2) An Astral Roach

The lightship Firefly accelerated. A bright disc of artificial intelligence. A perceptive nervous system moving faster than the speed of light through the folds and frequencies of space-time.Pheledra sat with her companions on the control deck. She didn’t say much but contemplated the mission and used the Psychotronic Adjuvant to familiarize herself with the external data concerning planet Miraba. She learned fourteen languages instantly.The Psychotronic Adjuvant, a powerful consciousness focusing device, was invented by Dr. Carl Neilsen in her planet’s previous age and had gone through multiple upgrades and innovations but the name still stuck, Psychotronic Adjuvant, a helper indeed.

Nestingwave talked a blue streak, mostly to Fabby the Bioborg but occasionally to Boots, who was the only cat who even took a passing interest.

“Boots, my friend, I know what you’re thinkin’. You’re excited about this mission and sense the challenge that lies ahead. You’re a lot like me when I first became an engineer. All those individual separate parts that make up technology confused me so I took the opposite approach. I started with whatever the technology was trying to accomplish and worked logically backwards to get the parts list. Retro-engineering. That way, you eliminate a lot of extraneous middle-men parts and find the technological path of least resistence and simplicity. And that’s the approach I use to communicate with the Firefly and give her counsel for self-adjustment.”

Boots pretended to be asleep but rolled his eyes at Wave’s pontification.

For the moment, Inky and Ginger remained together on the observation deck, curled up under the stars. Periodically the cats patrolled the ship. If they perceived that something was amiss, they instantly communicated it to the humans.

Old Nestingwave loved the sheer thrill of acceleration and the experience of seeing the fantastic tourbillons of light during the transition to hyperspace. They streaked past comets and asteroids.

“Look at thatun’ Fabby! We come so damn close I coulda taken an ore sample!”

“All is well, Wave” said Fabby. “Besides, in about twenty zerons we’ll be so shifted we can go right through them and never notice.”

“In-deed,” said Wave in a sing-songy voice, “me density’s a gettin’ mighty thin.”

Fabby smiled and whistled loudly between his teeth, then struck up a lively tune.

Wave slapped his knee, threw back his head, and laughed. He loved it when Fabby whistled. Not only could Fabby whistle just about every tune ever written, but he could produce counterpoints, harmonies, and make up his own melodies hitting certain pitches and timbres that would trigger specific emotional responses. Fabby made everyone around him feel good, but if the occasion ever arose, he could whistle an enemy into a quivering pile of gelatin. He was a customized Frequency Adjusting Bioborg B synthesized by Space Ocean Technologies. Everyone affectionately called him “Fabby” for short.

The lightship streaked down through the worm hole, moved forward in time by a fraction of a micron, and was transferred instantly onto the outer edge of the Anadine Galaxy.

Pheledra’s awe was constantly rekindled by the beauty of it.

The light show thinned and the Firefly plunged into the dark vastness of deep space.

The deceleration and materialization proceeded. Miraba … so troubled, she thought. Birthpangs … awakening from the bondage of illusion into transformation … ascension.

The gradual frequency drop into greater density began well beyond the edge of Miraba’s solar system. It had one dying sun, only a few million annoms left in its life before it would recycle. Long before that, the Mirabans would reach out for the stars. It was their destiny, if they survived. Time future is never written in stone.

Fabby continued the deceleration process while Nestingwave cheered the downhill rollercoaster. “Eeeehaaa! Comin’ through ready or not!” he exclaimed, as they began a mad dash through a boiling cascade of fireworks and glowing plasma.

Pheledra always appreciated Wave’s uninhibited responses, but right now her mind was on the mission. She politely excused herself and went up to the observation dome to sit in silence with the cats.

As the Firefly streaked into Miraba’s solar system, it slowed down considerably being fully materialized into fourth density. Fabby moved around the control deck checking instruments. He seemed puzzled.

“What’s up?” asked Wave.

“I don’t know yet. There is a strong magnetic anomoly effecting this entire sector. I can’t tell what it is.”

“Could it be a solar discharge?”

“Yes, it could be. I’ll keep an eye on it.”

Up in the observation dome, Pheledra was preparing herself. They would soon be in the vicinity of Miraba and the time had come to tap into its Akashic record. Every thought, word, intention, hope and desire produced on Miraba from its very beginning was permanently etched there, as well as its true history.

For now, she would use the Psychotronic Adjuvant. Relying upon technical rather than spiritual means to engage the record would insure the practical interpretation and application of thought forms according to the planets unique cultural archetypes and mental processes. There was one drawback. The Psychotronic Adjuvant would limit the information to her specific inquiry. She needed to ask the right questions.

Inky, Ginger and Boots were on their haunches in a semi-circle. Pheledra sat cross-legged on a cushion in the center. She donned the headpiece and entered into meditation. Today, her journey through Miraba’s Akashic record would be a general overview. Later, she’d focus on more specific information.

