Even before the wars, Rapacio had been a center of illicit activity and a haven for criminals on the run. It had a thriving black market and smuggling was its number one occupation. Since the wars began, mercenaries and bounty hunters had swarmed into this unkempt metropolis where, for a price, one could get—anything.
Dangerous types came from nearly every dimension. Many were once warriors in armies defeated by The Cluster. They now worked for The Cluster, or anyone who would pay, hunting down wanted individuals or arranging assassinations. Rapacio was also a conduit for information. The Cluster very much wanted to know the plans and location of the Kolomogoron Underground and the names of its leaders. They employed many very specialized citizens of Rapacio: it’s many spies.
The DimensioNoids had always worked independently of other rebel factions that had taken root in dimensions under Cluster control. It was the intelligent thing to do. Starla believed that coordination with other groups endangered the DimensioNoids, that autonomous cells without contact stood the best chance of succeeding. If one group was found and eliminated by The Cluster, the others could continue their activities without fear that the trail would lead to them.
The architecture of the city of
Rapaciowas a futuristic version of ancient , great stone buildings with columns out front and lots of statuary—Kolomogoron heroes long dead and out of place in this time and in this city under occupation. Egypt
The ancient architecture was jammed together, now, with open markets where street vendors had set up between the towering buildings. Shabby shops and grimy restaurants ﬁlled all the ﬁrst ﬂoors, the once proud buildings now careworn and remodeled to suit the need.
Denso took Josh down littered narrow streets that crisscrossed and dead ended like a poor man’s maze. At last they came to a smoke-ﬁlled hall of tawdry music and stiff drink. It was called the Jump Off, where interdimensional mercenaries drank and gambled and awaited the offer of any paying mission. After a time, Denso spotted an old acquaintance, an equally huge Ramanujan named Titano.
“Denso, you old Tizlakian Ape!” Titano chortled upon Denso’s approach, standing and clapping his huge hands solidly on the sides of Denso’s shoulders, the traditional greeting of Ramanujan warriors. “What brings you to Rapacio?”
Denso returned the customary shoulder slaps, saying, “Looking to track down an old friend.”
“You, uh, just want to—talk to this old friend?”
“I’m a bounty hunter, now. There’s a nice reward on him. Alive or dead.”
“Finally given up your rebel ways, eh?” Titano suspiciously chuckled.
“There’s no proﬁt in rebellion,” Denso smiled, then to make a point added, “old friend.”
“There certainly isn’t,” Titano sighed, his eyes looking off nostalgically, betraying roots in rebellion.
Titano was much older than Denso. He wore the same tiny black lenses in his eye sockets, but Titano had thinning gray hair and a great scar across his face from his left eyebrow down to his right jawbone. He wore a shoulder mount and gravity belt that were a bit rusty and untidy.
Titano looked over Josh, who stood behind Denso with his head down, features and hands concealed in the cloak. “Who is this? Is he a Frobenian?”
“A servant I won in a wrestling match,” Denso said, then he pushed on. “Listen, I’m seeking to capture, or kill, the Kolomogoron known as Fractal.”
“Well, you have set for yourself a mighty goal,” Titano laughed. “We’d all like to take him down. The reward for him is outer dimensional!”
“I don’t mind sharing.”
“But is he not hiding out in the Forbidden Land?”
“Yes. I wish to locate his father,” Denso went on, “who’s now a prisoner of The Cluster here in Kolomogoro. I feel that if I have his father under my control, I might lure Fractal out of the
. You’ve spent some time in their prison system here.” Forbidden Land
“Five years. Lost in the name of the rebellion,” Titano bitterly sneered.
“Not worth it, was it? Me, either. So—how might one ﬁnd a single prisoner among many
“You need a look at The Cluster’s records.”
“Where might they keep such records?”
“A group of government buildings in the capital.”
“Yes. They were built by the old Coalition, but have been taken over by the occupation forces.”
Titano snatched a writing implement from a passing waitress that was a six-armed ball of fur. Titano drew a collection of buildings on the table top.
“The complex is called the Rotunda. There are supply and logistics offices here and here, and here at the north end of the compound is the Registry. That is where they keep all the records of their prisoners in Kolomogoro.”
“Many thanks, Titano,” Denso said.
“But Denso, my friend, how do you propose to get the old man out? The prisons are heavily defended and loyal zombies can’t be bribed, you know.”
“There are other ways,” Denso grinned. “Should my plan be a success, I’ll reward you with ten percent.”
“Well, very generous,” Titano grinned back. “You’ll ﬁnd me here at almost any hour.”
Titano rose and they shoulder slapped again.
“Good to see you, old friend,” Denso smiled.
Denso and Josh left the Jump Off and sought out a place of seclusion. Denso tapped in the terminus data on his burn band. “This should get us fairly close,” he said.
Denso grabbed Josh’s wrist and burned them both to the Kolomogoron capital city of
Inside the burn tube, Josh good-naturedly teased the big blue teddy bear, Denso.
“You lie pretty good.”
Denso shrugged. “It is you who taught us deception. You who pretend to be my servant, while in truth you are leader of the DimensioNoids, the Solarian of the prophecy, and the single entity most dangerous to The Cluster.”
Josh looked down the twisting tube and thought about how these super warriors had come to rely on him, Joshua Miles, from
. How could he possibly deliver on the promise of the prophecy? Suddenly he felt very small and inept, there ﬂoating in a burn tube beside the colossal Ramanujan. “Denso, how did all this happen? How did the DimensioNoids end up with me?” Wheatland, Kansas
“Simple, really,” Starla jumped in over their burn bands. “I had been searching for your dimension most of my sentient existence. The prophecy held that Solaria was the key to peace, as it was when Lord Lowe came to us. I was doing a routine scan of Cluster operations when I discovered that something was draining immense power from The Cluster’s magnetic energy core. I traced it to the source, and found Chaos using The Cluster’s new time accelerator.”
