The Eye of the Snake and the Needles of Gold
The Eye of the Snake was an SG Class Starcruiser of the Galactic Fleet, captained by Lord Ron of the Hale. He and his crew had gone renegade back in the age of the Mars Hall, when the Galactic Council had tried to limit the power of flangectors to a hundred gigawatts.
Lord Ron had foreseen the ensuing interstellar revolution and had put his crew into cryogenic suspension. He had weighed the pros and cons and decided he would rather preserve his crew than lose them in some galactic war which no side could win. No-one had seen the Eye of the Snake for around a hundred quitons, but here she was; hurtling towards the Leco inside a gigantic golden space needle.
Captain Lou ordered a hailing frequency to be opened.
‘Opening A440’ said Ricardo the Astral Bard. ‘Go ahead, Captain’.
‘Hey, Ron’ said Captain Lou, in the strange parlance of past times.
The Vistascreen crackled into life, and there was Lord Ron of the Hale, Astral Renegade, Commander of the Order of Sir Leslie of Paul, and founder of the Ancient and Noble Order of Gurn.
‘Greetings Leconauts’ said Lord Ron. His eyes sparkled and an impish smile played around his lips. ‘How’s it going?’
‘Pretty good’ answered Captain Lou. ‘Fancy seeing you here! To what do we owe the pleasure’?
‘Well, I figured that if we combined the flangectors of the Leco and the Eye of the Snake right here inside this Gold Needle, we could banish the Silence forever.’‘Aah yeah, the Gold Needle; I meant to ask about that; where did it come from and how did we end up inside it?’
‘It was created back on Terra Gaia by a couple of satyrs, Simon Son of the Dowser and Mark of the English. They made an Exquisite Noise from Pearls in the Sea of Fruits which created seven Gold Needles. The Galactic Council captured six of them; this is the only one left. I teleported us into it because inside it we are undetectable.’
‘The Legend of the Gold Needles; yes, I remember reading about it in Spaceschool’ said Captain Lou. ‘So where are these satyrs now?’
‘They’re on Terra Gaia’ said Lord Ron. ‘They want to help us to banish the Silence.’
‘I see’ said Captain Lou. ‘So, what’s in it for them?’
‘Oh, didn’t I say?’ said Lord Ron. ‘I told them we’d help them to get their six Gold Needles back from the Galactic Council……..’
Captain Lou sat in her quarters, thinking about the coming mission. She and her crew had seen some amazing sights over the last few quitons, by any standards.
But this mission promised to be a whole new ball-game.
The Galactic Council were not to be trifled with; Captain Lou and her crew were practically renegades, and the crew of the Eye of the Snake, under Lord Ron, were fully-fledged space rebels. She had to ask herself if the stakes were simply too high.
She decided to visit the Room of Manuscripts, deep in the bowels of the Leco. She wanted to know more about these mysterious Gold Needles. She got up and crossed the bridge and stood on the Transference Spot. She closed her eyes, felt a tug in her solar plexus, and opened her eyes in the strangely quaint surroundings of the archaic Room of Manuscripts.
She scanned the seemingly endless shelves of Thought Transferences; she was looking for something, yet wasn’t exactly sure what. After several minutes, a low thrum, felt more than heard, stopped her in her tracks. There it was; a Teetee with a faintly glowing golden spine. She lifted the volume from its place on the shelf. She hardly needed to exert any force at all; the volume seemed to climb into her hands (a ridiculous thought).
She opened the Teetee; the title page bore the legend ‘Mysteries of Time and Space’ and proclaimed the author as one Abdul Alhalzred.
She turned the page.
A chapter heading leaped out at her; The Legend of the Seven Gold Needles.
‘Long ago, even before the time of the Psychic Wars, a power was created in the universe which many have tried and failed to harness. This power is no ordinary force, but has sentience, and will not allow itself to be wielded by anyone whom it considers unworthy.
It is a power which can open the door to other dimensions and allow beings to cross from one world to another. It holds the key to understanding the high mysteries of the universe, even unto life itself. Most of all, it holds the power to banish the Silence.
To control this power a circle of Acolytes must bring the seven Gold Needles to the Northern Pole of the world called Terra Gaia. They must align the Needles at the Winter Solstice in a heptagram above the Pole and cast their song into the aether towards the Great Trilithon of the Henge of Salisbury. If this be done adroitly then the Portal Stones shall open and the ancient power of the Cursus shall flow over the earth to the sound of great rejoicing.’
Captain Lou allowed the Teetee to close; in her reverie she didn’t even notice that the tome replaced itself in the shelf from whence it had come. Her decision was made. The Leco would sail to Terra Gaia with the Eye of the Snake, and they would recapture the six Gold Needles and banish the Silence for ever.
