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Read Chapters 1 - 14 at: Deep Sky Stories
Chapter 14 (Part 2) - Time Fizz and Miss Vee...
Teresa Vasquez waited for as long as she dared, allowing John Faraway time to tell Alex his story and pass on to him everything that had happened to him all those years. Time was running out though and she gave him fair warning.
John finished, then said farewell to her and wished her good luck. He, of all people, knew how uncertain the future was going to be. Teresa wished John all the best wherever he was , then took the archive-disc and hurried away.
A particularly hard jolt from the twelve tunneling Flies rocked the floor and caused Teresa to stumble against the safety rail which circled a small area in the center of the bubble-room. It was the area where the State-Shift Coils spiraled down from the ceiling, to a point three feet above the floor.
Teresa picked herself up with a scared little cry, staring up at the coils and recalling as though it was just yesterday, that terrible night twelve years ago. The night of the lift-off with John, when their spaceship also trembled as the Flies attacked and Teresa stumbled and fell into the energized mist of the "Time-Fizz" cloud.
When that happened, Teresa was dealt an unfair hand by fate and the exotic physics of state-shifted space-time.
Time-Fizz, the one uncertain and serious risk involved in traveling at near-light speed was also the strangest visible element of this advanced form of spaceflight.
As beautiful as it was horrible to an unlucky victim, it was the only time that time could actually be seen with the naked eye. When the Dimensional Imbalance Virtual Engine created from the charged State-Shift Coils reached optimum efficiency, time was indeed shifted from the naturally balanced state that it shared with Three-Dimensional Space.
In plain English, time became slightly less "dense" and less "relevant" during the swift flight to a destination. It "fizzed" and, for the duration of that flight, became a visible element until equilibrium was attained once more at the journey’s end.
Taken as such, Time-Fizz was completely benign...but add within that softly frizzing cloud anything solid (or anybody), and a ghastly horror was unleashed upon them!
For though there was no certainty about how much of a lifetime that would be removed from that unlucky person, the one inescapable law was that it could never be returned. The arrow of time always points forward, never backward.
Aging from twenty-five to fifty-five took only two seconds for Teresa Vasquez that savage, unfair night when, in the midst of the attack, she stumbled while running from the view port to co-pilot’s seat.
There was a hot, blinding flash and she emerged from mist of the Time-Fizz cloud seeing wrinkled, mottled hands crawling on the floor before her disbelieving eyes.
Then just as swiftly, the spaceship roared and erupted away from Earth and annihilated their pursuers. John and Teresa escaped but she paid a terrible price that night. Teresa picked up the fallen disc and brushed away an errant tear as she hurried toward the tunnel to Alex's house.
"Pull yourself together," she said harshly to herself.
The Flies dug deeper through the earth. There was now anticipation among them that the siege was nearly reaching an end.
They dug through the soil with renewed vigor as the deep blue glow from the Biosphere Dome began to show itself through the deep blackness.
Their eyes shone with heightened evil and a low droning hum vibrated among them. The enemy would soon be defeated by their sheer numbers and their domination of Mars could continue unhindered.
But Mars was to be merely the beginning. Larj, the black-hearted Fly pondered this as he watched his comrades, from a distance, burrowing their way through soil and scrap-iron.
The earth all around the large mound that they had surrounded was churned up and blackened from the repeated blasts as the horde tunneled down in an ever-shrinking circle.
The last retinue of soldiers had arrived not half an hour earlier from their own Homeworld and were standing by, awaiting their orders. They would taste victory with him. And though he and his brethren were doomed to stay on the Earthers' world, vicious satisfaction would come from knowing that they had decimated the enemy here, this night!
Larj turned from the scene with cold machine clicks and slunk back toward the area where there had been a disturbance earlier...at the young Earther's workshop. A silent signal was transmitted to the waiting platoon and they fell in behind to follow Larj.
Alex and Rainah soon found the abandoned tank full of Parathagon Gas in the spot that Miss Vee had described to them. It wasn't that difficult to find because there was still a clearing of sorts where his father's ship had launched years before and the area was still scarred and void of tall trees.
Big Ben clamped his mighty claws around the tank and easily hefted it up then pivoted about to place it carefully inside his rear loading bucket. The bright landing-lights shone over the dark clearing as Ben swiveled about and then was stopped by Alex who paused for a moment to look around and take in the clearing which had been the scene of his dad's departure all those years ago.
Big Ben's idling diesel engine clattered reassuringly and was the only sound in the otherwise quiet forest.
While he paused there for those few moments, melancholy fell gently upon Alex then, and he wished he could have just a little while to try to find even a hint of who his father truly was.
Dart and Jade hovered protectively nearby, their watchful eyes glowing warmly in the darkness. Rainah also gazed outside the caged window of their compartment and then, laying a gentle hand on her friend's shoulder, answered his one silent wish.
"Your father was a very kind and giving person for the brief time I knew him," she said quietly.
"He made these and gave them to me without asking for thanks," she said as she rubbed a hand down one of her bionic legs.
"He and Miss Vasquez cared and helped give me back my will to live again after I woke up alone, knowing my family and my world were long gone and turned to dust.
Before we left Homeworld, left him far behind to protect and finish their home base in the Valley, he gave me this."
Alex looked curiously over his shoulder as Rainah brought something small out of her pocket and carefully handed it to him.
It looked like a small, silver clam-shell with its two round halves shut tightly together. It swung from a length of thin necklace chain.
"What is it?" Alex asked, turning it over and over in his hands.
"You ninny," she laughed teasingly, "it's a locket."
Being a boy, Alex had never seen such a delicate ladylike thing and thought it looked useless as well. Rainah became impatient and grabbed it back, saying something in Alex's mind which clearly sounded like Martian exasperation.
"You open it...like this."
Holding it in front of his face, she pushed a tiny stud set between the two halves of the silver locket. Alex gasped with delighted surprise as the tiny shell popped open, revealing its hidden secret to him.
He took a breath then as he saw a delicate photograph of his mom at a much younger age. There was a man in the other half and Alex knew for certain that it had to be his father. He had longish brown hair just like Alex had and the same sharp blue eyes too.
He looked straight back at Alex with a welcoming smile as if he was just about to say, "Hello."
Without knowing why, for a moment, the two tiny pictures became blurred and Alex didn't know he was crying until he wiped away a fresh tear. Then, from long practice, he became hardened again. He wiped away the last stinging tear and pushed the ladylike jewelry deep down in the pocket of his coveralls.
"He's still alive," he said simply then jammed his foot down hard. Rainah held on tight as Big Ben kicked up rocks and accelerated toward the faint, rumbling sound of the distant siege.
Next: Chapter XV - Circle of Death and the Battle Begins.
Elizabeth and Mr. Chater must fight for their lives as the old house in the hidden thicket is finally discovered by a wicked Fly. Miss Vee makes a last desperate attempt to visit Alex's home with a precious gift - a decision which proves to be most unwise.
And all the while the noose tightens around the Biosphere ship...
There is no longer any place left to hide.
There is nothing left to do but stand and fight!
As of 2017-06-05, Chapter 14 (Part 2) is at: Deepskystories.com