Scene 1: Bridge
FuYang sent over a
landing ship and docked with the disabled cruiser. iMala
told the Shipping Authority that they were going to re-launch some fighters--in
case they were needed, as well as five landing craft and the troops should not
be surprised by what they saw.
If it looks Human, make sure to not shoot at it. We'd hate for this to fall apart amidst friendly fire.
aRlene's radio had transmitted the entire process:
SOUND: the clang of the doors when the buzz-lander closed, the whoomp as it launched, the thud as it landed, and the horrible gnarr as it cut a neat hole in the hull of the XingFeng. It even caught aRlene's oof-ah as the spring mechanism launched her into the ship.
(radio, to herself)
A brand-new ship and the same old foes
There may be a friend here, who knows?
My gun is cocked and at my side
Waiting to see just what I'll find.
No war-chants. Try to play this one clean.
(radio) It feels unnatural. (pause) There are other people
much bigger than us.
(radio) There are children there. Is this your fighting force?
Just follow their lead. They've done this before and
they'll show you how to clear the ship.
(radio) Are we to fight alongside children? You said to not
anything that looks Human. Is this what you meant? Our men are confused.
(radio) Behind you!
SOUND: the fup-fup-fup as she fires her gun
(radio) Don't be so shocked. We have a job to do so let's do
SOUND: Muffled talking. A gun rattles
(radio) Nice! (pause) Look out!
I wish we had imagers on their helmets. Why didn't we ever do
(radio) Stand back! Hands!
SOUND: Arlene fires her gun again
(radio)Yeah, those are poisonous...
Smoke grenade. They're bringing out the laser.
SOUND: someone shouts in the background on the radio. excited
(radio) You and you, follow me. We want this tight and neat.
keep behind your guide.
This is going wonderfully.
SOUND: scream over the radio
(radio) Behind! I said behind! Get out of the way! (calmly to
her listeners) Guy just got a bolt to the leg. Went right
through. He's out.
Tell them we have a medical team. We'll fix it if he doesn't
(radio) Olivia here. Are we doing anything besides circling?
aRlene, are those guys in pressure suits?
(radio) Yes, but the guy with the bolt is comprised.
Get him evacuated. We're going to pop the hull.
(radio) What good is that going to do?
You're in suits. Your enemy isn't. We're going to let
physics do the work of clearing the ship.
(radio) But we're looking for survivors. (pause) Hold
on....uh-huh...yeah...OK, if that's the case, we're about to poke a hole in the
Space the rest...OK.
What's going on?
(radio) They have a remote-reader here for
the blackboxes. No one's chip is responding. There are no survivors on this
We don't have one of those. We should get one.
What good would it do us now?
iLyssa relayed the information to the pilots and three bolts
were fired at one
of the junction points. The three plumes of escaping atmosphere were
equidistant and the craft only wobbled slightly from the thrust.
(radio) That got their attention!
SOUND: hissing and a loud pop over the radio
(radio) Oh, yuck.
Becca, I need to go.
You're going to leave now?
I...I'm not feeling well. All this excitement. It's just too
I'm just...I'm light-headed. I feel sick to my
stomach. I need to go lie down.
This is important. This is going to decide if you can
I know, I just...
Evie's knees buckled and Becca caught her. iMala took a step
Do you need help getting her back to the room?
We need you here.
(weakly) I'll...I'll be OK. I'll just go lie down for a bit.
I've got it, iMala.
Once Becca and Evie were off the bridge, Evie straightened
out and walked
briskly down the corridor. She summoned the lift and entered with purpose.
You're not ill?
I have something I need to do. You don't have to come with
me; you can if you want. Everyone is busy right now and I might not have
What are you going to do?
I have to go face one of my fears.
Evie lead Becca down past where her ancillary lab had been:
where the mantis
had been perfected. They passed the old ad-hoc bridge: where iMala's collapser
was first demonstrated, where Becca had given the Vencume a lesson in Human
anatomy. They passed the observation deck: where the crew of the Tong Dizhou
had first seen the pilots, where Becca had first noticed Evie's scarless hands.
Evie stopped in front of a door and turned to Becca.
You don't have to come in
if you don't want. This might get ugly.
We've come this far. What's in there,
A mistake turned nightmare.