The Leco and the Eye of the Snake had coupled their novadrives within the gigantic golden space needle into which Lord Ron of the Hale had teleported both Starcruisers. Lord Ron had taken the helm but the other systems of each ship were still operating independently. He felt the power pulse through him as the two novadrives pushed and pulled in an archaic configuration designed to extract sweet harmonic propulsion greater than the sum of its parts.
The crew of the Leco had opened their Vistascreens to 360 degrees and were observing the strange golden glow which had engulfed them.
‘This is weird’ said Ricardo the Astral Bard. ‘I feel a strange compulsion in here, as if I could forget myself and dive into this golden sea.’ ‘Don’t worry’ said Captain Lou, ‘I’ll remind you who you are if I see you going giddy-eyed’.
Sonic Engineer Parsons said nothing, but he had felt the influence of the gold needle as well. It was as if a kind of euphoria had taken hold of him. He had read about the effect of the lustrous metal on the inhabitants of many planets in the galaxy, but it held a special significance for the inhabitants of Terra Gaia. They had even taken to using it in rituals and as a currency. Now he could understand why; it seemed to beguile, as if it possessed sentience of its own and was whispering softly to each member of the crew. Perhaps Ricardo was especially receptive to its power.
‘A thought has just occurred to me’ said Bombardier Walker. ‘If we are undetectable within this needle, and our scanners can’t penetrate it, then how will we know when we’ve reached our destination?’ Captain Lou had been thinking the same thing and had actually used the Transference Spot to take a look at the bridge of the Eye of the Snake. What she had found there was unexpected, to say the least. Lord Ron had opened his Vistascreen, lashed himself to the helm, and was navigating through the stars with nothing more than his own eyes and an ancient telescope. Years of being a space renegade had taught him much about the cosmos.
‘I trust we will reach our destination safely, Bombardier’ said Captain Lou. Just then Lord Ron’s voice crackled through the Telepathic Communicator; ‘message received from Terra Gaia. Simon Son of the Dowser and Mark of the English have been captured by the Walking Dead………’
The Walking Dead – a name to strike fear into the hearts of the hardiest of space mariners.
The Walking Dead were a hybrid race created from Factor-X, a genetically-modified protoplasmic substitute, by the Evil Genius Cow-Ell of the Sy-moon. They looked almost like real humans, but possessed no soul. Captain Lou shuddered to think what Simon Son of the Dowser and Mark of the English would be going through in the hands of such creatures. They were probably strapped into experience chairs being subjected to the repetitive formulaic and mindless chanting of the replicants, their humanity being slowly but surely eroded by the plastic sounds. A fate worse than…….but no. Captain Lou wouldn’t allow herself to dwell on such debased and worthless creatures. They would have to rescue the two satyrs.
Captain Lou used the Thought Transference system to call a meeting with Lord Ron. He immediately appeared in her mind’s eye, along with his two trusty lieutenants, Count Callum and Young Lord Nic of the Hale. Her own crew were arrayed around her: Ricardo the Astral Bard; Bombardier Walker and Sonic Engineer Parsons.
‘We need a plan to rescue the two satyrs’ said Captain Lou. ‘Any ideas?’
‘I’ve had experience of the Walking Dead’ said Lord Ron. ‘You can’t reason with them. The best approach is to go in there with all flangectors blazing and ask questions later.’
‘Do we know where they are being held?’ asked the Sonic Engineer. ‘We have a fix on their position’ said Count Callum. ‘They are in the Studio of the Fountain, an ancient temple where the Walking Dead used to preach to their adoring worshippers, before the Psychic Wars.’
‘Will it be guarded?’ asked Bombardier Walker. ‘I don’t much fancy coming up against a horde of replicants made from Factor-X.’
‘It looks as if there is minimal security’ said young Lord Nic. ‘I don’t think they’re expecting visitors.’
‘Well, they’ve got that one wrong’ said Captain Lou. Ricardo smiled, mischief in his eyes.
Captain Lou sat at her station on the bridge of the Leco. The ship was coupled to the Eye of the Snake, within a gigantic golden space needle, heading for Terra Gaia. They had to rescue the two satyrs, Simon Son of the Dowser and Mark of the English, in order to find and recapture the six Gold Needles which, in addition to the one they were currently travelling in, could banish the Silence for ever.
Lord Ron’s voice was telepathically transmitted from the bridge of the Eye of the Snake, where he had lashed himself to the helm with an ancient studded belt known as a guitarstrap. Captain Lou thought it looked a lot like a flangector control module harness.
