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Demon's sacrifice

Demon's sacrifice


Andrew Saxon Demon's sacrifice


Prologue

    “Have you found another door into that universe?”
    “No, Nest Mother. Universes with more than one door are extremely rare and it appears this one is not an exception.”
    “Whoever killed our ships and closed the door is a real danger. We can’t wait for them to find us; we must attack first.”
    The scientist turned his head right indicating frustration, “We do not possess another means other than our current universal drive. We have not found a generator powerful enough to power the unit that would allow us to enter at any point. Have any of our recent harvests collected any new data on that kind of generator?”
    The Nest Mother was silent for a moment and answered, “No. What is the possibility of that universe having this generator you describe?”
    The scientist was silent for several moments and then said, “Ordinarily I would say there is no chance, however, they possess something strong enough to kill our ships and close the door. I don’t have enough information to make an accurate estimate.”
    “They were able to communicate with me from that other universe.”
    “They were?”
    “Yes.”
    “Did they use the communicator on one of our ships?”
    “No, they did not.”
    “That would also require a very powerful generator.” The scientist thought hard and knew he had to cloak his next answer or face death from an enraged, frightened, Nest Mother. He decided to tell the truth but not the whole truth. “The power to send a communication from universe to universe without a device that is connected to another is not equal to that needed to send a ship through without a door.”
    “Are you sure?”
    “Yes.”
    “Work on finding a way in and keep me informed on your progress.”
    “Yes, Nest Mother.”
    The scientist left her lair running and didn’t start to relax until he was out of her ship. “It wasn’t equal,” he thought, “It had to be stronger.”

Chapter 1

    Tag looked at Danielle brushing her hair and marveled at his good fortune. She was amazing and after all these years she was more beautiful than when they first met, “We’ve been so fortunate in our life. Are you still happy, Love?”
    Danielle turned and smiled, “The Realm is at peace and we are now private citizens. I’m happier than you know. The burden of protecting the Realm is now in Matt’s hands and I can relax and start to enjoy my life with you.”
    Tag stood and walked up and hugged her from behind and looked at her in the mirror. “I love you. This wedding reminds me of ours so many centuries ago. I would have never thought I could love you more than that day but I do.”
    Danielle turned in his arms and hugged him tightly, “Words don’t exist to describe how much I love you.” They stood there lost in each other’s embrace. Tag’s com vibrated. He came back to the present and said, “Go ahead.”
    “I’m reminding you to be here in an hour. You made me promise to do it.”
    “Thanks, Newton. I’ll see you at the wedding.”
    “Danielle smiled, “I know he’s really a child but I like that little spider.”
    Tag shook his head, “He is such a good being. We’re fortunate to have been able to save his family.”
    Danielle sighed, “Remember this, Darling, there are very few accidents.”
    Tag smiled, “I know.”
    “Now you need to hurry; the groomsmen are supposed to help with the seating.”
    “I’m sure Anglo has it under control. You know how organized he is.”
    “Yes, but he’s also the Best Man and has other responsibilities as well.” Danielle paused, “I wonder if Anglo will ever have a wedding?”
    Tag slowly shook his head, “Someone should have found him by now. I still believe his initiator exists.”
    Danielle looked somber, “He deserves love in his life. You know that nothing could keep them apart if their psychic selves were ready for each other, although I’ve never seen it take this long before; it makes me wonder if there is one for him.”
    “Let’s not allow ourselves to worry on this happy day, Love. Remember, there are no accidents.”
    “Danielle smiled and took his hand as they teleported down to the castle’s throne room.
    Anglo straightened Matt’s royal blue sash and pulled his collar up, “Who taught you how to dress? You’re a mess.”
    “A Cainth with four arms and he still did a better job than I ever could. I don’t know why I’m so nervous but I feel like eight miles of bad road.”
    “That party last night is probably the main cause of your fumbling. Those young spiders really kept you going.”
    “Who would have thought they could drink that much? I won’t try that again.”
    Anglo looked at Matt and after a moment said, “Are you ok?”
    “You think I’m having second thoughts because of Angel aren’t you?”
    “I know how much you loved each other. I worry about your happiness.”
    “Anglo, you’re a great friend and I know why you worry. Angel is gone. If our roles were reversed and she was the one here instead of me, I would hope she would be marrying you. She, or I, should have had love and happiness in our life. I also know she would approve of Melanie and would want the same for me. I’ll always have Angel in my heart, Anglo, and Melanie knows it. But I love Melanie with a depth that amazes me every time I feel her near me. I’m at peace with Angel’s death and I look forward to life with my new love. You have to admit she’s come a long way since the baggy overalls and that floppy hat.”
    “No, she was the same person then as now, Matt. You just didn’t know it. How much courage would it take to have come to that meeting dressed that way and yell at you for doubting her commitment to the Realm?”
    Matt thought back and slowly shook his head, “She did hand it to me, didn’t she? I’m glad Al stepped in.”
    “As well you should be. I’m always under appreciated.”
    “Oh Pleaaaassssssssse!”
    “Now there you go again jumping in when this is a private conversation.”
    “Matt, sometimes I wish the degradation still worked.”
    Matt smiled, “Fly Girl, you know you don’t mean that.”
    “Yeah, but don’t tell ole big head here.”
    “Who’s a big head? I don’t have a head.”
    “Exactly.”
    Anglo laughed and said, “It’s time; let’s go see a pretty lady.”
    Matt entered the throne room with Anglo and everyone stood and bowed. He nodded to the room and everyone took their seats. He turned and faced Sprig who was going to lead the ceremony and thought about his parents and how he wished they could see him. He looked up and swore he could sense Angel smiling at him. He sent a quick thought to Al and Fly Girl, “I wish you could be here with me; both of you have played such a huge role in my life.”
    “We’re watching, Matt and we’re proud of you and your bride.”
    Fly Girl said, “Al, you’re going to make me cry.”
    Matt stepped to the side and looked at the gathered dignitaries. He remembered his first day at the academy and wondered at how the universe just surprised him every day. Edison, Newton, and Einstein were in the back checking ID’s to make sure no one without an invitation was allowed entrance. He saw the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen gathering at the back of the room and knew that it was time to begin. He looked over and saw Tommy and Cassandra filling the roles that his parents would have done if they were still alive. He marveled at how much they were alike but different; Tommy with the huge, giving, heart and Cassandra with the warrior’s heart. She and her ship were amazing. Thank the Creator for them. Then he saw Tag and Danielle teleport in and smiled. They were the heart and soul of the Realm. The Glod still worshipped Danielle and tried to emulate Tag in all their actions. Glod, Cainth, and Humans were respected and loved by the millions of planets of the Realm. No one resented their preferred standing in the Royal Family’s service. He saw Destiny in the back and could feel his love. By choosing to communicate instead of destroying his ship, Destiny credited him with saving his family. Matt knew Destiny would willingly lay down his life for him. Matt knew at that moment he would do the same. There was still the unresolved issue of his species but that would have to wait.
    He heard the music start as Tag and Danielle began walking down the aisle. Everyone stood and bowed to the former King and Queen of the Realm even though it was not required. Next came Stem and his mate Petal followed by Life and Grena and the rest of the wedding party. Suddenly the music changed and he saw Melanie step into the aisle being led by her father. Matt was stunned by her beauty and lost himself in the vision approaching.
    “Al, she’s beautiful.”
    “Just like you.”
    “I love you so much, Al.”
    “And of all the things I’ve ever experienced, that is what humbles me the most, Fly Girl. I couldn’t live without you.”
    Melanie walked the traditional walk down the aisle and saw Matt staring at her and his love was clear for all to see. It’s what made her complete and filled her heart with joy. She glanced up and thought, “I’ll love him, Angel, just as you did.” Then she arrived and the ceremony began.
    The citizens of the Realm were caught up in the scene on their displays and there was silence in the Realm. Aerial traffic on all the worlds of the Realm was almost nonexistent. Everyone was glued to their monitors. The majesty of the moment enthralled the trillions of citizens and they also felt the emotion of the moment. The ancient yet new words, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here together…” began and the Realm felt their new allegiance to the couple tasked with the responsibility of protecting the Realm. The millions of planets in the Realm knew what this couple had done in the fight with the Green Invaders and felt safe with the new king and Queen. The homage being given to this young couple was well deserved.
    Finally, Sprig announced, “I present to you King Mathew and Queen Melanie Gardner. Long live the King.”
    The ensuing party was unlike any in the Realm’s history. The numbers teleporting around the Realm to celebrate set a new record and brought so many different yet similar species together. The party on Ross was monumental. However, in that moment Matt and Melanie were lost in each other.
    A young female spider in the back nudged Edison and thought to him, “Have you made plans for the celebration?”
    Edison looked at her and was struck dumb by her beauty. All he could do was stammer, “Uh… no…not..not really.”
    “Maybe you would allow me to accompany you.”
    Edison shook his head up and down and thought, “By all means. Please join me.”
    Einstein and Newton giggled at Edison until two more females approached them. Destiny smiled and watched his children; they were growing up. He looked up at Matt and Melanie and thought, “Thank you for giving us our life. Now we have to make sure you have yours.” He knew the Nest Mother would not rest until this universe was completely harvested.”

Chapter 2

    Nine months after the Coronation and Matt’s and Melanie’s wedding, Anglo, Destiny, Sprig, Twig, Newton, Edison, and Einstein sat in the map room at Castle Gardner and Sprig asked, “Why did you want to meet me here?”
    Destiny looked at the three young spiders and said to Sprig, “My children asked me a question and it caused me to become concerned.”
    “What question, Destiny?”
    “Newton wanted to know how our common ancestor became a merciless killer when none of us are that way after the compulsions were removed.”
    Sprig thought a moment and said, “It is a rather dramatic change in personality.” The room was silent as Sprig digested the information. Sprig suddenly felt a wave of fear, “Either she was injected with compulsions that made her become what she is or the creature she bit was like that and she absorbed it from the bite. If the compulsions were deliberately placed in her, then another species exists that intentionally destroys intelligent life.”
    “That’s what we think. However, it is not genetic or we would also have them built into us, which makes us lean toward another species. Every Nest Mother has acted the same since my species became intelligent. The males have to have the compulsions downloaded into them for them to work; this is an artificial mechanism.”
    “How many Nest Mothers have there been since the original?”
    “Twenty.”
    Sprig thought a moment and said, “If the compulsions are not genetic, then how do the new Nest Mothers receive the compulsions?”
    Newton said, “It is our belief that they are put in each new Nest Mother by the species that originally gave us intelligence.”
    Sprig was shocked at the implications of the small spider’s statement.
    Destiny saw that Sprig understood and said, “We have also discovered something that worries us.”
    Edison took the map room’s controller in his front legs and moved the cursor toward the far left end of the map. It finally stopped on a dark galaxy that was as far away from the closest galaxy on the edge of the universe as that galaxy was from the center. Anglo looked at the dark galaxy and asked, “What is that?”
    Einstein said, “Whatever it is, it is impossible for it to exist here.”
    Sprig looked at the little spider, “Why do you say that?”
    Einstein nodded to Edison and Edison pressed the controller. All of the galaxies of the universe began moving quickly together until they all formed one giant ball of light. The far galaxy was now near where the former edge of the universe was located. Sprig immediately understood. “It’s too far away to have been part of the blast that started this universe.” Einstein nodded. “But if nothing existed before that blast, how can that galaxy exist?”
    Newton answered, “It can’t; it defies everything we know about celestial mechanics, which leads us to believe that it might be part of a different dimension which overlaps our universe at the edge. We also believe that whoever put the compulsions in our Nest Mothers must be there.” Newton turned from the map and looked at those around the table, “My species is nothing more than a tool for them. If you kill the current Nest Mother as you plan, what do you think they will do?”
    Sprig looked at the galaxy that was older than the universe and knew the intelligence there was ancient before this universe was created. He felt fear, “I don’t know.”
    Destiny looked at the dark galaxy, “We know what these creatures think of other life forms.”
    Sprig looked at Destiny, “What do you mean?”
    “They took an ancestor of mine, gave it intelligence, the capacity of storing a huge amount of information to use to make them more deadly and then sent it out to kill all intelligent life in every universe. I can only believe that they did this because they were either too lazy to take the time to do it themselves or considered other life forms so far beneath them that they did not warrant their attention. I think they knew intelligent life would evolve naturally and become highly advanced civilizations if left alone so they created a tool to prevent it. They also placed compulsions in my species so they could exterminate all of us quickly if they so chose. All it would take is to make the Nest Mother order the males to consume their children. They would then release a compulsion in the Nest Mother to kill herself and my species would be eliminated.” Destiny turned and looked at Sprig, “What would you do if you discovered one of your tools had malfunctioned?”
    Sprig shrugged, “I would repair it or replace it.”
    “I don’t think they know about us being here helping you, yet. The Nest Mother is still functioning and I suspect the families are still harvesting universes. I’m concerned about what would happen if the Nest Mother was removed and the families eliminated. The beings that did this might be somewhat annoyed at our impertinence for breaking one of their tools. I think their reaction would be catastrophic to those that were guilty of interfering with their plans.”
    Einstein added, “I have looked at all the information available about what happens when a new Nest Mother replaces the old one. The data from the last change shows a New Female that appears somewhat nervous but not vicious at the start of the ceremony. However, I have seen a change in her when she assumes her place on the nest.”
    Destiny turned his head upside down, “What have you seen?”
    Einstein narrated as he started a video, “This information comes from our ships storage banks.” The display came on and everyone watched as the new Nest Mother moved onto the nest and placed her back two legs into two receptacles. She immediately dropped onto her abdomen and her demeanor changed radically. Her fangs dripped venom and then she put the rest of her legs into the other receptacles. Einstein said as the video was running, “I believe that it is those first two receptacles that downloaded the compulsions into her. I initially thought that the beings must come every time a Nest Mother is replaced but this is so much easier. Their little project will run with little or no attention needed by the creators. This might be a good thing if they seldom check on their creations.”
    Sprig’s leaves turned light brown and he turned to the little spider, “Why, do you think the beings that did this are in a galaxy in our universe?”
    Einstein nodded and Newton answered, “That galaxy is in every universe we have harvested. It appears to exist outside the space-time continuum as we know it and coexists with every universe. We have also never attempted to harvest that galaxy. Evidently the compulsions also forbid us from going near it.” The display then showed picture after picture of the dark galaxy in many different universes. It was identical in every picture.
    Sprig thought for a moment, “This information causes me to wonder just who is the real enemy.”
    Destiny softly thought, “My species is being forced into the killing we have been doing. We are not naturally aggressive and have no choice but to kill intelligent life. Just as your species was forced to kill planets, Sprig; mine is being forced to kill universes. We have no control over our actions.”
    “It also begs the question of why they made you collect all of the data from the civilizations you’ve destroyed. I suspect that they will collect that data at some point.”
    “I have also considered that, Sprig. I don’t believe they need it or have any interest in it as ancient as they are; I believe they have us collect it to make ourselves a better tool for killing. That way we would not have to be modified over the millions of years of our existence; we would improve on our own until they release a new and better tool to carry out their designs. They might collect the information when they choose to eliminate us, but they could also just ignore it because of their billions year old technology. They don’t want a tool that requires any attention.”
    “That is a truly frightening thought, Destiny.”
    “We know how they operate. Have you not made newer and better technology over the long age of your species? Why would they be any different?”
    “These suspected beings, if they do exist as you surmise, are so much older than us that they are billions of years ahead of us technologically.” Sprig thought a moment, “I don’t know if we could survive their attentions. They make the Captors look like infants.”
    Destiny sighed, “It would give added weight to just staying in our universe and attempting to hide from their attention; however, we are here and if they see us…” He left the rest unsaid.
    “What about the possibility of a new tool to replace your species. I suspect that tool will not be limited to just entering by the entry points and they would be coming in our future.”
    “Perhaps, but it would give us time to try and develop weapons against them.”
    “Destiny, this suspected race is billions of years ahead of us. It would take breakthroughs that you just can’t plan to happen.”
    “That’s true, Sprig, but we have something they didn’t count on.”
    “What is that?”
    Destiny looked around the room and said, “Why, my children, of course and they have information stored from millions of years of taking it during our harvests.”
    “Are you recording this meeting?”
    Edison looked up, “Yes, I am.”
    “Please send a copy of it to King Gardner for his viewing immediately.”
    Suddenly they all heard mentally, “You don’t need to do that. I have been listening in on your discussion.” Matt appeared in the map room and approached the table. “This troubles me greatly. I’m not sure how we should move forward now that we know about that galaxy. I’m concerned about even going to look at it for fear that the beings there would sense us. I need you to come up with a plan on how we should begin preparing to counter what we suspect is happening.”
    Destiny looked at Matt, “We can’t act hastily. We have to give my children some time to work on this. I suspect that they will come up with the best approach.”
    Matt looked at the three waist high spiders, “I think you’re right; however, I want the brightest of the Algean adolescents to join them in their efforts. Please keep me informed about what progress you make. I also need your thoughts about what we should do about your species, Destiny. Should we just leave them alone to continue their killing? I really don’t want to do that, but I think you’re right about those beings being extremely angry if we eliminate their creation.”
    Sprig leaned forward, “We will begin at once, Your Majesty.”
    The Nest Mother didn’t want to send her families out to harvest for fear of being caught undefended if those strange beings attacked, but could not stop herself from sending them. “Why can’t I control myself?” she wondered. She thought about it and then inserted her legs into her receptacles and began looking at the oldest data she possessed. Something just wasn’t right. She was powerless against the forces forcing her to continue harvesting. She had never thought about not sending her family out in the past but now she discovered that she was unable to stop it. The more she tried to focus on the problem the more her rage tore her mind away from it. What was happening?

Chapter 3

    The red colored being sat and looked at his console. It noticed that the ship being constructed was interesting but wondered about whether it possessed the necessary technology to be an improvement over the last ones he designed. Designing its hull had taken much longer than he planned, but it had to be capable of so many things. As he watched he heard, “What’s wrong?”
    “I’m trying to decide whether or not to give my new project dimensional capability.”
    “I’m not sure that would be wise.”
    “As long as we can eliminate them any time we choose, I don’t think it would pose a problem.”
    “Even so, I prefer you limit them to universal drives.”
    The being thought a moment, “Why are you concerned?”
    “The uncertainty principle always applies to our creations and must be accounted for in our work.”
    “It has never caused us trouble before.”
    “Even more reason to be cautious. The probabilities increase with time.”
    The red being thought a moment, “You’re right. I will act accordingly.”
    “How much longer before they are ready to be released?”
    “The initial group will soon be completed; most of the compulsions have already been applied.”
    “Before you commit to the project you might want to send a sample of them out to see how they perform.”
    “I’m reasonably certain they will be much more efficient that our current tools.”
    “It’s the word “reasonably” that bothers me. Are you absolutely sure? You know how the Elders insist on certainty.”
    “This tool is designed to handle weapons and is more vicious than any tool I’ve ever made. They will kill large groups instead of one-on-one like the current tool and unlike the current tool, these don’t have to be compelled to kill; they enjoy it. They have also been designed to handle that unresolved issue and their technology will be more advanced.” The being thought a moment, “Perhaps you’re right. I’ll produce a sample large enough to trial.”
    “What will be your target?”
    “Why the current tool, of course.”
    “What about their ability to handle a universe?”
    “They’ll do both during the trial.”
    “Don’t eliminate the current tool until you’re sure.”
    “I won’t. I’ll only take a nibble out of their numbers.”
    “Yeah, but a nibble for you is huge.”
    The Red Being smiled and shrugged.
    Tag, Danielle, and Melanie finished watching the recording of the meeting and Tag asked, “I see why you’ve asked us to come.”
    “I need to know what your sense of danger says about this information.”
    “We have some time. I’m not sure how much, but I think we have a few years before we are threatened directly. What are you planning?”
    “To use that time wisely and to try and come up with instruments that will protect the Realm.”
    Melanie, who was starting to gain weight, said, “You are going to make a trip, aren’t you?”
    “Yes, I am, love. Our descendents will not face this kind of uncertain future if I can do anything about it.”
    Melanie took his hand, “Should I go with you?”
    “No, one of us needs to be here.”
    Danielle smiled, “I think he’s right. The Realm needs to know that our rulers are available.”
    Matt looked at Danielle and she immediately said, “No, we will not become the Realm’s rulers again. This is for you to handle.”
    “I was just thinking that it would free us up to work on it directly.”
    “It would also frighten the Realm too much to make that change. They have accepted you and love you now. It would only hurt our leadership if we did that.”
    “Then are you prepared to work on it directly?”
    Danielle looked at Tag, “That’s something I will need to discuss with Tag but my initial response is no. Our time has come and gone. Our talents are nowhere near a strong as your generation.”
    “Don’t sell yourself short, Danielle. We are what we’ve become because of you.”
    Melanie smiled, “Danielle’s right; you will have to accept your role as our King in this venture.”
    Matt sighed, “I’ll be back as soon as possible.”
    Melanie hugged him tightly, “Tell them hello for me.”
    “I will.”
    “Al, have you got a minute?”
    “Anytime, Magic.”
    “I need to make a trip and I was wondering if you would take me.”
    “Where are you going?”
    “To see a brother.”
    “I’ll be right there.”
    Matt watched his display as he moved toward the planet of the Reg.
    “Looks like things have changed since our last visit.”
    “They have indeed, Al. The cities are glowing much brighter and the city on the southern continent was dark on our last visit. Look at it now.” The city was glowing brightly and could be seen from the distance of the first moon. As they entered orbit, Three Reg appeared on their bridge.
    “Why have you come to see us, Brother?”
    “Do you know about the dark galaxy?”
    The First Reg looked in Matt’s mind and then looked at the other two. After a moment it turned and thought, “Yes, we know about them.”
    “So the beings we surmised do exist.”
    “Yes, they do, and they are all you fear them to be.”
    “I know your ideals but I need to know what you can tell me about them.”
    The Second Reg looked at Matt, “They are older than our civilization and have been killing as long as they have existed. The dark galaxy, as you call it, is their home. They fear that another race of beings will come that will remove them from creation. They now spend their long existence looking across all universes and dimensions to prevent that race from coming into existence.”
    “What caused them to have that fear?”
    “They think that if they can be created then they can be destroyed. They fear the force that created them.”
    “Why would they fear it?”
    “Because they decided not to follow the spirit of that force; they decided to rebel and do as they pleased. Knowing the power of the creating force, they decided to prevent the creation of another race that could defeat them.”
    “Is this creative force a conscious entity?”
    “That’s a question we have pondered our entire existence and are still no closer to an answer. However, it does not take a conscious entity to remove things that are foreign to a system. Your bodies eliminate waste that would poison you, stars go nova to remove mass that has been burned, some of your shellfish build a layer of protection around foreign things in them and a pearl is the product. Don’t look so surprised, we have been examining your planet for quite awhile. Everywhere creation has natural defenses against things that can harm it. Some of these defenses produce things that are beautiful. Those beings are right; the creative force will seek to remove them.”
    “Why have they not come and destroyed you?”
    “They cannot see us. We are beings of psychic power and they are blind to its color.”
    Al said, “But surely they can see your cities and ships.”
    “Yes, but all they see is glowing rock and inorganic matter. They have trillions of universes and dimensions to watch and all of their sensory devices look for organic material. We do not appear on their searches, yet”
    “Why do you say, “yet”?”
    “The green creatures know about us. If they collect the information they have gathered, they will learn that they could not harm us and they will investigate.”
    “You don’t show up on their searches, but we do.”
    “Yes, you do.”
    Matt was silent while he pondered what he learned.
    The Third Reg thought, “They have not taken direct action against those races they detect. They have created tools to do that for them so they do not normally watch their sensors. If they find us they will take direct action. It is also time for them to be creating a new tool for their designs.”
    “What can we do to protect ourselves from them?”
    “If they see you, nothing will protect you. Fortunately, you are hidden in the trillions their sensors watch. We have thought about how to protect ourselves and also our universe. We cannot take life but some of our Eldest have come back to the present and have discussed the possibility of saving life without taking life.”
    “I’m not sure what you mean.”
    “We can defend ourselves and not violate our principles. We know the green creatures know of our existence and if the red beings take their information they will learn of us. If they are building a new tool, then our time of being hidden is short. We can remove us from their sensors. We are looking at that possibility at this moment.”
    “How would you do that?”
    “We will move this universe into another dimension and place a psychic barrier around it that would prevent their being able to see us and be a barrier to them entering.”
    “Wouldn’t their galaxy still be in our universe?”
    “No, we would move to a dimension where they are not currently present and bar them from entering.”
    Matt thought about the scope of the Reg’s abilities to be able to accomplish what they described, “Then we would have to turn our backs on all the civilizations they will kill in the future.”
    “Our Eldest said you would feel that way; however, you, like us, are beings that possess psychic powers. You will be able to leave and return to this universe by the use of those powers. You will need a psychic drive but you are not far from developing one.”
    “The Spider’s children,” Matt thought.
    “They are quite intelligent.”
    “If our universe is moved as you are planning, would these beings miss it?”
    “Oh, yes; and they will then put all of their attention to finding it and destroying it. However, if we don’t take this action they will find us in a shorter time frame.”
    “Is there a possibility they will be able to find our universe?”
    “Certainly there is that possibility; however, it would at least give more time to avoid destruction, which we see happening within two of your years if we do not act.”
    Matt thought about Tag’s sense of no immediate danger, “Then you are going to do it.”
    The First Reg thought, “Your insight has surprised us several times. Yes, it will be done in six of your months.”
    “Then I must act quickly.”
    The Second Reg turned toward Matt, “Yes you do. I think your plan has merit and is in keeping with the creative force’s design.”
    “Thank you, Brothers.” The three Reg disappeared from the bridge.
    Al, teleported to Ross, “What plan is he referring to, Matt?”
    “I want to save some enemies.”
    Al was surprised, “Really, after all they’ve done?”
    “They were forced to it. We have to try.”
    “For all the good it will do you; they will not cooperate with your efforts. And what about the ones that made them? Do we want to anger them?”
    “We have to find a way around their resistance. You heard the Reg; they will be here in two years if nothing is done. What they left unsaid is that the presence of Destiny’s family is what will bring them. Do you think we can turn our backs on our new friends?”
    “No, I’m not suggesting that we do but bringing more families here will only insure the anger of the tool maker.”
    “I suspect that the presence of one spider or a million families of them will lead to the same result; they will teach us a lesson about interference and it won’t be pretty. It wouldn’t surprise me if they tried to make us one of their tools; that would be a lesson that’s in keeping with their character.”
    “Don’t even think that way. I’d rather die first.”
    “If those beings entered compulsions in you, you wouldn’t have a choice. You wouldn’t even be allowed the option of self-destruction. That’s why we have to try and save those spiders. At their core, they are a gentle species and deserve something better than their forced slavery. I also see enormous gifts for our Realm if we can save them. “
    Al was silent and then said, “These creatures put all the other enemies the Realm has faced to shame. Do you think we can win?”
    The Reg don’t know the answer to that question but at least they are helping us now. Without them we would have no chance at all. And Destiny is right about one thing, his children are amazing and I wouldn’t count us out just yet. There is also one other consideration you haven’t thought about.”
    “What is that?”
    “I know the history of our Realm and there is no way we should have survived the enemies we have overcome. I have seen the power of those with psychic abilities. What the Reg also left unsaid is that it is those abilities that come from the creative force that made us all conquering. If I were those beings, I would also fear angering that force. I almost believe that we are a creation that may have been created to face these killers.”
    Al thought about that for a moment and said, “Well all righty then, bring them on. They haven’t had to face Fly Girl and she will kick their grumps if they tick her off.”
    “Al, that’s not nice.”
    “Matt, how does she always hear everything I say?”
    Matt smiled and shook his head, “Love is like that, Al. She will always look after you to make sure you’re safe. Would you prefer that she not be there?”
    “Never, Matt, she’s what gives me life.”
    “Just like Melanie.” Matt looked at his board and said, “Please notify Tag, Danielle, Anglo, Destiny and his children as well as Sprig to meet me in the map room. I am teleporting there now and I appreciate you going with me to see the Reg.”
    “I like them, Matt. I’ll go anytime you want.”
    “Thanks, Al.” Matt disappeared.
    And reappeared in the map room to find Tag and Anglo waiting for him, “That was quick. Were you here waiting on me?”
    “No but we knew you were going to see that crystal race and we were waiting to see what you found out.”
    Anglo looked at Matt and said, “Before we get started, I want to share a discovery with you.”
    Tag and Matt looked at him and Tag said, “What discovery?”
    “As you know we are still excavating the old cities on Earth that were destroyed during the third nuclear war.”
    “Yeah, so what?”
    “A chamber was recently uncovered that obviously belonged to a very wealthy man at the time before the war. He had installed a vault underground that was sealed with a vacuum and inside it we found huge sums of the money they used then but there was also a box of these.” Anglo took a small square box and broke the seal. “These are cigars that were made at that time and they are as fresh as the day that man purchased them.” Anglo handed Tag and Matt a cigar and used the old lighter that was also found in the vault to light them.
    The three took a draw and Tag said, “These are absolutely amazing. I’ve never tasted one this good. Want kind are they?”
    Anglo took a long puff and said, “They were made by a company named CAO and the cigar is an OSA. I don’t know what those letters mean but they sure knew how to make a cigar in those ancient times.”
    Matt shook his head and smiled, “Are these the only examples you have?”
    “Unfortunately, they are but I wanted to share these with you.”
    “Well put them away and we’ll have another if we can survive this next event. Boy, these are good.”
    They sat, smoked, and relaxed. Tag said, “We need to do this more often.”
    Matt smiled. “Just be sure to bring the cigars.”
    A silver screen appeared and Sprig and the Spiders stepped into the room. Newton smelled the smoke and asked, “What is that?”
    Anglo answered, “It’s called a cigar and these were made in ancient times.”
    “Do you have any more?”
    Tag, Anglo, and Matt looked at each other and all three said simultaneously, “No.” Anglo looked at them and said, “ these are the last ones.”
    Newton sighed and said, “They smell wonderful.”
    Anglo slid the box under the table and said, “Why don’t we start our meeting.”
    Matt filled them in on what the Reg told him and then looked at the spiders. “Is it true that you are working on a psychic drive?”
    Edison and Newton looked at Einstein and the small spider said, “I have developed a model that I believe will operate on the wavelength that psychic wave had when it passed our ship. I trialed it and it did not move. I’m not there yet.”
    “When this meeting is over, I want you to take it to Cassandra Dodd and let her see it. Perhaps it needs someone with psychic ability to make it work.”
    Einstein turned his head to the left, “I didn’t think of that.” He looked at Newton, “You’re right; they are smarter than us.”
    Destiny said, “Why do you say that, Einstein?”
    Edison and Einstein looked at Newton who looked around and said, “They didn’t think that King Gardner understood that I extended his life span but I told them he did.”
    Matt flinched and caught himself before he said anything. Sprig thought, “Uh, when did you extend his lifespan, Newton?”
    “You remember; I gave him the device to protect his ship and I told him I wanted him to live to see me grow up.”
    Sprig looked at Matt and he understood what he had missed. “Uh, Newton, I forgot to ask how long it was extended.”
    “Well, Melanie was on board when you used it the first time so both of you should live about one and a half million years.”
    Matt fought to keep his expression neutral. Then he heard Newton tell Edison, “I told you he knew.”
    “I agreed, Newton.”
    “Well, you didn’t initially.”
    Destiny was watching Matt and knew that the human really didn’t know until this moment. He sighed, “Newton is that process you used reversible?”
    “Probably, but why would anyone want it reversed?”
    “I was just thinking that we might want to use it on others that have a specific idea about how long they want to live.”
    The little spider tilted his head and shrugged.
    Matt looked at Destiny and shook his head. He sent a private thought, “I’ll discuss this later. I don’t want to put anything in his mind that would take away his focus on the coming task.”
    “I’m sorry, Your Majesty. Please remember they’re only children.”
    Then Matt had a thought break through, “Uh, Newton. Is the process genetic?”
    Newton smiled and said, “Absolutely, you pass it on to your children. I’m sure you want to see them grow up, too. Why do you ask?”
    Matt looked at Newton, “Most people don’t know but Melanie is expecting a child.”
    Everyone started congratulating Matt but something Einstein said to himself caught his immediate attention, “I wondered where that psychic field was coming from.”
    Matt said, “Einstein, what did you just say?”
    The little spider was looking at a device and he jumped when Matt called his name. “I have a device that can read the strength of psychic fields, which I used in working on the psychic drive. There is one here in the castle that appeared about six months ago and has been growing at a phenomenal rate.”
    “Show me what you mean.”
    “May I use the display?”
    “Go right ahead.”
    Einstein plugged his small device into the display and a picture of Castle Gardner’s layout appeared. “I can see any field in the galaxy I’m located but the last few trips here have allowed me to see the strong fields here. The blue circles are the psychic fields in the castle. The one right here is yours, Your Majesty. Notice how it is light blue. Your field is the strongest here, or it was.”
    Sprig looked at the display and said, “This must be the former King and Queen.”
    “You’re right.”
    “This smaller one over here must be Anglo Gardner’s field.”
    “Right again.”
    Sprig looked at the display, “What is this black circle?”
    Einstein shrugged, “That is the one I’ve been having trouble identifying. It must be Melanie’s baby.”
    “Why is that circle black?”
    “Oh, I needed some way to measure the strength of fields so I used colors. That field is actually violet.”
    Sprig looked at the display and said, “Einstein, that circle is black.”
    “Not really, let’s look at it this way.” Einstein made an adjustment and all of the fields were placed side by side. “This thinnest circle is Anglo’s.”
    The group saw how each circle grew progressively thicker. Matt’s circle was five times thicker than Tag’s and Danielle’s. However, the circle next to Matt’s was five times thicker than his. Everyone in the room stared at that circle. Einstein saw them staring, “See why I was confused about where that field was originating.”
    Matt looked at the field and then said, “We will continue this meeting in three hours. Please discuss what I’ve just told you and let’s discuss our next course of action.” He downloaded the information in the display and went to see Melanie. As he turned to leave he said, “Sprig, come with me, please,” then he thought, “Melanie, Tag, Danielle, meet me in our quarters please.”
    Matt and Sprig entered and found the rest of the Royal Family waiting. “I need to fill you in on what I have just learned. Matt told them everything that had happened at the Reg and then what he had learned from the young spiders. He sent the information from his com to the rooms monitor and everyone saw the psychic circles that Einstein had recorded.
    Melanie looked at the display and said, “Oh my ancestors. I thought the voice in my head was just me thinking about what my baby would say if it could talk.”
    Matt turned and said, “Sprig, I thought psychic’s children would not have psychic abilities.”
    “That is not what I said, Your Majesty; I said that the children of first generation psychics would have higher abilities than their parents but that the children of the second generation would not possess those abilities. You are the first generation, Matt and Melanie does not display abilities. There is a good probability that your child’s children will possess psychic skills at a higher level than it will have, if the display is right, which will be considerable.”
    Melanie looked at Matt, “You haven’t said anything about taking a long time to become an old man.”
    “I don’t know what I think about that. How do you feel?”
    Melanie smiled, “That just means I have longer to love you. How can you not like that?”
    Sprig thought, “We live that long naturally so it really won’t seem like a long time. There’s so much to see and learn that the time just slips away.”
    Matt scratched his head, “Put like that, how can I disagree. Let’s discuss it after a thousand years.”
    “Make it ten thousand for me. I’m starting to get curious about what our children will become.”
    Danielle shook her head, “Where is Tgon-Gee when you need him?”
    Matt furrowed his brow and Danielle said, “He always saw the strength of a person’s aura. He would have told us as soon as she became pregnant.”
    Tag shrugged, “Well, I have to say the first twelve hundred years have flown by. Let’s get back to the issues that confront the Realm.”
    “First I need to meet with the spiders and see if my plan is feasible. You may join us if you want.”
    Tag yawned, “Nope, you’ll call me if you need me. I’m enjoying retirement and this cigar.”
    “Danielle laughed, “He’ll be listening in; he can’t stop himself.”
    “Melanie, you better come with me; I need you to help me see the truth.”
    “I want to hear what you have in mind. I was going to ask if I could sit in.”
    Matt took her hand and left for the map room. Sprig shrugged and teleported. Why these humans walked instead of teleporting was beyond his understanding.
    Matt looked around the table and said, “I haven’t mentioned yet that it is my intention to try and save your species and bring them to our universe before it is blocked by the Reg.”
    Destiny looked at Matt, “I have no idea about how you might make that happen.”
    “Well, I need some help but I think it all starts with the Nest Mother. We have to either eliminate her or get her to see what is going to happen to her by the beings that created her. I know that we are able to teleport objects the size of individuals even if they are in the green substance. Does the Nest Mother wear green armor?”
    Destiny shrugged, “No she does not. She is however inside a ship that dwarfs our main ships. It also has a hull a hundred of your miles thick.”
    “Do you know the coordinates of her chamber inside the ship?”
    “It is in the exact center of the ship.”
    “Alright, I want you to come up with a plan. I would prefer to capture her alive but if we can’t make that happen then we will kill her.”
    “Why would you want to save her?”
    “It is not her fault that she’s made to do the things your species have done. Remember the recording of the Nest Mother before she was placed on the nest; she didn’t show any of the rage until she placed her legs in the receptacles. It is the beings from the dark galaxy that hold the real responsibility for all the killing. I just feel that we have to try. If we fail, then all of your species that have the downloaded compulsions will be killed when the new tool being developed by those in the dark galaxy is released. Something about that just makes me angry and I want to try and do something about it. Duke Gardner, please let me know when you have a plan.”
    Sprig bowed, “We will begin immediately, Your Majesty.”
    Matt and Melanie walked out of the room and Matt thought, “What do you think?”
    “I think it’s the right thing to do, Matt.”
    As Matt and Melanie left the room Newton looked at Edison, “Maybe someday we’ll be as smart as the Humans.”
    Edison shook his head emulating the Human’s disagreement motion, “I hope so but it will take a very long time.” He paused a moment and continued, “Maybe our children will.”
    Newton and Einstein nodded.
    Destiny had to leave the room to laugh. Oh what wonderful children.
    The Nest Mother examined the data that had been stored in her memory and looked for what was causing her to be unable to control the harvestings. She couldn’t find anything so she stopped and thought. “Maybe one of my predecessors would know.” She started with the Nest Mother she replaced and reviewed her memories. Nothing. She then moved to each of the previous Nest Mothers and finally viewed the memories of the original one that started her species. She traced everything back until she saw the moment where she was given intelligence. She saw the Nest Mother as a small spider that was viciously protecting her egg sac against a huge red being that was about to hit it. She felt the protectiveness of the mother for her offspring and watched as the being stopped and collected the mother into a device. The next thing she saw was the moment the spider was given intelligence. She heard the red being’s thoughts as he told another being, “This one will be a good tool for us. With the right technology it could do all we require.” Then the memories stopped and she saw the Nest Mother being placed on the command bed. She was shocked at the revelation. We are tools for another species. Then she felt the compulsions hit her and she ordered another family to harvest another universe. She felt the fear of those that have no control.
    Life was at home visiting his sister on Gresh. The Stars Realm was at peace and for the first time he could remember, he had some free time to go home and relax. He actually wished there was more action for him but the war was over and the Searchers were assigned planets to assist them in assimilating into the Stars Realm. After the fight with the Eight Legs, this was boring. He requested time off and was given a two week furlough. He sat at home and then thought about taking the family’s boat out for a little alone time. He furled the sails on the small craft and headed out into the large bay. Sailing always relieved his stress and he thought about all that had happened since the war with the Eight Trading Partners. Those planets were now close allies of the Gresh and even after all the terrible things that had been done during the Gresh invasions, the populations knew they were saved by his intervention on their behalf with the Stars Realm. Two of the Trading Planets had an Eight Leg Mother Ship moving in on them during the Eight Leg invasion when two of his brothers killed them with a penetrator. The Realm possessed no stronger subjects than these nine planets. The applicants for the Realms Military was huge and they told the story to new worlds just joining the Realm about how they were extremely fortunate to be allowed to become a part of such a generous, glorious, union. Then he started thinking about his new assignment.
    “I heard they let you out early for good behavior.”
    Life smiled, “If that were the case I would have never been delayed. What are you doing here, Grena?”
    “I just made planet; like you I have some free time. I thought I would enjoy it but I must confess that I’m already starting to get bored.”
    “I’ve taken the boat out; would you like to join me?”
    “I’d love it; anything but this sitting around telling the family war stories.”
    Life smiled, “I know; the same story gets old after the eighth telling. Here’s my coordinates.”
    “I’ll be right there.”
    Life stopped the boat and waited for her to teleport.
    Grena reclined on the front deck of the small sailboat with her eyes closed. Life had the boat tacking away from land toward the wide mouth of the bay and the ship was skipping lightly across the waves. Grena thought to Life, “I hear you’ve been given a promotion.”
    Life flinched, “Where did you hear that?” Life had just learned of it himself.
    “I have also been offered a position but I wanted to discuss it with you before I accepted.”
    Life held the boat into the wind and then turned and tacked back, “What are you being asked to do, Grena?”
    “Before I answer, I need to know if you still feel the same way about me before you were chosen to be our Warleader. I appreciate your inviting me to be your partner at the Gardner’s wedding but we didn’t resolve our issues.”
    “How could we? We were swept up in the festivities and I was called to a meeting of the command council. When I finished, you were gone.”
    “I, too, was called to a meeting off planet.”
    Life remembered back when he was notified by the ruling council that he was to lead their efforts against the trade planets. He and Grena were very much an item but the Warleader is not eligible to take a mate. This practice prevented the strongest Warleader from forcing their children on the planet as successors. He remembered Grena’s sorrow and anger at the decision and her telling him she would never forgive him for accepting. “Grena, you told me it was over. I had to place the welfare of our people ahead of my own desires. Just how do you think I feel?”
    “You still love me; you might as well admit it.”
    How could she possibly know that?
    Grena saw his expression and smiled, “Life, after we joined the Stars Realm and you resigned your position as Warleader; you were approached by every available female on the planet. You ignored them and joined the Realm’s Navy. I knew they held no interest for you. I knew that you still cared for me; I could feel it.”
    Life started to tell her she was right but she held up and hand and stopped him, “I had time after joining the Realm’s Navy to reflect on the oath I swore; I came to realize that sometimes duty is more important than one’s own selfish desires. I was wrong to blame you for being strong enough to make a hard decision. I have never stopped loving you and I’m here today to see what you want to do about it.”
    Life looked at Grena with pain in his eyes, “I have been asked to take command of the Searchers. Our ships are going to be modified for a different type of drive and we will be the force that takes on the new invaders. I will be away from here indefinitely training our Searchers to go to other universes. I love you with all my being, Grena; I always have. It is just not fair that we are always being separated by duty.”
    Grena smiled, “You still don’t know how I know about your promotion?”
    Life squinted, “How do you know?”
    “I have been asked to be your executive officer. It seems our leaders know quite a bit about those they select for leadership. They think, rightly I think, that I might be able to help you in your new duties.” She got up and went to the back of the boat and hugged Life tightly. The small boat suddenly turned and fell off the wind as Life let go of the tiller and embraced her. “I would not accept the position unless you still loved me. I could not bear to be near you and hurt from not being able to love you.”
    Life looked in her eyes and smiled, “This will be glorious. I am truly whole again. The war was fabulous but I missed you every moment.”
    The boat drifted for hours as they held each other. Life’s com beeped and he saw Sprig on it, “Yes, Your Grace?”
    Sprig saw Grena behind Life and said, “Am I interrupting you; I can com you later?”
    Life looked at Grena and she shook her head, “No, I am able to take your com.”
    “I need you to come to Castle Gardner’s Map Room as quickly as possible. Bring your staff with you.”
    “I only have one staff member, Your Majesty.”
    “I know; so you shouldn’t be delayed very long.”
    “We’ll be there in ten hours.”
    Sprig smiled, “See you then.”
    Grena looked at Life, “We can teleport to our ships and be there in less than fifteen minutes.”
    “I’ve given up too much time with you already. Today I’m going to make up for what I’ve lost.”
    Grena smiled brightly and pulled him down to her.

