The False Prophecy
~ Chapter 13 ~
‘The False Prophecy’
Orange blotches littered Toora’s surface, and the Alliance fleet was now engaging the Horde. Aiden fired a few departing shots as Deep Space Discovery sped away from the battle above Toora.
Cosmo collapsed on the floor and rolled onto his back, chest heaving and his eyes unfocussed. “About time they showed up,” he muttered before succumbing to exhaustion.
“NO!” screamed Eulo, as he stared past Aiden at Toora.
Aiden turned to see a beam of bright blue light striking Toora from deep within the Horde’s fleet. Screams flooded his consciousness, sapping him of hope, strength and every ounce of happiness. From where the blue beam touched Toora a circle of orange rapidly rippled outwards, engulfing the planet. The screams were silenced, and a blinding flash signalled the end of the planet.
Eulo sagged to his knees. Aiden somehow managed to remain standing, his body trembling as the agony of the voices washed through him. The anguished pleas and screams were worse than any nightmare he had ever had. He hung his head, defeat and despair filling him. Toora was destroyed, as it had been predicted, – and Doctor Hudson, Gibber and Goolma?
He steadied himself, cleared his mind and searched for Doctor Hudson. He found no presence. With tears running down his cheeks he searched for Gibber, but found no presence.
“Could you pass me my staff, Aiden?”
Aiden saw its blurred image on the floor. He picked it up and warmth swept through him.
“Doctor Hudson... Gibber...” said Aiden, forcing the words out.
Eulo seemed not to understand.
“They went to Toora in a pod, with Goolma, early this morning,” said Aiden. Each word required effort.
“Gibbergunah...” said Eulo, the swirling greyness of his eyes freezing solid. He stood as if the revelation that Gibber was gone had drained him of all life. Then the colour in his eyes started flowing again and he straightened.
“You did your best to help Toora. It was a valiant effort. I am afraid the Horde is more powerful and faster than I anticipated.”
Aiden wiped his face and pulled Cosmo to his feet.
“What’s happening?” said Cosmo, with no trace of Toora or the Horde’s fleet in sight. “Have they gone?” then he saw Aiden’s face as a wave of debris floated past. “No,” he gasped, turning to Eulo. “Toora?”
“We did all we could. We have saved many Genoa, but we did not save Toora.”
“And Gibber, and Doctor Hudson?” said Cosmo.
“Are you sure?” stammered Aiden. “I couldn’t find them.”
“Neither can I,” said Eulo. “They must be hidden in a power cell where they cannot be detected.”
Afraid to state what he thought was obvious, Aiden stood mute. Eulo seemed to be contemplating something. “Goolma found Gibbergunah when he was just a child, wandering alone in a wasteland. He was the only survivor of a mudslide that had buried his village. Goolma passed Gibbergunah to me, and I have raised him as my own. If he was dead, I would know.”
“Argh!” shrieked Aiden, falling to his knees.
Eulo swiftly gripped Aiden’s shoulder.
“There you are,” boomed a voice in Aiden’s mind. Trapped, cornered and powerless, his thoughts were no longer his own. He was a bystander observing as an intruder took control. Its essence was violating, unnatural; Aiden felt sick to his core.
“I have waited a long time for you. That was a powerful display you put on. We will be meeting soon.”
The voice and the presence vanished, releasing him.
“I couldn’t stop it,” Aiden said shaking.
“Couldn’t stop what?” Cosmo demanded.
Eulo released his grip on Aiden’s shoulder. “It was the one who controls the Horde. The great evil Goolma predicted. I sensed his presence during the battle, not physically, but watching...”
Eulo paced the room, tapping the top of his staff. He stopped pacing. “Goolma, old friend, what have you done...” he muttered to himself, pacing again.
“Will someone tell me what’s going on?” pleaded Cosmo.
