Josh went into his new quarters. He was exhausted from the battle in Zebulon, and the hike up the black mountain didn’t help. What Starla had revealed about interdimensional space swirled in Josh’s head. He was sure it would keep him awake. His worries vanished when Tempo came in wearing the pleasing form and purple bathing suit of Emily Kinicki.
“How do you like it?” she said.
“The quarters I have constructed for you.”
“It’s bool! Uh, beyond cool.”
“Did you see her?”
“The real Emily Kinicki. When you were home.”
“It must have felt strange to you.”
“Sure was. She—well, she just wasn’t—as interesting as you are.”
“Really? That pleases me.”
“Yeah. Me, too.”
“Have a well deserved rest, Joshua Miles,” the space/time entity smiled through the lips of Emily Kinicki.
“Good night—Tempo,” Josh replied.
Tempo left. Josh watched her go. She looked back. They smiled at each other with equal, and signiﬁcant, affection. Tempo turned away, and Josh watched her go until she entered her sleep chamber. She turned again. Again, they shared a smile, then together they closed their doors.
Josh removed his torn and dirty clothes and took a shower in the futuristic stall Starla had constructed especially for him. Tempo had telepathically transferred the speciﬁcations from Josh’s brain to Starla’s memory core. Starla built the shower stall in less than an hour including the plumbing and heating elements that melted snow outside, heated it, and showered it over the stall’s occupant. Unfortunately, Starla’s concept of hot and cold running water had no in between setting. It was either volcano hot or icicle cold. Still, Josh managed to clean up, and soon his thoughts turned to Tempo. Thoughts of her made him warm inside, even when the shower was freezing. It never occurred to him that, at that moment, Tempo was quite probably morphing from the energy draining form of Emily Kinicki into the viscous ooze Quaternions really were. But thoughts of Tempo in the form of Emily was all Josh could see. She made Josh forget for awhile his difficult and dangerous dilemma: how to lead this band of powerful, but relatively inept, rebels to victory in a colossal war when, in fact, he had no idea what he was doing?
Josh stepped out of the shower and faced a new dilemma: he’d forgotten to tell Starla about towels! The sonic chamber they all used for bathing was very efficient. It had no need for towels, nor water, nor soap. Josh dried off with the tiny tissue-like squares in his bathroom, a convenience, it seemed, all organic entities needed. He put on one of several sleep tunics in his closet and turned to the foam platform the DimensioNoids considered to be a bed. He hadn’t thought to transfer to Starla the concepts of pillows, cotton sheets and cozy down comforters. But he found the foam mat and ﬂimsy silver coverlet surprisingly warm and toasty. Soon, he was sound asleep.
Tempo approached in a strange fog. She parted those lips of Emily Kinicki’s and, in Starla’s voice, said, “I am getting troubling input from my sensor scans.” Josh snapped awake! Was it a dream? Starla’s voice continued over his burn band, “Assemble in the ready room.”
Josh jumped out of bed, threw on his clothes and found them cleaned, repaired and pressed. “Starla!” he chuckled to himself. Josh ran out the door, and all the DimensioNoids converged at the ready room. They took to their tactics benches and their view screens popped to life.
“These images are real time,” Starla said as video ﬁlled everyone’s screen. An army of Minions was marching in great numbers into a large building. “This is their jump chamber in Cadavra. I monitor it constantly. It can burn a thousand Minions at a time into any dimension.”
“Another world marked for annihilation!” Fractal fumed.
“I can’t discern their target dimension until the ﬁrst wave has burned into it,” Starla explained.
“Tactics?” Fractal requested.
“The same as previous invasions. All we can do is burn to the attack and help the populace ﬁght the invaders.”
“Starla?” Josh spoke up. “How do you watch these guys? You know, keep an eye on them like you do?”
“Track and monitor? That is something only a Peitgen can do. My mind can ride the refracted light that travels between the dimensions. I see what I set my mind to watch. I can monitor perhaps four to six events in interdimensional space. All at the same time.”
“Wow. Awesome,” Josh said. “With that kinda spy tech, and with the D-Noids’ special powers, how come we’re getting’ our butts thumped?”
“Numbers,” Starla said over the bands. “If there were only one army, we might repel their invasion. But they send army after army. We are always overwhelmed.”
This gave Josh an idea. “We need to attack their jump chamber. Stop them from sending their armies at all.”
“We’ve tried that,” Fractal said, “but the chamber is too heavily guarded, too well fortiﬁed.”
