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"We'll come through for you!"
The Cluster opens a wide dimension gate into Solaria 






The pleasant dream Josh was having suddenly turned dark. The deadly beams of dimension destroyers shattered the beautiful meadow in which Josh and Emily had been frolicking. Josh’s house and the barn exploded under the devastation of the beams. Then Wheatland High was vaporized. Josh and Emily were trapped out in the open. The destroyers hovered in from all sides! It was the first nightmare Josh had had since coming to interdimensional space.

“First intake, referred to in your dimension as ‘breakfast,’ is being served in the ready room,” Starla said over Josh’s burn band, waking him. “It’s to be followed by a strategy session to discuss the imminent invasion of your dimension, the destruction of the planet earth, and the extinction of the human race. Have a pleasant day.”

Starla was developing a sense of humor—of sorts.

Josh jumped out of bed, quickly showered, and hurried to the ready room where he found Denso and Spindle eating with the manners of starving Vikings. Fractal, however, was picking aimlessly at his food. They were being served by Starla’s orbs while Starla hovered near the tactics benches, pulsating impatiently. Josh was famished, so even Starla’s concept of breakfast was acceptable.

“Wow, that was something, on that asteroid,” Josh said, mouth full.

“It was worse in that asteroid,” Fractal grumbled.

“So what’s our plan?” Josh asked.

“We were waiting for you to tell us,” Fractal sullenly said. “It is clear that I am unqualified to lead the DimensioNoids in any capacity. I almost got the three of us killed on Plutarus. In fact, before you came, I nearly got us killed quite regularly. If it wasn’t for Tempo’s healing powers—”

“Come on,” Denso sighed, “we all make mistakes.”

“But I am particularly adept at it.”

“Hey, you are way too hard on yourself, man,” Josh said. “Will you lighten up?”

“You think I need to lose weight?” Fractal blinked.

“No, you are buff enough,” Josh chuckled. “Look, it turned out okay. We blew the black light generator, we all made it back, and Starla is alive!”

“Not alive in the sense organic entities know it,” Starla began, but was cut off by:

“Starla!” all four organics shouted together, then they looked at each other, and laughed. Even Fractal. Starla had no concept of the humor in that moment of serendipity.

That’s when the door to Tempo’s room opened and she came out wearing the yellow dress and pretty pumps Emily was wearing in Josh’s dream.

“Hey! You changed your uniform!” Denso said.

“Duu-uh. That bathing suit was soooo last century!”

If Starla had eyes it would have rolled them. “If you organics have completed your unpleasant, and somewhat untidy, intake of carbon- based matter, we should begin the strategy session.”

They all took to their tactics benches, Denso stuffing his mouth with a huge final bite, Spindle quickly swallowing several pieces of fruit, whole. Josh looked at Tempo who smiled back with Emily’s beautiful smile, but with no need for food.

“Good morning,” she said in her own voice.

“G’morning. I like your dress.”

“I know.”

“Now that your Solarian greeting ritual is out of the way, may we proceed?” Starla mocked.

“Okay, lemme think,” Josh sighed. “Does The Cluster know you have your monitoring abilities back?”

“I’m not inept. The instant I was revived I jammed their sensors with false data,” Starla explained. “At most they saw a glitch. They still believe their black light generator is functioning, and that I am dead and we are unable to dimension burn.”

“How does this gate thing of theirs work? Is there a generator or something we can destroy?” Josh asked.

“The Cluster has had an impenetrable dome built over the gate generator. No doubt this was to protect it from another of our flying Billy Bombs.”

Josh thought it was funny. This new weapon, which destroyed The Cluster’s tracking building, was pulled from the mind of his friend, Billy, and had become officially designated by Starla as ‘The Billy Bomb’.

A video of the domed gate generator appeared on the screens.

“The gate will appear in that open field in front of the dome,” Tempo said.

“They will target a similar area in the dimension to be attacked,” Starla added. “The gate will open a wide interdimensional passage to the target. As soon as it stabilizes, they’ll send in their army and battle vehicles.”

“But they’ll have to, you know, open the dome to generate the gate, won’t they?”

There was a long pause. Starla hadn’t thought of that. “So it would seem. They will at least have to open the portion facing the gate field,” Starla concluded.

“Do we know the target area in Solaria?” Josh asked.

