Titanus felt like it was falling apart around me so I did the only thing I could. I stopped moving forward, I paused for a moment, and I let myself breath.
I took two slows breaths, in and out, letting the wild surge of my thoughts settle into a less turbulent sea of ideas.
“Eirda, do you have anyone who can fly the colony ship?”, I asked.
“Yes, I was a heavy transport operator,” she said. “My coworkers and I can work out how to pilot this barge.”
“The Verulia crew wants to help too,” Fair said. “They have Everbright locked up in his quarters. Apparently he wasn’t a popular boss.”
“They’re probably not fond of the idea of being eaten by the giga-beast either,” Darius said.
“Good,” I said. “Eirda, if you feel you can trust them, then work with the colony ship’s crew. If not, have your people handle it themselves. Whatever you do though get the ship up to full speed and buy as much time as you can.”
“Unlock our warp generators so that we can jump out of the system,” Eirda said.
“The giga-beast will be able to follow you,” Fari said. “And if it returns to warp space, it will start regaining its former power even faster.”
“That’s fine,” I said. “Unlock the generators for them. I want all options at their disposal.”
“Thank you Guardian,” Eirda said. I didn’t miss the note of surprise in her voice. Garjarack have different body language and reactions than human’s but most sentients have a few common reactions, one of which being a brief pause in their speech when they get what they want without having to fight for it.
“If the crew can ensorcell another generator as a Ghost Bomb, you may want to ask them to so that you can slow the giga-beast down with it,” I said. “That’ll leave you with another ten thousand deca-beasts which’ll make things worse in the long run but unless we deal with this problem soon we’re not going to have a long run anyways.”
“I hate to bring this up but does anyone else notice that the Life Crystals are vibrating?” Darius asked.
I’d been distracted by the communication link and the problem at hand so much that I hadn’t noticed the change in the lighting around us until Darius mentioned it.
“Mel, what’s happening there?” Hanq asked.
“I have no idea,” I said. “Stay safe for a few minutes ok? I think we’ve got a new complication to worry about.”
Colonel Beva uttered a string of curses. I was tempted to echo her sentiments but given how the crystals looked I opted not to say anything that could be mistaken for provocation.
“Flames, can you understand what they’re saying?” I asked.
“They’re upset that you’re here,” they said.
“Us specifically or non-elementals in general?” I asked.
“They’re not making that distinction,” Flames said.
“We’d better enlighten them then,” Darius said.
“Working on it,” Fari said. “Flames, I’m going to add you to the mental link and route our communication through you as our translator.”
“Is it going to hurt?” they asked.
“No, but it might make you feel a little dizzy,” Fari said.
“What’s dizzy?” Flames asked.
“Not painful, just weird,” I said.
“Ok,” Flames said, sounding like I do when I’m nervous and determined not show it.
“I’m going to have to drop the long range links to focus on this,” Fari said. “Colonel, Captain, Eirda standby, we’ll be back shortly.”
“Stay alive.” I told them. I couldn’t command the impossible from them, but that wasn’t going to stop me from trying.
I felt the long range telepathic link fall away and be replaced with a hundred local threads.
“Solid ones, world breakers, leave us alone!”
The elementals in the Life Crystals spoke in a chorus that sounded like one part harmonious song to three parts psychotic riot.
“Why do they sound like Mel?” Darius asked.
I looked at my boyfriend and felt the urge to smack him.
“They don’t sound like me!”
“They’re speaking through Flames, and Flames absorbed their language skills from Mel’s mental anima,” Fari said. “Sorry Mel, they do kinda sound like you.”
I frowned, but pushed my indignation aside. It was definitely not the time to get caught up in trivial issues, no matter how wrong my two closest friends were.
“We are not the world breakers,” I said. “The world breakers are our enemy too.”
I was speaking under the assumption that the world breaker’s had to be the giga-beasts. Aside from the fact that they’d destroyed a mountain already, they were the only force on the planet that I knew of that was on a growth curve capable of living up to that name.
“You are alien,” the elementals said.
“Yes,” I said. “But we will not hurt you. We want remove the world breakers from this planet.”
“Why?” they asked.
“Because the world breakers want to destroy us too,” I said.
“You are small. Only a tiny spark. You cannot stop the world breakers. You cannot help us. They have shattered the homes of millions. They will shatter ours soon.”
I thought about that. Elementals could live outside Life Crystals, Flames was living in my flight pack and had lived inside me before that. These elementals were used to the protection afforded them by the Life Crystals though. Losing the crystals would be like a starship crew losing it’s starship. It was survivable (in a space suit), but the outside environment was terrifyingly hostile.
“Maybe we can help there?” I said. “Can I touch one of your homes?”
“What are you going to do?” they asked.
“Show you something we solid types can do that could help you,” I said.
“Continue,” they said and, blast Fari and Darius, I heard that same echo of nervousness suppressed by determination in their voice that I’d heard in Flames and my own.
There were so many crystals around us that I was able to pick one more or less at random. It was a little weird to watch the light within them fade out as I reached towards them, like the spirits were backing away from me. One of the crystals didn’t dim though, either because that elemental was braver than the others or because they didn’t think they could escape.
I laid my hand gently on that one and fed it with a trickle of Physical anima, reinforcing its natural structural strength and layering onto it a protective shield to make it as resilient as enchanted steel.
“What have you done?” the elementals asked.
