The Potacas Attack
She lay unconscious while her vehicle rose through the night -- slowly at first, then racing to the upper atmosphere in seconds. Had she been aware, she would have seen her ship punch through the troposphere, the curvature of the planet shining yellow in the setting sun. An electron force field flashed, dispersing friction that caused the ship’s shields to glow red with heat. Automated stabilizing controls engaged, protecting the craft from centrifugal forces that would otherwise have ripped it to shreds.
Once at the edge of the atmosphere, the craft began an arching trajectory towards Luna, Earth’s moon.
Flying at tremendous speeds, still unconscious, Batresh would not see flashes of light in the distance. Electron sheeting flashed off and on, as weapons payloads reached her. The craft maneuvered quickly. Even when enemy weapons found their target, the force field protected her. Images of a ship appeared on her display, footage captured by systems focused on the source of the attack.
The enemy vessel appeared organic, resembling two kidney shapes connected by a mass of tubes. Organic shapes faced each other, shining like oil in sunlight, gray, blue, and red. Chambers connected at what may have been the head of a large insect. Hard exterior shells splayed out, away from each other towards the rear of the ship. Connectors glistened with the likeness of a beetle’s abdomen. Thick cables sprang from inside the ship, up through the head-point of the insect-like vehicle, attaching to points where the kidney shapes were joined.
The exterior of the vessel, hardened secretions of a synthetic organism, was part machine, part living creature. It formed interior walls, floors and ceilings. Curved, organic strands attached within the alien vessel functioning as sinews, veins and muscles. Tubular connections, segmented and throbbing, brought nourishing fuels from the ship’s underside.
An explosion of white gases flashed in the distance as weapons’ systems fired payloads aimed at Batresh’s ship. These payloads of metallic cones contained advanced technology. Within the cones were microscopic organisms. Upon impact, the hollow shape released microscopic, bacteria-like creatures that hastily spread over the surface of their target. The organisms were immune to force fields, penetrating densely protective layers and worming through metallic hulls. Drawn to charged particles, they fed on currents of electricity, attaching themselves to emitters, wires and chords. Her ship’s analytics scanned the weapon as it approached, comparing it to billions of weapon-types. But, they found no matches.
Tayamni automated weapons fired payloads in sequence. A green lighted disc of energy shot from around her vehicle. The weapons reached their targets, displaying flashes in the distance. A red sphere of light appeared around her vehicle, and shot away in all directions. More flashes. As the Potacas cones sped towards Batresh, the ship that fired them burst into fragments. Organic tissues ripped apart, froze and frying in the burning sunlight and icy shadows of open space. Three, pale, torn bodies, the crew of the attack-ship, floated within twisted tubing and shredded organic tissue.
The metallic cones struck Batresh’s ship with such force that stabilizers failed. The Tayamni vessel was knocked into a spinning blur. Blue electron shielding flashed on, then disintegrated. The metal cones released trillions of organisms, hungrily devouring charged particles over the surface of her craft. Organic mechanisms pierced the hull, as one by one, electronic systems failed. Stabilizers blinked on and off, leaving her ship whirling precipitously in space, pressing her limp body hard against the seat, then throwing her forward. Her body strained against belts holding her in place. Artificial gravity winked-off as her purse floated in in front of her. Small pebbles moved upwards off the floor. Her feet lifted off foot rests. Her right slipper, dislodged by the spinning vessel, slid off her foot. The atmospheric system shut-down. Her ship issued verbal commands triggered by failing systems, “Ten minutes of oxygen remaining.” Multiple alarms sounded, until they too were silenced.
The Tayamni vessel spun in several directions, the floating shoe struck her forehead, and slammed against the dashboard. A pebble ricocheted off the hard surfaces of transparent coverings, embedding itself into the soft materials of the ceiling. The vessel tumbled violently, but remained on its trajectory to the Lunar surface.
In the distance, coming from the far side of the Moon, other ships arched towards her. Inside one vessel, a man with dark skin and hazel eyes, frantically sent commands to Batresh’s disabled craft. As his ship moved closer, he shot a blue tractor beam towards her. But, it was too far, the beam did not connect. Batresh’s ship flipped and twisted towards the Lunar surface with blurring speed. He directed his ship to place him at a point between her current position and the surface of the rocky moon. Once there, he waited for the approach. Her ship was moving too quickly for the naked eye. He commanded systems to lock onto her as she grew closer. Several tractor beams shot forth from his vessel, until one beam attached. Realizing her stabilizers were off-line, he knew he must slow the vessel gradually, so that centrifugal forces would not lacerate her internal organs. He followed with the tractor beam attached, gaining speed rapidly.
He made incremental adjustments, slowing her ship’s spin, and nudging her to an orbital inclination. Finally, he realized he was holding his breath, perspiring heavily. He tried to breathe, but could inhale only shallow gasps. He felt his heart beat in his temples.
Gradually, he decreased the speed of her ship. The spin stabilized. After several complete orbits, he was able to steady her ship enough to begin a decline to the surface. He drew her vessel closer. His scanners detected her heart rate and breath. Two ribs were broken, her chest, arms, and shoulders were lacerated by the force of her body against restraints. But, she was alive.
As the two vehicles moved closer together he looked towards the Lunar surface, large circles became craters, uneven, deep and hilly. The growing moon filled his windows. Beneath them, craters so numerous they defied number, some small and shallow, others large, with tall, rocky promontories in their centers, like frozen drips on molten ponds of rock. Some smaller craters followed a pattern of animal tracks, rocks scattered by crashing meteors. The contrast between brilliant white dust, and impenetrable, black shadows was extreme in blinding sunlight. As they descended to the far side of the moon, the numbers of craters diminished. They were headed to an enormous, smooth field, with a rocky promontory at its center.
Beneath them, appeared angled lines of pipes and tunnels. Sharp edges of structures, abandoned settlements from millennia ago, strewn across the landscape. They continued to slow. The vast, lop-sided crater, its steep, cliff side in shadow, appeared ahead of them. Openings below slid open. Through the window to his left, in the shadow-side of the crater, were transparent sheets of metal and strong framing, windows of a structure inserted into the cliff wall. The two ships descended into a shaft with multiple levels of openings around the interior. On each level, openings revealed landing pads, one where the man with hazel eyes guided her.
Mechanical and medical bots hovered around her disabled ship, attaching tools into small fittings. The cracked transparent metals covering the ship, slid away, exposing her to the artificial atmosphere inside the Lunar base. The man who saved her, walked to her ship, watching for a few moments. He moved his face close to hers. “Batresh?” he whispered. The fresh air, a mixture from her home planet, sweet and rich with oxygen, began to revive her. Hovering medical bots rolled small cylinders onto her exposed skin, applying chemicals and hormones. As she awakened, her thoughts took her again to identifying the foreign ship in the woods near Tupelo. Then, she felt the pain in her chest. She moved her hands instinctively to her rib cage. Her head was pounding. She blinked and realized that she was no longer on Terra. “Batresh?” the man said again.
Slowly opening her eyes, she saw his face above her. “Amun,” she whispered weakly.
Without speaking, he told her, the Potacas had improved weapons and biological agents. He told her she lost consciousness as the result of organisms they attached to her skin. They tried, and failed to apply enhanced seedlings. Her body’s systems were too strong for the Potacas’ new biological weapon. He bent over her, sliding his left hand under her thighs, and his right hand behind her back, he lifted her softly off the seat.
“My dearest wife,” he whispered.