Chapter 219: Bel gets a Date
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If there was one thing Alicia could pride herself on, it was her growing command of lightning. She let out a guttural scream of rage as she roasted another Meltok getting too close to her supine master. He’d already been bitten several times and simply refused to rise from his stupor.

I need something more permanent than this. Alicia decided to go out on a limb and try combining two aspects of spellcraft on the fly.

Hope I don’t explode.

She weaved the condensed weather mana into a wall of roiling lightning, echoing the shape of the Wall of Force.

The lightning sprang into being, not as a solid wall, but more of a randomly shifting pattern of death in front of her, scorching the floor as it fluctuated in front of her.

Alicia took two staggering steps back and fell to the ground, the shifting wall of lightning giving her glimpses of the monsters dominating the rest of the house.

Meltoks were ugly.

There was a lot more to that, but that was Alicia’s educated assessment. They were furry around the face and head, with a strange, wormlike body that ran back into a huge hivelike mass of hexagonal holes in a gigantic living thing…

Alicia knew they weren’t extentions or mouthpieces of whatever had burst through the floor, as a few of them had broken off and were slithering around the old man’s house, testing everything with their disgusting jaws that seemed to emerge from their mouths when they decided to bite something.

Behind the neck they were smooth and dry, not slimy, just thick, wrinkled skin that looked like an old man’s knuckle…all the way down. Their sides bulged and strange lumps pressed out from inside their skin as they moved.

All in all, Alicia gave them a seven out of ten on her personal scale of gross.

Their movement was a little too…dumb to be particularly gross or scary. She saw one knock it’s head on the coffee table for the third time. That and they didn’t ooze as much as they could have.

I’ve become numb, she thought, putting a hand under her chin and contemplating the creatures. Garth has ruined my sense of gross.

Six months ago, these would have been the grossest thing she could imagine, but watching Garth grow body parts back and his strange plant creations…

Alicia shuddered. She liked things clean and orderly.

The massive host for the meltoks began to slowly wind its way back down the hole, causing the little munchers to stop what they were doing and flop their way back to it.

Finally, she thought, another tiny thread that had been strung tight slowly relaxing as the monster disappeared into the ground.

Then the wood beneath her began to creak.

Gods damn it! Alicia thought, lunging forward and grabbing Garth by the shirt as she ran.

Alicia tore through the lightning barrier with ease, like one of Garth’s recently invented edible underwear.

Ugh, Alicia winced at the stray thought as she sprinted through the destroyed building, jumping over the hole the Meltoks had gone down and leaping out the door.

Hurk was standing on top of some kind of woven mat, with thin roots reaching down in to the murky water. It held him aloft above the deadly swamp, moving him quickly to the west.

“What the hell is going on?” she demanded, putting mana beneath her and lifting the two of them up to meet the Swamp Shaman.

“You’d think I would know, wouldn’t you!?” Hurk shouted back, glaring at her. Well, she thought he was glaring at her. it was hard to tell with the squat man’s alien face what expression he was making. For all she knew he was happy to see her.

“Meltok eruptions are very rare and typically happen in the deeper, drier parts of the swamp. This was an incredibly unfortunate thing! After the mother dies and they eat their fill, I’d like your help repairing my home, if you don’t mind.”

“What did you say?” Alicia shouted over the din of the cottage busting again as the worm-like creature broke through the floor.

“I’d like your help repairing my home!”

“Before that!”

“Meltok Eruptions are rare!”

“After that!”

“This was incredibly unfortunate?” Hurk said, frowning as he reached out to a nearby tree, coaxing a series of tendrils to emerge, weaving a place to set down Garth and relieve her aching fingers.

“Oh, no.”

*** Orbiting Kurm ***

 

Beladia had visited the mortal Shift thousands of times, but for Bel, everything was a new experience. Orbiting a planet for any length of time was a novel experience.

Half dungeon, half divine avatar, All spaceship.

Bel chuckled as she wrote in her diary, feeling the steady thrumming of her connection to Beladia thrumming through her like a heartbeat. Someone would probably want to hear about what it was like to be Bel.

Maybe Origin would be interested in my diary? She wrote, kicking her heels as she did.

~niden~

What was that? Bel thought, raising her head as she heard a momentary sound.

~pond imm~

It didn’t fall under her normal hearing, that of the avatars she used to present herself across the ship. It more felt like her entire body had been strummed like the string of an instrument to generate that sound.

“Hello?”

~is the ~

Hmm… it’s going in and out of tune…

Bel rolled off her bed and sat on the floor, closing her eyes and focusing on exactly what she was doing that allowed her to hear those words. With focus only possible due to her inhuman nature, she narrowed in on the sensation…There!

~ unident ~

She slipped off the sensation in her excitement, and worked to bring it back.

~Unidentified ethership, this is the Rigor, the personal vessel of Elder Nayeba of the Dan Ui. Identify yourself immediately and prepare to submit to an inspection.

Bel blinked. She’d never met another spaceship before.

Halo, can you help me make my eyes better?

Halo gave her a Green Check sign.

A minute later, she spotted the silver vessel floating a few miles away from them. long, smooth, shiny and hard…with a certain ruggedness to his face.