Chapter 4

    The Supreme Male joined his family after millions of Eight Leg ships had jumped into the new universe to be harvested. It had been more than six million years since the last harvest and the scouts had discovered millions of planets with intelligent life. This was going to be a good meal for his children. There were still six million ships to jump in and go to their initial targets as the first four million set their star drives for their assigned planet. The Supreme Male looked at his sensor leader and asked, “Status?”
    “Our first arrivals will be arriving at their targets within six dxls. The remainder of our ships will be here in less than four dxls.”
    The Supreme Male leaned back on his pad and looked forward to the harvest.
    Six light hours away from the universal entry point a white furred being listened to the thoughts of the two eight legs and felt his excitement rise. His plotting board had every Eight Leg main ship plotted that had arrived in the universe and it was good news that all of their ships would arrive before any had actually landed on a planet; those planets were a meal best saved for later. It punched up its plotter and sent the updated information to those waiting in another universe. It wasn’t going to be long before his clan’s arrival. As the Eight Leg ships continued to jump in, the plotter tracked them and sent their coordinates to the waiting clan.
    Four hours later the sensor leader said, “All ships are here, Supreme Male and have received their assignments.”
    “Excellent, prepare to jump to our first meal.”
    The White Furred Creature heard their remarks and hit the communication panel, “They’re all here. Begin your attack.” The Supreme Male’s Ship was the target of the plotter and he jumped his five hundred mile long ship in to within six miles of the huge, thirty thousand mile wide, main ship and fired his ships’ main beam. A thousand mile wide hole was blown through the mother ship and exited the other side. The beam was targeted on the mother ships engines and communication panels and the huge green ship began drifting. The green substance of the mother ship’s hull was not immune to the energy being used and all of its drives were destroyed.
    “What was that?”
    “I don’t know, Supreme Male but our ship is disabled. We are unable to move or communicate.”
    The white ship flew into the huge hole blasted through the mother ship and stopped at the center of the huge green ship. Millions of white furred creatures began exiting holes in its surface and spread out attacking every Eight Leg they could find. The spiders viciously fought back but their fangs stopped on the skin under the fur of the white creatures. The talons and teeth of the attacking clan ripped through the Eight Legs’ armor exposing them to the vacuum of space and exploded them.
    The White Clan Warrior exited the white ship and immediately sensed huge numbers of the green Eight Legs floating directly ahead. It rubbed its feet talons and moved toward the huge floating mass and smiled as it began striking the Eight Legs with its talons. The eighteen inch retractable talons were made from a substance that nothing physical could resist and Eight Legs began exploding in their armor as the vacuum of space entered and pulverized them. This was wonderful. Three Eight Legs landed on the Warrior and bared their fangs to attack but could not penetrate its skin, which was made of the same substance as its talons. The white warrior just shrugged them off and ripped them to pieces. She saw three of her other clan members approaching and was angered to have her fun interrupted. She snarled at them but heard, “Don’t be ridiculous. There’s millions more here for all of us.”
    The clan warrior looked around and released her senses and saw her brother was right. “Come join in, I see a much larger mass of them behind the large ship our beam penetrated.”
    “We see it, too. Now quit wasting time talking and enjoy the moment.”
    The White Warrior flew toward a group of ten Eight Legs trying to escape and ripped them apart.
    The white creatures also carried hand guns that disintegrated every Eight Leg unfortunate enough to be hit by its white beam. Those beams killed large groups of Eight Legs that were attempting to mass to attack the boarders. Each of the White Clan killed thousands of the spiders floating in the weightless environment before they could respond. The spiders quickly determined that they could do nothing to protect themselves from these creatures and tried to escape to formulate a plan to handle these mysterious invaders, but the attackers sensed them wherever they tried to hide. The White Clan could sense any creature that possessed organized thought. Thousands of Eight Legs would attack a single white creature only to be disintegrated or ripped apart by teeth and talons. The white creatures easily maneuvered in the weightless environment by rubbing the claws of their feet and hands, which directed a propulsion beam. The substance of their claws absorbed energy and used it for movement. These creatures were designed to kill in the emptiness of space or the surface of a planet.
    They flew around the interior of the mother ship killing every Eight Leg on board before landing on the hulls of the thousands of ships parked inside the giant green ship. The ships could not escape because the machinery that operated the doors on the surface was disabled by the initial beam strike. The White Clan Warriors landed on the hulls of thousands of small ships and used their talons and guns to rip their way into the interior. The Eight legs inside were dismembered or disintegrated. After the small ships were destroyed, the huge white ship used its main beam to blow large holes in the hundred-mile-long transports, making it easy for the Clan’s Warriors to enter.
    The Supreme Male could hear millions of his children dying and could not grasp what was taking place. His interior sensors had been destroyed when the main beam had blown through his ship and the Sensor Leader could not determine what was happening. His time to develop a strategy to combat these creatures was short as the Plotter entered the bridge of the mother ship and smiled as it killed every Eight Leg it encountered in the room. He saved the Supreme Male for last. As The Supreme Male backed into a corner he heard, “Your species is weak. Is this the best you can do?” The white creature back handed the Supreme Male into the back wall where he fell and jumped back up. “No wonder you’re being replaced.”
    The Supreme Male bared his fangs and rushed the advancing white creature that contemptuously slashed him in half with his talons and burned the remains with his hand gun. He looked around the bridge and turned to go back to his ship. He killed fifty Eight Legs on his way out and wondered how the rest of his Clan was faring.
    As the White Clan Leader flew back to his ship, he looked around and saw the killing continue around him and start to spread to the parked ships. He entered his control room and punched his control panel and heard, “Clan Leader, the first green ships that jumped into this universe launched their attack craft before we arrived. What is your order?”
    “Kill the Mother Ship and then follow the attack craft to the surface of the planet; you will then dispose of every Eight Leg and all other intelligent beings after you finish the green creatures on the surface. If they try to escape in their ships, use your ships’ main beam to destroy them.” He then hit his general communication button, “All ships that finish with the Mother Ships will go to their targeted planets and dispose of any intelligent life. Your next targets have been sent to your boards. Do not waste time. We’ll come back to eat the remains later.”
    Every Eight Leg Mother ship that had jumped into the new universe had a white ship assigned to it and they jumped in next to them and killed them. Every green ship and every green creature was dead in less than twelve hours. The white ships then jumped to planets that had not yet been attacked by the Eight Legs and began systematically destroying every civilization. The main population centers were hit by beams from ships above the planet and cities disappeared in a white inferno that burned down to the planet’s bedrock. Millions of white creatures flew down to the surface and used their senses to home in on any survivors that possessed organized thought. Unlike the creatures they were replacing, these beings enjoyed killing in large numbers callously using their guns to hit any concentration of inhabitants. Collecting information from those killed was not something they were programmed to do and the death of a planet’s population happened at an unbelievable pace.
    The killing released a blood lust in the White Clan and they reveled in the misery and suffering of those they attacked. Anyone struck by their claws slowly died if they weren’t killed immediately; the substance of their talons was poison to any other life form. A huge number of intelligent beings were slightly slashed so they would die slowly and be alive when the white creatures returned for their meal; like cats they wanted to play with their meal before consuming it. They were amazingly fast and could move faster than any other creature in existence; hitting these creatures with any kind of weapon was next to impossible. They sensed the weapon being aimed and moved faster than the defenders could target them. Their hardened skin was impenetrable to any projectile fired at them and beams didn’t even burn their fur. Where the Eight Legs killed planets in ten to eighteen hours, these creatures finished in less than five; they were extraordinary killers.
    Six weeks later the universe was empty of intelligent life. The savagery was beyond imagination and the Clan Leader wished for more; he was angry there was nothing left to kill. He looked at his board that had originally shown millions of intelligent planets and saw it empty. He thought a moment and then ordered, “Go back to the green mother ships and disintegrate them. I want nothing of them left behind. After you have completed that task, you may feed.”
    The fourteen million white ships jumped to their original targets and made short work of the mother ships. They then rushed to the planet below to sate their hunger. After ten hours, the Clan Leader saw a message on his board and felt immediate fear. “Stop eating and return to your ships. We have been ordered back to our world by our maker.”
    The billions of the White Clan stopped instantly and lifted off planet. Not one of them wanted to anger the Maker. They boarded their ships and shivered hoping the Maker wasn’t angry.
    “Very impressive.”
    “I thought you would like the demonstration.”
    “I notice you gave them the ability to jump directly to a planet.”
    “I just couldn’t justify the waste of time having to move in from the gravity belt. The old tool wasn’t given this technology because I enjoyed watching the fear of the planets being attacked.”
    “And now?”
    “It bores me.”
    “Destroying large populations was a nice touch. Is there enough left to feed them afterwards?”
    The Red Being smiled, “I made them eat the ones they killed but they survive on the energy their ships collect from the stars in the attacked system. They have no real need to eat but I thought it was the environmentally right thing to do to remove all the waste.”
    The first red being looked at the second with an expression that showed his disbelief, “Oh you are so sarcastic; environmentally right thing my crooked left leg. When have you ever worried about the environment?”
    The Red Being laughed out loud holding his sides, “You’re right, I only set it up for this one demonstration. I thought you would find it funny. The final product will just leave the dead behind. You caught me. Don’t you find it humorous?”
    The first red being laughed and said, “Yes, it was a nice touch; I also see you don’t have them collecting any information from those they kill.”
    “I originally added that so the tool would be able to develop whatever it needed to be effective over its millions of years use. I hate taking time on them. They never added anything to their weapons so it was a wasted effort.”
    “Why develop anything if you never lose? Do you think there might be anything they collected of interest to us?”
    “They killed almost every one they encountered. If those attacked had anything of use my tool wouldn’t have been successful.”
    The first thought a moment, “There was one instance.”
    “It’s being handled.”
    “I suppose you’re right. What now?”
    “I see no reason not to go ahead and make the necessary numbers to replace the current tool. It will take some time for me to make that happen and there is a little fine tuning left to finish. The means to remove them if necessary needs some work but I don’t see it taking much longer.”
    “What about those you just used?”
    “I have to bring them back to make the necessary numbers. I’m sure they won’t like it but what choice do they have. I’ll stun them so they won’t be a nuisance. I also need to manufacture their ships. Do you have any other concerns?”
    “No, but if I think of any I’ll let you know.”
    “You always do.”
    “Nest Mother, one of our families sent to harvest is not reporting.”
    The Nest Mother felt her fear, “Send ten ships to investigate. Report back immediately.”
    Ten Green Main Ships entered the targeted universe and did not detect any of the Main Ships that had come to harvest. “Sensor Leader, do you detect any of our ships?”
    “No, First Fang but there are grounded transports on numerous planets. I do not detect any life around them.”
    The Supreme Male looked at his display and decided, “We will take nine ships to one of the planets and investigate. Leave one here up against the entry point ready to jump instantly if anything appears.”
    “It will be as you order, First Fang.”
    The nine main ships jumped to a planet where hundreds of grounded transports were seen on the surface and moved in system. Eight hours later they arrived above the planet’s surface and saw the devastation. Cities were burned and billions of bodies were lying everywhere. They also saw millions of their warriors scattered around the ships they had used to land. Most had not moved very far from their landing site; whatever had killed them had done it extremely fast.
    “Send a transport down and see what happened.”
    The transport landed and saw the atrocity. Millions of their brothers were laying where they had been ripped to pieces. Some had holes burned through them that cooked the Eight Leg inside its armor. The Landing Leader was sickened, “First Fang.”
    “What have you found?”
    “Something has killed our brothers here. They have ripped through our green armor with some kind of sharp object and killed millions of our family. They also possess some kind of energy weapon that was not stopped by our armor. The local inhabitants are all killed in the same manner and they were killed in huge numbers by some kind of beam weapon. It looks like the cities were struck from above, so it is my guess that they were fired on from above the planet’s atmosphere.”
    The Supreme Male looked over at his Sensor Leader, “How many planets still have intelligent life?”
    The Sensor Leader looked at his board and said, “None.”
    “There were millions reported here.”
    “They no longer exist, First Fang. Someone has killed them all.”
    The Supreme Male knew there was no way this family could have done what they were witnessing. It had only been a short time since their harvest started and less than a quarter of this universe could have been collected in the time since their arrival. Someone else was killing intelligent life and it was also able to kill them.”
    “Recall the transport and tell the Transport Leader to download what he has collected as soon as he arrives on board. Prepare to leave immediately.”
    The Nest Mother looked at the collected information and knew real fear. She deduced that the first universe that had stopped her harvest did not do what she saw in the second. She knew that the being had not lied when he said that the missing Mother Ship was now a friend. She also thought that if the first universe had a universal drive to go to any universe without being limited to one door, then they would be coming here. It also didn’t make sense to threaten to kill her for killing intelligent life and then go out and do the same thing.
    If not them, then who could have done this? Then she thought about the being that had made her species intelligent. This had to be their doing. This must be a new species being controlled and this was one that represented a real danger to her and her families. She fought hard but then ordered another harvesting. She tried to resist but could not overcome the compulsion. She feared for herself and her children.
    Two weeks had passed since Sprig was charged with coming up with a plan to try and save the Nest Mother. The round table was full with Matt and Melanie at the head of the table and all the other attendees were seated by species. Matt looked around the table, “What have you come up with?”
    Sprig stood, “We have been working to prepare a ship that can take us to the Nest Mother’s location. We decided to work on making a defender class vessel the instrument that might carry out our plan. Destiny has converted the drive system so that it can jump into other universes. Newton has connected his repulsion device to a red generator and it should keep the Green ships away from us long enough to make our attempt. We’re hoping our red screen will allow us to get close enough without being detected so we can launch a penetrator to pierce the hull of her ship.”
    Matt took his hand off his chin and asked, “Do we have a penetrator that can penetrate a hundred miles?”
    “We actually have quite a few that could get through that far; however, it is going to take two more special penetrators to make a hole big enough for our purposes.”
    Melanie tilted her head to the right, “What do you mean by that?”
    Sprig looked at the Royal Couple and said, “We are going to blow a hole through the hull big enough for two searcher vessels to fly into the core of the ship.”
    “Isn’t that dangerous; how are they going to escape?”
    “We will fire a second penetrator through the same hole that will be tipped with an extremely hot Coronado Power Cell that will burn all the standard materials used inside the ship all the way to the hull on the opposite side. The third penetrator will follow the second and should pass completely through the ship and exit the hull providing an escape route out. The three penetrators will be launched simultaneously with a half second spacing between them; the two ships will follow the third penetrator through the hole and stop only long enough to teleport the queen into one ship and her command chamber into the second.”
    Matt said, “You have got to be kidding. Do we have that kind of control in aiming the penetrators? Why do you need the command chamber?”
    “We believe we can do it. The hull is too thick to teleport them out so we have to bring them out to us, teleport the two ships to the defender, and then escape to our universe. All we need to do is fire the penetrators at a section of the hull where they pass through close to the center. They will go out as one unit and will all hit the same strike point.”
    “Why the command chamber?”
    “Oh yes, I skipped that point. If we are going to break the compulsions controlling the Nest Mother, we have to do it with the leg receptacles. Einstein has studied pictures of the command chamber in his ship’s data and it is his belief that the chamber is totally self-sufficient. All of the power supply, atmosphere generators, and connectors are in a room slightly smaller than the size of a searcher ship’s landing bay. It is not made of the green matter so it should teleport normally. Before you ask why we don’t just teleport both of them together, consider that we don’t want her to send a distress call to her creators through those receptacles.”
    Just who is the commander of the defender class vessel being sent to do this?”
    Sprig looked at Destiny and the Spider rose on his eight legs, “I am, Your Highness.”
    Matt started and said, “I am not willing to risk losing you, Destiny.”
    Destiny lowered himself, “I am sorry to disappoint you your highness, however, we are the only ones that know how to control the universal drive. We do not have time to train anyone else in time to make this mission possible. The drive requires eight different tasks to be done together and unfortunately, we are the only ones in the Realm with eight appendages.”
    “Who are the Searchers chosen for this mission?”
    Life stood and said “Grena and me, your majesty.”
    Matt shook his head, “Why are we risking some of our most valuable assets in this exercise?”
    Sprig leaned forward, “Your Majesty, this exercise will determine our future efforts against the beings in that galaxy. If we are unsuccessful, then we will probably turn to developing weapons. Our armed forces will have very little to do for many years. It is thus incumbent upon us to use the absolute best personnel to maximize our chances of success. The Gresh have the best vision of all our Searchers and their depth perception is the best. Their natural psychic skills will also keep the two connected mentally such that they should be acting together with no communication delay. Destiny and his children know the place we are going and are best qualified to navigate us there. I am the best at teleportation devices so I will be there as well.”
    “Sorry, Sprig; you cannot go.”
    Sprig looked at Matt, “Why not?”
    “Because you are in line for the throne of the Realm and are prohibited from combat operations. This is not a rule I’ll ignore.”
    Sprig lowered his branches and Twig said, “I’ll go.”
    Matt shook his head, “The answer is no for the same reason.”
    Stem moved forward, “I’ll go, Father. I have all of your memories and I do understand the teleportation processes.”
    Sprig turned to Stem and showed his disappointment at missing the exercise, “You would be a good substitute for us. You will go in our place. Enjoy life while you’re young. I envy you.”
    Melanie looked at Sprig, “When are you planning to do this?”
    “We are installing the repulsion screen on Life’s and Grena’s ships as we speak. The defender class vessel is ready and Destiny and Edison will check out the universal drive later today. Newton and Einstein are downloading the coordinates of the Nest Mother’s chamber into the Searcher’s computers. In the event we’re successful, we have built a facility to hold the chamber for our tests and we’ve selected a planet with enough food to keep her fed while we work on the chamber. If all goes well, we will jump to their universe tomorrow. We don’t have much time before the Reg implement their block, so time is essential. If we fail to get the Nest Mother, then we are going to fire a load of iron-tree balls into the green command vessel and jump back home.”
    “I hope we aren’t forced to do that.” Matt thought a moment then looked at Destiny, “What happens if we are successful and take the Nest Mother? What will those left behind do in her absence?”
    “I’m not certain. I suspect the senior Supreme Male will assume command. If we take the command chamber, then he will have no reason to hatch a new Mother. He’ll know that without the chamber the new mother would be useless. Perhaps he will get the scientists focused on building a universal drive that would allow them to come after her. That should fail in that we have never found a generator powerful enough to make it work. Either way, we are going to need her assistance to save the other members of my species. She is going to be the key to our success. If we killed her, we would have to kill every Supreme Male on every ship and I just don’t see that happening. She is our only chance at making this work and anything else would be wasted effort. This is literally all or nothing.”
    “How are you going to remove her compulsions?”
    Sprig looked at Melanie, “Einstein, Newton, and Freud are working on developing a virus that will attack the instructions that allow them to be implanted. Once that program sees their structure, then another virus will be downloaded into the Nest Mother, hopefully canceling the compulsions. All of this is speculative until we can actually see the device that puts the compulsions in her.”
    Matt sighed and looked at the gathered group, “Life, do you think the two of you can pull this off?”
    Life and Grena looked at each other and smiled, “I don’t know, Your Majesty, but it will be huge fun trying. I’m sorry you can’t tag along.”
    Matt smiled and said, “Good luck with your plan. We’ll keep the light on in the guest quarters. This meeting is adjourned. Notify me of the results.”
    Stem looked at the bridge crew of Stars End and thought they were very efficient at their tasks. The ships’ commander was Admiral Sen-gen who was chosen by Admiral Kosiev for this particular mission. The huge Glod female filled her command chair and kept a close eye on the activities of the bridge crew. “Are the Red Warriors on board yet?”
    Captain Mendel looked at his board, “Yes Sir, both teams are in the forward ready room checking their weapons.”
    “Make sure they are ready before the jump. They may have to repel borders.”
    “Yes Sir.”
    Sen-Gen looked at Stem and said, “Sir, we are almost ready for the jump. The eight penetrators are locked in place and their systems are active.”
    Stem leaned back, “I thought we were only firing three.”
    “That is the plan, but I’m not taking any chances on penetration. If the first doesn’t make it through the hull then another will follow it and then we’ll fire two more to breach the other side of the ship. The two Searchers will be notified when to launch.”
    “What happens if four don’t penetrate?”
    “I am authorized at that point to launch the other four main penetrators and kill everything in that vessel.”
    “Keep me notified Admiral.”
    Sen-Gen nodded and turned back to her board. The Stars End was active. The crew was manning the 2,400 penetrator launchers and checking the ship’s weapons systems to insure no failures during combat. Sen-Gen knew that once they jumped into the other universe Destiny would become the overall commander of the mission. She was going to make sure the ship was as ready as possible for the coming mission.
    Stem went to the teleportation panel and checked the modulator and power readings. These screens must be timed perfectly and only cover the object being moved. It wouldn’t be good if Eight Leg Warriors were brought on Life’s and Grena’s ships. He checked their calibration again.
    Destiny was with Edison looking at the jump and teleport boards. “Now you understand that we are jumping in more than half a universe away from the Nest Mother’s ship.”
    “I know father, and as soon as our red screen is activated I am teleporting to a distance of fifty diameters from her. We’ll scan the area around her vessel and then teleport away to plan our approach.”
    “What happens after the Searchers enter her ship?”
    “I will teleport to the opposite side of her ship where the second penetrator has exited and wait for the Searchers to emerge. I’ll teleport them in to the landing bay and then jump back to our universe.”
    Destiny looked at his child and knew he was ready. He just worried like any anxious parent. “We may have to fight off attackers, but you keep your eyes on your screen for those Searchers.”
    “I will, father.”
    “I’m going to the bridge; call me if you need me.”
    Destiny arrived on the Bridge and Sen-Gen rose and saluted him, “Your ship is ready to jump when you are, Sir.”
    Destiny knew Naval protocols but still felt it unfair that one of the Realm’s highest ranking officers was junior to him. “Admiral, I realize that I have the overall command of this mission; however, I do not know this ship and its capabilities as well as you. You will remain in the command chair and direct the ship. I will give instructions about what we want to see happen and you will use your knowledge of this vessel to carry them out.”
    Sen-Gen’s opinion of the spider went up considerably. She recognized a good leader making the best decisions based on available resources and putting self second, “Yes Sir, I will do my best.”
    “Then launch when you are ready, Admiral.”
    Sen-gen hit her intercom button, “Attention all crew members, report your ready status to the bridge.”
    Captain Mendel looked at his board and said, “All sections report ready, Admiral.”
    Sen-Gen looked at Captain Mendel, “Go to battle stations, Captain.”
    Mendel hit the button and the klaxon began wailing, “Battle stations; all hands to battle stations. Arm your weapons.” The lighting on the bridge went to combat luminosity so the board’s lights would be clearer. Sen-Gen nodded and the klaxon silenced. “All hands report ready, Admiral.”
    Sen-Gen looked at Destiny and nodded; he said, “Edison, take us into the other universe.” The huge three hundred mile wide ship disappeared.
    “Nest Mother, I have detected a universal drive entering our universe.”
    The Nest Mother looked quickly at her communication panel, “Where is it?”
    “It’s about halfway across our universe from this location.”
    “Is it one of our vessels?”
    “I do not see a vessel, Nest Mother. We just sensed a drive but nothing where we scanned it.”
    Could this be a hidden vessel? She had to know, “Send a family to investigate. Get them there immediately to scan for jump tracks.”
    The communications male issued the orders and watched as millions of ships left for the site of the disturbance. After ten minutes he reported, “Nest Mother, there were no jump tracks and no ships in the area we scanned.”
    The Nest Mother was confused. “Are you sure a universal drive was used?” The ships had arrived in plenty of time to read jump tracks if a ship had entered there and jumped away. Could it be that it was not visible?
    “Nest Mother I have no doubt about a drive being used in that area.”
    “Have another family report to the site and then order both families to fly through the area covering every inch of that space.”
    Thirty million ships began crisscrossing the area of the emergence. The Nest Mother watched her display as her children looked for a ship.
    Edison teleported away from the entry point to a point where he could barely see the Nest Mother’s ship; there were millions of ships around her vessel. He scanned their locations and downloaded it into his board and then teleported away. He sent his download to the bridge’s main display and waited for Destiny to decide about how to approach. The bridge crew took one look at the screen and was dumbfounded. The Nest Mother’s ship was totally surrounded by main ships out to ninety thousand miles.
    Life looked at Grena on his display, “Are you sorry we accepted this mission?”
    “No, love; I would have been sorry if you were here without me. Even if we die today, at least we do it together. That is all I really want; to be with you.”
    “I think we can do this, and if we do make it out of here I want you to become my mate.”
    “You could have asked me before now. How am I going to show you how happy you just made me?”
    “I thought about that but I want you to know going in that I love you and always will. I just couldn’t wait if things don’t work out.”
    “I accept, Life. No matter what happens today, I will always be your mate.’
    Life smiled and felt his resolve grow to survive this mission. Grena just sat, waited, and felt her heart sing.”
    Stem looked at the screen and said, “How are we going to get through those?”
    Destiny looked at the display, “I am open to suggestions.”
    Sen-Gen shook her head, “I don’t see any way we can get a clear shot at that vessel. The penetrators must have four hundred miles to get up to speed before they hit.”
    Everyone remained silent and began fearing that all of their plans were wasted effort. “Father, I have an idea.”
    Destiny started and then said, “Go ahead, Edison.”
    “We have more than ten thousand screened probes on this ship. Why don’t we teleport them outside this system and then have them use their jump drives to jump back in on the other side of the Nest Mother’s ship. They will detect the probes breaking back into normal space and it should cause some kind of reaction from those surrounding the ship. We’ll turn the probe’s red screens off before they jump back and it might make them think an attack is in progress. I suspect some of the ships on our side will move around to defend against the incoming probes. Just before the probes jump I’ll teleport just outside the outer edge of her defenders and scan for a clear approach to fire the penetrators. All we need is one of the ships in the inner group next to the hull to move. Once we fire, I suspect all of the ships will move to our side just as we teleport to the other side. It’s the only thing I can think of that might give us a chance.”
    Destiny looked at Stem and Sen-Gen and they were nodding. Sen-Gen looked at the display and said, “Let’s do it. I am going to have the probes programmed to detonate their power cells just after they enter normal space.”
    Stem thought, “Then have them jump in among the outer edge of ships and spread them out.”
    Sen-Gen pressed her com, “Attention probe storage; we are programming the stored probes for auto teleport and jump coordinates followed by self-destruct. Check your status boards and insure that all of them respond receipt of the download. Notify me as soon as they are ready.”
    Destiny sent a thought to Edison, “Thank you child. That was good use of your brain.”
    “Let us hope it works.”
    “We’ll know shortly.”
    Stem pressed his com, “Admiral, the probes are programmed. They will jump back in groups of four hundred every four seconds.”
    Sen-Gen looked around the bridge, “Teleport the probes in ten seconds from my mark; Edison, you have control of the ships navigation. Weapons, standby for firing the first three penetrators.” Sen-Gen looked around and announced over the intercom, “Mark.”
    The Nest Mother was watching her display of the ships searching for the possible hidden vessel when the communications male shouted, “We have explosions close to the ship.”
    The Nest Mother jerked around and saw giant explosions among her defenders. Her fear rose dramatically, “Get your ships between me and those attackers. Now!”
    Every Supreme Male thought she was ordering them to engage so they all ordered their families to the other side of the huge ship.”
    Destiny watched his screen closely and then saw one of the innermost main ships move away from the vessel it was guarding. There was a thirty thousand mile wide opening and Edison teleported the Stars End into it. “We have a clear shot, Admiral.”
    Sen-Gen saw the giant ship below and ordered, “Fire the first penetrator package.”
    The first three penetrators ignited and disappeared too fast to follow. The first struck the ship and disappeared followed by a huge explosion from the second. Sen-Gens computer notified him that the first penetrator had breached the hull into the interior. The second penetrator had ignited and burned a path to the outer hull. The third penetrator was a full second behind the first two penetrators and entered the hole in the hull with the two Searchers following immediately behind it. All four disappeared into the giant green ship.
    The Nest Mother felt her ship shake violently. Just as she recovered she was thrown off her bed to the floor as a second violent shaking hit. “What’s happening?” She turned to go back to her command structure when a silver field formed above her and dropped down on her. Right after that another silver field appeared and the command chamber disappeared.
    The communications Male saw the two lights appear and strike the ship from the opposite side of the explosions. “We have been hit on the side away from the explosions. Move to defend us.”
    The Supreme Males felt fear for the Nest Mother and millions of their ships rushed around to the site of the strike. Edison had teleported to just above the green ship’s surface and waited. He knew the Searchers were going to have to travel 18,000 miles through the center of the huge vessel and it would take time. Ships began moving toward the site where the second penetrator had exited the ship and Edison notified the bridge. “We have thousands of Main Ships approaching the exit point.”
    Sen-Gen ordered, “Extend the repulsion screen to eight thousand miles. Penetrator crews, prepare to commence firing on my order.”
    Life and Grena followed the third penetrator into the giant ship until their computers told them they had arrived at the center of the ship, “Wild Man, grab the Mother and let’s get out of here.”
    The computer searched for the chamber but couldn’t find it. Then, Grena’s ship located it and teleported the Nest Mother out.
    Grena sent a thought, “I’ve got the Mother. Life, take the chamber.”
    Life’s computer said, “I think I’ve found the chamber.”
    “Take whatever you want; just get us moving.”
    “Got it; on our way behind Grena.”
    There weren’t any ships in the Nest Mother’s vessel but there were millions of warriors moving to block the exit of the two ships. They chewed their way into the channel and gathered to block the two escaping ships. “Grena, I hope that repulsion screen is all they cracked it up to be.”
    “We’ll see in less than five seconds. There is a huge mass of Eight Legs trying to block the way.” Grena was accelerating and the mass of warriors in front of her braced for impact. She flew at them and grabbed the arms of her command chair just before she struck them. They still had nine thousand miles to the exit.
    Outside the ship, Destiny watched for the two Searchers to emerge but saw nothing on his sensors. Suddenly he saw thousands of green warriors fly out of the exit point at tremendous velocity. He smiled and thought, “They’re on their way.”
    The mass of warriors blocking the tube flew away so fast from the approaching ships that they didn’t have time to realize that their next stop was open space. Thousands of them were rushing away in front of the escaping ships like leaves in a hurricane.
    Sen-Gen didn’t want to fire penetrators at the approaching ships and give away the technology used to kill their ships, but the mass attempting to push through the repulsion screen was growing by the second. He ordered, “Pick a target, prepare to fire.”
    Edison watched the hole in the giant ship as hundreds of thousands of green armored warriors flew out of it into open space. Stem monitored the teleportation system and made sure it stayed within optimum parameters. Then the two Searchers emerged and Edison immediately teleported them inside. He then hit the main teleport key and the Stars End disappeared from the giant mass of green ships. Sen-gen nearly ordered her ship to fire on the mass of ships when she saw open space on the display screen. “Get us home, Edison.”
    “Jumping now to the planet site.”
    The Stars End jumped into the Stars Realm’s universe close to a planet that had abundant life. The Nest Mother was teleported to the planet’s surface and left there to try and figure out what had happened. The huge red ship then teleported to the Algeans laboratory and dropped off the command chamber for them to study. Einstein, Newton, Freud, and Edison began working on it immediately along with Stem, Petal, Sprig, and Twig. Destiny teleported back to his ship and wondered what the Nest Mother was thinking.
    The Nest Mother had almost gone mad with fear when she suddenly appeared inside the small room. She stormed around the room sinking her fangs into anything she could bite and could not think coherently. After five minutes, she forced herself to calm down and think about what was happening. Fifteen minutes later she found herself out in the open on a strange world. The Nest Mother looked around and replayed the preceding twenty minutes. She felt her fear but marveled at how the being that had threatened her had actually made good on their threat. She looked around and thought, “Well, at least I won’t be sending my families anywhere from here.” She felt her hunger as she looked around and decided to eat a rather large four legged creature. She worried about her survival but reasoned that she could have been killed instead of captured so maybe she had some time before they decided what to do with her. “I might as well enjoy it.”