‘About to go into orbit’ said the Spacelord. ‘We have a fix on the Studio of the Fountain. I propose we travel down an astral thread and take them completely by surprise.’ Ricardo the Astral Bard looked up, mischief in his eyes. He liked the sound of an astral thread.
‘I could weave an astral thread strong enough to carry six people’ he said. ‘Very well’ said Lord Ron; stand ready and await my signal. Let’s couple our flangectors so we achieve maximum diffusion.’
Captain Lou now had a tough decision to make; who would stay in the Leco and who would travel down the astral thread with Lord Ron, Young Lord Nic and Count Callum? She decided that the astral thread was important enough to warrant Ricardo being in the safety of the Starcruiser within the Gold Needle, where no harm would come to him.
‘Bombardier Walker, Sonic Engineer Parsons’, full battle dress’ she ordered. The pre-action butterflies started to flutter in Jeff’s stomach. He donned the two-piece paisley suit he always wore in such situations, and the Bombardier merely removed his hooded jacket, pronouncing himself ready to go.
Then it was down to waiting; Ricardo closed his eyes and began intoning the legend of the Gypsey Race, an ancient spell full of potent magic. Captain Lou sat, her finger poised on the button which would open the communications portal in the belly of the Leco.
After what seemed like an age, Lord Ron’s voice issued the archaic space renegade command which they all knew so well; ‘onetwothreefour’. Captain Lou pressed the button; the air around Ricardo the Astral Bard seemed to thicken and pulsate, and a whitish ectoplasmic stream issued from his mouth. It twisted and flexed with coloured stars as the speech modulated and grew in intensity. Suddenly it turned into a rushing cataract of golden sparks and Captain Lou, Bombardier Walker and Sonic Engineer Parsons threw themselves headfirst into it. As they cascaded down through the belly of the Starcruiser and into space they could see that a similar torrent was issuing forth from the eye of the Snake, and Lord Ron, Young Lord Nic and Count Callum were racing down it like a team of bobsleighers. Captain Lou blinked, not quite able to believe what she was seeing; Lord Ron was sitting astride an ancient machine with two wheels, narrow tyres and an aluminium frame. She had seen pictures of such things in the ancient history books. Lord Ron was wearing a spandex war costume and a lightweight helmet emblazoned with the crest of the Snake. The two teams came alongside each other, riding the crest of the powerful astral thread.
‘Nice wheels, Ron’ said Captain Lou. Lord Ron smiled enigmatically. ‘It’s the only way to travel! Now, let’s show the Walking Dead who’s in charge of this galaxy!’
As the six space renegades crashed into the Studio of the Fountain on a cascading wave of astral ectoplasm an unbelievable scene met their eyes. The two satyrs, Simon Son of the Dowser and Mark of the English were, as Captain Lou had feared, confined in experience chairs by bands of rough exo-energy. Several hundred Walking Dead were shuffling around them in a huge circle chanting something which Captain Lou could only translate as “earwig-o, earwig-o, earwig-o”. ‘Crikey’, she thought; ‘it’s worse than I thought’. The satyrs were being forced to view what looked like a small Vistascreen, around sixty inches across, on which a surgically-altered woman with dried slugs where her eyebrows should be was tunelessly and soullessly intoning an ancient spell to an infuriatingly artificial and repetitive pseudo-musical abomination. ‘How they’ve survived this long I’ll never know’ thought Captain Lou.
The six space warriors hit the ground and immediately formed into a battle phalanx, Bombardier Walker centre back, Captain Lou and Lord Ron at the front, and Young Lord Nic, Count Callum and Sonic Engineer Parsons flanking them.
‘Flangectors on transfigurate at my command’ shouted Lord Ron. ‘Onetwothreefour’; Bombardier Walker loosed off a series of pulses from his Thunder Machine, Captain Lou sent out rollicking waves of Capricious subsonic power whilst the other four raked the Studio with devastating harmonic flangector fire, strafing the Walking Dead with deadly Dorian drones, fearful Phrygian fol-de-rols, magnificently murderous Mixolydian musketry, awesome Aeolian artillery, lethal Locrian lullabies and incredible Ionian incendiary incandescence.
The Walking Dead stood no chance in the face of such an onslaught; the blank expressions faded from their faces and they became momentarily aware before mouthing ‘thank you’ and evaporating into spacedust. Within the space of a few short minutes the whole thing was done and dusted. Captain Lou released the two satyrs with deft strokes of her Cutlass and they sprang out of the dreadful experience chairs.
‘Are we glad to see you’ said Mark of the English. ‘I don’t think I could have taken much more; we would have been in that circle chanting ‘earwig-o’ for evermore if you hadn’t shown up when you did!’
