Written and illustrated by Adrienne Potter (background  photo from Microsoft PhotoDraw)

Commander Bergan sounded an All-Station Alert and soon his own guard units were moving quickly to Othis in their fighter ships.  Ridge was keeping a steady stream of information coming...

There were about 20 Kendlians who had surrounded the information booth armed with laser weapons and hand blasters.  They were threatening to take hostages and had destroyed two guard droids.   Suddenly five of them stormed the booth, breaking down the door and pointing guns at Ridge, who had left the com-screen on.  Bergan and the guard captain watched helplessly on their com screen as Ridge, his wife Dawn, and the Garcias were backed against the wall by the rough Kendlians, loudly barking orders to them.  Suddenly the com screen went dark and Bergan prayed that his men would arrive in time.

At Othis Kaylar, Irvana and Meltro were outside the booth with a crowd of people as the Kendlians held weapons on them.  In horror they saw the Kendlians raise their weapons, pointed in their direction.  Meltro felt the heat of the laser as it whizzed past him without hitting him.  The Kendlians were firing at something behind him, astonishment on their faces.   Quickly Meltro turned and looked behind and saw Beldan and Darak approaching with what appeared to be white lights in their hands.  The Kendlians kept firing but their weapons  had no effect on them.  They fired again and again but Darak and Beldan calmly advanced on the armed aliens, who began to tremble.  Finally they threw down their useless weapons and ran for their ship.

Meanwhile inside the booth five of the Kendlians had shot out the com screen and ordered the hostages to lay on the floor.  Dawn and Mrs. Garcia trembled as Ridge and Mr. Garcia perspired profusely, knowing they were in a volatile situation and powerless to do anything about it.  At that moment a bright, white light appeared in the doorway.  Ridge saw the Kendlians turn their weapons towards the door and shoot, but nothing happened.  It was as though they shot and the laser evaporated. Terrified at something, the terrorists all dropped their weapons at the same time and scrambled for the nearest window, breaking it as they leaped out and ran towards their spaceship.  Then  Ridge saw Beldan in the doorway, a smile on his face, holding a crystal with a white light emanating from it.

"It deactivated their weapons," he explained, and the hostages rose to their feet just in time to see the Kendlian spacecraft rise and shoot into the atmosphere.  Ridge used his wristcom to inform Commander Bergan, who immediately sent his fighter guards in pursuit.

"It scared the spit out of them," said Ridge, simultaneously amused and relieved.  "How did you know to come?"

"Darak told me you needed help," he answered.  "He sensed danger and saw the Kendlians in his mind, so I brought this crystal that deactivates lasers."

They were joined by Meltro and the other colonists who had come quickly at the sound of laser shots. Meltro gave Beldan a bear hug and thanked him for his timely assistance, once more amazed at the capacity of the crystals and impressed by Darak's mental abilities.

Later though, it was business as usual as the colonists met to compare notes on their preparations for war.  Soon there would be troops arriving from earth and while many of them would be housed at the Starbase, the rest would need barracks on Janavrah.  Meltro had quadrupled the farm's capacity by having the droids build a huge greenhouse with multi-layers of crops and artificial lighting and sprinklers between each layer.  He expanded the existing fields with manual labor from the droids and programming assistance from Kaylar and Irvana.  Several Earth Force programmers had arrived and were given the job of maintaining and programming the droids who cared for the greenhouse.

The barracks were completed and troops began to arrive from earth in large transports, stealth cruisers, and battle cruisers.  The landing field at Othis had been expanded to 50 times its original size and was covered with spaceships.  Miles away from Janavrah the Starbase began to look like a giant crown with jewels, with the colorful lights of the numerous ships attached to its docking bays.  Mardee built a hospital with help from the other droids and other doctors and nurses were now arriving from earth.

Beldan and the other Evarjan tribes had activated every mind-blocking crystal they had to keep the Grisling from sensing their activities.  Day and night they studied the new crystal arrangement Irvana had created but were still unable to fathom it's purpose.  Even Irvana and Darak were mystified at the beautiful crystal.  When Irvana was near it she felt continuous peace, joy, and happiness that dissipated somewhat when she moved away from it. 

