(From the Space Opera serial “Androids’ do indeed Dream about Heaven, Hell, Dragons and other things”)
For the past eighteen months, Captain Zachariah P. Zestabar’s fleet of Space Raiders was causing havoc amongst the asteroid mines of the Outworlds. The Pirates’ precision raids were strategically brilliant, giving fits to those who had to defend against it and their superior weaponry were no match for the inadequate defense capabilities of the Mining Stations. The space lanes too, were no longer safe, as vital shipments of ore, minerals and other natural resources to the Jeweled Worlds were hijacked as well, leaving those worlds deprived of materiel’s that were vital to their economies and infrastructure. The Governors of the Outworlds pleaded, no demanded, that the Federation deploy a squad of Battlestars, and a few divisions of Ground Troops to protect the mines and space lanes. The situation was dire, the pirates needed to be crushed and order needed to be restored.
The Solaris Federation, the Consortium that governed the Jeweled Worlds and served as Overlords to the Outworlds, could only send token war fleets to guard the space lanes and mines against this piracy. They were needed to police their own worlds. Their worlds were in a state of turmoil. Many of the local governments were rising against the stranglehold that the Solaris Federation had on free trade, commerce and governance. It appeared that a new group of very effective leaders took control of the local governments and were acting in concert with each other. They formed a Political and Military action group of their own which was slowly weakening the iron grip that held the Solaris Federation together. They called themselves the Angerobota Republic, a growing power and threat that caught the federation by surprise. No Battlestars or divisions of ground troops would be sent to the Outlands, one Battle Cruiser and a small fleet of twelve Gunships is all they would receive. Their message was loud and clear, the out-worlds needed to fend for themselves.
Falana Q. Festerbuell, Captain Zestabar’s No. 2, was busy overseeing the shipbuilding operations on the twenty-one space stations and ports surrounding Paladin. She was quite content to stay behind running the day to day operations of the space facilities, and the shipping and building complexes on the ground, while her Captain was in space with a fleet of over a hundred ships, acquiring the vital resources that they needed by pirating, smuggling, and any other means that were necessary. She was quite proud that they were nearly completed on the construction of their first five Battlestars. Soon they would have a fleet equal to and even more formidable than that of the fleets that were under the control of the Solaris Federation. In the coming months the Cyhuriod Nation of Angerdean, which now controlled the Outworld Planet of Paladin, will makes it move to take control of the remaining twelve worlds that were outside the direct control of that nefarious Foundation. The Outworlds will soon be theirs.
Zachariah always said she was the brains to his brawn; he did all the heavy lifting while she engineered how it was to be done. For the past seventy five years their partnership worked out just fine, he getting all the glory while she reaped the rewards. They were lovers, friends, and partners, and with him being cyborg and she an enhanced human, Falana hoped it would last another seventy five. She was about to turn in for the night when her communication chip that was embedded deep in her ear canals gave her a chirp. It was her Captain.
Hey Fal, how’s it going. I know it’s past your bedtime but I need to update you on a few things that are happening out here” said the familiar voice that still sent little tickles through her heart. “We have a little situation concerning one of the mining stations. So far six of my scouting ships have disappeared into that rock. All of my surveillance droids have gone dead as well. Something strange is going on down there and it may pose a threat to us. I’m going down there myself to get to the bottom of this little mystery. If you don’t hear from me in twelve hours, send in the battle cruisers to rescue my cyborg ass.”
Falana’s stomach did a flip flop. She knew every little nuance and inflection of his voice, and it told her that he was concerned and a tiny bit afraid. Something bad was happening down there and he was jumping into the frying pan to find out what. She felt the tears welling up in her eyes as she said, “for God’s sake Zesty can’t you send in somebody else. Send in Drakle, he’s as fearless and stupid as you. Why risk your life when you have others to do that for you.” She knew his answer before he even said it.
She felt his weary smile as he said, “It’s because if I can risk my crews lives, willy-nilly, they also need to know that I will risk mine as well. You know that, besides I feel there is big treasure down there. I can smell and taste it. I’m going dark in a few minutes; don’t forget to send in the cruisers if you don’t hear from me, and if you find me dead than blow this rock to dust. Be strong, my human tea cup, I’ll only allow you to kill this cyborg bastard, the universe loves incorrigible scoundrels. Love you to bits.” With those last words he clicked off. There would be no sleep for her this night…
Captain Zestabar saluted back and smiled. His communications officer was right, any sane and competent commander would either cut and run or wait for a large contingent of reinforcements as backup or just blow the stinking place up. But he wasn’t a sane and competent commander; he was a thieving and booty loving pirate. His No 2 was the sane and competent one while he was the swashbuckling adventurer and risk taker. If his three hundred years of living taught him anything it was always listen to your gut, and his gut told him that there was treasure down there. Besides he loved a good mystery. He switched on the comm system and addressed his entire crew.
