by Paul D
Humans, Fyrsouls, and aliens in conflict.
A knock sounded at the door, and Alexander Weydom looked at his vid-screen. Portland Charles, his assistant, floated outside his office door. He said, "PCC;security; office door; open." The door slid into the wall, and he floated into the room.
"Sir, we just received a cor-msg from the League."
Alex said, "Cor-msg; next security code; release; activate; close menu. Go ahead and play it, Port."
A vid-screen floated in the air, then an image of Hyrek Ryscroft, the Stellar Planetary League's President appeared on the screen. He said, "Gemistal is now a limited tech status planet." The screen went blank.
Alex clapped his hands. He had lobbied hard for the past five years to have LTS granted.
"What about the colonists, sir?"
"As long as they follow LTS regulations, there won't be a problem."
"Sir, the President didn't mention the creation of a central security force."
Alex sighed. Currently, each dome had their own regulations and security forces to enforce them. He'd been lobbying for permission to set up a central force. "It will come, Port. In time, it will come."
"Dome twelve declared that any area within two miles of their dome is under their regulations."
Alex waved his hand. "Enough, Port, you have brought this up four times now, and I have spoken with Dome Leader Davidich, but he's not willing to budge an inch on this, knowing I have no authority over him."
"Sir, what's to prevent the Domes from uniting and forming their own central authority?"
Alex snorted. "Not likely! They can't agree on even simple basics. I'm not worried about that; my concern is with technofiles, who will not be pleased with this League decision, and with some of the Domes, who will be sympathetic to them, because their opposition to the technofiles could lead to revolts."
"You worry to much."
"And you don't worry enough."
Port laughed. "I have some more reports to write."
After Port left the office, Alex said, "Security; office door; secure." He had sources in the Domes that Port knew nothing about. The situation grew worse daily, and the League needed to act before it was too late.
"Limited tech status is totally unacceptable," Portis Fenton exclaimed. "These past two years under LTS have brought our industries almost to a complete stop. Our economy is going down the drain. If this continues, our domes will not stay viable. I say the time for talk is done. Who's with me?"
Portis clicked end to stop the mod cast. It had cost an exorbitant number of creds for an AI hack. His mod cast would go out to all the domes, and he hoped the people who agreed with him would make themselves known.
* * *
Wilbur Wright turned off the mod cast and looked at his friend Harriet Beecham and asked, "Why is a new colony like Anelkisterlas given high tech status? The first colonists came to Gemistal over fifty years ago. This Fenton guy has the right idea, and we need to act now."
"I'm in agreement with you, Will. You know that, but we need a real leader. I've known Portis since he was just a little whipper snapper. He has always been more mouth than action."
"Do you have someone in mind?"
"Do you know Fred Bentley?"
"I believe I've met him--not sure."
"He's a recent addition to Dome six. My friend Roberta talked to him the other day and learned some interesting things. He served in the military on Earth and retired as a Major. I think you should approach him and see where he stands. I have a feeling he could get this done."
Wilbur nodded his head. "I'll look into his schedule and see where I can make contact."
"Be very careful Will; we can't have loose ends or missing people."
He chuckled. "You know, I'm always careful."
"I know, but this time, extra care is needed. We do have one thing in our favor."
"Oh? What's that?"
"Everyone's going to looking at Portis, so the time to act is now because we will catch everyone by surprise and win the day."
"Harriet, maybe you should lead."
She laughed. "You have always been a charmer, Will. I'm good at strategizing, but I know my limitations. We need a professional."
"I'll talk to Fred and let you know."
* * *
Matthew Weydom sat in his cabin on Dragon's Wing. His grandfather was one of the first explorers of Gemistal, and he found it hard to follow in his footsteps.
His brother, Alex, would be very surprised when he found out he was the new governor of Anelkisterlas. The current governor Rupert Boggins was retiring because of health reasons. Rupert was only the second governor since the colony's founding twenty-five years ago.
He'd seen mods of Anelkisterlas, but he looked forward to seeing it in person. He was fascinated by the "floating isles." The concept of magnetic opposite poles just didn't hold any true fascination for him. He preferred to think of Anelkisterlas as magic on display every day.
His PCC chimed. "Yes."
"We are there if you want to see Anelkisterlas; code fourteen."
"Thanks, I'll be right there." He left his cabin for the bridge. The bridge had a view port, and Captain January had invited him to use it. He stepped into a cube in the vac at the end of the hall; his ears popped as it pressurized; then he said, "Bridge; code fourteen." He arrived so fast he didn't even perceive movement.
One of the bridge officers met him at the vac and said, "If you will come this way, Sir, the Captain is expecting you."
The small area that comprised the bridge surprised him. Two work stations were on either side of the room, and an open door revealed a small office. Two officers talked while a third watched a vid-screen.
This functional area appeared to have nothing unnecessary added. He looked briefly at a digital picture on the wall of the first Dragon's Wing. Then they arrived at the view port area. Captain January smiled and said, "Glad you could come, Matt."
"Thanks, again, for inviting me." He entered the small area. There was a solid wall on his left side. The Captain said, "Bridge; view port; open; code Alpha26 Charlie12 Zebra78."
The wall on his left slid into another wall, and he stared in wonder at Anelkisterlas. The mod had offered only a small taste of its beauty; now, he savored its full flavor. "Wow!" He felt silly saying so little, but how could he express in words this picture painted without words.
The Captain smiled as though in understanding.
"Have you been here before, Sir?"
Captain January nodded his head. "This is my third time. I have seen a lot of systems and planets, and Earth has a special place in my heart. But this system, especially, Anelkisterlas is truly exceptional. I always take time to enjoy the view."
Matt stared at the "floating isles." He could see clear domes on top of them, scattered all across the ocean for as far as he could see. "What magnification are you using?"
Captain January chuckled. "It is more than two thousand. The view port will close by itself in a few minutes, then Officer Gearson will see you back to the vac."
"Thank you, Sir."
The view below was like stepping into a fairy tale where anything was possible. He could hardly believe he'd been named governor. He imagined his grandfather's reputation, his father's influence, and his brother's position as governor of Gemistal might have had some impact on the League's decision.
