Breaking interstellar co.., p.22
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       Breaking Interstellar: Cosmic Lives Matter, p.22

           Michael Tobin
 
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  Chapter Twenty-One: Any port in a time-storm!

  The evening is sultry .... as hot humid air, flows throughout the prehistoric country. Queen Ann’s Revenge rises from an ancient terrain, retracts her landing gear and hovers in a light rain .... Not far away and hidden on a rim, curious hominids gaze wondrously, at the hypnotic-fog clinging nakedly to her skin! .... Strangers of the sky who live inside the shimmering bird, had visited many days, speaking unintelligible word .... This is the first time the creature has lifted. And without the slightest flutter, it rises into the sky unassisted .... Much swooning at the wondrous apparition, that conjures such strong superstition! .... Even from the males of the clan, as the monstrous bird, lifts powerfully from their land!

  A deep rhythmic-hum pounds against their chests, causing a fright! But except for one time, the tall visitors had brought nary a fight .... So, as the strong heartbeat of the flying beast is taken in stride, the strange power before them, makes for a new-found pride! It’s an unavoidable omen, in their souls it shall ride .... Sadness flows over the watchers, as they fear the bird will fly away, finding a new place to hide this day! .... If that happens, life will become a bore; because they will have failed their newfound god .... forevermore!

  Many stories will be told, of the tall dark stranger that created fire so bold! He and all will be missed greatly, until time truly turns to mold. Life will be good for the hominids of old, as their rush for the future, selflessly takes hold .... From whence the loins of three.... five wise will arrive! Into the far future, their numbers will thrive! Intelligence and cunning .... their dominate drive! Without the slightest of dread .... they’ll fear only a clunk on the head!

  “Cooper, Toby, how does the reactor like the purified fuel?” Esty inquires from atop her mighty throne. She also examines the data flowing from the ships heart. It took nearly a month to re-process the swill from Grand Ledge, but so far, things are looking up!

  “All parameters are within limits, Esty.” Toby reports ominously. “But remember, they looked good last time we lifted. And, where did we end up? Hominid land, that’s where!” The young engineer relates frightfully.... Inside the glacial ice-cave, the parameters also seemed fine, until they attempted to fully enter the slipstream, and go to warp.

  “That’s true, young lady. However, we must do, what we must do. We’ve upset this time-line enough.” She thinks of Harpers unfortunate abduction, and the many hunting expeditions to obtain protein for the biologic crewmembers. Luckily, the local hominid population left food offerings on nearby ledges each day, but it wasn’t enough for the large crowd of still-growing space-alien animals from Oberon Prime! And, more than once, the pre-humans were shocked at the power of the tall-ones, as they killed their prey from long distances, with bright spears of blood-light! It quickly became apparent, that they were becoming too familiar with each other. It was time to leave.... Many legends, will grow and morph over the years ahead.... time to leave while the leaving is good. The warp-field polarity has been reversed, so there is hope to move forward in time instead of reversed. If they even go anywhere, beyond annihilation, that is....

  “Braxton, take us to orbit. Slowly.... no more than 2-percent slip.” She orders, with shaky confidence that her ship will perform satisfactorily. However, she and Gort, have a high-degree of confidence that the freshly-habilitated fuel will perform admirably. She looks to her first officer, receiving a sly wink of approval from the grizzled-one, who glows with pride in knowing that they’ve once again re-taken the sky.

  “Aye Aye, commander!” The eager young pilot exclaims joyfully, glad to be back in action once again. All crew members are strapped in tightly against the terrible scenario of a crash landing. He manipulates the idling warp-bubble just right, causing the saucer to rise further into the sky. Behind, they leave sad hominids, that will always pine for their return. Even at such a tiny slipstream percentage, the ship rises dramatically fast. Leaving the hominids wondering how it could move so quickly, with nary a flutter of wing, nor the slightest utterance of squawk. Without the slightest disturbance, the beautiful bird is gone from their lives, leaving them feeling empty. However, yet unknown to all, something wonderful of the visit, still remains!