Feng burst into the room. “Eulo,” he said bowing low. “Forgive me for this intrusion. We are on our way to Sanctuary as you instructed. The Horde has fled, and the Alliance fleet has taken prisoners. Matong has left to interrogate them.”
“Thank you, Feng. Boys, could you join the others on level two?”
As they wove their way through the grieving Genoa packing the corridors, Aiden filled Cosmo in, as best he could. The enormity of what had happened was terrifying. This was no game; the Horde were playing for keeps.
The recreation room overflowed with wailing Genoa. They weaved their way through the evacuees until they found Doctor Peasley and the girls huddled together on a couch. Amber and Sarah-Jane were on either side of her, sobbing. She had her arms wrapped around them, and tears running down her face. As they noticed the boys, their cries became louder.
“Boys,” Doctor Peasley spluttered, waving them over. “Peter...”
“We know...” interjected Aiden. “Eulo believes he may be a prisoner.”
Doctor Peasley released the girls and stood up. “You mean he’s alive?”
“Eulo believes so.”
Doctor Peasley wiped her face, straightened her skirt and dried her glasses on her blouse. “I had best see what Eulo has planned,” she said croakily. The girls also stood. “I will go alone,” she added, raising her hand.
With the recreation room full of despair, they moved to the empty training room. Buwah still guarded the entrance. Aiden could not understand why Matong still had the Buwah shadowing him. Surely there were more important things for them to do? Despite Eulo’s assurance that the remaining Buwah were loyal to the Alliance, Aiden eyed them suspiciously.
“Do you think there will be a rescue mission?” asked Cosmo.
“I hope so,” said Aiden, but I don’t understand why they would have been captured in the first place. They hardly have any military value. And why place them in a cell where we can’t detect them? I’m not sure Eulo’s right... I mean, I hope he’s right, but it doesn’t make sense.”
“That voice,” said Amber. “If it’s after you, we need to get as far away from here as we can.”
“We have to find Huddo and Gibber first,” Cosmo insisted. Aiden nodded in agreement.
Sarah-Jane twiddled with her shoelaces. “Cosmo, we all care about Doctor Hudson and Gibber, but we can’t go searching through space, fighting the Horde looking for them... I think Aiden’s right. They’re most likely dead,” she sniffled.
The Oken stalked in a short time later and settled at the other end of the training room. He couldn’t tell by looking at them if they were distressed about Neba being missing or not.
The day dragged on, with no sign of Doctor Peasley or any of their instructors. The training room was unusually quiet. It was as if someone had sucked all the happiness out of the ship.
Aiden was desperate to talk to Surge, so under the guise of a toilet trip, he left. He explained everything he knew.
“Surge, are Doctor Hudson and Gibber alive?”
“I cannot say.”
“Cannot or will not?”
“I cannot,” repeated Surge soothingly. “You fired upon the Horde. Why?”
“They were destroying Toora!” snapped Aiden.
“So you revealed this ship’s presence to the Horde, exposing all on-board including the few Genoa that were saved from Toora to attack. In doing so, you did not save Toora. You revealed your huge energy reserves to the galaxy and to the one who, according to the prophecy, is a great evil. And this great evil has now contacted you personally.”
“I had to do something,” said Aiden, clenching his fists. “Is that what you would have me do, nothing?”
“I ask because it is important you consider what you are doing and why, before you act. I am not saying what you have done is wrong. I am indicating that there are consequences – and I am asking: did you consider these?”
Aiden gritted his teeth. “No, I didn’t, there wasn’t time.”
“There is always time,” counselled Surge. “Tell me more about this voice. Did you sense anything?”
Aiden shivered as he remembered the tentacles that had weaved into his mind.
“I was helpless. He took control of my mind.”
“Do you think the voice meant you any harm?”
“Well... no, I didn’t feel threatened by the voice, just the experience.”
Cosmo opened the door to the bathroom and stared at him.
Aiden felt like a deer in headlights. “What’s up?”
“Not this time,” said Cosmo. “I thought we were mates.”
