The Admiral’s carrier arrived to the transport station where all its passengers exited. They entered the building with which Zee was now starting to get quite familiar. Stopping at the entrance to the jail cell that recently imprisoned him, he was very glad to not still be there.
It was several more minutes of walking through what seemed to him to be an endless maze of corridors. The group stopped at a closed door. One of the officers punched some numbers into a keypad on the wall and the door opened.
Admiral Tucker instructed Zee, “Take a seat in the back and put on your seat harness.”
It still hadn’t dawned on him where they were or why he was putting on the belt. Perhaps it was the distraction of all the computers around this strange room and the sight of military personnel moving about.
There was movement, a slight jerk of the room. Zee started to be afraid until he saw the others were unconcerned about it. For a moment, it felt as if the room were going down. It reminded him of the feeling he felt when he was in an elevator.
His thoughts were interrupted by muffled sounds of high pitched motors; much like he’d heard when watching dock crews load and unload fleet equipment, whenever his dad was deploying. There were other sounds too, thuds and vibrations Zee had never experienced. Again he took his cue from the group and decided this too was nothing to be scared of.
Zee’s dad was speaking to him over all the noise, “Under your chair are headphones. Put them on when everyone else does. Take deep slow breaths and don’t try to get out of your seat.”
Zee had questions but before he could respond, the lights flickered and went out. All was dark except for the computer screens, buttons and switches. Everyone was quiet in unison. The next thing Zee heard stunned him.
“Tower, this is shuttle 253 ready to start engines.”
“Shuttle engines…” Zee thought. “Am I in a shuttle?” The revelation of the moment burst within him as pure joy.
“Initiating engines.” The call was heard over room speakers.
There was a short, high pitched squeal from under the craft, followed by the muffled sound of an engine burst. The entire room was vibrating. Zee’s dad looked at him with a big grin and winked. Zee’s only response was his eyes, opened as big as his fists.
Another noise! Zee could feel the room drop and then begin to move in a direction that felt like forwards. He wasn’t afraid.
Now everything taking place, the sounds he was hearing, the vibrations and jerks he was feeling, instead of bringing fear, brought pure joy. There were more whirring sounds as panels retreated into the walls, exposing windows.
Zee could see they were moving through structures, protruding from the ground up and over the craft, like a skeleton of some sort. They formed a tunnel without walls.
“Magnets, on each pole,” His dad explained, “push with opposing force keeping the shuttle positioned in the middle. They move us forwards without us needing to use thrusters. When we’re close to clearing the magnetic field, then engines will carry us away from the terminal.”
“Where are we going?” Zee shouted.
“Teller Station”, Zee’s dad shouted back.
“Teller Station? “ Zee thought, “But that’s in space. We’re going to space?” Zee was grinning from ear to ear and began to cry a little from sheer excitement.
This was turning into the adventure he’d always dreamed of, but this was no dream. It was real. Zee was in a shuttle and on his way to space!
It was a tough night for Edmund Carr. All night long, as soon as he’d fall asleep, he would be awakened by nightmares. This was very unusual for him and now it was early, the daylight just appearing through the window coverings. He was frustrated and exhausted.
His morning shower was a bit longer than usual. The hot water felt good, sparking him back to life. Even though the night was bad, Edmund was feeling better and ready to face the busy day ahead. He thought about the painting and rehearsed in his mind what he’d say about it.
After dressing, he began to straighten the room.
“What am I doing?” he thought. “They have people here to clean rooms and make beds.”
Leaving those tasks behind, he started to straighten his own stuff, tucking things away in travel bags and room drawers. He didn’t want maid services touching his personal belongings.
He was just about ready to leave for the day, when the thought occurred to him, to bring the book about Teller Station to the festival. He hoped to show it to new friends he was making and get their opinion on what the focus would be with their students, if they were presenting space concepts as an art initiative.
He opened his travel bags and dug through them. Not finding the book he moved to the dresser drawers where he also had put items. It wasn’t there either.
“Where did I put that book?” he wondered.
He sat on the edge of the bed.
“Think Edmund.” He was talking to himself.
Tracing his steps from the night before, he remembered he was settled into bed and was reading it. There was a knock at the door. He got up to answer and set the book on… He looked to the desk. There was no book. The painting though caught his attention.
A cold shiver sliced through his body. “You’re losing it Edmund.” He blurted out loud.
The warrior stood with pheasant in hand, cross-bow in the other. The spear was stuck in the ground; everything was the same except for one detail. Pinned to the ground by the spear, was a book.
Edmund looked closer. The spear was thrust through the middle of the book’s title, but he could still make out the word “Teller”. Clearly he could see the cover picture of the space station.
“Impossible!” he cried out.
Edmund began to wonder if he was a very sick man. Perhaps the native foods he ate the day before were making him ill, or maybe something with the alien environment. Was he asleep and dreaming?
He was leaning on the desk trying to process everything, asking himself questions and wanting to understand. Again, he looked at the painting. Reaching up he touched it.
A bright blue light exploded from the image, pulling Edmund into the scene. He felt a sharp pain in his ankle as it struck the boulder alongside the dirt road.