It was dark in the room and Becca had difficulty seeing. Evie
turned on the
The Tzikzik was strapped to a table that lay at an extreme rake. Legless and armless, it shuddered when the lights came on. Becca was reminded of an uprooted tree after a storm—immobile, dying, helpless.
After this battle, you're the last one.
(sigh) Another torment.
I'm not interested in torturing you. I'm not here for
So you say. How could I stop you now?
know...how I've been there.
Are we to be tried for our desire to survive? You will
hold us accountable for that? They wanted to kill us. No connection. No core.
The project was to end.
What is the schedule?
There is no schedule. There is nothing. We are the idle
musing of a senile
Why did you attack Human ships?
Our directive. We were made to fight you. Is not
conflict the basis of advancement? One needs an enemy to grow. Does not the
predator create the swift and strong? Is it not physical weakness that
engenders the clever? Without opposition, you stagnate. If there is nothing to
fight, there is no need to adapt.
What is the project?
You did exactly what you were supposed to do. It was
the Human army that was wanted, not us. Not fully formed, yet formidable. You
are the force that acts upon itself. This ship is more powerful, more clever,
more strong than any ship: Vencume or Human.
That's insane. You can't say this was all a set-up.
You are dealing with a race that has
no offspring. These are the same individuals that first met Humans and gave you
the power to create colonies. The bodies may have changed, but the minds are
the same. You cannot think that far.
So, they always intended to make Human clones. They
opened door after door and we blithely walked through it.
You finally understand our politics... And now, there is
a ship that can unite the Empire once again. The voyage to the meeting-place
will be a demonstration of that power. The Vencume will have a leader. I am
glad to see the project reach its conclusion.
Yes...I know you are. And I forgive you. We made each other.
I'm so sorry that I have to do
this. It has to end.
Evie pulled a long screwdriver from one of her pockets and
plunged it into the
base of the Tzikzik. Water gushed onto the floor, mixed with that blue liquid
Becca had learned to recognize as Vencume blood.
I forgive you. You're broken and need to be fixed.
Becca stepped back from the expanding puddle on the floor.
Her shock at what
had happened turned into instant panic when the door behind them opened.
Ulan's head moved in a seizure-like movement as she entered the room and assessed the situation.
(chittering) You have killed an unarmed prisoner.
Ulan, please. You know I had to do this.
(chittering) You killed it...You killed it and you
didn't give me a go at it!
But Ulan had already pushed past her and grabbed the handle
protruded from under the sagging flesh of the Tzizik carcass. The screwdriver
came out, followed by more water and blood.
(chittering) I wanted this! This was mine! You should have
My sister, ugly thing! All I had!
Ugly thing, die! Die and hurt and die!
You had to do it. So does she.
She's making more noise. The others
don't like her and this might send them over the top.
Evie tried to get the screwdriver from her daughter.
When Ulan caught Evie's left hand with one of her frenzied stabs, they both yelped with the same surprise.
We need to go, now.
The three quickly rushed from the room and down the corridor
towards the black
Becca strapped Evie's left wrist before she pulled the
screwdriver out. Ulan
had already brought a tube of spray.
Vesta, Diana, Minerva...I
(chittering) I apologize. I don't know what came over me. I
was not thinking clearly.
You're lucky you won't get a scar from this one, Evie.
(chittering) I need to check our path. There may be a trail
Ulan left the room with some scraps of cloth. Evie watched
her go and made a slow fist. Her jaw was clenching.
need to apologize to me. I know what she was thinking. She took the same
opportunity I did.
Well, now you really should lie down. (pause) Hang on. Let me
see your hand.
The skin around where the wound had been was tight and
smooth. There was a
faint splotch on the back that had a different quality and on the palm, Evie's
complicated grid-pattern had been worn away in one section. The center of
Evie's life-line was gone.
Who's spray is that?
It was Uma's.
Becca had to change her shoes; they had blood on them.
This was all a huge set-up! From the first time they saw us,
they were going to
use us! Buer and her stupid plans for where we can live and where they can't.
It's where we can go and enforce their will. It's not an uprising in the
Vencume Empire, like they told Evie. It's the plan for the creation of an
empire! And we're going to bumble along because we got a few shiny toys out of
the deal. They're using us.
Gordon was in the mess hall with iSkandar, five of the
pilots, and the rest of
the redheads. The girls were all in their combat suits and were crammed around
a small device. As Becca got closer to it, she saw it was a screen with a
We're losing the picture. Give it another coat.
