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“Do you think this will work?” Shevu tapped on the old cleaning bot. “It might.” Manfred mumbled while re-wiring the unit. I bent down for a closer inspection. “And this is the only cleaning unit left?” “Yup.” Manfred closed the front panel. “Enticeler, could you hand me that volt jack over there?” The blue bot held his left hand out while making some final adjustments with the other. I happily complied. Finally, after all this time, we would solve the mystery of the Hain’s missing years. I was singing a little tune without even realizing it; it was sad that the others couldn’t understand our beautiful language. “The resolution will be a little bit blurred in places, but we can clean it up.” Manfred set the bot upright and accessed its memory. He plugged the unit into a nearby charging station and its video feed appeared on the screen next to us. “No, no. That’s not it.” Shevu was very impatient. “Fast forward a few months.” “There we go.” Manfred, usually apathetic, was also getting excited. “Wait, what’s that? Is that a Goothalk?” Shevu’s breath seemed icy with fear. “It looks like a whole squadron of them.” I replied. “Wait a minute; one of them looks familiar.” Manfred adjusted some of the internal wiring and nodes on the bot. “Look who we have here…Dip-Dip.” “I knew he was involved somehow.” Shevu hissed. “Japhirdan? What were they doing there?” I was utterly surprised.
“By the stars!” Shevu took a step back. “Turn it off! Turn it off!” Manfred gently shut down the robot. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think that it would be that bad. Those poor people.” “They weren’t people….they were Neredites, Shikaisee, and Yvvy.” Shevu walked out of the room. There was something in her stride that made me nervous. “Maybe one of Dip-Dip’s employees knows more.” Manfred removed the memory core. “Maybe….now isn’t the time for an interrogation.” “Enticeler, Manfred, Shevu, and Sithim – to your stations!” Thamphor’s orders boomed throughout the ship. “We have more immediate problems.” I added.
We settled into orbit around an ordinary blue planet that was circling a most unusual star. It was a huge blue-white sphere with a watery surface. At both poles, geysers of dark red plasma shot out into the darkness. At the equator, a current of black particles churned in a chaotic fashion. The red lights illuminating the bridge made the whole affair very miserable and intolerable. “The surface of the star is only 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The surface is composed of an unknown liquid.” Sardonia announced. Klaondonis, another Av-Gelshek, zoomed in on the geyser at the north pole. “The star is emitting a hybrid of X-Rays and Neutrons. The radiation output has characteristics of both, but there are several properties that cannot be quantified.” Deep under my skin, my nerves started to tingle. “Will this interfere with Thispa’s meal?” Thamphor gripped his battle staff all the tighter. “No Captain.” Sardonia answered. “And the planet?” I could tell Thamphor was eager for the carnage to begin. Ruphgloin, another Av-Gelshek devotee, used this opportunity to gain favor with the captain. “The population of the planet is 138 trillion, distributed evenly on land, water, and air. Technology appears to be approximately 22nd Century, by human standards. Military capability is significant, but not overwhelming.” The main display at the front of the bridge blinked to life. A human looking thing covered in yellow skin with green bands stood before us. It had long, white hair that was tied in a pony tail. The most unusual aspect of this creature was the 4 inch tusks on the back of its hands.
“Greetings. We are the T’nai. We welcome you to our planet.” “Release Thispa.” The captain ordered. “Request permission to assist captain.” I stood before our brutal leader. “Do whatever you like.” He waved me off. “Just don’t get in the way, Thispa is a messy eater.” I made sure to placate Thamphor’s need for authority. “Yes captain.” I bowed and saluted our “leader”.
