Of Love and War
By Brandon Victorian
Questions or comments? Contact me at Khyron20@yahoo.com orKhyron20@aol.com
"Glad you could finally make it, Arxoxa," Gillian said as the trader entered the bridge of the Pride. "Weire approaching Zelosian and Kelosian space."
"Yeah, and the marker buoys are coming up on the main screen," Herc said with more than a hint of apprehension. "I sure hope you have some kind of plan."
"Go closer," Arxoxa remarked coolly, and was immediately met with stares from everyone on the bridge, especially from Herc.
"Trust me. I make rounds to this system all the time; theyill let us through. I have system passage codes."
Herc sighed. He sincerely hoped that chubby man was right. The Pride was his baby; they'd been through too much together; braved crushing monstermind vines, giant crystallizing spiders, and the occasional space rats, just to be blown to bits by metal and crystal cylinders in the middle of galactic no-man's land. And he didn't trust gunrunners any further than he could throw them in high-G wrestling.
"We're nearing the marker buoys," Herc announced after the strange klaxons they transmitted began to be heard over the speakers. "They're powering up." He turned to Arxoxoa. "Any time now."
Arxoxa reached over to Jayce's console, and typed something very long and complex, almost resembling some kind of an otherworldly mathematical code. He then uploaded it into the buoys, which had begun to emit a bluish white glow.
"That's half the code, he said, returning to an upright position. "The second one's the tricky part."
He closed his eyes and began to rattle off strange syllables. And to everyone's astonishment, an orange glow engulfed his body. Everyone stood in awe, even Gillian, in his own eternally patient way, as they watched Arxoxa continue his recitation of nonsense words, and the orange light grow ever more brightly about him.
At the end of his chanting, Arxoxa raised his left hand. The orange glow left his body, traveled to and focused itself directly into the palm of his hand, and after a sound like energy charging up, shot outwards through the ceiling of the bridge, and as the monitors showed it, straight into the array of buoys outside. Instantly, the klaxons ceased, and their bluish-white glow subsided.
"What in space was that all about?" Herc asked, breaking the long silence that ensued. He turned to Arxoxa, who seemed even more drained than the day they found him. "You never told us you were a wizard!"
"I'm--not," Arxoxa said, between pants. "It-- was the second part-- of the passage code. It works with both technology and magic. All traders who deal with those worlds learns to use it, but the magic part's tougher to do." He looked up at the screen's image of the now silent buoys, and pointed to them. "I think you can pass through now," he said.
Herc checked the sensors. They too, gave a clear signal.
"Well, looks like you're right," he said grudgingly, as he plotted in the coordinates for the Zelos and Kelos system. If I hadn't seen it myself, I wouldn't have believed it, he thought as the Pride's thruster carried them to their destination.
The first thing Jayce felt when he woke up were small hands on his back nudging him at uneven intervals. Then, when his hearing kicked back in, he noticed the unmistakable squeaks of Brock, paying no heed that it was in the middle of the night (as far as the ship's clock was concerned; space, of course, having no true day or night). Then, the heard the unmistakable voice of flora.
"--Up, Jayce, please wake up."
"I'm awake, Flora," Jayce said, now wide awake due to the fact that it was Flora, and that she never ever disturbed his sleep unless it was important. "Is there something wrong?"
"I can't find Gillian," she replied. "I know I shouldn't be walking around at this time, but he's gone. He left my room, muttering about premonitions, and he never came back."
"Premonitions?" Jayce asked, sitting straight up to face Flora. She saw that she was in her pink nightgown, and her fiery orange hair was slightly disheveled. "What do you mean?"
"Well, I kind of had a premonition about the Monster Minds. I saw a whole lot of them in a dream, and all of us losing to them. And one of them was something we had never even seen before. It looked kind of like Terror Tank, but instead of having front wheels, it had legs, like a spider's, and a stinger like a scorpion that shot out electrical bolts. I saw hundreds of them along with a whole bunch of beast troopers, attacking us, attacking the Pride, and we all lost. Then I saw Saw Boss's face, and he was laughing. I was so scared, but Gillian woke me up because he heard me crying in my sleep. And so I told him. But when I did, he looked kind of upset, and then told me to go back to sleep. But I couldn't because of the dream. I heard him leave after he told me to go back to sleep, but he never came back.
Premonitions? Jayce thought. If that was the case, then this was important. When Flora had premonitions, they usually meant that something big was about to happen. But what could this mean?
Well, only one person could tell him.
He got out of bed, and accessed the security database on his console. He put in his code.
"Request location of Gillian," Jayce spoke to the computer.
GILLIAN IS IN MAIN DOCKING BAY, the computer's monotone voice answered, and then flashed a schematic of the docking bay, with one blinking light, representing the wizard.
"Come on, Flora," Jayce said, donning a robe, and then heading out of his quarters to meet Gillian.