Gordan started to spray down the screen with what must have
been a nutrient
solution and the image became clearer and more vivid.
Doctor is here. You have left the bridge. Are operations
complete? They have not returned yet. Our feed is limited.
Evie's still up there, huh? This has been great.
Evie wasn't feeling well and went
to lie down.
She's missing all the excitement!
This is hardly exciting
anymore. I suited up for nothing.
Luck of the draw.
(internal) Look at them. Huddled around, watching a game.
Becca laughed. Brothers and
cousins—cheering their side. This is my family now, isn't it? (external)
You should have
made some popcorn.
What a great idea!
Who could eat during this?
Well, I'm hungry, so I'm going to help Becca make something.
(dismissively) Let us know if you need help.
So! (claps his hands and rubs them together) What are
you in the mood for?
Evie killed the Tzikzik.
(pause) Which one? There are—
The one they brought back. That armless thing. She punched a
hole in it with a screwdriver.
Well, that stands to reason.
She's an engineer. Of course she would use a screwdriver.
Gordon, did you hear me? She
Yeah, it's her right. We've been wondering why she hadn't
anything yet. The girls have been keeping it for her.
Keeping...? You knew
Revenge is a primal, Human
thing. I ought to know; I've been on the receiving end of it. The girls have
been playing with it, but they knew they had to leave it for Evie.
The same way the twins left you.
Revenge is revenge. A human needs it if they don't have
the capacity to forgive.
Listen...We still have a situation. That
Tzikzik said some things. Remember how you thought that Vencume/Human relations
were a big set-up?
Tell me how I was right.
This army was made to unite the Vencume ships. It's supposed
scare them into accepting someone's authority.
That's why Renatus has been trying to halt it. That's why
Mirabilis has been so willing to play diplomat. No one would ever suspect the
Vencume after the Vencume had worked so hard to neutralize a threat. These
girls aren't just going to be used to scare Vencume; they're supposed to
intimidate Humans as well.
Don't you feel
(from the other room) They're coming back!
We'll be right there! (pause) We're on their
good side, and we have those belts Evie made. If they do try to attack us, we
can at least avoid getting hurt.
You've made sure the doors aren't an issue and the twins packed us a ticket out
And if the pilots shoot down that ticket?
Evie's been working on that. She made a shield for it. We'll
The five redheads who had done the landing got a hero's
welcome from the other
nine. Becca watched them jostle and jest one another in the buzz-lander bay.
You're so lucky. I wanted to go over and really show them
It wasn't that much. We had to
baby-sit those Shipping Authority solders. aSabi shot one in the leg.
Jumped in front of me. They say he's fine. Missed the main
artery. But oh, how he screamed.
Once the hull went out, it wasn't much of a fight.
And aRlene was there to get the full force of one when it
(The others laugh)
Now you have to clean your suit.
You're support staff. Congratulations.
(entering) You all did a wonderful job, and that was a fine
introduction to these Shipping Authority
people. I don't think they'll try any funny business with us.
I don't think they would try anything with us anyway. Why
Because you're Tzikzik?
That's beside the point.
Well! Now that you've shown those nasty things
who's boss, what are you going to do now? (uncomfortable pause) I mean...you've
spent your entire lives preparing for combat
and now you've got no one left to fight. Who's next on your list?
aLima still had her gun. The muzzle slowly started to point
We have to go meet the other Vencume... And then... they'll
But you're the ones in control of this ship. Who says you
have to do what they say?
We can decide for ourselves, and we've decided
to go meet the Vencume.
Why don't you meet some other Humans first? You are Human,
after all. Don't you want to meet them?
Get her out of
You're not the one in charge.
Neither are you. Just get her out of here.
Becca's not hurting anyone.
GET HER OUT OF HERE!
We have some
things to discuss. You don't mind sitting it out, do you?
What's going on here?
This is our business. We need to handle it.
When Becca got back to the black arm of the ship, Evie was
napping. Becca peeked into the room where Evie lay like death itself.
(internal) She really was unwell. That wound could not have helped.
Becca knocked softly on the door to the room that the twins
once shared. There was no answer. When she opened the door, the room was empty.
(internal)How long does it take to clean up some blood? Ulan
must be off doing something else.
As she was shutting the door, Evie came into the main room.
Yeah. Did I wake you up?
No, I was just lying there, thinking.
