33) Crash and Burn

The recon saucer approached the outskirts of Urbantia 7. Biltar and Nel sat besides Pheledra and looked out at the torn landscape. Boots had quickly become bored and decided to take a nap on Nel’s lap. Pheledra had increased speed after dropping Nahvar off but still maintained a low altitude so they could see the conditions. The black rain had come to this area once and dark clouds threatened to bring it again.”I’m going to put on the psychotronic adjuvant and try to locate your friend,” said Pheledra.

Biltar nodded. “I sure hope Fryd is alive and near Penyat where the devices are stored.”

Pheledra put on the head piece and closed her eyes. Biltar had drawn a picture of the device with lots of detail for Pheledra to visualize in order to pick up Fryd’s vibrations. The device was inside Fryd’s mind and she could find it there if he was alive.

“Nothing … nothing Biltar, I can’t pick up anything.”

“Are we too far away?”

“No, distance doesn’t matter.” She took off the head piece and looked out the transparency. “We’re entering the outskirts of Urbantia 7. My, it looks terrible.”

“This area is level 9 toxic,” Red announced.

“Oh,” said Pheledra, “that’s too poisonous for us to go down, we’ll have to send a droid.” She glanced over at Biltar, “Where was your dome located?”

“Further east,” said Biltar, “yes … right over there … I think. We’ll need to get closer to see what’s left.”

Pheledra slowed the ship and took it down. As it passed over what used to be settlements and businesses, they were amazed. The damage was incredible. Large buildings had collapsed, gas mains ruptured. Fires still burned and all roads were rubble.

Bodies and wreckage lay strewn about. Every now and then, they’d see a dying survivor. Biltar wanted to stop and help but Pheledra shook her head grimly and continued on. She began to move the ship in a circle to see if Biltar could recognize anything.

Pheledra shook her head. “Most of the survivors died when the black rain came. Here it must be especially toxic because of chemical pollutants and radiation. Orange, how hot is this area?”

“A human cannot be out in the open for over 60 zerons without showing the first signs of radiation sickness.”

“What a mess,” Nel whispered. She held onto Boots so tightly it made him growl a little.

“Look,” Biltar exclaimed, “the dam has broken … and there is a large lake. My dome was right over there. I can’t tell if the water came up to it or not.” Biltar pointed to the right at some indistinguishable wreckage. Pheledra hovered the scout ship above the spot.

“No, that’s not it,” said Biltar, “the dome was further down the hill. It must be under water now. My papers are in a steel safe. Its waterproof and they’ll probably be okay.”

Nel looked over at Pheledra. “Is there any way a droid could get the safe?”

“Yes … Orange or Red could be given a description of the documents and use their sensors to locate them, then go under water to retrieve the safe, or they could simply retrieve the information by scanning.”

“I’ll go,” said Red. “Biltar, just give me some key words in the documents and I’ll try to locate them.”

“Really? Is that all you need?” said Biltar.

“Yes,” said Red, “unlike natural telepathy, this technology requires the use of short range energy scanning. Close proximity to the actual documents is required. What is the paper called?”

“Continuous Energy from the Fabric of Space-Time is the title. Key words would be … uh … systems out of symmetry … negentropy … B field … A field … do you need more?”

“No,” said Red, “that’ll do fine.”

“That sounds great!”

Pheledra went into commander mode. “I’ll beam you down, Red. When you come back up, I’ll create an energy bubble for you to decontaminate the safe and yourself.”

“Aye, aye,” said Red as he headed for the hatch.

They watched him beam down. He followed Pheledra’s commands exactly as he hovered just above the water.

“Go over a little to the left. That’s it. Look there.”

Red pulsed his energy, growing brighter and then dimmer. His facets gleamed like a diamond as his energy beams penetrated the murky water in a systematic search. He went in a circular pattern, often going back over the same area Sometimes he stopped altogether for a moment and then proceeded carefully.

“Nothing here, Pheledra,” he finally said.

“Try going over to the right and further out into the water.”

“Okay.” Red moved out taking his time, “nothing here either.”

Pheledra looked at Biltar and shook her head. “Red, go right and …”

“Wait,” Red interuppted, “I’ve got something … yes … it’s right under me. I can sense it very well. It’s here. Do you want me to just scan the info or get the whole safe?”

“Get the safe if you can,” said Pheledra, “scanning would be okay but Biltar would probably like to have the original hard copies.”

Biltar shook his head. “Pheledra, that doesn’t really matter as long as we retrieve the information.”

“Red, go ahead and bring up the safe.”

“Okay,” said Red.

Biltar was admiring Pheledra and trying not to stare. Her beauty was hypnotic. “All right,” he said, “if it’s that easy. You people seem to be able to do just about anything.”Pheledra smiled. “Just about.”

Red disappeared beneath the muddy water and they waited a few moments. “See anything?” she asked.

“It’s a tangled up mess down here. There’s some metal … or wreakage … the safe is underneath, buried in the mud. I’ll have to get some of this stuff out of the way first.”

There was a pause and Red spoke again. “This stuff is heavy. I don’t know if I can move it. Just a moment. Almost got it. Ohh …”

“What’s wrong, Red?”

