Fresh World

Chapter V: Into The Storm

Written and Illustrated By Adrienne Potter

(background from space photo)

 Quickly Meltro commed Almer Lu and Mardee and asked them to meet him at the transport hangar. As he grabbed his survival suit and headed for the door Irvana said, "Dad I need to come too. I think I might be able to help."

He appraised her thoughtfully for a small moment. "Alright," he said. Soon they were in the air heading in the direction the droid had seen the Ridges go, equipped with spotlights and body-heat sensors. Irvana let her mind go empty and then focus on Leena.  Instantly she sensed something was wrong. She was frustrated with herself for not realizing it earlier, but it was a stressful day and her attention had been elsewhere.

     "Dad, Leena said something to me last week about her parents searching for a new mine site, and I think that’s where they went, but why aren't their coms working?"

     "I don't know sweetie, but we're going to find out."

     The wind had increased and Almer activated the shields around the transport.  Soon rain was bouncing off the air about ten feet from the steel-glass viewing windows where it impacted the force shield. This storm was as bad as the last one and Irvana wondered why the planet looked so good considering the battering it seemed to take every few months. Maybe the Evarjans had something to do with it.

     Irvana felt her link with Leena growing fainter. "Dad, I think we're going the wrong way."

     "How do you know honey," he asked with a slight frown.

     "I just feel that we're going the wrong way. I think we need to head due east."

     Meltro wasn't accustomed to following instructions from his daughter, but she seemed to have a handle on every crisis lately and so he turned the transport east. The scanners soon picked up life forms a half-mile away and when they reached that spot the sensors registered body heat two hundred feet below the transport. The problem was that directly below them was solid rock! They tried their coms again and this time they got a crackling response.

     "They're okay!" cried Irvana, “but they need help!”

     "How do you know?" asked Meltro. "That 's just com static."

     "Because I can sense their thoughts!"

Meltro stared at Irvana. Her gifts seemed to be increasing hourly. "Okay mind master," he said in a teasing tone. "Tell me what they're thinking."

Irvana ignored his teasing as she answered solemnly, "Leena is scared, somebody is hurt…I don’t know who, but they're all alive.  Wait…it's her mother, and someone else, not her Dad. Her Dad is okay. He's trying to dig them out. They're trapped in a cave-in. We've got to help them!"

     "Okay, we're going down," responded Meltro.

     They landed and quickly found the Anders' transport and all their gear near a cave, which they cautiously entered. Fifty feet inside the cave their path was blocked by a wall of dirt and stones. Luckily the Anders had brought digging equipment in the hopes of finding new mineral deposits and so Meltro and Mardee quickly retrieved it and returned to the cave-in. Almer was already moving large stones with his hands. Mardee took over Almer's work since he had machine-strength and Meltro and Almer activated the diggers. Soon they had made a tunnel and reinforced it and were now groping and crawling to the trapped people. Irvana followed. When she was through the tunnel and in a large cavern she was amazed to see...

     Darak! What was he doing here? And he was hurt. Mardee was already checking their injuries. Dawn had a broken leg but she was conscious and so he turned his attention to Darak, who was unconscious. He had a large bump on his head that had turned purple, in contrast to his patterned blue skin.

     "We have to get him back to Medlab," said Mardee urgently. "Head injuries can be serious."

     Out came the telescoping stretcher and they gently lifted him onto it and pushed and pulled it through the tunnel, then covered him with a thermo blanket to shelter him from the driving rain. They laid Darak safely in the transport, then returned for Dawn. As the group moved through the tunnel and back to the transport Ridge explained that they had discovered a new deposit and were heading out of the cave when the rock slide started. They hadn't realized Darak was with them since he was using his chameleon abilities, but they were grateful he was because the moment the rocks started falling he pushed Leena back out of harm's way. Unfortunately, the same rocks had hit him instead. Dawn had stepped backwards to avoid the rocks and fallen ten feet down a small ravine. Ridge and Leena had been able to lift her out of it using their climbing ropes, but they were all trapped for hours before their rescuers came.

     "So Darak here is a hero," said Mardee, after they were all out of the rain and heading back to Othis. "He saved my life," answered Leena, looking pale and tired. Irvana put her arm around her and Leena was glad she was there.

     "Irvana is the one who lead us to you," said Mardee.

    "How did you do it Irv? How did you know?" asked Leena.

