"Al-lisia, we are coasting, normal space."
"What?" Al-lisia, barely dressed, hurried in, eyes instantly
confirming Griff's assessment.
"The engines are off line, we've been running conventionally for
three hours, L0.25." Griff was shaking his head, trying to bring
logic to bear, which wasn't working.
"I'll perform a status check and restart them," Al-lisia said,
reaching out across the panel.
"Hang on," mused Griff "last night someone was apparently
asking for my help." It seemed a bit of an obtuse connection but
after the incident with the dragon Griff was still wondering just how
his mind worked. "I want to know why they cut out first. Where are
Well in primitive cultures when you trip a fuse you usually need to find
out the cause in case a repair is needed, otherwise you can spend a lot
of time resetting, or rewiring if you are even more backward.
Al-lisia studied the console. "Odd, the Carillian system. That's
not even between the Jonobian system and Alsaris."
"Navigational malfunctions are illogical. How far out?"
"I know that and I'm sure I didn't make a mistake, it isn't as though
I would forget where I live." Fingers pattered over the glazed top.
"Well, assuming we started off in the right direction we must have
made a significant change because Carillus is at about thirty five degrees
left, then another ten in elevation."
"Inhabited?" A detour would have totally meaningless if the
system was devoid of life.
"Carillus four is allegedly culturally advanced but not space capable.
I may even go so far as to say space aware."
"Let's take a quick look, you know how things are, coincidence and
"You mean the shut down wasn't accidental? The computer somehow decided
we would take a roundabout route? But there hasn't been any other ship
in the vicinity to influence it in any way, the alert would have woken
"Just don't try and think of any films we may have seen."
"That would mean someone preprogrammed the instructions on Alsaris
to get us here."
"That is fantasy."
They closed on a blue green orb, almost reminiscent of Earth, just no
familiar land masses.
"Griff, there a considerable amount of light debris in orbit."
"I can see that, consistent with a large... Cruiser."
"You're thinking along the same lines as I am, I can tell."
"Vallan, destroyed with the armada."
"What would the Vallans want here?"
"Probably the same as they did everywhere, resources."
Jane walked in, stretching her arms high into the air. "I thought
you said two weeks?"
"Anomaly. The ship decided it needed a rest break."
"I didn't think things like that happened."
"They shouldn't. Coincidence or something reached out and switched
them off. Well, reached a bloody long way into space and dragged us here.
But there are most likely Vallans on the planet."
"I thought Griff killed them all," Jane muttered absent mindedly.
"The carrier wave would have destroyed all active vessels. Small
attack craft and anything offline would survive. Vallans would only be
killed in their ships," said Al-lisia, rather matter of fact.
"But this isn't their home world, that would be too stupid, I dare
say they bear Griff a grudge."
"No, the native population here has never attempted to travel in
"When did anyone last check?"
"I'm not sure, maybe ten years. It isn't as though we check every
planet, that would be incredibly time consuming, only we tend to look
along existing trade corridors we regularly use, just to see if there
are places who might be about to make a leap into space."
"A bit like the Vulcans then," mused Jane.
"That's Star Trek again I suppose?"
Jane raised her hand, paired fingers split into a V. "Live long and
Al-lisia almost ignored her, shaking her head slowly. "We should
be half way home, only we seem to be somewhat off course. Still, it's
a long way from the normal Vallan flight paths so there must be something
special down there. No doubt they are more invasive, constantly searching
space for planets to plunder. But if we had noticed any amount of traffic
in this sector we would have been a little worried."
"So," mused Jane. "What are we going to do about it?"
"We are doing nothing. Cloak the ship Al-lisia, just in case."
"Do you think there is someone down there watching?"
"If so I hope they are asleep. No, we haven't been scanned, maybe
they don't have a ground station. It would be a waste of resources if
they had a ship in permanent orbit."
"If we aren't staying, why hide?" asked Jane.
"I'm going to have a quick look around."
"Isn't that dangerous?"
"Not if I stay here."
"How? Oh, the ghost walks."
"Are you sure Griff?" Al-lisia sounded nervous.
"Yes, it's definitely as though someone managed to manipulate the
computer, or the ship's controls to get us here. Maybe it was because
they need our help, if so I wouldn't want to disappoint them."
"You haven't forgotten the other night, have you? On Earth."
"No, and the dream I had last night may have been significant but
as an ethereal entity I should be safe."
"Just a shimmering figure calling to me, asking for help."
"Male or female?" asked Jane.
"Female, it must be something in my genes."
"When were you last in denim?"
Al-lisia stood up and wrapped herself around him, an action that was becoming
a little difficult due to a certain bulge. "I love you, be careful."