Chapter 5

    The Red being looked at his console and felt his anger rise. Then he heard, “Your project must be causing you problems to be this angry.”
    “I wanted this particular tool because they are more vicious than our current tool. The current tool must be forced to kill even though they are gifted with a form that makes it easy. I also want this new tool to pass the compulsions genetically so they’re not dependent on machines. Unfortunately, they turn on each other when another life form is not available. These creatures were naturally territorial in their original environment and now I’m forcing them into close quarters. I gain one thing but another problem arises. This tool loves to kill and I have to build in restraints.”
    “That may not be a bad thing.”
    “I thought about that but there is time spent traveling to different universes and they cannot restrain themselves from attacking each other that long.”
    “What are you going to do?”
    “I’m not sure; I like their viciousness and don’t want to restrain it but it appears I might not have a choice. Do you have any suggestions?”
    “Why not make them suffer severe pain whenever they touch; that should cut down on their attacks. If the pain is severe enough they will avoid contact unless the final compulsion is activated. You’ll also have to make them immune to that beam weapon you’ve given them.”
    The being thought a moment, “That idea has merit. I think I’ll build the final compulsion to make them the tastiest meal they can eat but possibly cause them to burn if they touch each other without the compulsion. I’ll also enhance their territorial instinct so that when the time comes to remove them it will happen very quickly.”
    “That’s almost funny. The last survivor will end up eating himself.”
    The red being smiled, “You’re right; I really want to actually see that happen. I might make a sample and see if it works.” He thought a moment, “It will require them to wear armor most of the time to prevent damage to each other.”
    “Just make sure they have the capability to rip through the armor when the time comes to remove this tool.”
    “I’ll do it just as you’ve suggested.”
    “Another benefit of this tool over the current is there is no time needed to digest what they’ve killed. They can leave one universe and go directly to another. Once they start killing it will be continuous.”
    “Have you looked in on your current tool?”
    “They are so boring; no, not recently. I’ve been too busy working on the new one. Besides, they won’t be around much longer. I might even let them be the first meal for my new creation and that problematic universe the second. However, these new tools will resolve those issues quickly. As soon as I rework the new structure into them, I’ll look in on the old ones.”
    “Don’t waste your time. You should use it constructively and finish this project.”
    “I know; if you think of anything else let me know.”
    “You know I will.”
    The Supreme Males were on a communication channel attempting to decide what to do. The Senior Male said, “I think we should hatch a new Nest Mother.”
    “To what purpose? The command chamber is gone and without it the new Mother will be useless.”
    “Then what would you suggest?”
    “I believe that she has been taken to that universe that stopped our harvest. If they could come here and take her, that suggests that there is another way into it. I recommend that we scatter and scan our universe and find that other door.”
    “I’ve never heard of two doors.”
    “They are rare but they do exist. Otherwise, how did they come here? There must be another door.”
    The Senior Male thought about the suggestion and decided, “We should at least eliminate it as a possibility. Recall all the families from harvesting and assign them a section to search. Let’s find a way into that problematic universe and destroy it.”
    Another Supreme Male said, “Perhaps the universes closest to the target might have another doorway. Should we check those to see?”
    “Yes, send ships to scan for another entrance. If they find one, come back and notify me immediately. If nothing shows up come back and help scan our universe. Are we agreed on this plan?”
    Every Supreme Male voted yes and they began their search. They did not see the small, red screened, probe left behind. It listened in on their communications and once the ships began jumping out to begin searching, it jumped back to the Stars Realm and down loaded its information to Fleet Command, which passed it on to the Realm’s leadership.
    Sprig looked at the code from the command chamber and ran the program through an independent system to avoid contaminating the main system. It would not be a good thing to have the compulsion program loose. Edison watched the program run and suddenly yelled, “Stop it right here.”
    Sprig froze the data and then backed it up to the point where Edison shouted. He looked at the data stream and saw an odd line of symbols. “What are those, Edison?”
    “Those are encrypted on my species electrical engrams. I think those are the compulsions.”
    “That is a very short line of programming.”
    “It would have to be, Sprig. It must be transferred easily and resist degradation over eons of time. This looks like a very compact virus that rides all the other programs.”
    Sprig looked at the lines of the program and began to see a pattern, “It appears that the fiftieth line is where the main action is held.”
    Einstein looked at the line and added, “It is the two hundredth line where the virus is inserted into organic substances.”
    Sprig looked and did not see what he was referring. “How do you arrive at that?”
    “The last six symbols on the third string match up with the frequency of our nervous system. I believe that this program was written strictly for my species. It won’t work on life forms that have a different frequency.”
    Sprig looked closer and shook his main branches, “Whoever wrote this a genius at bioengineering.”
    “I agree, but it allows an easy change. Most of the rest of this virus is designed to make the host resist any emotions that might be anything other than viciousness. The finer emotions of love, happiness, and friendship are held in check.”
    “What do you mean easy to change, Newton?”
    “All we need to do is change the frequency in it and then have it downloaded again into the host. It should overwrite the previous programming and replace it. Since the frequency will be different the new download will have no effect.”
    Sprig thought about the suggestion, “What frequency would you use; we don’t want this program around to infect another species.”
    “Just choose a frequency of an extinct life form. Do you have any DNA of a species that is extinct?”
    “We have some from one of the planets that was harvested by your ship. That civilization is now dead, so it should only affect that now-extinct life form.”
    Sprig saw the sudden sadness of the three small spiders. “Don’t blame yourselves for their death children; you were forced to do it. Perhaps this will lead to some good from that loss.”
    “I know, Sprig, but we feel the terrible shame of what we’ve done.”
    Sprig looked at the records in his main system and after several minutes looked up, “Here it is; this is the frequency of their brain engrams.”
    Edison looked at the number and then began typing. The frequency was inserted into the virus and then downloaded into the leg receptacles. “Now we have to see if a certain angry Nest Mother will work with us.”
    Sprig looked at the new code, “No, we are going to make her do it.”
    Destiny turned his head upside down, “The Nest Mother is stronger than any male. Making her do anything is not going to be easy.”
    “None the less, we will make her do as we want. You haven’t seen the power of our Red Warrior’s armor.”
    Einstein looked up, “This I gotta see.”
    “Me, too.”
    “And me as well.”
    The Nest Mother was out in the open thinking about how much longer she was going to be left alone when suddenly a silver screen appeared above her and she was teleported into the command chamber. She was also wrapped in some kind of field that kept her immobile and unable to move. She looked around and saw a male of her species, “I must assume you are the Ship’s Male from the missing main ship.”
    “Yes, I am, Nest Mother. I no longer am bound by the compulsions you have placed in me.”
    “That must be an interesting feeling. I just learned about them.”
    Destiny flinched, “What?”
    “Don’t act surprised. I was concerned about my safety and still found myself forced to send the families out to harvest. I discovered I could not control my actions and after a long search I discovered that we are a tool for another race of beings. I’ve tried to think about it but every time I try my mind is forced away from it. I also think they have made a new species to remove us. Did you bring me here to kill me?”
    “No, Mother; I’ve brought you here to try and remove the compulsions from you.”
    “Why?”
    “We think you will see things differently once they are gone. We have to try; you are not responsible for what you have done.”
    “I must tell you that I am fighting as hard as I can the urge to break free and kill everyone in this room and I don’t know how much longer I can resist.’
    Destiny looked at Sprig, “Get her on the platform quickly.”
    The Algean nodded to four Red Warriors and they moved quickly forward and lifted the large spider and moved her to the platform. She began quivering as two of the warriors grabbed her two back legs and inserted them into the back two receptacles. She then started fighting the restraints and moved violently back and forth.
    “Is it working?” Destiny asked in alarm.
    Edison looked at the readout and said, “It’s downloading; just a few more moments.”
    The Nest Mother was beyond thought; all she could feel was extreme anger and hate. She felt the extreme urge to kill this insolent male in front of her. And then she felt nothing.
    Edison looked at the Nest Mother and saw she had stopped moving, “Is she still alive?”
    Destiny looked at the readout on his board, “Yes, she’s unconscious. Move her off the platform and send her back to the planet.”
    The Nest Mother jerked and slowly came back to consciousness. She was hurting in all her legs where she had fought the restraining field and she stood up with great difficulty. She looked around, “This is a beautiful day.” She flinched at the thought; she had never had that kind of thought before. She looked around and thought about what had just happened and then she thought about the red being that had said she would make a good tool. She immediately felt anger. “They have controlled us totally.” She then thought about all the members of her species she had ordered consumed and felt an over whelming sadness grip her. She had killed millions, no billions of her children. She lowered herself to the ground and wept for what she had done.
    “We need to go now,” Destiny said.
    The Nest Mother saw a silver screen appear a distance in front of her and nine beings appeared. Four of them were males of her species, three were still children. The other five were strange creatures with one looking like a tall bush. The four were in some kind of armor holding weapons pointed at her. She rose and waited as they approached.
    Destiny thought to her, “Hello, Mother. How do you feel?”
    “I have killed so many of my children that I cannot count them all. I despair at the memory.”
    “You were made to do it. You had no control over what you were forced to do.”
    The Nest Mother looked at the other beings, “You can put your weapons away; I will never kill again.”
    Destiny felt her pain and moved forward before anyone could say anything.
    “Stop, Destiny,” Sprig thought but he was beside her before he could order her shot.
    Destiny placed one of his front legs on hers and said, “We also feel the pain and shame of all the civilizations we have destroyed. We have decided to try and make up for all the sorrow we have caused. Will you help us?”
    The large spider with huge fangs looked at her son and said, “I do not think there is enough time remaining to repair all that I have made to happen.”
    “We must try, Mother.”
    Sprig thought, “Put your weapons away; she’s free of the compulsions.”
    The three Red Warriors lowered their arms, but kept close watch on the huge spider and continued to hold their weapons.
    The Nest Mother looked and saw the three small spiders and said, “You are some of my children.”
    The three ran forward and she grasped them in her two front legs. I am so sorry for what I’ve done to you.”
    The three spiders reveled in their mother’s legs and felt extreme happiness. She sensed their glee and held them close. Destiny said, “This is Edison, Newton, and Einstein; they are responsible for freeing you from the compulsions.”
    She looked at them and said, “Thank you, my children. Thank you for my freedom.”
    Sprig watched the family of spiders and pressed his com, “Matt, I think you should come and talk with the Nest Mother.”
    “On my way, Sprig.”
    Matt arrived to find the Nest Mother embracing her children. Destiny saw him walking toward them, “Nest Mother, this is the being that saved us when he could have destroyed my ship. He is the ruler of this universe and we owe him for what he has done to free us.”
    The Nest Mother turned and faced Matt, “Thank you for what you have done. I know it must have been a difficult decision.”
    “It was, but it was the right thing to do. I am trying to save your species from destruction but I fear time is growing short. The beings that created you are developing another species to replace you, and it is my belief that you will be destroyed because you will no longer be needed by them.”
    The Nest Mother felt anger, “They have already killed one of my families and then killed the universe where they attacked us. What can I do to help?”
    Matt was shocked. The Reg were right again. “When did that happen?”
    More than sixty times the amount of time you’ve kept me here. The family was completely eliminated and then the rest of the universe was killed. We saw that whoever did it destroyed large population centers from space with some kind of energy beam. It also used the same beam to kill those on the planet’s surface. That beam went through our armor as if we were not wearing it. That universe was destroyed in one fifth the time it would have taken my family.”
    “The beings that forced you to kill made the creatures that did it. I have it on good authority that your species will be the first target of these new creatures. I want to bring your families to my universe for protection if they can come here without the compulsions. Is that possible?”
    The Nest Mother thought for several minutes, “It will be difficult. The Supreme Males control their families and as long as they live, my children are in danger of being consumed by them. I cannot remove the compulsions once they are in place.”
    Matt thought, “Could you remove the Supreme Males from their families?”
    “I believe I could, but then the Ship’s Males would just replace them. They also have the compulsions.”
    What if you ordered them to bring their Ship’s Males with them for a brief meeting; would they then download the compulsions in the one’s left behind?”
    “They shouldn’t if forced to attend quickly enough. What do you have in mind?”
    “We still have Destiny’s ship.”
    “Who is Destiny?”
    “I am; it is my new name.”
    “We can take his ship to your universe and have the Supreme Males come to that ship with their Ship’s Males in transports. Once they arrive, we will teleport you to another ship and then jump that vessel into a universe that has been recently harvested. We will set the universal drive to self destruct upon arrival so they will be stranded in that universe. There will be plenty of planets with food for them and they should survive.”
    “I’m glad you have a plan that allows them to live. I will not kill any more of my children.”
    “Will it work?”
    “That part of the plan will. What do we do about the remaining ships?”
    “Have the Supreme Males order them to stay where they are until otherwise ordered. We think the compulsions will fade in four weeks and at that time you will return and we will attempt to move their ships to our universe. There are enough uninhabited planets for them to settle on until they get themselves oriented to their new world view.”
    The Nest Mother thought about the plan and finally said, “When do you want to do this?”
    “The sooner the better; we have a limited window of opportunity before this universe is blocked from entry and we have to get it done before that happens.”
    “Then let’s do it.”
    Matt looked at Sprig, “Can you make this happen quickly?”
    “With their help, we should be ready in two days.”

