Read Books 1 & 2 at: Deep Sky Stories
Chapter 2 - The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Late autumn evenings, cool and crisp with fallen leaves—rustling along gravel pathways under restless breezes, those are the kinds of days that may be described by many people as they notice the waning days of that season. Winter is not far off and each new day brings either more rain or a colder turn in the air.
For many children, autumn can mean a time of change and excitement as they look forward with keen anticipation to the cool, spooky evenings leading up to their favorite night of all: Halloween. It is a night of ghouls, goblins, monsters... and ghosts.
But, in one particular small town, more exactly, in an old barn standing crookedly nearby a humble old farmhouse on the fringe of that town, a boy worked on into the late, cold evening hours, scarcely taking notice of those shifts in the season. For he was a boy at once possessed by two passions and one gift; his gift was a raw, wonderful genius for all things mechanical and his passions were to build and invent new machines which sprung from his imagination.
The last and most dearly held passion that the boy had, though, was to one day soon meet his father who had been lost to him eleven years before. Of course, being only twelve meant his time was limited to the evenings when, after having done his homework then helping his mother clean up after dinner, he would make his way to the old barn again to continue work on some new machine or device.
Although and because of these limits he had never spared much time in his after-school life for making friends, yet one would be surprised to discover that young Alexander Faraway did, indeed have one friend; only one. But, unfortunately, at that moment, she was on Mars.
For the time being though, any thoughts of his friend, Rainah Onyahee, had been pushed to the back of his mind as young Alex worked and tinkered away on the delicate innards of an at once sleek and awkward looking machine.
He stood near the top of a tall ladder in the middle of the dusty concrete floor of his workshop and his thin arms were nearly swallowed up inside the machine as he worked.
To the casual passer-by who may have noticed the faint light coming from the barn where Alex worked and strolled over to peek inside, a fascinating clutter would be their first impression of the shop. They were in various stages of disassembly or repair, with tools of all kinds scattered about each engine as if left there by an absent-minded mechanic. Engines of various sorts would be seen resting along the walls and under a long wooden workbench. Everything from old twentieth-century gasoline engines, to sleek and dangerous looking jet engines gave Alex's workshop an interesting air of constant mechanical innovation. What was astonishing was that all these fascinating inventions had been built by one so young.
Here and there, scattered in a rather haphazard fashion were pieces and parts of discarded robots and the different types of gearboxes which had been pulled from their innards in not-too-delicate operations. Electrical wires hung from the rafters by the hundreds like colorful streamer decorations and everything in the boy's dimly-lit workshop had the pungent yet wonderful odors of rubber, oily metal, and grease.
By the way, Alex himself was nearly covered from nose to toes in black, oily grease as well. His mom, Elizabeth Faraway, often found him that way after she finished her own chores and came out to the barn to fetch him.
"Darn," Alex grouched for the umpteenth time that night as the same small screw that he had been carefully trying to fasten deep inside the top of the strange-looking machine, dropped once again down inside it. There followed the faint sounds of the offending screw as it clattered down through the innards of the machine, passed the high-speed gears, the helicopter engine and fuel lines, then through to land on the barn floor with a light "tip-tap" sound.
"Oh, I'll never get this thing together," he sighed with weary frustration and Alex pulled his arms out of the shiny mechanical guts of the vehicle and slowly clambered down to, once again, search for and retrieve the irritating screw.
When he finally found it, lying in a small oil puddle, Alex tucked it safely inside a small pocket in his dirty coveralls then looked back up at where he had been working.
Hanging above the stepladder, on a strong chain attached to the rafters was a pair of very interesting helicopter propellers, joined one atop the other. They were almost ready to be lowered down onto the odd little craft he was building. All he needed to do was put that one small, stubborn screw down in a very tight recess inside his new invention.
But, like many things these days, they didn't always work out perfectly or on time either; like meeting his father, for instance. Now that was something he didn't like thinking about at all.