"Don't worry, if everything is still running true to form I'm in
"Why?" quizzed Jane anxiously.
"Griff, you had better come back alone. If I didn't know better I'd
say you arranged this."
"Thankfully you know better."
Al-lisia sighed. "Nobody has been near this place in ten years so
you can hardly have arranged an assignation."
"What about the guy who wrote the book?" asked Jane.
"The one which says he will have a small harem. Could he have fixed
the flight plan?"
"Well the prophet is long dead so I assume you mean God? That's a
"I'm reserving judgement," declared Griff. "Unless I meet
him. I'm going to lie down so I don't fall down."
"I'll hold your hand," suggested Jane.
"As long as it is only his hand I'll watch the monitors."
Griff realigned his thoughts, drifting
down to the planet's surface close to what appeared to be the capital
city. Carillus seemed closer to Alsaris than Earth in many ways, everything
was on a smaller scale. If it was their major centre then the planet was
sparsely populated, they were not breeding like lemmings. The other noticeable
point was the lack of transport. Though that may have had something to
do with occupation. Even at a casual glance it was obvious that the Vallans
were well ensconced. A military base with twenty fighters and strange
looking machines which no doubt allowed the occupants to pace effortlessly
around dispensing punishment as they saw fit.
Lazy sods! Whatever happened to walking? But instantly recalling the way
they almost rocked as they moved because of a lack of limb dexterity he
couldn't picture them moving over rough terrain, or anywhere in a hurry.
Sitting on a high wall he watched movement in two arenas. The native population
looked remarkably human, or Alsarian, moving around to the rhythm of life.
The yoke of oppression did not immediately seem that apparent, though
it was most likely that the visitors were unwelcome as the base was well
protected, even at street level. As if anyone would dare attack a Vallan
position! Cities are probably universally similar, constructed by need
and necessity, the buildings seemed mainly for habitation which made sense,
as on the outskirts it was probably a residential suburb. Few men on the
streets though. Perhaps that was significant, all able bodied people were
either dead or in forced labour.
Griff dropped down to see if there was anything he could make use of,
carefully inspecting the equipment it looked efficient, only Griff would
have problems operating anything, mainly because he would have difficulty
reaching the controls.
Puny? Only visually.
On the edge of the compound there was an isolated building connected by
numerous cables, which made it a power station. Worth a visit then.
Two Vallans walked casually out of another structure and across the dusty
courtyard. They didn't seem in any hurry, but then that wasn't surprising
as they were not expecting visitors. It wasn't worth assessing numbers,
he had already been half an hour and there had been no surprises, a garrison
controlling the major city. It seemed likely the officers were occupying
the most palatial dwellings elsewhere and forcing the locals to wait on
them hand and foot.
The reactor looked just like the ones he had encountered before, logic
suggested it powered the military machine, independent of the local network.
Griff was already thinking about strategy, isolate and sterilise seemed
like a good idea. After all he didn't want any retaliation on the native
Perhaps it would be worthwhile drifting into the centre to see if there
was much collaboration or simply slavery.
Movement caught his attention, dust in an eddy perhaps. Griff turned as
smoke assembled across the room.
"Damn!" Griff looked around, not the best place for a confrontation
but at least he had privacy in case things started to get damaged. Still
hopefully things weren't too drastic, apart from having no physical form
he was in a different location. That meant that if the dream had been
a premonition this encounter would not be life threatening.
True to his expectations the mist found substance, recognisable lines,
the mark of the dragon. Griff felt like asking it if they had met before.
The shape circled the room, perhaps measuring its opponent. Curious that
Griff was even visible, but perhaps it too was a creature of energy, enabling
it to recognise a similar being. Griff knew when it had come to a decision,
Odd, it made contact as though he was solid, tossing him aside like a
rag doll. Griff rose, mentally dusted himself down and waited. Not long.
On the second approach Griff tried an energy block, but without a substantial
footing he still went flying and it seemed to aggravate the vapour.
"Just so long as you don't start getting clever."
The third run almost winded him, illogical to say the least. Griff thought
hard, drawing information from deep within. The computer on the ship knew
a host of languages, perhaps it was worth attempting to communicate, if
he could recall anything about the way speech flowed there. A difficult
problem as though Carillus was in a patrol area there had been no contact.
But it knew English, so maybe he wouldn't luck out. After all blocking
was having little effect, but it was a dragon it might not understand,
perhaps he should fight fire with ... Whatever.
Griff tried to counteract the next attack, allowing energy to flow from
him as he would from his corporeal form. The dragon almost glowed, hitting
him harder than ever.