You look worn out. How's the hand?
What? (pause) Oh, It's fine.
(internal) No. Something is wrong. She's worn out in a new
way. She looks sad. Does she regret killing the Tzikzik?
Buer was here. Said she'd be absent a while.
Reminds me of a physical therapist I had as a kid. Dr.
Karnataka was a real hard-ass with me. It was always, 'Oh, I know you can do
better,' and 'You could do another run on the bars if you wanted to walk
again.' I hated her, but she taught me a lot after the accident. It's silly
that a Vencume could remind me of a Human. I must be going crazy.
It's not that crazy. Buer reminds me of my great-aunt.
(pause) Listen, when Buer was here, did she try to connect with you at any
point? Did she talk about the home-world or the purpose of the project?
I thought we had already decided that the project was bunk.
That's not answering the question.
No, Buer didn't try any kind of connection. She did say the
project was nearing completion, and that she was going to be absent for a
while, but she didn't say much more than that.
What are we going to do?
We'll do what we always do. We'll stumble around in the dark
and hope we bump into something friendly. We're strange and creepy things that
occasionally behave the way we say we should.
I meant about the girls.
(laughs) Well, they look like they're going to start puberty
pretty soon. We'll just find a bunch of cute boys to distract them.
Would that have worked with you?
No...They need something to concentrate on. The big concern
up to this point has been stopping the attacks on Human ships. Maybe I could
convince them to build some automatons to fight. That would occupy their time.
I think they've decided to go meet the other Vencume ships.
They're going to go reunite the Empire. I don't know what will happen after
I think they're going to get rid of us soon. (pause) I'm
greasy and I smell bad. I'm going to go clean up.
A few minutes after Evie had left the room, Gordon knocked on
the door. Becca had to let him in.
Why didn't you use your slug?
I did. It didn't work.
Becca left the room and tried her slug. The door refused to
(internal) It's dried out and I can't get to where I can grow
new ones. Now, we
really are trapped.
She punched the door panel in frustration and it
Yours still works.
Becca stepped into the corridor and tried the door again,
this time resting her hand on the panel. It opened easily.
The door's been reprogrammed.
Evie can fix it when she comes back.
(internal) Or Evie was the one who reprogrammed it in the
first place. Maybe that's why Ulan isn't here; she couldn't open
the door. (external)
Have you seen Ulan?
I saw her on the way back from the pilots' bay. She was
talking to iMala about something. Have you seen those ships? I never got to
look at one up close, but the girls wanted me to see it, you know, how it
compared to our ships. I berthed with some fighter-pilots once—
She was talking to iMala? I thought the designers hated her.
That may well be, but the two of them were chittering away
about something. It was too fast and too low for me to catch any of it, but
iMala looked tickled pink.
(internal) iMala does seem to be the most receptive of the
trio, but Ulan's always been the outcast with them. Maybe Ulan wants to take
iMala with us if we have to make an escape. (external) But you don't know what
they were talking about?
Not a clue. They both looked happy, though. Maybe Ulan taught
iMala some new game.
Ulan does not play well with others and breaks her toys on a
She's not going to hurt her. Don't worry. Anyway, iMala is
the brightest of the three grays; she's not going to put herself in a situation
that she can't vaporize her way out of.
Becca was getting ready for bed when there was angry pounding
on the door.
(through the door) iMala! Are
there? Come out!
Becca went to open the door when
the two designers came rushing in with four of
their redheaded sisters.
(coming in) Where is she?
What's all this noise? Who are
A section of the ship has gone
into advancement. We didn't put
anything in there and we had it locked down. The Libraries have overridden our
programming and the Vencume are doing something. We need iMala to help stop it.
(internal) That's where Buer has
gone! That's why she
stole those two slugs from me. What are they up to? Is that where Ulan is? Did
she take iMala? Is that why iMala was so happy?
So? A section of ship is in
advancement. You're so smart; just
stop the process.
We tried. We can't. We tried to
field, but it's had no effect.
And Buer is missing. That
Vencume is up to something and
she's going behind our backs.
You know what I mean! We can't
get a hold of any of the
Vencume and there's a section in advancement. What do you think that means,
It means you need to get the
Reds ready for whatever comes off
And if it's more Tzikzik? How
many do you think we can hold at
What kind of Tzikzik? Like you?
You're not funny!
It wasn't meant to be.