Time was getting short and so in desperation Irvana brought the Pitorgan communicator that she had found in the dirt  before Jeremy's rescue and placed it on the ground near the largest crystal.  Abruptly it vanished.  She and the Evarjans began placing other objects near the crystal but nothing happened.  Did it only work on Pitorgan artifacts?

Irvana had an idea.  She asked her father for one of the weapons the Kendlians had dropped during their attack on the information booth.  She took it to the crystal and placed it on the ground.  Again, it abruptly vanished.   She placed an earth force weapon on the same spot.  Nothing happened. 

Maybe it only worked on weapons of aggression, not on weapons of defense!  Irvana and Beldan commed Meltro and told him of their findings.  They asked to borrow a few enemy weapons left from the Pitorgan War and Meltro arranged with Commander Bergan to have three laser rifles delivered immediately.  As soon as they arrived Meltro personally delivered them to the Evarjan village.  He approached the crystals, but before he got within fifty feet all three weapons mysteriously vanished.  He was wearing an Earth Force weapon on his belt but nothing happened to it.  Meltro scanned for metal traces anywhere in the atmosphere, but there were none!  This crystal evaporated any offensive weapons, instantly and irrevocably. It was as though it sensed negative energy surrounding a piece of hard matter and cancelled it out with its own positive energy.

A brainstorming session began.  How could this benefit them during battle?  The Pitorgans certainly wouldn't be delivering their weapons on a platter to this evaporating crystal--and it was the largest crystal the Evarjans had ever seen.  It would take a machine to lift it.  "What we need," said Meltro, "is a way to carry the crystal arrangement to the enemy."

"It needs to be a stealth cruiser," said Irvana, Darak nodding his agreement and they both thought of Kevo simultaneously.  He was the one who could get the crystal weapon through enemy lines to the enemy ship that carried the Grisling's secret weapon.  If they could get close enough, the crystals would cause the terrible, oxygen-eating, life-sucking, technological beast, to evaporate into nothingness...

...if they could get close enough!

Sending Kevo into a fleet of enemy war craft seemed like sending him on a suicide mission.  What if the Grisling had learned how to detect cloaked ships?  He wouldn't have been sitting on his scaly hands the last few weeks!  Irvana looked at Darak and saw that   they were both thinking the same thing.

Irvana requested a meeting of the war council, which consisted of Beldan and Meltro and their wives, Commander Bergan, Kevo, and the other original colonists of Janavrah, formerly Othgar.  When the meeting convened she and Darak informed everyone what they had both sensed in their dreams.  The Grisling's oxygen-eating weapon would have to be at most a hundred miles above a planet before it could be activated.  If they could keep the ship carrying it far enough away they could protect Janavrah.   

The problem was, no one had ever seen the Grisling's monster weapon and no one had any idea what it was made of or what it looked liked.  Scanners wouldn't know what to look for.  That meant that Irvana and Darak would have to be at the battlefront to detect the weapon. 

Kevo had been sitting silently through most of the meeting, except to provide information about his troops.  Now he sat forward with his elbows on the table and his hands palm to palm.  Facing Irvana and Darak he said, "No doubt the Grisling has anticipated our use of seers and he'll also use mind-blocking crystals.  Then what?"

"There is a way to overcome the crystals," Darak responded.  Irvana watched him closely.  "It takes three crystal seers joining their powers together."  They all thought of Jeremy.  He was getting stronger and had gained weight, but was he up to this?  Until now no one had even considered putting him in the battle, what with all he had suffered in his young life, and Charma was about to deliver.  How would she feel?

Jeremy was summoned to the war council and told the problem.  "Of course I'll go with you," he answered quickly.  The truth was, Jeremy was itching to be up and about and engaged in something worthwhile.  Life had been too difficult for twelve long years to allow him to just sit back and take it easy now.

"What about Charma?" asked Kaylar. 

