The Omniverse Chronicles: Junction

By Jason Andrew Brown, AKA "VeryGnawty"

Dedicated to Forever Zero.

"We're losing control. Captain Banis! What do we do?"

The Captain leaned over the control panel, his long hair falling around his face. He stood there, motionless. The efforts were futile. They had encountered a spatial anomaly, some sort of junction between opposing gravitational fields. Only a miracle could save them now.

"Captain!" The helmsman turned to face his Captain.

Banis called out with a commanding voice, "Thrusters offline. Let's not make this any worse than it already is, people. We are going to use the unusual electromagnetic fields in this sector to pull us around this gravity dump. That will keep the ship in one piece."

Helmsman Gurney punched up some figures on the monitor. "But Captain, my figures indicate that such a technique would cause irreparable damage to the ship's computing and navigational system."

Banis sighed. "I know that Mr. Gurney, but thank you for your report. That's why we are landing."

"Where?" Gurney scanned the monitors in confusion.

"There." Banis indicated a nearby planet. The dark atmosphere looked uninviting. Black clouds swirled across the rocky terrain. Banis knew that this wasn't an ideal situation, but he had run out of options. When you're charting obscure galaxies, there aren't many people to call out to for help. In fact, nobody, if the communications channel was anything to judge by.

The Captain moved to the main control panel, relieving his helmsman of the job. "Move over, Gurney. This is going to be a rough ride. If we don't make it, I want to claim full responsibility."

A woman's voice could be heard calling out figures. "Sir, the electromagnetic field is forming. Gravitational field condensing. I'm altering the magnetic frequency of the main engine. Frequency stabilized."

Suddenly, sirens could be heard blaring around the bridge. Captain Banis held firmly to the controls, calling back to his crew. "Status report!"

The woman replied, quickly tapping at buttons on the monitor. "I'm not sure, Sir. The field is unstable. It appears our magnetic influence caused an unexplained flux in the gravitational forces. We are being pulled towards the planet at atmospherically critical speeds."

Banis cracked his burly knuckles in anticipation. "Well, that was easy enough. Now it's time for some good old manual steering."

The dozen or so crew waited in fear, holding on to anything they could grab for dear life. The Captain was right. This would be a rough ride.

The crew weren't the only ones waiting. Back on the planet, someone else was anticipating the future. Seiko saw the glint of the spaceship as she gazed at the night sky. She wondered what it was. She had never seen a star fall from the sky before.

Seiko was of a race that would later be known as the Gleem. They are a feline race, like large cats. They have dark undulating skin, black as midnight. They are indeterminable from the shadows. Their tails betray a glimmer of light when they become excited. Living a solitary existence, the Gleem interact with nobody but themselves and their prey. They knew only of themselves and the hunt. None of them had ever seen a star fall from the sky. Surely none of them had ever thought of the possibility.

Seiko carefully padded across the clay basin which the Gleem called home. She prodded her friend with a hefty paw. "Lazlo. Wake up. You'll never believe what I saw."

The smaller Lazlo rolled over, sniffling. "You saw a lump of clay. It was comfortable until you shoved me off it."

Seiko continued pushing the lazy creature around with her muzzle. "I'm serious. You need to see this."

Reluctantly, Lazlo stood up on all fours. "Fine. I'm up. Let's make this quick."

Creeping away from their sleeping elders, they slid off into the night. Seiko indicated their direction, "I think it went this way, around the Crystal Peaks."

Lazlo shook his head. "Wait up. What went this way? And are we really going around the Crystal Peaks? This couldn't possibly be worth waking up for."

Seiko pushed him onward. "I saw a star fall from the sky."

"A star?" Lazlo twitched his tail.

Seiko grunted. "Yes. A real star. It was falling from the sky. And I think it's around the Crystal Peaks."

Lazlo grudgingly continued as his friend ushered him further. It didn't take long before they were out of the clay fields and into the crystal landscape. Lazlo didn't like the crystals. They were hard and shiny. Not at all soft and smooth like the clay basin. They were not pleasing to walk upon. In fact, he found crystals quite distasteful.

Seiko stopped him. "Wait, do you hear that?"

Lazlo stuck out an ear. "Yeah, it sounds like a falling star."

"I'm serious." Seiko insisted. "I thought I heard something strange."

Indeed she did hear something strange. Somebody was making unusual noises close by. The two friends hid behind crystal boulders as they watched a strange scene unfold. Two-legged creatures gathered around each other close by. One of them had long hair, and a suit with sparkling medallions which glittered in the moonlight. He paced back and forth, yelling at the others.

"Oh yeah? And how do you think I feel? Gurney's death is on my hands more than anyone's. You should count yourself lucky. Three of us are still alive. I saved us from being crushed into spacedust."

A large muscular man crossed his arms. "Luck? Luck has nothing to do with it, Banis. You know as well as I do that I'm a cyborg. The only reason I'm alive is because of my metal skull. You and Lisa are the only ones lucky around here."

Captain Banis faced the other man. "I'm detecting a hint of insubordination, Clive."

