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Chapters 1 - 6 can be read at: Deep Sky Stories & Illustrations
Chapter 7 - The Song is the Beacon
Faint explosions, the sounds of battle, and people screaming distantly in panic filled the air of the boy's dream.
Where am I, the boy wondered in amazement for he seemed to be surrounded by what appeared to be an over-sized soap bubble. A darkly tanned hand reached down in front of him and touched several winking icon buttons which floated and shifted this way and that in a multi-coloured swirling rainbow before the boy's eyes.
Somebody else was clearly in the bubble with him but forms and shadows still melted away indistinctly all around him and made the whole dream-world as dark as a deep forest at night. Nightfall had indeed come to Alex's dream, and with shocking suddenness. Why can't I see where that weird hand is coming from, he thought with idle curiosity, it sure isn't my hand.
"Halden," a small girl cried out with a pleading voice. Looking back over his shoulder, Alex saw Rainah receding from view so swiftly it was as though he had blinked her from his sight. She was gone—just gone.
Confusion took hold of Alex as he tried to make more sense of the dream-world that was now coming into sharper focus all around him. But, was he truly dreaming or was this something else altogether? A boy screamed in flight beside his bubble dome for an instant, then he too vanished from view within the pitch black depths of a heavy, sky-filling shadow. His whole world was ending, Alex could tell instinctively.
Without understanding how, Alex sensed that he was not really living through his own life but rather, through someone else's. The whole reality of this dreamscape seemed very bizarre to his human self.
His Homeworld screamed as one with the horrific, panicked thoughts of all his people! There was no horizon by which to fly his small saucer craft—no sky, no ground, only an endless, black abyss. Nothing could be done about it except to fly, escape, flee—from what, Alex did not know!
He could be flying straight into the hungry maw of an awful, vengeful god for all he knew. Slamming the control stick full forward, Alex cried out a long and dreadful yell for it was not he who had moved the stick at all! Acceleration shoved him painfully against the back of the pilot's chair.
Just keep it straight, keep it straight, was all he could think.
Glancing down at the dim, red lights of the floating, shifting console around him, Alex's mind reeled as he caught a glimpse of his hand on the control stick; it looked different yet so very real. His fingers were a black-coffee color and where there should have been fingernails there were small, sharp animal claws! No... it wasn't really him, it (he), was someone else altogether!
What had Rainah cried out just before she vanished? He couldn't recall now as the monstrous sky-shadow engulfed him and the amazing little craft he was in. There was something he felt he should do: fight? But how and against who?
Flash-flash-flash—bright lights all around him, then yells and battle-cries in an alien tongue which he was sure he'd heard before. But, so swiftly did he fly that they also were suddenly gone away and behind him.
((Father!)), a single screaming thought cried out from the strange boy's mind, and Alex had a sudden insight and knew that this boy's father was now gone forever! But almost immediately afterward Alex sensed the comforting waves of a mother's thoughts, reaching up from the depths of what may have been a place of refuge.
((Do not fear, Halden, our love will be with you wherever you may voyage. Go swiftly and do not come back. I will guide little Rainah to the Chamber Of Everlasting, we will survive and so must you. Go, my own beautiful boy, go with my love and protection — Farewell!))
In the dream which now engaged all his senses so powerfully, Alex felt Halden's sorrow keenly, as though it was his own father who had died. He also had a flash of pure understanding which took his breath away. He was living someone else's life — someone who was or had been very real at one time; Rainah's brother — it had to be him; and his name was Halden!
"Of course," he whispered in the dream; the one empty Time-Tomb that Miss Vee and his dad found on Mars while building their base station.
But, the dream—the reality—was not yet over.
With a swiftness that was breathtaking, a new horizon now loomed before Alex from out of the blackness of space. It grew and grew with frightening swiftness, from a small, glittering crescent in the velvet darkness to a huge, all-encompassing, glowing sphere! A thrill shot up Alex's spine and he could only gaze, awestruck at the glittering, beautiful monstrosity!