"Obviously you've been doing this a long time."
Then it levelled out and spiralled towards him.
Vapour or not, something passed right through Griff, burning the very
fibre of his soul. Not quite like molten rock but distressing all the
same. Almost like a gaseous vampire it sucked the life from his body,
barely able to stand he collapsed in a heap, struggling not to fall face
down on the floor.
The fact that the interaction caused
his physical form to suffer did not go unnoticed. Al-lisia rushed in,
a reversal of the previous encounter as Jane had lifted Griff from the
bed and was holding him close to her chest.
"Something's very wrong," she whispered, almost frightened that
Griff would hear. "Whatever is happening down there is affecting
his body, he's sweating and his pulse is going up and down erratically."
"So vapour dragons are dangerous, irrespective of substance,"
Al-lisia said stoically.
"Aren't you worried?"
"Of course I am, but there's not a lot we can do. I don't know how
to get him back, this is the first time I've seen him do anything like
"Well, he had better be right about this three wives nonsense, because
I want a lot more time together," Jane hissed angrily.
"Fine, play dirty, just let me get
my breath again."
The dragon came in without allowing much recovery time, Griff side stepped
and tried to grab the surface, perhaps to regain a little of his lost
energy. There was almost substance there but it didn't seem to help. Flicking
its tail as it passed tossed Griff to the floor. Unable to move rapidly,
as it came down on him he felt like he was beneath a physical creature,
crushed against the floor fighting for his life. Struggling to his feet
his head was awash with pain, thoughts difficult to assemble. Perhaps
it would be a good idea to think up a strategy, maybe he could run, but
he couldn't hide. Run? Who was he kidding.
Griff laughed, a stupid thought running through his mind.
We can't take much more of this Jim.
So as the mist swirled in once again Griff just blocked, if he could stop
it surging through him at least he'd have a moment of respite.
Only a good block meant he gained velocity. Invisible feet lifted clear
of the surface and he tumbled back, crashing into the reactor housing.
Now that was a good thing. The dragon had seemed a little nervous about
getting close to the core, perhaps it didn't like that particular form
of power. Griff reached out, palm against, well half way through a metal
panel and drew sustenance from the contained resource. If he had been
on a spacecraft where the particle flow was being monitored no doubt there
would have been a little panic. Revitalised Griff shook his head to clear
his thoughts. A language assembled in his mind.
"OK you sick Vallan guard dog," he shouted in Carillian. "I
am Bach-ael, destroyer of the Vallan fleets and I'm getting bloody angry."
Strangely the creature seemed to understand, it bolted backwards into
a high corner, swirling into a confusing mass. Then it rushed headlong
toward him, veering away at the last second and circling him almost like
a cloud. There was no physical contact but Griff felt cold, very cold.
The massive head reformed within arm's reach and canted left and right.
Then the strangest thing happened. It seemed to lose integrity, dimension,
struggled to remain cohesive. Suddenly there was form once again.
An almost solid woman fell to her knees at his feet, still vapour, but
the gas was so compact features were quite clear. Almost familiar, only
the figure in the trees had been too far away.
"My Lord I am so sorry. I did not understand."
"Now I'm confused," Griff replied.
In the bedroom colour restored to his
skin and his breathing calmed, both women relaxed a little.
"I am Princess Vai, I have been
calling to you every night for months, hoping that you would hear, even
across the vastness of space."
"You're just making it harder for me to get to grips with this."
"The Vallans were listening to all transmissions that drifted through
space, eager for news on the conquest of a place called Alsaris. Only
they rapidly became dismayed, the fleet was under attack and your name
became prominent. As events were relayed it flashed across the land making
them restless. When their ship here exploded everyone could see the spectacle.
They have been unable to contact their home world for any update. Now
they have settled, no doubt expecting reinforcements, a new ship."
"They'll have to wait a long time."
"I realised that you were perhaps the only chance we had, you could
help us shake off this cloak of oppression."
"So you beat seven bells out of me."
"I had never seen you. I sensed your presence and thought you were
here to reestablish communications with Valla."
"Do I look remotely like them?"
"No," she offered meekly. "But it does not follow that
you would. A spirit form may reflect character, you see me now as I am.
I do not walk the streets as a dragon. It has been so long I was losing
hope, I did not realise you had heard me. I could not assume we had any
"So, assuming you could do this to my corporeal form how come you
haven't kicked butt?"
"Fought the Vallans."
"Their life force is different and their skin and tissue strange,
perhaps their bulk helps in some way. When they first arrived we tried
but when we realised how futile it was we stopped before they realised
our true nature."