Farside Fire

    Aboard the Leya, operative Gunnar Skjold towered over Marcella's form for only a moment before she arose from her recliner, planted her hands on the hills of her hips, and met his look with a steely stare.

    "I'm nobody's vessel, Sir," she said. "You know I'd rather die."

    He nodded. "That's not what I was asking. Ali Shansee informs me of your specialty in alien leeching and transmorgification," he said. "And we just might have the Nth degree for you, if you're interested. We need you."

    "The God-Seed," she nodded, smiling weakly at his flash of undisguised surprise.

    "Loki's loins," he smiled finally. "Is there anybody in this galaxy who is not in on our secret?"

    "I'm well, Gunner Shield. I'll be glad to help," said the freckled, pig-tailed woman who looked so fetchingly like an ancient photograph come to life. As he began to correct her maddening mispronouciation of his name, he felt the slight stir of Transtoc in his pocket.

    "I don't know how else to say this, Marcella," he said, "But my lizard's calling." He thought passionately of Amut'a and sent a silent prayer in response to Telimar's secret message before turning back to the mission's newest asset.

    Eyes narrowed to slits, Marcella was fixed on the stirring creature in Gunnar's massive palm. "Argovic tensitiles. How clever," she mumbled, her last words drowned out by a screeching siren. From his ear-bud, Gunnar heard Captain Amundsen announcing enemy fire and an Orange Alert. With the ship swaying gently to each small distant thunder, Gunnar broke through with a Priority Two communique.

    "The ship's being struck by gravity waves, isn't it, Captain?" he asked urgently.

    "Yes; those cursed separatists fire at any Terra thing," answered the old skipper calmly. "But it's antiquated weaponry; little more than a nuisance. We'll ride it out."

    Gunnar thought quickly, his instincts recoiling at the mix of the age-old thing in Cargo Hold 8 with the timeless forces of gravity. He raised his secondary and declared the danger without preamble.

    "Grab a unipod, Ali. Get down there and shut it down," he ordered. There was only a few seconds' silence.

   "And our cargo?" she asked.

    "Marcella and I are on our way. But we cannot take the chance of it  germinating now."

    He had buzzed a unipod dispatch request to Captain Amundsen and started through the amber light down the ship's serpentine corridors when Transtoc shifted again.

    Marcella watched as he pulled the tensitile from his pocket. She saw him look at the latest message. She watched as Gunner Shield's hard features softened momentarily, and then settled into a flinty mask.

   "Our son," he muttered in a tone that held more menace than all the cannibal pits of Gramon. Fourteen decks below them,  the geo-mass rocked gently in its cold cradle. Within its frozen depths, the ancient thought sleepily sensed the eternal pull of nascent gravity.

    It craved.


The End

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