Friday, November 11, 2022

Emerald of Earth – EPISODE 43 Before the Enemy

Berg, who had spread his feet to steady himself said, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” He paused, “Main Shuttle Deck and Staging Area.”

Emerald leaned against the warm wall behind her. Berg stood with his hand clamped over his wound. Blood seeped between his fingers.

Ayaka said faintly, “Daniel is under Inamma’s control?”

Berg glanced at her, his face grim, then looked at Emerald who nodded. For an instant, she wanted nothing more than to step forward, lean into the security chief and cry into his – belly button.

The bolus came to a stop. Doorplates shuddered and pulled back with a faint squelch. It was pitch dark and cold fog rolled in over their feet.

“Where are we?” Emerald asked, leaning out and pulling back with a shudder of her own.

Berg stepped out with a sharp intake of breath. “Be careful.”

Søren and Ayaka said, “Duh.”

Berg spun around and holding up his finger, he shook it in their faces, “I don’t think you understand how serious this is.”

Ayaka snarled, “You’re the one who doesn’t understand how serious this is! You thought we were crazy until you got your little booboo!” She jabbed toward it and Emerald thought she was going to stab him with her fingernail. He must have as well as he flinched. “You locked us up, ignored us and acted like we were crazy teenagers! Where would we be right now if you’d taken Emerald serious when she first got here, huh? None of this would have happened and...and...Emerald’s nanny wouldn’t be dead! Don’t you dare tell us we’re not taking this seriously, Mr. Brave and Manly Security Expert Man! We’re the only ones who’ve taken Inamma seriously from the beginning! So shut up or I’ll cram my finger down your throat through your eyeball socket and the empty space you have in place of a brain!” She stomped her foot and added, “And you know I can do it!” Ayaka seemed to swell larger and larger with every sentence until the sheer force of her character filled the bolus and Berg’s face seemed set in stone. He growled faintly, then turned and walked out into the darkness, turning again to face them. He blinked five times before he said, “I am sorry that I didn’t take you seriously. More sorry than you’ll ever know, Miz Kobayashi. Miz Marcillon. Mr. Ouyang.” His eyes flicked to one side then he looked back at Emerald and straightened up some. “Captain Chien-Shiung Wu will have my resignation in her ipik the moment we conclude this sorry mess. I will volunteer for deportation back to Earth as well.” He bit his lower lip then added softly, “But for now, we have an alien to destroy before it murders any more of us. May I lead the expedition?” He looked directly at Emerald.

Startled, she nodded. The group remained frozen for a moment then Colonel Berg stepped aside. He had his gun in one hand. He said, “I think you should take out the cube from the Chicxulub box, Emerald.”

Emerald nodded, reached into her pocket and pulled out the artifact.

He lifted his chin and said, “The tektite necklace is glowing and so is the cube.” He paused then said, “Permission to direct operations?”

Emerald nodded. “You don’t have to ask permission for everything. But,” she paused, then said, “You do have to destroy Inamma.”

He smiled faintly, nodded, and said, “Aye, Vice-Captain Marcillon’s great niece.” He lifted his chin and stepped forward as the bolus squelched shut. The sounds they made coming out of the elevator seemed to be drawn up into the darkness like it was a sponge. Suddenly Berg shouted, “Lights!” Overhead there was a flicker. Across from them, the sound of scurrying rats trying to hide. But there was a metallic ticking sound as well. It didn’t sound like flesh and blood toenails.

“Inamma’s foot blades,” Ayaka whispered. She grabbed Emerald’s arm and pulled her close.

Emerald held up the cube, staring across the hangar. She knew where she’d heard the tapping knives on the floor. From above, the light grew steadily brighter. Søren said, “This is a hangar!” It was an immense room.

From the center lift – there were two others, both smaller, on either side of the one they’d arrived in. All of them faced three enormous airlocks and at least six human-sized ones. To their left and taking up most of the space in the hangar, was a pair of sapphire-colored, ceramic and metal, manta-shaped planetary landing cargo craft towering ten meters high over everything else.

Flanking it were six other others, and while smaller, they were still huge – about the size of the old-fashioned Space Shuttles from the 20th Century. Far across the hangar floor were smaller ships that looked like they were made for one or two people.

To their right, one third of the hangar was taken over by rows of metal shelves and carts, forklifts, scooters, small cranes, and loading ramps on wheels. Pipes, hoses, chains, light conduit and cables dangled from the high roof that towered thirty meters overhead – which was itself crisscrossed by walkways, ladders and massive light fixtures.

