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Alex The Inventor-Chapter 11 (Pt.1)

Book 1 of an Illustrated Sci-Fi Trilogy

***Read from Chapter 1 at:  www.deepskystories.com***

Chapters 1 - 10 can be read at:  Deep Sky Stories

Chapter 11 (Part 1) - Unpleasant Discoveries

Alex stared, awe-struck at the still-life picture of the frozen planetarium images, at the return of the long-lost Planet X that had slotted itself down perfectly in front of Mars as though that planet didn't exist at all. It seemed to brush by Mars so closely that he was amazed that there wasn't a collision, or that the two orbiting moons, Phobos and Deimos, weren't obliterated. Yet, the timing of the near-miss was so exquisite that even those moons were spared. It cut across everything at a near-perfect ninety degrees, splitting the normal orbital planes of the inner planets like a gigantic circular blade. It slashed downward from north of the solar plane and totally disregarded the natural order of the solar system, with near-fatal consequences for the smaller red planet.

"We estimate that Planet X, when it does finally arrive in our system, will pass to within only one hundred thousand miles of Mars, which is a hairs breadth in cosmological distance", Miss Vee said, with her thumb and forefinger nearly touching. "Planet X is about the same size and mass as Earth, therefore the gravitational affect it will have on Mars' orbital pattern will be drastic. Planet X will, during this very brief encounter with Mars, actually pull the planet inward from the usual bulge that its orbital track follows during its winter months.”

"Over a short time-span of only two Martian years, the planet will settle into a more even orbital distance from the sun", Miss Vee went on, the wonderment in her voice matching the staggering repercussions that all these changes meant.

"The resulting slightly closer and more circular orbit, Alex, will ultimately mean that the seasons and temperatures on Mars are going to be less severe and more moderate, someday very soon." "If you're following this, Alex, and I'm sure you are", she said, "this change in Mars is going to mean a new awakening and a new chance for life again on that world.” “All we're going to do is help things along a little." "We are growing and multiplying the ancient seeds that were found by the Martian Rovers, in this Mars Biosphere Greenhouse. Then we will re-seed Mars with newly grown and prepared plant-life after its climate has become moderate enough for the plants to survive on their own." "Don't you see what this will mean, Alex", Teresa said with renewed passion, "once these plants take hold and start to flourish and spread over the surface of Mars again, the atmosphere will improve as well, as they generate more oxygen." "Mars will still be a very cold world because of its distance from the sun, but it will become much more livable for people one day. The ice caps will melt a little too and small rivers could start to flow during warmer months to help the new plants grow and multiply. Mars will become a new home just next door to Earth for all of us to settle on like pioneers and explore." "New cities could be built eventually, the possibilities are endless”, Miss Vee finished with her eyes still fixed on the strange twist of nature that was displayed on the dome above them.

"Wait a minute", Alex said as something suddenly dawned on him, "this change on Mars is supposed to happen every ten thousand years?"

"That is correct", Teresa answered evenly. She seemed to sense where Alex was going with his train of thought. She was right.

"Then, if Mars was only warm enough for living things to exist that long ago, then Rainah must be..."

"Ten thousand years old, yes...yes, that's right, Alex", she finish for him with the same pitying tone in her voice as before, “ten thousand of our years, five thousand of hers.” “It doesn’t matter how you count the years though, it is still a very long time and she is the only one of her kind left alive, thanks to those...those monsters that are crawling about above our heads", she added, giving the ceiling a fierce look. "Rainah is as precious as a very rare gem, not only for the reason I just gave, but also because of her wonderful gift which you witnessed a few minutes ago. One day, Rainah will help her Homeworld in ways no one can yet imagine. She also has other qualities as a person of strong character who has survived enormous pain and hardship; more than you or I will ever know, Alex. To truly know a person, you must know all their qualities...even if some are difficult to accept.”

At those last words, Miss Vee touched the down button at last and they began to sink beneath the sand of the artificial Martian ground. Alex sank down into the dimly lit bowels of Miss Vee's strange home with growing trepidation. He didn't feel now that he truly wanted to know any more, but the time to turn back and go home to a normal life seemed to have long since passed him by. As Miss Vee had said, exploring was not always an exciting adventure. Sometimes unpleasant things were discovered as well.

The Flies and the Royals...

They proceeded down with the blank walls of the round elevator crowding tightly around them. The sudden change seemed to heighten Alex's sense of trepidation as well. He looked up at Miss Vee for any clue of what lay at the bottom of the shaft. Her features, however, were unreadable. An unwanted truth, it seemed lay behind all the dazzling spectacles that she had revealed only a few minutes ago.

"My time is short, Alex", she suddenly said with a blunt seriousness that brought prickles of fear to his brow. "It is now being measured out in hours, in fact. The enemy is here and in great numbers; greater than even I or the Guardian Dragonflies could have guessed. We must make our move within a mere two hours, can you imagine?" Alex shot Miss Vee a wide-eyed, startled look. She had that same stiff, pale look about her that he had seen at his house the previous night. The drop of the elevator seemed to magnify the feeling he had now in the pit of his stomach. Her next words did nothing to lessen his fears.