Sitting up, he looked down at his chest, then legs. They were covered in dust from the ground.
“This is not happening.” He told himself.
Without warning, a foot kicked him in his face, knocking him back in tremendous pain. He could taste blood from a mouth wound. In his peripheral vision he saw movement. Looking to see what it was, he very barely rolled out of the way of a machete aimed for his skull.
As he rolled, he jumped onto his feet. He now saw who it was attacking him. The Edokian warrior in a terrifying scream, was in the air, his foot smashing into Edmund’s rib cage and throwing him onto the ground again. Edmund lay there still as could be.
“Maybe if I don’t move I won’t be attacked.” he hoped.
There was a noise away from him. Mustering up the courage to open his eyes and look, he could see the fighter had grabbed the spear in hand and was ripping the book from the spear head, scattering the pages in the wind. Edmund lay his head back down. His heart was pounding so hard he thought it’d explode.
“What do I do?” he softly cried out.
His fingers touched something. It felt like a tree branch.
Opening his eyes, the Hunter was now over him, spear raised and ready to be driven into his body. Without thinking, Edmund swung the stick, striking the Edokian in the leg just above the knee.
His attacker let out a painful groan as the spear came down, thudding into the ground dangerously close to Edmund. It had missed him. Immediately he was on his feet again. It was his turn to do some kicking.
With a surge of strength, Edmund struck the warrior in the face, this time knocking him to the ground. Blood spurted as the Edokian’s nose was instantly broken. The fighter, rolled to his hands and knees and was crawling away. Edmund saw what he was after. It was the machete.
Grabbing the stick again and limping after him, he began striking the Hunter on the spine and head, over and over with furious rage, until the stick broke in half and the warrior lay motionless. Edmund took the machete and threw it as far as he could, away from the scene. He sat down on the boulder and cried.
“This can’t be real!” But as hard as he tried, for some reason he couldn’t wake himself from the dream.
The sound of engines roared. Even though they were muffled by the shuttle fuselage, it was still loud enough that it would have been very difficult, if not impossible to carry on a conversation inside the craft.
Zee hadn’t been paying attention but now he noticed everyone wearing their headphones. He reached down to where his were under the seat and put them on. They helped dampen the sound.
It was getting harder to move as the shuttle picked up speed. Zee settled back and gave himself over to the invisible force which pulled him into his chair. Eyes closed, he listened to the hum of engines. He imagined the ship, passing by the lighthouse and out over the ocean.
Edmund sat for a while, catching his breath. A gentle breeze was blowing and felt good. For a moment, he forgot where he was.
Hearing a noise behind, he turned. More warriors were riding up on horses, about ten of them, dressed as if for battle. One jumped from his horse and ran to the side of his fallen comrade, who was struggling to get to his hands and knees. They were talking in a language unfamiliar to Edmund.
The injured fighter was pointing at him, yelling and moving closer. For a brief moment Edmund thought to run but realized there was nowhere to go. If he just let this dream finish its course it would soon be over. He decided to fight no more.
At that point, another horse galloped up, its rider obviously agitated. He was speaking and pointing to a spot off in the distance. Edmund looked to see what they saw. Some kind of strange ground craft approached.
As it moved towards them, a shot rang out from the vehicle. The first one struck near the other horses throwing three of the Edokians to the ground and killing them instantly. Edmund instinctively rolled down behind the boulder to get out of the way. More bursts were strafing the ground around him.
He could tell he wasn’t the target, since it seemed they could hit the boulder and obliterate it and him if that was their intent; he just lay there quiet and motionless. Eventually, the shooting stopped.
He was still for several seconds. The only noise, was the sound of the breeze blowing through the tree. Feeling a bit of courage, Edmund slowly lifted his head to see what was happening. The bodies of the warriors and their horses were scattered across the ground.
Edmund stood up, looking towards the craft. For the moment, it wasn’t moving.
In the corner of his eye, something caught his attention. Turning to see, one of the fighters was up, spear in hand. Across his chest was the painting of the pheasant. It was the Hunter he had fought with. The spear was raised and thrust into the air.
He could see the Edokian’s body violently cut down by a laser burst from the craft, now again moving and this time, faster towards his position. But it was too late.
What little movement he made to avoid the flying projectile, for the moment at least, saved his life as the spear entered his chest on the right side and penetrated out his back. He felt no pain, probably due to the shock.
Edmund stumbled backwards a bit but kept his balance. Looking down at the spear in his chest, he could see blood beginning to ooze from around the shaft. It was hard to breath and his first thought was that a lung had been punctured. He sensed himself falling.
Closing his eyes and bracing for impact with the ground, something unexpected happened. What he landed on was soft. He opened his eyes and to his relief, was staring at the ceiling above the bed of his guest quarters.
“This bizarre dream is over!” he thought.
Trying to get up, tremendous pain shot through his chest. Edmund wasn’t dreaming. He was pinned to his bed by the spear.
“This is real?” he cried.
Tears in his eyes, the taste of blood in his mouth, his body ached and pain exploded through his ankle as he tried to push himself up. He thought he would bleed to death if he didn’t get help soon.
Edmund was able to reach the phone. He lifted the receiver and pressed zero.