Once inside the docking bay, Jayce couldn't believe his eyes; neither could Flora.
From their view atop the railed balcony above the main floor, they saw, standing about the old wizard, in widening circular formation, scores of Trail Blazers, each one a copy of the other, right down to the legs. It was as though the armory of the Lightning League of old had been transferred into the docking bay, waiting for the ancient army to return and take them into battle.
And as if hundreds weren't enough, Gillian remained in his standing position, eyes closed, still uttering magic words and making more and more of the Trail Blazer vehicles appear, not stopping until finally every square centimeter of floor space in the docking bay was taken.
Jayce stood in awe. He'd seen Gillian's magic work wonders before, -his (and Audric's) greatest achievement being Flora- but never on such a grand scale. Even Flora, who normally had a comment for any occasion, was rendered speechless.
"Gillian, What is all this?" Jayce called out, finally finding his ability to speak.
Gillian opened his eyes, and smiled Jayce and Flora. "It is a protection," he said. "A temporary spell in order to even the odds between us and the Monster Minds for what lies ahead."
"What do you mean?" Jayce asked. "We've always relied on the vehicles we have and the ring to get us through before. Besides, we don't have enough people to pilot these machines, and my communicator won't be enough to control them."
Gillian floated upwards to join Jayce and Flora on the balcony. "The dream that Flora had has given me reason to do this. From the moment she told me of it, I felt disturbed, as if the Monster Minds were pulling out all the stops for us. I have a feeling that this modest little temporary army I've created will buy us the time we need to be victorious."
"Yes," Jayce replied, "but-- this?"
Gillian put his hand on Jayce's shoulder. "If there has ever been a time that I have needed you to trust me, my boy, then now is the time."
"Of course, Gillian. I trust you. It's just that all this looks just a bit unnecessary."
"Time will prove their necessity," Gillian said, floating out the door. "Besides, the magic which keeps them in existence will only last three days."
Jayce had had no reason to doubt the old wizard in the past, but as the door slid closed behind him, and he turned to look back at the myriad of vehicles before him, he began to have his doubts.
"Don't worry, Jayce," Flora said. "I'm sure Gillian knows what he's doing."
Jayce looked down at her and smiled. "I hope so, Flora. I hope so."
The asteroid field in the midst of the Kelos/Zelos system was a graveyard for the remains of thousands upon thousands of warships, both of Kelos and Zelos. It was also a minefield full of dormant and unstable weapons, and deadly destructive spells which had never degraded or been broken. Sometimes either of the two would reach the critical point and detonate, causing tremendous chain reactions in the belt, and making navigation through the affected area or areas a nightmare to navigate. But in the skies of Kelos or Zelos, they merely made spectacular light shows.
But one light show was unseen by either side, partially because this light was black, a sort of anti-light, blacker than the blackness of space, but radiating nonetheless. Deep within the belt, on the surface of the largest asteroid, named Ferax by the Kelosians and Zelosians, a structure appeared in the midst of this strange anti-light. Surrounded by a cradle of giant monster vines that seemed impervious to the extreme rigors of space, stood what some would believe was a lab. But those who had seen it and knew better knew that it was truly the headquarters for the scourge of the galaxy: the Monsterminds.
Saw Boss knew that the radiation and unstable magical fields would blot out their presence to Flora, and so he knew that this was the perfect spot to begin his plan. But first, he knew that he must wait. The trader would have to do his part, and then it would be time to strike.
But first, he would have to wait. After all, he was patient. He would wait an eternity for the Root to finally be his.
In the darkness of the secondary cargo hold, Arxoxa sat in front of the control console of the Sky Bolt. As if bored, he tapped his finger repeatedly on the scrolling icon on his inventory pad.
But bored he wasn't. At a closer angle, it could be seen that he was re-arranging various items, and erasing certain logs inscribed upon the pad's black screen.
And on his face was plastered not the blank expression of boredom, but one of despondency, which appeared to grow darker with each tap of his finger.
Then he stopped. He then walked over to the ship's rear cargo compartment, and took a screwdriver out of one of his myriad of pockets. Then he squatted down, and pried open the hatch below, revealing the dormant fuel cells of his ship. They were small, but for fusion cells, size was not important. But beside them was a canister, made of some steel-like, but clearly organic substance, which was covered with small green vines. Cleverly hidden from Flora's detection by a psionic dampener, it awaited his use.
Working fast, he shut off the dampening field around the canister. Then, producing his pliers, he connected the canister's tube-like growth to the coolant ducts of his ship. Afterwards, he reactivated the dampener and replaced the panel. It was now almost finished.
He hated himself for doing what he was going to do, but there was no choice. He had a business to run, and he wanted to run it without Saw Boss hounding him across the galaxy, like he was doing this merry band.
He sighed, feeling dirtier than ever, but satisfied with the fact that it would all be over soon.