Beyond the right lift door was an enormous, glassed-in control room.

A violet burst of energy flashed in the distance. Berg dove in front of them as Ayaka dragged Emerald into a squat. Low to the ground, she ran left with Emerald , ducking under the wing of one of the medium-sized landers. They crouched, listening intently.

Berg slipped up beside them, steering Søren. He released the boy then whispered, “We have to stay together.” To Emerald, he said, “That was no alien weapon. It was one of our stunners.”

“Daniel must have gotten one from somewhere,” she said.

Berg nodded. “He’s under the influence of the alien. It seems to be able to patch into some of our computer systems as well– most likely the simpler ones like light control, and food programs. However, that means it might be able to open weapons lockers.” The lights increased until the hangar was bright as day. He nodded to the cube in Emerald’s hand. “Any idea how that works?”

“It’s pulsing, but I can’t tell anything else about it.”

“I wish we could test it.” He shrugged. “First chance you get, point it at Daniel or Inamma and see what happens.”

“What if it kills Daniel?” Emerald exclaimed.

Berg shook his head slowly. “Daniel’s under the control of the alien. He probably won’t care about any of you anymore. He may even try to kill you if the alien directs him to. I’d rather not see that happen. ‘Shoot first, ask questions later’ is still our motto.”

Emerald nodded. The tap of knives on concrete skittered in the distance. “How can we catch Inamma?”

“Kill it,” Søren and Berg said simultaneously.

Ayaka took a deep breath, held it then said in a rush, “It’s not gonna come to you so you have to go to it; you have to chase it down and throw the cube at it...”

“What?” Søren and Emerald exclaimed. Berg nodded slowly.

“Inamma comes to you when you’re not paying attention – it’s always tried to surprise you, trick you, infiltrate your dreams, and lure you into traps. You’ve never gone after it before. You need to go after it this time.”

“It killed my parents,” Emerald said. “What if it kills me?”

Ayaka nodded, saying, “You were alone then. You’re not alone anymore.” She twitched her head toward the Colonel, “Even the Colonel believes you, now. And your great-aunt – who’s also vice-captain of ‘Humanity’s Last Greatest Adventure™’. We all do. And we’re not going to let you face that thing alone again.” She paused. “But we don’t have time to wait for it to come to you. We have to stop it now, before we start the landings on Venus. Before we get very far from Earth. It’s only one little robot...”

Søren interrupted, “But it has some of the boxes and it has control of Daniel. We have to get him back...”

Berg cut in, “It’s still only one robot – though it’s clear it can control others besides you kids because it took the boxes from Dr. Viahakis’ lab. We can’t let it get out of the hangar. I’ve ordered a class one containment, so unless there’s some way it can override the highest classification, it’s trapped here with us. No matter what, it has to be stopped. It has to be stopped here.” There was a long silence then the sound of metallic tapping moving away from them. “Inamma’s running away! If we’re going to catch it, we have to go now.”

Emerald stood up, tossed the cube in the air. She looked down at Ayaka and Søren and said, “I wouldn’t have anybody but you two by my sides for this.”

Berg nodded. With a twitch of his head and a glare to keep them behind him, he set off across the hangar toward the maintenance area. “There’s more places to hide there,” Berg whispered.

Søren, Ayaka, and Emerald followed.

They came to the gravity modified cargo float first. The boxes had been knocked to the floor and indentations in the sides made it look like Inamma had jumped on them. Berg said, “They didn’t open, so we didn’t give Inamma enough time to get whatever is in there.” He nodded to Ayaka, “Good job.” He gestured to other security officers to stand guard over them.

“It still has Daniel,” Emerald said.

“Keep your eyes open. Worst case, it’ll kill your ITT leader to slow us down.”

“What?” Søren exclaimed.

“Worst case, but it’s a possibility.”

They reached the maintenance area. The far wall was jammed with color-coded metal shelving sticking out from the walls at ninety-degree angles. A second control room, square and glassed in with an airlock was currently dark.

Power jacks, rolling stairs and a huge bank of scaffolding sat in the center. “Where could he...” Emerald began.

Chains rattled overhead and they all looked up in time to see Daniel hanging on to a chain, foot planted firmly on a hook, swinging from the rafters, aiming what could only be a rifle of some sort at them. Berg shouted, “Emerald get under cover!”

Ayaka and Søren grabbed Emerald, making for the shelves. Berg knelt, fired at Daniel who swung up and out of the way, jumping on to a catwalk and scampering behind a steel box with angled vents. Ayaka screamed, “Shoot him! Shoot him!”