Clive pointed an accusing finger at Banis. "Oh yeah? And what do you plan to do about it?"

"Please stop." A young woman behind them begged. "We are here now, aren't we? How is fighting going to help us now?"

Lazlo whispered to his friend. "What are they doing?"

Seiko whispered back. "It is a challenge of power. You know how the elders decide the hunt's prey caller with the first claw? That is what they are doing. They are doing the challenge of the first claw."

"Oh." Lazlo nodded. "They are about to go hunting?"

"I'm not sure." Seiko inched closer to get a better view. Suddenly her claws screeched across the crystal, the shrill noise piercing the night air. Everyone looked her way. Lazlo flinched in fear. Banis stared in amazement. Clive laughed out loud. And the young woman ducked for cover.

"Ah ha ha." Clive clapped. "Someone's been sneaking up on us while we were arguing. Nice work."

Banis called out to the woman behind him. "Systems Officer Lisa, what's the situation?"

Lisa peered into the darkness, shaking in fear. "Unknown sir. There appear to be two feline creatures of an unidentified species watching us from that mineral outcrop."

"Felines?" Banis pondered. "Are they intelligent?"

Lisa continued probing the area with her imaging scanner. "They are watching us intently, sir. All I see is a pair of red eyes. I believe their skin is adapted to the darkness of the planet. Should I create a light source?"

Lazlo watched in apprehension as the strange creatures looked their way. He started to back away in fear. "Seiko! I think they've spotted us. Let's get out of here."

Seiko ignored him. "Of course they've spotted us. I don't know what they're saying, but I know what they mean. Just relax and let me handle this." Seiko raised her voice. "Hello strangers."

Captain Banis looked around him in confusion, pointing his gun in front of the alien creatures. Before he knew what he was doing, the laser beam had already been fired. A blast of fire and crystal shards erupted several meters away.

Seiko ducked down in surprise, igniting her tail fire. She reassured her friend, "Don't worry Lazlo, everyone knows that tail shining is a sign of affection."

The pulsing light silhouetted the two Gleem. Captain Banis pointed his laser at them. "Drop your weapons!"

Officer Lisa interrupted. "Sir, the pulsing light is biochemical in origin."

Clive grabbed the Captain's hand, pointing the laser at the ground. "You fool, Banis. They are immature. If they were dangerous you would be a dead man by now." He beckoned to the two creatures. "Come here. We won't hurt you."

Seiko and Lazlo meekly stepped within range of the lights of the spaceship. Seiko whispered to her friend. "See, I told you they knew of tail shining."

Lisa performed a full scan of the creatures. "I've never seen anything quite like it, sir. Their physical structure is not unlike a female lioness from the old Earth. But their skin is highly unusual. It is composed of coagulated cells which are constantly shifting in a synergistic flux. They both appear to be various shades of black as was previously supposed. Their tails are bioluminescent, capable of giving off much more light than we saw earlier."

Seiko grinned ignorantly. "Hi."

Lisa speculated, "They also appear capable of some type of telepathic communication. I could swear that one just growled at me while saying hi."

"Thank you Lisa." The Captain silenced her with his hand. "That is quite enough. Perhaps they can help us with the ship?"

Clive glared at his Captain. "That is impossible, sir. You can't expect these creatures to know anything about spaceships."

Banis shrugged his shoulders. "Well, do you have any better ideas? The navigational system is completely disrupted. Besides, who knows what else is lurking out here?"

Clive blocked the entrance ramp, physically barring his Captain's path. "Captain, I must protest." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "I feel uneasy about letting these creatures on the ship."

Banis ignored him. "Your protest is noted, but I'm not staying outside." He pushed his subordinate out of the way, indicating for the aliens to follow.

"What is it, Seiko?" Lazlo asked.

Seiko didn't know. "Maybe it's the star that fell from the sky. It sure is shiny. They want us to go inside."

The inside of the ship was surprisingly intact. In fact, it looked quite normal, other than the half dozen dead bodies lying around from the crash. The captain took a seat, waving his hand eccentrically. "Sorry for the mess. We haven't had time to clean up here. Now, about getting us airborne again."

Clive punched a wall, his partially metal knuckles clanging with the hull. "You're insane. We haven't even buried the dead."

The Captain faced him. "Bury? Where will be bury them? In the mineral deposits? We'd kill ourselves trying to dig through that. We will incinerate them using the ship's engines. Wait, what's that? What did you do? What is that?"

Clive looked around suspiciously. "I felt it too. It's the alien!"

Seiko felt very light. It's like she was rising. It was a good feeling. She stood in the middle of the ship's lobby, staring at the gridlike wall. She almost lost herself in the feeling, when Clive and Banis tackled her to the ground.

Banis breathed heavily, holding her to the cold floor. "You. What did you do?"

Seiko was scared. The two large creatures had pinned her down, but she dare not fight back. She had seen them shoot fire earlier. How could she fight fire? She felt helpless as their breath washed across her face. "I…I…" she stammered. "I don't know. I was just standing here, and suddenly I felt very light."

