The Universe Between: Part Six


By Scott Reeves

If you haven't read the beginning of this story yet then click here for Part 1, click here for Part 2, or click here for Part 3, or click here for Part 4, or click here for Part 5.

6. Into the Night

     They sat on the bridge:  Marah,  Mothram and Adam.   The entire bridge crew studiously tried to ignore the stations of those who had been  murdered  by  the Banshees. The stations  had  been  cleaned thoroughly, the bodies of Malone and the CO respectfully rendered to the  cold depths of space.   The only blood that still spattered the stations was psychological. But it was there, and the officer who'd drawn  duty  to  replace Malone picked at  his  controls carefully, touching  them  no  more than absolutely necessary with a  look  of nausea  on his  face,  as  though chunks  of  flesh  decorated  the keyboard.

Chet  Rickman,  whose  melted  skin had been  repaired  by  the medical officer, turned his glossy-smooth face to Mothram.   "Coming into range of J359 now sir. Only it's obscured by...."   He punched a button,  throwing an image of the approaching planet onto the main screen.

A  dancing,  flickering  ball  of light hid  the  planet.   The Banshees had surrounded it, anticipating the humans' arrival. There must  have  been millions of them,  swarming theplanet  like  moths around a light on the darkest of nights.

Mothram nodded at Marah,  sitting at his side.   He stroked her hand. She was frightened of what the future held; he was afraid for her.   They'd  talked about it long hours into the night,  locked in one  another's arms,  and had decided it was the only way.  But she wouldn't face it alone. "Take the helm. We'll drop from hyperspace as  close to the planet as possible.   After that it's up to you  to punch a hole through that wall."

She  nodded her head,  her wide eyes fastened to the flickering globe filling the viewscreen as she stood and walked over to replace Rickman at his station. She tried not to think about the future.

Exeter dropped from hyperspace moments later.

The ship shuddered and creaked sickeningly as Marah righted it, halted its tumblingand brought it to a relative stop, a few hundred miles  above the planet.   The wall of Banshees through which Exeter had  just  burst raged at the invisible barrier which  blocked  them from their prey.

The  screams of the crew faded away into ragged gasps as  their agony ceased.   They picked themselves up from the floor.   To them their  pain had seemed to last for hours, even though the  Banshees had  only  penetrated  the ship for milliseconds before  Exeter  was through.

Marah put Exeter into a stable orbit, then returned the helm to Rickman.

They didn't have long to wait. Marah had just settled into her seat  when a Banshee suddenly flickered into existence at the  front of  the bridge.   It was strangely distorted from the other Banshees they'd  encountered;  the light it cast about the bridge was dim by comparison.   And  no  nausea swept over the crew,  no pain speared them.

Mothram  and  Marah  stood in unison.   Adam  remained  seated, gazing curiously at the Banshee.

"It's  been attenuated in its passage over the gravity  shelf," Mothram said.

Marah  nodded,  not  really  listening to  him.   Her  complete attention focused on the Banshee.   It merely floated at the fore of the bridge, pulsing weakly.

Best to get it over with quickly.

With  a deep breath,  she stepped forward.   Mothram  whispered something in a low voice,  meant only for her ears,  but she didn't quite hear it.

She  pushed herself into the Banshee like a diver breaking  the surface of a freezing pool. She felt a wetness oozing over her skin and  into  her pores, and then blackness as she fell into the  dark corners of her mind.

     Marah swam in a sea of darkness. A powerful undercurrent swept hre  along a dark river inside her  mind.   Suddenly  a  presence appeared  in front of her, and grew rapidly as she was drawn toward it. She stopped and faced it.   It was a wall a million miles high, directly in front of her.

She'd reached her computer core, and faced the Banshee that had invaded her. She sent thoughts at it, attempted to converse with it,  but it didn't respond. Or rather,  its response was unintelligable to her: a blaring cacaphony of white noise. Still,  she sensed somehow that it could understand her.

So  she explained the situation to it,  and the chance at peace humanity was offering. You've lost,  she said.   We're leaving this universe  to  meet with our makers--she cringed at the  thought--and soon we'll step into YOUR home universe. And we'll kill you.


She  sent humanity's terms.   Leave us alone in this  universe. And you'll come with me to negotiate with the Shiw'a.

The  Banshee  in her mind cycled through what she perceived  as various stages of emotion: rage,  agitation,  curiousity,  laughter, rage,  and finally--sorrow,  whether for what its kind had done  to humanity,  or  because  it had lost,  she didn't  know.   And  then, aqcuiesence,  which  came  as  a shiver of pleasure  which  rippled through her body, induced by the Banshee.

Mothram  watched as Marah stepped into and was engulfed by  the Banshee. Seconds later it began to fade,  seeming both to dissipate and be drawn inside her body. When it had vanished altogether,  she stood  swaying on the deck with her eyes closed.   Every eye on  the bridge was fastened upon her, waiting tensely.

Seconds  passed,  then  her eyes flew open.   She surveyed  the bridge  crew with the gaze of one newly awakened.   Mothram gasped when  that gaze came to rest upon him. He saw Marah in those eyes, and...something more.

"They have agreed," she said wearily.

The  wall  of  Banshees on the viewscreen behind  her  abruptly vanished. The stars glittered in the cold blackness of space.

Mothram,  Marah and Adam stepped from the shuttle onto the cold metal surface of J359. In the distance a serrated metal skyline was etched  against the stars.   Marah looked at it all with a sense  of deja vu; she had been here once, seen it all through Duncan's eyes.

Without  a  word,  the three of them began walking  toward  the distant buildings.

Somewhere  in  the  sky above them Exeter  was  leaving  orbit, heading off into  the  beckoning scatter of stars  to  search  for remnants of humanity, and to begin rebuilding civilization.

They  entered  the buildings and wormed their way  through  the warren of tunnels.

Mothram surveyed the place dispassionately, without  wonder. There  was no longer anything mysterious or fantastic about this place. It was essentially a huge,  planet-sized barracks,  to house soldiers on their long journey to a battlefield.

Would he ever regain his sense of wonder?

He felt Marah brush against him, and he took her hand,  gripped it  gently. He smiled at her,  and she returned his smile.   So he hadn't lost his sense of wonder after all, he decided.

Finally  they came to that enormous room at whose center  space had been warped. The perfectly level floor seemed to become a steep slope as they entered the room. They got onto their hands and knees and carefully backed toward the warp.

Several  minutes later the warp expanded to engulf the  planet. J359 wavered, and then vanished from the universe.

     And  so,  carrying its three human ambassadors and one Banshee, the  planet began  its long journey into eternity. It moved  in  a nameless direction, toward destiny.

The End

Copyright 1997 by Scott Reeves

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