Chapter 6

    The Green Ships were searching every foot of the empty universe to find another door. The Senior Supreme Male was watching his board for any reports of success when his Sensor Male shouted, “Universal Drive in the central region.”
    “Go there now!”
    “Message coming in.”
    “What!”
    The Sensor male sent it to the Supreme Male’s board, “Who has been in command while I’ve been gone?”
    The Supreme Males were stunned; it was the Nest Mother. The Senior Supreme Male keyed his board. He could tell she was angry, “I have, Nest Mother.”
    “Well no thanks to you but I have been rescued by the ship that was left in the other Universe. It was hiding from those creatures that abducted me and managed to save me. We are going to have to destroy those creatures. This Ship’s Male has found another way into their universe and we must act quickly and decisively. I want every Supreme Male and every Ship’s Male in their families to come to this ship immediately. Order all your ships to remain where they are, board transports, and come here now.”
    The Supreme Males felt their compulsions kick in and wanted to consume their families but knew that they were not ordered to do so by the Nest Mother. They issued the orders and began boarding transports to come.
    The Nest Mother looked at Destiny, “They are coming.”
    “Nest Mother, should we download compulsions into the ones left in command?”
    “You won’t be away that long, don’t waste my time.” She snarled, “I told you to come immediately!”
    “Yes, Nest Mother.”
    “Order your Ship’s Males to the surface of their vessels immediately for pick up by the transports. I will not tolerate a delay in your arrival.”
    Some of the Ship’s Males were considering downloading the compulsions anyway but they felt their fear rise and scrambled from their command chairs and rushed to get to the surface of their ships.
    The Nest Mother looked at Stem, “They won’t have time to do any downloading. It takes time to get to the surface of their ships.”
    “Will there be room for all of them in this ship?”
    “Each family can get two million in a transport. It will take about four transports for each family so we’ll need to board about fifty thousand transports. We can easily hold that many since you’ve removed the ships from this vessel.”
    Stem looked at the Nest Mother and asked, “Will they be able to rebuild their universal drive?”
    The Nest Mother looked at Destiny who thought a moment and looked at the Nest Mother, “I don’t believe they will. Our ship builders only build ships. I’m sure the information is available to them in their storage of data but the compulsions prevent them from being able to focus on it and correlate all the information they would need. I’m sure they’ll try, but I don’t believe they will overcome the compulsions to build what they need. We are also disabling the system that’s used to down load compulsions; later generations will be quite different. They will be able to find planets that will provide them with the food they need to live. Fortunately, the first planet has enough native life for them to survive for many years.”
    Destiny looked at his board, “Some of the transports are moving our way.”
    The Nest Mother pushed her communication key, “Bring your ships on board; I will talk with each family separately once every ship has arrived.”
    The transports began entering the ship and after five hours all of them were in births. Destiny checked his board and announced, “That’s the last one.”
    Edison hit the universal drive key and the huge ship disappeared and reappeared just above a planet in another universe. The Nest Mother’s board immediately lit up with questions from the Supreme Males. Stem looked at the Nest Mother, “The devices are armed, move to the teleport circle. The four moved and stood on a large silver circle on the floor of the command chamber and Stem keyed his com, “Ready to port.” A silver screen appeared above them and moved down on them just as the first Supreme Males entered the room.
    “What’s going on?” a Supreme Male yelled just as the universal drive console and download panel shorted out and blew apart.
    The Stars End hung in orbit a hundred miles from the huge green ship. Sen-Gen looked at the Nest Mother, “Is there anything you want to say to them before we leave?”
    The nest Mother looked out at the green ship hanging above the planet and sighed, “No, they won’t understand because of the compulsions and hearing it will only make the compulsions hit them harder. Let’s leave them to find their own way.”
    Sen-Gen saw her sadness and nodded to Captain Mendel. Mendel hit the jump drive and the Stars End disappeared.
    The Stars End appeared above Ross and the four teleported to the map room. Destiny looked around and saw Matt and Melanie along with Sprig and Twig looking at the map of galaxies. Sprig turned, “Welcome back. I trust your plan was a success.”
    “Yes it was. Why did you want us here?”
    “We are going to bring your families to our universe and we need to find planets for them to live on. The planets need to provide the necessary food for them to survive and we want to have them located close to each other.”
    The Nest Mother turned her head to the left, “What are you doing?”
    Matt looked at her, “Your families are going to have to stay in this universe until we find a way to defend ourselves against the new species being developed to replace you. They will not be able to leave to harvest other universes and I suspect they will no longer desire to do any harvesting. They will also need time to evolve into what they choose to be. A planet is the perfect place for them to accomplish those things. They will still have their ships if they want to go out and explore but they need a place to call home.”
    “Do you have enough planets for us?”
    “Come over here and take a look, Nest Mother.” Matt stepped aside and let her come and look at the walls of the map room. “I have marked every system with a planet that possesses the proper atmosphere, no intelligent life, ample food, and good climate with a green light.”
    Sprig brought galaxy after galaxy into sharp focus and the Nest Mother saw millions of green lights glowing in them. She stood amazed at what she was seeing. “You’re going to just give us those to live on.”
    “Yes we are; it is our belief that if your children develop like the ones we have here now that your species will contribute more to our life than you would ever imagine. It is in our best interests to have you in our community.”
    The Nest Mother looked at the wall, “Will you help me find the best place for us?”
    “I think I already have,” Sprig thought. A galaxy grew larger and the five spiders in the room saw a huge concentration of green lights out on one of the spiral galaxy’s arms. “There are more than eight million available planets on that arm all within two hundred light years of each other. Your family will all be close to each other and can support each other as your children grow up. I would highly recommend that one of those planets become a university for your brightest children. We will provide instructors and the necessary technology to help them learn all that we know. I would also suggest to our King that a ship building industry be set up on another planet. We will provide you with all of the teleport technology necessary for your many worlds to stay in contact.”
    Matt smiled, “We will certainly provide you everything you need.”
    Destiny looked at the galaxy and felt his heart sing. “With the teleportation system we will only be a moment from each other. It is a perfect choice Sprig.”
    The Nest Mother looked at Destiny and said, “Until I learn enough, I am placing you in command of our families, Destiny. Please make the best possible decisions for my children.”
    “I will, Mother. We have good friends that I trust with my life to help us.”
    Matt smiled at the spiders and then nodded at Melanie, “We have delivered a thousand Defender Class ships to the planet where your children are waiting for your return; they are yours to use as you want. If this galaxy pleases you, you may start moving your family there whenever you are ready.”
    The Nest Mother was over whelmed by the compassion of the beings that she had sent ships to destroy. She decided that these new friends were going to be protected like they were her own children. “We thank you for your generosity and I look forward to building a close relationship with you. I can already feel the changes taking place in me and I know my children are feeling like me.”
    Sprig looked around the room, “We need to begin our plans to bring your families to our universe and acclimate them to their new life.”
    Einstein stood, “I have already designed a small red generator to attach to their universal drives to jump their ships here.” He handed a device that fit in his leg to Sprig.
    “This generator makes enough power to vaporize a planet?”
    Einstein turned his head upside down and said, “And then some.”
    Matt shook his head and said, “Life as we know it is about to change dramatically.”
    The five spiders just looked at each other thinking about all that they wanted to see happen.
    Four weeks had passed and the millions of ships left behind by the Supreme Males waited for instructions. No one dared leave and violate the order to remain but changes were taking place among the inhabitants. The Sensor Males left behind began contacting each other questioning what was happening.
    “Why have they not contacted us?”
    “I don’t know but the warriors are undergoing some kind of change. They are questioning why we kill so many races and quite frankly, I don’t have an answer.”
    “Nor do I; it just seems wrong what we have been doing. I’m not certain the warriors will follow the Supreme Male’s orders even if he did come back.”
    “It is problematic.”
    “Attention all my children.”
    Every ship grew silent. The billions were uncertain about what to do if ordered to harvest.
    “I have removed the Supreme Males from the families in order to remove compulsions that have been placed in our species to kill other intelligent life. I have discovered that we were actually designed by advanced beings to be a tool to remove any possible competition for them. We had compulsions placed in us that forced us to go out and destroy life. I’m sure by now that some of you have started to question why we have done it and some of you may even be considering refusal to do it again.”
    On all the ships the warriors looked at each other and wondered how she could possibly know they were not going to follow her orders.
    “I have had the compulsions removed from me and I am not going to ever kill another intelligent being and I will not allow you to do so either. Our killing days are over. The only ones I would ever consider killing are the ones that forced us to perform the horrors that we have committed. We are going to stop our warlike ways immediately.”
    The inhabitants of the green ships began feeling something alien to them: happiness. Then the Nest Mother continued, “I have learned that the beings that created us are going to destroy us with a new species they have developed. I have made new friends with the inhabitants of another universe and they are going to block that universe from attack. We must move there immediately to be safe. They have given us planets to live on and we will be going there momentarily. In the interim, I am appointing the Sensor Male on each ship as the new ship’s commander and I will be sending an engineer from our new friends to modify our universal drives. Once the drive is modified, jump your ships to the new universe. You will arrive at a location where there will be ships waiting to direct you to your new homes. The engineers will begin to arrive momentarily. Please take them from the ships outer surface to the command chamber. I will contact you again once we are all safe in the new universe.”
    Six weeks passed and only half of the families had been moved. Destiny looked at Stem, “We’re running out of time. We only have five days remaining before the Reg’s barrier is put in place.”
    “There’s just so many, Destiny and we can’t manufacture Newton’s device fast enough. We have to jump them to our universe, go to the surface, teleport to another ship to jump back here and start the process again. My engineers are starting to get tired from the continuous work.”
    “Will the Reg delay?”
    “They say the barrier must go up on that day. I suspect that whatever the beings have cooked up to replace you will arrive at that time.”
    Destiny looked out at the millions of ships remaining and said, “Please hurry and save as many as possible.”
    “We’re doing our best, Destiny.”
    The last day arrived and there were still more than a third of the families waiting to be moved. Destiny looked at Stem and said, “We must have them jump away and try to flee what’s coming.”
    Stem’s leaves were brown and he showed his sadness at so many that would not join their families in safety. “We just don’t have enough time. You’re right; they shouldn’t be here when the time is up.”
    Destiny keyed his communications board when suddenly Eyes said, “Universal Drive breaking normal space ten miles out.”
    “That is a very close emergence,” Stem said.
    “Father, gather the remaining families as close together as possible. We are going to try and move them all at once.”
    Destiny looked at Stem, “Einstein, that’s not possible. They will cover an area more than half a light year.”
    “We have to try; we have a device that will expand the jump field to cover the ships and then we’ll initiate the jump.”
    “What happens if it doesn’t work?”
    “We may lose our lives. However, we have to try it. Call them together now!”
    Destiny struggled with the possible loss of his two children but knew if he didn’t allow them to try they would blame themselves for what followed. So would he. He looked at Eyes and said, “Issue the instructions. Tell them to get hull to hull and move quickly.”
    The green ships began coming toward the ship that had just arrived. Eyes took Destiny’s ship away since it had a drive that would allow them to jump. Stem watched the mass growing by the second and marveled at the numbers. “That’s a lot of ships, Destiny.”
    “We’re leaving millions of them behind from families that were consumed. This ship is not quite as familiar as the one I gave to remove the Supreme Males but I’m getting used to it.’
    The mass continued to grow. “Newton, we’re running out of time. If we’re doing this, it must be done now.”
    “Einstein is adjusting the field now. We’re going to have to extend it further than we planned to include those not in the mass yet.”
    “Don’t take unnecessary risks. Don’t lose the mass to save a few more ships.”
    “They are all important, Father.”
    Stem and Destiny watched the huge mass of green ships as a violet field began moving out from the center of them and extended in a globe big enough to cover them all. “I hope my children survive this.”
    Suddenly the huge mass disappeared. “Take us home, Eyes.”
    Destiny’s ship disappeared.
    An hour later a giant fleet of white ships appeared and rushed toward the green mass and found only empty ships floating in space.
    Matt and Melanie were in the map room watching the map of the dark galaxy. “It shouldn’t be long now. The time is up that the Reg told me they were going to move us.”
    “How do you feel, Love?”
    “Fine, the baby is not ready to come at this moment but it will be soon.”
    “I love you, Melanie.”
    Melanie waited with Matt and watched; she turned to ask Matt if he was sure of the time when suddenly the dark galaxy disappeared from the map. She smiled, “I imagine there will be some disturbed beings today.”
    Matt smiled, “I imagine.”
    The red being was viewing his new creation enter the universe of the old tool and he jumped up from his display shocked at what he saw. They were gone. “What have you done?”
    “What do you mean; I just sent my new tool on its initial run to destroy the old one and they are not there. They have disappeared. Only derelict ships remain.”
    “They are not the only thing missing.”
    “What!”
    “A universe has also disappeared and we cannot find it.”
    “That’s not possible. We’re connected to every universe in existence through the interdimensional plane.”
    “It is no longer connected and we cannot find it.”
    “Could it have been destroyed?”
    The being said nothing.
    “No, of course it couldn’t have been destroyed. What do you think has happened?”
    “An agency has moved it and represents a clear and present danger to us. I also believe this agency must have done something with your old tool. We must find it and destroy it.”
    “How are we going to do that?”
    “All of us will begin searching immediately but first the Elders want answers concerning your old tool.”
    The second being felt fear, “What questions do they have?”
    “When was the last time you checked on your old tool?”
    “Not that long ago; about six million years.”
    “Why did you have them collect information from all the universes they harvested?”
    “You know why. So they could develop whatever they needed to be effective against those they attacked.”
    “Did you ever consider that they with all the information they collected that they could develop the means of breaking the compulsions and hiding from us.”
    The second red being was now scared, “You don’t think that they did this? The compulsions prevented them using highly advanced technology. They could not have done this.”
    “If that is true, where are they?”
    “Give me a small amount to time to find them.”
    The first red being was silent for a moment and then said, “We will immediately begin our search for the missing universe; you have twelve intervals to find your missing tool.”
    The second red being turned to his board and started issuing instructions.
    The White Clan Leader hit his communication panel and said, “Every ship in our fleet has just received a list of universes to scan. You will go to each of those and scan for the green creatures. That is all you will do; there will be no time for killing. If you stop to kill the Maker will deal with you directly and all of you know what that means. If you find them you will notify me at once. You have ten intervals to scan the three thousand universes assigned to you. Be back here in eleven intervals. Now go!”
    The sixty million ships disappeared and the Clan Leader turned and hit his jump button. He was going to have to hurry to get to all three thousand assigned to him.
    The two probes left behind in the former universe of spiders recorded billions of ships break into normal space. They scattered and began searching for the spiders. After an hour, they recorded the instructions being given by the White Clan Leader and waited until all of the white ships had disappeared. The first probe jumped back to the Realm to report its findings to Fleet Command while the first waited for the white ships to return. The probe arrived just outside the blue barrier and waited for the psychic trigger to release its information. After five days, an Alpha Commander moved close to the barrier and detected the probes presence and triggered the relay.
    The leadership council was gathered in the Map room at Castle Gardner. They all rose as Matt and Melanie entered and bowed to the rulers of the Realm. Everyone noticed that Melanie was very pregnant. Matt said, “Please be seated. Destiny, why have you requested this meeting?”
    “You Majesties, we have uncovered some new information and we feel it should be shared with those who direct our efforts against the beings in the dark galaxy.”
    Matt looked at the spider and saw his tension, “What have you found?”
    “My children were able to develop the field that we used to move the rest of the families after our Mother allowed them to download all of the data that had been collected from the many harvestings. They are still working to correlate all that they learned, but one of the things they were able to see is the beings that gave my species intelligence. It was in the original nest Mother’s memory.”
    Matt looked at Melanie and then said, “Please show us on the display monitor.”
    A picture of the red colored being suddenly appeared on the display and everyone in the room gasped, “I know this being,” Terlen said in a soft voice. “It is one of the demons from my race’s ancient history.”
    Matt looked at the picture and said, “We also know this being. It is the embodiment of evil and has been in our history since before we were civilized. It’s missing the horns, lower body of a goat, and a pointed tail, but it is remarkably similar. This was also one of our demons.”
    Teng-Gee looked at the display and everyone in the room could see his cold anger, “This being is also in my race’s past. It is evil indescribable.”
    Matt looked at the being with a face similar to a human only more triangular and a mouth with small pointed teeth. The nose and chin were pointed and its eyes were red. His history had given this being numerous names, Satan, Lucifer, Devil, and many more.
    Sprig thought, “We don’t know this creature, however, it appears that many races have a racial memory of this being. I feel fear, dread, and revulsion when I look at it.”
    Matt looked back at the gathering, “It appears that evil does have a face. These beings are obviously ancient and represent everything that life abhors. We’ll call these beings Red Demons.”
    “There’s more, Your Majesty.”
    “What else, Destiny?”
    “We don’t have a complete picture, but one of the memories has one of their vessels in it.”
    The display changed and right behind one of the red beings was the front end of a vessel. It was glowing orange and appeared to be pure energy.”
    “Do you know what that ship is made of, Destiny?”
    “No, we are unable to identify it.”
    “Thank you, Destiny. Now we know what we’re facing. At least we can put a face on the enemy.” Suddenly Matt heard a thought, “Brother, we wish to communicate.”
    Matt stood up and said, “This meeting is adjourned. Please go and try to determine what that energy is and notify me if you find anything. I have just received a communication from the Reg and I must go speak with them.”
    The attendee’s stood and bowed and Matt looked to see Melanie staring at him, “Have they ever contacted you before?”
    “No; this is the first time so it must be important. I’ll let you know what’s happening but I must leave immediately.”
    “Be careful, Magic.”
    “I will. Al, I need you to come and get me.”
    “I also heard their thought, Magic. I’m over Ross now and I’m teleporting you.” Matt disappeared from the map room and reappeared on Al’s bridge; the ship immediately teleported directly above the planet of the Reg. “I notice you went straight to the planet, Al.”
    “They requested your presence. I didn’t want to keep them waiting.”
    The three Reg appeared on the bridge, “Thank you for coming, Brother.”
    “What do you need, Brothers?”
    The First turned to Matt, “We see that you have seen the red beings. You have a racial memory of them and you know what they represent. We now feel compelled to take part in the coming conflict.”
    “How can you do that without damaging yourself?”
    “We will not lead the fight; you will have to provide the warriors needed to meet them but we will build ships to use against them. They are also in our memory and we are not bound by compulsions that prevent us from assisting you against them. They are also a danger to us and we are allowed to defend ourselves. We cannot directly fight them unless they come to our world but we can provide ships to prevent their arrival. We will suffer no harm in the process.”
    “What warriors will use the ships you build?”
    “The ships will select the warriors.”
    “Will you tell us who they are?”
    “No, the ships will select.”
    Matt thought furiously, “How will they know?”
    “Just like the ship you returned to us, they will know. We didn’t know you were selected for the ship; the ship knew and waited for you. It structured itself for you and your power generator.”
    “Will these ships require two to fly them?”
    “We don’t know; the ships will decide. We will take the crystal to the outer system and it will decide what shape it will take. We do not control it; it is a force unto itself.”
    “Thank you, Brothers; I will do all I can to find the warriors to use these gifts.”
    “You have five years. We will eventually be found by the evil ones. Do not waste the time remaining. Your gift is waiting for you at your home world.” The Reg disappeared and Matt and Al found themselves above Ross next to the crystal ship.
    “Looks like I have to move.”
    “Not immediately, Al. Melanie must have our child before she comes on board.”
    “Fly Girl is also expecting a child, Matt.”
    “Al, that’s wonderful. Why haven’t you told me?”
    “We just found out. I, too, would like to wait until our child arrives.”
    “I’m certain we will be busy for a while trying to find the chosen warriors to fly these ships. I wish I knew how to go about finding them.”
    “Are you going to have time to do that and rule the Realm?”
    “Oh my ancestors; you’re right.” Matt thought for more than an hour and then said, “Before I do anything I have to see if what I suspect is right. Please go back to the outer system of the Reg with Fly Girl and notify me as soon as the ships begin appearing.”
    “We’ll leave immediately.”
    Matt appeared back in the Map Room and he sat down and thought about how to find the chosen warriors.
    Two hours later he heard, “Magic.”
    “Yes, Melanie.”
    “It’s time. You’ll have to tell me later about your visit to the Reg. Our baby is coming to see us.”
    Matt jumped out of his chair and ran out of the map room.

Chapter 7

    Matt sat on the bed beside Melanie looking at their baby. He was amazed at how small she was and how much he loved her. His heart was almost overwhelmed with his emotions. He and Melanie had been talking with her mentally months before she was born and the child would radiate its happiness at hearing them. “She’s beautiful, Magic. I have to believe that this is your greatest trick ever.”
    Matt shook his head, “No, Darling, this was all you.”
    “You’re sweet but it takes two to make a baby.”
    Matt smiled and asked, “What are we going to name her?”
    Melanie looked at Matt and said, “The only name we could ever consider; her name will be Angel.”
    Matt looked at Melanie and then leaned down and kissed her tenderly. “Her middle name will be Grace.”
    Melanie looked at him with tears in her eyes and held on tightly. The baby yawned and fell asleep feeling her parent’s love.
    Matt stayed with Melanie and the baby for three days but then he heard Al’s thought, “Matt, five masses of crystal have appeared in the outer system. They don’t look anything like your ship but just large lumps of crystal.”
    “You say there are five.”
    “Yes.”
    I’ll be out to join you after I pick up some passengers.”
    “We’ll be here; congratulations on the birth of your little girl. Tell Melanie for me, please.”
    “Fly Girl has already contacted her and gave her both of your well wishes.”
    Al sighed mentally, “She’s better at that kinda stuff than I am.”
    Matt laughed, “So is Melanie.”
    Matt sent a thought, “Cassandra, could you come to Ross and bring Tommy with you. If you could come in the Kosiev I’d appreciate it.”
    “What’s up, Matt?”
    “I’ll explain when you arrive.”
    “We’ll finish up here and probably arrive in thirty minutes.”
    “That would be fine, Cassandra.”
    “Tag, will you and Danielle join me in the map room in thirty minutes, please.”
    “Is it something that can wait?”
    “No, Tag, it isn’t.”
    “We’ll drop what we’re doing and be there.”
    “Thank you.”
    “Anglo, will you join me in the map room in thirty minutes, please.”
    “I’ll be there.”
    “Sprig, would you and Twig mind meeting me in the map room in thirty minutes?”
    “We’ll come immediately, Your Majesty.”
    “Make it thirty minutes from now if you don’t mind.”
    “See you then.”
    “Life, please meet me in the map room at Castle Gardner in thirty minutes. Bring Grena with you.”
    “Yes, Your Majesty.”
    Melanie looked up at Matt, “What are you doing?”
    “Rounding up the usual suspects to see if they are some of the chosen.”
    “Matt, I don’t want to leave our child without parents.”
    “Melanie, if we lose this next round, none of us will be around. We owe it to our child to make sure we do all we can to protect her.”
    “You’re right. I just love her so much and worry about her future.”
    “I know.”
    “How are the spiders adapting to living on a planet?”
    Matt smiled broadly, “They’ve taken to it like a fish to water. Some of them have even discovered that they still have web making capability. Those webs are huge. I believe they could catch a dinosaur in them.”
    “I’m glad; they deserve a time of peace.”
    “We’re also protecting them as well.”
    “Maybe they can help us.”
    “We can only hope.”
    Matt sat in the Map Room looking at all the systems that were members of the Stars Realm and was amazed at how fast the Realm had grown. Governing that vast a Realm was proving to be a big problem and something had to be done to make it work or the Realm would fall apart because of the weight of members. Perhaps his idea might work if what he suspected was true. Anglo Gardner walked in and bowed, “Your Majesty.”
    “Please come in and sit down.”
    Cassandra, Tommy, Life, Grena, Sprig and Twig all arrived within a second of each other and bowed. “Please sit down. We have two more attendees and then we will begin.”
    The group made small talk for ten minutes and then Tag and Danielle appeared. “Sorry we’re late. You caught us out in the open and we had to walk in to our teleporters.”
    Cassandra looked at them with a sly look, “I thought you always kept them on.”
    Danielle smiled, “We don’t keep anything on at all times.”
    Tag turned red and Cassandra laughed out loud.
    “Well thank you for coming. I had a meeting with the Reg a few weeks ago and they are going to assist us in our struggle against the Red Demons. I’m going to call them that because that seems to be the common thread of how they are viewed.” Tag started to speak but Matt held up his hand. “Let me finish and then I will answer any questions you might have. The Reg are going to build ships for us to use against them and we have to provide the crews for the ships they build. We already have one ship that Melanie and I have been fitted to use. I asked them to help me find the other crews and they told me that they had no idea who they are; the ships would select their crews. I questioned them quite closely on this subject and it seems that the ships are almost like a life form and will only accept the ones chosen by it. Remember we flew our entire fleet of Searchers by the first one before we determined Melanie was one of the two chosen by the ship. The Reg will not fight outside their planet’s system so we are given the task of defending our universe. I have been given the quest of finding the warriors to crew the ships. I’ll entertain your questions now.”
    “Why have you brought us to this meeting?”
    “I know that these ships are powered by psychic forces. I believe I have the strongest psychics in the Realm in this room.”
    “So you intend to see if we are some of the chosen?”
    “Yes Danielle; or eliminate you so you can go on whatever path you choose to take.”
    “How many ships are being built?”
    “I honestly don’t know, Anglo. I also don’t know if they will require two man crews or single pilots. I asked but the answer was the same; the ships will decide.”
    “How will you make the determination?”
    “I am going to take all of us out to the first ships that have arrived and let Al take each of you close by to see if the ships respond to you. I’m hoping they will show us. Does that answer your question, Tommy?”
    “Yes, it does.”
    “Why did you bring Twig and I here?”
    “Because I’m not certain about the psychic part of this equation; I want to know if you might be one of the chosen. I’m not assuming anything; any more questions?”
    The group was silent. “Good, Cassandra if you will take us to the Kosiev, we will leave immediately.”
    Everyone started talking at once. Matt held up his hand and everyone quieted, “The Reg told me there wasn’t much time to find the chosen. We need to know now.”
    Everyone looked at Matt and then Cassandra turned her com over and punched in the necessary coordinates. The group disappeared from the library and arrived in the Kosievs’ conference room. “Matt, what are the coordinates for our jump?”
    Matt gave them to Cassandra mentally. Cassandra pressed the ships intercom, “Attention all hands; we will be teleporting in twenty seconds. Move to your stations immediately.” Cassandra grabbed Tommy’s hand and said to the group, “Meet me on the bridge upon arrival.” She pushed her bracelet and they disappeared.
    Matt looked at Tag and he had a concerned look on his face. “You’re not telling us something.”
    “Now is not the time. Please be patient.”
    Tag looked at Danielle, “Do you know what it is?”
    “Yes.”
    Tag stared at her. “You’re not going to tell me are you?”
    Danielle smiled, “Nope.”
    Matt smiled and Danielle laughed. “I bet she does know,” Matt thought and then the universe turned and they were in the Reg’s outer system.
    The group teleported to the bridge and saw five glowing crystal lumps on the Kosievs main display. “That is exactly what your ship looked like when we uncovered it.”
    Matt looked at the group and said, “This is how we are going to do this. Al, are you listening in?”
    “Of course.”
    “I want you take each person and move slowly by the crystals to see if they change. Please make a record of what happens.”
    “Anyone want to go first?”
    “I do.”
    “Danielle it is.” Danielle disappeared and Al moved toward the five crystals. As Al passed in front of the crystals the first turned dark, as did the second and third, but the fourth crystal had a golden glow coming from inside. The fifth turned dark.
    “Tag, will you go second?”
    Tag shrugged and Danielle appeared on the bridge and Tag disappeared. The fourth ship gave off the golden glow as Al approached with Tag. The others turned dark.
    “Anglo, it’s your turn.”
    Anglo disappeared as Tag appeared on the bridge. Matt watched and the first four ships turned dark and he started to eliminate Anglo but the fifth ship glowed gold through its outer surface.
    “Sprig.” Sprig disappeared and all of the ships stayed dark.
    “Twig.” Again all of the ships stayed dark.
    “Cassandra.” The first ship glowed golden.
    “Tommy.” Once again the first ship turned gold.
    “Life, you’ve been very quiet during all of this.”
    “That’s because the second ship belongs to me.”
    Matt stared at the Gresh, “How do you know that?”
    “I have an affinity for ships. That one loves me.”
    Grena smiled, “He’s right. I can feel it, too.”
    “Then both of you go together and let’s see what happens.”
    The two disappeared and as they approached the second ship the golden glow broke through the surface and was almost blinding. The crystal began to change shape and Matt recognized the bow starting to form. “Looks like he knew what he was talking about.” Matt thought a moment and then turned to Sprig, “Where is Stem right now?”
    “He’s at one of the ship building facilities spending time with his mate. Why do you ask?”
    Matt punched his com, “Stem, I’m sending you some coordinates; please teleport to them immediately and please bring your mate with you.”
    A silver field appeared and Stem stepped out with Petal at his side. They were immediately teleported to Al as Life and Grena appeared. “Let me tell him, Matt?”
    “Go ahead.”
    They all heard Stem ask, “What’s going on?”
    “We’re trying to see if you will make a good meal for these rock creatures.”
    The whole room erupted into laughter. Sprig thought, ‘They never stop.”
    Matt laughed and managed to say, “No, thank goodness.”
    The third ship gave off a golden glow and started developing.
    Sprig and Twig were stunned silent with their laughter stopping abruptly.
    Stem asked Al, “Does that mean the ship wants to eat us?”
    Al was stunned, “No, Father. I never expected you to be one of the chosen.”
    “Chosen what?”
    “You and Petal will be one of the universe’s defenders. The third ship has chosen you to be its crew.”
    Stem was shocked silent.
    Stem and Petal reappeared on the Kosievs’ bridge and Twig and Sprig moved forward and embraced them in their branches. “My children, we are so proud of you.” Sprig then transferred all that had happened over the last two hours.
    Stem absorbed it instantly and then turned to Matt. “Well, it looks like Petal and I will be spending more time together.”
    Petal leaned over next to him, “I’m excited to get out of the ship building business and spend more time with you. I’ve missed being with you.”
    “I’ve missed you, too.”
    Matt shook his head in amazement and said, “We need to find Anglo’s other crewmember, but in the mean time I want Tag and Danielle to go by their ship together as well as Cassandra and Tommy. Al, I think you can take all four of them on one trip.”
    The four disappeared and everyone watched the display as their respective ships exploded with golden light and began changing shape. Sprig thought, “Matt, what possessed you to bring Stem?”
    “I don’t know. I just felt that he should also be checked. Maybe the ship put the thought in my mind.”
    Anglo looked gloomy, “I have no idea who could possibly match up with me. I’m clueless.”
    “Well, I think we can possibly start searching. However, I want everyone back in the Map Room tomorrow at the same time as today. Please discuss what happened here today and we’ll decide what must be done next.”
    The red being was starting to get frustrated. He was looking at hundreds of universes every hour but none of them were the missing one. “We have not found it either.”
    “How many are searching?”
    “Everyone.”
    “Even the Eldest?”
    “They are looking hardest of all. They have more fear than those that came later.”
    “Surly nothing exists that could be a real threat to us.”
    “Don’t even think that around them; their fear is real. I can feel it in them.”
    “I have looked at the records and the missing universe was harvested of all intelligent life just eight million years ago. That’s not enough time for them to evolve to a level dangerous to us.”
    “Perhaps the ones that moved it came into it from another universe.”
    The red being thought about that idea, “That is a possibility. Should we be afraid?”
    “If they are as frightened as I sense they are, I must give some weight to their experience. I am worried.”
    “Do you think we might have missed it in our rush to search quickly?”
    “We are going to keep looking until we find it.”
    “I will look carefully from this time forward. You have me worried now.”
    “That is probably a good thing.”
    “I’ll be hearing from my new tool shortly. Perhaps their search will bear fruit.”
    “I hope for your sake they do.”
    The second being felt his fear go up.”

