8. Eye of the Storms
I. The Calm Before…
Day 32, 7am, Liberty Spaceport
“…And so, Mister Reyes, councilmen and woman, it gives me great pleasure, on behalf of all the Mayflower crew, to present to the colony these three additional shuttle craft as well as the light cargo bus. Along with the shuttle that Bart, Janie, and your son Mike took possession of earlier this week and that will be used to explore and survey the planet, the City of Liberty has a capable fleet of five ships to be used for whatever purposes you all desire.”
Captain Travis paused and then continued, “Additionally, you’ve noticed the tanks off to the left, we’ve given you a small Helium3 and Deuterium station so that you are not dependent upon making constant trips to the Mayflower to refuel. I believe this fulfills our obligation, one we’ve carried out gratefully, to the colony in exchange for, ahem, the land grants you’ve given us.”
It was probably the longest speech Travis had given in his life. Behind him stood Captain Monroe, Bugbee, Calver, and Natasi, as well as a few of the spacers’ robots. They would all be returning to the Mayflower later in the old lifeboat-shuttle the colony had been using prior, where it would be modified as the new ones had been.
While not a large crowd, the brief morning ceremony had drawn quite a few interested parties and some others — more likely just for the spectacle of four ships arriving and crowding the landing field. Each of the shuttles had a wingspan of 50 feet and could transport comfortably four people and their paraphernalia. The converted lifeboats also sported increased shielding and for defensive purposes had both a laser cannon and a 100mm projectile gun, swiped from the now decommissioned Lancer. It was hoped that the weapons would never be needed but there was always the possibility that the Goonies, that is, the United Nations World Government forces might show up one day.
Les Reye, the council leader for the city, drew himself up in self-inflated importance and said, “Captain Travis, on behalf of all of us in Liberty, I thank you for all that you and your spacer–er, crew have done for us, the supplies you’ve given us, and for these invaluable new ships.”
Unlike Travis, Reye was always comfortable as a public speaker, especially with a captive crowd as he had now and he was just getting warmed up. He said, “I foresee a day, not far off in the future, where with our combined energies, a glittering jewel of mankind’s efforts will result in a prosperous city spreading across the continent in peace and–”
“Oh brother!” Andrew Stuart muttered to his wife, Mariana, “Just thank the guy and let us get on with our work.”
When it was finally over, Andrew and Ash collared Travis and went over the new features of the ships, as well as the new — rather ugly but functional — small cargo carrier. Others in the crowd milled about and finally went about their tasks. Sightseeing new flying ships was all very nice but if there was ever to be ‘a prosperous city’ then there was a lot to do.
Day 32, 9am, Breakfast at Hanna’s
Travis, Historian, and Rocco sat at one of the tables in the nearly completed First Inn, wolfing down a hearty breakfast and coffee.
Looking around, Travis said, “I like it. When it’s finished, this will be quite a comfortable place to gather. You’ve even got lights!”
“Yes,” Historian said, “the wiring within the town is nearly complete from the hydroelectric damn. It runs up to the bridges and then colonists in outlying areas can pay to have the lines run to their homesteads when completed.”
“Speaking of which,” Travis said, “how’s yours coming?”
“Right now Rocco, BJ, and me have been concentrating on one small structure –mine– where we’ll all live as we build theirs. Just one story — I’m too old to go clambering up and down stairs — and we’ve got that framed out.”
“You’re not sleeping there, yet?”
“Oh, no,” Rocco said, swallowing home fries, “first of all, although we’re on the other side of the river, there’s still the rumbler, or whatever they’re calling that creature to think about. It’s perfectly safe during the day since it seems the critter is strictly nocturnal. Until it’s dealt with though…”
“We’ve pitched our tents along the river bank, as most have, here on the west side.” Historian added.
Travis said, “Must play havoc for security to patrol all those small tents.”
“Yes,” Historian replied, “but sleeping in a mass dorms of the big tents got rather old for everybody. Not to mention, some of the couples wanted some privacy to make, er…”
“Making babies is somewhat a priority around here.” Rocco said.
“Speaking of which,” Travis said with a leer towards Historian, “When Natasi finishes with the ships, she was hoping you might come up with us to the Mayflower for a few days.”
Blushing furiously and clearing his throat, Historian said, “Um, yes, well, there’s just so much work to do here.”
