THE LAST PICNIC ON TRELLA

The group emerged from the forest, enjoying their final outing on

Trella. They were all there, even Ferocity.

“This is stunning; the blue water is so bright!” Empress Nalau exclaimed as she approached the edge of the water.

The banks of the river were fairly flat so she was able to stand right at the edge. Emperor Bartala joined her.

“Hey Lelelu if you went swimming in here no one would see anything but your eyes!” he teased.

“You’re just jealous because you have boring colorless skin.” She fired back as they stood at the water’s edge. Looking down at the water near her shoes she said, “I enjoy a good swim as much as any Trelod, but those little purple fish look carnivorous! You go first Bartala.”

There  was  a  school  of  small  heavily finned  fish swimming about near the surface. They were more fin than fish.

“Hmmm no. My hair would be ruined.” Lelelu turned and looked at him, they laughed at the idea of Bartala’s hair getting wet.

“Let’s go eat.” She said as they walked over to where the other’s had gathered.

The group used the boulders near the river’s edge as seats and settled in to chat and tell stories as they had during much of this trip.

“Break it out Lelelu. I know you brought a bottle of espidrun and disposable cups in your pack.” Bartala teased.

“I guess I can’t hide anything from you Bartala.” she answered.

“Actually I was just hoping; I had no idea!”

They all laughed while Lelelu handed each of them a flat disc that popped up into a small glass, then she went back around and poured a little espidrun in each glass.

“Just a little though. We have a long walk back to the ship and I’m not carrying anyone, especially you Ferocity.” She teased.

“You have nothing to fear Lelelu. Dragons do not feel the effects of alcohol.” he said.

Bartala drew his breath in dramatically, “Oh that is awful! Always sober, I cannot imagine.” he said shaking his head. He stood up and held his glass high, the others followed his example “To good friends, new and old, and the adventures we have had, may the memories last a lifetime. We did not solve the mystery of the blue crystals but we gained a new friend.”

They all mimicked him and sipped their drinks before sitting back down.

“This really has been the most fun I have ever had.” Nalau said. “But I look forward to returning to Ploosnar tomorrow. I am a little homesick.”

“As am I my love, as am I.” Bartala said.

There was a commotion at the edge of the clearing. The guards seemed to be engaging with someone, Bartala’s guards immediately surrounded him and the Empress. Zri, M, and Brzko

ran over to the commotion. Ferocity took flight to survey the surroundings from above. Zri arrived first. He had his back to them, facing two beings that were restrained by the Gaznzulians.

When M got close enough to see around Zri she stopped dead in her tracks. She grabbed Brzko’s armed and looked at him to see if he saw what she did. They stood there for what seemed to be a long time. Lelelu came up behind them.

“They look just like you two. Do you know them?”

The male was tall and dark; he was built just like Agent Brzko. The female tall with long light brown hair, she looked fit but not threatening. She looked like the Muse of Mischief. The male leaned forward, clearly wanting to step toward them but prevented from doing so by the presence of the Gaznzulians.

“Please… We are not here to harm you. We have been searching for you Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko. We can tell you about Clyrea X9, about what you are.”

Zri turned and looked at the Muse of Mischief over his shoulder, the question in his eyes was clear, “Were these strangers a threat to his oldest friend or did they really have information about her origins?”

They all heard Ferocity’s voice in their minds, “They are cloaked. They are not what they seem. You must escape now.” The Emperor’s guards did not waste a second; they immediately activated the emergency transports on Bartala and Nalau’s wristbands, and then their own.

M turned to Lelelu, “GO!” She complied, activating her own transporter.

Gaznzulians from the orbiting ships transported to the surface and surrounded the imposters.

M approached the imposters, “Who are you?”

The one that appeared female answered. “We are you from another time, from another dimension.”

“Then why are you cloaked? I can tell that your appearance is false. Who are you and what do you want?”

“We want only to know you.”

While M had their attention, Brzko spoke quietly to Zri and his team through his ear com. “Transport them to a cell on one of your ships.”

