Cosmic tales 12 vagabond, p.1
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Cosmic Tales 12: Vagabond


Richard C. Parr

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Cosmic Tales 12: Vagabond

Copyright (C) 2015 by Richard C. Parr

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This particular copy of the eBook series Cosmic Tales is licensed for the enjoyment of everyone. It may be freely distributed to others without conditions. Thank you for supporting the author by downloading and reading this story.

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On the temperate turquoise crystalline waters of Horinth, close to the planet's equator, a string of islands sat in a threading formation surrounded by an extensive ocean packed with a plethora of reefs and sea creatures. Some of these islands were considerably small and over millions of years had broken away from the mainland. In the shallow waters of one of these islands, drifting on a makeshift raft, Rodeena concentrated with crossed legs and a wrapped tail as she bobbed rhythmically and watched the distant star's light dancing a reflective body swaying rhythm over the tiny ripples of moving water. Her eyes were almost closed as she focused intention into her forehead crystal, feeling energy absorb and enter through the top of her head, down through her entire body and back out the top. With only the sound of crashing waves against the rocks and the advance and retreat of water at the beach, she immersed herself fully into her thoughts. Each layer melted away as she cast her presence to a place beyond, outside her body, allowing the encompassing material and matter to dissolve, letting her spirit soar high, leaving the planet, travelling many billions of miles in a nanosecond, pinpointing an exact location, zooming in and descending, finding what it was looking for and sticking to its newfound residence. Rodeena called out for home, called out to her race and to her family, wishing them blessings, good fortune, granting forgiveness and giving solace. The feeling was overwhelming and immeasurable compared to her usual meditations, and she found herself whisked back, falling through space, reabsorbing the awareness of time and distance, feeling a rushing of speed and overpowering light, falling through the sky and back to her raft where she opened her eyes and felt the sweltering heat generated from her crystal. This time there had been a return voice. It said, we know you are there and we are waiting for you. That communication was all she required. It made the meditation worthwhile.

A spray of water catapulted on to the raft and Rodeena observed a group of little black and white spotted fish plipping and plopping through the air, soaring for new heights, only to return to, penetrate and tunnel beneath the surface. She laughed as she witnessed the dance and more fish joined in. Then, as she smiled at the aquatic show, the raft upended and she felt herself tilt. The raft came to an abrupt stop, as did the fish's marine display. Rodeena leaned over the side and saw grids of thin rope wound in spiralling knots. Reaching into the water, she saw that fish were squeezing their way in and out of the minute square windows in the rope. There was another shudder and the raft tilted at a steep angle, tipping Rodeena to her feet and causing a great splash as she entered the water. As soon as she touched the rope, she felt her hands become entangled and a sharp pulling force take her away. Working frantically to free herself and the raft from the twisted, jumbled knots, she managed to release a hand, but at the same time the pulling force transformed into a violent yanking. Swimming and kicking her legs to no avail, her raft broke free and now she along with several fish were being towed at an alarming rate. The strength was so unbearable she sank beneath the water level, and as her neck quickly submerged, she took a profound breath of air and her survival instinct overrode her senses. She held her breath as she worked profusely to unravel the rope savagely tightening around her wrist.

A winch system installed on a nearby jetty reeled in a net that had been cast out hours earlier. The onlooker, a rugged, sun beaten, long haired threadbare man with more bone than muscle and a ripped cloth encircling his waist, admired the pinnacle of his engineering. The automatic timer had kicked in and the electronic pulley was retracting the net, for the first time, without hindrance or breakage. He cheered, nearly leaping off the jetty, and, as quickly as he had become jubilant with glee, the pulley froze and he cursed. He sprang to work inspecting the pulley, the automatic timer and the electronics, feeding rope into the water and manually winding it, using his pocket binoculars and looking out to sea, but the cause of the delay was a complete mystery. Then, he felt a cold limb caress his toes, and when he looked down, he saw a bluish green scaly hand gripping his foot, and he yelped. He fell over as he ran and the body of a reptilian female broke the surface and hoisted itself onto the jetty, rapidly breathing in and out and collapsing in a heap in the baking hot sun.

As Rodeena's vision faltered and the world gradually returned to focus, she spluttered out some sea water and discovered the device that had been brutally reeling her in to the jetty. The island came into view and she squinted to catch a glimpse of what appeared to be either a terrified indigenous inhabitant or a scantily clad vagrant sprinting, kicking up sand and disappearing into the line of tropical trees running parallel with the beach. Rodeena walked carefully along the creaking and eroding wooden planks until she reached the sand, feeling the searing heat go into her soles. She raced for a patch of shade by the trees, walking the length of them, ducking and gazing into the insect and bird infested regions beyond, scouting for a sign of the only significant life form she had seen on the planet.

Enhancing the power of her forehead crystal, Rodeena concentrated on a patch of greenery, looking between tree trunks to filter out background foliage and to isolate anything that seemed out of place. A squawking and a flutter of wings departed the trees directly in front of her, and she traced the disturbance to a rustling in the bushes. She gazed forward and saw a deeply tanned and weathered face, with two beaded eyes and white plates glaring back at her, then they darted and went missing, leaving a sound trail as bushes were flattened in a race to skirmish through the jungle.