“Oh come on, Histy,” Rocco chimed in, “We can spare you for a couple. BJ and I and the robots will do just fine. Besides, you aren’t getting any younger!”
“I really haven’t the time. I still have to start on the chicken coops and pen. After all, Captain, you do want those chickens off your ship, don’t you?”
“Yes, most of them, anyway. But seriously,” Travis said, “having children is important if we’re to survive and frankly, with as limited a gene pool as we have, what with only 175 or so of us, even your –ahem– contribution to it is welcome.” Turning to Rocco he added, “And how are you making out?”
“I’ll excuse the pun. Let’s just say there might be something in the works.”
“He means Sinopa,” Historian added with a chuckle, “They seem to be getting on well…”
Rising with mug in hand, Travis said, “Anyone else need more coffee?”
“Afraid not,” Rocco said, “One cup to a customer per meal. Hanna’s rationing it as there isn’t that much left.”
“Oh my,” Travis said, sitting back down, “Can’t you grow the stuff?”
Historian said, “Not in this climate. Farther south, maybe. We are searching for alternatives, or I should say that one of the colonists, Kara is. She’s been doing yeoman’s work searching our surrounding areas for all things edible, cookable, smokable. In the meantime, we have to use our remaining coffee supplies sparingly.”
“Now that,” Travis said, “is a genuine crisis!”
About that, Travis was wrong.
Day 32, Evening, Mayflower Control Room
Travis was standing behind Larry Monroe who was seated at the view screens console in the control room, staring at a telecam shot of the planet below.
Looking over Monroe’s shoulder Travis said, “That’s one hell of a storm system approaching Liberty!”
“Yup,” Monroe said, “The bulk of it is still a day away to the west but they must already be covered in the outer cloud bands and getting some rain. Winds will be hell by tomorrow.”
“I suppose that’s what’s causing so much static on the wristpads down there.”
“Not sure about that, Glen,” Monroe said, “Communication and computer links between the colonists on their wristpads are controlled by their local area wideband. That’s the tower atop one of the windmills. That tower then transmits and receives to the satellites we placed in orbit when we first arrived. That’s how their shuttles would communicate with Liberty. Then, the satellites relay com with our own array here on The Rock if they’re trying to reach us but otherwise — look, I’m no weatherman but I doubt a cyclonic storm like that, still a couple hundred miles away from them, would interfere with their planetside communications.”
Travis said, “I noticed some static when I called Glenda here from the Space Port, too.”
“Wait a minute, Capt.,” Monroe said, keying into the console, “I think I know.”
After making some adjustments to one of the outer-hull cameras, an image of the star, their sun Alchibah came onto the screen before them. Monroe keyed in some filters and the problem became apparent.
“Look at that,” he said, “Big time sun spots and solar flares.”
“Shoot,” Travis said, “This could knock out all communications everywhere.”
“Well, we’re well protected within the hundreds of feet of rock here on the ship but the communications satellites, and certainly the planetside network are going down.”
Darren Calver had come into the control room and joined them. Picking up on what he’d just overheard he said, “Good thing the newly refurbished shuttles have strong shielding now. The mad scientists took off in the fifth one they’d worked on.”
“What?” Travis exclaimed, “They don’t know how to pilot those things.”
Calver said, “Natasi was with them. She’s pretty good. Anyway, they left a few hours ago, right after we returned from Liberty. Something about testing out the new weapon in the asteroid belt.”
Travis rolled his eyes and said, “I’m the commander around here. Why am I always the last to know what the hell is happening?”
Monroe said, “Well. . . It was your suggestion back after they almost blew up the lab.”
Monroe turned back to his console and grabbed a headset. Flicking a few knobs, he said, “Mayflower to Liberty. Mayflower to Liberty.”
Through the dense static a voice could be heard over the speaker but it was difficult to make out who it was.
Travis said, “You keyed all channels?”
Monroe replied, “Yes, I’m trying to reach anyone I can.”
From the speaker came, “. . .Andy here . . .difficult to make out your . . .”
Raising his voice, Monroe said, “Just listen. Large cyclonic storm headed your way. Also, solar storms knocking out communications. Do you copy?”
More static and then, “. . .please repeat . . .”
“I said there’s a large hurricane bearing down on you. Take all precautions. Solar flares also, disabling communications. Hurricane and solar storm upon you. Do you copy?”