    "I could hear your thoughts and I knew you needed help," answered Irvana.  “I have a question though, why didn’t you com us?”

     “We tried again and again,” answered Ridge, “but I think the elements in this cave can block com signals.”  The rest of them were starting to see the benefit of having a telepath in their midst, and all were silent for a moment as the rain pelted the transport's shields.

     Since Darak's condition seemed stable, although he was still unconscious, Mardee set and melded Dawn's leg in the transport. Then he set about reducing the swelling around Darak's wound. They commed Kaylar and Ariane Lu to meet them at Medlab and when they arrived there they found it ready for the injured. Dawn was helped to a comfortable gurney, where she would stay for observation for several days and Darak was carefully laid on the body scanner. He had some bruised internal organs but no bleeding.

     The head injury was a problem and was causing some fluid build-up inside the skull. It appeared that there was a skull fracture. Mardee used a special laser called a Pulver to evaporate the excess fluid without penetrating the skull, then used his bone melder to knit the bone. The bones of these aliens were no different than humans. The problem now was injury to the brain itself. Mardee had kept a continuous scan of brain activity and it was normal everywhere except in the area of the wound. It needed to heal and this was one thing that all Mardee's skill and tools could not speed up.

      Meltro had fetched Beldan and his wife and they entered the medlab hurriedly, looking very worried. At this point Darak appeared perfectly normal except for the bruise on his head, but he was still unconscious.

     Irvana had watched all this from a distance, not wanting to get in the way, but now she approached and looked Darak's mother, who was called Nola, in the eye. "May I?" she asked. Nola smiled at her, seeming to know her intentions, and shook her head yes. Irvana took Darak by the hand as he lay motionless and instantly felt energy moving from her hand to his. She closed her eyes and could sense his brain patterns and unconscious thoughts, and saw that he was in dreamworld. He was seeing the battle with the Pitorgans and so Irvana saw it too. This was a rerun and she knew she had to direct him back to reality. Gently she let her thoughts link with his.

    "Come with me," she said.

     "How did you get here?" he asked her, or rather, his thoughts said to her thoughts.

    "That doesn't matter, I just need you to come with me now. Your parents are waiting."

    "But I'm not ready to leave yet. There's more that I want to see."

     "You can see it another time when you're stronger," she answered. "Now it would be better for you to come with me."

     "Alright," his mind answered weakly. His dream spirit took the hand of hers and they walked through a mist that faded away into light. Suddenly he opened his eyes and Irvana quickly took her hand away and stepped back, but he looked straight at her.

     "Where are we?" he asked. His parents answered in their language as they took his hands.

     "How did you do that?" Mardee asked Irvana.

     "I went into his mind and brought him back," she told.

     "Oh, I hope you didn't step on anything important, Dr. Irvana," he said with a smile. 

Her parents were giving her an odd look and suddenly Irvana wanted to be alone somewhere. Truthfully, they were in wonderment of her new abilities and Irvana was afraid they would treat her differently, that everything would change. She started to walk away but Beldan caught her.

     "Irvana, thank-you for using your dream power to help Darak."

     "Yes, thank-you Irvana," said Nola.

     "Oh, he'd do the same for me," she told him, then caught herself, "if the situation was reversed." He looked at her with trust in his eyes and suddenly she knew that if she needed a friend when she had those feelings of loneliness, he would be there.

     It was a week later when Darak suddenly appeared in the forest again while Irvana was gathering food for her giltran. His wound was healed and he seemed his normal self again, and she was glad to see him. There was so much she wanted to talk about, and they were finally alone.

     "You were there with me, weren't you? In that first dream I had in the dreamworld with the Pitorgans?"

     "Yes," he answered.

     "But nobody knows but me?"

     "Yes," he said again.

     "Why doesn't anyone know you have the power? Why do you hide it?" she asked.

     "Because if I tell them then everyone will treat me differently, and I don't want them too."

     So he understood. It was hard to be special. It was a heavy burden for an adult, let alone a child. You could no longer blend in with the group. You always stood out, separate and apart and lonely.

     "How do you hide it? Why doesn't the crystal make you pass out?"

     "My grandmother was a crystal seer," he answered. "She taught me. I just close my eyes and stay in a sitting position until it passes. My dream spirit tells my body to stay as it is until it returns."

     "That's a neat trick and I want to learn it," she told him. She was tired of blacking out and having no control over it.

