The Fractal Nexus – Chapter 2

That night Alethea and Keruso slept on pews in the empty chapel. They were guests on a fully loaded battleship, with no bunks available and no cots prepared for them while the crew were on high alert. They awoke to sirens and red lights flashing. Seamen ran passed the doorway as the two groaned to their feet and stared at each other. They had both just awoken from the same dream, and they both knew it. They rushed to the bridge, and upon entering, were confronted by Officer Anderson shouting over the noise of the alarms,

“He’s here!” Then, turning away and holding the intercom to his mouth, “I repeat, all personnel to battle stations!” Alethea and Keruso looked at each other knowingly, as another officer ordered them off the bridge. Alethea ran to a railing overlooking the deck of the ship and peered out into the night. Spotlights swung to and fro across the bow and out over the ocean on all sides.

“There he is again!” shouted a crewman on the platform below her. Keruso joined her a moment later as men from all over the ship began pointing and shouting to starboard. Then she saw it. About five hundred meters out over the water a burst of electric light illuminated a bluish glowing orb, with a figure standing at its center. The sphere, which seemed to be made of writhing ribbons of light, rested atop the waves, but it did not rise and fall with them. The large turrets aboard the USS Mako made a loud whirring sound as they began to pivot to starboard. Suddenly, with a flash, the orb vanished and in the next instant exploded onto the very deck of the ship! There before them stood a creature nearly identical to the Steward, enveloped in a semitransparent ball of undulating light. The sound of small arms fire was matched by a growing electric buzzing noise emanating from the creature.

“Stop!” Alethea shouted, unable to raise her voice above the din. She ran back to the door of the ship’s bridge, which had been shut, and pounded at the window, “Tell them to stop shooting! You don’t understand!”

Just then, Keruso was knocked to his knees and began grasping at the sides of his head, and shouting, “Aaaaah! Stop them! Stop them!”

“Anderson!” Alethea screamed, “You have to order them to stop shooting, or…” Before she could finish her sentence a shockwave of blinding light exploded out from the creature’s luminescent sphere, putting out all the lights aboard the vessel and setting the ears of every man and woman ringing horribly. Anderson and the CO, Captain Foyle, staggered toward the door. Everything seemed to spin in that darkness at sea. The only remaining light emanated from the deck, several meters below the platform.  Keruso was hunched down, with his palms over his ears. Anderson opened the cabin door to find Alethea lying unconscious at the threshold. As he kneeled to check her pulse, his head still reeling, Foyle stepped over them, leaned over the railing and watched as the glowing creature lumbered toward the nearest entryway to the lower decks. Before slipping into that dark door way, he turned and locked eyes with Keruso for a moment, then disappeared through the hatch.

Alethea would not respond to Anderson’s hand squeezing her shoulders or patting her face. Captain Foyle was already shouting orders for seamen to get on their feet and chase the creature. But Keruso lifted himself laboriously to his feet and nearly collapsed against the captain.

“No,” he said, “You have to let him go! He’s not the Steward. He’s here to help!”

“I don’t care if he’s the Steward or not, he’s an aggressive intruder on this vessel and I’m going to do all I can to stop him! He looks just like that other one. I have no way of knowing who he is, or why he’s here!” Men with guns stuttering to their feet began to stream in through the hatch like ants into a hole in the ground. Keruso shook his head and winced as if he’d been slapped. Then he grabbed Captain Foyle by the collar and pleaded in a desperate voice,

“Get the life boats ready.” Foyle paused, taken aback by this sudden forcefulness. But somehow, rather than dismissing Keruso to focus on the creature, he felt compelled to heed this plea. He shouted to the remaining men on the deck,

“Lifeboats! Prepare lifeboats!” Then he ran back to the bridge shouting, “Mayday! Call mayday to any ships in the region!” As he passed, Anderson was already lifting Alethea in his arms. He shouted to Keruso over the still-sounding sirens,

“Here, you get her to a lifeboat! I’m going below.”

Keruso never saw whether the CO made it to the hatch or not. It was hard enough amid all the running, shouting, and flashing lights, to find a lifeboat that was ready. Only moments after their raft splashed in the saltwater, a deep groaning and metallic crackling sound swelled from the belly of the ship. Then, BOOM! Blood and fire and billows of smoke erupted into the black night above.

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