"I told her you'd need me a few days ago and she stands behind me one hundred percent," was his answer.  Meltro was never more proud of his son, and Irvana.  He only hoped he wouldn't lose Jeremy again.  He hoped they wouldn't lose anyone, but this was war.  This was survival.  Janavrah had to stand against this enemy.  If it didn't, Earth, with its 20 billion inhabitants, would be next.

The time had come and it seemed that the last preparations were made.  There was nothing more to be done but wait.  Most people slept, but some were not able to.  At precisely the moment that Darak and Irvana had predicted Commander Bergan's night crew detected an enemy armada two hours away.  The Commander was instantly informed and a Universal Alert was sounded.  On Janavrah the Evarjan crystals lit up at the same moment that the Othis sirens sounded.  

Within seconds Kevo was dressed, armed, and with his men on the command stealth cruiser.  Soon all the troops were moving towards the ships, each group accompanied by an Evarjan with an energy-returning crystal of the kind that had been used to repel the first Pitorgan invasion of Janavrah several years before.  The Evarjans also carried the energy deactivating crystals that were used to disarm smaller weapons.

Irvana, Darak, and Jeremy had all been sleeping in the troops' quarters and they were soon boarding Kevo's ship, Darak in the lead. "Hello old man," said Kevo, who had been waiting for them, and Darak smiled.  This was the first time Irvana had seen him smile since she had tried to pronounce the Evarjan word for 'grandmother' and said something crude instead.  Kevo had learned of Darak's abilities and realized that this was why he had sensed something strange about him  the first time they met.  Since that time they had become friends and Darak had even given Kevo, Charma, Irvana, and Jeremy a tour of Janavrah in one of the transports, and a tour of his village. 

Kevo gave Jeremy a pat on the back as he said to Irvana with a grin, "So tell me what I had for breakfast."

"You didn't have breakfast yet," she answered, "but I'll bet you're going to eat as many pancakes as your stomach can hold." He grinned again.  He did like to down a lot of carbohydrates before battle.  "I'll save some for you," he told her, "and you can have my strawberries." This brought a smile from Irvana.

Just as they had rehearsed, within three minutes the first battalion of cruisers, battle transports loaded with individual fighter ships, and large warships was in orbit.  The second battalion followed closely and the rest came in sequence.

At Othis Kaylar, Beldan, Nola, the Garcias, Anders, Lus, and Mardee were in the War  Conference room watching miniature holograms that pinpointed the location of each ship.  The lead ship, which contained Kevo, his commandos, the three telepaths, the new crystal weapon, and mind-blocking crystals, showed as a tiny blue light.   All of the stealth cruisers were cloaked and the only indication of their existence was a single light for each that could only be viewed in the War room.

At the same time, on the plains of Janavrah the Evarjan tribes had activated every crystal they had.  Each tribe gathered in their respective caves with the blue glow coming from crystals embedded in the walls, and linked hands as they sat in a circle around their crystals.

An hour passed and on the command ship Darak said to Irvana and Jeremy, "It's time."  They joined hands in the bridge around the mind-blocking crystal, which was now emanating a blue light.  Kevo and his men watched with interest for a moment as the three began to chant in unison and the crystal light became more intense.  Then they returned to their respective duties, Kevo communicating  with the captains of the other ships when necessary.  He felt a new sense of peace but he couldn't pinpoint why.   He concentrated on his command to ensure that what he was feeling wasn't overconfidence.

Darak, Jeremy, and Irvana continued their chant and the crystal gave off a steady blue glow that passed right through the walls of the spacecraft, but was not visible in space.

"Enemy vessels approaching!" announced the communications officer.  The view screen showed the lights of a thousand ships as they moved closer to...home!  Janavrah was her home now, Irvana knew--the two moons, the pink morning sun, the lake, the exotic birds, the fresh clean air and the beautiful flowers and plant life.  These images played across the surface of her mind as she continued the steady, soft chant of a crystal seer.  Her eyes closed, she felt the warmth of Darak's hand on her right and Jeremy on her left and heard their steady breathing.

