still, it is our choice. I completely comprehend your reasoning now and agree that we must do this. I don't want to lose you, but there is no one else who can do what must be done.
Sani stopped at the edge of the garden, looked into Beau's eyes, and smiled at her beloved. Please give me just a few moments alone, love. She released his hand and walked to the tree.
She held up her hand to the Boxensol fruit and said, Need. The fruit dropped into her hand; she stare at it as if at a poisonous snake. It would not have dropped if there had been no need. She wanted to scream and weep, but she sank to her knees.
The Queen is depending on us! And not just the Queen, all of the Fyrsouls of the future are depending on us as well. Tears filled her eyes as she looked at Beau and motioned with her hand, saying, Come.
He walked up and squatted beside her, and she took his hand, then she began to eat of the fruit of the cage. When she finished the fruit, she slashed her fingernail across his hand, drawing blood. Then she slashed her hand and mixed their blood together. She smeared the blood on the floor and walls of the cage. I am ready to begin.
He leaned forward and kissed her lips. The heat on her lips reminded her of earlier and she smiled. Put your hands on mine. Relax with me and feel me. Remember, we are Fyrsoul's Hope.
Sani blocked out everything: the touch of a breeze on her skin, the sounds of the evening, the hopes and dreams of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, until all that remained was herself and Beau. She drew on her strength and on his, then she reached with her mind to Fyrsoul's Hold. Her reach fell short. She drew more strength and reached harder . . . harder still. . . . Come!
* * *
"John," Klerk called urgently.
Klaxon walked from the cargo area to the cabin. They had left the space port only minutes ago. "What is it?"
"Look at the vid- screen."
John saw, a purplish sky filled with shapes flying in their direction. "Dragons! Find a place to land, now."
"Right away, John."
"I told the Captain not to mess with the dragons. He should have listened."
* * *
Aireth Hold was a smoldering ruin. Rock's Strength stood just outside of the garden with the Boxensol tree. Red Petal, Granite, and Sun's Ray stood beside him. He stared down at the two forms that were entwined beneath the tree. These two gave their lives to help his people. Tears fell from his eyes. We will remember your sacrifice, little ones. I promise: we will remember.
* * *