Nothing but loud static issued from the loudspeaker.
Travis said, “Well, I could always take the shuttle down and warn them.”
Calver said, “‘Fraid not, Captain, the only one left is the old style we brought back with us. Without proper shields we’ll fry in the radiation the flares are putting out.”
“I’m sure I got through,” Monroe said, “Our transmitters are stronger than theirs.”
“Well,” said Travis with a shrug, “After all, it is just a big rain storm.”
He was wrong about that, too.
Late That Night, A Card Game in Histy’s Tent
“You double-dealing son of a gun!” Karl Nash said as he threw his cards onto the makeshift table in Histy’s tent.
“Heh,” Rocco said as he swept the cappi half-shells towards him. In place of having anything to represent credits, they were using the halves of the cappi shells from the dining room.
Histy’s personal tent, like everyone else’s, was about fifteen feet on a side. Crowded into it now were six determined poker players.
“My deal,” said Ash Andrews, “Now we’ll get some honest cards!”
Outside, the rain that had started early in the afternoon had picked up significantly. So had the wind which was now gusting to over thirty miles-per-hour.
Rising from his squatting position and shrugging on his poncho, Nash said, “Well, I’d love to stay and lose some more money but I’ve got to go check on my guards. I sure wish I could bring them some hot coffee. It really sucks out there.”
“Bring them some of Andy’s rot-gut.” Connor said, taking a sip himself.
“I’m sure they’d love it,” Nash said, “But it would set a bad precedent.”
After he left, they played several more hands. Then, after Connor left, Histy turned to Tim Watson and said, “So there’s nothing we can do to get our wristpads working?”
Watson was their expert in networks and said, “Nope. According to Andy, he thought Monroe said there was solar activity. It makes sense seeing as the disruption of our wifi transceiver fits with what huge bursts of electromagnetic bombardment would do. It also seems to have knocked out the com sats.”
Rocco said, “So we’ve got two storms for the price of one.”
Ash said, “We may pay a much greater price than you think. Gentlemen,” he said, rising, “Time for some shut-eye. Tomorrow morning I want to take a shuttle up and see just how big this weather we’re having is.”
After that the game broke up just as hail the size of marbles joined the pouring rain outside the tent.
Day 33, 9am, The Community Center
A small crowd had gathered in front of Les Reye’s desk, all of them talking at once.
One spidery looking man said, “What are you going to do about it?”
Reye looked in exasperation at Mariana sitting beside him and then shouted, “What the hell do you expect me to do about your crops?”
The spidery one said, “They’re ruined. The rain and hail have destroyed all the young crop saplings.”
“Yeah, so?” Reye snapped, “Complain to God ’cause I have no control over the weather.”
As if to punctuate that statement, from outside a crack was heard, followed by the peal of thunder. The wind was now blowing so hard as to make walking of any kind almost impossible. The pelting rain made for a constant din on the roof of the Community Center so that yelling had replaced talking just so anyone could be heard over the storm.
The door to the center opened with a slam and a young girl, perhaps 12-years-old, with drenched cloths and long tangled brown hair ran in screaming, “My mommy! Please help my mommy!”
Mariana jumped up and rushed over to the girl while saying, “Oh, sweatie, what is it? What’s happened? Where’s your mother?”
“My mommy. There’s a stick in her. Help her, please, out there.” the young girl pleaded.
En mass they charged out and fighting their way through the howling wind and rain, partway down the hill, in the muddy path, the girl led them to a women laying in a puddle. She was on her back, moaning, and all could clearly see a small broken-off branch of a tree protruding from the side of her lower abdomen, no doubt propelled there by the frantic winds.
“Oh my God.” One of the colonists muttered.
Another knelt down in the puddle and reached for the twisted limb but Mariana yelled, “NO! Out of the way. We can’t remove it here or she’ll bleed to death or who knows what else.”
She made to use her wristpad and then stopped in angry frustration and shouted, “Do any of you know where Doctor Kellerman is?” No response so she continued, “Find Doctor Kellerman and the nurses. You — check the bio-lab. You, check Hanna’s. You others, check all the tents. Run, everyone! Find him or any of the nurses and get them here right away, fast as you can. We can’t move her from here like this.”