"Aw... heck," Alex sighed again heavily and he felt a small lump beginning in his throat. It seemed that, over the past few days, he had been working harder and longer in his shop just so he could relieve the tension that was building up inside him. It was like a gut instinct was trying to tell him that something was not quite right.
No... it was going to be okay, he just knew it.
His dad was just a little delayed or something. After all, coming back home from a place as far away as Mars was not the same as driving home from work.
"Dad," he whispered longingly, where he knelt on the cold, dirty floor. It had been only six days ago but the time that he at last saw that special person's face seemed like a small eternity ago now. Something just didn't feel right.
"Dad," Alex said again to the empty air, "are you okay?"
"It's okay, son... your father will be home soon now, I'm sure," his mom said quietly, from the threshold of the barn doors. "Time to come inside for the night now, honey," she said with a tired, understanding smile, "maybe your father will be home tomorrow."
Alex shuffled over to where Elizabeth Faraway stood patiently. He leaned slightly forward to give his mom a hug.
"Whoa young man," she laughed suddenly, "don't you dare get oil on my dress—go and wash up first!" Alex smiled up at her and pretended to pounce on Elizabeth with his small, grimy hands reaching out. Mrs. Faraway laughed again and tousled her young man's tangle of long brown hair as they walked outside together and closed the two large barn doors.
Outside the night air was cold and a refreshing breeze blew across the old corn field off to their right. But it had been decades since any farmer had tilled for corn and other crops across all those dozens of acres. Since then, something else had slowly grown and built up into hundreds of small hills and little mountains, with a confusing maze of winding trails running among them.
Valleys and trails snaked outward from the old, leaning barn into an alien-looking landscape of rough, rusting metal debris that Alex Faraway knew like the back of his hand.
He explored the scrapyard during his spare time, for it was from this treasure-trove of junk and scrap that Alex was able to collect all the parts and pieces and nuts and bolts to build all the wonderful inventions inside his shop. This was Alex's place of refuge and inspiration which kept the pall of loneliness and poverty at bay.
Whenever he found some new and interesting old mechanism to take back to the barn, his mind was rekindled with a fresh new and exciting idea of what he could build with it. It also served to give him hope that, perhaps if he could finish building that one special machine, resting silently in the far corner of the barn, he would also be able to leave the trap of Earth's gravity and journey to see his father himself.
Thoughts of the man he had never met face-to-face except through a distantly beamed video recording caused Alex to look up again into the black, starry sky above. There. There it was, a little orange dot, like a distant face which he knew so very well.
Alex could have been blind-folded and still pointed to the exact spot in the heavens, so sure was he of where his father was. He smiled a little with renewed hope. Yes, it would be okay... maybe tomorrow.
"Come on, dear, time for bed," Mrs. Faraway whispered gently and she guided Alex toward the comfort of the strong old farmhouse which stood thickly hidden within the small woodland that had grown wildly all over and around it through many years.
The wise old woman who had allowed this odd concealment to occur around their house had done so for a very good reason: for their safety. Mrs. Faraway held onto her son protectively as she walked him back toward the soft, yellow glow of the back-porch light.
And as they passed through the lush curtain of wild vines and on into the quiet, enclosed glade of their backyard, Elizabeth looked up at the stars as well, and wondered. All that had happened the week before when the terrible battle broke out in the midst of the scrapyard, was it truly finished as she now hoped it was?
Were all those horrible buzzing robot creatures truly gone, or was there something else, something more that she and Alex still had to endure before they were reunited with John Faraway at last?
Oh please, she thought hopefully as all the winking stars gazed down on them, let this all end soon. I want my wonderful man back again. But there was no answer to her wishful thoughts, at least not yet.
And the little orange dot that was Mars stared silently back in the midst of the scattered heavenly lights, as if waiting wisely for something more that it knew must yet come.
The Evil Not Yet Gone...
Within the secret world of insects, there is harmony and cooperation in each of its communities. There is a hierarchy within each cooperative group as well where some serve others and the colony as a whole may also serve a single, ruling insect.