Regardless, he was glad to be here. The wall started to move back into position. He left the view port, and the officer walked with him back to the vac.
* * *
Cleopatra Weydom loathed her first name and refused to respond to anyone using it. She sat behind the desk in her brother's cabin. He didn't know she was on this ship, and she smiled to think of his reaction when he returned to find her here.
Matt, her older brother by ten years, always encouraged her in everything. She would never forget how she struggled so hard in math, and he took the time to explain it in a way that made sense. Then when she fell out of a tree and broke her arm, her father had been furious, but Matt told her to stop being foolish and wear gravs the next time.
Matt entered the cabin; she noticed the hairline of his blonde hair was receding, but he still looked handsome; she called to him. "What took you so long? I've been waiting here forever."
"Sis? How did you get in here? No, don't answer that. I don't wanna know. Come here, brat."
Cleo grinned and came out from behind the desk and walked into her brother's open arms. He enveloped her like a blanket. "When did you get so tall?" she muttered.
He laughed. "Sis, I hate to tell you this, but at six-one I'm not that tall. It seems that at five-one, the pixie in you decided you were tall enough; except with your red hair, perhaps, I should say the 'sprite' in you."
She grinned. "Call me a 'sprite' will you. I'll have you know I'm not a sprite or a pixie. I'm a faerie."
"I have a feeling you ambushed me for a reason."
"Would I do something like that?"
"Come on. Out with it."
"Now that Gemistal has been declared to be a protectorate of Anelkisterlas--"
"What?" he said in a half shout. "How did you learn of that? Never mind, go on."
"As I was saying, the colonists of Gemistal are going to be extremely upset. You will need sources on the ground who can give you reliable information of what is going on. I want to be one of those assets."
"Cleo, what you're proposing is like climbing trees for a living without gravs. Do you have any concept of the danger?"
"I could be killed; I know it's possible. I don't know how to explain, but I feel that this is where I need to be. All my life you've been at my side to help whenever I needed you. You will fail without intel on the ground; now, it's my turn to help you."
"You're not going to persuade me to change my mind. If necessary, I'll take you to the mat, Matt."
He chuckled. "I know all about your martial art skills. I don't need a demonstration."
"Are you sure?"
He laughed. "Yeah. Have you considered all the small details of how we communicate and all that?"
She shook her head. "Men, the answer is so obvious you would never think of it."
"Go ahead; I see you're dying to tell me."
"My fiance is a colonist of Anelkisterlas. We met a few months ago when he visited Gemistal, now he is working to get approval for me to become a colonist of Anelkisterlas. In the meantime, we vid each other daily."
"Who is this victim? I mean fiance."
"Well, of course, you, brother dear."
He shook his head. "Not this time, Cleo. I'll have a talk with the Captain. We only have a few hours before we land on Anelkisterlas, and you'll be spending every second of it with your 'fiance'."
* * *
Junior Officer Caesar Williams left the Captain's cabin in shock. He'd just been reassigned to Anelkisterlas as a colonist with a fiance on Gemistal. He walked in a daze toward the vac. He was going to meet her in her cabin now. What did I do to bring this nightmare into my life? How on earth can I pretend to be the fiance of someone I don't even know? This is insane.
He arrived at the door and knocked. It opened, and he entered. Then he stopped dead in his tracks. An angel of great beauty stood in front of him; she took his breath away. Could this be the woman?
"Hi, I'm Cleo."
"You're an angel." Caesar realized he'd spoken his thoughts out loud. "Uh . . . That is--"
"The perfect thing to say, dear," Cleo interrupted. "You're my fiance, and we are in love. For this to work, I'm your angel, and you are my dearest."
He stood there stunned for a moment. She handed him a foam memory stick. "These are the codes, and the stick also has Anastasia and Ernesto's history. I'm now Anna and you are Ernie. Memorize the codes and our histories then destroy the stick. We have ninety minutes. I want to go over in detail the circumstances of how we met, then. . . ."
* * *
Cleo stood in the shuttle bay of the ship. I'm Anna. I'm Anna. Matt stood at her right side and Ernie on her left. "It is still not to late to change your mind, sis."
She grinned. "What's wrong with the one I've got?" She laughed at the not-so-admused expression on his face. "Don't worry. I'll be okay."
Ernie took her hand. "I'm going to miss you, angel."
"I know, dear. But we can com and vid everyday."
"Good, I can't wait until we can be together on Anelkisterlas."
"Soon, sweetie, soon."
He pulled her into his arms and kissed her. She felt a shock that had to be surprise while reminding herself to act like a fiance. She embraced him back, kissing him hard.
She heard, "Ahem!" She released Ernie as he did her.
"Where did you learn to kiss like that?" Matt whispered.
Cleo knew she must have turned red from head to foot. "You call that a kiss? I was just saying goodbye, politely."
Matt laughed. "Please, be careful."
"I don't want to lose my fiance," Ernie added.
"I'll be fine; I'm a big girl now."
A short time later, she stood in line to board the shuttle. The series Z shuttle was more like a space ship than a shuttle. It could hold up to fifty people, but only about thirty stood in line. Now that the moment had come, she felt nervous. She couldn't make any mistakes now, and she needed to remember her name was Anna, and her fiance's name was Ernie.
Her thoughts returned to their departing kiss. It had started as a show for anyone watching, then somewhere in the middle of the kiss, it became something else. She was lost in the kiss after that. She made a mental note: be careful when kissing Ernie, it could be very dangerous. She smiled to herself and entered the shuttle.
* * *
"Sir, we have a problem."
"What is it Flint?"
"The AI has taken control of the shuttle. We're flying blind."
"What? What about your PCC?"
"There's no com-link. Everything is down."
"Well, perhaps they want us and the ship, or they want to send a message."
"Should I get everyone into pods, sir?"
"It seems our only option."
* * *
Cleo lay in a pod that looked like a coffin. This venture isn't going so well. But then her life had never gone as she'd expected. She started dancing when she was five; it gave her freedom like nothing else. After that, her life was dancing.
