(Author’s note)… Things are really heating up. I mean, if you haven’t read the first three novels in my action/humor science fiction series: The Otherwhere Chronicles, you might be a little confused… and if you haven’t read the first 16 chapters of this one, you are probably completely lost… but read it anyway.
“It’s a Shann,” said Frodo, who had come up to see what they were looking at. He had very good eyes.
“I have never seen one, but I agree it is indeed a Shann,” confirmed the General. “But I thought they would be bigger than that.”
“It’s a baby,” said Arthur, suddenly aware why the Giant Flying Pickles had been too frightened to help him lately. “We need to set it free,” he continued firmly. He was hoping this was the only leverage Fahh had over the Shann. With the baby Shann’s freedom he should be able to use the memory stone again, at the very least. The Pickles might be able to help in more direct ways as well.
Fortunately, they had the skills for boarding an enemy vessel down to a science, and this vessel was not tearing along at faster than light speed. Arthur beamed a bug inside the living section of the bizarre space cage. They ran into one slight problem at that point. The drone ended up materializing in an unoccupied room, and it couldn’t open doors. Arthur figured the room, which looked, on the small control panel screen, to be a laboratory, would make a good jumping off point for a mini invasion of his own.
He sent Number Five the robot over first in case anyone showed up while he, Ooox, and a couple of Rubar’s boys beamed over. They all arrived with no interruptions. The two Reavers were holding vortex energy weapons as was Arthur. Number Five had a full load of the electro-net projectiles. Arthur was not a particularly violent person, but honestly, he was rather looking forward to testing the vortex gun on some Keelar if he was forced to. The Reavers also carried their needle assault guns slung over their shoulders, and of course, Number Five had a formidable array of very lethal weapons.
Arthur opened the door while the two Reavers and the robot covered him. There was a hallway outside, but no one was in sight. They had already decided to use the bug drone as a scout, controlled by Frodo back on the spy ship. They kept in contact by using the comm system built into Number Five, keeping the line back to the ship open. In their own universe Arthur would have used his phone, boosted by the Hub’s magical ability to send signals anywhere, but in this reality, Fahh owned all the cross-space comm lines.
Frodo flew the little surveillance drone down the hall, watching its progress on the control screen on the spy ship, and reporting back to Arthur, his voice coming out of the robot replacing Izalie’s delightfully cute tones. The system worked remarkably well. “I’m passing some closed doors now, on either side of the hall. I don’t see anyone at all. Oh, wait, there’s an open door and the end of the hall. I see lights. I’m flying towards it now,” went Frodo’s running dialog, like an announcer at a sporting event.
Meanwhile, Arthur and his boarding crew made sure the other end of the hall stayed clear and that no doors opened unexpectedly.
Frodo’s voice rose in excitement. “There are three big, hairy aliens working in a bigger laboratory. They seem to be unarmed. I see no Keelar guards so far.”
Arthur left one Reaver to guard the hall and led the other Reaver, Number Five, and Ooox down the hall after the bug. He saw the three aliens, all with their backs to him. They looked very familiar somehow. He cleared his throat politely to get their attention.
The three hairy, moss-green individuals turned around. They all said something at the same time, but Arthur didn’t know what it was. As he struggled to remember where he had seen these aliens before, he turned up the volume on his wrist translator. “He is coming, he is coming,” chanted the three orangutan-like aliens, and then Arthur remembered. He had given a dollar to one of these creatures on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, taking it for a mentally diminished vagrant.
“Are you he who comes to free us?” asked the largest of the ape-beings, who was perhaps four-and-a-half-feet-tall.
“Well, that depends on who you are, I guess,” answered Arthur carefully.
“We,” replied the spokesman, “are the Protek. I am Fawsanth, and these,” he said, indicating the other two, “are Selthuth and Turthis, my assistants.”
“I have indeed come to free you,” said Arthur, “but I need to know where the rest of your people are.”
“Right over there,” said the unusual scientist, pointing at a wall of shiny metal doors. Arthur’s confusion must have been obvious, for the Protek continued. “There are two million fertilized eggs in those stasis field cabinets. We three are all that lived through the Keelar war.”
“But I have met one of your kind,” Arthur insisted, “back in our dimension.”
“Oh, so he made it, did he?” said Fawsanth in amazement. “We had no way to know where he would end up. We sent him through the deceased Shann with no beacon to guide him.”
Arthur knew he couldn’t afford to get distracted. “We need to free the Shann that is locked up in this contraption. Can you help us?”
“Gladly,” replied the Protek, “but there is a key that is needed to initiate the unlocking sequence.”
“And where is this key?” asked Arthur reluctantly.
“The Doraimee keeps it near him,” came the reply.
Arthur responded with a malevolent grin. “Good, I was planning on paying him a visit anyway.”
