“What can we do?” asked Jim disturbed to the point of hopelessness.
“This weapon I hold was specifically designed for the destruction of the Riachen Mothers. It will not operate through the wall of this shield. I am going to give you the other shield device. We will move back a ways into the tunnel that has been made in the Riachen fluid so that there is open space before us where I can stand and breathe without the dome. You will disengage the shield and I will move forward and then you must reactivate the dome if you are to stay alive. I will activate the weapon. Once the Mother is destroyed you must deactivate the dome and move to form it around both of us once again.”
The gravity of the moment weighed down on Jim, but he took a deep breath, sighed, and said, “OK. How do I operate this thing?” He strapped the rifle to his back.
Lay’tog handed him the second device. “You rub the middle section that is lighted. You must do it with a precise amount of pressure while holding them upright. Always hold them upright the way they are now. I suggest you use your thumb to rub it, and press down with most of your strength, since I am a good deal stronger then you. Are you ready?”
“Yes.” Jim tried to sound confident. It really didn’t matter whether he was ready or not, he knew they were running out of time and that they had to do this now. If Clarissa hadn’t already been plucked, she would surely be soon. Succeed or fail, they had to act now. They moved back through the hollowed out goo about ten feet. Lay’tog nodded at him. He held the strange devices upright, their thin metal pieces spiraling every which way into the air from the straight metal rods with the glowing centers, and rubbed the middle sections vigorously with his thumbs. The dome dissipated and Lay’tog moved instantly about six feet forward. Jim quickly began rubbing the sections again as tendrils fiercely shot in at him. The dome reformed and cut the tendrils off in mid-flight, the pieces of alien flesh, their ends charred, fell to the ground around him.
Lay’tog had positioned his weapon with the barrel pointed forward, the tibiae and tarsi of his larger upper legs finding their perspective holds within the grooves and hooks of the box-like section. The Riachen had already wrapped tendrils around his prothorax and a bottom leg. He fought back against their pull, rubbed the activation section and braced himself as another tendril wrapped itself around his neck. The weapon hummed and the box-like section brightened with a soft violet glow that abruptly shot forth a burst of violet energy with a resounding squeal. The energy sustained a connection to the weapon as it burned through the fluid and infiltrated the orifice of the mother just as it was about to drop another child into it. Lay’tog held the weapon steady as it vibrated with increasing power, pummeling into the Riachen Mother as it screamed in agony, which it relayed through a psionic blast that infiltrated the minds of every living creature in its vicinity. Jim buckled under the magnitude of its cry and fell to his knees, using his remaining strength to keep the dome devices upright and fighting back the urge to bring his hands to his head as some sort of comfort. Lay’tog simply increased the concentration on his mental block so that her scream barely entered his mind.
The mother’s tendrils lashed out at its attacker and Lay’tog was overcome with tendrils from both the Riachen horde and their mother. They wrapped around many of his legs, his abdomen and thoraxes, and he fought with all his strength to keep the weapon upright and its aim direct upon the orifice. The mother began to wither, its color faded, its tendrils recoiled, but not without taking one of his smaller legs with it. The pain was excruciating, but he persevered until he saw the burly black tendrils stiffen, hardening as the Mother died until their weight was too heavy for the monstrosity and they broke off and floated out into the fluid. The Mother’s flesh had become white and the surrounding Riachen released their hold on Lay’tog and rushed to the side of their progenitor in vain, panicked attempts to help her. When he saw the Mother begin to eat its brood, he knew that he had won. They willingly entered her orifice and sacrificed themselves in an attempt to restore nutrients and energy to their ailing mother. But Lay’tog kept the beam steady, cancelling out any restoration progress that had been made until every last Riachen had been devoured and the Mother had become an atrocious immense flab of pale white flesh. He knew from past experiences that it was beyond healing now and would steadily die as time past. He deactivated the weapon; the violet beam receded back within the barrel and into the box which held its origin, protected and secluded. He strapped the weapon to his back.
“Remove the energy dome. We have some time before the fluid enters this tunnel.”
Jim did as he was told. “What about the children? How do save them?”
“They are alive within those sacs. They will sustain for a short time longer. I have the power to eliminate this fluid with an energy burst from the dome, but the sacs would also be eliminated. We must retreat to the outside of the fluid wall and allow the dome to re-energize and then try and rescue the children a few at a time by using the dome to create tunnels through the ooze and protect us as we carry them outside the fluid wall.”