Then at age thirteen everything changed when she became sick. The doctor found she had leukemia, and the healing process took a year. During that time, she poured her life into books about space travel and other planets, and now she was here. This can't be the end. I refuse to believe it.
* * *
Matt left Dragon's Wing and entered Anelkisterlas' space port. It was typical of most space ports; although, it was less busy. He walked toward the shuttle area where he would get a VLC to take him to the governor's residence. His PCC beeped. "Yes." A message popped up on a vid-screen in front of his face. Come to the information counter.
He changed direction and five minutes later arrived at information. "I'm Matthew Weydom," He held up his left wrist, and the PCC was scanned. The lady behind the counter handed him a chip. "This is for you."
He slid the chip into the PCC port. The shuttle with your sister currently has no signature return, and the shuttle AI was corrupted. Suspect that sabotage has taken place.
He read the message over and over again; still, he had to believe the shuttle would be found, and everyone would be okay. Tears fell from his eyes. I should have stopped her.
* * *
Alex looked at the security report on his vid-screen. Portis Fenton made it easy for them. His mod cast had caused a stampede of dissatisfied people who contacted him, and now they were being kept track of. He worried for those who stayed in the shadows and plotted. Their deeds wouldn't be known until it was too late.
His thoughts were interrupted by the beep of his PCC. "Yes."
"Alex, this is Matt."
"Matt? You're here?"
"I'm the new governor for Anelkisterlas."
"Thanks . . . ah . . . listen . . . I'm sending a secure message. I'll talk later."
Alex said, "PCC; txt-me." Cleo is here too. The shuttle to Gemistal disappeared in flight. No other information at this time. Her presence here is TS. I'll contact you when I know more.
He stared at the vid-screen for a few minutes. Cleo is here? "Com-link; Portland; I need to see you in my office soon as possible."
* * *
Harriet Beecham walked down a wide, paved path. There was a forest ahead, and she was drawing near. Fred Bentley walked this path every day, and she started walking it three days earlier.
Wilbur had sabotaged a part of the path. When she walked there today, something would happen. She walked in front of Fred not knowing where or when the path would collapse. She was nervous but hopeful this plan would work.
She saw clear sky through the dome. Some kids played tag football on a field to her left. Cubes rushed past in a vac several hundred feet to her right. She wondered if the people in the cubes knew of this beauty. She fully intended to enjoy this time.
As she entered the woods, she welcomed the change in scenery. She walked for a short while, then came to a narrow, one person, dirt path on her left. The hard packed ground testified of the many people who must have walked this path.
She turned off onto the path and went up a small rise. She continued down a short decline; near the end of the decline, a bridge went over a small stream twenty feet below. She stepped on the bridge, then she screamed as she fell toward the rocks below.
* * *
Fred had noticed the attractive middle-aged woman several times on his walks over the past few days. She appeared to be near his age, or maybe a little younger. He enjoyed his daily walks in the woods.
He was walking about ten feet behind her when he saw the bridge disintegrate under her feet, then he heard her screams as she fell. The silence after she smashed on the rocks below was deafening.
He ran forward hoping he would be able to help. He climbed down the short cliff and knelt beside her. She was, of course, wearing nano-tex, but that did not save her when her head smashed into the large rock under her.
He heard a sound, turned around, and saw a large man near the broken bridge above. "Is my wife okay? She comed me."
Fred sighed. "I'm sorry. I'll call for Dome Security."
"It appears the bridge was sabotaged."
"Why would they do that? What did my wife do to them?"
"Someone is sending a message, saying, 'Listen to me or die'."
The large man shook his head. "This makes no sense. Just like that guy on the mod cast carrying on about our economy going down the drain. Has this world gone insane?"
"I have a feeling these are dangerous times we live in."
"Yeah. You got that right."
"I wouldn't worry about the nut on the mod cast. I'm sure he is being carefully watched. It's the ones lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike that you should be wary of."
"What do you mean?"
"You should know; you are more than likely one of them."
The large man moved fast, but Fred was faster. He toppled over and smashed onto the rocks below. He put his nano-ton away. The toxin he had used would dissipate from his body quickly. He didn't know when he took this position that it would turn into the nightmare that was slowly developing on Gemistal.
Matt felt bad about neglecting his duties as governor, but he could think only of Cleo. It had been more than a week, and not a trace of the shuttle had been found. I should never have allowed her to go. When Cleo made up her mind, nothing could stop her; still, he blamed himself for not stopping her.
Hyrek Ryscroft told Alex that Anelkisterlas now had authority over Gemistal. Matt understood Alex's anger, but the League had made this choice, and he worried this decision would escalate the troubles already brewing on Gemistal.
Anelkisterlas' security forces had not impressed him. He saw only one short term solution: take people from every dome sector here and on Gemistal and build a security force from the ground up. This task daunted him, and he planned to ask for Alex's opinion when he cooled down.
* * *
Cleo could hardly think because of the pounding in her head. She opened her eyes. The world looked different. Is there something wrong with my eyes?
Your eyes are fine. The rest of your body suffered damage.
“Who am I talking to, and why is your voice in my head?”
My name is Fierce Storm. I'm your bonded one.
“Fierce Storm? Bonded one? I don't understand. How was I damaged?”
I am a Fyrsoul. You are now bonded to me. Your craft fell out of the sky. You lived but were near death. By this bond, you drew on my strength and survived.
“Fyrsoul? I don't know what that means. Bonded? Humm. We will see about that.”
Morning comes soon, then you will see me and understand.
Cleo woke up then sat up. "Wow! That was an odd dream." She sat on furs on a ledge in a cave with a small bit of light coming in from outside. She set aside her fur covering and saw her naked body covered in many places with bright pink scars.
How is this possible? Without my environ-suit, I should be dead. She heard crunching sounds as something entered the cave. She pulled the fur over her and waited.
"A dragon?" She could hardly believe her eyes. The dragon was huge. His silver and black skin was like that of a snake. His wings were black with silver and red splotches.
Ahhh, I see you are awake. That's good.
Cleo recognized his voice from her dream. Fierce Storm? she wondered in disbelief.
Good, you remembered. Take care in moving about because your body still heals.