“No, no. Inﬁltration. Sabotage,” Josh clariﬁed. “Like in Zebulon. Tempo going in as a female Minion trooper.”
“Tried it. They have scanners at all the checkpoints around their jump chamber. These scanners can detect anyone without an identity implant,” Tempo said. “If you’re not a dead walker, you’re not getting in.”
“The Cluster. They aren’t dead, right, Starla?”
“They still live. Kept alive by their medicinal healing shrouds.”
“Do Cluster members have identity implants?”
“Reviewing,” the light entity said from somewhere else in the command center. The screens ﬁlled with overlapping video of the security entrance, all at hyper-speed. Minion guards with heavy weapons manned the entrance. “Members of The Cluster rarely pass through security at the jump chamber. Their frail constitution does not permit dimension travel. But, now that you have called my attention to it—”
Several video selections slowed to reveal different occasions of fog-shrouded Cluster members passing a wide scanning device. Minions also passed through with them. It was obvious that the detector ﬂashed and hummed at the passing of the Minions, but not The Cluster members. “They are not scanned. They are merely saluted, which militant organic entities are prone to do.”
Josh smiled. How right Starla was. Organic entities just couldn’t seem to avoid war.
“They’ve sent their ﬁrst wave!” Starla called out over the burn bands. “Their target is the organic dimension of Huen. Primitive humanoid inhabitants, limited resources. It is too late for any sabotage effort, now.”
“It’s not too late to stop the next wave!” Josh said.
He took Tempo by the shoulders and looked into Emily Kinicki’s eyes. “Tempo. Have you ever morphed into one of The Cluster? I saw in Starla’s history lesson one of them looked to be, well, you know, female in gender.”
Tempo giggled as Emily Kinicki would have. “You’re so funny when you talk about things like gender. Girls make you nervous. Admit it. You get a little freaky.”
“Cut it out, will ya? I need Tempo now, not Emily.”
Tempo sighed, as if she liked being Emily more than her true self. “Number Three.”
“The Cluster member. Female in gender? Number Three.”
“Oh, yeah. You ever, you know, do her?”
“No. I can’t duplicate her healing shroud. It’s a medicinal fog. It keeps them alive, but it lacks substance. Substance that my molecules need in order to duplicate.”
“I’ll bet Starla can make some gadget to fake the fog.”
“Interesting,” Starla pondered over the burn bands from another part of the facility. “It should be no problem. A holographic vest of some sort.”
“Okay. Work on it. The zombies wouldn’t dare question one of The Cluster, anyway, would they?”
“Their primary directive is to obey,” Spindle noted.
“Yeah,” Denso added. “Word is: disobey one of The Cluster and you can start pleading for a stay of execution!”
“Organic entities,” Starla said with what almost sounded like a sigh, “and their need for power over others.”
“How long before their jump chamber powers back up?” Josh said, trying to keep Starla on track.
“Subtracting time in your burn tubes, you’ll have twelve Solarian minutes to effect a sabotage,” Starla said, just as it entered the ready room levitating a small black vest. Tempo slipped it on. “There’s a touch sensitive activation switch on the right front panel,” Starla said.
Tempo touched that section of the tiny black vest and instantly a pseudo healing fog appeared. Tempo then morphed from Emily Kinicki into Number Three. The vest blended with the black robes that Tempo had created for the illusion.
“Whoa!” Denso said, “you look so much like Number Three, it makes me want to kill you!”
“Then I’d better change into something more comfortable,” Tempo said, with a hint of organic humor, as she turned back into Emily. She touched the vest again, and the holographic shroud vanished, leaving only the tiny black vest over her purple bathing suit.
Josh smiled. These wonderful warriors would be so out of place in Josh’s world. Almost as much as he was out of place in theirs. More and more, though, he was becoming one of them.
“Yo, DimensioNoids! Let’s burn!” Josh shouted.
They all shouted, “Yo!” in return, which almost made Josh laugh out loud. Then with blazing speed, save for Josh, they all ran down the corridor of blue lights to the secret door, out into the night and a light ﬂurry of snow.
“Your plan should work, Joshua Miles,” Starla said over their burn bands as Josh caught up with the rest, winded. “You and Tempo will burn into Cadavra. Tempo will inﬁltrate their security in the form of Cluster member Number Three. She’ll disable their jump device with a magnetic mine so their second wave never arrives in Huen. Denso, Spindle and Fractal will burn into Huen and help the defenders withstand the ﬁrst wave. Once the second wave is halted, you and Tempo will join the others in Huen, where she will morph into a Yotobian Fire Dragon, and attack from the rear.”
