Chapter 4

The next day, with the Uranians under guard in the village, Chief Goloth spoke to his human allies over their morning meal. "My friends, what will you do now? The People owe you a great debt of gratitude. Anything in my power is yours for the asking."

"Thank you, Chief. Your continued hospitality for Princess Liana and my crewman, Sparks, is all we ask. I had hoped to use the Uranian's communication equipment, but it was smashed when their ship fell. So Rusty and I will use our rocket packs to fly to Venusia to get help. We will bring back machines to raise our ship from the swamp so we can fly it home."

"Your ship could fly if it were lifted from the swamp?" Chief Goloth asked.

"Yes, Chief. Sparks and Omniac have repaired the essential flight equipment. The Antares could make it back to a yard for a full overhaul, if she were vertical. But it will take a lot of equipment to get her up on her landing jacks. I'm not even sure Venusia has such equipment. It may have to be brought from Earth."

"Perhaps not, Commander. Your ship is made from the same sort of metals as the other humans' ship, is it not?

"Yes, it is," Comet answered, with a puzzled expression.

"Then I think I can help more than just hosting the Princess, though that would be my honor. Come with me." Goloth led them out of his tree house and out of the village gate, stopping to pick up a escort of armed warriors and a shaman, who carried a strange device that looked vaguely like the kind of bass fiddles kids made from cigar boxes, slats and string. They went to the edge of the swamp, where the shaman placed the sounding boxes of his instrument in the water and then began to saw the strings with bows, producing a sound that was related to music only in the largest sense.

"This will take some time," Goloth said to his human companions. "Those we call must come from the deepest reaches of the sea. It took hours and the humans were hard pressed to sit patiently in the presence of the strident noise coming from the partially submerged fiddles. But eventually, Goloth pointed out to the sea. Two huge vees marked the water's surface coming toward them at a fast rate. Goloth waved them into one of the huge canoes that were pulled up on the shore, and in minutes they were paddling out to meet whatever it was the Lizardmen had called from the deeps.

2002 John Dunaj &Dan Thompson
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Half a mile off shore, they stopped and the vees stopped too. The water humped up on each side of them, then broke away to spill down the smooth blue-gray sides of unimaginably huge creatures. Comet was sure they were creatures and not submarines only because of the bulging, black eyes, each a yard at least in diameter, that stared at them. He had the impression of tentacles as thick as tree trunks lying just below the surface.

Goloth placed a large, hollow reed in the water and spoke into it in a strange language. He then placed the end of the tube to his hearing membrane. Comet could feel the vibrations of the gigantic creatures' reply through the hull of the canoe. The conversation went on for long minutes, then Goloth pulled the tube from the water and said to Comet, "they have agreed to help. Watch."

The Antares, which lay between them and the shore, stirred and then rose, very slowly from the water. Mud and muck dripped off its lower side as it rotated into a vertical position. The ship hung in the air, then began to move in toward the shore. At the edge of the water, it lowered until the landing jacks had taken the full weight of the ship. This time the landing pads were on bedrock and the ship stood pointing toward the sky, a beautiful sight to the grounded Patrolmen.

The vast sea beings sank below the surface and headed back out to the unknown depths from which they had come. Comet watched them go with feelings of disbelief. He turned to Goloth. "Chief, I am very grateful but I don't understand what just happened. What or who were they and how did they do that?"

"They are the Old Ones. They were here before the little people of the cold lands, before the People, before any creatures of the surface world. They are wise and powerful beyond any possibility of our understanding. They prefer to be left alone, but sometimes they will answer a call for help. I don't know how they do what they do, but we have never seen any task that was beyond their ability."

"Well, I guess that will have to do, but I bet the League scientists will want to come and talk to them once I report this. Another sentient species right in our back yard, completely unknown to us. With deep diving submersibles, they can go find them at the bottom of the sea."

"Then do not tell them of this, Commander, for their own good. The Old Ones do not wish to be disturbed. If your people invade their homes, uninvited, there is no telling what wrath they would bring down on you. You might not be safe even beyond the sky."

"Okay, Chief, I'll leave them out of my report. But that only delays the problem. Someday, they'll have to acknowledge the rest of the universe."

The crew of the Antares said farewell to the People of Shaloreetown and prepared their ship for take-off.

Sparks took a while to calm down. "Great googly moogly, Skipper," he said to Commander Comet when they were all back aboard, "I sure wish you'd let me know what was going on. I about jumped out of my pants when the old girl started lifted up like that!"

"I wish I could have told you what was happening," Comet said, "but it was as much a surprise to me as it was to you. I had no idea what Goloth had planned, and I'm not certain now that I could explain it to my own satisfaction. But it's done and that's all that matters. Is there any damage from whatever it was that set her upright?"

"We've got some instruments that will need recalibration. They act like they were exposed to an intense magnetic field. But nothing that will prevent us from getting to Venusia.," Sparks said. "I can get enough spares there to fix her well enough for the trip back to Earth."

Comet turned to the rest of the crew. "Alright, everybody to their acceleration couches and strap in for blast off. Princess, this time you are really are going home, and no detours, I promise!"

The End

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All text, illustrations, photographs and design are 2001-2002 Dan Thompson, except where otherwise noted.