Rodeena advanced into the tightly knit affluence of jungle, kicking away obscuring branches, clinging and sticky plants, forcibly removing her foot from a mud hole as it sank, listening out for signs of the local. She progressed beyond the tree which she had seen him poised next to, looked further and saw greyness amongst the shades of green. Further ahead, as the trees cleared, a tall stack of rocks revealed itself with several gaping holes in the side. The miniature cavern entrances were littered with carvings, symbols, animal drawings and numbers. A sketch on the rough surface of a boulder used a shadow to determine the time of day. Overhead, birds cried and flurried from nest to nest. Fruits and leaves fell from the tallest parts.

She scaled the rock face, using every ounce of strength in her legs and using her lasso-like tail to catapult herself onto the higher shelves. She lost her footing and gripped on to a ledge, watching below as a crumbled rock slid and careened against the lower shelves. She shimmied across to a bore hole in the rock face and assessed her surroundings. When she was about ready to move on and hunt down the local, a whistle of wind flew past her ear, followed by another, and in the distance, she saw a thin, long and sharp projectile concede to gravity, curving downwards like a dart. She looked behind and saw the man wielding a bow, alarmed at being seen, and quickly rearming for another shot.

Understanding the suddenness and the present danger, Rodeena closed her eyes, placed an index finger on each temple, concentrated with meaning and full absorption aimed towards her crystal, temporarily entering a different world. When the man was about to fire, acquiring the reptilian female within his sights and centring on his goal, a ringing noise pierced his ears and entered his brain. It was worse than nails on a board, than a screeching knife against metal. He dropped the bow and firmly pressed his palms against his ears, crying out in pain and for the blaring pitch to stop. He sank to his knees and scurried backwards against the rock face as the reptilian mounted the shelf and extended a hand. As she got closer, the siren slackened and eventually the blaring racket ended. He looked at her tentatively, taking in her intricate spotted, clandestine demeanour.

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"I'm Obinson," said the man as they walked along the beach and came to a pit with an entrance dug into the side of a dune. "This is where I live. You should come inside and we can talk."

Rodeena squatted as she went through the entrance and took in the shelves and the furniture occupying the limited space. Pots, pans and utensils lined the walls and a makeshift stove sat in the middle of a fabric floor. Obinson offered Rodeena a seat and they took position in front of the stove. Obinson got to work starting a fire and boiling water.

"You are the first being I have seen in these parts for many years," he said.

"I come here all the time and you are the first person I have seen," said Rodeena.

"I'm sure your reason for being here is more to do with leisure than mine."

"How long have you been out here?"

"Long enough. I have witnessed the changing of twenty seasons. I come from Voloxo originally."

"The planet of robotics and computer technology."

"You've heard of it?"

"I know a certain someone, or should I say robotic assistant, that was built on Voloxo."

"Voloxo has advanced. Now it is the harbinger of doom and the seed of artificial intelligence. Voloxo has gone beyond merely sustaining itself through technological means. It now deals in more political and much darker affairs."

"Is that the reason why you are here?"

"My expertise is not in robotics or artificial intelligence. My skill is in the design and implementation of weapons systems. The Voloxo government progressed into being a very traditional and insular society and advanced its citizens to a level of high intellect and sexual restraint. We became robots to the will of our government and our scientific and technological jobs. I broke free from the programming and did my own thing for a while, until the government showed interest in what I was designing as a hobby. They wanted to get their colonial hands on it, and I dismantled the project, taking the technology with me. After a year on the run I took the advice of another inhabitant fleeing the chaos. She said that living undetected and out in the open is my best means of survival. We went our separate ways and I came to Horinth. It is only a matter of time until I am discovered and the colonialist government comes after its buried treasure."

"You sound very willing to protect this treasure."

"Willing with my life."

The water boiled and Obinson added a scatter of chopped herbs and leaves. As the drink brewed, Obinson took note of the carving of a name on the reptilian's bangle.

"Rodeena," he said. "Just in case you forget?"

They drank and waited for the heat of the day to slacken, then she watched Obinson collect pieces of wood, assemble them into a pyramid, and as the distant star began to set, the embers of the little flame grew and grew to the point where a vast blaze engulfed the beach.

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Obinson paused suddenly in the middle of the jungle when his foot caught a wooden marker he had stuck into the ground a long time ago. He saw the hooks of the tarpaulin shielded and camouflaged by layers of leaves and soil, traced a mental outline of where the other wooden markers were, and instructed Rodeena to help him uncover the sheet by removing all of the debris. They toiled together to reveal the black sheet, and moving around to each marker, one by one, they unhooked the sheet and folded it back. Rodeena saw a big hexagonal piece of wood wedged into a manmade gap, and with Obinson's help, they pulled it away to reveal a hole. Obinson reached down and fixed two wires together, and moments later, a set of lights encircling the pit beamed on, displaying an antenna and a switchboard at its base. Obinson held Rodeena's hand as he guided her down a set of wooden steps and into the pit, the heat sweltering and surrounding them in a ditch of inescapable air.

