Mamat knew what would occur as the Selareans coated the B’lalru’s aft port with their viscous excretions. During the panic, with Z’lar running one way and N’lar stumbling another, Mamat sent out an alert to the other starslip pods.
There was a crackling sound, somewhat distant, less ominous than what Mamat could see before her: The entire aft port was bubbling, becoming gaseous, and would soon disintegrate. How soon, she had no idea, and there was no escaping what she knew would happen next.
“Legend my Toola!” she exclaimed, urging Z’lar to send out another alert.
N’lar whimpered, his pale blue face pressed against the star board, where more Selareans had gathered.
Mamat fought the urge to peer through the port side, as she knew Z’lar, despite his eccentricities, had that under control
Z’lar’s appendages were a blue streak as he entered commands into the escape pod’s module. “Look fast, then look no more, N’lar! Last thing you see unless help me activate escape pods!”
That seemed to shake N’lar out of his apocalyptic stupor, and he joined his brother at the hatch, waited for the signal to activate the release hatch.
“Mamat! Hurry. We have not much time. . .” Z’lar cried out. Even though he’d considered eating her eyeballs not that long ago, Z’lar now realized he’d grown rather fond of the strange creature from beyond the Oort clouds.
“You two go ahead. There’s another pod,” she lied. “Contact the survey station for retrieval. I’m relying on you to give them a full and unbiased report. Tell them to evacuate the area, that the Selareans are not a hoax. Repeat. Not a hoax.”
Mamat and Z’lar locked eyes, and he nodded slightly, seeming more in control than he had for the entire survey mission. Perhaps he might survive after all. . .
Mamat didn’t have the time or inclination to conduct a future scan on the grid to determine the brothers’ outcome. It was time for her to act. . .if she were to survive.
As Mamat sent out one more alert to her friend, Commander D’mala, with whom she was supposed to rendezvous, it was difficult to shake the image emblazoned within her brain. She knew that these memories would be a dark rider to Survey Station B991b2 – and beyond. Unless she put in a memory download request.
As a Survey Station Liaison, Z level, or SSLZ, Mamat had a right to keep her memories, to do with them what she would. At times, her memory logs had proven to be useful, especially for training purposes.
She chuckled, allowed herself the guilty pleasure of tossing her head back like the Old Earthers. Ryan had taught her this, told her she’d feel better. Something about endorphins, but she doubted old-Earther chemistry resembled her own.
Then again. . .there had been more than a moment between them.
Nevertheless, laughing always made her feel better; there was something about how its frequency traveled through her body. Z’lar and N’lar, however, shuddered at the sound, and had wanted to devour Ryan without preamble or preparation. She had, of course, intervened, for which Ryan had been grateful, thus inspiring him to share what he knew of old Earth and how the humans hoped – and planned – to colonize the universe.
Mamat rather liked learning about FTL madness, and she had recognized the merits of using its possibility to maintain order, keeping the underlings in line. Besides, it was good to remind her survey mission crew, no matter how experienced, of the inherent dangers of deep space travel.
Yes, she would preserve all of these memories on the Mind Grid, as myth or no, the humans knew a thing or two and the Selareans were clearly real, but discovered in an unexpected quadrant, well outside their legendary breeding grounds, drawn perhaps, by the high-frequency color spectrum of Orion’s Nebula.
Why did she think of him now when action was so urgent? He had opened up, shared much about his world, the hopes of his people. He had called this quadrant, this nebula, a place where stars were born.
She hoped their paths would cross again. . .
Now, however, Mamat turned her focus on the imminent possibility that she, too, might not escape in time. Still, she was a survey mission officer. Her job was to explore, and report on, whatever quadrant of the universe to which she was assigned. She knew the risks. . .
So did Z’lar. N’lar, however, had no clue.
Mamat’s current report included observations on the Selareans, how they were clearly a more intelligent species than first assumed. Could it be they were camouflaging their breeding grounds, their fertilized eggs, within the energetic folds of stars waiting to be born?
Ryan would say she was becoming a poet. . .Would that it were so.
Mamat retrieved the last time she and Ryan had stolen time together, the dreamy expression on his face when he spoke softly, reverently, of arks traveling through the galaxy to seed new worlds. She truly hoped those ships would survive. . .and he as well. Hope, it seemed, traversed the galaxy.
Startled by an odd sound reverberating throughout the chamber, Mamat realized she couldn’t wait any longer for D’mala’s reply.
As if in response to her curiosity and burgeoning respect, the Selareans reached out to her with a telepathic flash. . .
And that’s when Mamat knew there would be no escaping those crimson maws, no escaping that corrosive saliva that dissolved outer and inner hulls, no escaping those writhing tentacles, so graceful, so deadly, and yet so gentle when they extracted – and preserved for their progeny- the promise of sustenance discovered within this metallic husk.
It was beyond time for Mamat to activate the transport sequence. She looked around the starslip she’d known as home for many turns, leaned forward to insert the activation crystal. . .and escaped a nanosecond before the B’lalru began to crumble into particles, forming waves, the Seraleans weaving them together, nestling within the folds.
To be continued. . .