And as the others fanned out in search, Mariana, Les Reyes, and the little girl kept a vigil in the pouring rain by the fallen woman. With a shuddering crash, lightning struck a tree less than 100 feet from where they huddled.
As if to make conversation while they waited, Reye said, “Did you know that lightning actually travels from the earth to the cloud?”
Mariana shook her head and said, “Yeah Les, that’s fracking thrilling.”
VI. Heavy Showers…
About that same time,
Halfway around the world
When the Mayflower had first traveled through the Alchiban solar system, William Bartlett had observed a very dense and dusty asteroid belt. It could have been predicted that in this system, some billion-years-younger than Earth’s system, there would be more frequent meteor strikes on the planets as the masses of metal and rock jostled, were perturbed, or otherwise wandered from their orbits. Several times the colonists had been treated to meteor showers at night.
About a hundred miles southwest of the southern continent, one such chunk a quarter-of-a-mile long plunged through the Planet Alchibah’s atmosphere with a sonic shock and struck the shallow ocean there with such force that it instantly vaporized and a brilliant geyser of melted fragments, steam, and plasma rushed back up into the sky. The displacement of the ocean water set in motion tsunamis 60 feet high in all directions, travelling at 500 miles per hour.
There were actually two sentient beings who, standing on four legs on a hill near the coast there, observed the remarkable display. Normally shy and retiring, they had been out enjoying the last of the warm evenings and marveling at the radiant Aurora emissions in the skies above them. Covered in black fur that was thickening up as winter approached, and taking no chances with predators, they each held a spear with one of their third pair of limbs.
Upon seeing the fireworks and the column of light reaching back to the sky, they quickly retreated into the cave where they lived, running down the corridors of it to join their neighbors. They missed being blown apart by the blast wave by only minutes.
VII. In the Eye of the…
Ash had just landed the shuttle back at Port. Several times he’d tried to lift off during the storm but the tumultuous winds had been too much even for the refurbished, newly powerful shuttle craft. Again and again the wind shears had slammed the shuttle back to the ground or buffeted it with such violence that even Ash decided to wait.
Finally, twenty minutes ago, almost as if someone had turned off a noisy video movie, all had calmed down. The rain stopped, the wind died down, and the sky cleared to a bright blue. Ash knew this was all only the “eye of the storm” and that shortly the tempest would return with a vengeance.
Taking the opportunity, he quickly launched and brought the shuttle well above the cyclone. His trip confirmed that this was indeed a massive system with a well defined low-pressure eye. Now back at port, he headed to the bio-lab nearby hoping to find Andy and report.
While Ash was knowledgeable about hurricanes, Chris Washington was not.
At 17-years-old, Chris had grown-up in Liverpool, England where storms such as this were rare events. He was a good looking youth with creamy milk-chocolate skin, a male fashion model’s face, and closely cropped hair, and had drawn the attentions of several of the teen girls in the colony. His mom was a light-skinned African-American who had married a dark-skinned Kenyan. Both parents were linguistics experts who had met at Oxford. Chris had no idea what he wanted to do with his life but having read science fiction books ravenously while growing up, he thought it was too cool that his parents had decided to join the expedition to a new world.
His parents had instructed him to remain in their tent with his robot and his pet devil, whom he’d named Georgie, while they went to assist others at the big dormitory tents. Of course, what teenage boy does anything his parents tells him to do? When the storm subsided and the sun came out, Chris and his robot, named Chroman, decided to do a bit of exploring and see what alien wiggly or creepy-crawly things had emerged in the downpours. Georgie the devil hitched a ride, sitting atop Chroman’s head. Chris had been helping the colonist Kara as she worked with the devils and he and Georgie had a pretty solid common understanding between them. The devils picked up English words quite quickly.
They headed up-river, walking carefully along the embankment above the swollen, muddy river and then crossed over the northern bridge. From there they headed south a ways, stopping by a field just north of a large group of boulders [g20] to rest. The sky was darkening rapidly with cloud cover and a chill wind had picked up. Georgie the devil seemed restless. Chris busied himself poking into pools of water, lifting up smaller stones to see what crawled away. It was now almost 3:30 in the afternoon.