“You healed me?”
Yes and no. You took of my strength, but it is our Queen, Sun's Ray, who worked the healing spell.
“You spoke of a bonding. Can you explain that to me?”
I will try. A Fyrsoul bond, between male and female, is one of the weaving of spirits and minds. Your mind has been shielded for now, but soon you will know and understand. It is an unbreakable bond, which I only agreed to make because of the debt owed to the Aireth.
That is a story for another time.
“Where are my clothes?”
“My body coverings?”
They were thrown away. My people know of some of your customs, and Red Petal will bring you some furs you can use.
“Well, that's a relief. How far am I from the nearest colony?”
It is many days distance for you, but you will remain here. You are bonded, and you will be unable to go far from me.
“What do you mean?”
I cannot explain it, but you will see.
* * *
Fred waited until he saw the signal, then he began walking. The man had a newspaper in his left hand, and Fred had one in his right. As Fred walked past him, they exchanged papers. He continued on his way to his home.
Fred lived and worked in dome sector six. He actually worked for Anelkisterlas security. Rupert Boggins hired him two years ago, and he sent in reports on an as needed basis. Seven operatives worked for him. One of the best: Portis Fenton, whose mod cast had been more successful than Fred would have believed, made the impossible look easy.
For his latest assignment, recruiting people for an Anelkisterlas security force, he relied heavily upon his operatives to send good people. With the newspaper pass, he'd given detailed information on safe houses and shuttle times that were safe to use. This force needed to be put together quickly because he believed time was running short, and the enemy never waited until you were prepared.
* * *
Alex sat with his brother Matt at the memorial service. The shuttle had been missing for two weeks and had been declared lost and all souls deceased. He didn't want to accept that Cleo was gone. He'd never seen Matt look so devastated. He'd been very close to Cleo and blamed himself as partly responsible for her death.
Alex wanted to smack his brother and tell him to snap out of it, but he was too big. He would find his way in time; except right now, they had no time. Protests against LTS were getting larger and more vocal. Now the protests against Anelkisterlas as their protector were beginning to swell. He sat on a powder keg, waiting for a spark. He prayed for more time, knowing it was already one minute to midnight.
* * *
Tactics Officer Wengla floated from his work station to stand near the science officer. Enepta looked up at him. "What?"
I'm off for lunch in a minute. You want something?"
"I ate earlier, and I'm waiting for the data return on this planet."
"I hope it is adaptable. We have been looking for a long time."
"True, we will see."
Wengla floated toward the eating area. His people, the Ponta, were from Upis. They had been foolish and used up all of its resources. They left Upis with almost a thousand ships. Now, three hundred years later, there were only eighty left. They'd visited countless star systems and thousands of planets and not found one livable place. His people were beginning to lose hope.
He filled his plate with food and set it on the floor, then he turned upside down, floated down, and his tubers settled into the food. "This stuff is really good."
* * *
Matt's PCC beeped. "Yes."
"This is Major George Martin of Anelkisterlas Security; system tracking has alerted us of incoming ships."
"We count eighty ships so far."
"I'll message the Stellar Planetary League." Matt sat back against his chair. Anelkisterlas had no system defenses because the cost had been deemed "prohibitive." He thought that the logic of his predecessor was faulty. He had not found time to address that issue because he'd spent the majority of his time with the troubles on Gemistal. "I hope they are friendly," he muttered to himself.
* * *
Cleo felt so much better. Most of her scars had disappeared, which surprised her. Her hands caressed the beautiful furs Red Petal brought her six days ago. It took her a while to figure out how to make them into something to wear. She struggled to get it done, but now she had two tops and two bottoms. She'd seen Fierce Storm only once during that time. He'd said something about weakening shields--
Cleo jumped. Fierce Storm had just entered the cave. How can I know that?
You are no longer shielded. I stayed away while you finished healing, but now I felt the pull of our bond as it strengthens, and I returned. We must stay near one another, or we will die.
“What? Die? I don't understand.”
Can you leave your body and walk around?
Cleo laughed. “That would be impossible.”
Our bond is like that. We are tied to one another. I can hear what you think and feel. The shield on my mind is weakening and very soon you will know me in the same way.
“How close must we be?”
Fierce Storm laughed. Close enough to hear one another, which depends on the strength of the Fyrsoul. Your mind is weaker in projection, so I would say about five miles for now.
“Five miles? That's not close.”
It is for a Fyrsoul.
* * *
Alex listened as his brother explained about the incoming ships. They'd not made any contact with Anelkisterlas. "They could be coming to Gemistal for all you know."
"I know you're right, Alex. I hope they are here to say, 'Hi, we were in the neighborhood' . . . but I'm also a realist. They have come for a purpose, and I doubt any of us will like it."
"Don't borrow trouble for yourself, Matt. The interest is too high."
"I agree, and I'm trying to remain calm, but it's not working. Worst case--I see them taking over the planet or even the system and killing everyone."
"I understand your fears. But now you need all of your faculties in working order. Write down all of your fears and toss them in the trash--literally. You need your mind in working order."
"I'll try Alex. I need to go. Talk soon, bye."
"If they came to buy something, be sure to take cash."
Matt laughed and the connection closed. Alex sighed. For all of his encouragement of Matt, he felt afraid as well, and he needed to listen to his own advice. He took a sheet of paper and began to write.
* * *
Admiral Faucet sat in his chair on the bridge of Upis 12. He said, "Load coordinates for target; ships Seta one, two, and three; minimum load; fire."
The projectiles flew at light speed and quickly reached the target. One of the domes covering the land below vanished.
"Prepare for second target, then prepare for communication with both planets."
* * *
Fred was puzzled. He'd been talking with Matt and the connection suddenly closed. "PCC; com-link; Alex; I just lost connection with Matt. You may want to try to see if it works for you."
"Thanks, Fred. I'll give it a go."
Fred's ears popped, and his eyes widened. "The dome." He walked out of his apartment. Bodies lay everywhere, and pieces of the dome lay scattered all over the ground. Fred had an oxy-ex2; most of the people on Gemistal did not. As many as thirty thousand people had just died. He stood there stunned. Then it hit him--Anelkisterlas. Surely not.