  It only takes half a minute to reach an altitude of 500-miles. The ships circular monitor is full of beautiful planet Earth on one side, and the wide swath of Milky Way, splashed across the other. Many who gaze at the beautiful planet, contemplate the fact that it’s still unpopulated with modern human beings. Still a pristine world, with all the natural bounty she was born with. Still yet to be plundered, by agents of Mother Nature. “Magnus, take us to the coordinates above Michigan where we exited the planet last time.” Esty orders, hoping to duplicate the ill-fated flight as accurately as possible.

  “Aye Aye, Commander Esty!” The young man is thrilled that the diminutive android allows him time at the wheel. With a delicate touch, he heads eastward towards North America. Africa glides gracefully past, and into the rear-view monitor. Ahead, the mitten of Michigan is still covered with glacial ice from a previous age of global inclement weather. The Grand River valley where they obtained their new fuel hasn’t even been formed yet, and won’t be, for about another million-years. Magnus, lines up the ship with the exact coordinates of old, waiting for further instructions. “We’re at the specified coordinates, commander.” He informs, dutifully.

  “Good work, Magnus..... Standby.” She pauses, while reviewing critical data.

  Nyla and Wil sit quietly at the communications console, confident they won’t have to answer the phone anytime soon. Talia sits nervously with Omari at life-support. Each wondering if they’ll ever see Oberon Prime, again. After all, it’s only a million years in the future! This fact weighs heavily on everyone’s mind or circuits, as they hover above the continent where horses, camels and rhinoceroses still roam their ancestral lands. And, wooly Mammoths, Mastodons and Saber Toothed cats, enjoy freedom without being hunted by humans.

  “Esty,” Nyla inquires worriedly, “Are you sure about Harper’s idea? I mean, he never even used the headband. We might end-up worse off than we already are.” She needn’t worry about hurting the poor lad’s feelings, as he’s tucked away in another compartment with others.

  Esty offers her best sympathetic gaze. “My friend, calm your circuits. You forget where we are. We have no choice in the matter but to try and find our own time-line. We simply can’t stay here. Harper’s idea, is by far the most logical of all.” She reminds of the lads plan to feed the reactor the same proportion of Grand Ledge sludge, as the amount they used last time. Also, it was Harper’s idea to reverse the polarity on the ships warp-field-coils, to see if they move forward in time. They might end up a supernova. They might end up in another universe, or they might simply wake up dead! But, hopefully they’ll end up in another timeline, just fine. They are temporal castaways, and as they sometimes say, ‘any port in a time storm’. Perhaps the next port, will be home port.... “Braxton, Magnus, input coordinates for Oberon Prime. Gort, please assist.”

  Her helm officers get busy with the task. Below deck, a jury-rigged valve, waits patiently to release its brew of toxic sludge into the reactor feed-port. Mr. Harper Williams was first to theorize the injection-method, while recovering from his latest head injury. It’s a curious turn of events, because of all the humans in the crew, it was he and Ling who never used the headband. Others were on the same track, but he theorized the possible solution first. On paper, the theory held water that they would be kicked forward in space-time, but practical application was the only way to be sure. Esty’s greatest fear, besides annihilation, is that they jump further backward in time. That just wouldn’t do! Also, the ships delicate warp-coils, might not be up to the job. It must be a terrible jolt to the system each time, she ponders.

  “We’re ready, commander.” Magnus informs

  “Very well.” She receives an imperceptible nod of approval from Gort. Reaching to the intercom, she warns of imp
ending action. “Hang on to the one you love, because we’re going for a ride!” With that said, she points to Braxton, authorizing him to unleash hell itself!

  The young man glances forlornly at his shipmates, as if he won’t ever see them again. He reaches to the power levers, pushing them to the maximum output. Lights dim throughout the ship, as all non-essential electrical power is redirected into the warp-coils, forming the bubble of twisted space-time that will propel them. Within the blink of an eye, everything inside the electronic-fog dissolves into a torturous, twisted maelstrom of convoluted space-time! For several crucial moments, the warp-bubble twists around on itself, nearly flipping inside-out! The pain of the upheaval is horrific, but somehow disconnected from reality. Mercifully, the murderous-event is over.... seemingly before it began!

