Lost Chapter #2 : Angel of Mailànkh – Challenge For A Goddess

Here is the second chapter that was excised from Angel of Mailànkh, largely for reasons of brevity. It had been located immediately after the part in which Jacobson explains to the crew that the Earth missile barrage has, in fact, damaged the comet. :

Angel of Mailànkh – Challenge For A Goddess

Again motioning for patience, Jacobson said, “That was the first thing I asked Sylvia, myself, Brent. But apart from the fact that some of these missiles are now sequestered for the Arks project, apparently, even were all of them – plus nukes fired from aircraft, keeping in mind that any pilot undertaking that kind of a mission would be on a suicide run – to hit ‘Lucifer’s secondary fragments, the consensus of opinion is that it might at best reduce the amount of time that Earth would be rendered uninhabitable. What Sylvia said to me was that there was a large margin of error in their calculations, so large, in fact, that they felt it would be too risky to assume that the last-ditch defenses could come through. Which is why most of the missiles are going to the Arks project, to lift people off of Earth. They’re still going to fire some of them at the comet, of course, that is, the missiles that are physically too small to accommodate a human passenger, but it probably won’t be a big enough bang, I’m afraid.”

Damn, Captain… for a minute there, y’all had us going,” commented White.

Yeah,” Jacobson replied, “But frankly, as a military man, I’m just glad that we did hurt it, even if not fatally, Devon. Proves that Earth isn’t completely helpless – we’re still fighting. It’s fourth and 20 to goal with five seconds on the clock, but the game isn’t over, not yet.”

They noticed that the Storied Watcher had got up. She was pacing around the table, nervously, mumbling something to herself.

Karéin,” said Tanaka, “What’s on your mind? You look a little… concerned. What’s the matter? This is the best news that we’ve had in quite a while.”

The Mars-girl looked up at Jacobson. She complained, “If I had gone there – if I had attacked, when your weapons did – maybe that would have been the extra power needed to shatter it…”

We’ve already been over that,” Jacobson calmly countered. “The facts haven’t changed from what they were. With the same set of facts, I’d still make the same decision that I made a short while ago. And besides, Karéin, maybe you did contribute to our attack, more than you think. We might not have damaged it at all, without you having ‘sent your power’ to the missiles – whatever that means…”

I tried to boost the potency of the explosions, by sending the Fire to accompany them,” explained the Storied Watcher. “I pictured in my mind, a force-barrier around the comet, to reflect the shock waves back upon it. But at that range… it probably would have had no effect at all, like, you trying to throw a stone at something half of one of your ‘kilometers’ away. And just as I was trying to… to… ‘project’, to firm my grasp – your language does not have a good word for this action – something threw off my ability to visualize where the comet was, my concentration slipped and I could do no more. Maybe it was the explosions that did that. I had to try something, I could not just sit idly there, sir, and watch my human brothers and sisters use their last strike. I only wish I had more of a chance to influence the outcome.”

She sounded resentful, if only slightly.

Jacobson nodded. “Point taken, gratefully,” he acknowledged. “And, given Sergei’s description of ‘Lucifer’s current state, I think it’s well within the realm of possibility that your intervention did help. We’ll probably never know for sure, but the point is that you did try, so… thanks.”

Wow,” interjected Tanaka. “Sam, assuming that what you’re saying is correct, do you know what you’re implying? It’s an awesome display of power. Godly, in fact.”

You’re speculating, of course, Professor,” Jacobson replied, “But what, exactly, are you getting at?”

I may be the only career scientist here,” Tanaka said, “But I’m surprised that none of the rest of you have caught on to this. If Karéin’s intervention really was what caused the fissures we now see within the comet, we’re talking about her projecting energy across millions of kilometers of space, using enough energy, in fact, to influence the fluid dynamics of hundreds of thermonuclear explosions, even if only for a split-second. There’s no power on Earth even remotely comparable to that!”

Staring at the floor, the Storied Watcher interrupted. “You are assuming that I had any effect at all, Professor,” she complained. “I have never tried anything like this before. Did you hear me praying? The whole thing was a wish – a hope – that I could so divert the force of your missiles. It was vain of me to try, but what else could I do, when sitting impotently here in your space ship?”

Grasping at straws ain’t so bad, Karéin,” sympathetically offered White.

Jacobson continued, “All the above having been said, unfortunately we’re still faced with two things that haven’t changed : one, the comet’s still on course to Earth and two, we still have orders to stay on course to ISS2. I’ve been racking my brains to try to see if there’s anything more that any of us – and that includes you, Karéin – can do to influence events; but so far, I draw a blank. I’m open to ideas… any of you have any?”

The all thought for a few seconds. Finally, Boyd spoke up.

Since our guest is so enthusiastic about seeing the comet up close,” he suggested, “Why not just let her go there?”

They all did a double-take.

Say whaat?” exclaimed White.

Well,” said the other astronaut, “We already know that Karéin can fly around in interplanetary space, with about as much trouble as I have in splashing from one end of my swimming-pool, to the other… right? Sergei said that our long-range observations of the comet, and those of Earth, have detected these fissures, as well as evidence of other damage… but there’s nothing definite, nothing that would let us plan or perfect our next attacks on it. Maybe if the ‘Storied Watcher’ here got nice and close to it, she’d be able to find a weak spot, something like that. Even if she didn’t… what have we got to lose? She could just fly back here and we’d be no worse off than we were, before.”