‘You’re welcome’ said Captain Lou. But now we’ve got to get you out of here before the Silence realises what’s happening. This way.’
Captain Lou telepathically transmitted an order to Ricardo the Astral Bard; ‘reverse the polarity of the astral thread’. Almost at once the rushing golden stream of astral ectoplasm shifted into backward motion and Lord Ron pedalled his ancient machine into its roaring torrent. He was immediately impelled upwards. ‘You two next’ said Captain Lou to the two satyrs, who didn’t need asking twice. Count Callum, Young Lord Nic and Bombardier Walker went next, followed by Captain Lou. Just as Sonic Engineer Parsons was about to give himself up to the golden stream a door flew open at the far end of the Studio and a wizened impossibly ancient Monster from the Age of Legends staggered into view, chewing on a fat cigar, wearing a business suit and lots of expensive jewellery. It jabbed a gnarled finger at Jeff and screamed ‘you’re fired’. Jeff pointed his flangector at the loathsome capering creature and squeezed off a flurry of deadly arpeggios, incinerating the noisome beast on the spot.
‘No’, he said; ‘I think you’ll find it’s you that’s fired!’
Upon the floor where the ghastly apparition had stood, all that remained was a small mound of a white crystalline substance.
Jeff, in the parlance of ancient days, simply muttered ‘oh, sugar’.
Back in the safety of the Leco, everyone finally breathed a sigh of relief. Ricardo the Astral Bard was hoisted aloft and paraded around the bridge, everyone being amazed at his Herculean efforts in keeping the astral thread in place for so long. His only response to the accolades was ‘I need a drink’. Captain Lou decided it was time to open a bottle of spacejuice from the part of Terra Gaia known in the days before the psychic wars as Espana. Everyone was given a transparent receptacle called a glass, and a toast was proposed to Ricardo’s continued good health.
Just then he caught sight of the two satyrs and his face fell. Captain Lou immediately realised something was amiss. ‘What is it?’ she asked. Ricardo couldn’t take his eyes off the two satyrs. All he could say was ‘you’re human’. ‘Of course we’re human’, said Mark of the English; ‘what were you expecting?’ Ricardo simply smiled; there was mischief in his eyes.
‘Aah, I understand’ said Simon Son of the dowser. ‘You were expecting something altogether more………caprine?’
‘You do know what a satyr is, don’t you?’ asked Mark of the English.
‘Er’ replied Ricardo.
Captain Lou stepped in to avoid any further awkwardness. ‘A satyr is a member of the Space And Time Youth Regiment, of course; we all knew that didn’t we?’
Everyone laughed whilst agreeing. Captain Lou saw Ricardo heading surreptitiously toward the elevator. ‘Where are you going?’ she asked.
‘To clear the straw out of the guest quarters’ he replied.
Captain Lou awoke and realised her head felt sore; ‘too much of that Spanish spacejuice’ she thought to herself.
Fifteen minutes later she was on the bridge, having summoned a meeting to talk about the plan to recapture the six missing Gold Needles.
The two satyrs sat between Captain Lou and Lord Ron with their respective crews. The satyrs answered all the questions which were fired at them in quick succession. The most pressing matter was the location of the six missing Gold Needles; the Galactic Council had them and they wanted the seventh. The band of space renegades were equally determined to relieve the Galactic Council of the six currently in their possession.
‘We think the Galactic Council have taken them to Europa’ said Mark of the English. ‘They are in league with the Jupiter Mining Corporation’ said Simon Son of the Dowser. ‘We are quite certain that they are planning to use the seven Golden Needles to extract all the Aurum from the core of Europa.’
‘But that could destabilise the entire quadrant’ said Bombardier Walker. ‘We need to stop them’ said Lord Ron. ‘We may need more than our flangectors this time’.
Just then the communication screen burst into life, and the head of Admiral Bunting appeared. He surveyed the scene which had opened up before him. ‘Interesting’ said the Admiral; two escaped satyrs and two crews of space outlaws!’ ‘What do you mean, outlaws?’ said Captain Lou.
‘Oh, hadn’t you heard?’ said the admiral, innocently. ‘The Galactic Council has just put a price on all your heads. You’re wanted, dead or alive.’
Captain Lou paced up and down in her quarters. She was feeling a mixture of emotions; she and her crew, along with Lord Ron and his band of space renegades had just been outlawed by the Galactic Council. They would have to be careful; as well as being pursued by the ships of the Council there would be bounty hunters who would be happy to turn them in for a fistful of spacecoin.