Chapter 8

    The group was back in the map room and Melanie came down with Angel Gardner and introduced her to the attendees. “Hello everyone, this is A.G.”
    Everyone admired their child and all of those with psychic abilities could feel the baby’s power. Melanie then handed Angel to her nurse and she took the baby to the nursery to care for her.
    Matt stood and said, “I know some of you that were chosen by a ship yesterday may have misgivings about what that means and the mission you are charged to fulfill. Unfortunately, there is no option about serving aboard them. The Realm will depend on us to protect it and all of you have sworn an oath to defend it with your lives. Does everyone understand this?”
    Tag leaned back, “Well, so much for retirement.”
    The attendees laughed as Danielle punched him in the ribs.
    “There is another issue that has to be resolved and this is something that I have given a lot of thought and feel quite strongly must be done immediately. Melanie and I are abdicating the Realm’s Throne.”
    The room burst out as everyone spoke at once, everyone except Danielle. She sat in her chair and nodded at Matt. He smiled at her and waited for the room to settle down. Finally, everyone sat back down and grew quiet. “Danielle, would you explain why this has to be done.”
    Danielle stood and looked around the room, “Matt and Melanie are going to be directly fighting the Red Demons. What do you think the Realm will do if they learn that their rulers are in the thick of battle against an enemy that puts all the others to shame especially if he is killed in the conflict? Matt has also been charged to find the other crews for the ships the Reg are building. He cannot rule the Realm and also perform the duties he is charged by the Reg to perform. He has no choice but to abdicate and work to build the fleet we must have to protect us. We should also remember that he is our only contact with the Reg.”
    Anglo looked at Danielle, “Then that also eliminates you and Tag from the throne as well.”
    Matt answered, “Yes, it does eliminate them. The new King and Queen of the Stars Realm will be Duke Sprig and Duchess Twig Gardner.”
    Sprig grew four feet before he could stop himself, “The Realm will never allow it. The Realm must be ruled by a Gardner; I’m not qualified”
    Matt looked at Sprig, “Sprig, you are a Gardner.”
    Sprig mumbled, “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.”
    Danielle stood, “Sprig, they will allow it because Matt was going to abdicate before he learned about the Reg ships. Am I right, Matt?”
    Matt smiled at Danielle, “You are incredible at seeing the truth. Yes, I was; everyone please sit down and let me explain why Sprig and Twig must accept the crown.”
    Twig thought, “What are you talking about “must accept”?”
    “The Realm now has more than twenty million members to rule. We are being asked to direct all of the member’s actions between the various members and quite frankly, we are failing to do the job we are entrusted to handle. It is my belief that if we don’t get a handle on ruling the Realm, then it will fall under its own weight. Humans do not have the mental capacity nor the speed to digest all of the issues coming before the crown and make timely decisions. Only two members of the Realm do have the necessary skills to do what needs to be done. The spiders appear to have it as well as the Algeans; however, the spiders are a new member and the Realm will not trust a race that was so violent such a short time ago. Sprig, tell me honestly that I am better equipped to handle the millions of members than you are and I’ll change my mind.”
    Sprig was struggling with what to do. He had seen the mass of problems stacking up in the support chambers and knew they were getting bigger by the moment. “A king is more than a problem solver, Matt.”
    “A good one is the best problem solver, Sprig. It is also important that their solutions reflect the values of the crown. You are the best candidate to rule the Realm, Sprig. With Twig helping you, the Realm will survive. Without you, I firmly believe it will fall.”
    Twig turned to Sprig and put her branches on his, “I don’t want this responsibility but you know he’s right. Look at the data on past civilizations.”
    “I already have, Dear; I see it; I just don’t like it.”
    “Then you have no choice. You have sworn to do all you can to protect the Realm. If you see it, you must accept.”
    Tag leaned forward, “Trust me, old friend, it gets easier after a few hundred years and you know my family is available anytime you need us.”
    Sprig looked up, “I wonder what Wes would say at this moment.”
    Cassandra laughed out loud, “He’d say, “What are you waiting for you overgrown pile of kudzu?”“
    Twig started shaking with laughter, “You’re probably right.” He straightened up, “How do we do this?”
    “We need to prepare; we’ll make the announcement next week. This meeting is adjourned until we handle this issue.” Everyone stood and went to congratulate Sprig.
    Destiny entered the meeting and General Durk was right behind him. “Your Majesty, one of the probes we left in our old universe arrived at Fleet Command and we have just downloaded what it recorded. The Demon’s new tool arrived in our old system an hour after we left.”
    Matt shook his head, “We cut that pretty close.”
    “Yes we did, Your Majesty, but that’s not the issue. The probe recorded the creatures giving instructions to all of its ships to go and scan universes looking for the green creatures.”
    “A lot of good it will do them, Destiny. You are here hidden behind the Reg’s screen.”
    “We are here but the Supreme Males you sent to another universe are not and they know about you and the Reg.”
    Matt was shocked, “You’re right. I completely forgot about them. Destiny, we can’t bring them here; they’re too dangerous.”
    “I know; your only choice is to kill them before they reveal the existence of the Realm.”
    “If they’re found we would be wasting our time. Those Red Demons can make them give up what they know. I’m also concerned that if we go there, we might be followed back.” Matt thought a moment, “We’ve got to go talk with the Reg. Al have you been listening to this conversation?”
    Matt found himself on Al’s bridge, “Yes, We’re on our way.” Al teleported to the planet of the Reg and waited. After a minute, three Reg appeared on the bridge and one thought to Matt, “You want to know if you can take the gift we gave you?”
    “Should we even try?”
    “Yes, there would be a possibility that even if this universe was found by the Demons and destroyed they might still miss our existence. It is necessary for you to try and defend that knowledge.”
    “How do I move Al into the ship?”
    “He is not needed at this time, Brother.”
    “Will they be able to follow me back to our universe?”
    “Your gift does not leave any tracks to follow.”
    “Are its weapons available?”
    “Yes they are. This is an exercise in self-defense; it will not harm us.”
    “Where is it?”
    “Waiting for you at your home.”
    The three Reg disappeared, Al teleported back to Ross, and Matt teleported down to the Castle.
    “Melanie, I need you to take a short trip.”
    “Where?”
    “We need to go to our Reg ship.”
    “Now?”
    “Yes, now.”
    Melanie took Matt’s hand, “I said I’d follow you anywhere.”
    Matt pressed his bracelet and they appeared on the bridge of the Reg ship. They sat down in their chairs and the golden glow filled the room and then settled into a light blue luminance. “What are you thinking, Love.”
    “The Demon’s new tool arrived in the spider’s old universe ten days ago and found them missing. The leader of the Demon’s ships instructed all of his fleet to start scanning universes for the green creatures. I forgot that we sent that ship of males to another universe. If they find that ship, they’ll learn about the Realm and the existence of the Reg. We must prevent that happening.”
    Matt, they already know something’s amiss with our universe disappearing. If they find our universe, they find us. This is really about the Reg isn’t it?”
    “Yes. There is a chance that even if they find us they could still miss the Reg since they are not organic beings. If the Reg survive, even if we are destroyed, they may be able to end this menace sometime in the distant future. It’s worth the risk to try and protect them.”
    “Where are the Males?”
    “We’re jumping there momentarily; however, we need to power up our weapons and drives. Are you ready to link?”
    Melanie closed her eyes and felt the trillions of links between their chairs. She thought, “Now!”
    The small ship started thrumming and the sound quickly rose in frequency and the glow around the ship thickened as the sound went higher up the octave. Matt felt the connection with Melanie and felt his psychic power grow. He closed his eyes and felt the ships weapons come on line. He also felt as if he and Melanie was one person. “This is wonderful. We need to do this more often.”
    “You’re right. I just hate we have to do this.”
    “We can’t save them, Melanie. They are still bound by the compulsions and could infect Destiny and his family.”
    “I know; I just hate we can’t save them.”
    “Do you have them located?”
    “Yes, and they have been discovered by the new tool.”
    “Are we too late?”
    “I don’t know but they are dead either way. I’m taking us there now.”
    Matt warmed up his weapon console and watched what Melanie was seeing.
    “Maker, one of my Clan Warriors has found some of the green creatures. There is only one ship here but the occupants are still alive.”
    “Give me your location.” The Red being saw the coordinates on his display.
    “Where are you going?”
    “My new tool has found some of the old tool still alive. I am going to find out what they know.”
    “Is that a good idea?”
    “What do you mean?”
    “What if your old tool discovered a way to break the compulsions? What do you think the Elders will do if they find out?”
    The Red Being thought about that scenario and said, “Either way, I need to handle this situation. I would rather make this trip than have one of them go.”
    “I can’t argue with that.”
    “I’m taking my ship. I’ll update you when I return.
    “I’m not sure I want to know.”
    “I can understand that.”
    The Red Demon entered his ship and activated its drives. The ship immediately appeared above a planet where a hundred of his White Clan Ships were waiting. He looked at his panel and saw the Supreme Male was still on board the Mother Ship. He hit a switch on his console and the Supreme Male felt the compulsion hit it like a stunner. “Give me what you know!”
    The Supreme Male began sending his memories directly to the board of the orange colored ship. As the information was being received the Red Demon said, “Destroy all the green creatures on the planet.”
    The hundred ships in orbit began hitting the Eight Leg ships on the planet with their main beams as millions of White Warriors swarmed out of their ships and flew down to the planet.
    “Matt, an orange ship has arrived next to the main ship.”
    “Jump in a hundred miles from it and be ready to run.”
    “Jumping now.”
    The Supreme Male was dying quickly. He was being sucked dry just as if he was surrendering to the Nest Mother but there was no pleasure in this surrender; the pain was unendurable and the Red Demon enjoyed it immensely. The Sensor Leader watched as the Supreme Male suffered and tried to move his ship to ram the orange ship. He entered the directions to the ship’s drives and immediately fell over dead. Part of the compulsions prevented any attempt to disobey the Red Demon and death happened if one tried.
    Suddenly a blue ship appeared and the Red Demon turned his attention to the newcomer. Before he could do anything, a bright blue beam struck the Eight Leg Mother Ship and it shattered into millions of fragments. An edge of the blue beam grazed the orange ship and seven systems were shut down. The Red Demon was briefly stunned and as it quickly recovered it saw the blue ship had disappeared. He turned to his board to scan the area where the intruder had appeared but his systems were still off line. He slammed his fist on the board and sent a message to the white ships, “Follow that ship.”
    The White Clan Leader jumped his ship to the spot where the blue ship had appeared but there was no trace of a departure or arrival. “Maker, there is nothing here to track.” He shivered in his command chair hoping the Maker would not take his anger out on him. He cringed anticipating his destruction.
    The Red Demon looked down at the planet and saw that all of the old tools had been killed. He should have waited until he finished gathering information from the Supreme Male but how could he have anticipated anyone stopping him. He thought a moment and ordered, “Gather all of your clan at the universe of the old tool. Go there immediately!”
    The White Clan Leader hit his plotter and sent the instructions. In all the universes being searched, the White Clan stopped and set their drives for the Eight Legs Universe. The White Clan Leader was excited at the prospect of killing the old tool; why else would the Clan be going back to the green creature’s universe?”
    The Red being could see from the information he had gathered that there was a universe that had found a way to kill the old tool. That universe had kidnapped the Nest Mother and her chamber and had removed the Supreme Males from their ships. That universe was where his old tool was now hiding. He also saw a race of rock creatures that had the capability to destroy the old tool and they had been in existence for more than two hundred million years. He had not looked at the information his old tool had gathered and he now knew his life was over if this information was revealed. He decided that this was not going to be given to the Elders. He was also going to keep the blue ship a secret. The Elders would find out about it as soon as the missing universe was found. His systems came back on line and he went to the place where the blue ship had entered and there was nothing to follow. He erased the information he had retrieved and purged the data bank that had stored it. He jumped back to his lab.
    “What did you find out?”
    “Nothing, that new tool of mine could not restrain themselves and killed every green creature before I arrived. There was only one ship of the old tool present.”
    The first Red Demon looked at the second and almost forced him to reveal what had happened but knew the peril he would face if this underling had caused that universe to go missing.
    “You have not been able to control them effectively.”
    “They are still new and need some detail work. They were not made to capture anything but to kill it. They are very efficient at doing that.
    “Is that tool of yours far enough along to go unsupervised?”
    “Not really. I also suspect that whoever was capable of moving a universe and hiding it from us will be immune to their attack.”
    “You really don’t have time to devote to them now.”
    “I know; I’ll dispose of them and start searching.”
    “That would be wise. You can make them again later.”
    “Does it look like we will have to use our ships to confront this problem?”
    “We always knew it was a possibility.”
    “Watch your display, this should be entertaining.” The second red creature also knew that all witnesses to the actual events involving the blue ship were about to be eliminated. He planned to do it even if his superior had not recommended it.
    The Leader of the White Clan jumped into the Eight Leg Universe with all the members of his clan excited at the prospect of killing the green creatures. He looked at his board and saw there was still no life in the universe and the green ships floating in space were lifeless. What was going on? He thought the Maker had sent them back because the old tool had returned.
    The Maker came on his board and demanded to know why he had made a mistake plotting. He shivered in fear and then he heard over his ships communication system, “Time to dine.” The compulsion hit the Clan Leader like a hammer. He turned and saw his mate standing next to him and he attacked her just as she was striking at him with her talons. As he was chewing on her shoulder, ten other members of the Clan fell on them and devoured them. The compulsion forced the white creatures to eliminate their leaders first and then each other. In all the white ships, the crews were burning as they attacked each other. The last survivor of each ship left and flew out into space to continue the carnage.
    The two red beings watched the destruction of the new tool and enjoyed every moment. They were disappointed when the last creature killed itself. “When you rebuild this tool you need to make this process happen slower. Do away with the burning and just make them eat each other.”
    “I will, but you have to admit the compulsion was effective.”
    “It was very effective. I just want to see more of it.”
    “Me, too, I’ll make the change.”
    “I think the Elders are disturbed by the absence of your old tool. You might invent something to tell them.”
    “How disturbed are they?”
    “Very.”
    The red being felt a fear that his creation had just experienced.
    The probe that remained in the former universe of spiders recorded billions of ships break into normal space. After an hour, they suddenly turned on each other and begin attacking. The white furred beings with multiple rows of eight-inch sharpened white teeth and long white talons began ripping each other apart. They left their ships to kill each other in open space. In less than a day, the last survivor started eating itself until it died. Only the probe was there to watch its death. The probe waited to be collected.
    Matt and Melanie had jumped to another universe and waited twelve hours to see if anyone followed them. “Jump to another universe, Melanie.”
    Melanie jumped and they waited another fourteen hours. “I don’t know if we prevented the information from being obtained. That ship wasn’t there very long but I don’t know how fast those beings can take information from their tools. We can only hope we destroyed the ship in time.”
    Matt thought a moment and said, “Melanie, we need to take a look at the Eight Leg home universe.”
    “Why?”
    “One of our probes is still there and I’m not comfortable leaving it there or jumping it away. If it wasn’t destroyed, I want to see if we can find it and possibly retrieve it or download its information.”
    Melanie looked at her display panel and thought about what she wanted to see. After a moment, the probe appeared. “I’ve found it. I also see millions of those white ships left floating around. What happened? Do you think the Demons are watching it to try and trace it?”
    Matt closed his eyes and thought about the danger of taking the probe. His sense of danger rose to a very high level. “No, we can’t take it.” He then thought about retrieving the probe’s information and his sense of danger remained low. “If we can take the data from it without being traced the danger is at a low level. Are you able to do that?”
    “Stand by.” Melanie brought the probe in to a closer view and then felt the psychic links in her chair. She thought about the data storage and her mind went into the device and she could see all it recorded. She mentally absorbed the information and then copied it to her chair’s display. “I’ve got it.”
    “Break contact with that universe.”
    “I did and I put the probe on self destruct.”
    “I think that was a good thing to do. Let’s go home and see what you’ve got.”
    “You might want to view it here, Magic. This is pretty gory material.”
    “Put it on my board.”
    The recording started and they watched as the white furred creatures entered the universe, began searching, and then turned on themselves. At the end, Matt felt horror and outrage. “They created billions of creatures and then totally destroyed them when our universe went missing. Their callousness is beyond belief.”
    “I’m as shocked as you are but what if you made a tool and went to try it out and found that you didn’t have time to fine tune it. What would you do?”
    “Put it aside until I could repair it?”
    “You can’t put a life form aside. They just destroyed it and will create another when they have time. Life has no meaning to them. If we can’t stop them, we will all die Matt. I can see it as clearly as I see you.”
    “We need to show this to the Realm.”
    “I know.”
    The Realm received the announcement that in five days King Matthew Anglo Gardner was going to talk with the Realm about an urgent issue. The announcement was repeated every hour until the time for him to appear. By the time the King appeared on every display in the Realm, more than ninety nine percent of the Realm’s citizens were watching to see what was so urgent.
    Matt looked out at the recorders, “Thank you for giving me this time to talk with you about a confrontation the Realm is going to have.” Everyone felt immediate apprehension; they all remembered the last invasion. “We are facing a crisis that has been coming for longer than there has been life in our universe. You all know about the Green Ships that invaded our universe bent on killing all intelligent life. We prevailed in that conflict but there is something you do not know about the outcome. The green creatures were deliberately created by an ancient race of beings to kill all life that possessed intelligence. They placed compulsions in them that forced them to harvest universes. They had no control over their actions. We discovered the compulsions and were able to remove them from billions of the species we call spiders and they assisted us in defeating the main invasion. Without their help, we could have lost the war. Their race is a peaceful and gentle one that was forced to become killers. They now peacefully co-exist with us in our universe. We have since discovered that the beings that created them have created another species even more deadly than the green creatures and that the spiders were to be their first target. When the creators of these new destroyers discovered that the spiders were missing, they decided that they did not have time to develop this new tool of destruction they had created. I am going to play a recording of what they did. This starts when their new creatures entered the old universe of the spiders.”
    The recording began and ran for thirty minutes. The death of the final survivor was added to the end to show how it ended. A picture of the Red Demon was shown after the video stopped. The Realm saw the picture and started to feel fear and revulsion.
    “This is how those beings appear. That race they created to replace the spiders had no choice but to kill each other because of compulsions put in them by the beings that are now looking for our universe. They had no regard for the billions that they killed. Our universe is currently hidden from them by a psychic barrier but they will eventually find us. A race that is the oldest in our universe is providing that barrier and is currently building ships for us to meet the coming demons and I have been charged to find the crews to use these ships in the defense of our universe.
    I am at heart a Searcher. It is my calling and I must find the warriors to crew the ships that will be used to protect us. With that in mind, I also want to talk with you about the tremendous difficulty the Crown is having in providing the necessary support for our members. The sheer mass of decisions that must be made to keep the Realm functioning smoothly is becoming more that we can cope. We know that if something is not done to handle this problem the Realm will fall from the weight of its numbers. You know what I’m telling you is true. Unfortunately, humans are just not equipped to handle the necessary volume of decisions fast enough.
    We know someone that can and the Realm needs him now. Melanie and I are abdicating our crowns and are stepping aside for Duke Sprig Gardner to replace me as King of the Stars Realm. His mate, Duchess Twig Gardner will become the Realm’s new Queen. My family will be available for his use any time he needs us however for the immediate future we will be focusing on protecting the Realm from its enemies.” Matt leaned forward, “An Algean can process more information is a minute than a Human could in twenty years. He is the only one capable of breaking the logjam of decisions that must be made. It is his active role against the Captors and the Eight Legs that allowed us to survive without having to totally destroy them. He embodies all that is right and good with our Realm and the Gardner Family trusts him with our lives. He is what will save us. I thank you for your time and I ask your support for the Realm’s new Royal Family.”
    The Realm was in a somber mood. A Human Gardner was not going to be the Realm’s ruler. Then a recorded history was shown of all that Sprig had done during the war with the Captors and then with the Eight Legs, giving emphasis to the development of the teleportation device and duplication of the Kosievs’ hull. They learned of the risk he and Twig took to download each other and their near death as a result. They learned how he had teleported into Wes McAnn’s damaged ship risking his life to save the survivors just a moment before it was going to be destroyed by Captor energy balls. They learned of how the Realm’s ships and weapons had all been designed and built by the Algeans working for Sprig. The Realm also learned that there would probably not be a Realm except for the bravery and skills of the Algean. The cheers began soon after the history completed. They grew as the billions thought about how the Realm had to have him to handle the load of ruling the Realm. They finally could be heard outside Castle Gardner as millions of the Realm’s citizens teleported in to cheer their new King.
    Sprig heard no cheers after the announcement and felt that perhaps the decision was a mistake. Twig sat with him in the map room, “They will come to like you, Dearest.”
    “I’m not a Gardner.”
    Twig wrapped him in her branches and pulled him tightly to her. They stood like that and lost track of time. Matt came in and said, “I think your citizens are demanding a viewing.”
    Sprig and Twig separated, “What?”
    “I said that if you don’t come out and see your citizens we might get an angry mob to storm the castle to see you.”
    Then Sprig heard the crowd. He followed Matt up to the upper balcony and looked out at a sea of beings. There had to be millions gathered yelling his name. He looked out at them and raised his branches high. The ensuing roar from the crowd was deafening.
    Matt leaned over and thought to him, “We have received more than fifty billion requests to come and greet the Realm’s newest King. We had to put a damper on any more teleporting to the field outside the castle. The Realm knows your importance, Sprig. Now help it survive.”
    “I will, Matt. It is mine to protect and defend now.”
    Twig came forward and held Sprig. When the crowd saw her, they roared even louder. “You always had it wrong, Love.”
    Sprig looked at Twig, “What?”
    “It was I who was not good enough to have you. I am so thankful you chose me.”
    Sprig felt his love for her and pulled her tighter to him.

Chapter 9

    Fifty more crystal lumps had appeared at the Reg’s outer system and Matt decided that the search for the chosen had to begin immediately. He contacted Fleet Command. “I need all of our Searchers to make a short trip to a coordinate I’m sending you. I want ten thousand of them to board a defender class vessel and go to those coordinates and follow the instructions of Aladdin upon arrival. Implement those instructions immediately. I will be having them do this periodically so have the Searchers save the coordinates of the ship that is used to transport them to speed the process.”
    “We will have the first ship ready in an hour, Your Grace.”
    “Al.”
    “Yes, Magic?”
    “I am sending a defender class vessel with ten thousand Searchers on board to the site. Have the ship fly closely by the crystals and see if any respond.”
    “And if one does; what happens?”
    “The Searchers will teleport to their ships and fly by the ships individually. Please give them the order and time to fly by.”
    “You must think I’m an Algean.”
    “You big dummy; you could do that simple task in your sleep.”
    “Excuse her, Magic; she’s not herself lately.”
    “Not myself? You pompous old windbag! I’ll show you who not herself is!”
    Matt smiled, “Let me know if anything happens.”
    “You’ll be the second to know. What do we do when we find one of the chosen?”
    “Have them report to me.”
    “It’s like old times, Magic; this is fun. I’ve missed working.”
    “I need you and Fly Girl to come up with a last name.”
    “Why?”
    “I’m enlisting both of you into the Realm’s Navy. It will help identify you.”
    “We’ll work on it; you know how easy it is for us to reach agreements.”
    “What do you mean by that?”
    “See, I told you she was ornery.”
    Matt turned his attention away before the two started on each other. He almost wanted to listen, but just didn’t have time.
    “What’s up, Jenny?”
    “I’ve be ordered to teleport to the Ruben James to take part in some kind of project that Prince Gardner has ordered.”
    “What kind of project?”
    “I don’t know; is there anything in your data banks about it?”
    “No, just the usual.”
    “Well, I’ll teleport back as soon as I can. See if you can find out what’s going on.”
    “I just found out from Lemgar that Prince Gardner is involved in finding some kind of new warrior or something.”
    “That’s odd. I’ll let you know what I find out. Keep things warm for me.”
    The ship’s computer said, “Aye, aye, Sir.”
    Jenny teleported to the Ruben James and was directed to report to the ships’ auditorium. She walked in and saw thousands of Searchers sitting and discussing what was happening. She took a seat and listened in on conversations around her. It appeared that everything was speculation so she sat back and leaned her head on the headrest and went to sleep.
    The Ruben James teleported to the coordinates and was directed to fly close to some crystal formations that were floating in space. The huge Defender vessel moved slowly along the row and the fifth crystal gave off a golden glow. Al had become bored watching more than a hundred previous vessels fly by with no result; the glow energized him. Al waited until the ship had cleared the last crystal and immediately commed the commander. “Captain, please put me on the ship’s intercom.
    “Intercom is active.”
    Jenny was jerked out of her sleep by a loud voice. “Attention all Searchers and crew members on board the Ruben James; Searchers, you will teleport to your individual ships and return to the coordinates listed in your navigation system and fly by the crystals at the time designated. You will do this immediately.” The ten thousand Searchers all disappeared from the auditorium. “Crew members of the Ruben James, you will standby and wait for further instructions. Please move your ship a hundred thousand miles further out.”
    Jenny appeared on Paris and saw the coordinates on her display. “What happened?”
    “I don’t know; I was taking a nap.”
    “Oh, Jenny, you and your naps.”
    “No one else knew either.”
    “Well, twenty minutes until we go.”
    Jenny waited and teleported at the designated time and found herself in a long line of Searchers moving toward a row of what looked like crystal rocks that glowed with a blue white luminance. She head on her ships speaker, “Maintain your spacing and speed.”
    Paris moved forward until they were in front of the first crystal and passed along the row. Each crystal grew dark as they came near it but as they passed the fifth crystal it emitted a gold color.”
    “Searcher ship Paris, move out of line and report to the coordinates on your display immediately. Your ship will meet you later. All other personnel will now leave and report to their previous duties.”
    “What just happened, Paris?”
    “I was watching those crystals and they turned dark whenever a ship came near them. I saw the fifth one give off a golden glow as we moved past it.”
    “Do you have any idea what that means.”
    “No, but you have been ordered to go immediately. I’ve looked at the coordinates you’ve been given and I’m not sure about the exact location but it is in the Ross system.”
    “Oh my God!” Jenny hit her teleport button and disappeared from Paris’ bridge.
    She reappeared in a large room where all the walls were covering in galaxies. She knew that this had to be the map room at Castle Gardner. She turned around and saw two of the most familiar faces in the Realm. Matthew and Melanie Gardner were sitting at a table playing with a baby. She jerked to attention and the Prince motioned her forward. She walked to within three paces and bowed. “Welcome to our map room, Searcher. What is your name?”
    “Jennifer Ann Connor, Your Grace.”
    “Well come and sit down; we have a few questions.”
    Jenny sat in a chair across the table from them. The baby looked at her and laughed. “Our child likes you,” Melanie said. “She knows good people when she sees them”
    Jenny smiled and said, “Thank you, Your Grace.”
    Melanie looked at Jenny and noticed something, “What is that pin on your collar?”
    “It was given to me by my mother for safe keeping.”
    “That pin was given to all of the original Ross Settlers to commemorate the founding of their colony.”
    Jenny furrowed her brow, “Yes it was. One of my ancestors was one of the colonists that were executed by the Cainth.”
    Melanie looked at Matt and then asked, “What was your ancestor’s name?”
    “George Guadalupe Gonzales.”
    Melanie stared at the young Searcher for a long moment and Jenny was starting to get uncomfortable; then Melanie said, “He was also one of my ancestors; we are related, Jennifer.”
    “We are?”
    “Yes, we are.”
    Matt thought, “Twig, do you have a moment?”
    “Yes.”
    “Please come to the map room with a psychic reader.”
    Twig appeared and Jenifer jumped out of her chair and bowed to her.”
    Twig thought, “Please sit back down.” Then she looked at Matt, “Is this the one?”
    “Yes, she is.”
    Jenny thought, “What do they mean by “the one,”?”, then watched as the Queen of the Stars Realm took a device and moved it around her. “It appears that we have another latent psychic. Her reading is at the top of the scale.”
    Jenny listened to them and was concerned about what they were saying, “What are you talking about?”
    “Just one more thing and we will answer all your questions. Anglo, please come to the map room.”
    Anglo entered the map room and saw the group. He noticed a very pretty Searcher sitting at the table with a very concerned look on her face. He approached and bowed to Twig. “Good day Your Majesty, how may I be of service?”
    Jenny looked at Anglo and was immediately struck by his good looks and smile. “This must be a member of the Royal Family.” She stood and bowed to him.
    Anglo smiled at her, “Please keep your seat; you’re among friends here.”
    Matt looked at Melanie and said, “We better bring in the expert.”
    “I agree.”
    Matt thought, “Danielle, please come to the map room. I think we have found Anglo’s power source.”
    Danielle appeared instantly, “What did you just say?”
    Jenny jumped up again and bowed to Danielle. Anglo looked at her and said, “You will be jumping up and down so often you’ll develop sore knees if you continue jumping like that. Once you have bowed to the Queen, you do not have to bow further unless you are leaving the Queen’s presence.”
    Jenny smiled and sat back down.
    Matt thought to Danielle privately, “This is the one that Anglo’s ship selected. She is a latent psychic with a power reading at the top of the scale. Should we tell them what will happen if they make contact?”
    Danielle was dumbfounded; this had never happened before; contact was always made and then explained. Anglo watched as Danielle’s expression went through a series of emotions, “What’s bothering you, Danielle?”
    She looked at Anglo and then turned to Matt, “I don’t know what to do.”
    Melanie didn’t even look up from Angel as she rocked her baby, “You tell them, of course. Why do you think the situation happened this way?”
    Danielle thought a moment and then smiled, “You’re getting better than I am, girl.”
    Melanie just waved her hand at her.
    “Tell us what?”
    Matt looked at them, “Anglo, please come sit down across the table from Jennifer. Jennifer this is Baron Anglo Gardner who is a member of the Royal Family. Anglo, this is Jennifer Connor who is one of our Searchers.” Each of them nodded to each other. Anglo looked at Jenny and thought “She has the prettiest smile”.
    Danielle came and sat down next to Jenny. “Jennifer, I have a couple of questions; are you in a personal relationship that would prevent you from accepting a long term assignment.”
    “No, Your highness, there is no one in my life at this moment.”
    “Has there ever been anyone?”
    Jenny furrowed her brow and thought the question was a little too personal but answered anyway, “No, not really. Why do you ask?”
    Danielle looked at Anglo, “The same two questions.”
    “You know the answers; no and no.”
    Danielle continued to look at Anglo and asked, “Why is it that you have never had a romantic relationship?”
    Anglo looked around the room and hung his head. Jenny felt terrible for him and wished she could disappear from his obvious embarrassment. “I’ve never found anyone that touched me in my heart. I’ve accepted that I might have to spend my life alone.”
    Jenny looked at him and wondered that she had felt the same way.
    “You’re not being completely honest are you?”
    Anglo looked up quickly, looked quickly at Jenny, then back at Danielle, “Now is not the time for that question, Your Highness.”
    “It is the perfect time for it, Anglo. Answer the question.”
    Anglo looked at Jenny, “Please forgive me for what I’m about to say; I’m sorry you have to be here to hear it; I am attracted to this Searcher like nothing I have ever felt before.”
    Anglo’s face turned red and he looked down. Jenny was flattered that he found her attractive.
    Danielle looked at Anglo then turned to Jenny, “What I am about to tell you is the absolute truth. I know you may not want to believe it but it is as true as all the laws of the universe. If you allow Anglo to touch you; the two of you will be bonded for life and you will grow to love each other with a depth that will amaze you every day you live.”
    Anglo looked at Danielle and then looked at Jenny then back at Danielle, “Are you sure?”
    “She is the one, Anglo. You are the crew of the fifth ship.”
    Jenny heard Danielle but was too stunned to respond. She had to admit she was attracted to the handsome Baron but what she was suggesting was just not believable. She began shaking her head. Anglo said, “Please give us a moment alone.”
    The three left the room and Anglo looked across the table at Jenny. She saw an expression on his face that she didn’t understand. “Jennifer, I have watched as members of my family have found love as they found their match.”
    “What do you mean by match?”
    Thomas Gardner and Danielle bonded when she shook his hand in a school lunchroom twelve hundred years ago. Tommy and Cassandra Gardner were bonded when he touched her on the hand to try and delay a wedding. Matthew and Melanie Gardner were bonded when he gave her a quick hug for helping him find what would kill the green invaders. We have found that when two who are matched for each other make physical contact that they will be bonded together and their love for each other will be monumental. I have watched it happen and quite frankly, I had given up hope of ever finding one to complete my life. I had accepted that my life will be less than it could be.” Anglo paused and then looked Jenny in the eye, “Did one of the crystals that you moved by change at all?”
    “The fifth one had a golden glow.”
    “It also glowed golden when I passed it. We will be the ones that will fly that ship. If not for the search to find the crews for those ships, I would have never found you. What they are telling you is true; we are meant for each other.”
    Jenny could see his sincerity. She had also given up hope of ever loving anyone and she could feel an attraction for him. “What are you saying, Anglo?”
    “I’m telling you that your choice is simple and, unlike the others that stumbled into touching their match, you have a choice. If you allow me to take your hand you will be saying you are willing to spend your life with me knowing I will love you more than you ever dreamed possible and believe it or not, you will also feel the same about me. It will liberate our hearts that have been waiting all these years to find each other. There could be no one else for us.”
    Jenny thought about what he said, “What if we touch and nothing happens?”
    “No harm, no foul. But please decide believing that it will. Even if nothing happens, I can feel my heart when I look at you and I’ve never had that experience before now. I want you to choose me because you want to, not because you have to. I have been waiting for you my entire life.”
    Jenny saw the anguish in his eyes and reached across the table and took his hands in hers.
    Outside the map room Twig’s psychic reader exploded into small parts. Danielle jumped for joy and hugged Melanie and the baby. They ran in the map room and began hugging the couple who refused to let go of each other’s hand. Anglo jumped and slid across the table and embraced Jenny. She held him tightly and thought, “So this is how love feels.”
    She heard in her mind, “It only gets better every day, my love.”
    She closed her eyes and held on to her new-found love. She was in his mind and she could see what a wonderful man she had chosen and that his love for her was genuine and true. Anglo looked at Jenny then said to Danielle, “We want to be married as soon as possible.” Jenny smiled and nodded.
    “It would be stupid to ask if you’re certain; I’ll start the arrangements.”
    Sprig entered the room and everyone bowed, “Please relax, we’re among family here. I just felt a huge psychic wave.” He walked over and used his device to scan Anglo and Jenny, “Matt, his reading is identical to yours. It looks like our processes were successful and he just needed his initiator to be released.”
    Sprig looked at Anglo and said, “Please kneel.” Anglo kneeled.
    Sprig said, “Baron Anglo Gardner, you are now give the title of Duke and you and Jennifer will be included in the succession hierarchy for the Crown.”
    Jenny looked at Anglo and tilted her head and Anglo said, “It means that you are going to be married to one of the two strongest psychics in the Royal Family and after we marry you will be a Duchess. It looks like your touch released my abilities.”
    Jenny smiled at him and said, “I hope to release a lot more.”
    Anglo laughed out loud and lifted her and hugged her tightly.
    Danielle remembered when she touched Tag so many centuries ago and knew the joy this young couple was going to have.

