32) On Avengarone

Avengarone. Miraba’s large moon. It has a thin atmosphere, highly poisonous to the Mirabans and the Kultaki alike. It’s tall spires reflect a glimmer of sunlight, while the dark canyons rest in cold shadows. It is an eerie wasteland. Beneath its surface, honeycombed with tunnels and caverns, lie the deteriorated remnants of strange machinery.

Most of the rich titanium was removed long ago and hauled away to other worlds by alien races who fought over her secretly in the shadow of Miraba.

Twelve Mirabans once ventured here by means of primitive rockets and without knowledge of those who came before. The Mirabans didn’t realize they had landed in the middle of a booby-trap.

The security devices, left behind by the last alien outpost, automatically turned on, producing mental hallucinations of incredible horror. Ten of the Mirabans went insane and murdered each other. The other two were able to make it back to Miraba and tell their tale, not really knowing what had happened to them.

The Space Agency of Shaluma, who had backed the exploration, became convinced that aliens were warning them off. No Miraban ever went back. Eventually, their primitive space explorations collapsed in a total failure of vision and purpose due to political corruption producing turmoil.

In the black sky to the north, Avengarone’s sister, Tarsenay, looms yellow above the horizon. Tarsenay has very little atmosphere at all, it is a cratered desert moon.

On the darkside of Tarsenay, which never faces Miraba, an insectoid race had long processed the sand for its mineral content and transported it to their home worlds – chemicals to fuse into building materials and radiation shields. When the planetoid came by, it brought destruction and havoc upon their secret operations. The survivors pulled up stakes and left for home, a distant star system they called Kaderalon.

Mirabans, even the scientists, knew nothing of the ancient insectoid race on Tarsenay. The Mirabans had been too concerned with their own problems and trying to develop bigger and better weapons of mass destruction to enforce their political world views upon one another. The Kultaki, for the sake of control and exploitation, preferred it that way and wanted to maintain such confusing conflicts among the Mirabans for as long as possible.

Now, nature herself had brought an end to that long era of control and manipulation.

In one of the unnamed canyons of Avengarone, Ana and Cobi looked out from their stolen scout craft. They looked south toward Miraba. She loomed in the sky. A blue green world of primitive third density human life. Perhaps, with hope for the future, now that her terror had passed.

“What’s Pheledra doing now?” Ana asked as Cobi stared intently at the monitor.

“Flying at low altitude in third density,” Cobishandra replied, “probably helping that Biltar fellow that Lance found out about through his thought machine. It’s her mission, Ana, and she’s totally focused on it. A real do-gooder.”

“I’m still trying to telepath with her,” said Ana, “but she has tuned me out. She probably thinks I’m dead. What do you suppose Lance is doing?”

“I don’t know. The secured channels are saying nothing. He just seems to be sitting out there … waiting. I don’t know what for. But as long as he stays put, it means he’s not coming after us. I think he has something in mind for Pheledra … perhaps the whole planet.”

“Cobi, why would he be sticking around now that our power base is gone?”

“Well, he’s staying because of Pheledra … or us. Are the cloaking shields up?”

“Yes, Ana, partially so we can still see out, but I don’t think they will do us any good. If he decides to come after us, he can find us quickly. Let’s not kid ourselves, we’re quite vulnerable.”

They didn’t say anything for awhile but busied themselves with the instruments and monitors, refining frequencies in order to keep the best vigilance possible. Cobi sent out a small probe from the scout craft to keep a close eye on Lance. It landed on top of a nearby peak.

“Ana … do you think you could use natural telepathy to find out what Lance has in mind? I mean, now that you no longer have any inhibitions against it.”

“It’s all so new to me, Cobi, and it still scares me. I sure don’t want Lance to know someone is mentally probing him. He’ll probably figure out that it’s me.”

“Please try, Ana. I’m so afraid. I need to know what’s happening and whether we should get out of here or what.”

“There’s really no place to go, Cobi, except Miraba, and he’d soon find us there no matter what we do. The insectoid aliens on Tarsenay left and that’s really no place to go anyway. It’s nothing but desert. A waste land only good for the chemicals in the sand.”

“Please try, Ana,” Cobi begged.

“Sure, my love, I … I’ll go to the back where I can concentrate for a long time. Maybe I’ll come up with something useful … or … maybe I’ll just manage to alert him and he’ll get a fix on us.”

“It’s worth taking the chance, Ana. I can’t live with such doubt and anxiety.”

“All right, my love.” Ana made her way to the back of the craft, stopping to take a pain shot along the way. Cobi nervously went back to the instruments.

The shadows of Avengarone grew long as time passed. Ana slowly managed to go into a deep trance. It was as if the experience of losing her hand and arm and contacting Pheledra had opened her psyche. She found herself in new territory and it was somewhat frightening. It seemed more than mere telepathy. It was more like the vision she had experienced when she went out of her body due to the pain.

A ball of light with a dark core hung in space. Fear itself. A low hum. A saurian corpse with empty eyes floated nearby, its entrails stringing along behind like red rope. It began to spiral into the center of the core. Faster and faster it turned and twisted. The low hum turned into a deep resonating moan of depair. “Treprestas, Tresprestas, find me quickly!” The voice was filled with a dark lust that drew like a magnet. The corpse awakened and began to scream. A tiny flame appeared for a moment, then flashed into a raging inferno. Lance stumbled out of the flames. He was wearing a heavy cumbersome helmet on his head out of which emerged hundreds of wires. They were connected to a gigantic machine that looked like a huge globe. He reached up and tore the wires loose, then lifted his clawed hands as if in prayer – parted them – and snapped his fingers .

Anadia collapsed. Cobishandra heard her fall. “Ana, Ana are you okay!?”

There was no response so she quickly undid her harness and made it to the back of the craft. She found Ana unconscious but breathing. “Ana what happened!?”

Cobishandra gasped with realization. Ana’s face was blistered. It had been burned.

CONTINUE: 33) Crash and Burn

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