I'm not playing games!
iLyssa gestured to iDana, who
her sleeve to reveal something that looked like an over-sized wrist-watch.
Evie dropped her arms a bit—so they crossed her waist—and made the slightest of motions that activated her belt-field.
Figuring on the side of caution, Becca gave herself a little hug and pressed the button on her own belt with her forearm. The room became muffled and Becca wondered how much air she had in the field.
iDana stood for a moment, pointing the wrist-device at Evie. The girl's brow wrinkled and she checked the device before iLyssa grabbed her sister's wrist and pointed it at a redhead who doubled over in agony. While everyone was distracted, Evie walked over to iDana and took the device off the girl's wrist in one motion. One redhead punched iLyssa in the stomach as the others helped their sister out. Evie hustled the two designers out.
When Evie closed the door, Becca clicked off her field-belt. Her ears rang a bit as the sounds of the room returned.
(through the door) This isn't
over! You better find her! (pause) And we're going to fix this door!
What is that thing?
(turning off her belt) Say that
Is that the pain ray?
I guess so...Huh, look at that.
The battery on this won't hold more than a
few charges, but she didn't put any kind of power-port on it. There must be an
inductor base. I'll have to make one. (she walks into another room)
Are we safe?
Where the hell is that coil? I
it ten times when I didn't need it and now it's nowhere to be found.
Evie, are we safe? What's
I don't want to have to wrap a
new coil. That takes too
much time and I don't have any gloves. It tears your hands up.
(internal) She's trying not to
think about it. She's distracting herself. No. You can't do
that. Not now.
(external) Evie! What just happened there? Are we going to be safe?
We're fine. I had already
reprogrammed the door. That's why you had to open it for them. Go find Gordon
and Ulan and get to the escape pod.
know where Ulan is. I was worried she might have done something to iMala.
Ah! Here it is! It's always
something, isn't it?
know where Ulan is. Did you hear me?
I heard you. See if you can
find Gordon at least. Do you still have those slugs you made for the doors?
You know about that?
Buer told me. The Library knows.
We can still go there or the
garden for now. The section in advancement isn't between us and them.
If we hide in the garden, the
girls might advance it. We could
be stuck in there for months.
Library controls what's in advancement and what isn't. We need to go ask them
what's going on.
see if I can find Gordon.
You go do that. Go to the
Library and I'll
meet you there. See if you can find iSkandar or any of the other Vencume while
you're at it. I want to get this device charged up and ready to go before we
blow this thing open.
What thing is that?
You know the difference between
cloth-mommy and wire-mommy?
It...was a study done ages ago;
infant rhesus monkeys were removed from their mothers and offered a choice
between a mother made of terrycloth and another made of wire with a milk-bottle
attached. The infants only went to the wire mother when they were hungry, but
always ran to the cloth mother in times of distress.
Right. Well, you're a
What does that have to do with
We've coddled the girls long
enough. It's time for some wire-mommy magic.
Becca found Gordon on the
observation deck with a couple of pilots. The two
blonde girls were pointing at stars and Gordon was telling them the names of
Of course, it's much harder to
keep track of things because
we're always moving. They don't always look the same.
So Peg-51 is in the
constellation of Pegasus. You could never
see it because you were in it.
You might still see some of the
stars. Just because they're next to
each other in the sky back home doesn't mean that they're actually close to
each other. We've been all over during this adventure, but because they're
closer to the origin than others, it hasn't taken that long.
And we're really fast, too.
Of course you are.
Gordon, I need to talk to you
(claps his hands) OK, kiddos. I
have grown-up things to go do. You go
practice and learn your star-charts and we'll go over it again tomorrow at
breakfast. (he watches them leave) They are little sponges!
They want to know everything about everything. I could get used to teaching.
Try not to get too comfortable.
We just had a little
confrontation with two designers and a couple redheads.
Only two? Is iLyssa no longer
doing her own dirty-work?
iMala is missing, there's a
section of ship in advancement, and iDana has a pain-ray that she tried to use
on us. Buer is probably in the section that's in advancement and Evie wants us
to meet her in the Library.
(whistles) You miss one episode
of your favorite show and it's
impossible to keep up.
They had to use their slugs to
get into the lift to the Library pod. Becca's
had dried out more than Gordon's, but even his was slow to respond. They rode
the pod between sections in silence.