Pheledra’s mind explored Miraba. Images, archetypes, symbols, myths and all experiences blended with its recorded history and hopeful destiny. The information available was extensive but difficult to interpret. Parts of it were automatically recorded for further study. Later, after she had put some of the many puzzles together, the information could be played directly into Wave and Fabby for their mutual consideration.

She was just emerging into normal consciousness when she heard Fabby shout over the communicator. “Breach on the control deck!”

“Damn!” Wave cried.

Inky, Ginger and Boots were dashing about as if being chased from several different directions.

“What is it Wave?” Pheledra was trying hard not to jolt her nervous system coming so suddenly out of meditation.

“Intruder!”

“What?” Pheledra was already sliding down to the control deck.

“… I’m ill … dizzy …” Wave’s voice was strange and far away. He was slumped over the console and Fabby was desperately trying to help him.

“What happened?” Pheledra’s heart was pounding as she quickly surveyed the scene.

Patches of irridescent yellow goo were splattered on the walls and console. Some of it was running down Wave’s back and globbing onto the floor.

“Don’t touch that stuff!” Fabby said quickly, “It’s definitely poisonous.”

Pheledra examined Wave, being careful not to touch the strange substance, as Fabby continued. “It came right through the walls of the ship … very fast … hard to describe … like an enormous astral cockroach. It scampered across the walls and ceiling shaking off phosphorescent yellow muck like a hound shakes off water. It disappeared down through the floor into the lower part of the ship.”

“Wave? … Wave, how do you feel?” Pheledra tried to bring him around.

Wave was distressed. “… a ghost … bug …”

“Look Fabby! That stuff is evaporating! Get a scan on it before it drys up!”

A blue ray shot out from Fabby’s forehead onto the rapidly shrinking puddle of shining ooze beneath Wave’s chair. “Got it,” he said, “It’ll take a while to analyze.”

Pheledra and Fabby were concentrating so much on their friend’s condition and the rapidly dissolving mystery substance, they didn’t see Boots, who had scooted in to investigate the commotion. When Pheledra finally caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of her eye, she lunged toward him. “No, Boots, no!”

With eyes closed and ears laid back, he was tasting the puddle on the floor and by the time she grabbed him, he had already passed out.

“Oh great! Now we’ve got two casualties,” said Fabby, as Pheledra handed him the limp and unconscious Boots.

She was distressed but wasn’t about to waste any more time lamenting the situation.

“Put them into the Protoron! I’ll head down to the lower decks and get the droids to help search for this ‘astral roach’ or whatever it is. Meanwhile, turn on all your sensors and see if you can get a fix on it. Stay in close communication.”

“Right”, Fabby answered. “Pheledra, you really don’t need to go. The droids can handle it.”

“This is my mission, Fabby, and I’m going to give it all I’ve got.”

“Be alert, that thing moves fast … look, it’s gone!”

The glistening yellow ooze had completely evaporated and there wasn’t a sign of it anywhere; nevertheless, Fabby was careful not to touch the affected area on Wave’s back as he slung him over his shoulder and, with Boots safely cradled in his other arm, quickly headed for the med pod.

Pheledra fastened on a power belt, opened the weapons cabinet, selected two spectrum disrupters, strapped one to the top of each wrist and headed down into the heart of the ship. She suspected that the monster would go for the six tachyon tubes in order to feed, so that’s where she headed. On the way, she summoned all five droids to assist her, giving them telepathic instructions to bring up their light shields until such time as more information was available as to the nature of this intruder. The five droids responded instantly.

The ZR90 droids stood about shoulder height and looked like cut diamonds consisting of two translucent octagonal pyramids; one pointing up and the other inverted, joined in the middle by a flat revolving sensor ring with folded in arms, weapons and tools. Each droid radiated colors which distinguished them. Occasionally, they sang light-songs among themselves. The resulting visual concert was extremely beautiful to experience.

“Initial scan report in”, said Fabby over the communicator, “that roach is a phantasm consisting of astral scum with one purpose, dissolution of connective biological memory. At this very moment it is moving up the tachyon tubes.”

“How are Wave and Boots?” asked Pheledra, as she sent the droids on their way with instructions to spread out.

“They are alive,” came the reply, “but their memories are deleted.”

“We’ll have to keep them in the Protoron for now,” she said. “Any details on this phantasm?”

“It’s not a living entity but a manufactured cluster of illusory thought forms copied from the lower astral of the planet Miraba. It will be hard to destroy because these forms are spaced irregularly across the spectrum in which they reside. Best chance for a kill is to adjust weapons to 4, 31, and 109 simultaneous disruption. Meanwhile, I will set up a shield around the ship to prevent any more intrusions.”

Pheledra adjusted the disrupters on her wrists and telepathically communicated the information to the droids so they could set their weapons accordingly. For this operation, they were totally under her command.

“Fabby, reduce the gravity on the power deck by 95 per cent.” She wanted increased mobility as she moved among the tachyon tubes.

Pheledra activated her power belt and started a slow decent past the static spheres above the array.

“Psychotronic shield online”, said Fabby, “multiple layers of filtermesh building.”