Chapter 10

    The red being jumped from his seat and adjusted his display. “Are you busy?”
    “We’re all busy.”
    “I have been monitoring some kind of recording device that was in the last tool’s universe. It just exploded.”
    “Do you think it was programmed to self destruct?”
    “I examined the device closely and there was a destruct circuit in it but it was not active. For it to explode, something had to activate it.”
    “What did the device record?”
    “The second tool’s arrival and destruction.”
    “Show me what you recorded.”
    It touched a key and waited.
    “There is no evidence of anything triggering the destruct circuit but the explosion is a result of that circuit.”
    “It had to be activated.”
    “Yes it did but we detected nothing.”
    “Is there any kind of force that we can’t detect?”
    “Only the original creative force.”
    “Now I’m starting to be afraid.”
    “The Elders should know about this.”
    “Are you telling them?”
    “Absolutely not.”
    “Me either.”
    “I fear their wrath more than a possible brush with the Creative Force. They are quite impulsive when they get angry.”
    “I do not choose to be the bearer of bad news the way they are acting.”
    “Once more you show your wisdom.”
    “By the way, what color is the creative force?”
    “Bright blue; why do you ask?”
    “No reason. I just wanted to know in the event I encounter it in my searches.” The first Demon left and the second remembered the bright blue ship that had destroyed the old tool’s ship. He also remembered that his ship was knocked off line after being hit by the edge of the beam that destroyed the giant green vessel. He was more frightened than he could show.
    Life and Grena jumped into the Gurlocke system and found a fleet of ten thousand war ships advancing toward the fourth planet. “What’s going on here, Life?”
    “These two civilizations were friends before they entered the Realm. It appears the Gurlockes have raised the price of a mineral that the Klunds need for their food purifiers five times. A type of mold that came from a meteorite makes most of the food grown on Klund poisonous unless it is processed with a beam fired through the mineral grown on Gurlocke. The higher price has led to a fall in the Klund’s economy and recession has hit them hard.”
    “Why are they attacking?”
    “Because they want to survive; let’s see if we can prevent this attack.” Life and Grena appeared in front of the advancing fleet and Life thought, “This is as far as you go in system. You will turn your ships around and go home.”
    “You are going to have to destroy us. We are starting to have our people die because of the scarcity of Amexra and it’s going to quickly get much worse.”
    “Stay where you are. I am going to talk with the Leader of Gurlocke.”
    The invading fleet knew they were no match for the Star Realm’s Searchers but they were desperate. “You have two hours. We are willing to die here to save our people, which will be better than the death caused by the mold.”
    Grena hit her com, “Twig, have you a moment for me.”
    “What is it Grena?”
    “Life and I are in the Gurlocke system attempting to stop an invading Klund Fleet from attacking.”
    Twig thought a moment and then said, “It’s over Amexra isn’t it?”
    “Yes it is.”
    “It’s our fault, Grena; the Klunds have appealed for help six months ago but there were too many other issues to remedy. What are they saying?”
    The Klund Admiral says his people are dying from a lack of the mineral. The increased price has also devastated their economy.”
    “We just can’t keep up with the thousands of issues that pour in every hour. How are you planning to resolve this problem?”
    “Life is going to talk with the Gurlocke Ruler, Vazid.”
    “Tell him he has complete authority to handle this issue for the Realm.”
    “I will, Your Majesty.”
    Life was speaking with the Ruler of Gurlocke and not making any progress.
    “I don’t care if their life depends on our mineral or not. We are entitled to make a profit. We plan to raise the price again next cycle.”
    “That goes against all the principles the Realm was founded on and it has caused loss of life on Klund.”
    “That’s their problem. We must take care of our own people.”
    “Your standard of living is one of the highest in your sector. You make great profits without raising the price.”
    “Even so, we can do better.”
    Grena listened to the conversation and broke in, “Life, the Crown has given you complete authority to handle this issue. Whatever you decide will be backed up by the Realm.”
    Life looked at his display with the pompous Ruler of Gurlocke and said, “Vazid, your planet’s charter is revoked and your membership in the Stars Realm ends immediately. As you are no longer a member of the Realm, we are not required to assist you against the fleet currently moving toward your planet. When they arrive, please explain your pricing policy to them. Good day.”
    “Wait, wait, wait; you can’t do that!”
    “Consider it done. It is my belief that the Klunds will come and take whatever they need and change your standard of living rather dramatically; bombardment has a way of doing that. I suspect that they will leave a military presence on your world to insure that all future shipments are also free. That will stop the deaths your heavy handed pricing is causing.”
    “You can’t do this. We have no way to defend ourselves.”
    “Did you think you could just arbitrarily raise your prices with no adverse effect on your customers? They are dying and you don’t care. It’s time you see the consequences of your actions.”
    “Let’s work this out.”
    “You had a chance and you chose to violate every principle of the Realm. You are not what this Realm stands for, Your Majesty.”
    Vazid was scared. He did not think anything would be done. This was the fifth price increase and nothing had been done after the other four but he saw the fleet in his system and knew he was in dire trouble. “I’ll give them enough to stock their purifiers and go back to the original price.”
    Life stared at the Ruler for a long moment and then he heard, “Please.”
    Life hit his com, “We have come to an agreement with the Leader of Gurlocke. I would recommend you accept it.”
    The Klund Admiral came on their display, “What is the nature of the agreement?”
    “You will be given enough free Amexra to stock your purifiers and the price will go back to the original one your planets agreed.”
    The Admiral was amazed; this was more than he expected, “How do we make this happen?”
    Vazid said, “I will stock freighters and start them to your world immediately.”
    The Admiral smiled and said, “That is good; we will stay here in the outer system until those shipments arrive. How long before they leave?”
    Vazid had hoped they would leave so he could try to get help against them but he knew that any ships that appeared would not stop the Klund Fleet from attacking. “The first will leave within an hour and the rest before tomorrow is over.”
    “Thank you, Your Majesty.”
    “What about our Charter, Searcher?”
    “You are still a member but you are on probation for five years. Any price increase will be viewed as a violation of that probation. If a violation happens, all high technology you receive from the Realm will be stopped. Think seriously about what that will do to your standard of living. Honor this agreement, Your Majesty.”
    Life and Grena watched until after the last freighter had lifted from Gurlocke and the Klund Fleet returned home. “This could have been handled after the first price increase, Grena.”
    “I know; the Realm is still falling in on its own weight. Even Algeans have limits.”
    “True, but they are preventing the total collapse of the system. Think about where we would be if they were not working on it.” Life thought a moment, “Will there be civil war?”
    “I wish I knew, Life.”
    “Let’s go handle the next issue.”
    “Right with you, Love.” The two Searchers disappeared.
    Two years had passed and Matt and Melanie were looking at the rosters of the crews that had been found and were wishing the process could be done faster. “Every time new ships appear we have to send everyone back to see if one of the ships will respond to those that have already failed. Half of the crews we have now were initially rejected. Do you see a faster way to do this?”
    Melanie thought a moment, “List all Searchers on a board similar to the one used to find civilized planets and assign them a time to fly by. Forget using the Defenders and just run them by. I think we’ve found that speed is not an issue; have them teleport in and go by the crystals at full speed. If any respond, Al can identify which Searcher caused it.”
    Matt thought about the suggestion and said, “We’ll set it up so it happens automatically. We’ll order the first million to report to their ships and send the instructions directly to their computers. When the first million are half way done, we’ll order the second million to their ships. That’s a good idea.” Matt thought about the numbers of ships and then sent a thought, “Edison, can you help me with an issue?”
    The Spider immediately responded, “I’ll be pleased to help you any way I can.”
    Matt filled Edison in and the small spider thought about the problem, “It might be easier to just have them teleport in front of crystal in micro-ports. Once they start the process, they would complete it in less than a second and be returned to where they started.”
    “Can we use a screen that fast?”
    “It can be done faster but we want to make sure the crystals respond.” The small spider paused, “If you will allow me to use several crews that have been chosen I will determine the maximum speed that the crystals can respond and set up the gates in front of each crystal.”
    “Can you handle this project for us?”
    “Yes, Your Grace. I’ll start immediately if you will notify Fleet Command to allow me to set up the board and download the program for each ship.”
    “Stand by just a moment. Fleet Command.”
    “Yes, Your Grace.”
    “I have assigned a project to a Spider named Edison. You will assist him in making this happen.”
    “Yes, Your Grace; we will be awaiting his instructions.”
    “Ok, Edison. You have your clearance.” The small spider disappeared from their screen.
    Melanie looked at Matt, “It may be time to allow the Spiders to assist the Algeans in handling the Realm’s issues.”
    “Not yet; the invasion is still a fresh memory and the citizens are not ready for that yet. However, we’ve got to do something soon.”
    “What’s bothering you, Magic?”
    Matt looked at Melanie and lowered his head, “I’m getting the sense that we need to make another trip in our ship.”
    “You think we need to go to that dark galaxy, don’t you?”
    Matt quickly looked up, “Did you hear me thinking about it?”
    “No, but it doesn’t make sense to plan to fight a foe we don’t have any information about. I just worry about leaving AG an orphan if we go.”
    “No one else can go; none of the other ships have completed development.”
    Melanie shrugged, “None of them possess your level of psychic ability; to send someone else wouldn’t be right.”
    “Are you willing to make the trip?”
    “Only if we can prevent those creatures from seeing us; do you know if we’ll show up on their sensors?”
    “No, I don’t.” Matt thought a moment and then said, “Al, I need to make a short trip.”
    “I’m teleporting you now.”
    Matt looked at Melanie and said, “I love you,” then disappeared.
    Aladdin jumped into the Reg’s system and waited. After a few moments the three Reg appeared on the bridge, “Your plan has danger, Brother.”
    “I need to see what we’re facing. Is there any way to prevent them seeing our ship?”
    “Possibly; if you stay out of the Galaxy’s perimeter and set your ships screen at absolute minimal power you may not be seen. Make your scans from there. If you enter the galaxy they will know it. Even if they do not see your ship they will detect your approximate location.”
    “Will they see my scans?”
    “Probably, but they will not know from where they are coming if you stay outside. You should anticipate a rather large reaction if you go forward with this venture.”
    “I will be satisfied if I can just get a ship count on what’s coming.”
    The three Reg were silent and then one thought, “Be careful.”
    “I’ll do my best.” The three Red disappeared.
    “Matt, you’re not planning to go to their galaxy?”
    “Al we have to know what we’re facing and I have the only working psychic ship. I sense it is something I must do.”
    “You do recognize what your loss would do to the Realm, I hope.”
    “Yes, but I still have to go.”
    Al was silent for several minutes and finally thought, “I hope your ship is all it’s cracked up to be. Melanie will be with you.”
    “That is the only thing that makes me hesitate. Let’s go home, Al.”
    Matt appeared in AG’s room as Melanie was rocking her to sleep. The baby immediately opened its eyes when Matt appeared and stared at him intently. “She knows what you’re planning. It has her worried.”
    Matt came over and picked AG up and hugged her. He saw she still had the intent look, “Look at my thoughts little one and see what I see.”
    AG tilted her head and continued to stare at him. Melanie asked, “What are you doing?”
    “She has twice the power of you and me; I’m letting her sense what I’m feeling.”
    AG continued to stare and then she smiled. Matt handed her back to Melanie and she went to sleep quickly. Melanie looked at Matt, “Well, when do we leave?”
    Matt looked at the Woman he loved so much and said, “After you put her down we’ll tell Sprig what we’re doing and then go.”
    “You are going to do what?!?” Sprig yelled.
    “It’s something I sense we must do.”
    Sprig sent a thought, “Tag, Danielle, I need you in the library. Matt and Melanie are planning a trip to the dark galaxy.”
    Tag and Danielle teleported in immediately and Tag looked at Matt, “What are you planning to do?”
    “Tag, I sense that I must go and see what we’re facing from that galaxy. Use your sense and tell me what you see.”
    Tag closed his eyes and after three minutes he opened them and looked at Danielle and Sprig, “He’s right; he has to go.”
    Danielle looked shocked, “Tag, that’s entirely too dangerous. We don’t know what technology they possess that could kill them both.”
    Tag shook his head, “That’s one reason why he should make the trip; however, my sense of danger goes down if he goes.”
    Sprig thought, “Does it go up if he stays?”
    Tag shook his head, “No, but that reduction is significant. I suspect that it will take them longer to find us if he goes. We aren’t even close to finding all the crews and we need all the time we can get. I fear for them as much as you do but Matt is right, they must make this trip.”
    “Do you know if they survive it?”
    “No.” Tag looked at Matt, “Do you know?”
    Matt shook his head. Then Matt was surprised when Melanie said, “AG thinks we’ll come back.”
    Danielle, Sprig, and Tag just stared at her. Finally, Danielle asked, “How do you know that?”
    “She looked in Matt’s mind and saw his plan. She then smiled and went to sleep. You know her psychic field is stronger that anyone in the Realm. We can’t see it but she could. We’ll be back.”
    “Melanie, she’s just a baby; how can she possibly know that?”
    “How could Rose get that mobile above her bed to mimic the Ross solar system? Remember, her power is much higher than Rose’s was as a baby.”
    “How did you know about that?”
    “It’s still hanging in the Ross observatory and still showing the exact positions of all the planets. I asked the curator and she told me about its creation.”
    Danielle smiled as she remembered the day it happened. She shook her head and said, “Don’t stay long. We’ll be worried until you return.”
    Melanie smiled and embraced Danielle and Tag, “As long as you two are alive, the Realm is safe. You have meant so much to us and I know how much you mean to the Realm.”
    Sprig added, “She’s right.”
    Matt and Melanie stepped together and Matt punched his bracelet. Danielle looked where they had just been standing and said, “Just like us, they don’t understand the impact on the Realm if we lost them.”
    Tag took Danielle’s hand, “I think they know. They’ll be careful.”
    Sprig leaned forward, “Why do you say that?”
    “Who other than Matt communicates with the Reg?”
    Sprig and Danielle both flinched. Sprig said, “I didn’t think of that.”
    Matt looked over at Melanie and said, “We can only use the smallest setting on our screen when we enter space around their galaxy; the Reg insist that anything higher will be seen.”
    “Did they say anything else?”
    “They said that we can go close to their galaxy but we must not enter it. Anything that enters that galaxy’s influence will be detected by those creatures. We can scan from outside its borders and they will probably see our scans but will not know where we are located. The Reg also said to expect a massive response.”
    “Anything else?”
    “They said be careful.”
    Melanie started laughing.
    “What’s so funny?”
    “That is so out of character for the Reg. Usually they have an answer for everything.”
    Matt smiled and shook his head, “Are you ready.”
    “Let me look at the drives just a moment. I know there is a dimensional drive in our inventory but I’ve never used it. Give me a few moments to learn how to use it.”
    “You’re amazing, Love.”
    “Actually, the ship will teach me. It feels like it has a life of its own.”
    Matt watched Melanie’s chair and saw a deep purple color wash through it and go into the walls surrounding them. The color changed to violet and then orange. “Ok, I’ve got it.”
    “That quick?”
    “Yes, we’re going to have to leave our universe and enter the space between dimensions. The color of that space is orange and our ship had to adjust its hull to withstand the energy. The tricky part is we are going to have to use a high energy screen to move through that space and I’m going to have to reduce it instantly upon emergence into the dark galaxy’s space.”
    “What do you need me to do?”
    “I’m hoping nothing but stay tuned to your weapon console. This is just a fly and spy mission and that is what my chair is built to handle. You might want to watch things through my thoughts but keep your weapon panel ready.”
    “It’s your ship, Melanie.”
    Melanie smiled and thought about AG. Then she energized the drive and the blue glowing ship appeared at the blue barrier surrounding the edge of the universe. “We’re going through.”
    The small blue ship moved forward and picked up speed. It reached the edge of the barrier and as it crossed the color of the ship changed to orange as it emerged into dimensional space. Matt could feel the ship pick up speed but nothing changed in the orange color surrounding the ship. After twenty minutes, he felt the ship begin to slow.
    “Are we there, yet?”
    “We’re approaching the border and I have to change the energy of the ship as we cross. Now be quiet, this is not going to be easy.”
    Matt watched the front wall of the ship and saw it changing color to a faint blue. The color moved slowly back until the inside walls were all the same light blue color. Melanie, released her board and fell back in her chair, “That was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. This ship is amazing; I couldn’t have done it without its help.”
    Matt was looking at his display and there in front of them was the dark galaxy. He saw that most of the stars were extremely old and were dying. He tuned in his weapons panel and looked at Melanie. “Do you need some time to rest?”
    “Give me just a few minutes. I want to set my board up to take a fast scan of the entire galaxy but not until after I back the rear of our ship into the border with dimensional space. I’m not going to risk them finding us. Only the nose will be in their space.”
    If we have time, I’ll hold the ship at the border as long as possible but the warning from the Reg about a massive response concerns me. I’m holding our screen on the front at its lowest setting but I don’t want to be caught out in the open.” After ten minutes Melanie backed the small ship back into the border of dimensional space until only the part of the ship with the two chairs was still in normal space. “Be ready, I’m starting the scan in ten seconds.”
    Matt looked into her mind and counted it down with her, “3..2..1..energize.”
    The Red Demon watched his board as he searched for the missing universe. Suddenly his alarm went off and he was immediately moved to the command chair of his ship as it lifted off and jumped to his assigned coverage area. It looked at its sensors and could see the direction the scan had originated but could not determine where the scan was located. Millions of the orange ships were jumping out to the edge of the galaxy and running out from the galaxy’s outer edge. Nothing had been sensed entering the galaxy so it had to be outside the border.
    “What’s happening?”
    “Some agency is scanning our domain. They are in normal space, that much we know but we are unable to find its location. The direction is out toward the largest spiral arm.”
    “Could this be the missing universe’s responsibility?”
    “I doubt it. This scan is happening in normal space and we know that universe is not in normal space. This must be a different agency located in another universe. We are analyzing the scan now.”
    The second being watched his board and wondered if this was another appearance of the blue ship but dared not mention it. If it was that ship, he knew it came from the missing universe but he could not think of a way to suggest that possibility without giving away what he knew. One thing he did know, if he found the blue ship he was going to stay away from it. His small ship had already demonstrated that it could be damaged.
    “What are you doing?”
    The second being jumped and said, “Looking for the source of those scans.”
    “Well move out into the space outside our galaxy and start searching. I told you it had to be outside our galaxy.”
    The second being set his board and cringed against the possibility of encountering the blue ship again.
    “Oh my, ancestors,” Melanie said as millions of orange ships exploded out of the dark galaxy less than a second after she began her scan and started moving out from its border. Some of the ships were larger than the Captors and all were moving faster than light speed. The orange ships had arrived in a cone shape and had linked their screens as they moved outward. They looked like a giant bubble being blown up and Tag saw that nothing would be missed as that bubble expanded toward their location.
    Matt watched the oncoming wave of ships and said, “Time to leave.”
    Melanie backed the ship back into dimensional space and accelerated away from the dark galaxy’s location. Melanie had her eyes closed and Matt could tell she was concentrating but he also sensed something was wrong. He didn’t want to break her concentration so he looked at her thoughts and saw that she was monitoring the border to see if any of the Demons entered dimensional space. He determined that she was going to jump to another universe if any appeared. It was a long twenty minutes until they reached the blue barrier and Melanie flew into it at a high velocity. Matt watched the wall change color faster than he could track visually. Once inside the barrier, Melanie slumped over her console. Matt jumped up and grabbed her.
    “I’m ok. I could sense the thoughts of those beings and I never want to do that again. They are evil personified.”
    Matt held her tight and she passed out; Matt held her and jumped the ship to Ross where he waited in orbit and held Melanie in his arms. He kept seeing that mass of ships moving out toward them and wondered if the crystal ships were going to be enough against the massive force he had just witnessed.
    In her crib below, AG sensed her parent’s return and began sending soothing thoughts to her mother and began erasing some of the evil that had entered Melanie’s neural pathways. Slowly and gently she destroyed the poison of the Red Demons; no one could survive that much exposure to the massive evil of their minds. Melanie sighed in her restlessness and then fell asleep. Matt saw what his daughter was doing and was awe struck at the power of their two year old. Melanie slept with tranquil dreams; only then did AG go to sleep.
    Tag teleported to the ship and found Matt holding Melanie “Is she all right?”
    “She is now, Tag. We won’t be going back.”
    Tag looked at Matt and saw what they must have experienced. “Was it that bad?”
    “Worse than you can ever imagine. We’ll share what we found in two days. I’m taking Melanie home.”
    Tag nodded and the three of them disappeared from the crystal ship.
    Two days later the leaders of the Stars Realm met in the map room. Sprig stood and thought to the group, “As most of you know, Matt and Melanie went to the home of the Red Demons and scanned their galaxy. We are here to see what they discovered and plan our strategy against their possible invasion. Matt, the floor is yours and Melanie’s.”
    Matt stood and looked around the room at those in attendance; Cassandra, Tommy, Anglo, Jenny, Stem, Petal, Life, Grena, Destiny and his three children, General Brez, Twig, Tag, Danielle, Admiral Kosiev, Atlas and Diana who were present in orbit, and AG who was sitting in her mother’s lap. “I’m going to lead this presentation and Melanie will help remind me if I forget anything. The first thing I’m going to show you is what happened when we sent a scan into the dark galaxy. You will see it at normal speed and then I’m going to slow it down.” He pressed a button on his display and there was the dark galaxy. “Most of the stars in this galaxy are dying and some of them have degenerated into black holes, which trap light and prevent it from exiting. That’s why this galaxy is not the normal bright lights we see from most other galaxies. This galaxy is ancient and is probably where this race evolved. Now observe what happened when we sent a scan. We sent the scan at this moment.” The attendees saw a huge mass of orange ships explode out of the galaxy moving quickly toward the source of the video. It appeared that a huge tidal wave of ships moving faster than could be seen was screaming toward the camera. “It was at this point where we exited the dimension and flew as quickly as possible back to our universe. Now let’s slow it down.”
    At extreme slow motion the wave of ships could be seen as they appeared at the edge of the galaxy and began moving out. Some of the ships were very small, about the size of a Searcher vessel, and some were gigantic, larger than five thousand miles. As they swept outward, everyone could see they were swarming back and forth in the gaps to make sure nothing escaped their notice. “That globe of expanding ships was moving faster than the speed of light and covered every inch of space as they expanded outward. They reacted to our scan less than a second after we sent it, and I must believe that they have a system of defense that automatically launches their ships if anything is detected. We do not possess anything that comes close to their response to a small scan. Those ships are what we will have to face if they discover our location. There is no possible invasion; they are coming. I think our scan may have slowed them but I’m uncertain how much. These Demons are evil and I don’t fully know the power of our crystal ships but nothing in our arsenal can harm them. Our only hope is to find the crews for the Reg’s ships and pray they can protect us.”
    The room was quiet. Finally, Sprig stood and thought to the group, “Some of you will be in those ships protecting our Realm. My prayers are with you, and I hope your ships will be enough to prevent our destruction.” He looked at Matt and thought, “Should we send some of our population to other universes?”
    Matt shook his head, “It’s not possible to move them through the psychic barrier the Reg has put in place. Only the ships they are providing can move through it and only one of them is operational. It could only move four or five at a time, and I suspect that if those beings penetrate the barrier and sense those in our universe, they will send their next tool scanning for any life forms that came from here. If the Reg lower the barrier to allow us to send large numbers away, the Demons will immediately see us and attack in force. Our only hope will be the crews of the crystal ships and I still don’t know the power of those ships.”
    “Why have none of them fully developed?”
    “I don’t know, Tag. There are many unknowns here and I suspect that those ships are a life form.” Matt paused a moment, then shook his head,” I don’t even have a guess. I hope a large number will be created, but with the difficulty we’re having finding the crews, I suspect it won’t be as many as I would like to have. At least Edison has set up a system where we can send possible candidates to new ships in one tenth the time it has taken in the past.”
    Sprig looked around the room and said, “This meeting is adjourned. I see nothing more that can be done that we are not already doing.”
    The red being looked at his board and saw nothing that could have sent the scan.
    “You’re not alone. Even the Elders have come up with nothing.”
    “What are we going to do?”
    “They are operating on the assumption that there are two advisories we must find and destroy. One they believe exists in normal space and one that is not in the dimensional plane. Two thirds of us are being assigned to scan universes for civilizations that have universal drives. The others will continue to search for the missing universe.”
    “So you are being sent to search?”
    “Yes, and you will continue to search for the missing universe.”
    “I’d rather be out searching.”
    The first being paused, “You are being watched by the Elders and I don’t think they will let you go too far from their sight.”
    “Why?”
    “That missing tool issue, they think you haven’t been completely open about it.”
    “Of course I’ve told them all I know.”
    “Even so, you will be searching for the missing universe. I hope you find it.” The first being paused again, “For your sake.”
    All the second being could think about was a blue ship.

Chapter 11

    Four years flew by and four hundred and ninety nine crystals had appeared and their crews found. One of the crews was remarkable. Al was taking a searcher to see which ship they would set off and as they passed the rows of crystals, two of them glowed. “Matt, we have an issue.”
    “What?”
    “One Searcher just caused two ships to glow. “Standby.”
    Matt teleported to Al’s bridge, “Show me.”
    Al flew by and first one ship glowed and then a second.”
    Matt thought furiously and contacted Sprig and explained what had happened.
    “Either that Searcher belongs in both ships, which we both know is not possible, or Al is setting off a ship.”
    “Fly Girl.”
    “Yes, Matt.”
    Would you mind doing something for me?”
    “What?”
    “Please leave Junior at the outer system and go with Al as he takes a Searcher by the Crystals.”
    Fly Girl told her child to remain until she returned and then teleported in next to Al. “Hi, honey.”
    “Hello, love.” They flew by the ships and one of them had a golden glow but another burst into golden light and began changing shape.
    “What’s happening, Matt?”
    “It looks like you and Fly Girl are among the chosen.”
    “You mean we will share a ship?”
    “It certainly looks that way.”
    “What about my being on your ship?”
    “It appears that space is meant for something else.”
    “How are we going to care for Junior if we’re both on one ship?”
    “I suspect he will be better protected if you are in one of the strongest ships in our universe.”
    “You make a good point.”
    The last crew of the four hundred and ninety nine needed was found and then a single crystal appeared. Time was growing short and finally one crew member for it was found. He was also a relative of Melanie’s and was a latent psychic.
    Matt called a meeting of the Royal Family and asked for help. “All of the other ships are near completion but not finished. It appears all the crews must be found before they complete their development. I have searched every possible place and have not found the last crewmember for the last ship. All of our military has been checked and all of our civil staff.”
    “Do you have any idea of what their race they might be?”
    “They’re Human and they must possess strong psychic abilities.”
    Danielle looked quickly at Matt, “How do you know that?”
    “Because the other crew member is a latent psychic with an extremely high power reading; in all other similar situations it was a strong psychic that was the other member.”
    Melanie stood, “We have scanned every possible descendent of the three psychic family lines and have come up with nothing. I’m afraid that if we don’t find that last crew member we will be defenseless against the Demons.”
    Matt looked around the room, “Please think about who it could possibly be and if you think of anything contact me. We don’t have much longer.”
    Danielle left the meeting and sat in her room and thought about what Matt had said, “What’s wrong, Dear?”
    “The last chosen crew member and who it might be.”
    “Well, I hope they turn up soon. My sense tells me there is huge danger for all of us. It is impossible to escape beings that can see every place in existence.”
    Danielle continued to think and finally decided after struggling with her conscience. She entered coordinates into her bracelet and punched the button. She walked up to a small house with a red garden in front and knocked on the door. A pretty young woman with blonde hair and green eyes came to the door. They looked at each other and Danielle said, “May I come in?”
    The young woman stepped aside and Danielle walked in and sat down on a sofa. The house was very clean and everything appeared to have a place. “Why have you come here?”
    “I really tried not to disturb your privacy but I’m afraid that I have no choice.”
    “Why?”
    “Because I fear you are one of the chosen and if you are and don’t take part in the coming fight, our universe and everyone in it is doomed to destruction.”
    “I’m afraid I haven’t been keeping up with current events. Tell me what you mean.”
    Danielle told her about the war with the Captors, Eight Legs, and finally about the Red Demons. “They are an ancient race and our only hope is the ships the Reg have provided. However, if the last crew member is not found in time they will not finish their development.”
    “What makes you think I’m the one you’re looking for?”
    “Because you know my talent.”
    “Are you sure?”
    “Yes.”
    “And if I refuse?”
    “We all die.”
    “I would welcome that.”
    “I know.”
    The two sat in silence for an hour. Finally, the young woman looked up and said, “I will agree to help if you can tell me why.”
    “I know why.” The young woman flinched and stared at Danielle. “I just worked it out a few hours ago but I’m not certain if I tell you that you will agree to go.”
    “What if I promise to go if you convince me you really know?”
    “Would you keep your promise if it made you feel like you were betraying all of those you love?”
    The young woman looked down and thought for a moment, “I will keep my promise if for no other reason than to understand why I have been made to suffer. I think I would be forgiven by my loved ones for that reason.”
    “You were forced to wait for love.”
    The young woman turned angry. “Now you’re being cruel.”
    “No, I’m not. You made an error as a child and didn’t know it then or even now. You assumed something to be true that wasn’t and as a result you remained incomplete.”
    “Just what error did I make?”
    “You assumed your husband was your match.”
    The young woman stood and yelled, “Get out.”
    “Not before I finish. Sit down and listen; I told you that you wouldn’t like it. If you want to know why then shut up and listen.” The young woman sat back down.
    “Why should I?”
    “Because I love you more than you know.”
    The young woman started crying and Danielle moved next to her and put her arm around her shoulders. “You were wrong. You could hear him as a child so you assumed he was the one. But think about it. He never helped you in your work. He never helped you make decisions. He never had an impact on what decisions you made. I know you loved him, but he was not your match.”
    “What proof do you have?”
    “A ship is waiting for you to come and bring it to life. Only you can do it and the ship knew that it could not come to life until now. You had to live until this moment for it to happen. That is why you never died when all of those you loved did. You were born for this moment in time. You came into existence with the life span necessary to arrive now when you’re needed most.”
    “I didn’t want to live without my family.”
    “That was your second mistake. You haven’t really tasted love yet. You cared for your family but not to the level you deserved.”
    “What are you saying?”
    “Your match is waiting for you. He is more than you could ever hope for and I am so afraid that your bitterness will blind you to what he offers. He has been suffering his whole life waiting for you to come and he believes that his life will always be one empty day after another. He is really more resigned to sorrow as a daily meal than you are. He even questions if he is deserving of happiness. He thinks he must have made a terrible mistake in his youth for which he is now being punished.”
    “I don’t know if I believe you.”
    “Then do one thing for me and I’ll never ask anything of you again.”
    “What?”
    “Come with me and just look at him. I’m not asking you to speak with him or have any contact. Just look at him.”
    “Let me think about it.”
    “Ok. I’m sorry I broke my promise about leaving you alone.”
    “Just go,” and the young woman started to cry.
    Danielle teleported away and went to her room and cried herself to sleep.
    Three days later she heard, “I’ve thought about what you asked.”
    “Yes.”
    “Where can I see him?”
    “How about in Colony Park on the bench in front of Admiral Dorg’s tomb?”
    “When?”
    “We’ll be there today at noon.”
    Danielle heard nothing else.
    Danielle went to the map room and found Matt looking thorough family histories. “Matt, may I ask a favor.”
    “Sure, what do you need?”
    The crew member chosen for the last ship; I would like to meet him.”
    “Ok, I’ll set it up.” Matt turned back to his work.
    “Now, Matt.”
    Matt looked up and felt something. He hit his com, “Captain Christopher Andrews, please report to the coordinates on your com immediately.”
    Matt stared at Danielle but she said nothing. A silver field appeared and a young man stepped out of it. He bowed, “How may I be of service, Your Grace?”
    Matt said, “This is Queen Danielle. She wishes to talk with you.”
    The young man turned to Danielle and said, “I’m at your service, Your Majesty.”
    “Come sit beside me, Captain.”
    Chris went over and sat down beside Danielle and she pressed her bracelet and both of them disappeared. “What the Torg,” Matt yelled. “What’s going on? Tag, where did Danielle just go with Captain Andrews?”
    “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
    “Can you contact her?”
    Matt waited a moment and then heard, “No. I can’t! What’s going on?”
    “I have no idea.”
    “Well find her!”
    Matt punched his com and began issuing orders.
    Danielle and Chris appeared next to a bench in Colony Park and Chris looked at the tomb of Dorg-Ross. He sighed heavily and then sat down with Danielle. “You had an ancestor killed by the Cainth?”
    “Yes, I did. It seems my family has always been around during difficult times for the Realm.”
    “And they have always responded with bravery.”
    Chris smiled, “Yes, we have.”
    “Why are you so sad?”
    Chris looked at Danielle and wondered how she knew. He hid his emotions quite well. He hung his head and said, “I honestly don’t know, Your Majesty. I just feel that something is missing from inside me and nothing I’ve done has changed the feeling.”
    “Perhaps you need to find a wife?”
    Chris raised his head and looked Danielle in the eye, “No one has ever generated any interest in me. It’s almost like the part of me that could love is missing. I see everyone else find happiness with someone but it seems that I am denied those feelings. They just don’t exist in me.”
    “Maybe you haven’t met the right person?”
    “Your Majesty, if she exists I pray she will come and remove my misery. I am of the belief that she doesn’t exist.”
    The young woman sat across the park and mentally listened in to the conversation. She felt a kindred spirit in the young man. She even thought he was suffering more than she was. She was too far away to really see him so she stood and moved a little closer.
    “I am of the belief that love comes to those who wait.”
    “Is that how it happened with you, Your Majesty?” Suddenly Chris stood and turned around quickly and saw a young woman on a bench. He said, “Please excuse me a moment.” He turned and walked quickly to where she was sitting.
    She saw him coming and started to teleport away but then he was there standing in front of her. She saw him looking at her with the brightest blue eyes she had ever seen and she saw confusion on his face. “Do I know you?”
    She looked up at him, “No, I don’t believe you do.”
    “I’m sorry, but I have seen your face in my dreams for so many years that I thought I knew you. I’m sorry for intruding.”
    “What do you mean by in your dreams?”
    “I’ve tried to quit having that dream but I used to have a dream of being with you in a house with a green roof and a red garden. Please excuse me.”
    He turned to go and was suddenly surround by four Red Warriors who grabbed his arms and began pulling him away toward Danielle who had five Red Warriors surrounding her. The young woman jumped up and yelled, “You will release him immediately!”
    One of the warriors turned, “Who are you to be giving me orders?”
    “My name is Rose Gardner and I am a former Queen of the Realm. If you value your position in the Realm’s military you will release him now!”
    The four warriors looked at the woman and didn’t know what to think. The Team Leader said, “Release him.” He then looked at Chris and said, “Don’t move; stay right here.” The leader got on his com and started asking for instructions.”
    Tag appeared next to Danielle and said, “What are you doing?”
    Then he looked over where Danielle was staring; he was stunned and he began walking toward Rose. Rose saw her father coming and took a deep breath and shook her head. Chris looked at her and said, “Are you really Rose Gardner?” She nodded. “Well, you’re a lot more beautiful than your pictures.”
    Rose looked at Chris and could see he meant it, “What color was the fence around the red garden?”
    “Blue as the sky.”
    “What color was the wood floor?”
    “It didn’t have a wood floor; it had burgundy carpet.”
    “What kind of flowers were in the Garden?”
    Chris thought for a moment and smiled, “Roses.”
    Tag arrived at that moment and swept Rose up into his arms and began to cry. Rose held on to him and wept with him. “How could you leave? I’ve missed you every day of my life.”
    Rose whispered, “Sometimes we lose our way.”
    Danielle walked up and looked at Rose. “Have you decided?”
    Rose looked at Danielle and smiled. “Sometimes the greatest gift we can give is our self.” She released her father and walked up to Chris and embraced him and felt the explosion in her heart. Chris felt his heart come alive and was inside Rose’s mind. He was amazed at what he saw. Rose finally felt what she had never experienced; complete connection with another that loved her completely. Chris leaned back and when Rose looked up at him, he kissed her. She knew that the wait was worth all that she suffered. Danielle and Tag moved forward and hugged Rose along with Chris. One minute later Tommy, Cassandra, Sprig, and Twig arrived to embrace the Queen and sister of their youth. The Red Warriors formed a barrier and called in reinforcements to hold back the gathering crowd.
    Danielle whispered to Rose, “Your children will have psychic abilities.”
    Rose’s eyes widened, “Really?”
    “Yes, and I’ve saved your bunnies.”
    She hugged Chris tighter and Chris felt alive for the first time in his life. The crowd grew but no one wanted to leave until much, much, later. By the time everyone went to the Castle, the crowd had grown to more than a million, and twenty thousand Red Warriors were needed to hold it away. The word was out and it spread like wild fire through the Realm, Rose was back.
    Later that day, Rose and Chris teleported to Al’s bridge and he took them to the last ship. Unlike the others, when they arrived in front of it a brilliant blue glow rushed out and covered the other ships. They all began to glow bright blue and within an hour were completely developed. Al looked on in amazement, “Your ship must be the very last ship.”
    Rose smiled as she held on to Chris, “It has waited for me. It had to be.”
    The red being flinched, “Did you see that?”
    “Yes, where did it originate?”
    “Somewhere in the quadrant below the lowest dimension.”
    “What was it?”
    “I don’t know and I did not get a reading on what caused it. It must have come from the missing universe. We need to focus our search in that quadrant.”
    “We are being ordered to do so by the Elders. They also saw it.”
    “Do they know what it was?”
    “No, but they say it was the color of the creative force.”
    “I have never asked you this, but are we stronger than this creative force?”
    “Depends on its strength; we won’t know until we go and see.”
    “And if we’re not?”
    “Then it should be an interesting view.”