It did not swerve from his path but pursued Halden and blocked his escape from Mars. It was coming between him and his true destination like a wall which there was no time to avoid hitting. It was definitely another world, but it was like no planet he could ever have imagined because there was a smooth, clear, crystal-ball appearance to it all—for, the whole planet was completely encased within a hollow sphere, a shield of thick, glittering glass!
Alex truly wished he could take control of the little saucer that Halden was piloting and steer it away from the chilling sight that bore down on them. But he knew now that he was only an observer of Halden's past life, he could do nothing to alter what was about to happen to him. It was a life within a dream, and he was seeing it through Halden's eyes, which made the whole experience that much more wondrous and frightening.
Faster and larger still came the strange new planet upon them but Alex could sense that Halden did not fear it completely. Rather than trying to veer away in panic, the boy instead held his nerves in check and searched ahead with keen, hawkish eyes. He was playing the odds and hoping to discover an opening of some kind through which he could fly down to the planet's surface; the surface beneath the glass. For there was, indeed, a real, living world that he could clearly see, not far below that crystal cover.
Down, down ever closer Halden flew until he was fairly skimming the surface of the huge glass sphere. So close were they to it now that the whole vast dome shone like a smooth, flat, crystal sea not more than arm's reach below them. As Alex stared in awe of the beautiful, smooth glass horizon, he noticed faint sparks and lights there as tiny bits of sand-sized meteors constantly flared and died in explosive flashes against the planet's transparent shield. The distant sun's rays glinted and reflected off its smooth surface and Alex gazed down on a land that was as strange as it was beautiful.
The scenery below the glass was one of low, rolling moss-green hills with thousands—millions of ponds filling the shallow, rounded gullies in and amongst them. The world over which they flew should have been nothing more than a barren cold rock given its distance away from the sun. Yet here was a world perfectly protected from the harsh vacuum of freezing space, by clearly artificial means!
The surprises grew from there as well because here and there, in very regular intervals were huge, round wells with bright light shining up from their depths. These same huge cylinders had a second purpose in that they stood as tall and hollow pillars which supported the glass sky all around the equator and from pole to pole. Up from the interior of this fantastically altered world the blinding lights shone but the wide light-beams did not shine out into space as one would assume; rather, most of the light from each well was blocked from escaping by a large black disc, resting on the exterior of the planet's glass shell.
Each huge disc, which could be seen silhouetted against the top of each 'Light-Well' was mirrored on its underside. Thus most of the escaping light rays were reflected back down upon the planet in diffused, overlapping halos which illuminated the ground below—each for hundreds of miles around.
In their own manner, the lakes and pools also served to further spread and reflect the light rays back off the dome's interior as well. The entire effect was a bright pattern of countless lights illuminating a tightly sealed world that could drift through the dark cosmos, far from any source of life-giving sunlight, yet could sustain life, nonetheless.
And, as Halden soared above the protective glass of this crystal-ball world, they entered the night-side of it; so days and nights existed here as well. Here the gigantic wells lay dimmed beneath them, though not completely extinguished.
"Oh my!" Alex heard Halden whisper in awe and that was all Alex thought as well. It was a beautiful, massive gem, drifting through the cosmos. They set a course northward, if there could be any true compass directions in space. But it was the best and only thing to do when faced with such an impregnable roof of glass beneath them. Perhaps an educated guess was all there was left to try for the young adventurer on only his first flight into the dark unknown. There seemed to be no opening for them along the planet's whole equatorial region.
"There!" Alex fairly shouted as he saw the huge polar opening begin to reveal itself. But, so gradually did the gigantic glass sphere curl downward toward the north polar region that it only became evident because of brighter luminous rays that shone up and outward with an aurora glow from deep within the planet's core.
"Who said that - who's there?" Halden suddenly cried, glancing nervously around the confines of his small spacecraft. Alex caught his breath in disbelief. Had Halden actually heard him in his head? But this was all just a dream, yet a dream so very real!
Down, down, over the curling lip and further into the huge glass funnel they flew and the soft, orange glow grew brighter and fuller beneath them. Alex suddenly began to feel disoriented and confused. It was like he was coming apart, coming out-of-body!