“Fabby, I’m going to float down among the tubes. The droids are covering me from the outer passageways. We’ll all meet at the bottom.”

“This phantasm will try to draw energy from the tachyon tubes”, said Fabby.

“That’s right”, she agreed, “no telling what will happen then. We’ve got to destroy it now. The sooner the better.”

“Right. Psychotronic filter shields are fully activated. There’ll be no more of those vermin coming in from outside. Now, let’s see if we can locate that sucker.”

Half way down, Pheledra weaved in and out through the array and slowed to a stop. The six tubes were aglow with inner rings of color. Wobbling toruses of photons traveled up inside the tubes, silently exploding at the top and cascading in a shower down to the base. Then the process repeated itself but the light show was never the same twice.

“It’s clinging to the right side of tube three.” Fabby’s voice was intense.

Pheledra had already seen the dark shadow, about twice the size of a man, adhering to the tube. She moved in for a closer look. The droids were already coming up from below having received Fabby’s transmission. They were spread out at different altitudes in case it ran. As Pheledra got closer to the thing, Blue came up to her level but some distance away.

“You were right, Fabby,” she said. “That thing looks like a giant cockroach … what are those other appendages? I think it’s seen me. It doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to escape.”

It slowly crawled up the tube as Pheledra and the droids moved in for a shot. They’d have to wait until it reached the static spheres or risk damaging the power system. Then it froze and began to vibrate, exuding bright yellow ooze that flew in all directions. Pheledra had to quickly swing out of the way to avoid being hit. Violet wasn’t quite fast enough and got a huge gob on her light shield instantly blocking her sensors. The droid headed for the floor of the array to clean herself off but seemed otherwise unaffected.

“That stuff is really sticky”, said Fabby, taking in the whole scene on his monitor. “Be careful, Pheledra, you have no protection.”

“No filthy vermin is going to weaken my focus. It’s that roach or me!”

Just then, the thing scampered around one of the static spheres and darted across the ceiling. Pheledra aimed with her fist, dropped her hand, and a sizzling white ray caught the beast midsection blasting it in two. The rear piece remained stuck to the ceiling while the front legs, head, and eyes fell writhing through the air.

Red fired his disrupter and the falling piece of roach exploded into two more pieces. The front legs and one of the eyes wound up stuck to the side of a tube. The head and other eye went all the way to the floor. In a heart beat, all three pieces began to vibrate into a blur, throwing yellow goo everywhere. Pheledra and the droids swung behind the tubes for protection. Violet, still down on the floor trying to clean up, got inundated.

When Pheledra looked again, all three roach pieces had morphed into fully intact creatures.

“Get out of there, Pheledra!” Fabby yelled. She looked up to see the one on the ceiling leap down into the tubes. The one on the floor sprang upwards and all three began darting madly up and down and from side to side, jumping from one tube to another, quivering and spattering ooze everywhere. A torrent of the stuff barely missed her.

“Go ahead! Go ahead! Get me if you can, you filthy slugs!”

Suddenly, the roaches headed for the base of the array and took off in three directions disappearing somewhere into the outer perimeters of the lightship.

“Targets reducing in size”, Fabby said. “Targets down 600 percent of original size and continuing to shrink.”

“What a situation,” Pheledra breathed. “They have imploded. We’ll never find them now until they decide to show themselves. When they do, we’d better have these spectrum disrupters adjusted correctly. Fabby, I can’t believe your calculations were so far off!”

“Sorry, Pheledra.”

She felt very uneasy but the immediate danger was gone so she gave some telepathic commands to the droids and told Fabby to seal off the lower decks and keep an eye on things while she went up to check on Wave and Boots. They were lying unconscious in the Protoron. She programmed their biological archetype discs for psychological restoration and began the Protoron treatment. It took a long time and many readjustments for the healing rays to finally restore them to their former selves.

“Whew, I don’t want to try that again”, said Wave, slowly getting out from under the bubble. Pheledra opened the adjacent bubble and Boots jumped out with ears laid back and tail looking like a bottle brush, then darted out of the med pod to find sweet refuge upstairs with Inky and Ginger.

“Wave, when we fired our weapons that thing split into three parts. Then it morphed into three full size critters who then shrank to microscopic size. They’re hiding somewhere downstairs, too small to be detected.”

“What in hell are those things?”

“Fabby says they’re some kind of astral scum, a conglomeration of thought forms that wipe out biological memory. The droids don’t seem to be affected. I’ve stationed them down there to guard the tachyon tubes and Fabby has sealed off the lower portion of the ship.”

Soon they were back on the control deck with Fabby who was communicating with the droids and keeping a vigilant eye on the instruments and monitors.

“Fabby, do you have a better way for us to adjust these weapons?” Pheledra was irritated. “I’d rather not proliferate any more roaches if we can help it.”

“I’ll work out some better settings but it’ll take time to analyze the data and come up with a proper solution.”

“Get on it,” said Pheledra.

CONTINUE: 3) – THE CONSPIRACY OF LIGHT

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