  The ships mighty reactor, gags momentarily on the nasty-fuel, before it’s able to sip the sweet stuff. There’s no atomic-annihilation. No castaway into another universe. Instead, a temporal rip in the space-time fabric, swallows the ship and crew.... bones and all. After a stitch in time, the saucer is spit back out and into another time-line. It’s a horrific event that leaves the brave crew feeling seasick. Plenty of neck rubbing, as everyone discovered they are still alive.

  After long moments, the ships autopilot eases off on the warp-bubble, allowing the saucer to gracefully leave the slipstream, down to about a 5-percent level of warp. The crew recovers, as the ship leaves the outer-boundary of our solar system at 33-million-mph. While this seems like great speed, and it is, there’s a lot of space in outer space, so they’re actually just barely moving. Especially when compared to the speed of light, which is nearly 670-million-mph!

  “Jax, Kara, take a celestial reading and see where we are in time.” Esty requests of her two astrogator specialists.

  “Aye Aye, commander.” Jax responds, as they begin flipping switches and turning dials to glean the important information from the navigation device.

  Glancing around, Esty notices concern on everyone’s faces. Even Gort is beside himself with worry, as he moves to assist the two at astrogation. “Is everyone okay?” The caring commander inquires of all, receiving a chorus of affirmatives from the spunky crew. They’re shaken .... but not stirred!

  After careful examination of the surrounding star patterns, with respect to their estimated position in space, Jax informs of the critical data that spewed from the astrogator computers. “Uh Esty.... we sure did move forward in the time-line, but you’re not going to like it!”

  “That’s okay young man.... out with it.” Everyone except Wil, braces for the numbers.

  “Well, it seems that we went forward in time like we hoped. But, we’re now about 5,000-years beyond our own time-line!” His dark features, grimace with the telling.

  Wil had been studying the star patterns on the circular monitor, and came to the same conclusion as the astrogator device. “That’s some fine ciphering my boy! .... You too, Kara!” He praises the young scientist’s prowess with the complicated astro-compass. “I estimate we overshot by 4986-years past our due-date. Give or take a few months.”

  “But, we didn’t get blown to sub-atomic particles!” Nyla, cheerfully reminds.

  The mother of all sighs, radiates from Talia, who sits with Omari at life-support. Then, she gets a grip, as she notices her distress is upsetting the poor Zenarawan’s who already wished this bad-magic to be finished already! “Well, I guess we’re closer anyway.” The lovely android doctor says, while trying to stay upbeat in the face of despair. “I mean, at least we know we can move through time. We just need to fine-tune the method.... Right Esty?”

  A force-filled sigh, rains down from the lofty heights of the command throne. “It’s easier said than done, my friend.” She offers her most heartfelt expression. “You see Talia, we’re not able to regulate the toxic-mixture injection at the delicately required amounts for on-time arrival, as it were. We must find a way to modify the valve, but we haven’t the machinery.”

  Just then, Harper and the others are filing into the bridge. Many still rubbing and twisting their necks from the tumult. “Hey, are we there yet?” Shirley jokes, just as she notices the many long faces. “Oh, I guess not....

  “Wow! That was one hell of a ride!” Harper tries to bring the mood back from the brink of despair. He can tell they were still in trouble, but they were on the right track. “Hey everyone!” He yells, after hearing the numbers. “We’re only off the mark by a fraction of a percent! And, we still have plenty of Grand Ledge goop, so we can try again!” The lad, boldly states the only viable course of action.

  “Of course, you’re correct Harper.” Esty agrees as she formulates a devious thought. “Now, we might try another jump.... or we could spend a little time exploring this time-line first.” She looks around for kindred spirits, and sees newly formed bright-eyes amongst her brave crew.

  “What’s rattling around inside those piratical circuits of yours, Miss Esty?” Wil inquires jovially.

  A haunting laugh from the leader, eases everyone’s angst. “Well, we’re not far from the Naiad civilization. It’s been 5-thousand-years since we’ve seen them. I’m interested in finding out how they’re doing after all this time! Perhaps they’ve advanced to a point where they might be able to help us once again.” Her words are like a soothing drug to all who hear.

  “Oh my! .... Oh yes! .... The Naiad’s! .... Of course, the Naiad’s!” Talia explodes with joy, grasping at such a wonderful idea, much like a drowning victim for a thrown lifesaver! She hadn’t thought there was a snowballs chance against the sun, that there might be friends nearby.