“Your farm. In the kingdom of Kansas,” Tempo stated.

Somehow Josh was not surprised. He’d had a premonition of it in the dream. His own parents would be the first to feel the wrath of The Evil Cluster! Then Wheatland, and his school, and everything he held dear. Just like they’d done to the Peitgens that resisted them. Total annihilation! Josh thought and thought. He wracked his brain for several minutes. The others patiently awaited his plan. Finally, he got an idea.

“How many people, er, entities can ride on one of our burn bands?”

“In theory, any number, as long as they are in firm physical contact with each other,” Starla said.

“One day, before the wars, we packed two hundred Kolomogorons into one burn,” Fractal said, allowing himself a warm remembrance. “I was in advanced wisdom at the time.”

“Advanced wisdom?” Josh said with a squint.

“In Solaria, you call it college,” Starla droned.

Fractal gave Josh a cheesy grin. “Got kicked out in second duration.”

“Figures,” Josh smiled. “I think I know of a way we can kick The Cluster’s butt, permanently.”

“I have been curious about this term ‘butt’ that you use a great deal,” Denso said.

“Yes. Me, too,” Spindle squawked.

“Does it refer to the posterior region of organic anatomy?” the big blue D-Noid asked.

Josh nodded with a chuckle. “Yeah, it does.”

“Then I shall very much enjoy kicking the posteriors of The Cluster at our first opportunity,” Denso grinned.

“Get those big boots ready,” Josh seriously said.

Over the next two days, the DimensioNoids burned off on several clandestine missions into dimensions under Cluster control. Starla monitored The Cluster’s activities and continued to play dead. The Cluster were totally unaware of the DimensioNoids’ activities.

As the hour of the invasion grew near, the DimensioNoids all returned to the command center to coordinate the plan conceptualized by Josh. Starla preset their burn bands for two burns, each to the exact terminuses Josh had told Starla to provide. Timing was crucial. Too soon, and the enemy would be alerted, too late, and the Minion army would already be on its way. Between missions, Fractal learned his father had recovered markedly, and went to see him.

“My rescue. It was brave of you, but foolish, as usual,” Fractal’s father rasped, sitting up in bed and sipping some of Starla’s bitter brown soup.

“Glad you are feeling yourself, again,” Fractal smirked, but it was a kind smirk.

Tremor looked up and glowered at his son, as his son had learned to do with perfection. “You mock your father,” Tremor growled, “but I know duty. Did I not serve as one of Lord Lowe’s most trusted advisors? Did I not bring glory to our family name during the Great Coalition?”

“Yes, father. Great glory,” Fractal said, as though he’d heard the story too many times before.

“Then know your duty,” Tremor continued, looking down into his soup. “I am old. Not worthy of the risk you brought upon yourself to rescue me.”

“It was my risk,” Fractal said, drawing in a deep breath to hold in his temper.

“And what of your brother?” Tremor asked.

“Still in league with The Cluster,” Fractal sighed, feeling his brother, Chaos, was not a fitting subject for Fractal’s reunion with his father.

“Chaos brings shame upon our house,” Tremor grumbled.

“The tide is due to turn.”

Tremor looked up. “So I understand. I would see the Solarian,” he said.

“As you wish, father,” Fractal replied.

Fractal went to get Josh, then let him have his audience with Tremor, alone.

“They say you are the Solarian of the prophecy,” Tremor began, like his son, direct.

“So they say, but I—” Josh stammered.

“You seem unsure. Nothing wrong with that. It was so with Eddington Lowe.”

“You knew him?”

“We were about the same age when he came to us. Like you, he was unsure of his purpose. Nearly overwhelmed. Kolomogorons live far longer than Solarians, so my friend left me behind to see the end of his empire.”

“Well, I’m not interested in any, you know—empire. I just want to help out.”

“So it was with Lord Lowe,” Tremor sighed, closing his eyes and leaning back against the weight of age and experience. “And in so helping, he saved the universe.”

“Yeah, well, trouble is, I don’t know if, this time, they have the right—Solarian,” Josh said.

“None of us will know until we know,” Tremor murmured, then he fell asleep soundly.

Josh took the bowl of soup from Tremor’s lap and left the room, quietly closing the door.