"PCC; com-link; Alex; dome sector six is gone."
"I don't believe it. Do you think it's sabotage?"
"I wish I could say that, but I doubt it very much. I think our visitors are knocking on the door."
"You don't have time for that now, Alex. You're the governor of Gemistal. Thousands are depending on you right now. I'll be here if you need me."
* * *
Alex was stunned. His PCC beeped. "Yes."
"This is officer Reynolds of Dome Sector Twelve Security. We received a transmission from an intrasystem source it reads as follows: 'Do not resist and live; resist and die'."
Alex closed the connection and buried his head in his hands. We can't stop them. I'm sure Matt sent a message to the League, but will they even be able to help us? Thirty thousand people in Dome Sector Six are dead. I can't think about Anelkisterlas, not yet. His body shook as he wept for his brother and his people.
* * *
"Admiral Faucet," science officer Enepta said, "we have data on the planets. The planet with the land floating over the water is habitable. The planet with the clear skies has something in the air we can't process and is lethal. The third planet with the cloud cover can be made habitable."
Admiral Faucet turned to tactics officer Wengla. "Prepare a scout ship and a small team to land on the planet with the floating land."
* * *
Caesar Williams of Anelkisterlas Security was stunned. Cleo's shuttle had not been found, and now dome one was destroyed and everyone presumed dead, including Governor Matthew Weydom. Dome one had an estimated population of close to one hundred thousand. He couldn't wrap his mind around the loss of so many people.
"Officer Williams," Albert Denton said. "Com Tech reported, we have an incoming ship."
"Prepare the dome dock."
"I've never had a first contact before."
"What was that, Sir?"
"Just talking to myself."
"Where do you want to put them?"
"The park should be the safest place."
"Notifying Park Security to clear the area and set up a light signal for our guests."
"Do we have anyone with first contact experience?"
"Yeah. With everything that has gone wrong, why should I expect something to go right?"
"We're still breathing, Sir."
"I'm leaving to catch a cube to the park."
Caesar arrived quickly at the park and got there in time to see the ship, which looked like a crystal with a dodecahedron shape, enter the dome dock. It came through the dock and followed the light signals to the park.
The ship hovered over the park; suddenly, a flash of light revealed a purple, red, and green creature, which looked similar to an upside down jelly fish, standing on the grass. Greetings Earthling.
Caesar wanted to laugh at the cheesy greeting; yet, he had a feeling that might not be such a great idea. "Why are you destroying our domes and killing our people?" he demanded
Taking away some, prevents the removal of all. The planet of clear skies is yours now. Go and live. Stay and die. Choose.
"Ahh . . . well . . . we need time and more than likely transport to get there."
Time is short. Transport is on the way. Twenty-four hundred is deadline.
The creature vanished, and the ship left; Caesar stood in place, speechless for a moment, then he said, "PCC; com-link; Anelkisterlas Security office; Albert; did you get all of that? The creature was speaking mentally."
"Ah . . . it seems that everybody on the planet heard what both of you said."
"So it seems. These creatures are way beyond us. We can fight, but we will lose."
Caesar nodded his head, closing the com-link.
* * *
Alex's conversation with Caesar left him stunned. Anelkisterlas had surrendered to aliens, and all of her colonists would be on the way here today. Where are we going to put them all?
"PCC; Dome Sector Security; com-link; Fred; we will have an influx of about half a million colonists by latest 2400 today. We need a plan for transporting and placing them in each dome."
"Got it Alex. Our people will be all over this, and I'll have a detailed report to you asap."
"Dome support; com-link; Charlie; we will have an influx of about half a million colonists by latest 2400 today. I require a dome capacity impact report."
"Alex, the data result is negative; we have six weeks, then people will begin to die: about one hundred and twenty-five thousand of them in total."
"If we are fortunate, yes."
"Keep this information TS for now."
Alex sat behind his desk and closed his eyes, wishing this nightmare would go away by opening his eyes, but he had too much to do to waste time on wishful thinking.
Sylvester Kern's hands shook as he put on his environ-suit. He left Earth when this colony opened. His bald head had blonde hair then. His weary eyes glistened as he glanced around the room at the memories he'd collected and couldn't take with him. A single carry on bag held a few things. He felt his life being ripped apart before his eyes. He hoped to survive to see a better day.
* * *
Portis Fenton walked down the steps leading to the vac. He felt relief because he'd lost another tail. Although he worked for Dome Sector Security, he also worked for the technofiles who paid well for his services.
The pronouncement of the League that growth on Gemistal would be limited to LTS status infuriated him. What right did people of another system have to tell the people of Gemistal how to live?
Then their declaration that Gemistal was a protectorate of Anelkisterlas had been the last straw for him. When he heard of the dome destruction and of the aliens, at first he thought it served Anelkisterlas right; however, he realized that with all these people coming here, it would put a heavy strain on the domes being able to provide oxygen for everyone.
Portis wanted to send a loud and clear message. He'd been working with Trent Jackson to create AI infiltration programs. The disappearance of the shuttle had been their first success. Jackson had assured him that when the refugees from Anelkisterlas arrived, they would have an unwelcoming committee. He couldn't wait to see the results.
* * *
Cynthia Post stood alongside her husband Bert who carried Candi in his left arm while holding Alice by his right hand. They waited in a long line of people boarding the transports.
She felt lost and gripped Bert's elbow as if that would anchor her in the midst of this storm of misery. The sounds of weeping and bitter and angry voices whipped all around them like fierce winds. The children wouldn't stop crying for all of the emotional turbulence.
The line moved at a snail's pace, and she wondered how they would be able to stand here long enough to board.
* * *
Walker Henry marched at the front of a swarming crowd of protesters. They carried digital banners and shouted, "Say, 'No!' to refuges from Anelkisterlas; say, 'Go!' to refuges from Anelkisterlas."
The domes of Gemistal could hold only so many people. This influx of people would put them way beyond capacity and endanger the lives of those here. The circumstances of Anelkisterlas were sad, but why should Gemistal suffer for their problems?
