Though they were out of sight, Pearl knew that the noise made by the machine would attract whoever had entered the massive chamber. Four figures cautiously came into view. Pearl had never seen soldiers in exo-armor, the armor that covered from head to toe. She recognized the Hishen. There were a lot of Hishen on New Hope, all claiming to be fleeing the Hishen Empire. They gave Pearl the creeps. The huge lumbering figure following the Hishen had to be a Grath. Grath were the only alien not welcome in New Hope City. She remembered Detective Sally Blue and her huge pistol. Sally had said only a head shot would stop a Grath.
Momiji fired first, but the armored soldier just shrugged off her shots. Pearl rushed her shot at the Hishen and missed. Azumi, ever cool under pressure, fired the “finger of death” sniper rifle and one soldier crumpled to the ground with a large hole in the exo-armor. It seemed to Pearl that the enemy’s return fire was all aimed at her. Her pistol was no match for assault rifles, so she ducked behind the rubble and hugged the ground.
Pearl looked to her right and saw that Momiji had taken up a position next to the machine. Momiji began laying down a suppressing fire. Pearl took the opportunity to peak above the rubble. Azumi was working her way around the left in an attempt to outflank the intruders. The Grath, however, was headed straight for Pearl. Pearl fired and hit the Grath solidly in the chest. The Grath paused and looked at his chest. He flashed Pearl an evil grin and resumed his march toward her. She fired again. This time the shot creased the left side of the alien’s massive skull. He narrowed his eyes and clenched his fists. They looked like giant hammers. Pearl figured she had two or three good shots before the Grath would reach her. She carefully aimed at a spot between his eyes, but before she could squeeze the trigger, a bright orb shaped red light appeared.
As the orb grew, a red violet wall appeared that stretched from floor to ceiling. The wall suddenly shot outward through the entire chamber like a ripple on a pond. It was some sort of energy wave that knocked Pearl to the ground. She felt a tingling course through her body. She sat up. Momiji was back on her feet but had lowered her rifle. Pearl followed Momiji’s gaze back to where she had seen the orb of light. In its place stood a tall alien woman with lavender skin. “Kabasu!” exclaimed Momiji.
“Kabasu?” asked Pearl.
“Kabasu, a rift walker.” replied Momiji. Now Pearl understood the purpose of the machine. It was a signal beacon to guide travelers across the rifts of time and space.
A shot drew Pearl’s attention to the left where Azumi had killed the remaining soldier in exo-armor while he was still on the ground. The huge Grath rose off of the chamber floor. He roared and charged the Kabasu. The Kabasu raised a small tube, the size of a lipstick, and discharged a plasma beam which vaporized the Grath’s upper torso and head into a fine mist. Realizing that he was alone, the Hishen panicked and began firing wildly at everyone. His shots forced both Pearl and Momiji to duck back behind cover.
The Kabasu was oblivious to the Hishen’s gunfire. She had pulled a small device from her belt and seemed to be scanning the chamber. It dawned on Pearl that the Kabasu might be looking for the signaling device that had brought her here. Pearl scurried into the open to get to Momiji’s side at the machine. The Hishen fired at her, but her luck held as he missed her, though two of the shots were very close. “Momiji, it’s the machine! The Kabasu is looking for the machine.” Pearl gasped as she reached Momiji.
“The machine? What would she want with the machine?” Momiji asked.
“Think about it. A beacon from another galaxy or dimension goes off; it signals that someone else might be able to travel the way you travel. So, you send someone to investigate; to determine if it is a threat and silence it.”
“Destroy the machine?”
“And us, too. Did you see how easily she vaporized the Grath? My lipstick is a pleasant shade of red with a good moisturizer, it doesn’t shoot death rays like the one she has. Our only chance is to turn off the machine and convince her that we didn’t know what we were doing when we turned it on.”
A ricochet showered them both with bits of rubble. “Ok,” said Momiji, “Those two switches turn the thing off. I’m going after the Hishen before he hits one of us.” Momiji crouched low and moved off to find the Hishen. Pearl toggled the switches and felt a wave of relief as the machine powered down. Then the baby reacted creating convulsions of pain. Pearl held onto the machine to keep from doubling over. When the pain eased, she looked up and the Kabasu was standing in front of her.
Pearl flashed a weak grin. The Kabasu’s eyes widened and she pointed to Pearl’s stomach. “Yes, I know, this is bad for the baby.” said Pearl. Pearl wondered if the Kabasu understood what she had said. The Universal Translator Box (which looked nothing like a box) was capable of translating hundreds of languages, but Pearl didn’t know if the Kabasu understood any of those languages. The Kabasu reached into one of the many small pouches on her belt and pulled out a small brown tablet. She gave it to Pearl and then opened her mouth and touched her tongue. Pearl understood that the alien wanted her to take the tablet. It was a risk to take medication from an alien. One didn’t know how it would react to a human body, but Pearl thought “What the hell.”, she was already carrying a baby that was half alien. Three rapid shots rang out from Momiji’s assault rifle. “The Hishen is down.” Momiji shouted.