From behind several of the larger boulders, a pair of eyes almost two inches in diameter followed the boy’s movements. They belonged to a very large and hungry creature. The metallic being with the boy gave off strange, non-food-like odors and, from prior experience, the owner of those large eyes knew that the pink leathery thing perched upon it was easily able to fly off into the sky and out of the grasp of the creature. So it focused upon the boy and began salivating.
The rain had begun to fall again and the wind grew stronger still. Thunder was heard in the distance.
VIII. In a Different Field:
Hibbes’ and Chandler’s Excellent Adventure
Dr. Hibbes said, “Natasi, let me drive this thing awhile.”
Dr. Chandler said, “Do you even know how to pilot a shuttle craft?”
Hibbes said, “I build spaceships.”
Chandler said, “Not quite the same thing. . .”
Natasi, never a stickler for rules or even common sense, shrugged her shoulders and said in her thick Russian accent, “Sure, vhy not? There no nothing to crash in out here anyvay.”
John Chandler shrugged himself and returned to fooling with the field generators he and Hibbes had installed on the shuttle to drive the plasma ball gun installed in one of the forward extensions of the craft.
Like a young schoolboy, Hibbes played with the controls of the ship, sending it veering first this way and then that. It was under full acceleration as they headed out towards the inner fringes of the asteroid field to try out their new weapon.
They had already shown in the physics laboratory on board the Mayflower that by creating a set of fields that distorted and punched a hole through the fabric of space, they could shoot a ball of plasma through that hole and, with spin applied to that ball by other fields, send it to it’s destination by letting it travel instantaneously through the space between universes or at least in the space outside their own. Then, as the plasma ball curved back into their own universe, it should impact and vaporize it’s target.
Chandler said, “I think that everything is set. Now all we need is an asteroid and we’ll shoot a plasma ball at it.”
Natasi spoke up, “You scientists. You need to give catchy name to dis thing ov yours. Dey call it marketin. Plasma Ball Gun. What kind ov stupid name is dat?”
Hibbes said, “How about Fire Storm?”
Chandler, somewhat green looking, said, “Doctor, would you please stop the acrobatics? You’re making me space sick.”
Hibbes said, “Yes, sorry about that. This is so much fun!”
Natasi, who grew up in space and was immune to any such motion sickness, replied with a giggle, “Call it Fireball. I like dat better much.”
Hibbes chuckled and said, “Fireball it is. Hey! Over there, about one thousand miles away — look at the size of that stone!”
Chandler peered into the radar screen and said, “Yes, that will do nicely.” He made some computations on his computer at the console he was now sitting at and then said, “Natasi, you’d better take over the piloting. We need a steady hand at the helm to aim this contraption.”
With a look of rejection, Hibbes reluctantly gave the pilot’s chair back to Natasi and began making his own computations on his wristpad and then punched in some settings on the control panel for the Fireball equipment.
Behind them, the sun Alchibah blazed in the dark of space and the planet where the colonists were was far behind them. Ahead, the start of the asteroid belt sparkled within a veil of dust. The stars all around them were like tiny spotlights. There was no atmosphere in space to make them twinkle.
Hibbes said, “Ready here, spin trajectory fields computed and laid in.”
Chandler said, “Plasma gun generators ready.”
Hibbes said, “Here we go. Ten . . . nine . . . eight –”
Natasi said, “Oh just shoot dat damn thing!”
Hibbes hit the fire button. All the stars in the universe winked out. The asteroid field disappeared. The Alchiban sun behind them was gone. Looking out of the huge zirconium window ports of the shuttle, there was total darkness. It was entirely black.
“Oh my.” said Hibbes rather flatly.
Chandler looked at the radar screen, which also showed — nothing, anywhere.
“Vat happened?” Natasi asked, “Where did universe go?”
Chandler said, “Well. Well! I’d be hesitant to venture a guess but I’d say that somehow we followed the fireball right on out of our universe and into the nothingness beyond.”
Natasi said, “Dat sound like guess to me. Where are ve now?”
Hibbes studied his figures and the console and then said, “It would appear, Doctor, that you are correct. We have left the known universe and are now outside of it.”
“How ve goin to get back in de universe?”
Hibbes and Chandler went into deep consultation to figure that out.
Debris was flying through the air, making deadly projectiles launched by the 70 mile per hour winds. Travel by foot was almost impossible but many of the colonists were busy carrying injured people to the hospital in the bio-lab which was already taking on the look of an Army MASH unit in a battle field. That was perhaps fitting since Liberty itself looked like a war zone. There were lightning strikes arriving every few seconds causing an almost constant booming as of cannon being fired.