     "Just tell your mind to tell your body to stay as it is next time, and see if it obeys," he suggested.

     "Your grandmother never told anyone about you?" continued Irvana.

     "She was afraid the grisling would return and kill me. A long time ago there were many crystal seers, but he killed most of them.

    "I'm sorry. Did you lose any relatives?"

    “They were all my relatives,” he answered.  The Evarjans considered themselves to be one large family, and the loss of one was felt by all of them.

    “Oh, I’m sorry,” Irvana responded.  “Say grandmother again please,” she requested.  He said it more slowly and she tried to repeat it.  He laughed.

    “What did I say?” she asked innocently.

    “You said, ‘fart of a schinglop,’” he told her.

    “Oh boy.  What’s a schinglop?”

     “It is a fat, slow, slug-eating, log crawler.”  She tried to say it again and this time was more successful.  Darak was impressed.

 Suddenly Irvana asked, “How old are you?”

    “I am 60 of your earth years.”

    “You’re an old man,” she said with a laugh.

    “And you’re just a baby,” he said.

     They both laughed.  Age didn’t matter in this world.  Irvana would soon be thirteen but she already looked like a young woman. What mattered was that they each had someone to share their experiences with, and nobody else in the universe understood the depth of them.

     Suddenly Irvana's wrist com buzzed. It was her father, telling her he needed help programming a new section of the farm.

    "I've gotta go," she said sadly, "but promise me we can meet again soon."

    "I already see you every chance I get," he told her. This surprised Irvana.

    "But I thought you had a lot of spare time. I thought most of your crops maintain themselves."

     "They do," he answered, "but we repair the forests after each storm."

     "How do you do that?" she asked, amazed at the humongous task these Evarjans had undertaken.

     "We heal them with our crystals, if the damage is not too bad. Sometimes we have to bury trees and plants that are hurt badly. Once we bury them they reproduce."

     "Well if you can heal plants with your crystals why can't you heal each other?"

     "We never got hurt until your people came. We think that your presence interrupted our thought cycles and misaligned them, but we are adapting. We borrowed some of your tools in the beginning to help us relate to your thought patterns. When we are holding an item that belongs to someone we can sense their mind waves. All Evarjans have a certain sense of the future, and of the thoughts of others, although not all are crystal seers. We can sense danger or pain, and we avoid it. We are learning to do it in spite of your presence."

     "I have so much more I want to ask you," Irvana said wistfully. "Please come back as soon as you can."

     "I will," he told her, and they went their separate ways.

Irvana told her father of her conversation with Darak and he was very interested.

     "Next time you see him, ask if the planet has always had these terrible storms or if it's something that started in recent years, would you?" he instructed her.

     "Sure Dad, but I never know when he's going to pop up."

      When the programming was finished Irvana found Leena and the two of them took their pet giltrans into the woods to play. Darak had found a motherless one and given it to Irvana, who immediately bestowed it upon the delighted Leena. Their parents wanted the children to carry on as though life were normal, although they themselves had increased all their operations and stepped up preparations for the attack.

      Food and water were being preserved and stored in several underground shelters built by the droids. Ammunition and weapons were being prepared and placed in various locations, including the cave where Darak had saved Leena since it was rich in the element that could block com signals.  It might be helpful to have a place where they wouldn’t be detected if the need arose.  This metal was also used in the construction of the underground shelter, which had walls ten feet thick with an outer lining of terexian, the  metal used for the outer shell of spacecraft.

      Leena and Irvana followed their giltrans as they scampered in the woods and soon they were in a clearing they had never seen before. The giltrans had stopped near a shiny object and were sniffing it.

     "What's that?" Irvana asked and saw that Leena was also bewildered. They stooped to examine it. It was reflective and smooth, cylindrical in shape, and had a ball on one end. Irvana picked it up. Instantly she felt the thoughts of it's owner...a Pitorgan! She saw him running in fright towards his ship, dropping his communicator as he ran. This was a Pitorgan communicator! She felt his momentary confusion and fright, not knowing what was driving them from this planet. She sensed that now he was far away, confident, calm, and cruelly going about his job, following orders, delivering supplies to a slave camp.

     All this passed through her mind in a split second. Stunned, she dropped the communicator. Was the camp her brother's?

     "What's the matter Irv?" asked Leena, worried.