There was no answer.


“Oh … my arm is caught. I can get it loose though. Just a moment. Oh … I didn’t see that!”

“What’s going on Red? Are you okay?”

“I … tried to get my arm loose … and … a big piece of metal has pushed me down into the mud. I’m a little stuck but I’ll get out okay. Just a moment.”

“Red, do you want me to send Orange to help?”

“No need. No need … I’m okay. I just need to push out a little more. There … ohhh … another piece of metal toppled over on me. Oh … I’m really pinned now … can’t seem to move any way …”

“Red, I’m sending Orange down to help you!”

“Don’t do that Pheledra, he’ll get stuck too. It’s really a mess down here. Let me try to work myself out. You don’t want both of us stuck …”

Orange was already on his way.

“Oh no, he should have just done a scan.” Biltar was upset.

“What can we do?” Fear was in Nelyani’s voice. Boots laid back his ears. He didn’t like this at all.

Pheledra didn’t say anything but stared intently down at the waters. She was feeling some regret and guilt that she had told him to go ahead and get the safe. It was another unfortunate mistake.

When will I ever learn, she thought to herself, I must not loose him.

Orange disappeared below the surface.

“Do you see Red?” Pheledra asked.

“Yeah, he’s really stuck,” Orange replied.

“Can you get him out?”

“I don’t know. He’s really stuck bad … and sinking deep into the mud.”

“I’ll be all right,” said Red, “Orange, just give me your hand so I can pull myself out of this ooze.”

“He’s going down further, Pheledra!” Orange sounded excited. “The weight of the metal is forcing him down. I … I … can’t lift this huge … oh … he’s almost completely under … what can I do? What can I do?”

“Think … Orange … is there anything around that you could use to keep him from slipping further?”

“No, Pheledra … all these pieces are too heavy – that’s the problem!”

Pheledra felt her blood run cold and her heart pounding.

“Red … is there anything you can hang onto? … anything you can use to brace yourself or …?”

“He’s completely under!” Orange was stressed. “I’ll try to get a grip on him!”

“No, Orange, no!” cried Pheledra. “Don’t get yourself in trouble too. Please, Orange. That’s an order. Do you hear me. I order you to cease … now!”

Fabby’s voice screamed in her mind. Pheledra! Pheledra! Danger! Get out now!

“Ohhh, Pheledra,” cried Red, “this thing is crushing me … taking me down … oh … its rupturing my back … water is coming in … my circuits will … short out … I’m ruptured … water is coming …”

At that moment, an explosion of light and heat shot past the recon saucer and another, then another.

“What was that!?” screamed Nelyani.

“It must be a particle beam weapon!” Biltar was intense.

“I’m taking the ship up and moving into fourth density!” cried Pheledra, trying hard to maintain herself, “Red, can you hear me? Red!? Red!?” The ship was already zipping upwards.

“He’s gone, Pheledra,” said Orange, “crushed and shorted out.”

“Get to safety, Orange! We’re under attack here! There’s a particle beam weapon firing at us!”

Biltar quickly looked around. “The weapon is being fired from the ground! Look! Over there.” Biltar pointed to an area of collapsed buildings some distance away.

Pheledra had already boosted them into fourth density and they were invisible to the enemy below, but the weapon continued to fire randomly hoping to bring them down. She was breathing heavily and stuggling to keep her composure and not to cry. “Red is gone. There’s no retrieving him now,” she said with great sorrow. “The instumentation on that particle beam weapon must not be functioning properly or we’d already be dead! We must go back down and get Orange!” Biltar and Nelyani were shaking, kunckles white from clutching the arms of their seats. Their eyes were big as plates. Nelyani was whimpering. Boots had himself embeded across her chest, panting wide-eyed in a daze. Pheledra shot a quick glance at her monitors. “We have sustained some damage. The Matter Condenser beam circuit is not functioning. We’ll have to density shift down into third when we beam Orange up and that won’t be a problem, but due to the circuit malfunction we won’t be able to upstep back into fourth density, so, we’ll be stuck in third for our trip get Nahvar and go back up to the Firefly.

“Pheledra, Pheledra, I’m so scared!” Nel was still clutching Boots who was on full alert, his tail quivering, not knowing what to do.

“We’ll get out of this okay,” said Pheledra, looking over at the two and trying to sound confident, “just try your best to relax. We’re out of immediate danger.”

Biltar’s eyes were wide with excitement. “Why don’t you just blast that installation down there?”

“Can’t do that. In the first place, we have no weapons aboard this recon saucer and also, we can’t interfere with Miraban life beyond the directives of the mission. Taking a human life is forbidden, unless there is absolutely no other choice. Otherwise, Fabby and Wave could blast them from the Firefly. But, we’re out of immediate danger and there’s no reason … hold on for a micron.”

Wave’s voice was in her head. Pheledra, we recommend that you allow us to use the tractor beam from the Firefly, we will shift Orange and bring him up to us. It is far too dangerous for you to downstep to get him. You can come back to the Firefly to regroup and then go back.