As they marched toward the space port, their numbers grew. Walker wanted to send a message to the authorities of Gemistal and to the unwelcome people of Anelkisterlas. He doubted anyone would listen, but he intended to get their attention.
* * *
Gemistal Space Port was surrounded by Dome Sector Security personnel. Unruly herds, of people surrounding the port, continued to grow by the minute. Most had come to protest, but some had come to make trouble. Fred worried for the trouble that might be created.
He stood in one of the five towers and looked at Port Security Officer Sylvie Anderson. "I am afraid, Syl, of what will happen when that first transport lands."
"Yes, we are so few; this gathering mob could turn on us in a heart beat. I don't even want to think about what could happen after that."
Fred nodded his head. "I know. Here comes the transport now."
The transport was a string of fifteen dodecahedron shaped ships. It landed on the strip and, immediately, a wall rose from the ground and went over the transport and into the ground on the other side while a wall rose up from the far end of the transport and attached to the wall over the ship.
Syl said, "Pressurize tube; pressure is stabilized; open port entry for passengers.
"Those who are older or have young children can take the vac. Everyone else can walk," Syl commented.
"I just hope the crowd behaves."
"We have to clear the area for the next transport."
"I know. I'm just sayin'."
Syl laughed. "I have my fingers crossed, my toes crossed, and my eyes crossed, hoping for a good outcome."
Fred smiled. "In time, we will see. I do know this will be a very long night, and we'll be swamped with work for days to come."
"I try not to think ahead," Syl commented. "I have enough headaches already."
Fred chuckled. "Sounds like a good plan."
* * *
A series of explosions rocked the space port. The vac came apart scattering cubes everywhere. Fred and Syl listened to the report from Officer Clinton on the vid-screen. "The damage is severe, and we are extremely fortunate that the space port wall was not breached. Estimated two thousand or more deaths and many more thousands injured. The back-up vac is transporting the injured."
Fred looked at Syl and sighed. "The next transport is due any minute now. We need to get this place cleared."
"Space port; com-link; Clinton; create a holding area for the injured. We have a large influx of people on the way. Look for those among the refugees who are willing to assist."
"Understood, Syl. I'll get on that right now."
* * *
Alex sat behind his desk. Fred had updated him on what was happening at the space port. He couldn't comprehend how anyone could plan something so destructive without a care for how many died or were injured. It made him sick to think about it.
He needed some sleep even if for only a few hours. He couldn't think anymore. "PCC; com-link; Portland; I'm going to rest. If I'm needed, wake me."
* * *
Cleo woke early. Her brothers needed to know she was alive. Fierce Storm? She knew he was near but not how she knew.
I'm eating breakfast.
Cleo smiled and didn't ask what he was eating. Ignorance was bliss.
You do know I can hear your thoughts? Fierce Storm asked with a chuckle.
Stay out of my head.
That is quite impossible; we are bonded. You have a question. Go ahead and ask. I'm almost done.
If you know my thoughts, you know the question.
That is true. I will take you to see your brother, but you cannot stay overnight, and you will not speak of me or the Fyrsouls.
Are you always going to be this bossy?
Of course not! In the future, I'll be more bossy.
Cleo laughed. Okay, I agree. When can we leave?
Fierce Storm laughed. I'm ready now; what are you waiting for?
Cleo had given a lot of thought to how she would stay on Fierce Storm's back while he was in flight. She had gathered vines and twisted them together and cut strips of fur. She dropped her pile on the ground and waited for him. She smiled when she saw him walking toward her.
He looked down at her pile on the ground then at her. Move back, he demanded, then he flamed her pile to cinders.
“Why did you do that?”
You need something that will not break, and I refuse to risk your life and mine.
She put her hands on her hips. She wanted to flame him. “How am I risking your life? I'm taking the risk--not you.”
We are bonded for life. If I die, the pain of that broken bond could kill you. The same goes for me.
“Knowing this, you still chose to bond to me?”
Yes, I chose to honor our debt to your people.
“I want to know of this debt.”
Fierce Storm lowered his head and opened his mouth. Come on, this is the safest place to ride.
“I hope you don't have bad breath.” She walked inside his mouth.
Cleo looked at the beauty of the world below as Fierce Storm flew through the sky. Please tell me the story.
Sun's Ray, our Queen, was captured by some of your people when she was very young. We didn't know where she was, and she couldn't escape. Sani, a Faegala--
Looks like you but has wings.
Ahhh, a faerie.
Sani and Beau, a man of your people, chose to help Sun's Ray and two other Fyrsouls escape. Sani and Beau made a spell of calling together, which took their lives but alerted us of where to find our Queen and the others. Our people couldn't have survived without our Queen.
Cleo saw the domes in the distance, then as they came closer she saw the smashed dome. This is terrible.
What is it?
One of the places where my people live has been destroyed; many people have died.
I will come no closer. I will set you down here. If you have trouble, call me.
Trouble? I don't think so.
Cleo watched Fierce Storm fly away; she could still feel him in her mind. She started walking toward the nearest dome. An hour later, she was surprised that she did not feel tired or hurt at all. She was close now.
A quarter hour later, she arrived at the dome entry port, and she held out her left wrist to be scanned.
The mechanical voice said, “Entry denied; deceased.”
Cleo replied, "PCC; com-link; dome security; obviously, I'm not deceased, or I wouldn't be here seeking entry."
“Security is on the way,” the mechanical voice replied.
A few minutes later, a serious-looking security type appeared. "Where did you come from?" he demanded.
"I was in a shuttle crash. Contact my brother, Alexander Weydom, he can verify who I am."
* * *
Alex, filled with fury, took the vac to Dome Sector Two; he wanted to personally kill this person who dared to impersonate his sister. He had enough problems without having more crap dumped on him. This charade was the last straw. He would beat the truth out of them.
Alex emerged from the cube and saw the woman from the back. She wore furs, which he found extremely odd. She was of a similar height as Cleo, but Cleo was dead. He marched with his heat growing with every step. He couldn't wait to loose his anger on this imposter.