"Ow-ow-ow!" Halden suddenly cried in pain and he took his hands off the controls and clamped them over his ears. He gritted his teeth and doubled over in his seat, his eyes tightly shut, so severe was the shooting pain in his head. Abruptly, the boy from Mars slumped forward in his little pilot's chair, unconscious and Alex then noticed the impossible was indeed happening to him. He was coming slowly out of Halden's body like a ghost, a possessing spirit. It felt like he was partially liquid, sifting and sliding atom by atom out of Halden to emerge with an uncanny wholeness all his own.
But there was no time to dwell on this unbelievable feat because the little spacecraft was now nosing down sharply and was in danger of crashing! With no time to lose, Alex pushed Halden as far to the side as possible within the now very crowded cockpit and took control as best he could. Of course Alex had never flown such a craft before and his chances for survival were still very slim.
Now realizing how very similar Halden's craft was to his own unfinished one, Alex quickly snatched a thin metal band from around the boy's head and placed it on his own. Small lights flashed back and forth along the thin fibre-optic wires and Alex soon felt himself assuming better and better control over the plunging vessel. Just as he had witnessed it done by Rainah in Miss Vee's Biosphere Ship, only a week before, so too did the holographic dome of winking control icons appeared magically on the ship's bubble canopy before Alex's eyes.
((I want to land)), was all he could think to say in his head.
Instantly the holographic bubble swirled and tilted in a dizzying fashion before his eyes and there before him was a perfectly rendered, three-dimensional, landing glide-slope, running straight and true toward a circular opening in the wall of glass dead ahead of him. It was the first safe point through to the other side that the ship's onboard computer could find and Alex breathed a small breath of relief.
This might just work, he thought nervously.
Taking full control now with his shaking hand on the single control stick, Alex kept the little saucer straight and focused with all his might on that single round tunnel ahead. What was that? Alex thought he heard an odd scratching noise coming from outside the vessel, coming from right underneath him. Scrkch...tik...cr-rik...ch-ch-crrr-ik... Alex's eyes grew wide with horror, even as he fought to remain calm, in control.
((I've got to land)), he kept thinking as hard as he could!
"Don't look... don’t look," a small voice in his mind cried over and over. He was almost there, the perfectly round tunnel opening lay straight ahead and was growing larger and larger!
What - ?
Out of the corner of his right eye, Alex saw something move; something nearby!
Like the prey whose eyes are drawn irresistibly toward those of a predator's deadly stare, so too were Alex's eyes drawn to that single thing staring now at him from outside the thin glass canopy.
It was an eye...a single large Cyclops-eye and it gazed back at him with cold inhumanity. And then, a single talon-leg crawled into view as well, clutching, scratching as it climbed up the metal skin of Halden's ship!
"Go away, go away," Alex whispered helplessly.
There was nothing left but to fly on, what else was there to do? He forced his eyes focused back on the target. Right in the center, dead on.
"Oh!" Alex yelled out as the huge tunnel engulfed him and glossy, rainbow curves instantly surrounded the little saucer. Concentrated colors shot through the clear bubble dome of the ship, blinding him till his eyes watered. But there was more, Alex knew there must be. There was a light ahead and he knew he was about to enter into the very world beneath the dome that he had seen from outer space. Even the eye of the unknown creature on the outside was gazing now on that dazzling light.
Then the unexpected happened once more. Dizzying vertigo and growing confusion took hold of Alex again and he found it harder and harder to maintain his sense of up or down. There was a throbbing pain growing in his head too and Alex felt his hand shift as though it was made of sand.
"Ow!" he cried out, more from shock than pain though. "Halden...wake up!" Alex yelled, for he knew that he didn't have long to live. "Wake up...please," he cried as he tried to shake the slumping Martian boy awake!
The walls flashed by now with unbelievable speed and the little craft began spiraling like a bullet within the glass tunnel. "Oh…please," Alex yelled one last time!
The light ahead grew with breathtaking swiftness and before he knew it, they were through and emerged under an open sky. A last shot of pure pain took hold of Alex and he became no more. His hands passed cleanly through Halden's body at that moment but Alex had a faint hope that the boy was starting to awaken.