“Protected your home,” I said. “Even if the mountain is crushed to rubble, this crystal will survive,” I said.
“That’s not possible,” they said.
“I can prove it,” I said and picked up a rock the size of my head from the floor.
“No don’t!” they said but I knew they had to experience it before they could believe me so I amped my strength up with more of my Physical anima and swung the rock as hard as I could.
The scream of from the elemental inside the enchanted crystal was silenced by the sound of the rock I was holding being smashed to dust. The crystal I aimed at was driven about a foot into the small crater I punched into the wall but, the elemental’s home was in perfect shape, just as I’d expected.
What followed that display was several minutes of confused babbling by the spirits until they came to a shared consensus.
“You must do that for all of us!” they said.
“How many of them are there?” I asked Fari.
“In this mountain?” she said. “Almost a million. Around the world we’re talking about a few billion.”
“I’m not going to be able to handle all of that alone,” I said. “But I think I’ve got an idea!”
“Oh yeah, you’d mentioned that earlier,” Darius said.
“My earlier idea was terrible,” I said.
“What was it?” he asked.
“To use the elementals to draw the monsters back here,” I said. “We don’t need the monsters to come here though. What we need are the people.”
“Who?” Darius asked.
“Everyone,” I said. “Bring everyone here. If the elementals will help us, we have enough power to make a crystal shield that can stand up to even the big giga-beasts I think.”
I looked at Fari for confirmation. I was working on intuitive calculations, but she had the real numbers.
“That might work,” she said. “The crystals are a natural focus for anima. Our shields will be a hundred times stronger than they would be without support and the elementals could help sustain and reinforce them.”
“Yes!” the elementals said. “Bring more people who can save our homes!”
“I’m getting the others back online,” Fari said.
“Can you handle that?” I asked.
“Sure,” she said. “Not problem at all.”
I filed away her tone of voice and expression for reference with a note of “this what Fari looks like when she’s lying to me”.
“Do you have good news for us?” Colonel Beva asked. “Or are we dead?”
“Good news but no promises on the dead part,” I said. “We’ve got a new ally. That’s the good news. Want to hear the bad news?”
“Sure, how can my day possibly get worse?” Colonel Beva said.
“I need you to get to my current position before the giga-beast that’s heading towards us,” I said.
“That’s impossible,” Colonel Beva said. “We have people who cannot be moved, and there’s a horde of monsters in between us.”
“Yep,” I said. “I need you to bring them along too.”
“No offense Guardian, but any plan we can’t execute is idiotic,” Colonel Beva said. “We need real ideas here.”
“This is as real as it gets Colonel,” I said. “We have a chance at fighting these things, but I need you all here. You’re going to take everyone who’s combat capable – by which I mean they’re still able to walk – and you’re going to get them here.”
“What about the rest of my people?” she asked.
“I’ve tangled with these monsters already,” I said. “They’re very easy to lead astray. If you come here they’ll follow your combat team. If not, they’re going to annihilate you.”
“This is a terrible plan,” she said.
“Yep,” I said.
“But I don’t have another one,” Colonel Beva said. The telepathic link didn’t carry her sigh, but it didn’t need to. Everyone on the line knew how she felt. “We’ll bring you five thousands monsters and as many of us as can survive the trip as possible.”
“That’s not going work for us Mel,” Hanq said. “We’re too far away to make it to you in time.”
“Find a way,” I said. “You’ve got pieces of starship all around you, and a still functional colony module. Ask the Council team we rescued. They’re brilliant, I’m sure they’ll have an idea you can use.”
“Let’s hope so,” he said. “Otherwise we get to try one of my terrible ideas.”
Master Hanq was not only stronger than I was but smarter too. I’d figured out over the years that a lot of those “smarts” were the product of hard won experience and that I was steadily gaining on him as I grew up. That didn’t change the fact that he still had a huge lead on me though. If he had a “terrible idea” then I was quite certain I didn’t want to see what the fallout of it would look like.
“We’ve turned the colony ship around,” Eirda said. “We have maximum power going to the engines but with only four generators we’re not going to make it to your position before the giga-beast does.”
“Four?” I asked, “Didn’t you have five before?”
“We did,” Eirda replied. “Now we have four. Also, there are ten thousand deca-beasts pursuing us.”
“That was quick work on the Ghost Bomb!” I said.
“I will pass along your compliment to the Verulia crew,” Eirda said. “Presuming we survive long enough for me to see them again.”
“We need to start waking up the rest of the crystals in the mountain,” Fari said.
“Can you two handle that?” I asked.
“Yes,” Fari said.
“You’re going to distract Vunthor, aren’t you?” Darius asked.
“I have too,” I said. “If he figures out what the Life Crystals are, or what we’re doing then he’ll drain them and kill us all before we can even begin to get this plan together.”
“Are you coming back?” he asked.
“Of course she is,” Fari said. “The question is how many pieces is she going to be in.”
“Just one,” I said. “I promise. Vunthor’s caused enough pain. I’m not going to let him hurt anyone else, not to the colonists and definitely not you two.”
They both hugged me, before I turned to look down the tunnel that lead into the mountain.
“Can you find him?” Fari asked.
I searched in the Void for a thread of connection to Vunthor or Higgs. There were hundreds of them waiting for me. They weren’t hiding at all.
“That’s not going to be a problem,” I said and dashed into the lightless depths towards the demons that couldn’t run from me any longer..