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Time Warp: Book 3

- William Paul Lazarus

Two implacable enemies, Wyron and Dalian Crown Prince Anton, disagree on the fates of their respective planets, but must join forces when one spaceship is crippled in an interstellar battle. With two unexpected passengers, a mischievous hologram, a human crew and an all-purpose rocking horse named Thurgose, the two aliens head back to their own galaxy to discover what really happened. They must escape from pursuing Americans who are trying to rescue the humans on board, and overcome obstacles en route to Dalia. Moving rapidly by warping space, they move closer to finding the truth while discovering just how devious Thurgose can be.

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I

Leaning back in the plush captain’s chair inside the throbbing spaceship, General Allistair McCaulley tried to look casual. He started to sigh, but the sound evolved into an abrupt belch, the way an air bubble suddenly pops to the surface. He glanced around to see if he should pretend to be embarrassed, but the control room was empty except for Thurgose, the ever-vigilant robotic horse run­ning the ship. McCaulley promptly blamed the outburst on humsta, the gooey puree that tripled as breakfast, lunch and dinner on this vessel. It definitely wasn’t a donut. He had not eaten one this morn­ing. His supply was rapidly dwindling and could be indulged only on special occasions.

Surrounded by the steady hum of the engine, McCaulley could see the glimmer of stars as the craft sped through the eternal night. Everything on the thick screen in front of him shimmered, appar­ently warped by the speed of the vessel and slightly out of focus. At times, the view was clear; other times, it blended into a thick soup with nothing distinguishable.

He folded his hands across his ample chest. In just a few hours, he thought, this ship had managed to burst beyond Pluto and Eris, through the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud, and head into deep space en route toward Dalia on the far side of the Milky Way galaxy. He was stunned by the pace of travel and engrossed by the view.

It was better than any of the mind-numbing video games on Earth although equally draining on McCaulley’s limited energy. On Earth, as a 3, he filled his hours by talking to media, attending appropriate ceremonies and strutting. Keeping a stiff back and an elevated head expended energy, particularly with his ever-expand­ing girth. Here, he just sat and ate, a mind-numbing process that accentuated exhaustion. Then, too, he could not sleep that much, not with having to protect his store of immortality pills.

Anton, the glum prince and lone Dalian male aboard, had located them after McCauley’s aide Sinone stole them. However, McCaulley demanded their return as the rightful owner. Anton, a victim of his own sense of justice, had reluctantly returned them.

Regardless of who controlled them, the pills were a hot com­modity on board since every member of the crew coveted them. Unfortunately, Thurgose had been unable to analyze their ingredi­ents or synthesize one compatible to Dalian genetics. While Anton lost interest in them, the humans on board did not concede so easily.

From the corner of his eye, McCaulley saw Anton wander in. The prince maintained his dour appearance and didn’t say anything. McCaulley wondered if Anton, in the quiet of his bedroom, didn’t manage to smile before putting on his sour mask. Of course, the general mused, Anton had a right to be depressed since learning his planet, Dalia, had destroyed its neighboring planet, Kajia. He had once thought the reverse was true and had been devastated to learn a different reality.

McCaulley roused himself. Anton seemed ready for a kind word or two. McCaulley smiled. That was his bailiwick. After dec­ades as a 3, the chubby general knew how to spread around the manure.

He heaved himself and his bulbous stomach from the chair with some effort and wandered over to Anton, who was staring through the opaque shield at the rapidly passing stars. “Not long now,” he said, patting the younger alien on the back.

Anton turned. “How would you know?” he snapped.

“Patience,” counseled Thurgose in its mechanical voice.

“I don’t mind,” McCaulley said cheerfully, taken aback by the response but determined to play his part. After all, he wasn’t doing much else other than providing ballast for the speeding ship. “I admire an alien with spunk.”

“A Dalian must display patience,” Thurgose continued unabated.

“Be quiet,” Anton retorted. “I’ll unplug you.”

“Nor reflect anger,” Thurgose promptly added. If the little horse could have smiled, McCaulley was sure it would have.

“We’re supposed to be dutiful little frignants,” Anton contin­ued. His yellow face hardened, shifting toward gold.

“No,” the horse corrected, “frignants do not think. Dalians think.”

“They think angry, impatient thoughts,” Anton said sourly, but he began to calm down. His harsh yellow skin tone eased into a more-familiar pastel version. He glanced at the chubby general and muttered something in his own language quickly under his breath. Thurgose turned bluish in response.

“I missed that,” McCaulley said with the forced smile on his face. The tone alone told him he probably didn’t want to know what Anton said.

“He was just quoting a well-known philosopher,” Thurgose reported calmly.

“Snoop Dogg?” McCauley asked, while struggling to conjure up the name of a single philosopher of note.

“Eudilis,” Anton replied sharply. “Only a child need not be concerned with time, but a child always asks anyway,” he recited in English. “1412.”

