written by Brittany N. Gathing / B.N.GathingBooks
Etos held Ada’s ice-cold body, never wanting to let her go. That was too close. I almost lost you.
“Thank you, Phea. You have proven yourself a friend and I am forever grateful.”
With a shy grin on her face, Phea followed Etos to sickbay.
He laid Ada on the medical table and set it to full body scan.
“Infection detected.” The Med-Arm alerted.
“What?” Etos gently turned Ada on her stomach and saw that the wound from her encounter with the Cyclops had resurfaced. The wounds were blacker than before and spreading. “Kee! How is this possible?”
“What’s wrong?” Phea asked from the doorway.
“She was scratched by a cyclops, but she was healed—Kee!”
“Commander,” Kee responded.
“How did the wound return?”
The commander scoffed.
“I’m sorry,” the young Schloran woman said.
“Don’t be, it’s not your fault.”
“So, what can we do for her?”
“The Med-Arm can treat her for now but looks like we may need an antidote. All we can do is wait.” Etos brushed Ada’s golden hair off her face, kissed her cheek and left sick bay. Phea trailed him. “Kee? Any sustainable planets nearby?”
“Stand by. Scanning,”
“Are you sure that’s wise?”
“I don’t want to pass up a planet that could hold useful information, maybe a possible remedy for Ada.”
“One planet in range.” Kee lit up a map on the screen. “Cevara. Eighty percent water, breathable air.”
“Two hours at top speed, commander,”
“Take us there.”
After preparing the rover for his upcoming excursion, Etos waited by Ada’s side.
“Approaching Cevara. Prepare for entry into the atmosphere.”
Etos and Phea strapped in.
“Kee? Any signs of life?” the commander asked.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Phea had a bad feeling.
“I’ll be fine. You can watch my back from here.” The commander set up the communication gear Ada would have used. “Talk into this mic and anything you say, I will hear.”
“Twenty kilometers. Prepare for landing,” Kee informed them.
The landing was harder than Etos had anticipated, and Blue took out a school of trees on its way down.
Etos grabbed his weapon and mounted his rover. “I won’t be long.”
Kee opened the cargo doors and rode out to explore the foreign lands.
The high humidity made his skin glisten with sweat only minutes after leaving Blue behind. The plant life was strange, swaying from side to side as if they were underwater. Cevara’s sun gave the planet’s sky a teal green tint that grew darker with the sunset. Etos rode further away from Blue, intrigued by the forest of sea-like plant life that lay ahead of him.
“What do you see?” Phea tried out the communication gear.
“It’s unbelievably beautiful here, the plant life is like nothing I’ve ever seen…Kee? Scan for intelligent life.”
“Standby. Scanning. Three unknown species of intelligent life detected, commander.”
“Do you think you should return to the ship?” Phea’s voice was full of worry.
“Not yet. I want to go a bit further out. I’ll let you know if I see anything I can’t handle.”
Once in the strange forest, the plants seemed to gravitate toward him. One latched on to his leg and made a gentle suction noise before it pulled away. Maybe these aren’t plants. Making a point not to get too close, Etos observed the unique lifeforms before him as they lurched and gathered together. Their joint dance exploded with a wave of multicolored light from the end of their feelers to what he thought were roots.
“Why have you come here?”
Etos heard a foreign voice echo in his head. So loud and clear, he spun around and searched for the origin of the voice but saw no one. “Who’s there?” His hand teased the trigger of his gun, ready for anything.
A female stepped into sight and stopped before him. Her pearl blue skin and long white hair glistened as if her body was covered in a thin layer of sweat. When she stepped forward, he stepped back. Run. Run. But he couldn’t tear himself away from her ethereal beauty. Her jet-black eyes locked onto his as she took another step.
“Why are you here?”
It was the voice again, in his head. The woman’s mouth did not move but he knew it was her.
“My wife and I are traveling in search of a new home, I stopped here to do research. Maybe find a cure for her illness.” Etos didn’t know why he was telling her these things.