No, Wave, she telepathed,it will take too long. I told Nahvar that I’d pick him up before sunset … and … there’s no need to delay the mission. We can do it.

Pheledra, Fabby’s thought filled her mind, you are jeapordizing everything including the lives of Biltar and Nelyani. You will not be able to upstep into fourth density until we repair the circuitry. Our consensus is that you should return now and go back later.

Not a chance, Fabby. I will take care of it. We’ll have a face to face later. Pheledra shook her head and turned to Biltar. “This is going to be real dangerous … but we need to go on with the mission. The best thing for us to do is distract the weapon crew below by getting them to fire at something else after we downstep into third density and pick up Orange. I’m going to send out a probe over them and, hopefully, not knowing what it is, they’ll fire at it instead of us. I hate to risk losing a probe, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take. Do you have any ideas?”

“I don’t know enough to have ideas,” said Biltar in a shakey voice, “do whatever you think is best.”

“I will do it then,” she nodded.

Pheledra took the recon saucer back down. They were still in fourth density and would remain there until they would have to downstep in order to pick up Orange. The gun crew below could not detect them as long as they were in fourth density. Orange, still vulnerable, had remained under the water and found a place of safety at the end of the lake, hiding inside an underwater indention in the bank. His computers were processing the situation and recommending the best thing for him to do.

“We’ll go in low,” said Pheledra. “They are shooting skyward … and if we’re close enough to the water, we can allude them. They won’t think we would ever risk being at such low altitude while fully visible.”

Nelyani put her hands over her eyes and let Boots hop down. “It’s hard to believe this is really happening,” she said.

“This is a awful lot for a little girl to experience,” said Pheledra, “but you can do it, Nel. Hang in there.”

The saucer came down just above the lake and then materialized into third density.

Pheledra shot out a probe and the particle beam weapons began immediately to fire at it. On the third shot, the probe exploded.

“Orange … quick! Come out from where you’re hiding. I must beam you on board now!”

“Okay,” said Orange, “do you have a fix?”


Orange looked around carefully, and floated out from his underwater hiding place. But before Pheledra could get him beamed aboard, an unexpected blast came down from the sky. It shot right through the water and came very close to Orange, knocking him out of the way. He rushed back to the bank to hide. Another blast missed him but turned him upside down.

“They’re firing at us from above!” Biltar cried. “It must be a satellite or a spacecraft. We’re totally exposed!”

Get out of there, Pheledra! Wave’s voice resounded in her head. At the same time an image popped into her mind – it was Nelyani starting to take a bite from a blue apple!


A tremendous explosion ripped through the ship and they went plowing into the bank, tumbling over and over and over as the recon saucer flew apart. What was left of it came to rest and violently exploded in fire.

When Nelyani came to, she felt terrible pain and unbearable heat. Wreckage entangled her. Fire raged everywhere … and the black rain began to fall.


Nahvar was living a nightmare. He desperately tried to hold the image of Nelyani eating a blue apple. Pheledra was so confident. It must work! The image was easy to picture clearly but there was no response. I wonder if I’m doing it right. What could be the problem? Pheledra, I need out of here now!

The rescue operation had been impossible. Too many trapped people and too few rescuers. While he was sewing up a bleeding victim, someone stole his med bag and from then on he had to improvise with whatever he could find, which wasn’t much. There were plenty of people but most of them didn’t care about those still stuck in the rubble. Many of the less injured just walked and stared. Some children and teenagers looted items from the dead and others vandalized anything left intact. He carried four victims to immediate safety but when the black rain came, there was no time for any more.

When the first drops began to fall, the people ran into a large basement that still had a roof. The darkness grew. Even the light of lanterns and fires was swallowed by it. The sunset gave way to thick blackness.

Inside, some of the people went mad with fear and despair. A man in the corner next to a small fire pulled out a puncture blaster, shot his wife and then himself. Others fought among themselves over items they had stolen. A wild eyed man broke a bottle over someones head and began threatening Nahvar with the broken end. He cursed and swung the jagged glass at others standing nearby. Finally, he jamed it into his own throat. Nahvar tried to help but others held him back as the man quickly bled to death.

Everyone seemed to be in terrible emotional crisis and mental confusion. Just as Pheledra had predicted, it was an atmosphere of chaos. The worst part was the despair and the suicides.

Nahvar tried to calm everyone with positive words but no one listened. He talked to a young girl who had helped him with the victims. He spoke of the positive future for Mirabans and the possibilities of a new age; but she, like most of the people there, were frightened by the space ships. They believed them to be an invasion from outer space connected with the dying government trying to maintain control over their minds and lives. As the night wore on, the young girl slept and died. No one knew that she had taken a whole vial of sleeping pills.

Nahvar was worn out and felt he could do no more. Toward morning when the rain stopped briefly, he squeezed himself through a broken window above ground. He was covered with poisonous black mud and did his best to wipe it off, then ran as fast as he could to hide. He found an intact stairwell with a waterproof tarp thrown over the top and ducked in hoping no one had seen him. There he remained — lost and alone. Feeling utterly abandoned, he cried, “Pheledra, Pheledra, it’s been so long! Please hear me!”


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