They rode the lift down and waited by the door to the Library.
Was she going to meet us here?
Or are we supposed to meet
I guess we could wait in there.
But I think that place is kind
of creepy. Did you know they found five of those Tzikzik in the second Library,
but they had already—
She was only there for a second.
Becca thought it was Ulan at first, before the girl turned and blinked. Her eyes were perfectly black. It wasn't a piercing stare, more the kind that sliced through you and reduced you to little pieces. Becca felt changed, being gazed at by such a being.
Gordon, I'm going crazy again.
What is it this time?
I just saw something...someone.
It looked like Ulan but the eyes were different. I felt...observed...
Where? Was it Ulan?
It wasn't Ulan. This one had
sharper features and darker
Ulan has very dark eyes. That
kid looks like she's seen hell.
Yeah, she probably has.
The lights in the Library were
as bright as ever. Gordon and Becca moved
hesitantly down the walkway.
How many are in here?
Millions? Last time I was here,
iSkandar vibrated the surface
with his hands to talk to them. We're not going to be able to ask them anything
if we can't talk to them.
We need to get their attention.
SOUND: he slaps the water
Millions of Vencume changed
color from drab gray to light green.
SOUND: low rumble
(entering) Don't start without
me. Here's the
pain-ray. Just put it on. You get one too, Gordon. Not sure if it's as
but it should do the trick.
That was quick.
Simple device. Easy to copy.
(pause) OK, we're here and you woke them up. What now?
You didn't build something to
talk to them?
Sure thing; with my own two hands.
Evie fell to her knees next to
and cupped her hands against the low wall. She shouted into the crude
(shouting into her hands) The
three Humans are here! We're in danger!
SOUND: A loud rumble, like thunder or an earthquake.
WHAT IS NATURE OF THREAT CURRENT
(shouting into her hands) The
Tzikzik! The Human Tzikzik! One is missing! A section of ship is in
advancement! What is being grown?
IMPERATIVE NEW ADVANCEMENT
NEGATORY HALT CURRENT ACTION PROJECT OBJECTIVE HUMAN
INTERFERENCE INTOLERABLE PROCEED SCHEDULE
What does that even mean? We
should leave. Remember what they
did to those five Tzikzik from the other ship.
We have to try something.
(shouting into her hands again) We don't want to halt anything!
We need help.
CURRENT BLACK TZIKZIK RELEASE IMPERATIVE HUMANS SAFETY
Your guess is as good as mine.
What's a black Tzikzik? Do you
understand them at all?
(sigh) No. I don't understand
them at all. I wish I did.
We're not doing any good here.
Let's go. Maybe we can hide out
in the factory for a while until things calm down or iMala turns up.
GENTLE BLUE FIRST HUMAN
ADVANCEMENT PROJECT COMPLETION IMPERATIVE
Which one of us is first Human?
Is that you, Evie?
First is Ulan. Evie is Engineer.
So we can guess from that
cryptic statement that Ulan and iMala are on the
section in advancement. (shouting into her hands) Are they still in
advancement? Is the project reaching its end?
PROJECT CURRENT APPROXIMATE
CLOSING COMPLETION FIVE ARMS FREE HAND ACTION
CURRENT IMPERATIVE NATURE OF THREAT QUERY
Tell them the threat is blue and
red. I think that was the
(shouting into hands) Red and
blue threat! Threat is red and blue!
PROJECT CURRENT INCOMPLETE BLACK
AND WHITE IMPERATIVE YELLOW NATURE QUERY
(shouting hands) No threat
yellow! What is black and white? What is five arms?
PROJECT COMPLETION CURRENT
ADVANCEMENT CURRENT END NO THREAT YELLOW QUERY
We can't communicate with them.
We don't have the right
Evie activated her shield-belt.
She said something, but the others couldn't
Out of shared fear, Becca pressed her belt on as well.
Gordon was shouting something and pointing across the section. He waved his arms and gestured to a tiny spot on the far wall. It was a shuffling thing, maybe one-hundred meters away. Becca turned her belt off.
(shouting) Which Vencume is that?
(shouting) Is that Penemue?
The creature was coming closer,
dripping wet. It moved slowly, painfully.
Evie was already standing. She held an arm out and pressed Becca back. There was a tingling sensation when she touched Becca's arm. Gordon was backing up.