“Okay,” said Aiden, steeling himself. “I’m not talking to myself. I’m talking to Surge. Only I can see and hear him. He’s an Ancient, and we talk about things.”
Cosmo looked at him as if he had two heads.
“No, seriously! Surge is right here,” said Aiden. “Surge, can you show yourself, so he doesn’t think I’m crazy?”
“I have told you before, no one else can see or hear me.”
“Brilliant!” Aiden huffed. He turned to Cosmo. “This is why I haven’t told you earlier. He says he can’t show himself.” He tossed his hands in the air. “You just have to trust me.”
“What does Surge look like?” asked Cosmo.
Aiden described him.
“Stripy socks? Like football socks?” quizzed Cosmo.
“They are comfy,” said Surge.
“Well, yes, I guess so,” said Aiden. “He says they’re comfy.”
“Hang on,” said Aiden, and in a flash of inspiration, he created an illusion of Surge.
“Are you serious, that’s him?”
Aiden reviewed his illusion. It was one of his best, but still had a noticeable shimmer. “Yes, that’s him.”
Surge rolled his eyes.
“Can he move something?” asked Cosmo.
“I am here to advise you Aiden,” said Surge.
“No, he’s good on advice, but he doesn’t do anything,” Aiden shrugged.
“Is he always around?”
“No, just when I call him.”
Both boys received a message from Amber. “Doctor Peasley is back, come to the training room.”
“You do believe me, don’t you?” implored Aiden.
“Can we at least keep this our secret?”
“I suppose... bye Surge,” said Cosmo waving aimlessly.
“He’s actually over there,” murmured Aiden as they left.
Bajool’s face was expressionless. “The loss of Toora is the worst tragedy the Alliance has ever suffered. Fewer than half of the Genoa survived.” His usually captivating voice quavered. “Matong has questioned some prisoners captured above Toora, and Eulo has asked him to convey to you what he has discovered.”
Matong glided forward, his cloak billowing behind him with his hood down revealing his ridged scaly flat head and two pointy fangs.
“Thank you, Bajool. We have secured a number of the Horde’s ships and their crew,” he hissed. “The Horde and a number of traitors have aligned themselves with a magwan they call the Master. He has amassed a large militia with a number of lieutenants such as Ogmore. Goolma has betrayed Toora and the Alliance, and joined the Master in his quest for control of the galaxy. Goolma fabricated the Sleeper prophecy to divert the most powerful magwans in the Alliance from interfering with the Master’s military build-up, and to give false hope a chosen one would come.
This expedition has been a waste of time. You will be placed on a new ship to take you home once we arrive at Sanctuary.”
He turned and swept out of the room, not waiting for any questions. Aiden stood with the rest of the chosen ones, stunned. The prophecy was a fake. There was no Sleeper. Goolma was a traitor!
“Bajool,” Aiden blurted, remembering his truth telling with Goolma. “Goolma cannot be a traitor... I sensed nothing.”
“None of us suspected,” agreed Bajool. “But Goolma was welcomed on the Horde ships, and afforded all hospitality. She fled the destruction of Toora in a Horde ship. When Matong interrogates he gets everything the being knows, and I mean everything!” Aiden didn’t know what to believe. Had Goolma tricked him during the Truth Telling? “We will be arriving at Sanctuary tomorrow where a ship will be waiting to take you home.”
“But what about Doctor Hudson, Gibber and Neba?” asked Amber.
“Eulo is organising a mission to find them. If successful, Peter and Neba will return in separate ships.”
Doctor Peasley dabbed her face with a handkerchief. With everyone still in shock, Aiden slipped out and went to his quarters and called Surge.
“Surge, Goolma made me promise not to tell anyone she is loyal to the Alliance, yet everything is pointing to her being a traitor.”
“If you gave your promise then you should keep it. If Goolma has seen the future she has told you to keep this secret for a reason.”