Daniel was twenty meters above them when an energy beam lanced out from Berg’s gun. It didn’t come anywhere near the young man, slicing instead through the catwalk as if it were made of paper. With a shriek of metal from the side still attached, the walk collapsed and Daniel fell, grabbed a chain which he slid down then caught on a loop. The chain pulled free and swung down, hitting the ground three meters away from them and sliding across the floor. Daniel fell with it, tumbling across the floor, crashing into Ayaka, Emerald, and Søren like a bowling ball hitting pins.

Berg covered Daniel with his not-a-taser until he stopped rolling then scurried over to the still form. He reached down to touch Daniel’s neck, nodded, stood up and said, “He’s alive and no worse for the wear. He’ll have some pretty amazing bruises when he...”

Another form dropped from the high walkways, falling fast. Berg leaped, but the Lemur IIa impaled his left leg. The man didn’t scream but rolled over on his back, his gun swinging up.

Inamma knocked it aside with one of his bladed legs, but by that instant, Berg pulled his knife. Søren scrambled to his feet, dashed to the shelves and ran out an instant later brandishing a length of pipe as large as a baseball bat.

Emerald had no idea how Inamma saw anything, but it fought with Berg, stabbing and feinting as the head of security slashed and stabbed until he rolled free.
Søren charged, the bat on his shoulder, twisting at the waist as if he was preparing to hit a homerun.

The robot slashed at Berg’s face, running away from Søren, spinning on three legs, flailing the other three, one bloody from stabbing Berg. It would have gotten entirely away if Ayaka didn’t roundhouse kick the alien before it spun more than a dozen steps.

It was ready this time and slashed down on her leg. She screamed and though Inamma staggered, it continued to run across the maintenance area and in among the landers.

Berg shouted, “Emerald, use the cube! Hold on to it! Don’t throw it!”

Emerald did as she was told. Heat flared around her neck as a nearly invisible ray seemed to leap from cube. The belly of one of the landers glowed red as Inamma cut to one side to avoid it. Emerald breathed, “What was that?”

Berg, on his feet again, limped to her, dropping his hand on her shoulder and leaning heavily, “An alien weapon.” He turned and went to Ayaka where Søren had just finished wrapping her leg with a bandage from the first aid kit he’d opened on the hangar floor.

Emerald hurried to Ayaka’s side, but she pushed Emerald away, saying, “You watch for the robot, you’re the only one it’s afraid of!”


Berg knelt to help with Ayaka’s leg, but Søren was nearly finished. Søren said, “Hold the bandage. I’m gonna cover it with sealer.” He sprayed the clear foam that would both solidify over her leg to act like a cast and start reconstructing the skin and muscle using nanomachines.

Berg looked over his shoulder at Emerald. He said, “You’ve got the only weapon aboard that’s effective against the alien robot.”

“Why would it be afraid of its own weapon?”

Berg shook his head and said, “I don’t think it used this weapon. I think the cube was a weapon used against Inamma’s kind.”

“What kind are they?” Emerald asked as Ayaka groaned.

Berg shrugged, “The images of the rat-lizard creatures that your parents showed you when you were little?”

“How do you know about those?”

“We know exactly what your parents and their people were working on. We just didn’t think they had enough evidence to prove their case.”

“What are you talking about?” Emerald exclaimed.

The lift doors squelched open and Vice-Captain Ruby Marcillon and Dr. Tasia Viahakis stepped into the hangar.

THE STORY SO FAR: Emerald Marcillon’s parents excavated artifacts in the Chicxilub Crater that point to a long-ago alien war that spilled over to Earth. Inamma, an alien AI survived the war and will kill to retrieve the artifacts. When assembled, the AI intends to create a weapon that will destroy all of Humanity – thinking we are descendants of its ancient enemies. Emerald’s parents are dead, and she has escaped Earth to the SOLAR EXPLORER but finds that Inamma has followed her. The crew, aware of the origin of the artifacts, plan to protect her and hides her among the rest of the young people in the crew.

(If you like what you see, share this link with a friend! This is where the story starts -- Season 1, Episode 1 is at the bottom:

Guy Stewart is a retired teacher and counselor, with science fiction for young people and adults published in ANALOG Science Fiction and Fact; podcast at CAST OF WONDERS; and in CRICKET the Magazine for Children. For links to his other online works, go to For an interview with me about EMERALD OF EARTH, try this: Image: