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Alex The Inventor - Chapter 3

And the Ghosts in the Glass Tunnels

Book 2 - The Ghosts in the Glass Tunnels

Chapters 1 to 2 can be read at:  Deep Sky Stories

Chapter 3 - A Recurring Dream

The dream began as one full of beauty and hope. It was the twilight before dawn and the sky was soft, deep velvet blue. The boy felt all weight fall away from him as he ran across his back yard. The tall grasses were damp and cool against his legs and he breathed calmly, deeply.

He had a sense of cool, broad freedom approaching and as he reached the old mossy apple tree with its curving, craggy limbs, he leaped! Exhilarating freedom filled his heart, the tree fell away beneath him and the cool night air kissed his cheek. 

Stretching his arms out like wings seemed to help him ascend higher and higher. The cold beauty of open space beckoned the boy onward. The higher he flew though the more difficult it was for him to stay aloft. It was of course, the jealous pull of his native planet dragging him back down to the mundane, usual life.

No, the boy thought defiantly and he redoubled his efforts, trying to remain calm and sure. His breathing remained deep and slow and he looked skyward, searching for a faint, orange sphere that he knew he must reach and soon.

There, off to the right and so far, far away.

"I'm coming dad, I'm coming to find you," he whispered to the beautiful velvet sky and the wind whipped his brown hair as Alex soared higher than he'd ever gone before.

There came a moment of awesome height where he looked down to see the curvature of blue mother Earth turning quietly far below. He knew then that he could make it to Mars...just a little farther.

Alex stretched wide his wing-like arms and put all his will into the dream he was in, a dream that he had wished so much to come true all his young life.

"Oh, please, just one more second," he cried to the deep, starry sky. But it was not to be given and Alex Faraway felt the slow, remorseless pull of old mother Earth taking him away from the threshold his new Homeworld.

"Mars...I want to go to Mars," he shouted back at the heavy, silent planet below him. With a last defiant effort, Alex reached out his hands but by then the spell was broken. Down, down he fell — such a cruel joke it all had been. Down, back down to his life of poverty, his life alone while his mother worked.

"No friends for you," an unknown voice taunted, "no father either, they've all gone to Mars."

Mars.

Then, sswssh, he was there!

Alex knew he was on Mars because all his surroundings felt and looked so strange, so wonderful. His heart beat faster and stronger as startling excitement overwhelmed him completely.

Alex felt lighter on his feet and knew that he could jump dozens of feet into the air if he so wished. The climate was colder though and the air was much thinner and even "tasted" different.

Looking around him, he noticed that he was inside a small, dimly lit cave. The dark, craggy walls closed in around him and for the first time, Alex knew a sense of anxiety.

"Please...don't go!" Whirling about, Alex felt a thrill shoot up his spine as he saw Rainah, his best friend, running toward him. She looked terrified and was calling to him but he couldn't hear anything beyond a faint echo. 

Rainah's hair-quills were moving freely and vibrating in that otherworldly way as though she was under water, capturing all the oxygen they could from the thinner air of Mars. She looked younger though, as young as when he had first played with her as a small boy.

Alex felt different as well, he wasn't quite himself for some reason. He was arguing with Rainah, although about what he couldn't tell. His spaceship was there in his dream and it was completely built and painted with odd looking designs and symbols too.

Standing off to one side, Alex also noticed Dart, his large, beautifully coloured robotic Dragonfly. He stood guard against some unknown threat and every now and then cocked his round soccer-ball head at Alex, questioningly.

Alex, himself, was packing to go somewhere in the little spaceship and if he guessed, he would say that his argument with Rainah had something to do with that.

Suddenly, a large form blocked the entrance to the cave they were in and there seemed to be a chaotic battle going on outside. In the unreal life of this dream, the thing which entered the cave looked like a giant spider and Alex could sense an evil purpose to its presence there.

Without warning, Dart leaped over Rainah and him and attacked the invader with a furious hail of lasers and gun fire. Even within the murky half-silence of the dream, the Dragonfly's attack was deafening and the Spider was pulverized till little remained except a few legs scattered around its battered and melted body.

The scene was frightening and Alex knew that a terrible battle was being waged outside the cave.

"Please...come…home...," Rainah was calling through the murkiness of the dream. Alex's confusion was made even more so as he saw his Luss being handed over to her and he felt a great caring love for her at that moment.

The next thing he knew, Alex was flying out of the cave in the little space vessel but the darkness he had just left was nothing compared to the world outside. A thick, monstrous shadow had fallen over the sky and everywhere there was confusion.

Something hard lurched heavily against the little ship as it fell through the cave mouth but Alex shot onward toward the ominous well of blackness that had swallowed up all the sky, all the stars.

Up and down had no relevance for there were no landmarks within the heavy shadow. There was nothing to be done except to fly on and pray. A streak of light flashed passed the little ship, barely missing it and for an instant, Alex heard a heart-stopping scream! Was that a large Dragonfly he had seen, and a boy riding it?

Alex recalled flying in the same fashion on Dart, his own Dragonfly, during the night, only a week ago, when he had escaped the Flies. Only moments after he escaped, thousands of Flies were destroyed when Miss Vee's giant Biosphere Vessel erupted out of the ground beneath the scrapyard and shot up into the heavens. His friend, Rainah, left in the ship that night as well, left him to return to Mars, her Homeworld.

"Rainah," Alex cried as the awful shadow came back upon him. He felt certain that he was falling now and he shut his eyes tight, expecting to crash into the ground at any second! His heart pounded in fear of a terrifying panic he had never before known.

The dream had suddenly become all too real as Alex felt his hand clutch the ship's control stick that he had desperately slammed full forward. Alex screamed then awoke just before the moment of impact!

He opened his eyes wide to see blackness still. Yet now, it was only the normal darkness of night time in his bedroom. His room, he was just in bed now, in his quiet little room.

"It's okay...it's okay," he whispered to reassure himself. But Alex felt so certain that he had only just now fallen out of the pilot's seat of a spaceship and back into bed. The old tattered blankets lay in a tangled, twisted heap on the floor where he had kicked them and Alex felt cold from being uncovered for a long while.

He sat up and brushed the long bangs of brown hair out of his eyes and realized that he had been sweating profusely. The dream was still solidly present in his mind and Alex pondered it for several long moments.

He had been in a cave and arguing with Rainah, Dart was there too, and there was a monstrous spider... What had caused him to dream of such things? His spaceship, completely built, and then he flew away in it.

Too awake to sleep, Alex got up and walked as quietly as he could along the old creaking floor until he came to the window. He gazed out at the large, old weathered barn, just beyond his backyard and silhouetted against the starry night sky. The doors were partially hidden by the gnarled and moss-covered branches of an old apple tree which grew in the yard.

A rusty, overgrown barbed-wire fence divided the yard from the land beyond it. The barn itself, sat beside what had once been a large tract of farmland. Many years had passed since then, however, and where there had once been one hundred acres of cornfield now was the scrapyard.

But, it was the scrapyard which was the wellspring of Alex’s creativity and this creativity was his salvation, in a life of poverty and loneliness on the rural outskirts of Delta-Town. It took his mind away from the isolation that he often felt, living out in the countryside.

The old scrapyard also allowed Alex to build upon his hope that one day very soon, he would be reunited with his missing father. For deep within that large old barn sat Alex's prized invention: a teardrop-shaped little spacecraft which he planned to fly away in to find the person he had seen but once in his young life.

That had been only six days ago, and a little more than a week had passed since his whole life had been drastically changed. It changed with the discovery of literally a whole new world, a domed Martian-Environment Biosphere, lying hidden deep beneath his scrapyard.

A huge greenhouse spaceship with newly-grown, fledgling Martian plants that were being patiently tended by old Miss Vee, a botanist and a woman of noble stature in Alex's mind now.

It was within that Biosphere Vessel that he then learned of the approach of the menacing, unnamed world known only as "Planet X", an Earth-sized world whose arrival every ten thousand Earth-years heralded either destruction or renewal for life on Mars as it roared by that planet.

But, it was Dart, a robotic Dragonfly, a Guardian from ancient Mars that Alex had first stumbled upon who, quite by chance, lead him toward that strange, new dimension in his life.

His true friend, Rainah, the warrior-girl from Mars' distant past had, in turn, found him and cajoled Alex into the fight of his life against the Others. A battle which had been won with the elimination of a horde of cat-sized Flies as the huge Biosphere Vessel erupted from beneath the ground of the scrapyard and escaped to Mars with Rainah and Miss Vee.

Yes, life had suddenly become much more interesting and very strange all at the same time. But Alex was now beginning to worry, or was it only impatience that he felt? It was hard to tell which. He only knew that the feelings of joy and expectation that he had had were starting to fade as each day passed without any sign or word from the man who should have come home from Mars by now.