Aiden shrugged, and headed for the door.
“Oy!” yelled a startled Cosmo, “Where’re you going?”
“To speak to Eulo,” Aiden yelled back without stopping. Cosmo followed.
Through corridors filled with grieving Genoa they ran, to level five. They found Eulo sitting in the space room stroking a black cat.
“Come in boys,” he invited, as the cat took a step off his lap, got its back claw stuck in Eulo’s poncho and toppled onto the floor.
Aiden blinked. It was Shadow.
“Is Goolma betraying the Alliance?” Aiden blurted out, ignoring Shadow for the moment.
Eulo raised himself from the bench with the aid of his staff. “It does appear that way.”
“But you don’t believe it,” said Aiden.
“Matong is very thorough in his interrogations. There is no doubt Goolma is working with the enemies of the Alliance... I do not understand why she would do this. There are many questions. The prophecies, the chosen ones – why destroy Toora, and why take our friends as prisoners? When Goolma is found we will have our answers.”
“Are you going to rescue them?” asked Cosmo.
“I shall try. Goolma knows I will not abandon Gibbergunah.”
“How do you know they’re alive?” asked Aiden.
“I can feel it. They are alive and heading for the planet Bargo – the home of the Horde.”
“You’re going to their home planet?” gasped Cosmo.
“Yes. I will take a small group to Bargo to find our friends and perhaps Goolma.”
Aiden did not share Eulo’s confidence. He was so old and frail, it was hard to imagine he was up to such a task.
“You must excuse me,” said Eulo. “I must leave and see to our guests.” He left, with Shadow pacing close behind.
Alone in the space room Aiden and Cosmo gazed at each other.
“I’m not going home,” Aiden announced.
“Neither am I. We can’t have these powers and leave Huddo and Gibber with those bugs. I couldn’t live with myself.”
Aiden’s spirits lifted. He had expected Cosmo to try and talk him into taking the ship home, not to join him in rescuing Doctor Hudson and Gibber.
“Do you think Eulo will let us go?” asked Cosmo.
“I think he would say, ’we each have a journey we must take, and we need to decide if this is our journey...’ Old Parsley will try and force us to go home though,” said Aiden.
“I’ll just stun her,” said Cosmo.
Aiden chuckled. “Don’t blame me this time! What do you think the girls will do?”
“Not sure,” shrugged Cosmo. “Let’s go ask.”
Sarah-Jane was upset when the boys told her about their decision. “You can’t go off into space on a rescue mission. It’s too dangerous. Eulo is a great magwan, and he has the Alliance fleet,... I mean, what could you two do, you’ll be in the way... they’d never let you go... and what about your families?”
“I’ll go with you,” Amber interrupted.
Sarah-Jane stood motionless, her mouth open. “Amber, no!” she pleaded.
“I’ve got to, Sare. I know it’s the right thing to do – I just know it.”
Sarah-Jane turned and left.
Doctor Peasley gave them a stern lecture on their responsibilities, reminding them that they were still under age, and announcing that as their legal guardian she had decided they would go back to Earth. Aiden and Cosmo shuffled their feet, but Amber spoke up.
“We’ve decided we cannot return without Doctor Hudson,” she said, “and that is that!”
They waited for the tirade.
“Well then, you leave me no choice,” she said, almost smiling. “We cannot leave without you. Sarah-Jane and I will wait for you on Sanctuary, and I will inform your parents about your actions.”
Aiden noticed Sarah-Jane did not appear as distraught as he would have imagined, and suspected she and Doctor Peasley also believed they needed to rescue Doctor Hudson, despite the risks.
The boys cornered Bajool in the recreation room as he distributed blankets and told him they would be joining the rescue mission.
“Eulo has already informed me of this. I will, however, be leaving the ship when we reach Sanctuary.”
“How did Eulo know we were staying?”
“He is a magwan.”
“Doctor Peasley and Sarah-Jane want to stay on Sanctuary,” said Aiden.
