Chapter 1: Eleven Years Ago on the Icy Fjord
Snow silently fell across the Icelandic fjords, and Jordan Shreve stared out across the frozen waterfalls, feeling as cold as the ice surrounding him.
Jordan closed his eyes, feeling like the hole in his heart was going to consume him with his grief. Beside him, a little five year old shivered in the cold, her mitten hand clutching onto his leg.
“Daddy? Where are we going?” Lizzy asked, hunkering down further into her parka. Jordan sighed.
“I’m not sure sweetie.”
Without another word, he picked the little girl up and held her close to him, the tears falling down his face. He suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see his best friend.
“I know it’s hard.” he told him, his face grave as his short, curly black hair blew a little in the wind. “But we’ll get the person who did this. I promise.”
Jordan wiped away at his tears and regarded his friend skeptically.
“Peter-you’ve been awfully vague with a lot of things. You said I would finally get some answers.”
“Don’t worry-I’ll tell you everything. Let’s just get somewhere warmer.”
Jordan felt his little girl rest her head on his shoulder as he followed the man down a slope to an icy rock wall. Peter reached into a hole into the rock wall and pulled on something, which then caused a boulder to move, revealing a circular pad on the ground. Peter shook the snow and ice off his arm and then stepped on the odd thing surrounded by ice. Hesitantly, Jordan did the same.
“Ok. We’re ready.” Peter spoke into his watch.
Then, the pad they were on jolted down in the ground, causing Jordan to stumble. His friend steadied him as they continued to go down deeper and deeper into the ground. The air started to get warmer as they dove down deep into darkness, and when it stopped, red safety lights flickered on, revealing a hallway before them.
“Is it supposed to be creepy?” Jordan muttered, raising an eyebrow. Peter chuckled a bit.
“It’s only creepy if you make it creepy.” he grinned, leading him down the hallway. Jordan rolled his eyes, but gave a little smile as he followed him.
Peter then pressed in a code in a keypad, and then stepped into a room that was a lot better lit than the hallway. Jordan blinked at the bright light and then looked around at all the books that lined the walls and the chemistry equipment that littered the white tables.
“I always wondered where you and Layla worked but… isn’t all of the entrance stuff… a bit excessive? I mean-who are you hiding from?”
Peter avoided his gaze and pulled off his coat and gloves.
“Well… Layla was more than just… a researcher…” he said quietly. “Something a bit more dangerous.”
Jordan suddenly recalled a conversation a couple of months ago that he had had with his wife, in which she had said something similar.
At that moment, a door slid open, and a martian woman with a tight bun and a foul expression came in. When she saw Jordan and Lizzy, her nose crinkled.
“This is who you were talking about Peter? He’s got no meat on him. He’s thinner than Pio.”
Jordan frowned, wondering who this woman thought she was and glancing down at himself to make sure he really wasn’t as skinny as she said. Peter shook the ice from his dripping hair.
“Bonnei’ee-he has military training and connections through Layla. I think he could be a great asset. Besides-he deserves to be here for Layla’s memorial.”
Bonnei’ee narrowed her eyes and folded her arms as Jordan let Lizzy down and helped her take off her coat.
“And why are you no longer in the military?” she asked suspiciously.
“I got sent home for medical reasons.” Jordan told her flatly. “I contracted Devil’s plague while out in the field. I recovered, but you know that the military still doesn’t want anyone who’s had it before.”
Bonnei’ee nodded and looked him over.
“So you’ve been a stay at home dad all this time? How pathetic.”
Jordan felt his blood boil as he really began to detest this woman.
“I stayed home so Layla could work here.” he seethed. He felt Peter put a hand on his shoulder to help calm him. Jordan took in a deep breath, knowing that part of the reason why he was feeling so bitter and angry was because his emotions were still raw.
“Speaking of which, Peter said I could get some answers on who killed my wife.” he said steadily. Bonnei’ee gave him a good hard stare.
“You want revenge?”
“I want justice.”
Bonnei’ee gave a little chuckle.
“Well then Jordan. Why don’t you have a seat?”
Jordan sat down on the couch next to Peter and put Lizzy into his lap. The martian woman leaned back in her seat, her arms still folded.
“Mr. Shreve, how much do you know about Lunalites?” she asked. Jordan’s eyes furrowed forward.
“Ok. So nothing. Great start. I can’t believe she left you completely in the dark.” Bonnei’ee scoffed. “I mean-not that I blame her, but…”
“Bonnei’ee!” a man suddenly exclaimed, shooting through the sliding doors. It was another martian-a man in a lab coat with circular glasses and shoulder length hair. He stopped in his tracks when he saw they had company.
“Oh-is this our new man?” he asked hesitantly, holding a beaker of a yellow liquid that was smoking slightly. Bonnei’ee regarded him with disgust.
“Charkha, Please tell me that isn’t urine.”
“What? No! This is what I’ve been working on!” he told them, sounding offended.
