The fat saucer-shaped travel pod sped through the dense Kromin atmosphere. The instrument panel showed the reflection of the pilot: thin neck, round head ending at a rounded point at the chin, large almond-shaped black eyes, and two tiny slits for a nose and almost no mouth. Delicate hands with long, slender fingers punched a few buttons on the console and the craft de-celerated.
Orange-pink clouds of poisonous gas roiled and writhed outside the viewscreen. Before it lay the capital city floating in the extremely dense atmosphere. The buildings were shaped like the travel pods, only much larger, with cylindrical power generators hanging from the bottom of each building. Long, thin, windowless tunnels connected some of the buildings. The only openings were the hatchways for the travel pods. There were no windows of any kind.
The pilot was careful not to let the pod sink too low. The surface of Kromin was semi-solid and often erupted violently, sending up huge gouts of scorching hot liquid, destroying anything it touched. Clone 9684 piloted the craft into one of the hatchways of the research building. It stepped out of the pod and headed toward the specimen room. The dull grey hallway was lit with dim blue bulbs. The clone opened its mind so it could communicate.
–Have the others arrived with the new species?
–Yes. We await your arrival.
Clone 9684 closed its mind again as it made its way to the others.
The specimen room was dull grey, with dull grey cabinets and tables. Clone 9684 greeted its fellow research students, clones 53279, 48951, 70786, and 8503.
–Leader, where is the new creature?
The research leader, clone 70521, led the students to cubicle 212. It pulled a lever, causing a piece of the wall to slide to the left, revealing the contents.
On the grey metal table lay a quivering mass, greenish-blue in color. It kept trying to escape, but as it reached the edge, it shrank back from the invisible shield. A high pitched keening wail emanated from the gelatinous creature trapped on the table. If the clones had any emotional capacity, they would have described the thing as being terrified.
Clone 48951 was the first to approach.
–Can you understand me?
The quivering seemed to intensify and the creature tried to back as far away as it could, but when it contacted the shield, the keening wail would begin again.
–Can you understand me?
The clone was patient and relentless in its attempt to communicate telepathically with this creature. It tried varying degrees of intensity but to no avail.
Clone 48951 attempted a closer proximity.
–Can you understand me?
For a brief moment, it seemed as if the creature could understand at least the basic message. After a little fine tuning, the clone was able to make contact. It was a strange sensation, being inside the mind of something so alien.
–Why have I been brought here? Where am I?
–You are on the planet Kromin. I am a part of a research team that is attempting to telepathically communicate with alien species.
–I am very cold and frightened.
–I will adjust the temperature of the enclosure. I do not understand the concept of “frightened”. Can you explain?
–Do you not feel fear? Apprehension?
–I still do not understand.
–Do you feel joy, sadness, anger?
–These words do not translate.
–Please. I want to go home!
The creature quivered and the strange keening wail began anew. The other students filed into cubicle 212 and practiced communicating with it.
–What is the name of your world?
–Meswilah. Please! Take me home!
–We will send you home when we have come to understand the way in which your mind works.
–If I cooperate and help you, will you promise to send me home? Please! I am frightened!
–This word “promise”, what does it mean?
–You give your word. If you say to me “I will send you home”, then you have to do so.
–I see. We will send you home after the studies are complete. I “promise”.
Clone 53279 seemed almost pleased that it had grasped the meaning of this new concept. The creature proved true to its word. It answered all questions posed to it and allowed a deeper probe of its mind, although it proved a little uncomfortable.
The entity from the planet Meswilah was taken back to its planet. The clones erased its memory. If it remembered anything about its encounter with the alien species, chances are no one would believe anyway.
Leader 70521 sat in its domicile awaiting the sleep cue. Only here, alone, could it allow the hold over its thoughts to relax a little. She knew that it took strong emotions to alert the Kromins that something was amiss.