  Omari perks up immensely as he addresses the wise commander. “My dear, if I didn’t know better, I would think you had medical programming in your devious circuits! Because, that idea is just what the doctor ordered!” He ends with a hearty laugh that’s duplicated around the bridge. Esty swoons....

  Gort becomes busy with the two helmsmen, as they calculate a route to the icy moon of Jupiter. The ship is feeling good.... consuming the recently cleaned fuel like a champ. Also, the time-warp event, didn’t seem to damage the warp-coils, or overload the other systems onboard. So for now, it’s going to be smooth sailing. At least that’s the prevailing theory of hope.

  “Helmsmen, take us to Ganymede! Specifically, 10-miles above Carter and Tina’s old haunt.” She looks to the recently rescued pair of android compatriots, seeing excitement building, as they ponder the chance to visit their watery friends again after such a long absence, that wasn’t such a long absence to them....

  “Esty,” Carter breaks his silence, “I can see working with you, will never be boring!” He laughs in the face of uncertainty, and gets a wink from the gray, mechanical commander. The Zenarawan’s begin to fidget after learning of the new plan. Raznalli holds his mate Linmari close, as their offspring’s Razzi and Surri quickly get with the program, becoming curious to see what wonderful secrets they are about to learn. They sense the mood of their shipmates has changed from dread to excitement, and it intoxicates them also....

  At nearly 35-percent slip, the saucers eats up the tiny distance to Jupiter in just under 30-minutes. The Jovian gas-giant, grows quickly on the forward monitor. Many of the planets 67 moons become visible as they approach, making for a surreal journey. They pass so close to Callisto, that it fills half the monitor, bringing an exclamation from many, and a fearful scream from Talia. As Ganymede is now on the opposite side of Jupiter, Braxton guides the saucer perilously close to the gas-giant’s upper atmosphere. Even Talia is dumbstruck as they skim past the cyclonic great red spot, that still spins angrily after all these thousands of years. Swinging past the 800-pound gorilla in the room, Braxton pilots past Europa and Io as he lines up for a rendezvous with the icy moon, Ganymede.

  “Commander!” Cooper calls out excitedly. “I’m detecting radio-graphic radiations coming from Europa!”

  “Please record what you can. We can’t deviate from our mission. Make sure nothin
g follows us.” Esty responds, pondering the implications of such a discovery. “Braxton, maintain course.” She orders firmly. The proud Queen Ann’s Revenge, zips past and beyond the two inner moons of Jupiter, soon closing with their targeted destination.

  “We’re here, commander.” The lad reports, as he and Magnus become busy checking and re-checking their systems before relaxing after the harrowing journey.

  “Good job young humans!” Esty praises. “I couldn’t have done better myself!”

  Even Gort is proud of his new friends. Reaching, he gives a congratulatory pat on the back to Braxton, who sits closest. Magnus receives a thumbs-up from the fierce, scar-faced warrior.

  “Esty, we’re being scanned!” Cooper announces excitedly, hoping it’s a good sign.

  “Very well.... Maintain orbit. Let them scan to their hearts delight! Besides, we’ll need permission before entering their world.” Esty informs, knowingly.

  It only takes several more moments before English text is printed across the main monitor. “Carter 149005?” A simple inquiry, with a simple answer.

  “Yes; Carter is here.” Esty returns with text of her own, hoping they’ll be recognized friend, and not foe.

  Another transmission from below. “Our historical-records describe a vessel such as yours. Who is Carter’s mate?” Comes a security question from the moon, that’s easy to answer.

  “Tina. She is also here. Both are safe.” Esty reports, textfully.

  Suddenly, a multi-colored, scaled, gelatinous-looking face, appears on the monitor for all to see. It’s a ghostly specter. A wavering image, that leaves Jax feeling spooked. The Naiad person, is submersed in thick saline-liquid, which constantly bends the light in the video. Two sets of tiny eyes, protrude from short stalks above a series of gill-like slits, where our nose would be. Below that, where our mouth is, a depression not unlike a large bellybutton, sinks into the face. At the bottom of this pit, is a thick beak-like incisor with long tendrils protruding from the side. They extend wrigglingly from the dimple, like tiny feelers. From this organ, the Naiad commander would normally communicate.