This isn't looking good. We
might need to make a hasty
Evie was already approaching the
Vencume. The creature turned a dark gray and
shrank to half its height.
Whoever it is, they feel ashamed.
Better go find out...
Out of the corner of her eye,
Becca saw the black-eyed girl again.
(from a distance) Becca! It's
OK! Come on over!
Becca turned back to where the
girl had been. Gone again, just like that.
Evie was taking her field-belt off as Becca got within ear-shot of the small group.
You'll want this, to protect
yourself. I can take a hit,
but I know that a single bolt will incapacitate you. (laughs) You should
have developed thicker skin or real muscles. That hydraulic vascular system of
yours springs a leak too easily.
Engineer has high sensors that
see far. Your concern for my safety is flattering.
Where have you been?
Fulfilling my function. I had
much to offer and the
Library was willing to listen.
So you know what they were
talking about. This whole thing is
too amazing. I thought the Library was a computer.
This is too complex for a
computer. iSkandar, have
you been hiding in here?
Most of us are here. This
controls the ship. The bridge
is only for observation, but Blue Tzikzik have created the sensor array and we
are better able to observe.
So, yes. You are going to hide
here. You and the Vencume.
Assistant has worked to
project. Black Tzikzik are out of advancement and now patrol the ship.
Where are they?
They are with us now.
How do they do it? How do they
blink in and out like that? Is
What are you talking about?
I've seen one twice. A girl with
black hair who appears and
disappears in a moment. Is it that we can't see them or do I only see them when
they stand still?
Gentle Blue has created the
device. It is based off the
shield First brought. We have some information on in, but its mechanism is
complex. It is a form of advancement.
So if there's a black Tzikzik,
there's a white as
well. What are they?
White Tzikzik leads and
Assistant has gone past us in programming. There is an imperative we do not
understand. You will discover it and report back to us. It is not part of the
project. It does not match the schedule. We must know its purpose.
What is the schedule, anyway?
about it but no one ever said what it was. Is it why you did such a rush job on
You are not the only civilized
We know about the Toshdohai and
the Mavdares. And I know your
cloning experiments don't work with them.
Besides them. There are many
And the Vencume have ships that
have contacted all of them. And
now you're going to get together and compare notes.
Did you use the Tzikzik attack
rouse with all of them?
The system works. It helps
The schedule is when they meet.
It only happens every
three-thousand years, and they were hard-pressed to come up with something at
the last minute. They've been hemming and hawing for multiple generations
trying to figure out how to ask us to help them.
But they just want a way to live.
I wish it was that noble, but
I've been doing a lot of
reading. The last meeting they had gave them this form. They're scattered all
through the galaxy and they hook up and compare notes on who has the best
critter. This little drama that we've been through is one of many that's been
played time and time again. They always find a willing partner by using the
same trick: cooking up monsters with only one command: attack the locals.
But it's just so they can find a
way to live on other planets. Their home world was destroyed and now they need
a place to live.
That home world disappeared
millions of years ago. (pause) How many times has your traveling freak-show
With each civilized race we
encounter, we advance them and they advance us. We have collected much
technology, but you are the first species we have encountered with internal
bones. We will win the contest this time for sure.
You tore me apart so you could
figure out how a
Human fits together. But the girls decided to handle the threat before fitting
to your schedule. But you weren't worried because I made improvements to the
snapback and you figured you could still make it to the meeting place at the
I am confident that Humans are
the correct model. When we
first encountered Humans, we knew that your model would be better than any the
others have found.
When you first met the
portmen... This is just a big
science-fair project for you.
There is much honor to be
gained. We will be
first ship when the project is completed. I am sure of this.
You better put on
that shield before I start punching you. My great-grandmother was a portman.
I know. You look just like
Evie didn't wait for iSkandar to
put on the belt. It was a neat swing that
caught the creature at the connection point between two arms.
I came here because I wanted to!
I'm in space because I chose
to! Not because of you! You had nothing to do with it!
SOUND: Iskandar makes a rattling
sound and wheezes.
PROJECT THREAT UNKNOWN CURRENT
Evie, get your belt. Let's go
before they decide we're
Let them stay
here. Stupid Vencume. You don't mess with my family!
Yes, you're very
hard-core. Everyone is afraid of you. Let's go.
SOUND: Iskandar makes a few more
I think you really hurt him.
Bastard monster always reminded
me of my uncle. Know-it-all