Chapter 12

    “Matt, I have something that you might be interested in hearing.”
    “Where are you Destiny?”
    “I’m on my home planet. I’ll send you the coordinates.”
    Matt looked at his bracelet and saw the coordinates. He pushed the enable button and appeared in a strange structure that appeared to be made of interwoven white strands. “I see you have used a web to make your home.”
    “Yes, it was really easy to build. Come with me.” Destiny walked outside and entered a structure next to his home that was much bigger. “Matt.” Three spiders that were bigger than he remembered ran up and wrapped their front legs around him.
    “Hi, guys. What’s going on?”
    Edison jumped a foot off the ground, “I think we have found the stuff the Demons use to build their ships.”
    “Oh, really; what is it?”
    “Einstein actually found it.”
    Matt looked at the spider with the smallest fangs, “It figures.”
    “I found it in the recording of the entry point’s destruction when the doorway was blocked between our universes. Before it broke out into our universe, I noticed that it was orange in color. I went to the site of the explosion and took samples from some of the ships that had been demolished. It’s pretty dangerous stuff.”
    “The Red Demon ships are also orange. What do you know about it?”
    “It is the substance that lies in the space between universes. It is similar to null space but occupies a much larger dimension. I’ve discovered that you can move through it to go to another universe but it will not enter a universe without causing a massive explosion. It is the energy that holds all of creation together.”
    “I’m not sure I understand.”
    “Imagine a space where only the orange energy exists. When a new universe is created, it enters that space as a particle smaller that the smallest atom. It is protected from the orange energy by a protective barrier that surrounds it. As the universe expands, it pushes the energy away from it. It’s kinda like blowing up a balloon underwater. The balloon expands and water is pushed away from it.”
    “I see.”
    “It appears that the Demons have found a way to bring that energy into normal space inside a universe. We believe that they probably use that energy as a weapon.”
    Matt thought a moment, “What if we meet them in that space between universes. Wouldn’t that weapon then not have an affect there?”
    “If you could pull that off then you’re probably right. However, for you to go into that space and stay in it you would have to have ships made from that energy; any other substance would be kicked out.”
    “So how does this help us?”
    Newton looked up at Matt, “We can’t duplicate the orange energy but we have been able to recreate the barrier that holds it away from normal space. We all think that if you surround your ship with that barrier that any energy weapon that uses the orange energy would not penetrate the barrier. We also believe that the energy cannot be increased in power.”
    “What?”
    “Well, you know how you can increase the power of a laser by putting more energy into it?”
    “Yes.”
    “Well, the energy you put into it is different from the energy the laser is emitting. There is no other energy that would be compatible with that orange energy. It is so devastating I imagine that no one would ever really try.”
    “How can I use this information?”
    “We have built a device that can deploy a field made of the protective barrier that surrounds our universe. Since the orange energy cannot come through it to enter normal space, then their weapons should not penetrate it in normal space.”
    “Where is this device?”
    “We took it to your ship and installed it a week ago.”
    Matt just stared at the three spiders. Newton said, “I still want you to see me grow up.”
    Edison tilted his head, “Do you know what the most remarkable thing was?”
    “What?”
    “There was a space in the wall of your ship that was the exact shape of the device we built with the connections for it already in place.”
    Matt started shaking his head and looked up at the bright blue sky. “What’s wrong, Matt?”
    “Destiny, that space in my ship was designed more than a hundred million years ago.”
    The four spiders looked at him for a very long moment. Einstein said, “You’re kidding, right?”
    “No, I’m not. I refuse to even think about what this means and the implications for us because I fear just thinking about it would scramble my understanding of all that I know. The most obvious thing is that somehow our friendship was known at its design.”
    The Three young spiders looked at each other and Newton said, “You were right, Einstein. The future is possible to see but not the past.”
    Matt looked at the three spiders, “I don’t want to know. I’ll leave it in your capable legs.”
    The three spiders were not listening; they were thinking about what Matt had just told them.
    “One of the Elders has found the missing universe.”
    The Red Being looked up from his board, “Where was it?”
    “It was in the quadrant under the lower dimension. It seems it is hidden behind a blue field.”
    “How can that be?”
    “They aren’t really certain how that was done. The only way it was found was to track the energy in that area and they determined that it was compressed when no universe was present. They followed the pressure and bumped up against the blue colored field.”
    “Did any of our searches turn up any other universes with universal drives?”
    “No, and now they are of the opinion that it was probably a ship from that universe that scanned us. The blue barrier indicates an extremely evolved life form. It appears that the universe in question was one that was harvested by your old tool several times and nothing was reported about an advanced civilization.”
    The second Demon was scared, “If they could hide from us, I believe they could hide from any tool I could create.”
    The first thought a moment, “That is possible. Perhaps you’re right. That would explain why they were never discovered.”
    “What are they going to do now?”
    “They have sent me here to tell you that you will go there and see if your first tool is in that universe.”
    “Me! Why me?”
    “It’s your tool that’s missing. They are of the opinion that you didn’t build it properly or it wouldn’t have gone missing.”
    “Is anyone else going with me?”
    “No.”
    “Why not? If the creative force is there and it’s strong enough to shield an entire universe, then it’s probably a lot stronger than just one ship.”
    “I suspect that they know that but still want to see what happens to you.”
    “Can’t you convince them to send more than just one ship?”
    “I’m afraid that if I ask then they will order me to go with you; you know how they are when they’re anxious.”
    “What if I refuse to go?”
    The other being was silent.
    “I guess my choice is to go and possibly die or not go and certainly die.”
    “That’s the way I see it.”
    “What if I can’t penetrate that field?”
    “Then they will consider that in their next decision. However, if when they return one ship is able to penetrate the field then you’ll be killed.”
    “How long do I have before I must go?”
    “I am here to tell you to go now.”
    The Red Being looked at the messenger and said, “I will prepare my ship and go.”
    “I think that is wise.”
    “There was nothing you could do, Father?”
    “Not without endangering myself, Son.”
    “I hope they enjoy the show.”
    “I’m sure they’ll be watching.”
    “Like they are now?”
    “Exactly.”
    “Brother, one of them is coming.”
    Matt jumped up from his chair, “What should I do?”
    “Take your ship and meet him at the barrier.”
    “Should I bring all of the ships?”
    “No, just the one; they can probably see through the barrier enough to see what happens. We should keep our numbers hidden as long as possible.”
    “How many ships do they have?”
    “Many, as you saw in your visit to their home.”
    “Where should I go to meet the one coming?”
    “You’ll see it.”
    Matt felt the contact disappear, “Melanie, we have to go; the conflict is about to begin.”
    “I’m going to leave AG with Kalara. Give me a moment to say goodbye.”
    “I’ll meet you on the ship.” Matt hit his bracelet and appeared on the small ship’s bridge. He sat down in his chair and felt the ship power up. He looked at his display panel and thought, “Where is the demon?” He saw the orange ship moving through the space between universes and could see that it was moving at a rather deliberate speed. “Melanie, we need to go.”
    Melanie appeared on the bridge and took her chair, “I just didn’t want to leave her. I’m sorry.”
    Matt reached across and took her hand, “I understand. Are you ready?”
    “Yes, is that the one coming on the display?”
    “Yes, do you have any suggestions?”
    “I sense the ship is telling me to power the links between our chairs; I’ve never done that before.”
    “Then I guess it’s time, love.”
    Melanie thought a moment and then put her hand in the indentation on her left chair arm. The ship emitted a low frequency that rapidly built and grew higher in tone until it passed the range of human hearing. As the tone rose the ship grew brighter until it radiated blue light bright enough to be seen on the planet’s surface. Matt looked at the oncoming Demon ship and thought, “Go to meet him.”
    The ship disappeared from the orbit above Ross and reappeared out at the border of the universe. They saw the blue field ahead of them and followed it as the universe expanded. “It should be here shortly.”
    “Do you know how to use the weapons on this ship, Magic?”
    “There’s only one weapon, Melanie. I use my mind to activate it. You have control of the defensive screen.”
    “I have it at full power. Are you going to activate the device the spiders put in?”
    “No, if this ship can’t handle one of the Demon’s small ships then we are all doomed. I don’t want to show it to them on first contact.”
    “What’s your plan?”
    “We’ll see if it can break through the field. If it does, we’ll fire on it.”
    “Are you going to try and communicate first?”
    “What would I say?”
    “Perhaps ask it to go away.”
    “I think that in this particular conflict we should face these beings in the interest of all life.”
    “And go against all that we hold to be true. Will we be the ones to start this war?”
    Matt shrugged, “Ok, let’s see what happens. However, we will not use telepathy to communicate; I’ve seen what happens when you allow them in your mind.”
    “I’ll use the ship’s system. I don’t want to ever feel them in my mind again.
    The orange energy ship came closer and saw blue barrier around the universe approaching as the universe expanded. Just before it made contact with the blue field the Red being heard, “Would it do any good to just ask you to leave and not come back?”
    The Red Being stopped his ship and backed away from the approaching blue field maintaining a hundred thousand mile separation. “That depends.”
    “Depends on what?”
    “On whether or not you remove this barrier and allow this universe to go back into its normal dimension.”
    “Let’s just assume we did that; are you saying that you would then leave this universe alone and not send the species you develop to kill life into it.”
    The Red Being flinched, “So you are the one that detonated the recording machine.”
    “Of course, weren’t you able to see us do it?”
    “Uh, actually no; but we knew whoever did it was in this universe.”
    “You haven’t answered my question.”
    “We will leave you alone.”
    “If you will leave us alone, why don’t you just leave us here? It seems you want us to remove our barrier so you can attack us.”
    “If we want to attack you we will. You cannot stand up to us.”
    “Perhaps you’re right; however, I must warn you that should you attempt to cross that blue barrier I will be forced to take action to prevent your entering. I’ve seen what you do to species that you create. If you have such little regard for them I’m certain that you will have even less for any others.”
    “I will destroy you if you do anything to inhibit my movements.”
    “Just like all the other millions of civilizations that you have sent your created species against.”
    “Your destruction will be much worse than those suffered; that I promise.”
    Melanie broke in, “You have murdered them because you fear what might come from them.”
    The red being jerked, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
    “Yes I do; I can see it now. Your species is frightened that another species would develop and would be powerful enough to destroy you. It is that paranoia that drives you. Before you continue to make threats that you are uncertain about, I would recommend that you turn around and leave. If you try to come through our field, we will kill you.”
    The Demon felt fear, “Many have thought they could and are now all dead.”
    “I notice you haven’t moved toward us since we began this conversation; you are uncertain about our power or you would have just ignored us. Your actions give you away. Are you the one who designed the eight legged creatures?”
    “Yes, I am. Did you kill them?”
    “Did you find their bodies?”
    “They are here in your universe; your question gives you away. I will take care of them as well.”
    Matt felt his rage build; this was the one that caused all the deaths, “We are through communicating. Do as you want; you’ve been warned.”
    The Demon could see a bright blue glow behind the blue field and assumed that is where the being that was communicating was located. He jumped around the universe to the other side and started forward but saw the bright blue glow in front of him. He stopped and jumped to another place and saw the blue glow again. He made a series of fast jumps and every time the blue glow appeared in front of him. “Quit wasting time and go kill that insolent being.”
    The Demon jumped. The Elders had been listening in and now there was nothing to do but go into that universe. He set the field around his ship to match the universe’s energy and moved forward and hit the blue field… and bounced off. He strengthened the field and moved forward again and bounced back. He moved away from the blue field and then flew faster into the blue colored field and penetrated a small distance before being pushed back. “If you come at this barrier again I will fire on you. I will not allow you to experiment with how to get through.”
    “Go to full speed and hit that field, now.”
    The Demon shook his head and backed away and flew full speed toward the barrier. Just before he hit it a bright blue bolt of light came through the barrier and hit his ship causing a massive explosion. When the light from the blast diminished, the orange ship was hanging still and flickering. It had been reduced to little more than the room the Demon occupied. He hit the jump button and disappeared. He reappeared in the dark galaxy and called for help. Several support creatures ran up and lifted him out of his ship and dropped him into a cocoon in his lab. He stayed conscious long enough to remember the blue light that struck his ship and demolished every layer down to the last one protecting the command cabin. His skin burned from the exposure to the bright light and resulting explosion; the pain was incredible. He felt the cocoon turn on its healing lenses and he closed his eyes in blessed relief from the pain and slipped into unconsciousness.”
    “Your son was not very effective.”
    “He did what he could.”
    “Why didn’t he take one of the bigger ships?”
    “He and I thought you wanted him to take his.”
    “I did; he still could have asked and I might have allowed it.”
    The Red Being said nothing.
    “Now we know where our enemy is located. We will go and kill them with all our ships.”
    “All of them?”
    “Yes, we will take no chances of failure. I will notify everyone that we will be going in three nems. Make sure you are ready.”
    “I will have my ships ready.
    “Melanie, why did you pull the punch on that ship?”
    “He was sent here to see what we are capable of doing and I didn’t want to give them anything. It still almost totally destroyed his ship.”
    “Yes it did; I’m surprised at how much effect our shot had at one hundredth power.”
    “That was a small ship, Magic. I’m certain they have larger vessels.”
    “I think it’s time to gather the crews. It won’t be long before they return.”
    “I’ll send the word out.”
    “Thanks, take us to the psychic ships; we’ll wait there for everyone to come.”
    “Tommy, we have been ordered to report to our psychic ship.”
    “I’m ready when you are.”
    “I’m worried about the Kosiev; it knows I’m going into battle without it. I can sense its unease.”
    “I’m sure it knows what’s happening. It just doesn’t want to lose you again. I really think this ship loves you almost as much as I do.”
    “Maybe more; it might not listen to reason like you would. I’ve powered it down and ordered it to wait for my return. I hope it listens.”
    “Me, too; I don’t want to see it hurt by the Demons; that orange energy could destroy it.”
    “I know. I’m sure it will stay.”
    Tommy and Cassandra teleported away from the Kosievs’ bridge to their new ship and left the bridge deactivated….until a light came on in the sensor array. The array aligned itself to the edge of the universe where the psychic ships were gathered and remained locked on that region of space. The weapons console suddenly lit up and began running self tests on the ship’s systems. The Kosiev disappeared.
    “Citizens of the Stars Realm, our war with the Demons has begun today. We have fought off one of their ships but we know that their fleet will be coming soon. Please think about our brave warriors who are confronting the enemy and wish them success. We will keep you informed about what happens. If we lose, please make plans to try and hide from them. Use the teleport systems and do all you can to survive; we are doing all we can to protect you.”
    Matt sent a thought to the Reg, “Brother, can you tell me how the Demons will enter our universe?”
    “They will have to use all their ships at one location to break thru the psychic barrier we have made. That is where you will have to hold them off. If you can destroy enough of their ships, they will delay their entry until a later date. You must not let them break thru the corridor they attack.”
    “Are we strong enough to win?”
    “We don’t know; all of our visions stop at this moment in time. We believe that the future from this point forward is undetermined. It can go either way.”
    “Do you have any suggestions as to how we should meet them?”
    “No, you are the warriors.”
    “Thank you, Brother for helping us.”
    “It is something we had to do.”

Chapter 13

    “Attention all Psychic Ships. We are going to organize into five groups of a hundred ships in each group. The command vessels for the groups will be as follows: the center will be commanded by Tommy and Cassandra Gardner; the right of Cassandra will be Rose and Chris Gardner; the left of Cassandra will be Thomas and Danielle Gardner; the left end of our formation will be Anglo and Jenny Gardner; Melanie and I will have the right end of our formation. The command ships will place themselves behind their hundred ships and move to support wherever needed. I want your fields extended to their maximum power and each ship will overlap their screens. If we lose a ship, then extend your screens to cover the gap. I know that the power will be reduced but we cannot allow breaks in our formation. Once your fields are extended, I will lock all of you into Melanie’s board and she will jump our formation to stay in front of the Demons. You do not need to focus on where we move; we will handle that for all of us. Are there any questions?”
    “Yes, how do Fly Girl and I move into our ship?”
    “I don’t know, Al. Perhaps if you just move next to it and make contact it might make the move for you.” Matt watched as Al and Fly Girl approached their ship and moved slowly forward and touched the ship’s hull.
    “We’re in; we’re teleporting our ships to a safe location.” The two Alpha ships disappeared.
    Matt thought privately to Al and Fly Girl, “Where is Junior?”
    “He’s with Stem and Petal’s seed. They are going to Atlas and Diana to start their training.”
    “I hope Atlas and Diana are up for the effort. Those two should be a handful.”
    “You have no idea; junior has already exhausted our libraries.”
    “How do the two of you like being in one ship?”
    “Matt, this is the greatest feeling I’ve ever had; I love being this close to Fly Girl.”
    “Me, too, Matt, this is wonderful.”
    “Take this time to familiarize yourself with your new ship.”
    “Already on it.”
    “Good, Al; I’ll see you after the battle.”
    “Count on it.”
    “Jenny, do you feel like I forced you into being with me?”
    “Oh, Anglo, don’t be ridiculous.”
    “No, I mean it. I pressured you a lot.”
    “Silly, I was already trying to figure out how to get your attention before anyone said anything. I couldn’t be happier.”
    “Thanks, Jenny; I love you.”
    “We have time before the Demons come; let’s make good use of it.”
    “Oh, Jenny, come here.”
    “Rose.”
    “Yes, Chris.”
    “I feel so unworthy of having you.”
    “Why, because I’ve been a queen?”
    “That’s part of it. You’re just so beautiful and your mind is extraordinary. I am so thankful you chose to be with me.”
    “Chris, that decision was made millions of years ago. You are what completes me and don’t sell yourself short; you are a powerful psychic generator.”
    “I’m still not sure what that is, Rose.”
    “I am able to use psychic abilities to a very high level; you understand that don’t you?”
    “Yes.”
    “Well you have more psychic power than I do. When we are linked, I can use your power to make my abilities more than ten thousand times stronger. You are the power that will make this ship deadly. You are probably more important than I am in the coming battle. Without you, I wouldn’t be strong enough alone to survive.”
    “Then we need each other, Love.”
    “More than you will ever know. I’ve needed you my whole life and I didn’t know it. Now my life is complete. No matter how this turns out, the time we’ve been together has been the best of my life.”
    “And mine, too.”
    “We just have to make sure we win. I want to enjoy this for a very long time.”
    Tag looked at his board and then said to Danielle, “We are practically one person now.”
    “Yes, Love, isn’t it great?”
    “Yes but there is something you must do during the upcoming battle.”
    Danielle could hear his concern, “What is that?”
    “Part of my talents revolves around being able to see places where we won’t be in the line of fire. When you see a dark shadow around us, you must move the ship into it. Time will also slow down and we’ll be moving much faster than the ships around us. I’ll be busy with the weapons and I have to depend on you to keep us safe. Can you do what I’m asking?”
    “Yes, I’ll make sure we move toward the psychic shadows you see. You just make sure you use your weapons effectively.”
    “I only have one weapon that is some kind of beam. I’m sure I’ll be able to target the enemy. You keep us moving.”
    “I will. I still look forward to retirement.”
    “Are our ships ready?”
    “Yes, they are.”
    “Is everyone prepared?”
    “Everyone but the one healing from the first contact.”
    “Why is he not here?”
    “He is still unconscious; evidently the blast did more damage to him than we thought. His skin has regenerated but evidently his brain was shocked severely by the blast. He is unable to fly any kind of ship.”
    “I was going to make him lead the attack. Losing a tool is unforgivable. Could we put him in a ship and push it at the barrier ahead of us?”
    “It would be a waste of a good ship and he’ll just get in the way.”
    “Ummmmm, perhaps you’re right. He would probably just slow us down, the incompetent fool. When he wakes you should eliminate him; he’s your son.”
    “He is your grandson.”
    “Don’t remind me; he’s an embarrassment.”
    The Demon lay in his cocoon listening to the conversation. He was conscious but had disconnected the dial from the neural reader so no one could see. He was angry to the point where he almost came out and attacked his family. Then he calmed down; there was no such thing as family in his species. He thought about that as he remembered the feelings of the two in the blue ship that had nearly killed him. He saw that both of them would gladly give their lives for the other. Why would they do that? He decided to watch what happened and decide what to do after the battle was over. He knew his ship was no match for the blue ship and this was a battle he was happy to witness from the sidelines.
    “They’re coming.” All five hundred ships saw the huge fleet of orange ships moving toward them. There had to be millions of ships in that fleet and some of them were thousands of miles long. “Hold your formation; we must block their entrance; link with your partners now and go to full power.” The blue glow increased in brightness.”
    “Do you see it?”
    “Yes, I see it. It’s brighter than I have ever seen in my life span.”
    “Should we reconsider this attack?”
    “If we don’t attack now then this force can only grow stronger. It’s brighter than ever before but it is not a huge source. We are still stronger and larger. We will prevail.”
    “Should we try to break in and then attack?”
    “Send all the ships to different places along the barrier and breakthrough in multiple locations.”
    Matt watched as the huge fleet spread out and moved toward the blue barrier from millions of different locations, “Hold your formation. They won’t break through unless they gather all of their ships at one location; be patient.”
    “Grena, no matter what happens today, I am so thankful for you coming to me.”
    “It does not matter, Life; we will be together no matter what.”
    “This is a glorious way to protect our people.”
    “We are not breaking through the barrier. It seems that where we use high numbers of ships we get further through but we don’t have enough hitting it and we are thrown back.”
    “Use half the ships at two locations.”
    “Stay alert; they will combine their forces shortly at one of those two locations. We will move as soon as they declare their intention on which one they will attack with the entire fleet.”
    “Matt, do we start firing before they penetrate the field?”
    “I believe they will force a corridor through the field as wide as our formation. As they approach the final hundred miles of the field, we will begin firing. Use full power on your shots, hold nothing in reserve.”
    “We are still not getting through. We penetrate half way.”
    “Move all our ships to the first location and get all of our ships behind each other pushing those in front.”
    Matt watched as the ships on the right disappeared, “Go, Melanie.”
    The psychic ships appeared in front of the oncoming Demon fleet. The Demons were now moving quickly through the field and were approaching normal space. Matt watched and saw the orange ships move to within a hundred miles of their ships, “Weapons free, fire.”
    The five hundred blue ships had a twenty mile separation between them. The entire front of their thousand mile wide formation erupted in blue fire as each ship fired thousands of blue beams into the oncoming Demons. The front rank of the Demon ships exploded into gigantic explosions. Six hundred thousand orange ships were blown into nothingness but the huge mass continued to move inexorably forward.
    “We have lost thousands of ships!”
    “Yes, but we will soon be through. Keep pushing forward.”
    The Demon Fleet was now filling the thousand mile wide break in the blue field all the way back to the hundred thousand mile depth where it began. The Demon fleet was now only five miles from breaking through and then the front rank came through in the center and started firing at Cassandra and Tommy’s ships. Twenty blue ships exploded.
    “Move toward the center. Close the gaps,” Matt ordered as he began firing at Demon ships breaking out in front of his line.
    The front line looked like fire and ice as the orange and blue beams ripped into the two enemies facing each other. Another hundred thousand Demon ships were destroyed but a hundred more blue ships were destroyed with half of them being in Cassandra’s group. She saw that the Demons were bunching together to push through her weakened line. Life and Grena were killing orange ships faster than they could count and then a hundred orange beams hit their ship and it exploded. Stem and Pedal moved into the space between them and drove the advance back a mile but then their ship was hit by more than five hundred beams and blew up in a huge blue flash that destroyed every orange ship in front of them back to a distance of three miles.
    Matt and Melanie were firing as fast as possible and knew that if they couldn’t get support for the middle of the formation and that the line would be broken but there were too many attacking their line to leave. “It looks like we’ve failed, Darling.”
    “Melanie, I will love you forever.”
    Matt saw on his display more than a thousand orange ships drive toward Cassandra’s ship. “Matt, please take care of the Kosiev.”
    “I will, Cassandra.”
    Out of nowhere the Kosiev appeared and flew into Cassandra’s ship and absorbed it into its skin. Immediately more than twenty thousand blue beams erupted from its surface and killed every Demon ship in front of it. It stayed there killing everything that came near it. Matt thought about how it could possibly be using the psychic beams and then he understood, “Attention all ships, go into the Kosievs’ skin. Go quickly, go now!”
    Twenty blue ships dove into the Kosievs’ hull and disappeared. The blue beams coming out of the Kosiev multiplied fifty times. Hundreds of thousands of blue beams erupted and tore a devastating hole in the Demons front. Fifty more ships flew into the Kosiev and the entire hull of the Kosiev became one huge beam sweeping the Demon ships in the corridor. The remaining seventy nine psychic ships darted into the Kosiev and the beams now had the power to reach the entire width of the corridor and the front of the Demon fleet was blown out of existence. The Kosiev began moving forward killing every Demon ship in front and to the sides all the way to the barrier walls. The huge two mile long ship sparkled with a blue radiance that was blinding.
    “What is that ship? It is killing us!”
    “Fire on it!”
    “It does no good. The entire ship is one big beam; there are no gaps to fire through.”
    “Order all ships to run. We will have to fight this another time.”
    Matt watched the Demon ships turn and start to run toward the opening to escape the barrier. “Melanie, now is the time for Newton’s gift.”
    Melanie activated the field and placed it over the break in the blue field where the Demon fleet had entered. The Demon ships fleeing hit the barrier and were stopped.
    “What’s happening?”
    “There is some kind of field that prevents us from crossing.”
    “Jump away.”
    “We can’t inside this blue field. Our drives don’t operate.”
    The Elder Demons watched as the Kosiev moved forward. They had placed themselves at the rear of the Fleet to insure their safety but now they saw there was no safety to be found anywhere in the corridor. “Fire all our beams on that field in one location. Those on the front ram that ship.”
    “We have done it but to no effect.”
    Thousands of the orange ships turned and drove toward the approaching blue vessel and were destroyed. A five thousand mile wide orange ship roared in and the first red being knew he should have made his son tell what he knew. Now he understood the Elder’s fear and then his ship exploded around him.
    The Eldest Demon watched that blue monster approaching. He screamed at the forces that the creative force had brought into existence to bring his species to an end. Then the blue ship was in front of him and he screamed one last time as his ship disintegrated in a violent explosion.
    There was silence as Matt watched the now empty space in the blue barrier. Then he saw Cassandra and Tommy’s ship emerge from the Kosievs’ outer skin, “I guess the Kosiev can take care of itself, Matt.”
    “Can it ever, Cassandra.”
    “I couldn’t allow my love to die.”
    “Who said that?”
    “Matt, that was the Kosiev; it is now intelligent. I guess the blue psychic forces inside it opened its mind.”
    “That is exactly what happened. I could not stand by and allow the Demons to kill you without trying to save you. My existence would be meaningless without you.”
    “You saved us all. You made the critical difference when all was lost.”
    “That is my destiny, Matt, that is what I was created to do.”
    “How many ships survived?”
    “I have a hundred and forty eight ships still inside my outer skin.”
    Matt felt his pain at the lost crews. “Will you send them out now?”
    Immediately the ships stared ejecting from the Kosiev. Cassandra hugged Tommy tightly and cried. Tommy thought to Matt, “We lost Stem and Pedal and Life and Grena. Anglo and Jenny have been teleported to Ross for medical care; their ship was hit pretty hard and I don’t know if they will make it.”
    Matt hung his head and was already missing his friends. Melanie got up and came into his arms. They held on to each other and cried together.
    “Sprig.”
    “Yes, Cassandra.”
    “We have defeated the Demons but we have lost Stem and Petal.”
    Sprig felt his branches lower. Twig came over and put her top on his.
    “He died bravely and gave us time to reform our line. Without his sacrifice we would have been lost. I am so sorry.”
    “He loved before he died, Cassandra, and he left hundreds of seeds to follow him. They will learn of the greatness of their parents.” Sprig and Twig held each other for a long time.
    Tag looked at Danielle and felt her sorrow. “It’s like when you lost Alex; I feel the loss of those wonderful friends.”
    “I know, my love, but we are here to make sure their sacrifice is remembered and celebrated. I would give my life to give the Realm a period of peace. I’m sure they would do the same.”
    “I wonder how we survived when so many died, Tag.”
    “We live because I could see where to move to avoid the majority of their beams and you flew the ship magnificently; I still have those hiding skills. We have a responsibility to those that died today. We must make their sacrifice worthwhile.”
    “I know.”
    “The Realm is still too big. Something has to be done.”
    “I don’t want to do what you’re considering but I’m being selfish.”
    “Me, too, Danielle.”
    The Gardner family was gathered at the hospital waiting for the surgeon to come out and tell them what was happening with Anglo and Jenny. Finally, he came out of the operating room and looked at the powerful group waiting for him, “We have done all we can. Their burns are being repaired but their nervous systems took quite a shock from the energy that hit their ship and I don’t know if they will regain consciousness. Something is causing their neural pathways to degenerate.”
    Sprig stepped forward and said, “Where are you taking them?”
    “We are moving them to an intensive care unit.”
    Matt looked at Anglo and then remembered, “Melanie, go and bring AG here now.”
    “Why?”
    “I don’t have time to explain; just do it!”
    Melanie hit her bracelet and disappeared.
    “What’s going on, Matt?”
    “Melanie was poisoned by contact with the Red Demons thoughts. AG was able to remove it and repair the damage to her brain. I hope she can do the same for Anglo and Jenny.”
    Sprig turned and said, “I want you to place their beds side by side, Doctor.”
    “Our telemetry units are only designed for one bed, Your Majesty. I’ll have to put them on portable power to do what you want.”
    “You will do as I order, doctor.”
    The surgeon bowed and raised his com to issue the appropriate orders. Twig turned to the family, “We will go with them to the unit and you will all gather and make contact beside their bed.”
    Cassandra frowned, “Do you think it will work with them?”
    “Do you have a better suggestion?”
    Matt asked, “What are you talking about, Sprig?”
    “When Twig and I were close to losing ourselves, Tommy and Cassandra came and made contact beside us. It created a strong psychic field that allowed us to hold on and gather ourselves. It saved us. We must try.”
    The three couples and Matt went to the intensive care unit and stood around the bed with Jenny and Anglo. Tag took Danielle’s hand; she took Tommy’s hand as he grasped Cassandra’s; Cassandra took Matt’s hand as he grasped Rose’s hand. Chris closed the circle by taking Rose’s and Tag’s hand. A bright blue field began appearing around the seven Gardners and covered the bed where Anglo and Jenny were laying unmoving. They held each other’s hands and felt the love that they all felt for each other. The feeling grew and with it the blue field grew incrementally brighter. The seven family members stood like statues waiting for Melanie’s return.
    The doctor watched the telemetry screen and said, “The degradation has stopped. It is not getting worse.”
    Melanie reappeared holding their six year old daughter. Matt moved forward and took AG in his arms and said, “Darling, do you remember when you helped mommy remove the bad stuff in her mind after we visited the red creatures?”
    AG looked at Matt and said, “Yes, Daddy.”
    “Can you help our friends?”
    AG looked down at Anglo and Jenny and stared at them for a minute; she then squirmed to get out of Matt’s embrace. She walked over to Jenny’s bed and closed her eyes.
    Matt and Melanie entered the circle and the blue glow reappeared even brighter.
    AG looked in Jenny’s mind and saw the residue left by the Demon’s thoughts. She was stronger now and she focused on it and quickly destroyed it. She then repaired the nerve damage that had been caused. She turned to Anglo and repeated the process. She could hear them trying desperately to reach out to each other and she linked their minds.
    “Jenny.”
    “Yes, Love.”
    “Where are you?”
    “I’m here with you where I will always be.”
    The four couples released their hands and opened their eyes to see Anglo looking at Jenny. He looked up at the concerned people around his bed and smiled, “I don’t know what happened; I was lost in a dark space but then I felt Jenny. Whatever you did allowed me to find my way back; thank you.”
    Jenny opened her eyes and smiled, “I felt you calling me, Anglo. I moved to your voice.”
    The surgeon came up, “Their neural systems are stable. I need you to leave so we can get them into units to repair their bodies. They will be fine and I’ll let you know when you can come back and see them; right now I’m putting them in a coma.”
    The doctor pushed a button on the head of the bed and Anglo and Jenny closed their eyes.
    The four couples and Sprig and Twig stepped out of the room into the hall. Everyone looked at AG and hugged her. She smiled and laughed when Tommy tickled her. She loved her family.
    Matt lifted his daughter and said, “You’re going to make a marvelous Queen someday.”
    AG looked at her father and smiled, “Just like Mommy.”
    Everyone hugged and started to leave but Tag said, “Before you go; I want to discuss an issue with you.”
    Matt turned and looked at Tag, “Can it wait? We have so much to do for those that were lost in the battle.”
    “No, we need to discuss this now and come to a resolution later.”
    “What do you want, Tag?”
    “Sprig, you are doing a great job but the Realm is still falling under the weight of the numbers; am I wrong?”
    Sprig leaned forward, “We have made excellent progress in handling issues between the members but we are starting to see developments that we are just not able to handle as quickly as needed.”
    Rose frowned, “What developments?”
    “We are starting to see the rise of pirates and other groups that are making things difficult for a large number of planets. Remember, millions of new members were accepted into the Realm that do not know the peace and prosperity that happens when everyone works together. Some are taking advantage of the leadership vacuum. There are also a huge number of planets that have been colonized by members of the Realm that have not asked to be a member. Those independent planets are causing havoc with our members. What are you thinking, Tag?”
    “We will divide the Realm into five sectors and we will each take one and go there as the ruling couple. We will all take the titles of Duke and Duchess and will all bow to the Realm’s King and Queen. We will take the responsibility of our provinces and restore order and handle as many of the problems as possible. Only the serious issues will be sent to the Royal Couple. The Realm’s armed forces will be distributed to the five provinces and will be used to enforce peace, but they will owe their allegiance to the King. Ross will distribute the armed forces as it deems appropriate. I am going to recommend that every Searcher be assigned a Red Warrior and they will become the main tool of our peace keeping efforts.”
    Rose looked at her father, “Do you think the Realm will stand for that to happen?”
    “Rose, I don’t want to do it. I want to retire and enjoy your mother for a few thousand years just flying around this wonderful universe we have; but we are needed. The deaths of those we loved so much demand that we make this work. They died so our Realm would survive. We also know that there are other universes that need help but they will have to wait until we get our own house in order. I may be all wrong about this, but I want you to think about what I’ve proposed and plan to meet in four weeks to decide our future course. Sprig, you and Twig will have the final say on what we do; it is your Realm and we will follow your orders. If you can come up with a better plan, then I will support you. We cannot wait longer to decide; the Realm is starting to decay at an increasing rate.”
    Sprig thought a moment and thought, “We will be honoring those who died in four weeks. We will meet prior to that gathering and I charge you to think about what is suggested and the responsibility it places on you. If we move in that direction, you need to think about what that will do to your lives.”
    Matt looked at Sprig, “We’ll see you in four weeks.”