  However, his clicks and snaps would be meaningless to the alien visitors. Instead, he types into a data-pad using the limited English garnered from the historical-records of Carter and Tina’s time with them. “I am Talus, of the Naiad people. While scans of your vessel, match our records, we cannot fathom how you seem to defy time. It has been thousands of years since last contact. How can this be?” A fair question, from naturally perplexed beings. Esty activates the bridges video system, so her benefactor might also visualize them. She notices a shocked expression come upon the Naiad’s face, as he gets an eyeful of the strange, gray commander, and those around her.

  “Since our last visit to your world,” Esty’s fingers, move rapidly on her data-pad. “we have become victims of an uncontrollable time-warp phenomenon. We once again require the assistance of your proud people. We require tools for machining metals. Can you help us?”

  A long pause, while the data is digested and processed. No amount of explaining, could accurately describe the dilemma facing the visitors. However, they passed the security screening, so Talus authorizes another contact. “We can work metals. You may enter our world, and we will try help. I will meet you under the ice and guide you.” The transmission ends, leaving a shocked yet happy crew on the Queen Ann’s Revenge!

  The journey through the 30-mile-thick, crustal-ice of Ganymede is uneventful. The ships laser is not required, as the slightly de-phased condition of the ship, does the trick. The entry hole, quickly freezes shut after the Revenge passes. The ships reactor easily handles the chore, while barely out of an idle-configuration (only 1-percent slipstream). When they melt on through to the other side, Talus’s ship is there as promised, escorting the excited cosmic-beings into the abyssal depths.

  After a descent of 238-miles, and several ever-thickening layers of salinity, they arrive at a sprawling, well-lit structure. It buoyantly hovers in place, with another several-hundred-miles to the very bottom, where the hot core of the moon begins. The pressure at this depth is astronomical, causing many creaks and moans from the old Revenge. Fortunately, her saucer-shape adds geometric-strength, and the percentage of slip, keeps much of the pressure at bay anyway.

  “We are here.” Talus reports. “Before you, is an airlock. It’s the same as from Carter’s facility. It, along with the reactor that sank after the implosion, were recovered and put to good use. Much of our power comes from reverse engineering of the reactor. I will meet you inside. You must don life-support equipment before entering. We, the Naiad people, exist only in a liquid medium. However, pressures within the structure will be adequate for your needs.” And with that, Talus’s ship moves off to another airlock.

  “I’m guessing that Talus means we need to wear space suits.” Nyla, correctly supposes.

  “I knew there was going to be a catch someplace!” Carter complains, knowing he won’t be able to attend the reunion unless absolutely necessary. His Claustrophobia tolerance has come a long way since the old days, but he’s still not out of the woods. “I’ll hold the fort.” He says meekly, wishing he could overcome his dilemma totally.

  “No need to worry, Carter.” Esty informs, matter of factly. “I, along with most of us, will not enter the facility either. Only four will be required to modify the injection-valve. That is, if it can even be modified by the Naiad’s technology.” She looks at Nyla and Wil. “You two are the most experienced at mechanical-tooling and fabrication. Won’t you please do the honors?”

  Nyla’s face brightens considerably. “We would love to! Just interacting with the Naiadian’s, will be worth the effort! Right Wil?”

  “My dear, I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Leaning in, he offers a peck on the cheek, before turning to Cooper and Toby. “We’ll need assistants. And, I can’t think of anyone more qualified to come with. How’s about it, ladies?” He exercises his eyebrows in an effort to entice, but an all actuality, the willing need no enticement whatsoever. Of course, both young women glow with pride that they’re chosen to attend the mission.

  Esty, moves the ship closer to the Naiadian structure, while Cooper and Toby isolate and remove the valve from the reactor fuel-system. It’s a delicate process, requiring the utmost care so’s not to contaminate the ship with radiation. It helps that the fuel-mixture is weak with cosmic-rays until chewed upon by the reactor. Harper and Max had created a blue-print of what changes are required within the valve, for a more precise level of fuel-injection. If the required modifications can be accomplished, the valve will introduce the contaminated-fuel into the reactor with the precision of a hypodermic needle, instead of an uncontrollable gush.