Zri made no indication that he had heard Brzko; neither did the four Gaznzulians who surrounded the imposters. With perfect choreography the Gaznzulians made physical contact with the imposters, each grabbing the arm of an imposter at the same time they activated their transports.

The imposters realized they had been captured and shrieked, it was a horrid high pitched sound. In the last second they were visible, their shapes changed. They were bulky with elongated heads and large eyes, long appendages, covered in tentacles hung down from the front of their faces.

M and Brzko were left standing with Zri and two other Gaznzulians. Ferocity landed and joined them.

Zri turned to him, “Thank you Ferocity. Your quick action may have saved our friends. How did you know they were cloaked?”

“VReoria have a death smell. They are safely aboard your ship?”

“Yes, they are secure. Have you seen those beings before?”

“They are VReoria, they are the enslavers. If they cannot enslave a species they exterminate them.”

“Why would they be trying to get to us?” M asked, really just thinking to herself. “Unless… could they be responsible for the demise of Clyrea X9?”

“Let’s get out of here. There may be more of them.” Zri

said. “Everyone transport back to the ship now, I want to get off this planet.”

Zri’s ship was secured, the ramp was closed, and the observation window was covered. As he was heading for the command deck and remembered they had not yet installed the transporter on Ferocity’s ship. “Brzko, can you take Ferocity to his ship? The transporter is not installed yet and I don’t want to open the door.”

Before Brzko could answer, Ferocity did. “There is no need, my ship is sentient. She will go where I tell her to.” As if to prove his point his ship ascended, joining the other ships in orbit.

“ShyUst, get us out of here.” Zri said on his way out of the cargo bay.

Lelelu, Bartala, and Nalau stayed out of the way in the common room. They knew they would be called upon if they were needed.

M, Brzko, and Ferocity joined Zri and his crew on the command deck.

“Why didn’t we detect them before we saw them? Do they have a ship in orbit?” Zri was very agitated.

“We have not detected any ships, sir.” ShyUst said.

To everyone’s surprise Ferocity had the explanation, “They have the ability to transport great distances from their ships. Their ship is likely beyond sensor range.”

Everyone turned and looked at him, they waited for more. “We thought we had exterminated the VReoria, they have not been seen for a very long time. They cannot be allowed to live, they will attempt to return to Dragona and exterminate us. And if they are after you Lord Brzko, they will not stop.”

“How do we find their ship, what do we scan for?” ShyUst asked. “And how can we make sure they don’t follow us.”

“We wait.”

“Wait? Really Ferocity? Wait for them to get close and then hope that we can escape them?” Brzko asked.

“No, we wait for the Dragons, they are coming. When they arrive we may leave without being followed.”

“How long?” Zri asked. “Minutes.”

“ShyUst as soon as Ferocity gives the word depart. I’m going to go speak to our guests and…” “They are dead.”

This shocked everyone, they stared and Ferocity waiting for an explanation.

“VReoria will not be taken captive. By now they will have activated the death gland.”

Zri disappeared, transporting to the bridge of the ship with the prisoners. He returned in less than a minute. “He’s right, they’re dead.”

Ships began dropping out of jump all around them. Each time a ship drop out of jump there was a brief flash and the Gaznzulian scanner alerting them to the sudden appearance of an unexpected ship. There were already more than thirty of them, more were on the way.

“It is time for us to depart.”

Zri turned toward ShyUst, “Alert the other ships we are leaving. Ferocity, is your ship secure?”

“Yes it is in the cargo hold as you instructed.”

Zri took his place in the command chair, watching the data stream that reported their position. ShyUst took his position, standing behind his commander. Zri would not be relaxing anytime soon, not until he was assured that his passengers were safe.

M projected to Brzko and Ferocity as she headed to the lift, “Zri has everything under control, let’s go. We need to update the others.”

They followed her down to the common room to bring the others up to speed. The trip home would surely not be as jovial.

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