"Halden," Alex cried and without warning, his Luss sang out with a prolonged and beautiful, haunting note! An essence washed over Alex at that moment which felt warm and comforting despite his fear; his body relaxed and blissfulness quietly overcame him.
"Let go," a quiet voice within him whispered. Alex heard Halden beginning to stir but he sounded distant to him now. Then, without more, Alex winked out of existence, instantly. A rushing river sound followed then he awoke in his bed, in the dark and took a single, big, deep breath.
"Ah!" he yelled, both terrified and relieved. "Oh...jeez," he yelped as he rolled right out of his bed and landed with a hard thump on the solid wood floor. "Ow..." Alex breathed, but he was so very happy to be alive. The dark bedroom swam before his eyes. Alex was shocked by the sudden stillness and quietness after all that had transpired in his dream.
A strong night-wind blew and whistled through the crooked branches of a large cherry tree growing nearby the house; an errant, brittle branch scratched and tapped the rooftop outside, breaking the silence in the little room every moment or two.
As he picked himself up off the floor, Alex felt something slip from his brow, glance off his shoulder and then fall onto the floor with a metallic sounding, "ding-ding-ding!" Reaching down to retrieve whatever it was, Alex became aware of something which he held in his other hand as well.
One of the objects felt familiar while the other did not. Walking over to the window for better light, Alex was amazed to find that what he had picked up with his right hand was his Luss while clutched in his left was the thick chunk of green broken glass left from one of the Glass Tunnels.
Strangely, a shimmering golden glow was only just fading away from his Luss as it uncurled in his hand and straightened into its normal form once more. Clearly, it had just finished doing... something, and it had been around his head, he felt certain about that too.
Curious by what he had just witnessed and wishing to see more clearly, Alex brought the Luss and the piece of odd glass up to the pale, ghostly rays of the haloed autumn moon, and as he did so, the glass began to glow. Softly at first, then, as though it was collecting each faint ray of moonlight and concentrating it, the shard of strangely behaving glass brightened before his eyes. Sooner than seemed possible, the glass was radiating a bright green light which lit up Alex's room and cast weird, sharp shadows behind him.
Alex recalled seeing that same luminescence the week before when he first slid down through the spiral tube which led him underground to Miss Vee's buried Biosphere Spaceship. He was mulling over those recollections when, without warning, a shock of something as cold as an icicle arrow shot straight through him so suddenly that Alex let out another yell and clutched his chest with fright. As he did so, he let go of the shard of shining glass and an amazing thing happened: it vanished in mid-air! But almost immediately, there was a loud clunk heard on the floor and when Alex looked again, there it lay, as solid and visible as before.
"Oh wow," Alex whispered with wonderment, forgetting his initial fears and, bending down, he retrieved the thick chunk of glass and dropped it again; and again, as it fell, the glass winked out of sight for a split second. Then, thunk, there it was again. "Cool!" Clunk.... thunk... clunk! "This is amazing!" C-clunk... c-thunk... c-tunk! "How does this work?" Clunk-a-tunk...clatter-clank-clunk...blunk-clunk -
"Alex!" (Knock-knock-knock), "Alex, just what do you think you are doing in there," called Mrs. Faraway from outside his door. All the yelling and falling and clunking he'd been doing had done nothing at all for his mother's sleep that night.
"Oh-oh crap... s-sorry mom," Alex called back, "I was just... just dropping something..."
"You were doing what!" she cried with pent-up exasperation. "Well... now that you know how it drops... stop dropping it!" (Stomp-stomp-stomp-stomp... slam!)
"Oops," Alex whispered in the dark, and he crawled sheepishly back into bed. But he still held the mysterious piece of glass. The greenish glow had faded away but he kept turning it this way and that, vainly trying to discover how it did what it did. Finally though, the quiet boredom of night-time caused the boy to yawn and cuddle down once more. "I'll figure this out some more tomorrow, I guess," he mumbled sleepily and then was out like a little light bulb.