"Hold steady and fire on my command!" ordered Kevo to every Captain at once.  Seconds passed.  Then suddenly a huge fireball erupted from a Pitorgan vessel and flew towards an Earth Force transport loaded with fighters.  "Activate crystal!" barked Kevo.  One of his commandos was the captain of the vessel in the line of fire and he immediately nodded to the Evarjan holding the crystal, who deftly dropped it into a smart space-torpedo, open inside it's chamber.  An Earth Force Officer quickly closed the torpedo and ejected it from the chamber, all within seconds.  

From his vessel Kevo saw the torpedo leave the ship and approach the ball of fire.  Although they had tested this beforehand the crystals had never been used in space combat, and Kevo held his breath.  

"Fireball and torpedo on collision course," said his first officer confidently.  In that instant the fireball simply vanished as though it had never existed, and the crystal-bearing torpedo abruptly about-faced and zoomed back to it's vessel.  A cheer rose up on every ship and back at Othis Kaylar jumped up and down excitedly as Nola beamed.  

Their celebration was short-lived.  In the next moment a thousand fireballs erupted from a thousand Pitorgan ships and each Earth force ship hustled to load and fire its smart, crystal-bearing torpedoes.  But would there be enough?  Soldiers guided the torpedoes towards their targets, evaporated them, then redirected them towards the next one.  Fireball after fireball was ejected from the enemy ships, like a shower of comets.

Kevo left each captain in command of his own ship as his stealth cruiser broke away from the fleet, still cloaked.  His pilot skillfully maneuvered between fireballs, shields fully armed, as the seers continued their chant.  Whatever they were doing, however it worked, it was doing the trick, because the ship went unnoticed.  Deep into the Pitorgan fleet it plowed on.

Drops of sweat emerged on the faces of the seers as they concentrated.  Jeremy gripped Irvana's hand too tightly and she told him to ease up.  Images of fire passed through their minds, then smoke, then darkness, then fire again.  Then, in the same instant they all three opened their eyes and stared at the com-screen.  "That's it!" they said, almost in the same breath.

A huge ship had become visible on the screen, partly blocked by a hundred smaller ships.  "Raise the new crystal!" barked Kevo and it was done.  Days before it had  been placed inside a large, glass globe which now rose quickly from the top of the ship, protruding like a diamond on a ring.  The pilot moved the ship directly in front of the huge vessel.  On Othis the war committee watched the hologram, and the light that was Kevo's ship looked like an ant in front of a bear.

"Oooooh!" groaned Irvana in pain, clutching her forehead and momentarily breaking their chain.  "It's the Grisling!" she moaned.  "He senses me!  He's sending mind lasers!"  The Grisling was stronger than he had been when she first sensed his mental attacks.  Quickly Darak took another crystal from his pocket and placed it next to the first.  They seemed to blend together into one.  Irvana felt as though a sword had pierced her head, but she knew it was only imaginary and so she forced the pain away, sending it shooting back to it's source.  The Grisling knew she was there now, but he didn't know where, and he didn't sense Darak and Jeremy yet.

On the giant Pitorgan ship the Grisling clutched his own head and moaned.  The little telepath was strong!  He called for Fenshar and she immediately came.  Together they focused their dark minds on the little seer but they could no longer sense her.  Perhaps she had retreated in fright!  The Grisling ordered the monster weapon to be armed and ready for activation.

The Pitorgan ships had continued advancing on the Earth Force fleet, who were busy evaporating fireballs.  The Pitorgans began aiming lasers at the crystal-bearing torpedoes and destroyed several.  The rest of the torpedoes began evasive maneuvers as they sought out fireballs and eliminated them. 

Now the enemy vessels were so close that laser battles began ship to ship.  The Earth Force captains quickly examined their computer screens as each shot was analyzed for its effectiveness.  They communicated their findings to each other and soon they knew the most vulnerable parts of the enemy ships.  Several Earth warships were on fire and retreated back to the Starbase at the same time that various Pitorgan ships were also on fire.  The flames couldn't burn in the airless space around them but they licked inward for oxygen inside the ships.  Fire extinguishers erupted inside these ships as their crews fought to control the vessels and guide them towards safety.

A number of other stealth cruisers were cloaked on the edges of the battle, a hundred on each side, waiting for Kevo's command to attack.  They were counting on the Grisling not being able to detect them, but if he could they would fight just the same.