     "I felt something," Irvana answered, a faraway look in her eyes. Leena had seen that look and knew what it meant. "You're sensing something about that thing, aren't you?" Irvana nodded and told her what she was seeing.

    "But you're not using a crystal! You're not in dreamsleep!" said Leena, astounded.

    "I know, but the Evarjans told me that you don't really need the crystals all the time, I mean for little visions," she answered, surprised herself to experience so soon what Darak had described. She stooped and picked up the communicator, ready for whatever event waves it would give off.

      This time she sensed the roughness of it's possessor, felt his cruelty, his total disregard for those around him, especially those whom he considered lower, weaker, life forms. She thought of her brother. Her parents had told her his name--Jeremy. How could he stand being under the control of such despicable aliens? She would go crazy in his place. They were ugly on the inside and ugly on the outside. They were like animals, with animal instincts and animal thoughts, except they were highly intelligent. Their thoughts were easy to sense because there was so little there. Only domination, control, greed, and cruelty, and once you knew the pattern you could easily sense their actions.

     Suddenly Irvana knew she had to rescue him soon, before the battle! They would use their slaves as shields and he would be killed. She was as certain of it as she was certain she was holding something in her hand. She felt the truth of it as strongly as she felt the solidness of the cold thing against her flesh. "C'mon Lee! I've got to show this to my Dad."

     He was in the droid maintenance dome. She sensed it without being told. She showed him the Pitorgan communicator and told him what she had learned from it, and what she needed to do.  He stopped what he was doing, sighed, and looked down at the floor.  Though it nearly broke his heart he said, "Irvana, we can't go yet. We can't attack first. The entire alliance would be against it. You know the laws and you know our principles. Only defense, never first moves."

    "But Dad, they made the first move years ago when they started kidnapping humans. Besides, this wouldn't be an attack, it would be a rescue!"

     "I understand, Irvana, but that war ended. This is a new war and we've got to defend the colony. We're not ready yet and we need every day we have to prepare."

    "It ended for us but not for him!" she cried. "It seems earth left some unfinished business didn't it? Besides, he'll die if we leave him there any longer!"

     "Do you know that for certain, Irvana?" he looked straight into her eyes.

     "Yes, Dad, I know it as well as I know you and I are real!" She pinched him gently to demonstrate. Meltro knew he couldn't risk his only son's death, and Irvana had been right about so many things. Although it was difficult to accept that his daughter was a telepath, the evidence was undeniable, and she showed new signs of it daily. "Ok, I'll talk with Commander Bergen."

      Leena had been standing and listening to this entire conversation, knowing not to intervene, but feeling what they were feeling. Irvana had told her everything she knew about Jeremy.

     "What can I do to help, Irv?" she asked Irvana as Meltro headed to the dome.

     "I'm not sure Leena. Your parents would probably never let you come with us. It's too dangerous. But I HAVE to go. I need to show them where the Pitorgans’ planet is and where my brother is."

    "Irvana, how do you know all this? You seem like such a genius now it's almost scary," said Leena. Irvana looked hurt.

     "Oh, I didn't mean it like that," Leena continued. "I'm not scared of you, just all that stuff you know. Everything--the future--and those dumb Pitorgans."

     "I don't know everything, only what I need to know, interrupted Irvana.

     "Ok, but doesn't it scare you a little too?" asked Leena.

     "It did, for the first few days, but I kept focusing on the light that's in my dreams and it tells me to believe that things will turn out okay. I think we can actually make things turn out okay by believing that they will. I call it ‘focus on the light.’ She pulled out a little crystal she was wearing around her neck on a silver chain and held it up to the light. "Besides, knowing what's going to happen can be a very useful tool, but if I'm afraid of it it's not going to do me much good is it?"

     Leena smiled. She wasn't sure she understood, but she knew that she trusted Irvana with her whole heart. She didn't try to lord it over people just because she was a telepath, and she wasn't arrogant about her special talents. She only wanted to use her abilities to do the right thing no matter what it was. And she seemed so absolutely sure of herself that Leena had to believe in her.

     "You know what?" said Irvana. "I just thought of something. Pitorgia, where the Pitorgans live, is a very rocky planet. And the lizard butts, (this is what she and Leena liked to call the Pitorgans) live underground, in tunnels and caves, and your Dad is a geologist and an explosives expert, right? So we might need him, and if he comes maybe he'll let you come too."

     Leena's face lit up. "You're right Irv! And besides, I know a little about explosives and geology myself...enough to help my Dad!"