The Kabasu pointed at the machine. Pearl shrugged her shoulders and slowly told the alien woman that they did not know the machine would send signals across the rift. She thought it was stupid, but she couldn’t help it. Speaking slow hoping the alien would understand seemed the natural thing to do. The Kabasu shook her head and pulled out the tiny weapon tube that had turned the upper half of a Grath into a fine mist.
“No, please, no.” cried Pearl holding up her hands. “Look, take this, it’s the thing that powers the machine. We don’t know how it works and we can’t make another one.” she said pointing at the anti-matter orb. The Kabasu seemed interested, so Pearl began wrestling the energy resonator away from the machine.
“Pearl!” she heard Azumi shout. “What are you doing, Pearl?”
“I’m giving her the energy thing, so she’ll leave and leave us alive.”
“What makes you think she’d kill us?” Azumi asked.
“Because that’s what you would do.” replied Pearl. With a desperate tug, Pearl separated the resonator from the signal beacon.
“Stop! Don’t you dare, Pearl! That’s mine and not yours to give away.”
Pearl lifted up the device and presented it to the Kabasu. A shot kicked up dust and rubble at Pearl’s feet. “Drop it Pearl, or I’ll kill you and that alien bitch.” The Kabasu quickly spun around and discharged another blast. Azumi fell with a grunt as air rushed out of her lungs. Pearl dropped to her knees and held the energy resonator up to the Kabasu. She took the device from Pearl and motioned Pearl to move away and find cover. Pearl went back to where she had been when the fighting started. She picked up the survival blanket and wrapped it around her shoulders. The Kabasu returned to the spot where she had first appeared. And then, as if an afterthought, she walked over to where Azumi lay. She set down the resonator and lifted Azumi over her shoulder. Azumi moaned. Hearing the moan, Momiji raced toward the Kabasu. The alien picked up the resonator. A red dot appeared at her abdomen and quickly enlarged into the red violet wall. “Wait! Commander!” shouted Momiji just as the Kabasu and Azumi disappeared. Momiji took the full brunt of the shock wave as it rippled through the chamber.
Further up the tunnel, Katie and her squad felt the fading ripple of the energy wave. Katie felt a tingle over her whole body. Katie had “Blossom” Mackenzie, Corporal Tam, and Private Parunk with her. She had left Sgt. Yates, Private Lopez, and the medic behind to tend to the wounded. They cautiously approached the entrance to the lit chamber. Katie scanned the chamber looking for the enemy soldiers and Hishen. She saw two figures huddled on the floor. “Planetary Defense Force,” announced Katie, “Staff Sergeant Lemay speaking.”
“Katie? Katie is that you?” asked Pearl.
A confused squad looked at their equally confused leader. “Mom? Mom, how did… what are you doing here?”
“The fighting is over.” said Pearl. “Please help, there are wounded in here.”
“Ok, spread out and look for survivors.” ordered Katie. Katie walked to Pearl’s side and knelt. “A Xeog!” she exclaimed, “So you must have been in the space plane we saw. Will she be alright?”
“I think so, she was knocked out by the energy wave when the rift walker left.” Pearl replied.
“Rift walker? Mom, this isn’t making sense.” said Katie. “We followed two soldiers, a Grath and a Hishen down here. They’re part of a weapons smuggling operation. What is this place?”
Corporal Tam caught Katie’s last sentence as she arrived next to Katie. “Staff, the two soldiers are dead. We found half of the Grath. The Hishen is alive, but he’s lost a lot of blood.”
“Very well, thank you, Corporal. Let’s evac the wounded and get back with the others.” ordered Katie.
“You asked about this place? This place is a lost ancient city that needs to stay lost. Katie, do you have any explosives?” asked Pearl.
“Explosives? Why, mom, they know where to find this place?”
“Yeah, but if they have to dig for it, we’ll be able to watch them. I think there are things down here neither the Xeog nor Gaea Prime are ready to find.” replied Pearl.
“Ok, once we can go topside, we’ll seal the caverns. I don’t know what ancient secrets are down here, but I do want to deny weapons smugglers a base of operations.” said Katie. “Let’s go up and join the others.”
It was the next morning before the atmosphere was clean enough to return to the surface. Though much of the planet was still in chaos, Katie was able to get a medevac. Lt. Probst, Private T’sao and Private Hall were the wounded from Katie’s squad. They lost only one, Private Belo had died almost immediately. Of the smugglers, General Hauser, one soldier, and two Hishen were wounded. The rest were dead. The Xeog, Momiji, had regained consciousness. The other Xeog had been taken by the Kabasu. On top of all of that, Staff Sergeant Lemay had a very pregnant woman who wanted to go home.