It seemed like miles to Josh, but eventually they came to the most colossal tree Josh had seen yet. It had a hollow in it hidden behind a tangle of vines. The woman beckoned and stepped into the hollow. Tempo and Josh followed. The woman yanked on one of the vines three times. Immediately, the ﬂoor of the hollow fell like a
elevator. It hissed to a stop. The three stepped out into an underground complex. New York
“I’ll take you to Flex,” the woman said.
Josh looked up. The interior of the tree had been hollowed out with no apparent damage to the tree’s normal growth. Open space went upward with living quarters and observation posts manned by Frobenians who held the same kind of futuristic crossbows Spindle had. They’d even hollowed out the larger limbs of the far reaching tree. At the extremities of these, they put their sentries with peep holes and binocular-like devices. This gave them a wide perimeter defense that spread out from the great tree like the spokes of a wagon wheel.
The Frobenian woman led Josh and Tempo downward over a spiraling set of stone steps. The spiral stair picked its way around the massive roots of the great tree. There were several levels underground where dozens of Frobenians were building crossbows, short-handled spears and explosives, and mapping out what looked like planned attacks on their invaders. Spindle had explained to Josh why Frobenians preferred crossbows, arrows with broad ﬂat blade-tips, and the Zulu spears all their ﬁghters had on their belts. It was an efficient way to dispose of Minions. The arrows and spear were effective in severing the spinal columns and puncturing the brains of the Minions. Add the Frobenians’ ability to elongate their arms to the spear’s deadly purpose and the Frobenians became very effective zombie killers.
As they descended, the woman ﬁlled them in. “My name is Lithe. You are in the headquarters of the Frobenian Resistance. The Cluster would pay to know the location of this complex. We are putting our trust in you.”
“You can do so without concern,” Tempo said. “I am Tempo of Quaternion.”
“A morph. I saw you become the Tizlakian Ape. Tempo of the rebel group now known as the DimensioNoids?”
Tempo smiled and nodded.
“I suspected it when I saw the size of the search the Minions sent out looking for you,” Lithe liplessly smiled. “The exploits of your group give great hope to our cause. We understand you destroyed The Cluster’s accursed time accelerator last night.”
“It was a great victory,” Tempo said, nodding the commendation to Josh. “My friend, here, set the charge.”
Josh grinned stupidly as the Frobenian woman looked at him with great respect. How could she not see how mistaken everyone was about him?
“With the time accelerator, Chaos was able to foretell our attacks,” Lithe said. “Now, it won’t be so easy. Is the legendary Spindle still among your number?”
“He is, but he’s been injured,” Tempo explained. “He lost a portion of a leg in the mission to destroy the time accelerator. It is the reason we have come to Frobenius. We need ﬁve hundred grams of your dimension’s regeneroot.”
“That may be diﬃcult,” the woman Lithe pondered. “Perhaps Flex will know of a way. He is our leader.”
They reached the bottom level of the complex. Two guards armed with crossbows stood by an archway. They inspected the arrivals, and let them pass.
Inside, an extremely chubby Frobenian sat on a log using a large stump for a desk. His rooster comb hair had grown thick and curled over with age. He looked up from papers he was studying. The walls were lined with shelves where more papers were stacked. Lithe explained Josh and Tempo’s plight. Flex smiled that lipless Frobenian smile, and stretched out long elastic arms to shake Tempo and Josh’s hands. It wasn’t a typical handshake, more of a grasping of both sets of hands, a gesture of comradeship.
“Welcome, welcome!” Flex said, then his arms snapped back to normal lengths. “Regeneroot, eh?” Flex smiled. “My old friend Spindle needs some regeneroot. It’s considered contraband for regeneroot to lie outside The Cluster’s grasp. We had a small supply, but we’ve sustained many injuries in our missions to hinder our invaders. Used it up.” Flex shot out a long elastic arm and took down some papers from a high shelf. “We keep track, as best we can, of the shipments and facilities maintained by The Cluster here in Frobenius. They force us to gather all our regeneroot, which they destroy at several locations,” he said, looking through the ream of papers. “Here. This might be your best chance. A disposal facility at the edge of the city of
. A large shipment is due to arrive there shortly. They are short on cargo skimmers, so they ship much of what they steal from us in Frobenian carts. It is so with this particular regeneroot shipment. Once it gets inside the facility, you have no chance of raiding it. But by cart, on the ground, it is vulnerable.” He found a map in the papers. He held the map before their faces with one ten foot arm, then extended one clawed ﬁnger like a long pointer and pointed at two locations. “You might intercept the delivery here, or here. It’ll be lightly guarded. They’ve got all their spare Minions out looking for you.” Flex eyed the boy. “Is this one a morph as well, or a true Solarian?” Xoria
“A Solarian. His name is Joshua Miles,” Tempo said. “We believe he is destined to lead us.”