“This will not be your new home. You will find no medicine here. Only danger.”
“What is happening?” Phea screamed.
Etos flinched at the sound of her voice bombarding his eardrum.
“I’ve come into contact with a—a—”
“I’ve been calling your name for ten minutes and you didn’t respond. I thought something might have happened.” Etos tensed as he realized he might have been under some sort of trance. He averted his eyes and drew his gun.
“There is no need for that, I mean you no harm.”
“Who are you? And how are you speaking to me like this.” Etos kept his gun drawn.
“My name is Kyriel and I’m a Sea-maiden, isn’t it obvious? You wouldn’t understand my language. It is much easier to communicate like this.”
“A sea-maiden on land? How?”
“During the day we transform and can walk on land. I return here to feed these animals, so they’re not aggressive. It’s much safer this way.” She pulled a fish from behind her back and placed it in one of the plant’s feelers. The thing curled up and devoured the fish in seconds and was ready for another treat. Etos dropped his aim as he watched in awe, creeping closer for a peek.
“I wouldn’t get too close. They try to eat anything that passes.”
Etos watched as she continued to feed all the creatures.
“Can they feed themselves?”
“They can, when they are hungry, they pull anything within reach into their mouths injecting a deadly venom. I’ve lost family this way before.” She turned and revealed her back; gills that ran along her rib cages and opened and closed with every breath.
“You don’t fear me?” he asked.
“Why would I? You told me why you are here. And my power is far greater than your weapon. If you attack me, you will die. Although, you might die anyway, come nightfall.”
“What do you mean by that? What happens then?” The sound of water trickling stopped her from answering. The sound grew by the second and then he looked down and saw a puddle at his feet.
“It’s half-tide. When the water reaches this far inland at nightfall, the Cecaelia come. They’re viciously territorial. If I were you, I would head back to wherever you came from, not even I would face them alone.”
As the water pooled higher, the forest of creatures moved livelier and their colors flickered and changed as they tasted the water surrounding them.
Etos didn’t want to leave, but the presence of danger was close. The hairs on his arms stood and scratched his suit, and his chest tightened. When the ground shook, he knew he had to return to Blue. He hopped on his rover, but mud spat from beneath the tires when he tried to escape, and he dug himself a deeper hole. He jumped off and tried to push the rover free, Kyriel helped.
“Shouldn’t you be leaving, too?” he asked.
“I cannot leave you to die.”
They pushed together and finally freed the rover. Etos returned to the vehicle as Kyriel was suddenly grabbed by a large tentacle. It wrapped around her waist like a whip and reeled her in. Etos saw the monster the tentacle belonged to, a similar being to Kyriel but with a mass of black tentacles. Just as Etos sped off back to his ship, the monster caught a glimpse of him.
The monster tossed Kyriel aside and charged at Etos with its massive arms, destroying everything in its path. Its limbs whipping violently from side to side.
Terrified to look back, Etos sped as fast as his rover could go, toward Blue. The cargo doors were open, waiting for him to arrive. Phea stood there shaking, with both of her hands covering her mouth, her eyes as wide as her face. That look told Etos that the creature was on his tail. Phea stumbled aside as the rover flew up the ramp.
“Close the doors, Kee!” Etos roared.
The monster launched one of its long tentacles towards the closing doors and prevented it from shutting. Another tentacle reached for the Schloran girl and she screamed.
As the Tentacle secured the doors open, the other wrapped around the girl’s waist. She squeezed her eyes shut and wailed as the monster pulled her in.
No control of her body, no control of her emotions, the scarf around Phea’s head burned through the center. The cloth ripped and flew off into the night and revealed that third eye. It was open and flaming red. She was still hysterical, but that eye focused on the monster. From the pupil came a powerful beam of energy that disintegrated the beast from its upper half to every single one of those black tentacles, until the monster was nothing but ash.
M. Sydnor Jr.
copyright © M. Sydnor Jr.