As long as they remained inside the golden needle, they would be able to go unnoticed. Lord Ron hailed and Captain Lou opened her thought transference channel. Lord Ron appeared in her mind’s eye. ‘Good work yesterday’ said Lord Ron. ‘Are we going to set sail for Europa? We’re quite sure that we’ll find the other six Gold Needles there.’ ‘Sure’, said Captain Lou; ‘we just need a few hours to get the flangectors back up to service standards.’ ‘Yes, I’ve been thinking about that’ said Lord Ron. ‘I wonder where we could get our hands on a Sonic Bolt.’
Captain Lou couldn’t stop herself from inhaling sharply; a Sonic Bolt. Outlawed three quitons ago by the Galactic Council and liable to bring down the full weight of the Council’s Planetary Division if they dared to use it.
‘Oh, well; they are hunting us anyway’ said Captain Lou. ‘We might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.’
‘I don’t intend to be hanged for anything’ said Lord Ron.
Ricardo the Astral Bard mused on a knotty problem; how to get to Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, without attracting the attention of the Galactic Council along the way. Sure, they were still inside the seventh Gold Needle which was affording them protection from prying eyes, but could that be relied upon? And in using the Gold Needle to travel to Europa, where the other six needles were apparently being held by the Galactic Council, weren’t they just playing into their enemy’s hands? Not to mention the fact that they were travelling with two escaped satyrs and another renegade crew who had all been outlawed by the Galactic Council!
He looked up, mischief in his eyes; ‘ah well, should be a doddle!’
Ricardo teleported to the bridge, where he found Captain Lou, Bombardier Walker and Sonic Engineer Parsons in conversation around a hologram of the star system of Helios. ‘I’ve had an idea’ said Ricardo. ‘OK’ said Captain Lou. ‘Let’s hear it’. ‘I don’t feel comfortable putting all our eggs in one basket; all of us together in this space needle is too convenient. The Galactic Council could take us all in one fell swoop’. ‘I’d like to see them try’ said Lord Ron, whose head and shoulders had appeared in the Vistascreen. ‘They’ll never take me alive!’ An approving chorus erupted behind Lord Ron and Captain Lou was certain she saw the glint of a cutlass blade.
‘I suggest that the Eye of the Snake continues in the Gold Needle with the two satyrs and the Leco takes another route to Europa’ said Ricardo. All three of his crewmates responded simultaneously; ‘are you crazy?!’
‘I don’t think so’ replied Ricardo. ‘By now the Galactic Council knows we’re all in this space needle so they’ll be concentrating their efforts on detecting it. They won’t be looking for a lone Starcruiser. And anyway, I’m not proposing we just sail out into the wide black yonder.’
‘What exactly are you proposing?’ asked Captain Lou, with the merest hint of nervousness.
Ricardo smiled; ‘I propose that we use a Time Tunnel………’
Lord Ron was sceptical about Ricardo the Astral Bard’s plan; ‘I think it will be best if we all stick together’ said the Spacelord. No-one really wanted to contradict him. ‘I think our mission stands more chance of success if we split up’ said Ricardo. ‘Using a Time Tunnel will ensure we get to Europa before the Galactic Council knows where we’re heading. ‘Why don’t we all go through the Time Tunnel, then?’ asked Lord Ron, not unreasonably. ‘Time Tunnels can be unstable’ answered Ricardo. ‘I think if we tried to get two Starcruisers and a Gold Space Needle through one we could cause a temporal anomaly.’
Lord Ron considered for a moment; ‘Ok’ he said. ‘I’ll stay with the Eye of the Snake and the two satyrs, and you go through your Time Tunnel. Let’s set a rendezvous; we meet in two septalogs half a quantabit from Europa’. ‘Deal’ said Captain Lou. ‘And let’s keep inter-vessel communication strictly to Mind’s Eye; we don’t want to give the Galactic Council any hints’.
The Vistascreen closed. ‘Right’ said Captain Lou to Ricardo. ‘About this Time Tunnel – how are we going to set it up?’
‘Aah’ said Ricardo, mischief in his eyes; ‘I thought you might be able to tell me that!’
Captain Lou watched as the gigantic golden space needle streaked into the distance, becoming invisible as it reached lightspeed. ‘I have an idea’ said Captain Lou ‘of how to create a Time Tunnel; it came to me in a dream last night. It may be dangerous but I have a strong feeling that it will work. We need to set up the Edifice of Song’.
The Edifice of Song. No-one had used that for thousands of quitons; since the Age of Legends, in fact. ‘Do we still have an Edifice of Song?’ asked Sonic Engineer Parsons. ‘We do’ said Captain Lou. ‘I had it mothballed before we joined the Galactic Council. It’s stowed away in the Experience Hold. Let’s go and set it up.’