The T’nai home world was stunning; their massive, sprawling dwellings covered the ground like beautiful ceramic lotuses. Above us, several star shaped metropolises hovered peacefully. As we passed over an ocean, I could see gigantic pyramids, glittering like cosmic jewelry, under the waves. A vast network of glass tubes connected their cities. On the surface of each corridor, complex, multihued fractal masterpieces slowly bloomed and faded. I could have stared at this wonderment for a lifetime, but I was distracted by the tingling sensation. It was growing stronger. Usually, I would have become quite afraid; after all we funeral home owners are always partnering with death for a living. We know how brief and fragile mortal existence can be. As my skin started to ripple, I felt alive in a way I could never have imagined. “Thank you.” Nordip looked up from the X-4 controls. “Need to get away.” “You don’t like your new captain?” “No.” “I don’t suppose you would.” “Not Dip-Dip.” “I don’t understand.” “Not like Dip-Dip. Others give us bad looks. Nethasian, Borgan…others waiting to harm us.” “Then leave.” “Cannot. Need others.” Nordip nervously replied. We started scanning the population once we landed. The T’nai had typical delta retrograde brainwave patterns. It would be easy to put them to sleep. That way, they could die dreaming instead of screaming. I looked around and wondered what kind of eulogy I would give for this civilization once it had been consumed. I turned on the neural transmitter and started to sing a funeral song. “Radiation level spike.” Nordip scanned the surrounding area.
A flash of heat, light, and sound erupted from the very essence of me. Every part of my being was vibrating, humming…singing. I looked at my reflection in the glass tube and I was consumed by a red fire. A million tiny black spheres orbited my body. For some reason, it seemed the most natural thing in the world and I was getting a perverse pleasure from it. “Enticeler?” Nordip backed away. “A good question, little one. Am I still Enticeler? Perhaps..perhaps not.” My thoughts seared onto his skin. The little green one shrieked in pain and fell to his knees. As for me, time seemed to stop. The universe before my eyes became dappled with dark matter; it crackled with dark energy. Threads of green cosmic strings whipped about wildly, blown by invisible jets of radiation that made my tongues tingle. A flood of questions poured into my brain; answers to fundamental mysteries zipped by my consciousness like speeding trains. So much was made clear to me; and yet new unsolvable mysteries yawned wide under my feet. After the initial disorientation and giddiness wore off, I felt something tugging at my soul. “You must save them.” The words rained down upon me. They felt cool and soft upon my eyes. I looked up and saw Yil-Weth-Yma, spinning in her watery realm. “I understand now.” I flew off to complete my destiny.
The city was called T’Lupa; here history would be made. Amid the sky scrapers and gleaming towers, today would burn in their minds. Today would sear a path down their generations, firing hope and imagination for their children’s descendants. I hovered above the pristine citadel for a moment, watching and waiting. I saw a dark tentacle snake through a small building and knew it had come; but I had come too. Today I would bring death and save trillions. I dived down and created a blistering crater upon impact. The doors of the stone and metal structure seemed complicated and alien, so I simply ripped them off their hinges. I tossed the doors aside like straw mats; it was all so easy. As I slowly strode toward Thispa, I left behind footprints of blackened metal. The innocents around me did not seem alarmed however; they simply parted, whispering “Sele-sele-sele”. I firmly grasped Thispa’s black tentacle and released her victim. It was so unexpected, that she jumped back. She retreated for a moment, and her shadowy arm slowly swayed this way and that. Then, cautiously, she approached; gently touching my throbbing frame. Before I could react, she grabbed me and squeezed me tight. They say that those in Thispa’s grasp feel every drop of water being sucked out of their body. It was different for me; but no less painful. A thousand sharp stings radiated through my being and I teetered on the edge of consciousness. But anger wouldn’t let me give up. I had seen Thispa devour worlds before; the pain and terror of her appetite would haunt me for the rest of my days. As a funeral director, I knew death; but this was
irrational, primal destruction. Life was simply taken away, without any ceremony, no rationale. It wouldn’t happen again. My rage burst like a supernova; the building itself vaporized in a heartbeat. Thispa’s shriek was different, somehow more frightened. As the smoke curled off her withered arm, another black tentacle came at me from above. It was stronger than the first, and more cunning. Then another arm came, then another. Soon I was fighting off hundreds of snake like appendages, each more vicious than the next. Since it was now me that Thispa wanted, it was me that she would get. However, it would be on my terms, in my own way. I raced through the atmosphere and straight into the sun; this would be Thispa’s grave. The legend of the dark queen would end in the heavens above. We fought for what seemed like days without end; each inflicting misery and suffering on the other. During that desperate struggle we somehow emotionally bonded. I knew I was beginning to enjoy the battle and something deep inside told me that she was too. Finally, without warning, Thispa withdrew; she was not dead, but she had not won. In the eerie glow of the T’nai sun I felt that I had somehow lost a sister.