In Cadavra, The Cluster were elated, but it didn’t show. This would be their most massive attack, ever. Solaria would be destroyed. Its inhabitants not killed would be held hostage for the surrender of Joshua Miles. The twenty thousand strong invasion force would gain a foothold, then more Awakenings would provide twenty thousand more troops every few hours until the deed was done. Chaos and The Cluster stood aboard a command skimmer watching from above. “Activate!” Chaos said into the skimmer’s communicator and a Zebulon technician inside the dome threw the switch.

Huge double doors in the front of the translucent dome hummed open. Magnetic energy came to life in the generator, then a multi-colored beam shot out. The beam coalesced into a wide rectangle of prismatic light in the open field before which the mammoth Minion army had been assembled. It was a gigantic portal driving a wide dimension burn into Solaria.

On the Miles’s farm, it was a balmy, quiet night, then flashes of what looked like lightning bathed only one small field in the entire state of Kansas. Josh’s mother was awakened by it. She got up and went to the window. She could see the strange phenomena filling a distant field with a rainbow of flashing lights.

“What is it?” Josh’s father said, waking up and going to stand beside his wife.

“I’m not sure. Some sort of lightning storm, I think. I was hoping it might be—Josh coming back.”

Mr. Miles put a comforting hand on his wife’s shoulder as the two of them watched the spectacle, hoping it was bringing good news.

Once the gate stabilized, Chaos shouted the order. “Forward!” and the Minion army began to move. The feet of the zombie horde thudded the ground in surprising order. The attack skimmers took the lead, then the big battle cruisers started into the gate.

Just as the first rank of assault skimmers entered the gate, they exploded in a blaze of fire and lightning. Out of the gate, led by Fractal and Quake, came the Kolomogoron Underground, all holding hands! Once they reached terminus, they all let go and struck those graceful but deadly poses that harnessed the massive power in Cadavra’s broiling clouds of weather and in the energies at the active planet’s molten core. These they expelled from their upturned palms with lethal result. The first five hundred Minions were suddenly turned into heaps of debris and smoldering ash.

Joining the Kolomogorons from another flank were the Huen, the Zebulons, and a thousand Ramanujan warriors led by Denso and Titano. They took the first two ranks of Ramanujans to the front of the dome. The front rank knelt, the rear rank remained standing, and the Ramanujans sent their entire complement of missiles directly into the open front doors of the generator dome. After multiple explosions there was an incredible blast. The dome vaporized, and the jump gate imploded.

Josh jumped out of the burn with the Ramanujan warriors. He wore glistening green armor that Starla had made from the scales of a real Yotobian Fire Dragon. Any burst of disruptor fire that came his way was deflected. Josh wore a helmet fashioned after the Old Nutshell. It, too, was made of green Fire Dragon scales. As a weapon, Josh carried aerodynamic metal discs which he hurled backhanded, his talent for throwing Frisbees supplying deadly aim. Powered by anti-grav technology, the discs cut great swaths as they sliced through the Minions.

Strapped to Josh’s back was the contribution of which Starla was most proud: a burnished silver skateboard with some incredible extra functions engineered into it—like flight. Josh whipped the silver board over his shoulder and under his feet. Jets at the rear suddenly fired, their ignition triggered by the special boots that read Josh’s movements and weight distribution to guide it through the most unbelievable aerial acrobatics. He flew above the fray, firing his deadly discs downward and sending battle cruisers down in flames.

From a third flank Spindle, Flex, Lithe, and the Frobenian Resistance fighters appeared. Their crossbow arrows cut down Minions by the hundreds. Their broad killing spears were extended into the enemy army on elastic arms and they slashed the Minion ranks to shreds.

From the rear came Tempo and the morphs of Quaternion, all in their natural gelatinous form, each connected to the next by a silver tendril. As they rushed from their burn tube, all took the form of Yotobian Fire Dragons. Their claws, tails and dragon fire drove the Minions into a kill zone between the rebel armies.

The Cluster’s forces were completely destroyed, the outcome, a disaster for them. Chaos personally took control of The Cluster’s skimmer and turned it away from the conflict. Once they were at a safe distance, The Cluster instructed Chaos to fly them all to the inaccessible mountains on the other side of the planet. Chaos willingly complied, for instead of the invasion of Solaria, the invasion of Cadavra had begun.