The Leconauts took the elevator to the Experience Hold, deep in the bowels of the Starcruiser. Captain Lou stopped at a door marked Studio of the Fair View. ‘In here’.
They opened the door; an indescribable aroma wafted over them, at once ancient and arcane, but also sparky and dangerous. They surveyed the mountains of equipment, all black and strangely configured in rectangular boxes.
‘Wow’ said the Sonic Engineer, ‘this looks like a flangector generation unit!’ Bombardier Walker smiled; ‘and this looks like a Thunder Machine, a really primitive Thunder Machine!’
In twenty minutes they had constructed the Edifice of Song but no-one could say how they had done it. They seemed to have gone into a collective trance and worked as one until the Edifice stood before them.
‘I reckon we could plug our flangector control modules in here’ said Jeff, indicating a small round metal socket. ‘I think you are correct’ said Captain Lou. She closed her eyes and a second later their modern equipment appeared in the cargo elevator, including Bombardier Walker’s Thunder Wands.
‘Take your positions’ said Captain Lou. The Bombardier sat at the ancient Thunder Machine and the rest arrayed themselves around him. Captain Lou surveyed the scene; ‘Ready? One, two, three, four!’
Jeff stroked the flangector control module and a sonic blast issued forth, as if from a giant canyon. Bombardier Walker delicately caressed the Thunder Machine with his wands and Captain Lou anchored the two with Capricious subsonic rumblings. Ricardo the Astral Bard approached the speech-sound converter and began to intone an ancient spell; ‘I’m a time traveller, and I will break your heart………..’
As the mellifluous tones the Leconauts were creating reached a crescendo a strange thing happened. Time seemed to stand still and there was nothing else in the universe except the four of them, at one with the archaic equipment in the Studio of the Fair View. They looked at each other and smiled, all certain in the knowledge that they had created a Time Tunnel and could now use it to get to Europa. Captain Lou knew that they were now in what was called a ‘timeless moment’ and the sheer force of her will would take them to wherever they may wish to go.
She thought of Europa; a place in which the Leconauts had been happy, before dark forces sought to destroy it. A place in which peace had reigned for several quitons until the Tub-Thumpers and the Jingos had finally swayed the people of Terra Gaia into abandoning Europa. Now they were returning to this fair moon of Jupiter, with a mission which could prove a blessing for the entire galaxy.
Sonic Engineer Parsons pressed a pedal and the whole soundworld they had created shifted phase until they were spinning through a huge tube with the sound of a million jet planes of old enveloping them. Captain Lou closed her eyes, keeping the steady pulse on her Capricious Subwave Generator. Jeff, Ricardo and Bombardier Walker all locked into what she could only describe as the ‘groove’ they had created, and they began to move forward with collective purpose.
Suddenly, they were in open space and a giant ball of gas appeared on the horizon; Jupiter. And there, coming around into view from the far side of its mother planet, their destination; Europa.
Captain Lou raised her arm and the sonic emanations ended in a satisfying cadence, fading into the open cosmos. She understood the meaning of the ancient spell Ricardo had used to get them here. ‘I’m a time traveller, and I will break your heart’. Now they had a chance to mend the hearts of the inhabitants of Europa………..
The Leco was once again inside the gigantic golden space needle, alongside the Eye of the Snake, their novadrives coupled, standing half a quantabit from Europa. The scanners of each ship were currently set to detect Aurum and the computers were eliminating results which were showing insignificant quantities of the precious metal. They were looking for something altogether bigger.
Suddenly a computer began beeping insistently, a red dot appeared on its screen and the view homed in to a small spot on Europa’s surface. Captain Lou telepathically switched the view to the Vistascreen. ‘There they are – the six missing golden needles!’ Lord Ron’s face appeared in the screen; ‘yes, we see’ said Captain Lou before Lord Ron had chance to speak. Behind him she could see the two satyrs capering gleefully.
‘Now we need to get those needles from the surface and into space so we can daisy-chain them and get the hell out of here’ said Lord Ron. ‘As soon as we can couple them up we’ll be invisible, so there’s just a small window in which we risk detection. We need to get as close to Europa as we dare before trying to extract the needles.’
‘Any ideas on how we are going to do that? Asked Captain Lou, fearing she already knew the answer.
‘Aah yes’ said Lord Ron. ‘Did I ever mention to you about a Sonic Bolt?’