“Eulo informs me they will also be staying on Deep Space Discovery, as will the Oken.”
Cosmo groaned. “I thought we would be rid of them.”
Aiden, Cosmo and Surge stayed up late talking about their decision to join the rescue mission. Aiden found it a frustrating conversation, as Cosmo could not hear what Surge was saying, so he spent most of his time recounting what Surge said. This was made worse by the questioning looks Cosmo kept giving him, as if he doubted Surge was there. Surge accepted they needed to go, and gave them the usual warnings about using their powers carefully.
Cosmo dropped off to sleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. Aiden lay awake, not sure Cosmo grasped how dangerous this operation was going to be. He wished he could turn off his mind as Cosmo did. He pulled out his MDD player and recorded a short message for Aunt Del and Drew. He told them about the destruction of Toora, the capture of Doctor Hudson and Gibber, and the rescue mission. Having completed the recording, he deleted it. He didn’t want them to worry. He astral travelled home to find a sleeping Drew and another note.
Aiden, keep away from the hospital. They are waiting for you.
Love Aunt Del.
Beside the note was a newspaper with a large picture of the hospital. A crowd of people were outside the hospital, carrying placards with phrases like ‘Praise the Lord’ and ‘Heal me’. One was even carrying a large wooden cross. Underneath, an article explored a host of theories as to the origins of the miracle healings at Saint Hastings Hospital. Another smaller article, circled in pen, was an interview with a psychic phenomenon expert who had set up his equipment in the hospital to monitor any supernatural activity. There were quotes from those Aiden had healed. One that caught Aiden’s attention said, ‘I saw a bright light calling me, but a voice pulled me back saying, it’s not your time.’
Aiden chuckled. He had suspected that after the miracle cures there would be a lot of interest. Ignoring Aunt Del’s warning, he astral travelled to the hospital. With Toora destroyed, he felt the universe needed more miracles, however small. It seemed quiet enough as he browsed the largely empty wards. He came to one he had not visited before, where in the corner taking up the space of a whole bed was an array of strange electronic devices. Aiden examined the equipment. Little pulsing graphs were measuring something, but his presence did not appear to register. Nothing else in the room looked out of place. Aiden returned to his body, filled himself with energy, and projected back to the ward. With a sense of mischievousness, he unplugged the equipment and proceeded to heal the eight patients in the room, plugged the equipment back in and returned to his body.
He had a restless night tossing and turning, once again dreaming of his fall into nothingness. Somewhere in the back of his mind he steadied himself through the panic he felt in the cold, choking lonely feeling that encompassed him. His parents voices were soothing, calling him – forgiving him – and then the evil voice called to him from the depths of the blackness, “join with me.”
“NO!” Aiden shouted, bolting upright in bed, sweat pouring down his face. He sat shivering. Cosmo made a moaning sound and flinched, and Aiden was sure he heard him say ‘Dustbugs’.
Aiden flipped his sweat-drenched pillow over and pulled the sheet up tight around his neck, and forced himself to go back to sleep.
The morning came and sure enough, Sarah-Jane decided she could not abandon her friends and would be staying on board. Doctor Peasley naturally said she would now accompany them.
Streams of small craft took the Genoa down to Sanctuary. Bajool bade the small group in the recreation room farewell, before he and Koodra left as well.
As Deep Space Discovery left Sanctuary, those that remained assembled in the training room. Aiden was dismayed to see Matong breeze in and out. He had hoped Matong had left on the pod with the others. Prince Orka paced while Amber and Osma chatted. Eulo and Goolee entered, with Goolee avoiding any eye contact with Aiden and staying very close to Eulo.
Eulo stood taller than usual and, despite his aged frame, had a powerful and majestic presence.
“I am honoured you have chosen to join this rescue mission. It will take us a week to reach the Horde’s home planet of Bargo. In this time, we have a lot to do. Kydra will be helping to prepare you... and now, we need to tell you what we know and, more importantly, do not know about our adversaries.”