“The thing could accelerate time inside the operator’s head,” Denso said. “According to Starla, Chaos was actually trying to ﬁnd out how successful his own future was going to be. Instead, he found you.”
“Geez, so that’s why he’s so interested in me.” Starla said, “I believe Chaos thinks that by bending you to his will, using your own intellect against you, he can change the future.”
“Why doesn’t he just kill me?”
“Don’t give him any ideas,” Denso said.
* * *
Starla was about to send Emily and Billy home. But should the Solarian population become aware of the wars going on in interdimensional space, Starla feared there would be panic. Starla told the kids from
not to reveal, even to their parents, the existence of dimensions hidden within the three dimensions they knew. As Josh had done, they were to ask their parents to trust them. Kansas
“Hell-o-oo! Like, you don’t know my parents!” said Emily musically. “They have to know everything I do-ooo!”
“Still, it is important we do not cause panic among your people,” Tempo offered, as Rhonda Rhodes.
“Hey, whatever you say, Rhonda,” Billy grinned. “I’ll follow you to the ends of the earth!”
“Precisely,” Tempo said as she took Billy’s hand.
Emily grabbed grumpy Spindle’s hand.
“Are you some kind of bird man?” she smiled.
“No, I’m Frobenian.”
“You look like a bird man. But Josh tells me you can’t ﬂy. How come?”
“No wings,” Spindle scowled down at her, perturbed.
Retaining the form of Rhonda Rhodes, Tempo hit her activation button, and Spindle hit his, and they took Emily and Billy back to Wheatland. What Starla’s sensors had indicated was an empty open pasture, however, turned out to be the Wheatland High football ﬁeld. The two burns appeared right in the middle of half time of the Friday night game! The marching bands scattered, and the crowd was stunned at the appearance of rock star Rhonda Rhodes in their half time show! They gasped, a long silence ensued, then everyone cheered! Rhonda waved tentatively, and she and Spindle were gone in twin portals of ﬁre.
Billy and Emily’s schoolmates rushed onto the ﬁeld. There were some questions about where they’d been, but most wanted to know how they came to be with Rhonda Rhodes!
“Man, her pyrotechnics were awesome!” one kid exuded.
“But what was she doing with that guy in the chicken suit?” another kid shouted.
By the time Lieutenant Tobin arrived in Wheatland, it was the next morning, and Billy and Emily were home with very relieved families. Tobin questioned them separately, and each told the same story: they were attacked by a monstrous creature named Chaos, Joshua Miles took them into other dimensions, and they helped him ﬁght a wicked bunch of beings called The Evil Cluster—all the things Starla had told them they weren’t to reveal. This just added to the confusion. It was even more outlandish than Tobin’s alien abduction theory! Tobin tried to contact Rhonda Rhodes, but she was on tour in
, and wrote Tobin off as an over-zealous and somewhat creepy fan. Japan
Starla hadn’t needed to worry about panic among the Solarians. They just simply didn’t believe a word of it. Lieutenant Tobin concluded that the kids and the football crowd were suffering some alien induced hallucination. Tobin also concluded that he was overdue for retirement.
* * *
In his quarters, Chaos was asleep. His bed more resembled a huge metal hot plate, for cold-blooded Chaos had trouble sleeping unless his body temperature was raised forty degrees. Still, his acute senses were working, and he snapped awake when Number One touched his door. A personal visit by Number One always meant a secret mission best left unsaid over the communicators inside everyone’s head.
“I must conduct an Awakening,” Number One said. “I need you and your most trusted troops for security.”
The command skimmer that took them to quadrant seventy-two was well armed, as were the ﬁfty Minions aboard two battle cruisers that accompanied Number One and Chaos. Number One was leader of The Evil Cluster for one reason: he had The Power. The Power enabled Number One to enlist new recruits. Due to heavy losses in the Huen invasion and in the DimensioNoids’ rescue of Fractal, The Cluster needed more soldiers for the attack on Solaria.
The skimmers stopped to hover over the ﬁeld, which was barren and desolate in all directions. Number One ﬂoated to the ground, Chaos jumped down, and the Minions deployed in a defensive ring to protect their masters. Number One raised his three ﬁngered hands and began to chant in a language unknown to anyone else. His chant called upon forces beyond nature. The swirling clouds above quadrant seventy-two became blacker and thicker and purple lightning began to shatter the stillness over the desolate ﬁeld. As the chanting grew more intense, the lightning began striking the ground with ever increasing rapidity. The entire ﬁeld began to emit a purple glow!
Then Number One stopped his chant and lowered his arms. The lightning crackled a few more times, then stopped. The broiling clouds ceased their turmoil. The purple glow faded away, and a vast stillness gripped the ﬁeld. They watched in silence for some time.
Then, it began.The ground opened up in ten thousand places. Out of the lifeless, fawn-colored earth of Cadavra crawled ten thousand new Minions. All of them rose and moved more quickly than one would expect zombies to move. They organized to stand in row after loyal row, communication devices already having been imbedded in their skulls before burial. They had no weapons, yet, and their only uniforms were the rot and degradation of death. Here was where they were buried when the plague killed all on Cadavra but the four members of The Cluster. Here was where The Cluster enlisted its vast armies. Number One’s special power gave new meaning to the expression ‘Calling up the reserves!’CLICK HERE FOR CHAPTER TWENTY SIX: RECORDS