Alex was sensing that something had gone wrong and that the doorway to finding his dad, like that through which he had passed in the dream, was merely another arms-reach away. Alex set his jaw then, in the cool darkness and knew that a decision, a very hard decision, must soon be made.

He retrieved the collection of old, ragged blankets from the floor and lay down to get back to sleep. A soft, cool breeze sighed outside his window and a light mist of rain whispered delicately against the glass. It lulled the lonely young boy back to a peaceful sleep and he dreamed, this time, about nothing much at all.

The Spider Awakes...

Yet there are things and places beyond the soft haze of our atmosphere which the slumbering boy in the solid old farmhouse could never know existed, let alone be dreamed about. Things best left in the shadows around the sharp corner of a nightmare.

But, unfortunately, nightmares do not always remain where they ought to. The iron-heavy, thick-skinned thing had silently curled up into a large ball many centuries ago to become nearly dead, so deeply did it slumber. The ice-cold, barren moon on which it slept drifted endlessly in the frigid silence of space and so the ancient sleeping thing remained cold in its heart as well.

What heart it did possess though was strictly mechanical in nature anyway. An intricate pumping device which served only to provide the necessary high-pressure fluid to the rest of the huge creature's functional systems.

It was the last of its kind, in many respects, since the replicating factories for its robotic "species" had been destroyed by the Flies during the Moon Wars many more centuries ago. There were still thousands of its kind left though, and they were now allied with the Flies to defeat the two-legged ones.

They had become allies not long before the people of Mars had sent their kill signals to each moon orbiting around their Homeworld. It was their desperate attempt to destroy the robotic Spiders and Flies that they had created because they were becoming too numerous and uncontrollable.

The HIVE network that the Others had secretly established among themselves deflected most of the kill signal and allowed them to survive and plan the invasion of their Masters' world. But an unforeseen natural event occurred at the moment of invasion and many troops from both species were lost.

Since that time, the Spiders, of which the thing was a species-member, had stood down from active duty indefinitely. That status, however, was about to change for one of them. From somewhere far away, a HIVE signal had been sent and immediately afterward, Larj, the Fly who had sent it, self-terminated.

An air of expectation now hung over the oil filled storage pod containing the huge curled up Weaver Spider. Without knowing why, the creature trembled slightly after ten thousand years of stillness. Abruptly, the signal from the network touched it and told it to awaken and it obeyed.

Mechanical linkages clicked and ticked. Powerful gyros whined and the creature's single Cyclops eye unfolded from out of its heavy wrecking-ball head, slowly opened and swiveled round.

Thick, preserving oil swirled and gurgled heavily as it drained slowly out of the storage pod, and the Weaver, a very specialized Spider, slowly arose from the round cauldron pod on eight long, talon-shaped, clicking legs.

Tiny Deimos, the airless moon that was its Homeworld, had little in the way of gravity with which to hold the Spider and so it rose up with slow, monstrous grace. Away from the black, dripping cauldron it flew to begin the first leg of its long journey, toward the drifting rocks and pebbles of the asteroid belt which lay between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

It required an armor of many layers of protective rock with which to survive the swift, fiery plunge to the surface of an alien world. It was on that world where the Weaver would construct a new destiny for its kind.

For an unforeseen and stunning discovery had been uncovered for them by the two-legged ones, and invasion was now within reach for the Others.

The HIVE Network had become alive with secret messages and plans ever since the treasure in the crater had been uncovered. Care would need to be taken though, for the discovery had come at a high price. The recent battle with the Dragons and the Humans had been lost along with a great many of their brethren.

Yes, caution, secrecy and patience would be equally required for their ultimate goal to be realized. But it all would come to pass and the once-buried machine, which another Spider from ten thousand years ago had only half-finished, would soon be completed.

And with its final activation would come the moment in time that the Others had long waited for: the final ruin of the two civilizations which stood in their path to greatness.

The purposeful-thinking thing clicked coldly to itself with precise anticipation as it began the first leg of its long journey to planet Earth.

Next: Chapter 4 - Probably Wasn't A Good Idea

Alex's teacher, Mr. Chater, needs answers to some burning questions that he has pondered over since his terrifying encounter with the creatures from the scrapyard the week before. So he calls on an old friend whom he hasn't seen for several years.

Some questions are best left alone. Some old friends as well...

As of 2017-08-26, Chapter 3 can be read at:  Deepskystories.com

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