He had their complete attention as he recounted what Matong had extracted from the prisoners. “The prisoners refer to a leader called the Master, who they say comes from the stars themselves and has harnessed the powers of the Source. This Master has assembled a formidable force of the Horde and various space outlaws. This galaxy has never seen a force of this magnitude. He has promised the Horde Sanctuary as their new home if they help defeat the Alliance.
“The Horde, are not highly evolved creatures. They work as part of a collective. They do not value their own safety, they have no possessions, they build nothing. They exist solely to build a bigger, stronger collective. They do not trade, until now, with other beings, work alongside any other beings, or accept orders from anyone but their own.
“This Master has managed to get them to work with other species and to do his bidding. More astoundingly, he has altered their genetic makeup so they are bigger and more intelligent than their design intended. While they still have only a low level of intelligence, they represent more of a threat than previously anticipated. The Master has a number of lieutenants and he possesses a staff from Alma. He gave this staff to his lieutenant, Mathorg, who used it to destroy Toora. Mathorg is a Mulgoa and a powerful magwan.”
Aiden saw Matong flinch and shift uncomfortably at Eulo’s mention of Mathorg – a Mulgoa like Matong. It confirmed Aiden’s distrust of Matong.
Goolee crept across the room, moving from behind Eulo to behind Matong, who was a decent distance away from Aiden. Aiden thought he was being pathetic. He was tempted to walk up and offer him a drink, just to scare the daylights out of him.
Amber pulled the end of her plait out of her mouth. “Eulo, what is so special about this staff?”
With a twinkle in his eye, Eulo straightened. “Alma is the planet closest to the Source. It is so close that magwans can only safely stay there for the briefest of times. A long time ago, before even I was born, a group comprising the seven most powerful magwans in the galaxy, led by Raglan – perhaps the most powerful magwan to have ever lived – journeyed to Alma. Their mission was to capture and encapsulate concentrations of highly charged particles into staffs, as a portable, self-renewing source of energy. One of the restrictions on magwans is that the farther we are from the Source, the less energy we can call upon and the weaker we are. The staffs were sought so that magwans could venture anywhere in the galaxy and retain their powers.
“The group were partially successful, with seven staffs created. However, they spent too long on Alma. All seven went mad, with three reported to have died on Alma. The other four killed each other on their way home. Only one staff of the seven is believed to have survived.” Eulo held out his staff. “The third staff of Alma!”
Aiden stared at the staff in awe. The Buwah and Swee had warred with the Mulgoa over this staff. He had never looked at it properly before, thinking it just an old walking stick. The old leathery rag wrapped around its base and the globe bound in twine on the top did not mark it as anything special. Now Aiden saw a faint pulsating glow – it seemed alive.
“We now know that one other staff survived, and if I am not mistaken, the Master is the staff’s original owner. How he has lived this great span of years I cannot say. I suspect, thanks to Goolma, we have been doing the Master’s bidding unwittingly from the beginning. He wants us to come to him, and come to him we shall, as more rests on this mission than the rescue of our friends. I believe the fate of the galaxy lies in our success. There are many things in the balance, more things than even the Master understands. Like all beings touched with madness, he operates in his own reality and so has weaknesses of which even he is not aware.”
“Eulo,” hissed Matong. “If you insist on undertaking this mission to retrieve these inconsequential beings,” his gaze moved to Aiden. “He should be left behind. He may be used against us!”
Goolee peered out from behind Matong, nodding in agreement.
Aiden too was worried about what the imprinting had implanted in his head, and whether he could resist or even detect its influence.
“Yes, it is a risk, but I feel Aiden is fated to see this through.”
Matong’s eyes narrowed to flat slits.
Amber rescued Aiden from the spotlight. “If the Master can destroy a whole planet, and he knows we are coming, how will we get past him and his army to reach Bargo?”
* * *