The Evarjans on each ship took over steering the crystal-bearing torpedoes as the Earth soldiers began aiming and firing laser weapons and the larger photon torpedoes.  They guided them surgically to the sources of the Pitorgan lasers and painstakingly deactivated them one at a time.  Each ship had a dozen lasers so it wasn't quick or easy work.

The Grisling and Fenshar together had vaguely sensed Irvana's presence again and they knew she was still nearby.  Why couldn't they see her?  There had to be another one!  Together the human seers were blocking him and his mate!  Then he knew the solution was to isolate them, but first he had to find them.  He stared at his screen, at the thousands of ships exchanging laser fire.  For a split second he saw a laser interrupted in space, as though it had bounced off a solid object, and in that second he knew there was a cloaked ship in front of him!  She was on it!  There wasn't time to relay orders.  Quickly his green hand reached and  activated the transport himself at the location where he sensed Irvana's smallness and with a focused beam meant just for her size, transported her to his ship.  

Kevo saw her and cried, "Transport countermeasures!" but it was too late.  Darak and Jeremy were holding her hand one second and were holding the air the next.  There was nothing Kevo could do now except quickly relocate the ship to another spot just above his last location, in front of the Pitorgan monster ship.  There was nothing any of them could do!  Irvana was taken in precisely the moment that the oxygen-destroying weapon was about to be activated.  The large crystal on top of the stealth cruiser began to glow brilliantly, blindingly.

Frantically the Grisling and Fenshar tried to locate the remaining crystal seer as their crew readied the monster weapon, but found themselves still blocked.  This one was even stronger! --or so they thought.  If they could get him off the ship they could locate and destroy the cloaked vessel, but first...

The Grisling gave the command and the weapon was deployed, giving off a roaring sound that reverberated inside the ship.  In the same instant the large crystal on Kevo's ship shot off a blinding light towards it.  The flaming light sped like a giant spotlight in space directly to the main bridge where the monster machine sat.  The Grisling, Fenshar, and the Pitorgan crew saw a white light envelope the huge machine and then...

it was gone.  Where it had stood there was nothing!

Irvana was now there, near the Grisling, and she quickly commed Kevo to let him know it had worked.  "Now get out of here!" she ordered, as if she were forty years old and the queen of an empire.  Kevo gave a start at the sudden authority in her voice, but he wasn't going to abandon her to that beast.

Furious, the Grisling turned in a rage on Irvana, grasped her action, zoomed in on the com signal with his mental powers, and set the transport beam on Darak.  Kevo again tried to block the transport but was too late.  Now Darak was beside Irvana, still holding the mind-blocking crystal.  The Grisling knocked him down with his scaly fist but Darak held fast to the crystal.  The Grisling was twice as tall as the Pitorgans and four times as ugly.  Although he was not in the same form as they he had scales.  He had four hands covered with them, but no fingernails, just claws.  He had two massive legs, like tree trunks, and a tail like a dinosaur's, yet he had the face and head of a giant man, although the ugliest Irvana had ever seen.

The Grisling turned his attention to the cloaked vessel.  Kevo was moving it, but the Grisling and Fenshar had a mind lock on it and they moved with him.  Suddenly their lock was broken as Jeremy used all his might on his own crystal and all his years of training in the slave camps to block the vessel and himself.  This was a crystal that he had found in the mines of Pitorgia and guarded with his life.  He had learned while still young that it enhanced his abilities and now he relied on all his years of forced training.

There is another seer! The Grisling realized as he felt the mind block.   Fine!  He would kill them all!   They would pay once and for all for the destruction of his precious weapon!  He sent  mind lasers towards Jeremy and Darak and Fenshar sent one at the same time towards Irvana.  Darak winced, Irvana grimaced, and Jeremy clenched his fists.  The pain was unfathomable.

Read Chapter 9: Excerpt: "He took out a long, steel whip, threw back his arm, and aimed it at Irvana's head.  Angry beyond anything he had ever felt before, Darak thrust a crystal towards the whip..." 

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