“We’re going in cold. I know it’s foolhardy, bordering on stupidly, but I believe the risk is worth it. I know you’re all thinking what I’ve pounded into your brains for years about ‘an ill informed pirate is a dead pirate’ and for the most part that‘s true, but sometimes you just have to go against the grain, and that time is now. Lock and load all weapons, stay alert and may the gods have mercy on our souls or whatever their calling it these days…”
Zestabar was flushed with excitement, and a tad alarmed by what he was seeing. Everything here was for the taking, all the mining equipment, tons of processed Verillium, and other processed ores, one hell of a booty. A treasure any pirate would be proud of. But what happened here was one hell of a mystery as well, and a very spooky one at that. No destruction of property just a lot of biological and synthetic blood. No bones, no guts, just blood. He found his scout ships but the pilots were gone. His surveillance bots were wiped clean. All the communication and holographic visual resources and non- sentient quantum computers were still functioning but all the information of the last few days was wiped clean as well. All the sentient mainframes were fried. Only the non- conscious robots were left intact. A pattern was taking shape. He decided to head back to the ship and have a face to face with his No 2 on the Vid link concerning his findings when he heard screaming and weapon fire coming from one of the Vid Links that were tapped into the entire complex. They were under attack.
Jonrod felt the earth underneath him give way. All around him the ground was shimmering and rippling, it reminded him of a desert mirage. He felt extreme heat and in seconds his body was covered in lava or a fire-rock like substance. His screams were deafening as his eyeballs popped out of his sockets and his body melted into fleshy goo. The rest of his squad panicked running in all directions. They shot their weapons randomly shooting anything that moved. Fifteen crewmen suffered the same fate as Jonrod. Five of the crewman were a little luckier and made it to the elevator shaft that would hopefully lead them back topside. Just as it started it ended. The ground solidified and the carnage stopped. But a low hum, a kind of buzzing sound, like what you would hear from a hive of bees, or a flock of humming birds, resonated throughout the entire complex.
The Captain stared in horror as he saw men and women that served under him, melt and burst apart before his eyes. He was sickened by the carnage and felt rage at this unknown enemy. He felt a prickle in his gut. Who or what was directing these attacks? The vidcam that he was watching was labeled level 49. It was the only vidcam running amongst the hundreds in the room. Someone or something wanted him to view the slaughter. Why? Too scare him? Warn him? He remembered reading one of the logs that was left intact about that level. It’s where all the weirdness started. And that damn humming sound, he realized, wasn’t just a hum, but a voice.
He finally realized what was happening. Something down deep in the mines on level 49 was trying to communicate with him. Whatever was down there was one powerful mother fucker. Part of him wanted to gather up his crew, get on the ship and blow this place into the pits of hell. But curiosity and sanity trumped his fear and need for revenge. He vidlinked his science officer, Felonious Feral, a 4.1 super android, “Mr Feral, gather a crew together and meet me at the entrance to the mines, this is a first contact situation. Also that humming is some kind of language, show me what you’re made of and have a rudimentary translation for me as quick as possible.”
“Stand down Commander!” said an all too familiar voice in her ear. “The situation has been clarified and the threat has been averted. I’m on my way to you now and I’ll explain everything face to face. You wouldn’t believe me if you didn’t look me square in the eyes to see if I was telling the truth or if I was mad as a loon,” said the somewhat bemused and bewildered voice of her Captain…
As Zestabar and Falana lay exhausted in their bed from their lovemaking session, Falana let out a sigh, she still was coming to grips with the situation. Only Barabbas’s, Juliana, herself and of course Zestabar and the team that encountered the Entity were privy to iTs actual identity. It was mind boggling to say the least. If she hadn’t met and had that mindshare thing with iT, there was no way she would fully believe it. This thing, this shell of a god, came out of creation myths, legends and fairytales. iTs name, no, Her name kept racing through her head. Gaia, Gaia, Gaia, Holy Shit! Mother Nature Herself…
Stay tuned for “Dancing Shadows Hidden in Mist and Storm”