“We want to thank you…” Nebem the 45th, Emperor of T’nai, was unsure of my title. His faltering words, which were so far outside his native language, came forth slowly and carefully. We were standing on the balcony of his stone palace, which was inlaid with silver and stained glass. “Exempler.” It seemed a fitting name. “We wish to thank you Exempler from saving our world from the Dark One. Long have we feared his return, but you have turned back prophesy and restored light to our existence.” I thought there would be more of them; this was a historic moment after all. Perhaps there was something in their culture that complicated matters. Or maybe they were just not grateful. Then again, they could be just sitting at home, eating whatever they eat, and watching me from the comfort of their couches. I chastised myself; did it really matter? The T’nai were safe. After the ceremony, I retreated to a quiet, spacious apartment in one of the most renowned buildings on the T’nai home world, The Blue Pearl. Daphne and Allan were already there, my honored guests – and my trusted companions. They were relaxing on the couch and watching a news broadcast; it was just a jumble of alien symbols and sounds to me, but not to Allan. “How awful.” He sighed. “What’s the matter?” I took a closer look. There were millions of T’nai streaming into circular buildings. The roofs of the buildings were covered with leaf like structures.
“There’s a sudden epidemic of radiation poisoning that’s just ripping the T’nai apart. They’re unsure of the origin.” He replied. “Is there anything I can do?” I stepped to the window, ready to take off. “Perhaps there’s something we can do.” Daphne spoke up. “You know darling, you’re right. Between us and the Hain, we have enough computational power to solve this mystery.” Allan jumped off the couch and dashed down the hall.
The next day, I woke up to a glorious sunrise. Hundreds of cities lay before me, like jewels caressed by the warm, soft dawn. I heard sirens down below and leapt from my perch atop the Blue Pearl – again. It had been a busy day and the sun wasn’t even over the horizon. After defeating crime for the third (or was it fourth?) time, I turned on the holo-display and watched the endless stream of radiation victims crawl into the hospitals. “Enticeler…there’s a problem.” Allan walked in. “Where? I’m sure it’s something I – we – can handle.” My power had stripped me of my humility and I was working hard to get it back. “It’s everywhere.” “I understand; the T’nai are not as peaceful as they first appear. I had to stop five crimes last night before I went to bed and four this morning.” “It’s not the T’nai….it’s you.” “I don’t understand. I’m doing everything I can; I’m stopping crime, I’m inspiring the T’nai to live better lives.” “The radiation poisoning that’s killing them is coming from you.” Allan looked out upon the streets below. “I’ll leave then.” “It doesn’t matter. The radiation level on this world won’t get down to safe levels for another 700 or 800 years.” “Then I’ll fix it!” “You can’t.”
Allan and the Samuel Hain left, but I stayed. I hovered over the planet that I saved – and destroyed – for months. I watched as their lights slowly went out, a few here and a few there. The masses of people thinned out; the cars and planes gradually came to a stop. The radio signals were swallowed up in the extinction, each one falling from the sky like a sparrow. The silence crept through the T’nai like a cancer and even singing to myself was no cure. Exempler the hero died with them. Enticeler the Guilty finally summoned up the courage to descend to the planet below. There, amid all the ruins, lay a golden canister. It contained the complete genome of the T’nai, as well as their history, literature, and science. I trembled as I held the sum total of an entire civilization in my hands. They had inscribed one simple message, in my own language, on the container: “Save us.”
© 2013 Benjamin F. Kaye