And for the moment, the mysterious connection between the Luss and the glass which still lay under each small hand, remained just that, deliciously so. Tap-tip-tap...tap-tip-tap, the brittle cherry tree branch continued its soft rhythmic tapping upon the worn, mossy roof. A storm was brewing somewhere but the solid old farmhouse slumbered on, nevertheless.
A Harsh Awakening...
The cold October wind swirled dry fallen leaves through thinning trees standing along the dark country lanes as it blew through quietly drowsing Delta-Town that night. Still the wind continued searchingly, breezing and whistling down first one street then another until it found at last a huddled form curled up, ragged and alone within a meager cardboard shelter.
The man was old and long white hair and a beard now obscured his face from anyone who may have recognized him from years gone by. Though he slept, it was only barely so for he moaned and called out as though haunted by past memories long forgotten yet not completely so. He felt trapped somewhere vague and shifting, confusing.
"No... I want to stay where I was... where am I now... when is this now?" he mumbled feebly. Feeling hunted and alone, the stranger moved through time and space as if by thought alone. A ghost, I am a ghost, he thought dimly to himself.
The bright halo of a bewitching haze overshadowed his mind and moved with him everywhere he wandered. Though he could not recall dying, he knew he must have for the wraith which he had become was now all that he knew himself to be. Yet this place could most certainly not be the realm of heaven that church or mosque or any holy story had long ago described, for it was a netherworld of hauntings and the hunted.
He was the latter, he felt certain of that for, wherever he fled or 'ghosted' to, the "Strange One" always pursued him and prowled in his wake. It hunted for him on softly padding animal paws, sometimes distantly, other times very near yet never quite reaching him. It howled mournfully at different times too, and the howl lingered then faded within the hollow depths of a cave long forgotten.
Oh, to wake up from such a curse, such a nightmare was his highest wish—even if he should wake to find oblivion waiting to finally take him. “Oh, where... where do I wander,” moaned the stranger in his thinly scattered mind.
Then, as though in answer to long-patient prayers, a single high and beautiful note rang out through the thick haze of the nightmare realm; a light, airy ring of hope, as though from alien wind chimes, vibrant and clear that shook the crystal bars of the lost soul's prison.
The ghost heard its beckoning call and cried out silently as he moved toward a golden light, focusing all that was left of his soul on that one hopeful beacon. For that one clear note became a searchlight in the alien realm, a light of gold far more cherished than all the bewitching brightness which had surrounded him for so long in the confusing maze of crystal mirrors and portals.
"Oh where are you, please show me the way out," the old bearded sleeper screamed in the darkness amid the swirling night-wind!
A sudden gust of the searching, icy breeze snatched at the old man's meager cardboard shelter, sending it cat-scratching down the littered alleyway and Old Elliot, the hobo awoke with a final desperate cry for freedom!
The old homeless man's eyes opened wide, yet were not nearly as open as his mind had suddenly become. A fog was slowly lifting from Elliot's mind as he staggered weakly to his feet. He trembled and shook then wretched terribly. Slowly the ragged hobo straightened up a little more and gazed all around him as someone who was suddenly more awake than he had been in many, many years.
Then, Old Elliot looked down at his clothes, at his dirty hands and he caught his breath at the sight of himself. "Oh, dear God," he gasped, and let out a sharp, sobbing cry which the cold wind caught and carried away down the dark, damp alley.
"Oh, my life," Elliot cried out pathetically and he staggered back to lean heavily against the cold, clammy brick wall. “What has happened to me?” "Oh my dear God," Elliot whispered as he strained harder to begin pulling more of the pieces of his past life back together again.
How many years? How many wandering, wasted years?
A ghostly haze both a beautiful mist as well as a losing fog still veiled much of his mind's eye and Elliot shook and shook his head desperately. "Stay awake, stay awake," he told himself harshly, and he breathed in the frigid winter air with slow, deep, gulping breaths to make sure of that.
A single name then came quite unexpectedly to his lips, "John," he said and shivered suddenly, not from the cold but from the tingle that was shooting now through his re-awakened brain. "John," he said again, yes there was something familiar about that name.