“Could he be the Solarian of the prophecy?” Flex asked.
A hand went up to Lithe’s mouth and she gasped.
“We think so,” Tempo admitted.
Josh could only smile crookedly at the Frobenians. “I happen to think they’re wrong, but what do I know?”
“The delivery sounds like the target,” Tempo said. “All we have to do is obtain the proper quantity of regeneroot and burn away before the enemy can react.”
“I can send a squad of Frobenian Fighters to assist you,” Flex offered.
“Thank you, but no,” Tempo responded. “The fewer who know of our mission, the better. Just a guide to take us to these locations.”
“I would be honored to serve you in that regard,” Lithe volunteered.
“Excellent,” Tempo answered.
Then when Lithe went to get her weapons, and Flex was focused on reﬁling his maps and papers, Tempo turned Emily Kinicki’s face to Josh, crossed Emily Kinicki’s eyes, and in Emily’s voice quietly said, “We are soooo popular!”
* * *
In The Cluster’s Chambers in Cadavra, Chaos was again reporting his progress—or lack of it. “Still no success in ﬁnding the Solarian?” Number Two asked.
“He slipped through our grasp,” Chaos replied, “but I am certain of his purpose. He and the morph have gone to Frobenius to acquire regeneroot in order to regenerate a limb for the Frobenian who is one of their rebel group. Regeneroot is rare, and there are only a few shipments they might commandeer. We will set a trap for them.”
“How is it you know the aim of their mission?” Number Three inquired.
Chaos didn’t give a verbal answer. He just held up the dismembered three-toed leg of Spindle.
* * *
Josh was running again. He’d decided to forgo the cumbersome cloak. Still, he began to fall behind, even though both girls were holding down the pace for him.
Armed with crossbow and spear, Lithe led Tempo and Josh to a rocky cliff overlooking a narrow pass some two miles from the disruptor facility where the shipment of regeneroot was slated for destruction. The facility could be seen in the distance. The smoke from the chimneys towering above the facility gave Lithe pause.
“They take our souls in those places,” she sighed. “We blow them up, but they rebuild in short order. They are many, and we are so few.”
“The tide is due to turn,” Tempo said, tossing a supportive glance at Josh. She found him sitting on the ground and panting like a dog. It had been a long run. The sound of approaching carts and the snort of draft animals caught their attention and they ducked down.
“Wait here. If I fail, it will be up to you to try,” Tempo whispered as she started away, but Josh grabbed her arm.
“I can’t let you do this alone!” he said.
She looked over his exhausted body, sweat coursing down his face, his all too organic lungs sucking at the humid air. “You haven’t the means that are at my disposal,” she said. Her arm oozed from his grasp as Tempo turned herself from Emily Kinicki into a Cirillian Silver Snake.
“You become more attractive every moment,” Josh said.
“Be careful,” Lithe said, as Tempo in her new guise slithered her way down the cliff face to intercept the shipment of regeneroot. Tempo was soon out of sight.
Clouds covered the three suns like a sweeping hand. There were a few lightning ﬂashes, and it began to rain. Josh and Lithe found a curved-over lip on the canyon rim and ducked under it to wait out the deluge.
“How will we know when it’s fulﬁlled?” Lithe inquired, as the rain soaked the jungle and thickening mists formed all around them.
“What are you talking about?” Josh panted, still recovering from his run.
“The prophecy,” Lithe went on, “that a Solarian—”
“Look, uh, everybody’s making a big mistake,” Josh smiled. “I’m just trying to help them out.”
“These rebels now known as the DimensioNoids. They are great warriors,” Lithe said. “It would make sense that the Solarian of the prophecy would come forth to lead such an honorable and worthy band.”
“I’m not their leader. Really.”
“I am surprised they would make such a mistake.”
“No one’s more surprised than me.”
That’s when something came out of the rain and mist. Josh and Lithe looked up to see a squad of Minion soldiers pointing disruptor weapons at them. Then Chaos stepped out of the fog, lightning behind him highlighting his sudden appearance.
“Come, Joshua Miles,” the hideous creature said. “The delivery of your brain is long overdue.”