     When Irvana arrived at the dome Meltro was on a com-conference with Commander Bergen. Irvana heard the Commander say, "I had a feeling this might come up, so I called in a few replacements to hold down the fort while you're away. And I have two stealth cruisers and a transport with their crews at your disposal. Just say when."

     “A transport?!” Meltro asked, taken aback.

     “Yes!” replied the commander.  “We can’t mobilize an entire commando mission for just one person.  We want you to bring them all back.”

     Meltro was momentarily stunned, but then asked, “How can we do a stealth rescue with that many people involved?”

     “That’s why you’re using cloaking technology,” he replied.

     “Okay,” said Meltro,  “I can see how getting in there might not be a problem, but we have to de-cloak to transport and then they’ll know we’re there unless they have the brains of schinglop.”

     “That’s why you need these commando troops.  They’re trained to move in, execute the mission, and then move out like greased comets.  You have to go smooth and fast.  I have complete confidence in my men.  They’re trained and experienced.”

     “Experienced?” asked Meltro.

     “Yes.  Remember the Milfari incident last year?”

Meltro nodded.  A vacation cruiser had been hijacked by Milfarians, an exiled race that lived like parasites off other races.  Earth Force commandos had surgically eliminated all the aliens without injuring any of the vacationers.

     “Well, these are the men who pulled it off.”  Irvana could hardly contain her excitement.

     "Commander, I don't know how to thank you..." began Meltro, but he was cut off. "Just bring everything and everyone back unharmed pleased, and if Earth Force asks about this you needed a vacation and the cruisers were on a fact-finding mission and strayed off-course."

     "I’ll do my best," answered Meltro, "but how did you manage to get permission?"

     "There has been a lot of pressure on the Alliance from Earth Congress due to families of prisoners lobbying them. They sent me this crack commando team, but if anything goes wrong they will claim no knowledge of this mission.”

     The conference ended and Irvana's eyes were sparkling. You would think she had just won the lottery instead of permission for a dangerous rescue mission. She told her father about the need for Ridge Anders. He thought for a moment and then commed Ridge.

      "It could be dangerous, so talk it over with your wife and if she's not in favor of it then I'll get an Earth Force geologist and use Bergen's explosive's experts."

     Ridge answered, "No need.  We got a head start on this conversation because Leena's been talking to Irvana, so Leena and I are both coming. Dawn says she'll hold down the fort here."

    After ending the call with Ridge Anders he commed Mardee.  He was certain they would need a doctor and wanted to know if Mardee was finished training and programming an assistant droid that had been assigned to him after it was no longer needed in the mining maintenance unit.


      Two days later at 5:00 am the lights of two star cruisers and a transport cast shadows on the runway under the two moons of Janavrah, formerly Othgar. As the rescuers loaded their gear Darak was suddenly beside them, carrying a small pouch.

     "I need to come," he told Irvana.

     "How did you know we were going?" asked Meltro.

     "I told him last night Dad--after dinner when I took that little walk," she lied.  Actually she had been in the woods with Dacron and her little giltran, and Darak was nowhere to be seen. Irvana didn't like lying to her Dad, but it was crucial to keep Darak's abilities a secret. Revealing it could endanger his life if they were captured and the Grisling probed their minds.

     "All right, come aboard," he told Darak. One more member couldn't hurt and it might help.

     The plan was to approach the planet in stealth mode so as to avoid detection. Irvana, who suddenly seemed to know the Pitorgan galaxy like a veteran navigator, would lead them to it. They would scan for human or Evarjan life signs and investigate each outpost where it showed up, if necessary, though Irvana felt she would know the place once they were there. Then a transport with a team of commandos would either use a transport beam on themselves or  land and break into the prison, aided by star cruiser weapons if necessary, and herd the prisoner or prisoners to safety as they shielded them with weapons and battle shields.

     Meltro, who was assigned commander of the operation, gave the order and the two ships lifted off. The last thing Irvana saw through the view port was her mother waving as she stood beside Dacron, the dog, as casually as though she were waving to Irvana heading off to school on a bus, but Kaylar was good at hiding her emotions. She had never waved goodbye to both husband and daughter at the same time, and this was a mission unlike any other.

Read Chapter 6 (Excerpt: "...He pointed to the ten Pitorgan ships that had appeared near the image of Pitorgia, precisely blocking their escape route.")  

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