Master Mirka longed to return to Gentra. Being on this dull, emotionless planet was an enormous drain, both mentally and physically. She missed her vibrant, colorful home. Only her solid, unwavering belief in her duty to the Chosen kept her diligent in always guarding her every thought. It was difficult to keep one’s identity a secret when dealing with a telepathic race.
Mirka stood and began pacing. She glared at the blank wall, wishing she could bring her will to bear and create a single window.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she opened a window in her mind’s eye. Instantly, she was back home, gazing up at her home built onto the side of a geothermal vent. She glanced around at the breathtaking landscape of Gentra, the sherubite crystals jutting out of the ocean floor like so many crooked teeth, the farming of the bioluminescent plankton blankets, and the amusing antics of the scrago.
She opened her eyes and wished for the hundredth time that this race had tear ducts. Her homesickness threatened to overwhelm her and not having the ability to cry was frustrating to say the least.
A slight tingling sensation in her brain cut off her musings; the sleep cue. Mirka walked to her grey, hard bed and lay down. As she closed her eyes, she fervently hoped her dreams would be of home.
The waking cue was much like the sleep cue, only more intense and focused. Mirka got out of bed and walked to the cleaning cubicle for her daily wash. As she emerged from the cubicle, dryers dried her tall thin body. Mirka placed her designation badge on her upper left chest. The badges consisted of a symbol for the city where a clone lived, the symbol for its occupation, and its clone number.
Mirka walked to the food cubicle and retrieved the flat, cylindrical-shaped food pellet. She chewed the pellet and pretended it was a delicious piece of scrago steak, complete with plankton salad and deep-sea grass pie. She shook her head ruefully. No amount of imagination could make these food pellets palatable.
The Kromin Guardian made her way to her travel pod and proceeded out of the shielded hatchway, designed to keep out the poisonous gases of the atmosphere, yet allowing the pods to pass through easily.
As Mirka flew to the research building, she had to grudgingly admit that this planet did have its own unique beauty, toxic and noxious though it was. She marveled at the dense orange-pink clouds, swirling and churning in startling patterns that made one’s eyes want to glaze over.
Mirka entered one of the hatchways at the research building and landed the travel pod. She emerged and gave a last, longing look at the only color she was likely to see all day. She made her way down the main hallway that led to the specimen room.
The floor felt cool on her bare feet. However, but the rest of her body was quite comfortable in the climate-controlled building. Mirka could hear little sound; only the sound of machines, the doors opening and closing, the very faint sound of footsteps on the metal floor. She stopped and stood for a moment in the eerie silence. A building of this size and accommodating large numbers of beings should have been humming with the buzz of conversation and laughter, the occasional cough, or other outburst. But the halls and rooms were completely silent.
Mirka continued to the specimen room. The five students were already there awaiting the arrival of their research leader.
–What duties do you have for us today, Leader?
Mirka paused before sending the answer to them. What she wanted had never been attempted before. It was going to sound impossible, but she knew that these five were up to the task. They had to succeed; the fate of the galaxy could depend on it.
Mirka gave all five their instructions. They left the specimen room for their travel pods. Five pods sped off in five different directions, making the jump into hyperspace as soon as they were clear of Kromin. A short time later, five pods appeared near five different planets hundreds of thousands of parsecs away from Kromin.
Mirka sat in her domicile awaiting the sleep cue. She was tense and on edge trying to relax and keep her mind focused. Suddenly she stiffened. Her eyes widened as she detected the barest whisper of contact from light years away.
–Leader-can you hear me?
The Portals of Destiny Series
The Mekan horde threatens all life in the galaxy and only the Chosen, a select group chosen by fate, can fight these metal monstrosities and save those that call this galaxy home. But when one of the Chosen is murdered, the untimely death could spell doom for all.
This series will bring the reader face-to-face with an age-old question: How much of our lives are preordained and how much of our future do we determine for ourselves? Do you believe in fate and destiny or do you believe that your life is what you choose it to be?
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