Admiral Bunting sat back and rocked in his chair at the Service Station. He was smiling. He figured he could afford to retire to that log cabin in Svalbard which he’d always dreamed of. He surveyed the several large bags of spacecoin arrayed in front of him, emblazoned with the Sign of the Snake. What a stroke of luck. He wondered how Lord Ron had known about the Sonic Bolt he had stashed in his storeroom for a rainy day………
‘Onetwothreefour!’ Immediately upon issuing the archaic command Lord Ron pressed a large red button on his control console. A massive shock wave spread from the prow of the Eye of the Snake and streaked towards Europa. The crew of the Leco, watching on their Vistascreen, stood mesmerised as the Bolt shot through space. As it impacted it seemed to spread across the entire surface of the moon, bathing it in a rosy red glow. Captain Lou watched in disbelief as the six gigantic space needles slowly rose from the moon’s surface and began to travel out along the wake the bolt had left in its path.
‘Ok, we need to go full steam ahead and secure those babies before the Galactic Council can retaliate!’ said Lord Ron, telepathically beaming his voice to everyone inside the Gold Needle.
As they surged forwards at lightspeed Captain Lou could see Galactic strike-ships being scrambled from the surface of Europa. But then an amazing thing happened; a whole fleet of rebel fighters appeared, engaging the Galactic forces. A voice crackled across the Leco’s com-port; ‘this is the Free Europa Defence Force; we will hold the Galactic fleet until you can complete your mission. Your coming was prophesied in the Cursus Chronicle. We thank you and offer our allegiance. All hail the Leconauts and the Eye of The Snake with their Gold Needles!’ The transmission ceased.
In the Vistascreen Captain Lou watched as a myriad of fighters engaged in dogfights with the strike-ships, craft on both sides exploding into fragments, but the six Gold Needles kept on coming. Soon enough they were within range and Lord Ron deployed the dual tractor beams to bring them to the safety point. ‘Coupled’ came the Spacelord’s voice, and with that the ship’s novadrives shifted into reverse, and Europa began to recede until it was only a speck in the distance. Then it was gone.
‘Wow’ said Captain Lou. ‘Who would have thought that the people of Europa would help us out after what our kind did to them in the past.’
‘Who indeed’ said Ricardo the Astral Bard, without even a hint of mischief.
The Leco and the Eye of the Snake were both inside a gigantic golden space needle, with six others coupled by tractor beams following behind like a massive celestial train. They were travelling at lightspeed and completely invisible. Their mission was to reach Terra Gaia and align the seven Gold Needles above the Northern Pole of the planet, known as Hammer’s Myth, after the ancient legends of Norse Gods. Once the needles were aligned they would attempt to banish the Silence forever.
Captain Lou beamed her voice telepathically to all the crew members of the Leco and the Eye of the Snake. ‘We will be in sight of Terra Gaia within a dodecabit. When we reach the pole we will begin to align the Gold Needles. It is crucial that we don’t let our guard down, so; No sleep ‘til Hammer’s Myth!’
Bombardier Walker smiled. He was used to going without sleep. In fact, he tried to avoid it whenever possible.
Sure enough, after a single dodecabit, the familiar outline of Terra Gaia came into view. As they got closer, Captain Lou could see there was a problem. ‘It looks like they were expecting us’ she said.
Sonic Engineer Parsons looked at the Vistascreen. Sitting on top of Terra Gaia, right above Hammer’s Myth like some deadly halo, was what looked like the entire Galactic Fleet…………..
Lord Ron of the Hale surveyed the scene in front of him. The entire Galactic Fleet arrayed in battle formation and him with a price on his head. ‘Come and get me, if you dare’ he growled.
Just as Captain Lou began to think that their situation was hopeless, something incredible happened. The entire fleet took off as one, in the direction of Mars. Before Captain Lou could begin to speculate on what had happened, Admiral Bunting’s face filled the Vistascreen. ‘There you go’ he said. ‘Coast clear – go to it.’
‘What – how….’
‘Never mind all that – suffice it to say that I won’t be retiring to Svalbard just yet. I used the spacecoin from Lord Ron to create an Aurum signature in the region of Mars. The Galactic Council no doubt thinks that’s where you’re headed!’ ‘Thank you, Admiral’ said Captain Lou. ‘We owe you one!’ ‘At least one’ said the Admiral.
The two crews wasted no time and began to array the seven Gold Needles into a heptagram above Hammer’s Myth. At this point Simon Son of the Dowser spoke; ‘you’ll need something to float the Needles on or they may lose altitude’ he said. ‘Any ideas’ asked Captain Lou. ‘Space Pearls’ said Mark of the English. ‘You’ll need three hundred and sixty-five.’ ‘And where may we lay our hands on that many Space Pearls?’ asked Ricardo. ‘We can arrange that’ said Mark. Punch these co-ordinates into your computer and send down a forage beam.’