“Uh, yeah,” Josh stammered, trying to ﬁgure out just how the simple suggestions he’d made had evolved into this complicated plan to dimension burn into the heart of the enemy stronghold. “Everybody okay with that?” he added, putting some authority into his shaky voice. They all looked at Josh and almost cheered in agreement.
“Another brilliant plan from the brain of Joshua Miles!” Fractal announced, a little too helpfully.
“Yeah, as long as Tempo doesn’t run into the real Number Three,” Spindle noted unnecessarily blunt.
Everyone exchanged worried glances.
“Hey, cheer up, pouty pusses!” Tempo laughed in the form of Emily Kinicki and using a phrase Josh had often heard the real Emily use. “If I run into trouble I’ll just morph into a Yotobian Fire Dragon!”
Well, thought Josh, the real Emily never said that!
“You’ll be at the center of their heavy weapons,” Spindle said.
“Even a Fire Dragon can’t withstand big guns,” Denso grimly stated.
“And unlike real Yotobian Fire Dragons, you cannot ﬂy,” Fractal added.
“Just burn out of there the instant you feel you’re in trouble,” Starla instructed over the bands. “But not if your inside the chamber or any thick walled structure. You know the danger of thick walls corrupting a dimension burn.”
Josh was horriﬁed! He hadn’t considered any of it!
Then Tempo laughed Emily Kinicki’s laugh and said, “Don’t worry, gang. Joshua Miles will protect me.”
They all looked at Josh. He could only grin crookedly. What had he gotten Tempo into? Too late to back out now!
The DimensioNoids always went outside to initiate a burn for the very reason Starla stated: burning from inside the mountain or any structure with thick walls posed great risk, minerals and density of medium altering dimension burns negatively. Therefore, they stood in the swirling snow, activated their burn bands, and ﬁve DimensioNoids burned away on another mission.
Alone in his burn tube, Josh suddenly felt a twinge of worry that his plan endangered Tempo far too much. He was unaware that his plan greatly endangered all of them. The invasion of Huen was a ruse. The DimensioNoids should have known. What would The Cluster want with a primitive dimension of few resources? Long before The Cluster dispatched their ﬁrst wave of Minions, they sent a false tracking of Chaos to a distant dimension—a false tracking to deceive Starla, and to keep the DimensioNoids from learning the true purpose of their plan. Well before the invasion, Chaos had secretly jumped into Huen, alone.
At ﬁrst the Huen resisted, and Chaos slaughtered many of them. The hairy, primitive Huen had spears and clubs for weapons. They were no match for Chaos’s Kolomogoron powers, no match for the additional deadly skills that The Cluster had built into him. The Huen were interdimensional Neanderthals, but they weren’t stupid. When Chaos offered to end the killing if their leader came forward, they complied.
Chaos took the king into his hut, and with his mesmer eyes, bent the trembling Huen leader to his will. The mesmerized king stepped from his hut and announced to his people the action they were to take when the DimensioNoids arrived.
Fractal, Denso and Spindle burned into Huen at different locations across the battle front. They planned to hold off the invaders and make contact with the Huen. The Huen had an excellent system of runners and drummers that sent messages back and forth in their primeval world. Unbeknownst to the D-Noids, however, the Huen now scouted for The Cluster’s forces.
Chaos knew Fractal would be with the rebels. He always was. As they were told, the Huen scouts sought out Fractal and told him that their king wanted to conference. Fractal followed the Huen to their main village to greet the Huen king. Chaos lay hidden in the high grass on a distant hilltop. He focused the complex telescopic sight of the long range stun riﬂe on the tall ﬁgure being escorted into the village. Chaos was pleased beyond measure that his victim would be his own detested kid brother.
The stun riﬂe was invented expressly to capture Kolomogorons. It was the single most effective weapon against them and the means by which The Cluster’s armies conquered Kolomogoro. Kolomogorons had great inborn powers, but their powers had limited range. The stun riﬂe was designed to incapacitate Kolomogorons from a great distance, well outside the range of their powers.
Chaos marked his target with the weapon’s sophisticated sight, the image locked and the weapon tracked its target. Chaos squeezed the trigger. Fractal didn’t know what hit him.
CLICK HERE FOR CHAPTER SIXTEEN: HEARTBREAKS