There was fallen debris everywhere. Some of the structures that had started going up were now in ruins. It was late in the day and what little light had filtered through the storm clouds was fading fast. The lights strung on poles in the town had miraculously remained on because most of the wiring Andy’s crews had laid out was buried underground. Still, several of the poles had come down.
Meanwhile . . .
Connor, Nash, and Kara raced through the pelting rain and roaring wind and finally reached the Washington’s tent just about the same time that Harry and Linda Washington did.
“No sign of your son anywhere.” Connor said, out of breath, as they gathered within the small tent that was trembling in the wind.
“I can’t understand why he’d disobey us,” Linda said, “He’s always been such a good, quiet boy.”
“At least he appears to have taken his robot with him.” his father said.
“We’ll keep an eye out, Mister and Mrs. Washington,” said Nash, “But there are too many other problems right now that we have to attend to.”
The flap of the tent came undone and they all turned as distant screams were heard. Another guard came dashing in and said, “Help. The northern dormitory tent has come down. There are dozens of people trapped under it.”
“Dammit, Burke,” Nash said, “I thought you guys had gotten everyone up to the Center or to Hanna’s.”
“Some of them wouldn’t leave their possessions behind.”
Connor, Kara, and Burke raced out after Nash and the Washingtons stared at each other in nervous fear. Harry hugged his wife to him and said, “We need to get to the Community Center. It’s not safe here. This tent is sure to go like the others.”
She said, “I have to wait here for him — in case he comes back here looking for us.”
He hugged her tighter and soothingly said, “Don’t worry, honey, I’m sure Chris is just holed-up somewhere to get out of the rain.”
X. Holed-Up Somewhere
A Half Mile to the North
When the rain and wind had gotten too bad, Chris and Chroman started back towards the northern bridge at a run. The creature followed them. It was still young and wary and didn’t know much of anything about these new beings. It did know, though, that it was hungry. The sounds it made as it trotted behind the boy and his robot were masked by the howling wind and thunder. It was now only about 200 yards behind them.
Chris and Chroman, with Georgie the devil still clinging onto the robot’s head for dear life with it’s sharp talons, started across the bridge. Near the other side, Georgie suddenly let out a cry of “Garga. Garga!”
Chris looked back behind him and at that moment a multiple flash of lightning illuminated the darkening gloom and at the far end he saw the hideous creature, almost 15 feet long, loping onto the bridge in pursuit of them.
“Ohhh Mannn,” Chris muttered and then shouted, “Run Chroman. Come on!”
Chris raced west on the other bank of the now raging river. There was a cave near here, up a hill aways (f18) if he could just reach it. The robot Chroman was no where near as fast as the boy and had fallen behind. Georgie, sensing what was about to happen, leapt off of him and, struggling in the screaming wind, reached Chris, who grabbed him and held him tight as he ran for all he was worth toward the cave.
The monster was running now, too, and caught up to R. Chroman. With it’s huge clawed paws, it picked the mechanical man up, looked it over carefully, and having decided that Chroman was definitely not edible, smashed it down on the ground. The glow in Chroman’s eyes went out but while his circuitry had died, it had not been in vain. The time the monster had spent on the tin man was just sufficient for Chris to reach the cave. He didn’t have a flashlight with him but he plunged inwards anyway as frequent bursts of lightning provided occasional illumination.
The mouth of the cave was about 20 feet wide and there was a large chamber just inside. Chris noticed that towards the back of the cavern, there was a narrow passage. Big enough for him but too small for the monster. He followed the crack back, wedged himself into it. It ended about ten feet back. It was pitch black save for occasional distant flashes that made their way to where he was.
He heard a low, guttural growl and knew that the monster was now in the cavern prowling around. It didn’t take long for it to detect the boy’s scent and the monster pressed himself against the narrow opening of the passage Chris was hiding in.
Chris almost gagged as the odor of the creature reached him in the tiny space. There was no light but he could hear scraping and the falling of small rocks as the monster tried to reach into the crack with it’s clawed hand. It was a long arm and Chris could even feel the wind it made as the monster frantically tried to reach it’s meal.