"This is what the government of your planet is searching for?" said Rodeena. "What exactly does it do?"

"Well...imagine there's a ship in orbit, directly above our position. It belongs to an enemy and our land needs to be protected. The ship poses a threat and is about to fire on us or dispatch a battalion to invade. We power the antenna from the base, program in the coordinates of the ship, track its movement and lock on. We allow the antenna to warm up using concentrated crystal energy and lasers, then the antenna unleashes a bolt of light penetrating out of our atmosphere, travelling two hundred miles and obliterating the ship."

"Just how strong is this beam of energy that comes out?"

"It has the capability to destroy a ship four square miles in size."

"Did you just say four miles?"

"Now I know why you have your name written on your wrist. If this weapon was to get in the hands of the Voloxian government, they would use it to further their imperialist regime and their agenda to enslave and govern other planets in my system and beyond. They could start a horrific and unstoppable galactic war. I know how irresponsible they can be. It is in our history."

As they spoke of the weapon's technology and its potential to wreak havoc across the galaxy, in the distance, about twenty miles off shore, a ship detected a land mass. Its captain, the leader of a small band of Voloxians dispatched on a recovery mission, made a measurement of the area schematics, performed a night vision assessment and matched the landmarks of the island to the images and details described to him on the government notes. He decided it was the island he had been briefed about, and he alerted his men. They would rest now, and in the morning they would attack.

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The sheet covering Obinson rose and fell slowly as the only sound came from the shallow waves hitting the shore. Thick planks and trunks of wood cracked, blistered, snapped and fell, sending orange speckled embers into the wind as Rodeena watched the dying flames of the campfire flickering out. On the horizon, darkness gave way to a purple, reddish glow, and shortly afterwards, the first slivers of a morning sun rose and shone brightness along the serene waters. It was at this moment that Rodeena sensed something was wrong, and breaking her morning ritual of meditation, she stood up and walked to the water's edge. As the sunlight progressed, a silhouette sat on the horizon. It was an unmistakable ship. She focused her thoughts on the inhabitants and felt a presence of anger, revenge and fear. She ran to Obinson's shelter and lifted the sheet off him, watching him snore softly and innocently. Then she shook him and he rolled off the bed, collapsing in a pile and picking up his cane in frustration, ready to attack the disrupter.

"What is it? What is going on?" he snapped, shoving the cane in Rodeena's direction until his eyes refocused and he realised what he was pointing at. "Oh, I'm sorry. I'm not used to being woken up in the middle of the night."

"There's a ship and it's getting closer," said Rodeena, but before her last word could come out, Obinson was already jumping into action, running out of his shelter and stumbling to the shore, peering out across the calm sea and catching sight of the threat.

"Voloxians," he muttered. "Are you going to stay and help me defend the weapon?"

Rodeena felt a wave of compassion for the poor inhabitant and nodded.

"Then we must get to work immediately if we are to ward them off."

Obinson retrieved ropes, snares and knives from the shelter and tossed them into Rodeena's hands, then she looked out at sea and saw the ship had progressed a great distance in what felt like less than an hour.

"The longer you stand staring at it, the closer it will get," he said as they walked into the jungle and prepared for the arrival of the enemy.

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The ship's lifeboat was lowered into the water filled with a small army of twenty Voloxians carrying and preparing their laser guns for assault. The captain weighed the ship's anchor, released the lifeboat and four sailors rowed, increasing the speed and drift to a steady rate. He stood at the stern, overlooking his troupe, listening to the heaves of the oars and the waves crashing against the boat, rocking them in a pendulum as the shore became closer. The men tied the boat to the jetty and disembarked, led by a captain making a beeline for the beach, not paying attention to the shelter or the campfire or the remnants of the raft, solely focused on recovering the prize of his merciless government. Rodeena spied on their actions as they made it to the beach, hiding amongst the bushes, noting their colonial attitude, strutting and marching as if they owned the place, ransacking Obinson's shelter and laying claim to any item they could uncover. Obinson pulled her by the arm and they retreated.

The captain looked over his shoulder and turned sharply to a sense of movement. He ordered his men to inspect the tree line, and they advanced, spread out in a line, scouring the ground for traces of life. The captain knelt down when he saw indentations in the mud, and on closer examination, found the deep marks of elongated toes and a shallow sole. The footmark was too narrow to belong to a human. Then he remembered the marks of a lizard he had once seen scurrying across sand. He ordered his men to halt.

"Be on the lookout for a reptilian creature," he said, much to the bewilderment of his men. They continued searching carefully and gradually. One of the men traced a thin wire connecting to a tree and delicately touched it with the end of a finger, following it to a source that became vague as the background of greenery obscured his view. Two fellow soldiers copied the movement, pursuing the wire and losing sight of it. From nowhere, the earth folded around them and swallowed them into a net, the myriad of wires cut loose, they took off and were catapulted in a heap of shrieking above the tree line and into the sea.
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