Jim nodded and moved in close to Lay’tog before reactivating the dome. Together they made their way through the gelatinous mass until they were again outside the ooze. Jim disengaged the energy dome and handed the devices back to Lay’tog. They shared a few moments of uncomfortable silence as they waited for the devices to fully recharge, Lay’tog bandaging the hole in his flesh where his arm used to be. Jim suddenly remembered Agent E.I.S. and that the local authorities would soon be swarming upon this area, most likely without and open mind toward the presence of Lay’tog. He proceeded to inform his new friend, but before he could open his mouth the alien spoke.
“I know, Jim, thank you. They are still a ways away, but are indeed closing in. You are right, I must not be discovered. I believe there is time for me to help you rescue a few children and then I must go. It is unfortunate that the Riachen will be discovered, we had hoped to avoid that. Perhaps it will lead to your kind being better prepared for when they return.”
“Yes, they are a relentless scourge upon the cosmos. They require the offspring of other living things of flesh and intelligence for sustenance and procreation, as you have witnessed. They do so without regard for sustainability and would easily wipe out whole races of beings if allowed to continue unchecked, much like they have already done within the solar system of their home world. They are as intelligent as they are monstrous, although they are one minded and devoid of individual thought. They know this planet contains bountiful prey and they will return with greater numbers to harvest your kind. It is our sworn duty as a race to prevent the spread of the Riachen, and we could use allies. I will leave the energy dome devices with you, so that you can rescue all the children. But come, it is time to begin.”
Jim could barely process this information before Lay’tog had moved near him and reactivated the energy dome. He could sense the alien’s need for haste and ran to keep up with its swift movements as they burned through the fluid to the nearest sacs hanging from the wall. Using the dome they made a tunnel in front of about five sacs and then disengaged it so they could disconnect them from their perches, which required using Lay’tog’s energy swords to cut through the slimy tendrils that attached them to the wall. Jim could carry two, although they were very heavy, and Lay’tog could handle three along with the dome devices. They reactivated the dome and made their way to the outside of the fluid once more.
“This sac is very thick,” spoke Lay’tog as he glided a tarsus along its slimy surface. “You will have to cut into it very carefully so that you do not harm the children. They will need immediate medical attention once they are released. I would wait until the authorities arrive before you do so. I must go now. Here are the dome operating devices, and an energy blade to cut down the sacs. Simply rub the box to activate the blade, be very careful.”
Jim studied this strange creature as it spoke, so completely alien from human kind yet full of compassion and nobility. He admired him greatly and clasped his tibia with his hand as Lay’tog’s tarsus clasped his arm and they shook in mutual appreciation. “Thank you, friend,” said Jim. “I hope we will meet again under better circumstances.”
“Yes,” spoke Lay’tog with clicks and clucks. “I will speak of our contact to my Queen and perhaps we will send an envoy to your leaders soon in hopes of gaining an ally against the Riachen. Good luck, Jim, and farewell.” With that the alien withdrew his leg from the human’s grasp and hurriedly scuttled off, the four long stalk-like legs of his metathorax switching back and forth at a blurring speed as he ascended the rising floor on his way out of the Riachen den.
Jim began the long task of rescuing the remaining children. No long after Lay’tog’s departure, a mass of armed authority ascended on the den followed by medical personnel with their equipment and vehicles. They overwhelmed him with questions, and Jim tried to keep his answers focused solely on the important task of saving the children. He assured them that the children that were imprisoned in the sacs were still alive and relayed the details for rescuing them that he had learned from Lay’tog. When they questioned the validity of his information, he assured them that he had a reliable source that he would later reveal, when they had more time. And yes, he would explain the origin of the strange alien technology that he now possessed. With their help he managed to acquire all of the remaining sacs. They began then to carefully cut the sacs open, revealing children immersed in thick goo with thin cable-like veins attached to them from the inner walls of the sacs. As they cut the veins and pulled them from the goo, the children would become conscious and attempt to breathe, sucking in the goo that covered them instead of air. They had to wipe the goo from them quickly and resuscitate them with the help of trained medical personal and their machines. They managed to save most of the children, but sadly not all of them. One of the children saved was indeed Clarissa, Jim recognizing her from pictures Elizabeth had shown him. For this he would be eternally grateful to Lay’tog, and would tell him so when they met again years later.