He put his hands on her shoulders and quickly turned her around. She smiled and said, "Alex." Then she embraced him. He was so stunned that he dropped to his knees on the ground. "Is it really you, Cleo?"
Her arms wrapped around him. "I'm sorry; I had no way of contacting you."
"Sis, you don't have an oxy-ex2. How can you still be alive?"
"I can't answer that. What happened with the dome?"
"I'm sorry, Cleo. Anelkisterlas was attacked and taken over by aliens; everyone was exiled here."
"Where's Matt?" Cleo burst out in tears. "Where's my Matt, Alex? Please, where's my Matt?"
"I'm sorry, sis; I'm sorry."
* * *
Cleo wiped her tears, then she said, "We need to take Anelkisterlas back?"
"How long will these domes support all these extra people?"
"We have to take Anelkisterlas back."
"Cleo, that's plain impossible. The League may be able to help us."
"That will take too long, Matt. I need to leave now."
"What are you talking about? Where are you going?"
"These aliens killed my Matt, and now I'm going to kill them."
"You're not making sense, Alex."
Fierce Storm, come now. I need to go. "I'm sorry, Alex, my ride is on the way."
"Ride? What ride?"
"If I need your help, I'll let you know." Cleo walked toward the entry port.
"Cleo, there's nowhere to go. You were injured; you need a doctor."
"He? Who? I don't see anyone."
"Up there, Alex," Cleo replied, pointing at the sky. "Fierce Storm comes."
Alex looked up "That speck in the sky is a fierce storm? I don't think you need to worry about that little cloud, Cleo."
Cleo walked into the entry port. "Be careful, Alex. Don't worry for me. I'll be safe."
"I can't; he's here."
* * *
Alex saw a dragon land and stared. "There is no such thing as dragons."
Cleo walked across the grass to the dragon then walked into its mouth. The dragon leapt into the air and flew away.
"Am I seeing things?"
"If you are, then so am I," the dome security officer replied.
"Don't speak of this to anyone."
"No one would believe me, anyway. I'll be silent."
Fierce Storm lay on the bank of the river, watching Cleo and listening. You should be called Fierce Beauty.
Cleo laughed. She had poured out her pain to Fierce Storm as she could to no one else. “Fierce Beauty? Maybe Fierce's Beauty would be better. I can never live with my people again, can I?”
I am sorry, Cleo. This bond has changed you, and we are your people now.
“There is no need to be sorry, but I still have one more thing to do for the people I once belonged to. Is there a way to go to the planet of 'floating isles'?”
We call it Sherico. There are not many mountains there, and we prefer mountains. Yes, there is way that we call 'between.' This is something to speak to the Queen about.
“Well, lazy bones, what are you waiting for? A personal invitation? Let's go see the Queen.”
* * *
Alex had assigned Portland to put a team together to address the various problems that the influx of people was causing. He still felt in a daze from his encounter with Cleo. He was relieved but also puzzled. He hoped she would return soon, but he had a feeling she might not and that made him sad.
He returned to reading the reports on the vid-screen. I'll be glad when things return to normal--whatever that is.
* * *
Cleo was nervous. This was her first time to meet Sun's Ray, and she didn't know what to expect. She entered the cave and could see well enough to keep from falling down. Her night vision was another gift from her bond. Still, it was scary in here, and she relaxed when she entered the Queen's chamber.
Sun's Ray had dark brown skin with yellow stripes, and her wings were silver.
“Uhh . . . hello . . . Queen.”
You can call me Sun's Ray.
“Uhh . . . thank you.”
Tell me what it is you need.
Cleo explained about the alien invaders and about the overcrowding of the domes. She concluded saying, “My people are not able to drive these aliens from Anelkisterlas. They need help. I don't know if there is anything you can do, and that is why I am here.”
This place you call Anelkisterlas we call Sherico. There is a way to get there quickly called the 'between,' which is a dangerous place for us. Fyrsouls can be lost there and never be seen again. I will ask for help for you, but I don't know how many will come.
“Thank you, Sun's Ray.”
Cleo was back in her cave with Fierce Storm. “I never did ask you if you would travel the 'between'.”
He chuckled. Where you go, I go. I can feel your need to go and I understand.
“Do you think anyone will come?”
I can hope, but I don't know.
“How long before we leave?”
The gate opens in less than half a hour, and it takes a quarter hour to get to the gate.
Red Petal and her mate, Rolling Rock, are here. Granite and his brother Avalanche have also arrived. We should go now, but I caution you, Cleo: the 'between' is dangerous for us--for you, it could mean death. Before we enter, I will shut my mouth. I cannot say how long the 'between' lasts so don't worry. Let's go.
Cleo worried for herself and for these few Fyrsouls who had chosen to come. She imagined that Alex would blow his top if he knew what she planned. She hoped one day to tell him of the 'between.'
“Fierce Storm, thank you. I have not said, 'thank you' enough.”
Shhhhhh, it is okay.
“But I need to say it. Your bond saved my life, and by saving my life, I am here now to, hopefully, save my people. Thanks is not enough.”
Hummm, you could be right, Cleo. You can help keep my cave clean, make the delicious treats that I love so much, and--
He laughed. I'll try to make a long list to keep you out of trouble.
“I'll show you trouble.”
I'm closing my mouth now. We are almost there.
* * *
Red Petal followed Fierce Storm into the 'between', with Rolling Rock at her side. She worried for him because her debt to Beau brought her here, and Rolling Rock came for her.
The sensation of the 'between' couldn't be easily described. It felt like floating. She couldn't feel Rolling Rock, which frightened her. That loss even though temporal became almost more than she could bear, then she realized that this feeling may have caused other Fyrsouls to falter and be lost in the 'between.' She clung to hope and continued forward.
Time here couldn't be measured. It could have been minutes, hours, or even days since they entered. This place made her so uneasy. She couldn't wait to escape.
* * *
Cleo could no longer feel her connection with Fierce Storm, and her pain and hurt felt soul deep, which surprised her. It made her want to weep for the loss of life and hope. Their bond could never be as other Fyrsouls. Yet, she needed him like she needed to breathe, and she would keep him safe. She'd never reached this depth of feeling before with anyone or anything. Even her bond with Matt couldn't match this depth. This 'between' terrified her, and she hoped it ended soon.