Oh, he’s handsome. Bel leapt out of bed, a sudden nervous anxiety seizing her heart.

I’ve gotta brush my hair and polish my chassis!

***

“I don’t think they’re going to respond, ma’am,” the second tier Adept said, taking his hand off the Transmit lever.

“Keep at it,” Nayeba said, peering at the simple scrying device that made the front of the bridge effectively see-through. Her heart was frozen in her chest.

She’d never seen anything like the solid gold sphere floating in the distance. It wasn’t typical of the Fen Sha, the Gul Ba, The Sen Twin, or any other clan that she knew of with Etherships.

For all intents, it looked like a giant Mythic Core, all the way down to the torrent of Mana swirling around it. The object was so huge that the mana seemed to have developed it’s own weather systems, like the atmosphere of a small planet.

It was terrifying.

I can’t think of anything else that could be the calamity I foresaw.

Except the calamity she foresaw had been…hungry, breathing…reproducing…spreading like a disease.

That didn’t match up with the cold golden ball in front of them. Perhaps it was simply whatever was inside.

There had to be something inside. If there ever was a mythic core of that magnitude it certainly wouldn’t fall into geosynchronous orbit. Someone or something was telling it what to do, and there was no way such an anomaly was unrelated to her vision.

She’d gone through the hassle of bringing Rigor in case she needed to wipe some cities off the map to contain the threat, but Nayeba was starting to think she was underprepared for this.

“Keep at it,” she repeated, heading back to her seat.

“Elder?”

“Huh?” she glanced over her shoulder.

The golden core seemed to become…shinier, it’s surface glassy smooth and rippling like water, while the erratic flows of mana had straightened themselves out and began flowing around the ship in visually pleasing patterns.

What in the world am I looking at?

A blast of finely control mana in amounts too large to comprehend fired from the golden sphere and swept toward them.

An attack? Nayeba thought, raising her defenses and preparing to teleport straight onto the sphere if necessary. An instant later, the mana engulfed them.

HI RIGOR, MY NAME’S BEL!

The entire Ethership shuddered as a voice like thunder swept through it, rattling seats, the scrying, the Elder. Everything. A few more of those and the ship will be torn apart.

The adept glanced at Nayeba, his hands clapped over his ears. At her nod, he took his hands away and pressed the transmission lever down, completing the circuit of high grade Core.

“I’m asking for your registration, not your name,” The adept glanced at Nayeba.

“The volume,” She said, irritated at his lack of initiative, pointing at her ears.

“And could you transmit quieter?”

“HOWS THIS!?” a shout rang through the Rigor, heard by everyone aboard the entire ship, from the Bridge to the lowest air deck.

“About half that,” he said.

“How about now?” The voice emanating from the golden sphere reached a volume that was just above speaking volume.

“Just fine,” Nayeba said.

“That’ll do.” The adept said, visibly shaken as he hunched over the transmitter. “Now, could you provide us with your Ethership’s registration and prepare for an inspection?”

“My name’s Bel,” the woman’s voice said, ringing from every surface as wave after wave of mana washed over them. “I don’t know if that’s my registration, or if I have some other one, or none at all. I haven’t been a Ethership for very long. Is that the right word? They always called me a spaceship? Maybe that’s what I am?”

The adept’s jaw slowly began to hang open as the implications of the voice’s words began to sink in.

Are we talking to the ethership itself? Nayeba thought, her hair standing on end.

The adept seemingly decided to ignore her statement and move on, doing as he’d been trained to do.

“By the way, is an inspection normal for Etherships? Do I inspect you after you inspect me? I think I’d like that.”

“We will ascertain your registration during the inspection, prepare to receive passengers. Any hostility toward them is ill advised.

“Ah, I’ve got a teleportation shield up, it’s kind of baked into my hull. If you try to teleport your passengers in by force, they’ll get torn apart. You’ll have to come closer and…dock manually. Yes. A big, strong ship like you can handle that, right?”

The adept lifted his finger off the transmitter.

“I have no idea what to say to that. I think the other ship is…flirting with the Rigor?”

Nayeba chewed on her thumbnail, a habit she’d given up since girlhood. She studied the  mysterious orb in the distance, then scanned the deck, full of adepts managing every aspect of her Ethership, from the air to the acceleration.

“Take us in for a manual docking.”

She pointed at the adept.

“Veyers. Your name is now Rigor, and your mission is to charm the pants off this ship. I don’t care what you have to say.”

There was a light chuckle around the bridge, until she swept her gaze across the crew, causing the Corios to swallow their mirth.

“I know you lot are proud, because I am. This is my pride,” she said, resting a hand on the chair beneath her.

“The most advanced ship in the Dan Ui fleet, powered by four Mythic Cores, with technology second only to the Inner Spheres, and plated with Adamantium from a dozen worlds under my command, and able to wipe out whole cities with ease.”

“So maybe you lot are forgetting that this…ship, nearly tore us apart with her voice.”

The crew lowered their heads.

“Now bring us in, tactfully, like a gentleman. And Rigor. Keep her distracted.”

Adept Veyers nodded, pressing the transmission function as they approached.

“So, um… I’ve never seen you around here before. Where are you from?” He said, swallowing his nerves.

Enjoy!

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