17) The Horror

Pheledra, Wave and Fabby were on the lower deck watching Orange’s EV progress on the monitor when the hail from the Kultaki ship became very insistent.

“We’ve got to answer them now,” said Pheledra.

“Okay,” said Fabby. “Orange has almost gotten into position. Let me know when the roach dissipates.”

Fabby climbed up to the control deck to answer the call.

Pheledra and Wave continued to watch Orange. He looked awfully small. A tiny light moving above the Kultaki starship. The cable leading to him from the Firefly occasionally gleamed from reflected light. It looked like a thin filament in the vastness of space.

The Kultaki Ambassador was growing impatient. He hammered on the call button.

Finally, Fabby appeared on the screen. “Oh, I’m so sorry, Your Excellency. We’re in a terrible mess here. We’ve all been swamped trying to solve these problems.”

“Hello, Fabby. Not whistling today, I see. What is your situation?”

“Your Excellency, we must return your present. You see, that astral roach is about to destroy our ship. We simply don’t have the high technology you possess and we cannot deal with it.”

“Return my gift? Normally, I’d consider that a great insult. However, in view of the stress it’s causing you, I’ll be glad to take it back and deal with it. I suppose I overestimated your abilities. We have the way to pop it instantly. Just how did you plan to return it? Apparently it’s totally out of your control.”

“We’re working on it, Your Excellency. It may take a little time though.”

“Perhaps I can send some of my boys over to suck it up?”

“No, no. I hope to have it over to you in just a few microns.”

“That fast huh? … Fabby, you’ve managed to arouse my curiosity. How are you going to do this?”

“Well, your Excellency …” Fabby was stalling for time. “Wave figured it out, I think. I really don’t understand the logic of it but … uh … I tell you what, I’ll get Pheledra. She can explain it better than I can.”

“Good,” said the Ambassador.

Pheledra and Wave watched Orange on the monitor. He had become entangled in the cable and was trying to free himself and hang onto it at the same time.

“Come on Orange, come on, you can do it,” Wave said.

Orange had to let go of the cable, fold in his arms and backtrack slightly to straighten it out. He had just picked it up again when a blast of red and white light zipped past.

“Energy cannon!” he yelled.

The first shot narrowly missed. He was out in the open and knew the second shot wouldn’t.

“Need backup! Need backup!”

Pheledra threw up her hands in frustration just as Fabby came down.

“Pheledra, talk to the Ambassador, I’ll take care of Orange.”

She quickly went up to the control deck. In the four microns it took, she settled upon what to say and how to say it.

“Lance, would you please cease fire so we can talk like civilized people?”

The Ambassador gave a quick nod to someone off screen.

“Pheledra, I’m glad to see you have come out of your … catatonic state.

Civilized people? Pheledra, you’re beginning to sound like us … and you did say ‘please’. What in hell is that orange gadget doing out there fiddling around?”

“That’s for me to know and you to find out, Lance.”

“Fair enough.”

The Ambassador snapped his fingers and Cobishandra handed him an odd looking head piece with hundreds of wires merging into an overhead cable. He put it on and closed his eyes. Pheledra felt him accessing her thoughts and gave them freely.

“Oh, I see. Why, Pheledra, I had no idea that Galvernian crystals had such properties. Learn something every day. You know, we can pop that roach in a micron.”

“Yes, I know, Lance but it may give you a run for your money first.”

“We love good sport, Pheledra.”

“I know you have Boots and Violet. I want them back now.”

“Wait just a micron. We didn’t invite them aboard our ship. They are spies … up to no good and we’re not about to let them go without questioning them.”

Connection made! Fabby and Wave’s telepathic communication resounded in Pheledra’s mind.

The Ambassador also perceived it and turned quickly to his instruments which were already announcing the breach in sector 14. Then, he turned back to the monitor.

“Good show, Pheledra! Brilliantly conceived and executed!”

“I want Boots and Violet back right now,” she demanded.

“Anadia, bring Boots over here,” he said with a grin.

She appeared with Boots and sat down next to the Ambassador. Boots looked absolutely terrified and was struggling to get another good shot at Anadia’s face, but her grip on his front and back paws was too strong. He tried to bite her but seeing Pheledra’s face on the monitor, relaxed a little. Pheledra gave Boots the hint of a kiss and he quit struggling. Pheledra would make everything all right. He was sure of it.

“Where’s Violet?” she asked.

The Ambassador snapped his fingers and two tough looking Kultaki brought the big container with Violet’s parts and dumped a few of them out on the table.

“Cobishandra dear, please bring me that jar.” The Ambassador sounded confident, even cheerful.

She sat the jar down in front of the Ambassador and seated herself next to him on the other side. The Ambassador looked up at Pheledra and smiled. He began unscrewing the lid.

“When we finish this conversation, Pheledra, you’ll have 60 microns to be headed out of this vicinity at full speed. If not …”

The Ambassador reached under the table and produced a large machine that looked like a food processor. He turned it on and its blades whirred. He looked up at Pheledra again. Then he slowly removed Boots from Anadia’s grip and dangled him over the machine.

“No, Lance, no” Pheledra frowned as she shook her head.

“If not, Pheledra …” He passed Boots on over to Cobishandra who put him in the jar and began screwing on the lid. “If not, Pheledra, this will be his fate.” The Ambassador leaped to his feet, grabbed Anadia’s hand and thrust it into the machine. She screamed and screamed, then fainted as he fed it in slowly up to the elbow.

The two tough looking Kultaki caught her and dragged her away as the blood spattered Ambassador looked into the monitor and said, “Our conversation is now at an end.” The screen went blank.

“Orange reporting back in, mission completed!”

Pheledra was sick, sick unto death. Wave and Fabby rushed to her side. They had seen it too. All they could think about was comforting each other in this moment of shock and horror. Between gasps and sobs, Pheledra hit the throttle and the Firefly sped out toward the edge of Miraba’s solar system.

CONTINUE: 18) Cobi and Anna

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