  All suited up and ready to go, the four explorers enter the saucers airlock, closing the inner door behind them. Esty, increases the ships slipstream exposure, allowing the vessel to meld with the Naiadian structure just the right amount. The facility walls, easily absorb the heat-byproduct caused from slipstream exposure. Esty, figures that Carters old haunt, imploded because it couldn’t process the heat quickly enough. So, her fears are not great.

  As the Revenge’s outer airlock hatch opens, the four alien divers walk through the electronic-fog that keeps the water at bay. After moving through the tumultuous boundary of fog and water, they begin swimming through the thick salt water. Not an easy thing to do in any type of space suit. Without flippers, it’s nearly comical the way the earthlings flail as they try to move forward. Esty moves her ship away from the structure, so’s not to repeat the implosion disaster that seemed like just yesterday, but was actually thousands-of-years-prior in the time-line. Another implosion just wouldn’t due! Especially, with so much more at stake....

  “Esty, we’re inside. All A-Okay, so far.” Nyla radio’s an update, just as a Naiadian welcoming committee arrives to escort the alien time-castaways to the machine-shop.

  “Copy that, Nyla. Good luck.” Esty, transmits.

 
Up close, the indigenous creatures of Ganymede are quite alarming! Quite alarming indeed! At first glance, they offer an aura of danger and maliciousness, which thankfully is not matched by their kind nature. They are multi-appendaged, not dissimilar from an earthly octopus, except their arms and legs are separated by a lengthy torso. On average, they seem to be about 7-feet-long. Their bodies and limbs are heavily scaled with a kaleidoscope of colors, almost iridescent in nature. Mesmerizingly beautiful!

  The Naiad’s swim nakedly, each wearing a utility belt of sorts, around the mid-section. There is no obvious delineation between sexes, and that may account for the lack of modesty. However, if truth be known, they simply just swim more efficiently without encumbrances. Never the less, Nyla and Wil are on high-alert for any nefarious hijinks, as the two groups hover fully-submerged in front of each other.

  One from the welcoming committee, swims closer than the others. It uses a smart-pad to communicate, as speaking English is rather impossible for the Naiadian physiology. “Greetings. I am Talus.” The alien commander texts. “Welcome to our home. Are two of you, Carter and Tina?” A simple question. After all, Carter and Tina are celebrities here, if not already obtaining ghost-like status.

  “Regretfully, they must remain outside.” Nyla volunteers, using a voice activated data-tablet of her own. “We can only send the most qualified.” Not knowing how to explain Carter’s phobia, she hopes for understanding.

  “Greetings, Talus.” Wil’s data-pad gleams with text. “Thank you, for allowing us to enter your world once again. We will be forever in your debt.”

  “Think nothing of it. Perhaps someday the roles will be reversed. One never knows. Please follow us. We will take you to our engineering facility.”

  The four creatures from the Revenge, struggle to keep up with their new friends who move at one-quarter speed, so’s not to leave the visitors behind. The structure they travel through, is a warren of twisted passageways of hardened salt-crystals, reminding of a beehive gone warpidly berserk. Tunnels extend this way, and that. Some go straight down, some shoot off at tangents. It’s very disorienting for the time-travelers. If not for the internal spatial-awareness capabilities of the androids, they could never find their way back to the airlock without assistance. All along the way, hundreds of curious Naiad people line the passage in hope for a glimpse of the aliens.

  Soon, the group rounds one final bend in the maze, and before them is what would be considered a machine-shop in any intelligent species recognition of what’s what. Past lathe-like machines, they swim. Past calibrated grinding devices, they swim. Past metal processing equipment, they swim. Wil is glad they’re not exhaling bubbles into the alien’s atmosphere, as the space suits re-breather system works tirelessly and efficiently to remove heat and carbon dioxide from the air-mixture.

  Talus halts in front of a workbench, entering text into his device. “Use this surface for home-base. Please feel free to disassemble the item you need to work. Our people will try to assist with whatever modification you wish to perform.” And with that, Talus moves to the side, allowing several similar-looking creatures to move in and observe the action. Cooper and Toby break-down the injector-valve into its many components, while placing Harper and Max’s blue-prints on the table.