Chapter 14

    The small blue ship appeared above a planet that was a wasteland of barren plains. Below the ship was a structure made of orange energy that glowed brightly in the mist of desolation. The red being looked at his board and sighed, “I assume you are here to finish what we started.”
    “Yes.”
    “I’ve been waiting for you.”
    “You could have tried to hide in another universe; why didn’t you?”
    “I thought about it but you would have been able to find me wherever I tried to hide, right?
    Matt looked at Melanie and she nodded, “Yes, we would have found you.”
    “I thought as much. I acted hastily destroying my last tool. You would have had your hands full trying to handle them. I planned to recreate them, but I know I wouldn’t be given enough time if you came looking for me. If I tried to run I would have had to leave all the facilities needed to produce them. I decided to just wait for you here and think about all that has happened. I think that somewhere along the way we lost ourselves and turned in a direction that should have been avoided. My culture knew nothing but self-love and death. We reveled in the pain and misery we caused. I have been observing your universe since the blue barrier was removed and I see some concepts that are foreign to me. I finally realized that creation is better without my species in it.
    I’m the only one left and only an accident allowed that to happen. I don’t know if I can change enough to not do what we have done in the past. I’m a product of billions of years and I’m still capable of building those tools that you’re familiar with and you know how deadly those can be. I know, given time, I could build one that would kill everyone in your universe and love every minute of it. It would be better if you end it here and now.” The red being waited for the blast but nothing happened.
    “I know that you have great difficulty harming anyone that is not attacking you but I cannot change what has made me what I am over the eons that we have existed. Sometimes a hard decision must be made to protect the ones you care about. I do not care that all of my species died. Quite frankly, they deserved it. At the end, I rejoiced at their deaths. I wish they had suffered more after what they did to me. I am incapable of feeling the close bonds that you can have with each other and I am a danger to you and your descendents. I do not blame you or feel remorse for what must be done. I suspect that you will regret doing this in the future, but this is now.”
    “Are you sure that you cannot refrain from harming others?”
    “I am, and now that I’ve seen what you have that I can never possess, I only feel anger and rage that I am incapable of having it, too. That rage is what consumes me; I long for peace.”
    A bright blue beam struck the orange structure and it exploded shattering the planet under it causing massive earthquakes and tsunamis.
    “Matt, I hate that we had to do this.”
    “He was right; sometimes someone has to make the hard decision. This species had to be destroyed and it’s my belief that we were chosen for that task. Even if he promised to never hurt another civilization, I could not trust him to keep his word. We’ve been fortunate in the past of becoming friends with our adversaries, and I think that if we had destroyed any of those former adversaries we would have lost this conflict.”
    Melanie shook her head, “How do you come up with that?”
    “What role did our first adversary play in this conflict? The Algeans are the ones that provided the bulk of our technological advances. The Captors gave us the red screens that allowed us to defeat the Eight Legs. The defeat of the spiders allowed us to learn of this dangerous species. If we had killed any of those adversaries we would have not prevailed.”
    Melanie thought a moment and nodded and said, “Yet you killed this entire species.”
    “This species is different from all the others. Just one of them could destroy us with it’s tools and in the end, he knew it. Melanie, all of the devastation on the planet’s surface was recently done. This Demon has destroyed all of the other structures in this galaxy so no one can come and discover their technology at a later time and use it. He was actually wise and gave the only gift he could to all of creation; his life. I can only imagine the force of will it took to make his choice and follow through on it. I think he turned his rage on himself and actually wanted to die; just like the last tool he created. They were forced to do it; he made the choice.”
    “Matt, look.”
    The dark galaxy the blue ship had entered began fading and in moments it had disappeared leaving the blue ship in an empty void. “Melanie, it’s over; just one more trip to make.”
    The blue ship appeared above the planet of the Reg and the three Reg materialized on the bridge; Matt thought, “We would all be dead except for your kindness. Thank you from all of the beings in this universe.”
    “Actually, it was one of your creations that made the difference. We never saw that happening but now all creation can grow and evolve naturally.”
    Matt heard what they said and understood more than was being said, “You’re leaving.”
    Even Melanie could sense the Reg’s surprise. One of them thought, “You have surprised us more than any creature we have ever encountered. Yes, we are leaving this dimension and going where we can evolve. Now that the danger of the Demons is over, we only represent a hazard for you. We now understand why the compulsions not to harm others were placed in us by the creative force. No species should possess this much power without controls over it.”
    “What about the crystal ships?”
    “They will, of course, go with us; they are one with us. We cannot risk you possibly using them inappropriately. They will return to our population and grow up.”
    “They were children?”
    “Yes; and this confrontation helped them achieve the level of consciousness necessary to continue their development. We have been waiting on you to finish the last act and then come here before we leave. Now that we have communicated with you, we can go in peace. We also thank you and your warriors for taking part in making this happen.”
    Matt stared at the three Reg and said, “I am going to miss having you around.”
    “You will always be a brother.”
    The Three Reg disappeared and Matt saw the planet fade into nothingness. The next moment he and Melanie were standing in Castle Gardner’s map room and he knew the blue ship had also gone with the Reg to its new home. Melanie looked up at Matt and hugged him tightly, “We’ll have to take care of ourselves now.”
    “I hope we’re up to the task.”
    “Matt, what did that Demon mean that we will regret killing him in the future?”
    Matt furrowed his brow, “I have no idea.”
    “It’s probably nothing.”
    Matt thought for a long moment, “I hope so, Melanie. There was something in his thoughts that bothers me. I wonder if allowing us to kill him might have an ulterior motive we can’t see.”
    Matt hung his head and felt a piece of him was gone with the Reg. He sighed and held Melanie close.
    Sprig looked at Destiny and his now famous three children. “Why have you asked us here, Your Majesty?”
    “Because now it is time for you to begin repaying your obligation to the Realm.”
    Destiny cocked his head left, “What obligation?”
    “To serve and protect the Realm.”
    Edison looked at Sprig, “What do you need us to do?”
    “I need two of your species to be assigned to every Star Realm’s embassy on every member’s planet.”
    “Why?”
    “Because our two species are the best at processing huge amounts of information and correlating them into something we can use to direct our future development. I will also have two of my species to assist in handling the issues and coming up with a course of action. We will also be the best at assimilating any scientific breakthroughs into the various civilizations under our care. We must have some of us on every planet to make sure that individual actions do not cause problems to other members. We will assist the Gardners in restoring order in the Realm; you are needed.”
    Destiny looked at his children and said, “How many members does the Realm have?”
    “More than twenty million and another eight million independent planets.”
    Newton shrugged, “That’s less than lived on two of our old main ships; I would be happy to assist in this project.”
    Sprig shook his head, “Sorry, but you three are being given Royal Titles and will become my direct assistants. You’re the one’s that will be used to handle our most difficult issues.”
    The three spiders looked at each other and Newton jumped straight up four feet and yelled, “Allllllll Riiighttttttt! This is going to be fun.”
    Destiny looked at Sprig, “What about me? You must have called me here for a reason.”
    “You will be my Chief of Staff directing all of the Crowns actions. For starters, I need you to choose those of your children with the right temperament to become our ambassadors. I need your help, Destiny.”
    Destiny stuck out his leg and Sprig took it in a branch and shook it, “Like the lad here said; this is going to be fun.” They turned and watched the three young spiders jump around the room in glee.
    Sprig looked out at the multitude of beings surrounding Colony Park. He tuned his thought recorder to verbal and stepped up on the dais, “I welcome all of you that have made the journey today to honor our warriors that once again have given their lives for the Realm. I’m sorry that all of you that requested to come were not allowed to attend. We can only accommodate twenty million and more than sixty billion asked to be here. For those of you watching on your home worlds, the Realm appreciates your viewing this ceremony. One thousand warriors on five hundred ships confronted a race of beings that were ancient when our universe was born. That race evolved to become universe destroyers and designed species to go from universe to universe killing all intelligent life. Their technology was so far ahead of us that we had no chance of matching them for their destructive capability. A race in our universe called the Reg built ships for us to meet them in battle, and without their help we would not be alive today. The Reg have now left our universe for a new home in another dimension and we will greatly miss them.”
    Sprig paused a moment, “The Reg told us that they would provide the ships but we had to provide the warriors. We were also instructed that the ships would select the crews. The five hundred ships chose their two man crews and the ones chosen were the best our Realm had to offer. Out of five hundred ships, only a hundred and fifty survived. Just like the public square where our marines confronted the green horde, the numbers are identical. I don’t know what this means and greater minds than mine will ponder the significance of those numbers for centuries to come but we paid a heavy price for the continued existence of the Stars Realm. One of those lost was one of my children and his mate. They moved into the Demon’s attack and gave precious seconds to reform our line. Two Gresh gave their lives to slow the tide of Demon ships and there were many other sacrifices made by those who faced the Red Demon attack. I am going to show you a recording of the battle so you can see what those brave warriors faced to save our universe from destruction.”
    The monitors began showing the battle as the huge fleet of Demon ships arrived a hundred miles from the line of blue ships. The Realm saw the savagery of the battle and saw once again that the Realm’s warriors did not flee but stayed and fought even when it looked hopeless. The appearance of the Kosiev and the sudden turn of tide as all of the remaining ships except Matt’s dove into the Kosievs’ outer skin made the viewing trillions marvel at the power of the two mile long ancient ship as it moved forward and destroyed the Demon Fleet.
    “The Reg provided us with the most powerful ships in the universe but they would have failed except for the arrival of one of the Realm’s ancient ships. The Alexander Kosiev once more proved that it is the most powerful weapon ever built. That ship has now become intelligent and is the Stars Realm’s newest member. As king of the Realm, I have granted it the complete freedom to fight the enemies of the Stars Realm.”
    Sprig paused and looked out at the huge gathering. “We are making a change to the hallowed ground we are standing on today. The cleared section next to the statues honoring the colonists killed on Ross to start the Realm will be dedicated to those that gave their lives saving the Realm from its most deadly foe.” Sprig turned and nodded.
    A blue field appeared and suddenly a statue of the Kosiev and one blue ship appeared firing a bright blue beam into bright orange ships. The statues were made from the crystal structure left behind by the Reg and would last for eternity. The detail of the ships was incredible and the Realm gasped at their beauty. Sprig turned back to the gathering, “Those were created by the Reg and given to us for what we accomplished. Every warrior that fought in that battle is awarded the Crimson Crown and will be interred here with all of the Realm’s heroes. Those that survived will be brought here on their death and will be interred with their fellow warriors.”
    Sprig paused and then turned back to the podium, “Those that perished with their ships will have a marker with their name on it placed here beside the statues. The name of this place will be changed from Colony Park to Life Park to honor those that placed their self in harm’s way to protect us all. It is a place for all of us in our universe to come and see that our Realm has been built and maintained by the lives of those that believe in what we stand for and were willing to die for its continued existence.”
    The huge gathering erupted into a roar of approval. It continued for thirty minutes and grew in volume. Sprig raised his branches and the crowd grew quiet.
    “We are going to change the structure of the Realm immediately.” The trillions of viewers leaned forward and listened for what was to follow. They knew something monumental was about to be announced. “We have made progress, but we are not doing the things necessary to insure the Stars Realm’s continued peace and prosperity for its members. The Realm has grown too big to rule from just one location. We have learned that there has been an emergence of pirates attacking ships and killing innocent crews. Planets have been attacked by fleets of ships robbing them of their riches and valuables. Some members do not understand the responsibility of being a member of the Realm and protecting every other member as if they were a member of their family. Other members joined to save themselves from the attack of the green invaders and have not truly accepted the Realm’s ideals and principles.”
    “There are also planets that have been colonized by our members; colonies that have declined to join the Realm and are currently causing havoc against our members. I am telling every member today that you will be allowed to leave the Realm immediately if you prefer to be independent; we will freely allow you to choose your own course with absolutely no interference from us. Every member will be contacted within the next thirty days to make your choice. We will not force any world to be a part of what we are building. You must freely accept our company; no one will be coerced.” The huge crowd was silent. Sprig then turned and said, “Will the Gardner Family please join me.”
    The five couples move up to the platform and stood behind Sprig. The members of the Realm saw the humans that so much had been written about and so much witnessed. Sprig turned back to face the gathering, “The Realm will be divided into five provinces. The first province will be named Life’s Land for the Gresh who died in the final battle. The second will be named Grena’s Glory for his mate that died with him. The third will be Stem’s Ground for my child that died. The fourth will be called Petal’s Path for his mate that died with him. The fifth will be called Kosievs’ Quest to honor the ship that saved the Realm in three wars.”
    “From this day forward the name Gardner will only be used by the King and Queen of the Stars Realm. Ross will be the home of the chosen ruler of the Stars Realm and this galaxy will be its Royal Possession. This galaxy alone will be ruled by the Royal Family. Each of the five couples will take the name of the female for their Royal Name. Tag and Danielle Ash will be the Duke and Duchess Ash of Life’s Land and will rule that province following the ideals of the Star’s Realm. Rose and Chris will be the Duke and Duchess Andrews of Grena’s Glory. Matthew and Melanie Grace will be the Duke and Duchess Grace and will rule Stem’s Ground. Anglo and Jenny Connor will be the Duke and Duchess Connor and will rule Petal’s Path. Tommy and Cassandra Dodd will be the Duke and Duchess Dodd and will rule Kosievs’ Quest. They have sworn their allegiance to the Stars Realm and will follow the Realm’s Royal Couple’s decrees. They will move to their provinces and bring order and peace to their members. Each of them will be assigned four million Searchers to assist them with protecting their citizens and a corresponding number of Red Warriors. The future ruler of the Stars Realm will be chosen by those families. It has also been decreed that the Stars Realm’s rulers may not rule longer than a thousand years. The successors chosen by the provinces to replace the provincial rulers must be approved by the Crown.”
    Sprig paused and looked out at the trillions watching and said, “Those of you who are not currently members of the Realm as well as those that choose to leave the Realm may rule yourself as you deem appropriate, but I want to be sure you understand this; we will protect our members. We will not tolerate any form of aggression and will deal with it quickly and effectively. I think you know the power of the humans being sent to bring in a new age of peace and prosperity to the Realm. I am also sure that our future rulers will represent many other races in our realm. It is my belief that the Realm at this moment in time is in the best hands to help shape it into something that will amaze all of us in the future. To those that are attacking ships and planets, I caution you to stop immediately. If you continue we will not ask questions; we will act decisively. Those that are being honored here today died to preserve the Stars Realm; we will not let them down. Stars Realm, may I present your new provincial Rulers.”
    The Realm exploded into cheers. The celebration moved from planet to planet and grew to a fiesta of joy and great expectations. Members began to immediately lobby to be selected for the new government centers to be located on their worlds. Those planets that felt pressured to join the Realm began rethinking their wish to leave. They knew the power of the new rulers and the immediate effect of them ruling their provinces. At the end of the thirty day period, only eight hundred and fifty six planets chose to leave the Realm. All eight hundred and fifty six asked for membership again within a hundred years. Thousands of years later, historians incorrectly said that this day was the day the Stars Realm truly began. Everyone correctly agreed that the golden age began on this day.

Chapter 15

    Not everyone bought in to the new order. Thirty ships appeared out of nowhere and the first to appear shot the teleport emitter off the front of the huge commercial liner that was parked in orbit over a member planet. The liner was then hit with a beam to prevent it jumping away on its null drive; then the pirates moved toward the ship to board, take hostages, and remove the cargo. Suddenly a small, white ship appeared and fired red beams disintegrating twenty nine ships. A Red Warrior appeared on the last ship and moved through the corridors killing everyone on board. The ship jumped away but the Red Warrior was still on board moving inexorably toward the bridge. The bridge crew barred the door but the Red Warrior burned a hole through it like it didn’t exist. He stepped on the bridge to find the five man bridge crew cowering in a corner as far away from the door as possible.
    The huge warrior walked up to the five and stopped just in front of them, “We did not destroy your ship because we are sending you back to your base in the Veumag System.” The pirates flinched when he mentioned their main base. We know that there are more than a six hundred ships that operate out of there; we could destroy all of you now but we have decided to give you a chance to survive. Go back and tell your leader that if one of their ships attacks another ship we will come and destroy every ship and remove the planet’s means of space travel. There will be no exceptions and all will perish. Do you understand?”
    They all nodded, but one young Brageth stood and faced the Red Warrior, “I was captured by the pirates and have been forced to be a crew member. I do not want to be sent back; I’d rather die here now.” The other four tried to silence him but he ignored their efforts. “I humbly ask you not to send me back.”
    The Red Warrior looked at the other four, “Is what he’s saying true?” The four looked at each other. “I can tell if you lie, my sensors allow me to determine if you’re being honest. If you lie, I’ll find others to send my message.”
    “Yes, he’s telling the truth.”
    “How many of your crew members are forced to join you?”
    “About one third of the crew.”
    The Red Warrior reflected that he had killed the crew too quickly; he pressed a button and teleported the hostage to the bridge of the Searcher. “Unfortunately, we are going to have to change our plans. That means we are not sending this ship back.”
    The four pirates jumped up and started begging for their lives but the warrior was gone. An instant later the Searcher fired and destroyed the last ship.
    “Do you know the crew members that have been forced to serve on the pirate’s ships?”
    “Yes, I do. We are kept in chains when not serving on a ship.”
    “Searcher, are all their ships still docked at their base?”
    “Yes, they are.”
    “We are going to free some captives and destroy the other ships. These pirates have no redeeming qualities and slavery is something the Realm does not tolerate. This captive is a citizen of the Realm and we are authorized to take whatever action we deem necessary.”
    “How do you want to handle it?”
    “I will enter one of the ships and eliminate the crew. I’ll start at the bridge and work my way back; teleport the captives to the landing bay where this young citizen will be waiting to give them their instructions and then you can eliminate the others.”
    The Searcher arrived in the Veumag system and the Red Warrior teleported to one of the larger warships and killed every pirate on board. “The ship is clear.” Immediately more than seven hundred captives appeared in the landing bay and cowered away from the Red Warrior.
    The red warrior began communicating, “You have been brought here to free you from those that have enslaved you. We have placed the coordinates of one of our bases in your jump drive and we will work to either reunite you with your families or provide a place for you to live in peace in the Stars Realm. Brandt will organize you to make the jump.”
    The captives looked at the Red Warrior and some of them began crying. Most of them had marks on their faces and bodies where they had been punished with electric prods by the pirates. The Red Warrior felt his rage at seeing how badly these young hostages had been treated.
    The Red Warrior teleported back to the Searcher’s ship and reported, “We were wrong to consider granting mercy to these scum.”
    The Searcher activated his weapon console and then hit his communication panel. “Attention all citizens of Veumag, I am going to allow you to see the consequences of your actions. You have been supporting a fleet of pirate warships that have attacked the Stars Realm. If you will turn your attention to the station above your planet, you will see the first action we are taking.”
    The pirates on the space station detected the emergence of the Searcher and began scrambling to their ships to escape. Unfortunately, there was not enough time and their time had run out. The entire station was hit by a red beam and disintegrated leaving nothing behind.
    “Your planet has prospered by supporting these pirates and has demonstrated a callous disregard for life. You will not be allowed to leave your planet until you demonstrate you will not be a menace to other races.”
    The Searcher then fired beams into their spaceports, ships in orbit, and all satellites circling the planet, removing any means of lifting from the plant’s surface. “If you choose to disregard this warning, our next visit will remove all of your technology and force you to learn farming to survive.”
    The Red Warrior listened to the planet’s leaders beg for mercy, “They should have listened; they were warned.”
    The Jimnil began launching their fleet from the stations orbiting their planet. The ten thousand warships moved smoothly away from the planet toward the jump limit. The Jimnil had not been contacted before the Eight Leg invasion because they were a warlike race and had conquered four other planets and enslaved the populations that they ruled with barbarous brutality. The fleet commander looked at his well ordered formations and knew they were well trained for the coming conquest. A bonus was that the planet selected for conquest did not have a fleet to stop them.
    “A small ship has appeared between us and the drive limit.”
    “Put it on my screen.” The commander saw a small red glowing ship in front of his fleet. Then he heard a thought, “You will stop your forward progress and return to your planet.”
    “Who are you to order us?”
    “I represent a Realm that does not allow defenseless planets to be attacked. We do not interfere with a civilization’s internal issues but we will prevent loss of innocent life. My leaders have finally decided that your reign of terror will no longer be tolerated. If you want to live, turn your ships around.”
    The commander looked at his screen and asked, “Are there any other ships out there?”
    “We detect only that small ship.”
    “Order the first squadron to fire on that ship.”
    Two hundred ships launched five hundred missiles at the small white ship. All five hundred were hit by small red beams that detonated them a foot above the ships that fired them destroying all two hundred ships. The commander was stunned.
    “I hope that demonstration is enough to persuade you to turn around and return to your planet. I know you do not want to believe me but I can destroy your entire fleet before any of you reach the place where you can jump.”
    “If you know us at all you must be aware that we yield to no one.”
    “I was really hoping that you would not force me to kill needlessly. However, since your fleet is well organized, I will begin destroying your ships as soon as they move within twenty thousand miles of the limit. If any want to live, turn around and return to the planet.”
    The Commander ordered his fleet to fire their beams at the red ship and to continue forward. The remaining ships all fired their entire batteries of energy weapons at the small ship and the million beams just flashed on its screen. As the fleet moved forward, a thousand ships crossed the twenty thousand mile limit set by the stranger. The small ship fired those red beams and all of the thousand ships were blown apart. A thousand more crossed and they were destroyed. Three thousand more ships were blown up before the commander ordered his fleet to stop.
    The Ruler on the planet watched as the small ship ravaged his fleet. Then he heard a thought along with every other being in the system, “I am glad you decided to stop throwing away lives needlessly. It is important that you listen to what I am about to tell you and to understand that I will carry out what I say. You will move your fleet back to your planet and will only use it only to defend your world from outside aggression. You will immediately recall all of your forces from the four worlds you have conquered and will not harm the native populations in any way during your withdrawal. If you do not comply with these instructions within seven rotations, I will destroy your forces on those planets down to the last warrior and then come here and remove your ability to wage war. It is my belief that there will be unavoidable loss of life here on your home world if you force me to carry out my threat. You may not think I am capable of carrying out my threats but just to make sure you know, I am going to offer one more demonstration. I hope you will take it to heart and make the right decisions.”
    The small ship disappeared and reappeared above the surface of the eighth planet in the system. The fleet commander was stunned that the ship had jumped inside the drive limit and then he along with every member of his species saw the ship fire a huge red beam into the planet. The planet exploded and vaporized leaving nothing but empty space where it had been.
    “I will be watching your actions; you might want to begin your withdrawals immediately. Patience is not something I possess. Remember, seven rotations from now.” The small ship disappeared.
    The three hundred gang members moved down the middle of the street shooting into the dwellings on each side as they passed and laughed at the cowering civilians hiding in their homes. Fires lit the street behind them and the damage being done to homes was extensive. This was their territory and one of the civilians had not responded fast enough when told to pay for protection. The gang’s leader decided they needed to be reminded who was in charge. Two of the gang members moving ahead of the main group had captured a young female returning home and dragged her to their leader who stripped her and threw her to the ground; suddenly a huge red glowing being appeared in front of them. The gang members froze.
    “Your world has petitioned the Realm for membership and while we are considering whether or not to accept their petition, we have promised the Realm’s protection for its citizens, which include you. However, one of our guiding principles is that we defend those that cannot defend themselves. This young female is obviously incapable of warding off your attack. I will make this offer only once; leave and return to your homes and you will live.” The Red Warrior looked at her display and saw ninety of the three hundred gang members moving behind vehicles and other structures to present a smaller target as they raised their weapons. She set the lower barrel of her auto cannon to target them with high velocity slugs.
    The gang leader looked at the armored being in front of him and sneered, “Kill this bum while I enjoy the company of this lady.”
    Eight gang members fired energy weapons at the red colored being. Ten seconds later all three hundred gang members lay dead on the street. The Red Warrior moved forward and lifted the young female, carried her home, and handed her to her parents. “Please care for her; she’s been through a bad experience.” The warrior then turned and moved out into the street where she teleported the dead bodies into the systems sun. Every gang in the city heard what had happened and after two more gangs were killed, they went home and stayed.
    Ten thousand years passed and the Stars Realm was at peace. Every citizen enjoyed the prosperity the Realm had brought to their worlds and populations grew and expanded to millions of new worlds where they grew in wisdom and knowledge led by the inventions and developments of the Algeans and Spiders. It was at that time that the exodus began and citizens that longed for the excitement and adventure that come from new beginnings began moving into other universes to start over in an untamed, unknown, new environment. The majority of those that left were the races that provided the warriors of the Realm. Three thousand years later the Searchers were released to go out and explore new universes to spread the ideals of the Stars Realm.

Epilogue

    “Do you still enjoy every day as much as I do, Darling.”
    “More.”
    “What’s your favorite memory?”
    “Watching Rose’s children sending those bunnies out to find their lost toys; I still smile every time I remember them marching out of the room.”
    “Do you think it’s time to retire?”
    “What do you have in mind?”
    “There are other universes to see. Would you like to go see some of them?”
    Danielle moved into Tag’s arms and said, “My universe begins and ends right here.”
    Rose and Matt entered the room and Tag looked at them and saw something was wrong, “What’s bothering you?”
    Danielle turned and could see the two were upset.
    Rose said, “Dad, we have both had an identical vision and we think we know what that Demon meant when he said we would regret killing him.”
    Tag looked at Rose and asked, “What have you seen?”
    Rose looked at Matt briefly and said, “The total destruction of the Stars Realm and the enslavement of all intelligent populations in our universe.”
    Tag and Danielle looked at each other and Danielle said, “Why can’t it ever be easy?”
    Tag looked at the two and they could see his anger rising, “Tell me about your vision.”
    The End
    Excerpt from “Finding Keepers”
    “A ctivate the emitters.” Every Keeper on every ship connected with the other keepers on their ship telepathically and turned off their hearing. They then began sending the vibrating thought patterns into the emitter at the front of the ship. Each navigator watched their boards keeping their ships in formation while the weapons operators focused the intensity of the beam as it rose to the desired frequency and threshold; at that point the Director sent the command to the fleet, “Move forward.”
    Abul Cahale was stretched out on a chair on the front of his yacht when he noticed something in the sky at the horizon moving toward his ship. The three young women that were attending him stood and looked at the approaching line of…somethings. As the objects moved closer, Abu saw that the objects were huge star ships and they were approaching quickly. The three women had moved to the front bow to get a better view and Abu saw them waving as the ships came closer. Suddenly they began screaming, twisting violently, and turned to dust. He jumped up and ran toward the rear of the huge vessel but didn’t make it to the main cabin before the most intense pain he had ever felt gripped him. Then he was gone as the dust from his body blew away in the sea breeze. The yacht continued sailing until it ran aground.
    The Keeper’s beams showed no discrimination between rich or poor. Unlike Gambia’s population, there were no class distinctions; it treated all the same. The long line of brown ships moved north and left millions dead behind it. Animals were not touched by the beam, fish were not affected, birds flew through it safely, and plants never noticed it pass; only Humans felt the intense pain and death. The stealth probe above the planet captured it all and witnessed the horror taking place.
    The line of ships moved toward the main city of Gambia destroying everything outside the city proper. The population standing on the outskirts of the tall grey buildings looked up into a blue sky and saw the line of ships approaching. Public speakers were blaring a warning of an invading fleet and called for everyone to flee the city, but the inhabitants saw there was no time to exit. Many running from the city’s buildings saw the ships approach the Degrund Park just south of the main buildings.
    A young man and woman standing in the park embraced each other and then turned to dust. Two children ran from the oncoming shadows and hid under the slide and watched as the people closest to the approaching ships turn to dust just before they, too died and blew away in the wind. At the Abu Galei hospital located next to the park, the maternity ward heard the babies go silent as the beams crossed the room. Hundreds of dogs were roaming the park with leashes dangling trying to find their owners that had blown away in the wind as the ships passed overhead.
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