« 19 - Poor But Proud | Main | Bread Rising »

Denizens: 29 - Enemy

The humans who have crash-landed on an alien planet and there been befriended by an intelligent being who requires of them a mercy mission to save the most incredible creatures in the galaxy, prepare for a sudden departure as hostile forces gather against them.

Brian William Neal's story has every possible thrilling ingredient you could require of a mature sci-fi novel. For earlier chapters please click on Denizens in the menu on this page.

After another week, the travelers felt they had sufficient knowledge of the ship to be confident that they could handle it. While they had worked, a crowd had gathered near the ship, growing larger each day, and when they left to return to their quarters for their meals and occasional sleep periods, the four could feel the hostility emanating from them. One morning at breakfast in Cal’s rooms, they asked ’tau what was wrong. Their alien friend was hesitant at first, but they drew him out.

[It is, I fear, the work of ’klor, the council member who bears you such ill will. He has been spreading rumor and falsehood about you, and some of the people are listening].

Cal asked, “What is he saying?”

[He is one of those of whom I spoke earlier, who do not believe that our world is doomed, and who believe that the scientists are wrong. But ’klor is taking such opinions further; he claims that the scientists have deliberately deceived the people, that there is nothing wrong with our world, that it is a plot to seize control of all the land and wealth, and enslave those who remain].

There was an outburst of comment around the table, and Jonathan said, “But ’tau, that’s ridiculous! Let me speak to him, let me show him. I’ve done an independent study of the planet, and I’m afraid.... there is no mistake.” He glanced apologetically at the alien. “My findings concur absolutely with your scientists’. The build-up from the core is irreversible.”

’Tau inclined his head solemnly. [This I know, Jonathan. However, ’klor is a fanatic; he will never be convinced of the truth, and although his end is laudable, if misguided, his means spell ill for you all. I believe it would be well if you were on your way as soon as possible. In fact, I think you should make this night your last here].

The four looked at each other, and Cal said, “Well, we weren’t planning on leaving quite so soon, but as far as I know, we’re more or less ready to go.” He glanced at the others. “Is that right?”

Bill said, with a nod from Jonathan, “I guess so. We’ve pretty much figured out the engines and the drive system. How about the controls?”

Cal shrugged. “They’re fairly basic when you understand the symbols, and ’tau has translated them for us. Also, we’ve converted the computer keyboards to English. Sure, I guess we’re ready.”

’Tau nodded. [Very well, I will arrange for the ship to be fueled and stocked with provisions tonight. I believe the sooner you leave, the better it will be for all concerned].

Karen said, “What about the creatures? We can’t leave without them.”

The alien replied, [The Loti embryos are ready to be loaded into the cryogenic tanks already aboard the ship, never fear. That will also be completed tonight]. He looked around the table at them. [We had best begin immediately].

Cal stood, and helped Jonathan to his feet. Although he was still weak, the Englishman could stand well enough, and even walk for short distances. He was growing stronger with each day, and had estimated that he would be able to get about by himself in a few weeks. Now, it seemed they did not have the luxury of time.

The others also stood, and together they left the room and headed for the ship.


*


By the early hours of the following morning, their task was all but completed. The embryos were placed in the ship’s cryo-tanks, and after they had moved the vessel out into the middle of a huge square close by their rooms, ’tau sent them back to their quarters.

[I will oversee the final loading and fueling, my friends. There is little more to do in any case, and you need to rest. Gather what possessions you have in your rooms and be ready to leave at first sunlight. The ship will be quite safe with my people guarding it, but it would be well to be away before ’klor and his followers are aware you have left. You should also try to sleep for a few hours].

This sounded like good advice; they were all very tired, so without much protest they headed back to their rooms. They had salvaged scant personal gear from the Hermes, and what they had would require little packing. None of them had expected this to be their last night on the alien world, and at another time, they might have regretted leaving so hurriedly. Now, however, they were anxious to be away, but a few hours sleep sounded like just what they needed.


***


Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.