  Quickly, the diagram become a focal-point for the Naiad scientists. While Toby works the valve, a data-pad at the end of a squiggly arm, is placed in front of her face. “We understand the dimensions and language of the document. Please let us work. Our tools are complicated, and best used by those who are familiar.”

  Toby and Cooper move to the side. They’re shocked that the creatures can make meaning out of Harper and Max’s chicken-scratch drawings and numbers. However, what they don’t realize, is that long ago when the human terraforming facility imploded and sank, the main computers and memory were scavenged and gleaned for meaning. They provided a historical record of an alien species that was hard NOT to study. Naiad peoples are very curious beings. This allowed them to comprehend an alien language and technology data-set. For thousands-of-years, Naiadian youngsters were taught this alien information and language, against a time when they might once again meet with the friendly species.

  The androids and young humans are mesmerized with watching the fluid-like-motion of their benefactors as they work. Three Naiad’s inspect the valve. Much pointing to the diagram and back to the subassembly before them. It’s a surreal experience to the time-travelers, seeming like a dream. The workers move to a device resembling a lathe. Many adjustments and calibrations of controls are performed that would have been impossible for the people of the Revenge, on such short notice. Areas of the valve that require metal removed or added, are worked with knowing pride. It can’t be easy to design and use machining equipment under water, but these intelligent creatures found a way. After the valve is re-tooled, another critical piece is machined, inspected, and secured to the valve-assemble. This piece is a reservoir that will hold the contaminated time-fuel that the valve must work with.

  “I can’t believe what I’m seeing!” Nyla exclaims quietly. “This wild idea of Esty’s, might just work! I mean, look at them go! This task seems to be right up their ally!” The lovely android is beside herself with glee, as the valve is worked like magic, by professionals of the deep.

  However, it soon becomes apparent that the busy workers have reached an impasse. Looking at Cooper with a confused expression, they text. “We do not find a required sub-assembly.”

  Cooper slaps the palm of her space-glove against her upper helmet, as she instantly understands the alien’s angst. Reaching into her satchel, she hands them the calibrated solenoid-reservoir assemble that’s required for the new injection system. It’s the addition to the valve that will allow for precisely measured amounts of bad-fuel from the reservoir, to be fed into the reactor. The solenoid is accepted with pleasure on their strange-looking faces, that are quickly becoming not so strange-looking to the four who watch the magic happening. For, without the valve modification, accurate movement through time, cannot be achieved.

  Soon, the valve is completed and set on the table for inspection. Nyla’s in seventh-heaven! She turns the valve this way and that. Checking for imperfections, she finds none. The Naiad scientists float nearby, a look of smug satisfaction on their colorful faces. Talus swims over with his smart-pad. “My friends, I hope we have helped. Perhaps someday we can exchange technological information on a greater level. Both of our peoples will benefit.”

  Nyla sends agreement and thanks, while Wil places a heavy tool-bag on the table. Reaching inside, he removes many 5-kilo bars of gold and platinum, placing them in front of their shocked new friends, while hoping they qualify for partial-payment for the priceless assistance. “Talus, we can’t thank you enough. I can only hope this metal will be of use to your people. Also, we give to you as much of our technological data that we can.” He takes a hard-drive from a pouch, placing it on the table. “This is memory of much of our history and technologies. Also, there’s some stuff about the universe beyond your world. It’s very detailed. However, it must be protected from moisture. So, protect it well, and it will enrich your lives.”

  “You honor us greatly.” Talus responds joyfully. “This information will be treasured! And the metals are extremely rare for us. What you have placed before me, is many times that of our entire global supply!”

  “Think nothing of it my friend Talus.” Wil responds. “Next time, we will bring more.”

  Toby nudges Wil, pointing to her oxygen-level indicator. “We better be going, Wil.”

  “Of course, my dear.” Wil relents, wishing for more time with their new friends. “Talus, our oxygen supply runs low. I wish we had more time, but I’m afraid we must go.”

  “May we meet more often in the future, than every 5,000-years.” Talus offers sincerely.