* * *
Fierce Storm emerged from the 'between' and sighed with relief as he felt Cleo again. She wept and shook with fright. Cleo, it's okay. I'm here and we are safe.
What took so long?
Oh, here comes Red Petal and Rolling Rock. There is Granite and Avalanche too.
We are high above Anelkisterlas; there are craft ahead. We need to take out the craft. Red Petal and Rolling Rock come in from the north. Granite take the South. Avalanche come from the east. I will come from the west. Be mindful of our positions in your attack.
* * *
"Upis one just lost their screens; Faris three as well; Regis five; Seta twelve; Wyer thirteen--Sir, their screens are gone."
"This makes no sense. Do a systems check."
"Admiral, Upis one exploded, and I'm receiving damage reports from Enis three and Opti seven. Faris three is gone, and damage reports come from Opti seven again. Enis three gone; Opti seven gone; Regis five gone; Damage report from Trevis ten, Yorge eleven, Byten six; Seta twelve gone; Yorge eleven gone; Dyer fourteen damaged and Rupe two damaged; Wyer thirteen gone; Dyer fourteen gone; Volne four damaged."
"Change position, immediately, to the other side of the planet," Admiral Faucet ordered. He turned to Wengla. "We need to formulate a strategy to defeat an invisible enemy. What should we do next?"
"Look at their attack pattern. Set the return fire to match their pattern."
"Yes, that would work with some additional considerations. When the next ship is attacked, we will return fire in a ten degree arc."
* * *
Fierce Storm said, We attack this time from a forty-five degree difference from last time. As soon as we unleash our fire, we need to move. They will not be caught by surprise this time.
* * *
Cleo sat in Fierce Storm's ear canal and was covered in goop. She worried for his safety. Her anger had caused her to act without considering the consequences. She'd put them all in danger.
Cleo, you are foolish for blaming yourself. These creatures are hurting your people, and you want to stop them. You could choose to do nothing and see even more people suffer.
Fierce Storm's words helped to calm her mind and consider what else she could have done. I'll have to take a bath every day for a month to get all this goop off me.
Fierce Storm chuckled. Maybe only a few weeks.
* * *
"Admiral, Berti four lost shields."
"Fire," Admiral Faucet ordered.
Wengla said, "Eight ships lost and five damaged. Sir, how many more ships are you willing to lose?"
"Wengla, we lost fewer ships. Our strategy is working. Change position, and we'll await their return."
* * *
Cleo could feel Fierce Storm's sadness. What happened?
Granite is gone.
I'm so sorry; it's my fault.
Shhhhh, we chose to come, knowing the risks, as did you. Honor his choice.
Tears streamed down Cleo's cheeks.
This next time we fly in among the ships and attack. Take care not to get too close.
* * *
"Admiral, it has been a long time since the last attack. Do you think they are all dead?"
"I doubt that. They are waiting to make us worry, and some of us seem to be falling victim to their strategy."
"Seyer five lost shields."
"Fire," Admiral Faucet commanded.
* * *
General Trista led the remaining ten ships away from the star system that had seemed so promising, but it was impossible to fight an invisible enemy.
* * *
Fierce Storm and Red Petal flew down toward Sherico. Rolling Rock, Granite, and Avalanche were all dead. He feared that Red Petal would not survive the loss of her mate.
You are hurt, Cleo said.
I have a damaged wing. It will heal in time.
Will I be able to breathe the air of Anelkisterlas?
Yes, as we are able so are you.
What are you going to do to get these invaders to leave?
Rock's Strength, a great leader of our people, who died a few years ago, told me once that silence can be a great weapon because it can cause an enemy to panic. Fear of the unknown is one of the greatest of all fears.
* * *
Forph floated with his friend Erg along a nice stream. He loved this perfect planet. It saddened him that his parents had not lived to see this day. He heard a sizzling sound and turned to see a smoldering pile of ashes where Erg had been floating. He looked all around and saw nothing. He floated quickly toward the nearest cave.
* * *
Seefa, Upis A's governor said, These fires from the sky grow worse by the day. We cannot live here. It's time to move to the clouded planet.
He sighed as his voice went out to all his people. He was sad because they had to leave this perfect place.
* * *
Cleo watched the flotilla of ships rising into the air then flying toward Nileon.
You are a brilliant strategist, Fierce Storm.
Thank you. I still fear for Red Petal; she cannot get past the loss of Rolling Rock.
Is there anything we can do?
There maybe one thing. I've known Fyrsouls in the past who have lost their mate then found another, but only a few Fyrsouls have chosen to do that.
You should ask her.
That could be dangerous for you.
We are bonded, and she would need to bond with both of us. You would be bonded to two Fyrsouls. I have never heard of that and do not know what consequences might follow. Her sorrow could be so great it could harm you.
But without help, she could die?
It's possible. She has not eaten since Rolling Rock's death.
I will ask her.
Are you sure?
Have you been listening to our talk?
You talk so loud, Cleo. It would be impossible not to hear. Fierce Storm is right; you could suffer damage from this idea of yours.
Fierce Storm needs a Fyrsoul mate, and you need a mate too. I'll be fine. Please, Red Petal, choose to live; Rolling Rock would approve.
* * *
Alex's PCC beeped. "Yes."
"Alex, please listen. The Fyrsouls have driven the alien ships from the system, and the aliens on Anelkisterlas have gone to Nileon. I am fine and will not return to the domes again. I will call from time to time. Do not tell anyone of the Fyrsouls. I love you. Bye."
The link closed and Alex stared at his PCC. Cleo said they needed to take Anelkisterlas back, but he had no idea she had the means to do it. "Be well, sis. Be well."
* * *
From Governor Alexander Weydom
To all the colonists of Anelkisterlas and Gemistal
The indigenous people of Gemistal chose to drive the aliens from our system and from Anelkisterlas. In return, they expect that Gemistal will remain LTS. If Gemistal refuses to comply, then we too will be driven from this system.
Alex said, "Transmit message." My gift to you Cleo and to the dragons.