“1386,” Thurgose corrected immediately. “It is my fault. I con­tinue to be remiss in my pedagogy.”

“Snoop Dogg said, ‘We want people who hate to lose, like my­self. Now marinate on that,’” McCaulley offered hopefully.

“Who cares?” Anton snorted.

“He used to be popular on Earth,” McCaulley said in a wounded voice. He gathered himself and tucked his ample shirt into his slacks.

“I will add him to my memory bank,” Thurgose said. “He sounds very wise. Do you know his marinate recipe?”

McCaulley ignored that. “Come, my boy,” he said, putting his beefy arm on Anton’s thin shoulders. “We’re on our way back to your planet. This is a great adventure. I feel like a child again.”

Anton turned to face him. McCaulley froze. He was invariably surprised how human the alien appeared. Even his DNA was simi­lar to humans, although, along with some chemical differences internally, there were exterior variations in facial structure and col­oring. The result always seemed to stunned him, no matter how familiar Anton became.

“You have many years,” Anton said coolly. “I have few unless those pills can be converted to Dalian use.”

“Do not get caught in another’s web,” Thurgose recited. “Ngia-Fon, 256.”

“Not that long ago, you wanted to commit suicide,” McCaulley said lightly. “You are fickle.”

Once again, Anton muttered something in his native tongue.

“My Brubiscon,” Thurgose interjected quickly. “Such man­ners. I have neglected that portion of your education, too. I should be short circuited.”

“It’s okay,” McCaulley said. He went back to his chair and plopped back down. It wheezed beneath him. He smiled up at Anton. “You are not being logical.”

That, too, clearly was not the right thing to say either. Anton’s face turned a dark green, like the flash of light just before a sunset. Gold flecked his thin, black eyes.

“How dare you?” he snapped. His hand curled as if gripping an imaginary skla stick. He was in no mood for trading barbs with this obese human. How could McCaulley understand? He held a trove of pills that extended his life by clearing away debris in cells. They meant nothing to a Dalian unless some usable copies could be arranged.

“Pipe down, pipsqueak,” McCaulley said, pulling rank he didn’t have.

Anton seethed.

“Look,” the general continued, “when you have no idea when life will end, you seek adventure. You want to make each day matter. But, when you know you will be around hundreds of years, you get cautious, careful. One mistake can cost you a lot of time. But, that gets old quick. It definitely has for me. Now, I’m happy to do some­thing new.”

“Try a different kind of donut,” Anton snarled and stalked away to stare into dark space.

Thurgose was blue again. “You must excuse the crowned prince of Dalia, chief flower among the eastern skies, god of youth and firmament, first son of the great Frighem Laren, son of the great queen Rena, Brubiscon of the Gorean festival and bearer of the Whiten bushels at the festival of Alain.”

“You have misidentified me,” Anton said without turning around. His voice echoed off the hard wall. “I am simply a klokla. I am mere fodder.”

McCaulley gave a wry grin. “Touchy, isn’t he?” he asked Thurgose.

“He is concerned about our crewmate,” the horse said, refer­ring to Sinone, who had been gravely injured in a battle that left Anton in the hands of his Kajian counterpart. “Such worry can mis­direct thoughts.”

Anton simply turned and walked out. His sandals banged against the steel flooring.

“I should check on Sinone, also,” McCaulley said. At least, it would be something to do. Space flight lost some of its charm amid the endless hours. He stood. “By the way, how are we able to go so fast?” He spoke casually, as if it didn’t matter, but had been eager to find out. The military portion of his brain still sought secrets, even though anyone he could share them with now existed multiple light years behind.

“The universe is traversed with electromagnetic waves,” Thurgose said without hesitation. “I simply adhere to one of the lines in the grid. Here, speed of light has no meaning.” It glowed tan. “The waves propel the ship and also replenish our energy supply.”

McCaulley considered that information. There would be a lot to report whenever he returned back to Earth. He would have to live a long time for that to happen. The 80 pills still in his possession would take care of that. One every five years was all he needed to stay youthful.

“I thought these things were supposed to be round,” he noted, referring to the elongated shape of ship.

“That would amplify resistance,” Thurgose told him.

McCaulley nodded silently. The horse sounded so confident. It was always right, too. Oh, well, McCaulley thought. All those old-time sci-fi movies had it wrong. He toddled off, cheerily looking forward to spreading his good cheer somewhere else.

~ * ~

Thurgose used his sensors to watch the fat human leave. The visible disks whirled inside its head, and its color shifted to a dark, almost sinister brown. Current surged through its small frame as it settled over the controls. There was no reason to tell McCaulley anything resembling the truth. Cosmic strings and warped space would mean nothing to him anyway. Besides, it realized, mention­ing electromagnetic waves would be more than enough for the gen­eral’s limited brain to absorb.

A glint of metal was already detectable on the ship’s sensors. Thurgose eased back on the speed. Slowly, although still far behind, the spaceship chasing them inexorably drew closer.