"A few minutes ago", she continued, "you asked me what the Flies wanted.” “A more accurate question would be, what they don't want. The Flies don't want mankind to succeed on Mars, and they are going to more and more drastic and devious measures now to sabotage any hope for success." "Imagine, Alex, a race of completely self-serving, self-absorbed creatures who know nothing of love or compassion and everything about warfare and destruction", she said with harsh, heavy words. "They were created eons ago, when Mars flourished with life, to fight territorial disputes for their masters. Then, unexpectedly, they turned on their creators and sought to wipe them out thoroughly, terribly."

"Rainah's people," Alex finished, remembering his last dream with her.

"Yes, little Rainah's people, gone forever because they lost control of the Others...gave them too much intelligence...ignored the danger signs until it was too late. They were driven to the brink of extinction by the Others...and then, if that wasn’t bad enough, Planet X returned and slammed everything on Mars back into an Ice-Age, completing their civilization’s downfall." The elevator finally came to rest and the narrow sliding door opened to reveal an equally narrow corridor which curved away to the left and right. Teresa Vasquez led Alex to the right and continued her history lesson of ancient Mars as they walked down a small, spiral staircase.

"What I will tell you now, Alex, I haven't told another living soul since before you were born. Your father succeeded with his State-Shift driven craft far better than anyone knew then or knows now. We were able to travel to Mars on our own and land in secret to establish our own hidden base on the floor of the Valles Marineris rift valley. No one took the slightest notice of us except, of course, the ever-present Flies. You see, the more of them that the Deep Sky astronauts found, the more of them that they reactivated, until it was the Flies who were bringing their own brothers back to life. They were becoming quite numerous and bothersome.

We soon had a small base-station built and then proceeded with the second phase of our program: we built the Biosphere Dome. You see, we already knew that Planet X was on its way and we wanted to prepare for the future re-seeding when Mars awoke to a new age; a new Super Spring, if you will."

They came to the bottom of the staircase and Miss Vee led Alex to a small, round steel door. She pushed a number code on a combination keypad inset in the door and while they waited for the combination to be analyzed and computed, Miss Vee continued with her recollections. "We had the idea of building the Biosphere Greenhouse partially underground and close to a cliff wall of the valley so that there would be some natural shelter from direct sunlight and radiation for us as well as for the new plants. We began our first excavation one day to begin building, when we happened upon a ruin, purely by chance. It was incredibly ancient and breathtaking, with only a few high walls remaining, but it was what lay below the ground that was the greatest discovery. We found a tomb with four coffins which were being guarded by two sleeping robotic creatures, ALF-1 and ALF-2.

On closer examination, the coffins turned out to be cryogenic hibernation capsules of some sort, two adult-sized and two child-sized." Miss Vee had a faraway look in her eyes now, as though she was back on Mars again, in that same strange chamber below the surface. "There were treasures of a sort, in sealed vases and boxes which had long ago crumbled and fallen open from decay", she said with dancing eyes, remembering those glittering, unearthly jewels again. "But, the most dramatic and shocking sight was the two bodies that we found." Miss Vee's voice dropped to a hush then and she glanced over her shoulder surreptitiously before continuing. "The skeleton was similar to that of an adult human male. There was only a scattering of dusty fragments of clothing left and the skeleton lay stretched out on the floor of the tomb, still tightly clutching the other body, which was that of a hideous black creature. The creature had long wires extended out of its body and they were coiled tightly around the man‘s neck in a choke-hold. There were several more of the same black creatures, smashed and scattered around the scene of the final struggle as well.” "The two bodies were locked forever in the last throes of two death grips which neither one survived", she finished with a shudder.

"The other bodies...they were Flies, right?" Alex guessed easily.

"Yes, the door of one casket was still open, leading us to assume that that adult sacrificed himself to protect the last three people from the Flies." "It was a last moment of terrible drama to take place in that room five thousand Mars-years ago", she whispered sadly. "The body was that of Rainah's father."

"Anyway", she continued with another shake of her head, "long-story-short, Rainah was the only survivor." "The second adult's hibernation capsule was indeed a coffin, with the mummified body of an adult female lying inside it. According to Rainah, her mother and father were what her people called Royals. They were a king and a queen. Strangely, the second child-sized capsule was open and empty and there was no other skeleton to be found.

We deduced that the other child, for whatever reason, never made it to the safety of the room before it was shut all those eons ago. Rainah called it a Chamber of Everlasting and the empty hibernation capsule was a Time-Tomb which was supposed to hold her brother, Halden.

Whatever happened to him, she has never divulged to me; perhaps she just doesn’t know or remember. After all, Rainah was not left untouched by everything that happened either.” She turned then to the heavy, round door which had just unlocked itself with a loud click; the door that led into the room at the bottom of the stairs. There was a look she had then that made Alex suddenly think of Rainah. It was a soft, pitying, compassionate look that caused small anxieties to creep into his mind.

"Miss Vee", he began fearfully, "did something happen to Rainah too?" In answer, she clicked down the handle to the round, heavy door and swung it slowly open on well-oiled hinges. Like a slow-motion dream, Alex followed Teresa Vasquez through the door and into the remaining room under the Mars Biosphere Dome which held so many answers for him.

Next: Chapter 11 (Pt.2) - Rainah's Pain

Rainah's painful secret is revealed and the bond between her and Alex grows. More secrets of the powerful Biosphere Dome are also revealed, and none too soon, as The Others hunt for them all with keener purpose!

As of 2017-04-24, Chapter 11 (Pt. 1) is at:  DeepSkyStories.com 

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