Elliot's mind opened wider and more memories flooded in which were related to John and his recollections of that person. John Faraway, that was it! What had happened to him? "Oh...the tunnels," he gasped in horror as the memory of being somewhere bright and full of crystals came rushing back to him.
There was a cave that he recalled entering; a cave with a forest of brightly glowing pillars and he had seen something else there as well; something amazing which stood in the midst of the pillars of sparkling glass. There was an old man there too and he tried to tell Elliot something, but all his words sounded strange to him. Was the man trying to harm Elliot or warn him away?
Old Elliot shut his eyes tight and turned his head away as though thinking of that bright, ghostly realm would surely cause his newly regained memories to fail and slip away, to be lost forevermore. "The Glass Tunnels... the portals," he said out loud, "they are not meant for us to enter." He willed away those awful thoughts of his mind and lonely soul wandering aimlessly through time and space and again focused on his newfound reality, as best he could. Slowly, minute-by-minute Old Elliot's mind was becoming clearer and sharper than it had been in many years. He felt like a young-minded man who was now stuck in an old man's body.
He recalled that he used to be an astronomer too!
Elliot straightened up and groaned a little as he felt an ache in his now aged backbone. Something is coming, he thought then, without knowing quite why. It was only a feeling deep in his gut yet it was a knowledge nonetheless that was passed on to his mind and soul while they were split from his body and trapped inside the mirror-maze that was the Glass Tunnels. It was a certainty, a knowing that something frightful was about to arrive here and time was running down too quickly.
Was it the animal which had pursued him through the mind-scattering maze of tunnels? No, that being—the Nethlin—was only something frightening while the other creatures which sought to open a window to his world were altogether different, cold, evil things.
Elliot looked down again at his aged hands and bit back the sorrow this time. There was no time for self-pity; what had happened was done, and no crying or wishes would change that or give him back all those lost years. Something... something beautiful and clear had rang out and had pierced the fog of confusion like a searchlight and led him swiftly back to hard, sharp reality once more. His eyes were no longer haunted-looking or staring blankly into nothingness, but instead were as keen and intelligent as the mind behind them still was. "John Faraway," he said with flat certainty, "I've got to find him and warn him… warn everyone before it's too late!"
Teresa Vasquez, he had known her as well!
There was a danger all those years ago as well and they were planning to escape it, to go somewhere faraway and Elliot had gone in search of a hidden cave, because of his research; something...
He recalled climbing a mountain and entering the cave, only to find a larger cavern deep inside it. The cavern held wonderful tall crystals all around... then he got lost when he—Elliot suddenly doubled over and clutched his head in his hands, desperately! With another great effort of will, he again pushed aside the nightmarish images in his head.
They were beautiful and inviting images actually, in a realm of bright white light which at first beckoned one in then trapped the mind and the soul itself inside an infinite maze of crystal portals forever.
Something miraculous had just happened, what he could not say but something had guided Elliot back out of the fog and confusion that his mind had been so lost in for many years. He shook his head and brought himself back to the present reality; then the old man straightened up again and took several more deep breaths of the fresh, cold night air. "Much better," Elliot said to himself in a shaky yet more confident voice.
At first stumbling, then with quicker and steadier steps, the old white-haired re-awakened man walked out of the dingy alleyway and made his way toward the center of Delta-Town, toward Rosie's Diner. That was where John had once lived, he was certain now and Elliot Jansen (for that was his true name) quickened his stiff, aged gait.
Something terrible was going to come out of the Glass Tunnels and he felt more certain of it with each passing moment. Elliot Jansen, an old man who had found his life once more, walked as fast as he could. Elliot sensed in his bones a need for more urgency and that, even now he could be too late. Something was indeed coming...
"John," he cried out, "where are you?" A dry, chuckling from wind-whipped yellow leaves replied with hollow whispers as only they could. And, left behind in the damp, dark alley there lay a sliver of pink crystal glass which glowed feebly once more before its ghostly, alien light went out forever. More years than he knew had passed Old Elliot by and time was fast running out for him; for everybody.
A Purposeful-Thinking Thing...