“Jordan-this is Charkha Quartonno, our leading arachnologist.” Peter exclaimed. “Charkha, this is Layla’s husband and her little girl.”
“Ah! Nice to meet you!” the man said with a smile. Then he got serious. “I’m so sorry about Layla. She will be missed greatly.”
Jordan nodded a bit awkwardly, wondering why Layla had never really spoken about any of her associates.
“What do you want Charkha?” Bonnei’ee asked, obviously annoyed.
“I just-I was having a breakthrough and… well… I wanted to show you…”
The man took a moment to look at the newcomer.
“So… Are you explaining the whole thing about…?”
“Lunalites? Yes. I was just about to get to that.” Bonnei’ee exasperated. At this, Charkha got a huge grin on his face.
“Ooooh! Can I help explain? I always love this part!”
Bonnei’ee looked at him incredulously, which he ignored as he turned to Jordan.
“Ok. So you know how Martians are thought to have blattodea ancestry and humans are thought to have hominoidea ancestry-.”
“Charkha. Speak more simply. He’s not going to-.” Bonnei’ee sighed. Jordan waved her off.
“No no. I get it. I know the studies.” he dismissed. “Continue Charkha.”
At this, Bonnei’ee raised a brow and Charkha looked pleased.
“Oh. Ok. Well, Lunalites are another race of people who appear to have araneae ancestry, or spiders. That’s why I am here as an arachnologist!”
“So… There’s a whole race of people I haven’t heard about? Where did they come from?”
“The Earth’s moon. We think.” Bonnei’ee told him. “And they’re the ones who are responsible for Layla’s death. But they aren’t like normal people like you and me. They’re monsters. That’s what your wife was doing Jordan. Protecting people from them. And we are asking you to do the same.”
Jordan put a hand to his head, trying to take this all in.
How could a whole race of people go by completely unnoticed by the general populace? And wasn’t there still a colony on the moon?
“Oh and Bonnei’ee-while I’m up here…” Charkha began nervously. “I would like to ask you something-.”
“No I’m not helping you clean up your little experiments or whatever. Ok. Good to see you. Bye now. We’ve got stuff to do.” she dismissed. Charkha hunched his shoulders in defeat, gave a little wave to Jordan and Lizzy, and then trudged back through the door he had come in. As soon as he was gone, Peter sighed.
“Bonnei’ee-come on. You know he likes you. Can’t you at least try to be civil with him sometimes?”
Bonnei’ee scowled and hunched her shoulders forward.
“We’ll talk about this later. Jordan? How are you taking all of this?” she asked.
“Ok. Look. Let me take you down and show you.” Peter told him obstinately. “Then maybe some of this will sink in for you.”
Jordan let his friend lead him over to an elevator and then through some labs, where there were some other people he had yet to meet. Jordan held onto his daughter’s hand tight to make sure she couldn’t wander off, and then the four of them stopped outside a very heavy duty door.
“I’ll stay out here with Lizzy.” Peter told him. “I don’t want her to get scared.”
Jordan raised a brow, but then let his best friend take the girl into her arms. She had been around him enough to know he was ok. She immediately started to laugh as he made some sort of creature with his hand and started to tickle her. Silently, Jordan followed Bonnei’ee into a room that reminded him of an exhibit you would see at a zoo. Behind a thick glass, was an area filled with spiderwebs, and he felt a chill go up his spine.
“What am I looking at here?” he asked hesitantly, peering into the darkness.
Suddenly, a hand came up out of seemingly nowhere and slammed down onto the glass, causing him to jump backwards in shock.
The hand was a dark gray.
Soon after, a face appeared in the darkness-one that held eight glossy black eyes and huge black fangs. The creature, with its four arms and four legs, hissed in silence, trapped behind the glass, and it scratched at them angrily.
Jordan then realized he was shaking slightly.
“So… these… lunalites… They are the ones who killed Layla?”
“And she was fighting them?”
Bonnei’ee was silent for a moment.
“Because of what most of them eat.” she said quietly. Jordan slowly turned to her.
“Don’t tell me they eat…”
“Humans and Martians. And occasionally each other.” she said matter of factly, regarding the creature behind the glass with disgust. “They all need to die.”
Jordan regarded her with curiosity.
“You seem very emotionally attached to all of this Bonnei’ee.”
Her face twitched.
“Juna was my younger sister.” she said, her voice wavering. Jordan was suddenly hit with realization.
“Oh!! You-I didn’t realize. I’m… I’m sorry for you loss.”
Bonnei’ee took a moment to hide a tear, and then she turned back to him, her face grave.
“All that matters now is that we bring down the ones who did this. So what do you say Jordan?”
Jordan looked down at her hand, which was outstretched for a handshake, and then back at the creature still hissing behind the glass. He thought about his daughter, who would now be growing up without a mother, and the little boy that Juna had, who would also be growing up with her. He thought of Layla, of her golden hair, wide smile, and confident attitude.
He thought of how much a missed her.
Feeling resolute, he reached out and shook Bonnei’ee’s hand.
“When do I start?”