However, it is also a world in which life and death struggles for survival and dominance occur. It has long been a known fact that every bee hive must have a Queen Bee in order to survive. The queen is served and fed by all the other bees and she, in turn, provides the hive with new offspring to continue their existence.
The drone bees will defend their queen to the death against any outsiders who wish to invade the hive and it is also this vicious instinct which will prompt them to war with others of their kind. The Queen Bee is the ultimate figurehead of authority to these blindly obedient creatures. The bees constantly communicate among themselves to support their hive or to quietly declare war against another.
In the wild, war is only declared where food or living space has become scarce, and it was for the latter that the Others declared war against Alex Faraway's people. The humans just didn't know it yet. The Others, both Flies and Spiders, had lain dormant inside their oil pods on the two moons of Mars, or nearly dead, lying scattered and buried under the cold Martian sand.
Eons dragged by since their untimely defeat which was caused by the arrival of an unforeseen comet-world when they were on the brink of victory. The surprise attack against their Martian Masters had been all but successful up until that moment.
The sudden arrival of the rogue planet and the resulting destruction caused heavy casualties equally among both Martians and Machines. Thus the Others, who survived stood themselves down, still and silent in the frigid and hostile world which Mars quickly became. In their virtual state of death, they were resigned to wait with long patience for a new change or opportunity to arrive.
Ten thousand years later, with the ticking over of the 21st Century, a new dawn approached for them. The arrival of the first curious Earthers was a chance that was better than any of the creatures could have hoped for.
They seized upon the arrival of the first remote rover vehicles, destroying them in full view of their cameras. The arrival of the excited and gullible Earthly explorers was almost immediate and enabled the cat-sized Flies, one-by-one, to be reborn and activated again.
For the Flies, and especially for Zin, The Dreaded One, the best plan was also the simplest: allow the humans to re-activate them, then wait and rebuild until there were enough of their numbers to betray and destroy them.
Zin, the Fly, knew what she wanted, with absolute clarity though; above all else, she wished to be Queen of the Others within their own HIVE. With the death of her sole competitor, Larj, The Cunning Coward, in the failed battle to destroy The Gardener, (who, regrettably, escaped with the last Royal Child), the way was now open for Zin.
Like all others of her kind though, she plotted her take-over carefully and waited for the opportune moment to arrive. It came much sooner than she had anticipated. The male human, who was her host-human for many years on the world of Earth, began receiving voice and email messages from another human.
The other which was I.D.'d as one, Wallace Chater, said it needed to speak to the host about, "something of great urgency." Zin buzzed excitedly to herself now as she scanned the data found in her host's mind. The human's I.D. was indeed there along with the memory module containing all past experiences the host had had with that human.
Zin clicked with cold logic through this module, collecting all pertinent data regarding age, character profile, and present location of, Wallace Chater.
When the name, "Delta-Town" was revealed as that human's current location, Zin stiffened with controlled excitement, clenching her ganglia wires around the head of the host as it slept, perhaps a little too tightly. Zin was finding it stuffy where she hid, under the bed, but she would soon have no further need of the host since she would be outgrowing it.
The Fly who had come down with the first wave of Others had been more successful than most in finding a human with a wealth of scientific data. This had all been scanned, copied, and uploaded to the H.I.V.E. Network through the years, with much of it being used to betray the humans under John Faraway as well.
It was a rather simple plan, after all. Zin buzzed again with renewed anticipation of the information that would soon be gleaned from the human named Wallace in Delta-Town.
There was, after all, another Faraway who dwelled somewhere in that same town who was beginning to be troublesome to the Others. That one would now need to be found and dealt with sooner rather than later, it seemed.
Next: Chapter 3 - A Recurring Dream
Alex is having a strange dream every night of trying to fly off and away from Earth, and this time, he flies away to someplace very different and experiences a world and time beyond Earthly comprehension.
As of 2017-08-20, Book 2 / Chapter 2 can be found at: Deepskystories.com