A door at the far end of the lab slid open and in walked a Keelar. It was impossible to say who was the most surprised. The Keelar soldier started to reach for the rifle slung to his back but Arthur’s martial art mastery made his reactions blazingly fast. He had the vortex gun aimed and fired before the Keelar’s hands had moved an inch. He even beat the Reaver mercenary and the robot to the draw, he noticed proudly.
The vortex energy weapon had no kick at all. Arthur watched the neon-red cone produced by the gun expand outwards, filled with yellow bolts of lightening. The air crackled and his hair stood on end. Flame colored sparks danced around the Keelar who immediately took off like a bottle rocket as his four legs spasmed. There was a funny smell in the air as if a thunder storm had just passed. Arthur thought it strange that a weapon designed to incapacitate should look so deadly when being used.
The Reaver, whose name was Pabo, darted over to check on the Keelar. He turned and said over his shoulder, “Sir, you should take a look at this.”
Arthur strode across the room to see what was so interesting. And it turned out to be well worth the trip. The Keelar hadn’t been alone. In fact, he was the head of a column of Keelar, twenty or so, who had mostly been out of sight in the hallway beyond the door. Now, all twenty Keelar were lying in the hall in various uncomfortable positions. Arthur did a quick check and determined they were all still breathing. “I couldn’t have hit all of them with one shot,” Arthur decided aloud.
“I think the metal floor picked up the electrical charge,” said Pabo cheerfully. “The little bastards have no insulation on their feet.” The Reaver chuckled gleefully. You have to admire the Reaver enthusiasm for their chosen line of work.
“I wish we could send that information to the fleet, but hopefully they won’t need it, or will figure it out for themselves if they do,” Arthur considered. He sent the Reaver and the robot to check out the hallway the Keelar had been using. They were back in minutes with more interesting news. “We found eight more of the enemy, all immobilized, in a couple of rooms at the end of the hall,” the Reaver reported. A quick check in the other direction found six more Keelar, all unconscious.
Arthur considered his options. His original plan had been to use the tried and true method to get down to the planet. Send bug drones, find a quiet place and then beam down a small force. But now he had an idea that would be more direct. It could also be more dangerous, but perhaps not.
He turned to the head Protek scientist. There were many questions he wanted to ask, such as who this mysterious ‘he’ who was coming was. But one question needed to be answered before all others. “Would Fahh grant you an audience if there were some sort of emergency with the equipment that holds the Shann prisoner?”
“I suppose he would,” the translator said the Protek said. The Protek seemed very unhappy with the turn this conversation had taken.
Arthur put a hand on the furry shoulder. “Don’t worry, I never ask anyone to do anything that I am not willing to do myself.” And he gave the green scientist a friendly, reassuring smile.
Just minutes later, after a little coaching from Arthur, Fawsanth was standing before the comm screen trying to make a person to person, or Protek to Keelar call, if you would rather. After negotiating a maze of Ministers, the red-painted Doraimee appeared on the screen. Once again Arthur turned down the volume on the translator as he held it to his ear and listened out of sight of the camera.
“What you want, science brain?” the Doraimee demanded irritably “I got troubles. This has better be very big problem.”
The Protek launched into a very scientific explanation of a nonexistent problem with the Shann prison containment field.
“No big words, science brain fool!” screamed the Doraimee. “Talk like grownup.” The Keelar leader seemed not to see the inherent contradiction in these statements.
“I must speak with you immediately, My Lord, about the prisoner. I am afraid it will escape if we do not act quickly,” said the Protek, bravely standing up to the Doraimee’s anger. “Or worse yet, it might die.”
This shook up Fahh, but he was as stubborn as he was red. “Just fix broken thingy, science brain. No excuse, just fix.”
But Fawsanth was a lot smarter than Fahh, which I admit is not an overly-complimentary comparison. He tried a new method of attack. “I fear the machinery has been sabotaged, Great Doraimee. I suspect one of my helpers is a traitor. And he may have had help from one of your soldiers. Perhaps even the troop leader himself.” The Protek was whispering now, peering about as if afraid of being overheard.
I hope they open a Shakespearean theatre in this universe, Arthur thought, because it is chock-full of good actors.
The Doraimee paused to consider this new information One thing most tyrants have in common is a propensity for seeing treason around every corner. “Yes, yes, I send ship for you, you just wait,” the Doraimee relented at last.
Arthur had warned the scientist against letting this happen. “No, Great One, I fear my life is in danger. Please let me transport down right now, as soon as I can make the arrangements, I beg of you.”
“Very well, science brain,” said the Doraimee cagily. “You come down, see your beloved Doraimee that much sooner.” The Emperor signed off.
Arthur didn’t like the crafty look that had come over Fahh’s face at the end, not one little bit.