Clive and Banis let her up. "Do it again."

Seiko stood up. "I was just sort of standing here. And I did this."

The ship suddenly started to rise. The systems operated perfectly. They began to ascend back into the atmosphere.

Clive smiled. "Well well, Captain. It looks like your little plan has worked, but at what cost?"

Banis grunted. "Cost? What do you mean cost? The ship is working, right?"

Clive waved his hand sarcastically. "Oh yes, it is working all right. But we don't know how or why. And now it is linked to some creature that doesn't even know what it is doing. I bet it doesn't even know half of what we are saying. It is immature. It is like a teenager. I mean, just look at it."

And he was right. Seiko didn't know what he was saying. In fact, she wasn't even listening. She felt very light. It was like she was outside of her body. She no longer felt her tail, or her skin shifting against her muscles. But she felt other things. Things she couldn't explain. It was like she could see things in her mind. And she felt cold, so cold. But it was a good feeling.

Lazlo cried. "Seiko, I'm scared."

"Captain!" Lisa exclaimed. "You'll never believe this. The navigational system's calculation speeds are off the charts. This shouldn't even be possible. The engines are reconfiguring themselves to a new magnetic frequency. We just achieved an electromagnetic efficiency that engineers have been researching for over a century."

"What the hell is going on?" Clive mumbled under his breath.

"Set autopilot to the nearest star outpost." Banis ordered. "We need to report these phenomena to my colleagues. These cat-things will have to come with us."

Seiko was in too much of a daze to comment, and Lazlo was too scared to object. But Clive was more than vocal about his opinion on the matter. "Captain, I don't think this is a good idea. We should return the creatures to their own planet. I have a bad feeling about this."

"Negative, Clive. We need these creatures for the ship's computer to work. They will accompany us until we can make repairs to the logistics system."

Suddenly, Clive pointed his laser at the Captain. "I'm sorry Captain, but I must insist."

Banis turned around to find the gun pointed at his head. He addressed his officer. "Surely you aren't going to shoot me, Clive?"

Clive shook his head. "Not me, Captain."

Banis mumbled. "Not you…." He looked toward Seiko, and then back to Clive. "Wait. The creature. You. You're not…"

"Human." Clive replied, pulling the trigger. Sparks and debris flew around the lobby in a blinding flash. Clive stood over the charred body of his former Captain, who was now as lifeless as a rag doll.

Lisa trembled in fear. "Why, Clive? Why?"

A lone tear betrayed itself on Clive's face. "Don't you see? I'm a cyborg. I'm part mechanical, too. It's that creature. It's done something to me. But I can't live a murderer. I'm sorry, Lisa." Clive turned the gun on himself, ending his own life, his limp body falling across the dead Captain's.

Lazlo cried in desperation. "Seiko! You've done all of this. Why? Why did you kill the creatures?"

Seiko smiled, a wild look in her eye. "Don't you see? They were using us. We were just tools to them. They saw us like we see our prey. But now we have our own falling star. We can do what we want now. Come junction with the ship. It is amazing. You can feel the space around you. You can sense everything the ship does. You become the ship. You can do it too, Lazlo. Can you even imagine it? Becoming a falling star? It is an adventure beyond our wildest dreams."

"No." Lazlo shook his head. "This thing has corrupted you. You're not the Seiko I used to know." He walked over to the terrified Lisa. "Move out of my way, creature."

Seiko laughed. "But where will you go? We are on the falling star now."

Lisa moved out of the way to reveal the escape hatch behind her. Lazlo looked back at Seiko, "I don't know where I'll go, but I'd rather be anywhere than with you." And with those words he opened the door.

Seiko grinned. "Ridiculous. You'll die out in the night sky. Come be reasonable now." She tried to use her newfound powers to close the door. But something was wrong. The door wouldn't close. Of course! Lazlo had the same mental control over the computers that she did!

He walked into the airlock, closing the door. Seiko reach out to him. "No, wait!"

But it was too late. Lazlo had already opened the outer release. She could only watch in horror as he floated off into space, his dark body disappearing into the blackness of infinity. Seiko stared in disbelief, as Lisa wailed pitifully in a corner.

The small ship continued carelessly off into the galaxy. Only a traumatized human, a power-hungry alien, and a ship full of dead crew members were left to tell the tale. The incident would later be known as the Gleem Tragedy, named after the bright light in the tails of the newfound species whom had a talent for telepathically integrating with electronic systems. But that name would mean nothing to Seiko. She would never care that she inspired the name. She would not care that she was Gleem. She had already lost her gleam. She tried to use her new telepathic link to escape the coldness she felt inside. But it didn't help. She felt only the coldness of space, and the logical no-mind of the ship's computer.

Seiko had thought that this ship would bring her new dreams and new adventures. But now she had no more dreams. She lie down, filling her mind with functions and procedures of the ship. As she did, she forgot about her cares and concerns. She forgot about emotion. She junctioned her mind to the ship once again. She lost herself in the perceptions of the ship. She never wanted to return to herself again. She lost herself in the cold, calculating logic of the ship's computer.