It bellowed, a huge roar of rage when it realized it couldn’t reach the being it wanted to eat. It backed away from the small passage opening, the crack in the wall at the back of the cavern and examined it’s problem. It’s sight was far better than it’s prey’s.
Chris was still clutching Georgie to him. Georgie was silent but was trembling almost as much as Chris was. While the creature out in the cavern sat down to think, Chris tried to think himself about what he should do now. Then he had it.
“Georgie,” he said, “Fly out, fly up over Garga and out. Get help. Fly over Garga, fly out, get help. Tell others, ‘Chris,trapped, cave, Monster.’ Tell others, ‘Help, Chris, trapped, cave, Monster.’ Can you do that?”
At the sound of Chris speaking, the creature bellowed again, peered into the crack where he was hiding, gave another roar of anger, and sat back down several feet away. It settled down to a waiting game.
That was all the opportunity the devil needed. It had crept up to the entrance of the crack they were trapped in, saw it’s chance, flew straight up in the cavern, and then out of the cave itself. The monster glanced at the devil with baleful eyes, dismissed it as unworthy, and resumed it’s vigil.
XI. Stuck in the Middle
Hibbes and Chandler had been muttering furiously amonst themselves as they ran computations and theories past each other.
In some frustration, Natasi finally said, “Look here, doctor guyz, I stop engines and figure bearings.”
“No!” Hibbes exclaimed, “Don’t turn the engines off, keep us moving.”
“What you mean, ‘keep moving,’ ve no goin no place.”
“We have a theory,” Chandler said, “It’s a weird one but it might work.”
“Ya, so vat is it?” Natasi said with some skepticism.
Hibbes said, “We didn’t see the fireball when we followed it through the fabric, or wall if you will, of the universe, to outside of it as we seem to be.”
“Just as, in the lab on board the ship,” he continued, “The fireball passed into this zone between universes and then, because of it’s spin, it curved back through that wall to our own universe.”
“Like I say, so vat?”
“So, it’s hard to put this into words, our theory, to a non-physicist.”
“Try, smarty-guy,” Natasi said sarcastically to Hibbes.
“Right. There are no laws, no laws of physics, here in this — for lack of a better phrase, — not-universe. A physical universe, ours anyway, has rules but this non-universe doesn’t.” He looked at Chandler who gave him an encouraging nod.
He continued, “The fireball had a purpose programmed into it by the spin imparted to it by our coils so it went where it was supposed to go, through here — the not-universe, — and then back into ours to complete it’s mission, presumably to blow up the asteroid.”
He paused a moment to think about what he was going to say. Then he said, “Nothing can exist in this place because there are no rules here to make existence possible. How can atoms and molecules and metals and humans exist if there’s nothing governing energy, mass, particles, what have you.”
“Yet ve are here, talking at each other,” Natasi said.
“Yes, here we are anyway and the only thing Chandler and I can come up with is that because we have a purpose, we think, act, calculate, and the shuttle has a purpose — it’s engines are running, we exist–”
“Sort of like that old philosophy from the last century,” Chandler broke in, “I think, therefor I am.”
“Exactly,” Hibbes said enthusiastically, “The only thing keeping us from vanishing into non-existence is our belief that we still exist. As long as we have a purpose, we’re here in this non-universe.”
Natasi stared at him a moment with a look of incredulity and then said, “Sounds like a bunch of cow-poo to me.”
“Nonetheless,” Chandler said, “It’s the only thing that makes sense. And if we’re correct, then just as the fireball re-entered the regular cosmos we came from, we can too if we have the same purpose as it did.”
“Natasi,” Hibbes said, “Set a course for one hundred miles from the Mayflower.”
“You crazy man. How I do that? Vere is Mayflower?”
“It doesn’t matter! Set any old course, Without the rules of physics here, it doesn’t matter where we actually point ourselves. We’ll go where we intend to go! Make up any settings that you want but all of us must think those settings are going to take us to a spot one hundred miles from the Mayflower. Not only that, since time doesn’t exist either, we should appear back in our universe at the exact instant we left it. Don’t think of the Mayflower itself or we’re likely to materialize, to re-enter our universe within one of the walls of the ship itself. We all need to just think that we are now traveling to a spot one hundred miles from the ship.”
“Dis is crazy.”
“Just do it! Punch in some numbers and let’s get back home.”