Captain Lou entered the co-ordinates and sent out the forage beam; it entered the atmosphere of Terra Gaia above a small village called Will Herby. ‘I like the sound of that place’ said Bombardier Walker. Within minutes the Space Pearls were processing along the beam and arraying themselves in a perfect circle for the Gold Needles to rest upon. ‘Now we need a diamond-tipped probe to activate the Song of the Gold Needles’ said Simon Son of the Dowser. ‘I don’t suppose you have one of those stashed away somewhere?’ asked Captain Lou. ‘Actually, we do’ smiled Simon. He punched more co-ordinates into the computer. ‘Quickly’ said Captain Lou. ‘The Galactic Council will be sure to know by now that we’ve made fools of them.’
The beam plunged to Terra Gaia once more, this time onto a massive statue called the Northern Angel, situated at the Head of the Gates. As the huge figure ascended to the heavens Captain Lou could see that its head was a huge diamond with a rather sharp nose……..
The seven Gold Needles were finally in place above Hammer’s Myth, the Northern Pole of Terra Gaia. The three hundred and sixty-five Space Pearls were in position below, forming a gigantic ball race on which the needles could rotate. The diamond-tipped angel probe which would activate the Song of the Gold Needles was ready to be lowered. All that remained was for the Gold Needles to reach the crucial speed of thirty-three and a third revolutions per minute.
The two Starcruisers were positioned above the array of Gold Needles, in the middle of the gigantic circle, next to each other but facing in opposite directions. The plan was to fire thrusters simultaneously whilst maintaining a lateral link. This would cause the two cruisers to spin, creating centrifugal force to rotate the Gold Needles.
‘Fire thrusters’ ordered Lord Ron. ‘Thrusters fired’ answered Captain Lou. The two vessels began their dance, high above Hammer’s Myth, and the Gold Needles began to rotate. They picked up speed and Captain Lou telepathically transmitted ‘on the lookout for Galactic strike-ships. I can’t believe we won’t be seeing any’.
‘Twenty RPM’ said Ricardo; another thirty seconds until we reach critical velocity.’ ‘Twenty-seven RPM’. The tension was almost unbearable. ‘Thirty.’
And then it happened. A swarm of Galactic strike-ships came in from above and began to rake the Gold Needles with popfire. ‘Incoming’ said Captain Lou. ‘Flangectors north’ said Lord Ron. Lydian starfire left trails across the skies but the strike-ships kept coming. ‘Thirty-two’ said Ricardo. Then, miraculously, another ship appeared out of nowhere; Captain Lou recognised it at once – it was the O-Riley with Admiral Bunting at the helm. His voice crackled over the ether. ‘Prepare to launch Sonic Bolt.’ A huge shock wave from the O-Riley spread upwards and outwards, engulfing all the Galactic Council strike-ships, which simultaneously disintegrated and turned into multi-coloured confetti, spreading across the pole of the planet below in rainbow hues.
‘Wow – that was some show!’ said Sonic Engineer Parsons. ‘Couldn’t let you have all the glory’ said the Admiral.
‘Thirty three and a third’ said Ricardo. ‘Lower the probe’ said Captain Lou. The Northern Angel, face down, gently approached the spinning array of Gold Needles and touched its diamond-tipped nose to the surface of the metal. As it connected a plasma stream emerged from each angle of the septagram. The streams travelled inwards and downwards, meeting and merging into a huge and roaring torrent of golden energy. It shot down to the Northern Pole, the Hammer’s Myth, and then arced to the Henge of Salisbury, where it speared the Great Trilithon. The portal stones opened and whole planet was enveloped in a red-golden glow which blossomed out into the aether, renewing life and melting evil.
Captain Lou opened the sonic scanners and patched them to the ship’s communication system. ‘Listen’ she said, scarcely able to contain her excitement.
‘Did we banish the Silence?’ asked Bombardier Walker.
‘We did’ said Captain Lou.
‘Well, what’s that strange sound I can hear?
‘That’ said Captain Lou ‘is birdsong, Bombardier; birdsong!’
A great celebration was planned by the grateful inhabitants of Terra Gaia. In Malcolm’s Grove, on the Island of Bali Hai in the Gorge of George, just around the corner from Admiral Bunting’s Service Station, the crews of the Eye of the Snake, the Leco, and the satyrs of the Gold Needles made merry, drank much spacejuice and told tales of olden times when wandering troubadours would set up an Edifice of Song and regale all comers, giving those most precious of gifts; a smile on the face and a glow in the heart.
To be continued…
By Loudhailer Electric Company’s Sonic Architect and keeper of the sacred flangector, Jeff Parsons
Loudhailer Electric Company photos by Sydpix
Snake Eye photos by Ricardo the Astral Bard