Meanwhile, floating quite peacefully in a much colder and blacker night, among the slowly drifting dark rocks and boulders of the distant asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars, the Weaver Spider had slowly been collecting and building up thick layers of dust and rock around itself.
Using the effects of a static electricity charge to attract asteroid dust, it soon had a thick, surrounding shield of rock particles encrusting its hulking, grizzly-bear body. A sticky mucous glue that the Weaver secreted had cemented all the asteroid bits into a tough and protective rock shell. The Spider now looked like just another of the thousands of asteroids which orbited our sun between the fourth and fifth planets.
The only obvious difference it had from the rest of the drifting space rocks was that, since the Spider had curled up into a tight, protective ball, the resulting thickly layered crust of rock had also formed in the same manner. The result was a nearly perfect sphere which stood out from the other uneven, naturally formed asteroids. But the true purpose that the rock covering served was more that of protection than camouflage out there in the deep blackness.
Sensitive navigational and telemetry instruments within the Weaver now guided it away from the vast field of floating rocks, toward its new heading. It had suspended all other activities during its long week within the asteroid field to conserve power. But now, as it charted the new course, an air of thick, monstrous anticipation began to slowly build within its single-minded self.
It was one of the last of its kind, an instinctive creature which relied more on its overwhelming brute strength and weaponry than on any well-thought-out plan like its allies, the Flies did. As such, it was a slow and ponderous creature but a very effective one when put to proper use.
Not many days after leaving the asteroid belt, the spherical boulder the size of a house came upon Mars again but this was merely for the purpose of adding speed to its long journey. Passing to within as near an orbit as the closest moon, Phobos was to the planet, the sphere began whipping around the red planet, increasing its acceleration with each orbit. Having fully utilized the gravity of Mars to optimum efficiency, the Spider fired its steering thrusters to break orbit from the Homeworld of its previous Masters.
Its final course had already been calculated well in advance so that initiating it was now a simple matter. Only another short burst of thrusters was required to refine its trajectory, then the silent, simple-minded creature settled down to await its rendezvous with the larger Water World ahead.
The Spider thought not of plans or schemes as its smaller brethren did. It merely set out to accomplish the goals they gave to it and to efficiently destroy any other beings which sought to obstruct it from that appointed task. It was, frankly, no different than you or I might behave as we set about to complete a certain important chore. If, while we strove to our utmost to complete such a chore, a few tiny insects or spiders got crunched into a sticky mess beneath our heavy, grinding shoes then, so be it, such was life...
The ten thousand year old creature tested its talon-like saw-toothed mandibles, tapping and clicking their points together in patient meditation. The precision with which it would soon carry through with its weaving and construction was exactly in tune with the step-by-step, emotionless plotting which made the Others indeed a monstrous race.
Construction had once been the Spider's single purpose in life. Mile after mile, the Weaver and his brothers and sisters had patiently built the aqua-ducts for the soft-bodied ones, down below on Homeworld. The work could have been finished if their Masters had not grown impatient and spiteful—they had come so close to an era of peace and sharing, where water would have flowed for all on Mars.
With a cold and abrupt turn of its mind, the Spider became a purposeful-thinking thing again, intent only on its ultimate goal: the upcoming invasion and destruction of the soft-bodied ones. The Flies had planned it all very well.
As the dense, rocky asteroid fell steadily toward the blue, cloud-shrouded world with increasing speed, the curving sun-shadow on that slowly turning world was already giving way to day-break on the northern continent which was the Weaver's ultimate destination. And, within the cocoon of that protective boulder, a large silken sack carried inside the creature's bulbous tail thorax glowed with the light of thousands of strange blue and white embers that crackled and burned brighter and brighter with each swiftly closing mile.
Next: Chapter 8 - A Lazy Morning For A Change
Dart the Dragonly is feeling quite lazy and self-satisfied after having vanquished the horde of enemy Flies the week before. The Martian War-Dragon sleeps in and lolls about in Alex's workshop all day long.
It's almost too good to be true; almost too good to last...
As of 2017-10-24, Chapter 7 can be read at: Deepskystories.com