  Nyla moves in close, running a gloved hand gently down the side of Talus’s face. “Thank you, Talus. Farewell. May your people stay health
y.” With that, two androids and two humans are escorted back through the labyrinth of passageways towards the airlock. They travel through a forest of colorful Naiadian people, who’ve come out for a viewing of the alien visitors. Many extend appendages, allowing them to brush against the earthlings as they pass. It’s a once in a lifetime event .... or perhaps a start of more frequent visits!

  Before entering the Naiad airlock, Wil turns to Talus with a final text. “My friend, I wish to tell you that we detected artificial radiations coming from one of your nearby neighbors. It comes from the second moon out from the gas-giant planet. We call their world, Europa.”

  “Thank you. We know of each other, but know not, each other’s language. It will take time.”

  “Good luck, my friend!” And with one final wave, the group of off-worlders enter the Naiad airlock and seal the hatch.

  Esty, carefully causes her de-phased ship to re-enter the facilities airlock wall. The four divers leave the water behind as they move through the electronic-fog and back aboard the submarine-saucer. All crewmembers are ecstatic to have their friends safely back onboard! The wait and the unknown, were almost unbearable. Luckily, The Zenarawan’s were able to monitor the overall mood within the Naiad community, and found no cause for concern. Nevertheless, now the motley crew are back in action, and things are looking up once again!

  Esty sends one more text, thanking and letting it be known to expect another visit as soon as possible. Braxton, Magnus and Gort, maneuver the Revenge upward through the many layers of salinity and beyond the thick crustal-icepack at the surface of the large moon. Once safely in orbit around Ganymede, Cooper and Toby busy themselves with connecting the freshly reworked ‘time-valve’ back into the fuel system manifold. They prime the calibrated reservoir with Grand Ledge sludge, hoping for the best. As of that time, no calculations have been made, concerning the next destination. Aside from Omari, Talia, and the adult Zenarawan’s, who already knew exactly where they want go, (Oberon Prime of course), everyone else seemed raring for more adventure!

  “Well, we still have two-weeks-worth of supplies onboard, so are there any suggestion about how we should test the new valve?” Nyla inquires, hoping for a grand idea from the masses.

  “I have a suggestion!” Esty, expresses forcefully, hoping to have first dibs. “But first, I need to ask Carter and Tina if they know the timeframe when earthly civilization began suffering at the hands of the planet-gouger’s. I mean to say, when the transmissions from Earth and Mars ended? When the jailers stopped coming for visits? Anything along those lines.”

  Instantly, the crew were on the same page as their brave commander, as all eyes revert to the dark, handsome android. Carter rolls his eyes to the overhead, and rubs his chin in an effort to dredge the old memories from the thick cobwebs of hibernation. “Well, let’s see.... It’s been a long time, but I think I can provide a starting point for the search. It was during the early part of 2385, I believe.”

  With Carter’s data, the time-valve is primed and readied. The targeted time-frame for recon is determined to be 2385. It’s a time when androids might still rule the solar system. And while the Revenge isn’t outfitted for war, aside from some relatively pitiful lasers and particle-beam cannons, a recon of the enemy is still warranted. “Well, we’re ready!” Esty announces after she double-triple-checks the data. “Are there any who feel we shouldn’t pursue this crazy act? Speak now!” She looks around at a boisterous crew, raring to go. Only 2 androids and 2 Zenarawan’s don’t join the ruckus. However, they know better than to try and pop the bubble of enthusiasm around them. After all, the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few!

  Wil reaches, making sure his little bag of goodies is still under his seat. Back at Oberon Prime, he had smuggled some nuclear hand grenades onboard, against that rainy day on an unpredictable voyage. Not even Nyla knew they were present. He ponders the possible high price to pay, when she finds out! Feeling the heavy bag, gives him a sense of comfort. He’s glad Doctor Max hadn’t sent them into the void without some big teeth. Something to level the playing field, so to speak!

  “Okay then!” Esty exclaims loudly. “Everyone, secure for the jump! We’re going for a ride!” With that said, and everyone strapped in tightly, she enters the final data into the ships computer and reaches for the warp-field throttle control.

 
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