Remarkably, that’s exactly what happened. In the blink of an eye they were suddenly back in the known universe traveling at high speed towards the Mayflower, Natasi quickly slowed the engines and brought the shuttle into the bay safely.
Later, in the lounge where they were all slugging down more than a few stiff drinks, Travis joined them and said, “So how was your little adventure?”
Hibbes said, “Fine, Captain, very instructive.”
“You know,” Travis said, “Monroe followed you guys with the optical telescope. He had no problem but then your craft suddenly vanished, there was an explosion as an asteroid blew up, and then right away, there you were just outside our ship. Where the heck did you guys go, anyway?”
Hibbes said simply, “We went nowhere, Captain.”
“Hmphm. Fine, don’t tell me. . .”
XII. When It Rains, it…
Day 33, 7:20pm, Liberty
The stinging rain was now traveling in horizontal sheets, blown by the screeching, 90 mile per hour winds. Inside both the Community Center and Hanna’s First Inn, colonists shivered and cowered from the raging fury of the storm outside. To the south, in the hospital, nurses worked triage and an exhausted Dr. Kellerman worked non-stop repairing broken bones, punctured skin and organs, and in some cases just plain stress induced mental trauma.
Just about then, the tidal wave of the tsunami reached the coast of their continent where they were, raced into the bay and up the river clear to the falls. By now, it’s height had diminished somewhat to only 25 feet high but with the river already almost overflowing it’s banks, all low lying areas in town were flooded. All of the individual tents that had been set up along the river bank were swept away as the waters finally retreated. Most of them had been empty but one had not been. Four people who had not evacuated were drowned in the roiling waters. Many of the possessions that had been in those tents, including those of Historian and Rocco, were also consumed in the flood waters.
Fortunately, the Center, the First Inn, the bio-lab and hospital, all were on higher ground and were spared. Histy, Rocco, as well as the Washingtons were in the Inn. Rocco had finally convinced them to give up their vigil in their tent.
Unfortunately, part of the hill the windmills had been perched on collapsed in a wall of mud that raced down to the space port — already sitting in four feet of water — and partially buried all of the shuttles and the cargo bus. The windmills were also destroyed.
The door to the outer room of the bio-lab was open, despite the storm, so that the light from inside could help guide any who were seeking the hospital out.
One such critter was and nearly dead from exhaustion, Georgie the devil finally found his way into the lab. Joe Fortson was there, having just helped carry a wounded colonist in.
Georgie faithfully repeated what he had been told to say, “Help. Chris, trapped, cave, monster.” He said it over again three times and then dragged himself over to a corner and fell into a slumber.
Sally Kellerman was also there and said, “That must be the Washington’s boy.”
Joe made to use his wristpad and then, as so many others had, realized it wasn’t working as a communicator anymore. He said, “Sally, that’s got to be the rumbler that’s got him pinned in the cave. I’ve got to find Nash, Andy and Sinopa.”
At that moment, a young woman staggered in, her clothing torn. There was a cut on her neck and she was weeping.
Sally rushed to her and said, “There, there, what’s the matter?”
The woman said with a sob, “I’ve just been raped.”
Joe said, “What’s your name?”
She said, “Kathy Osborne… I was just leaving the porta-bathrooms, coming out of the stall, when he. . .” She sobbed some more.
Sally said, “Oh you poor dear. Sit down over here.”
Joe said, “What’s the name of the guy who did this to you?”
Kathy said, “I don’t know. I was so frightened and he came out of one of the other stalls and grabbed me and. . .and. . .right there on the floor. . .He had a knife to my throat.”
To the guard, Joe said, “Take over here. Try to get a description, I’ve got to round up people to rescue the Washington boy.”
Just then one of the guards came dashing in and said, “Trouble. The rumbler has just struck again. It rushed out of the forest and grabbed Burke who was trying to save some of the equipment in the southern dormitory tent. He tore Burke’s head off and carried the body back into the forest. I got off a few shots at it but it never slowed down.”
Sally said, “That means there’s two of them.”
Another colonist there said, “I thought they were territorial?”
Joe said, “I guess they are but now that we’ve strung bridges across the river, those territories are connected. We need help. The Washington kid is first on the list.”
Outside, the storm raged on.
–From The History of Colony: Alchibah
3rd Edition, 2088
Author: The Historian