A very interesting idea, Captain,” added Chkalov. “Karéin could take some of our recording-equipment along with her. We would get much more detailed information about the comet’s structure, its weaknesses, and so on, than we could ever get from the remote sensing abilities that we have now. It is too bad that we do not have a few thermonuclear explosives here on the Infinity and Eagle, so she could see how they would work if detonated from within the comet’s interior – that is, from inside one of the fissures.”

All eyes turned on the alien-girl.

I suppose,” she said, uncertainly, “That I am in a poor position to object to this plan, since I have lately volunteered to do the same thing, except in the midst of your ‘H-Bombs’, as you call them.”

Should we take that as a ‘yes’?” asked Jacobson.

Sam,” interjected Tanaka, “Let’s take a careful look at the risks here. Even without the bombs going off, this is likely to be a dangerous trip for Karéin. The comet’s surrounding debris-field destroyed or crippled three Earth ships, first of all – what if she ran into a large piece of this stuff, as she was approaching ‘Lucifer’? How would she even be able to navigate, inside the comet’s gas-cloud? And remember, much of it is now intensely radioactive – it has been hit by the most powerful nukes we had on Earth… hundreds of them. We’d never seriously consider sending a manned Earth ship in there. Is it reasonable, therefore, to ask her to go, by herself? For what? A sight-seeing tour? I’d like to get all the scientific information I can get on ‘Lucifer’, too, but it’s awfully risky. Again, we have to consider what we’d be losing, if we were to lose her.”

Well, Karéin?” asked Jacobson.

I can answer some of Cherie’s questions,” the replied the Storied Watcher, “But not all of them. I will admit that there would be an element of risk to such a trip. The comet is quite far away – if I have been reading your instruments correctly, it is halfway between us and Earth, allowing for some angular-displacement – which means that I would have to fly very fast to reach it, to have a few hours to explore it and then get back to this ship in time to meet your space-station. As I have explained to the Professor and others before, my little ‘bubble’ can easily protect me against high-speed impact with small objects in space; I am fairly confident about larger ones, too, but it has been thousands of years since I would have tested that belief… so I am not eager to find out by accident, now. As for the radiation, do not worry about that – I will absorb it, just more Amaiish for me… it feels wonderful, like the warm rays of the sun. I wish you could experience that, somehow.”

She gave a wan grin.

The Mars-girl continued, “The problem of finding my way does worry me, however, but not in the manner in which the Professor indicated. It should not be too difficult navigating to the comet, and when I get close to it, I think I will be oh-kay… I have never had trouble with such things, before. I have many means of perception that would not be familiar to humans – for example, if I close my eyes, I can perceive waves of energy, magnetism, and so on; it is not as easy to use these to visualize a scene, as is the visible-light-spectrum that you and I are used to, but it is none the less possible. In a way I would welcome the opportunity to exercise this ability, again.”

Why are you worried about it, then?” asked Tanaka.

Because, Cherie,” the Storied Watcher said, “I might not be able to find my way back here, to be with you.”

Huh?” asked White. “You were able to get back from your last little saunter outside, easily enough.”

Yes, but, Devon,” the alien answered, “I did not go very far from the Eagle and Infinity, when I first tested my space-flying powers, I think I only went a few thousand kilometers from the ship. It is not easy to tell, precisely. The ‘Lucifer’ thing is millions of kilometers from here, and I cannot easily track an object as relatively small as this spaceship from that distance – against the background-music of the universe, your signal is just too small. I could try to estimate your relative motion so that I could fly to where I think you would be, when I returned; but the chance of error in such an exercise, is quite high. It might require weeks or months of searching on my part, to re-locate the Eagle and Infinity, if for some reason my calculations about your expected position were incorrect. On top of that, I would be flying all over the comet, changing my orientation, my direction, constantly, that is the point of the trip, after all. In such circumstances, it is very easy to lose track of things, in space. This is not a problem when one is trying to find and return to a large planetary body – your Earth, for example – but a tiny spaceship… another thing entirely.”

But you volunteered to fly to the comet, to be there for the barrage,” Boyd opined, half-maliciously. “It would have been even harder to have found us, afterwards.”

Not if she wasn’t planning to come back,” observed White.

Good thing you didn’t let her, then,” commented Tanaka, towards Jacobson.

Maybe, I… I… would just have gone onwards to Earth, or somewhere like that, afterwards,” Karéin replied, evasively. “I was thinking of larger issues, than returning here.”

Tanaka said, “Couldn’t we just give her one of our tracking-devices? She could use it to home on us, if we reversed the signal.”

Sure,” retorted White, “But Professor, those things were meant to work over a few hundred kilometers, at most, for local tracking down on Mars. Last one we put on her fizzled out at a short distance, which I thought was pretty good, considerin’. But over millions of clicks? Forget it. Ain’t gonna happen!

The Mars-girl added, “And I had trouble protecting the one you gave me, last time, from the crushing-forces as I sped up. I would be accelerating at a much greater pace, this time. I think that your device would last a few seconds. That applies equally to your recording-devices, your ‘tee-vee’ cameras and so on. You would have to rely on my visual observations, although I could take along some metal plates and burn my notes into them, so I do not forget anything.”

There’s another issue that we haven’t really addressed,” said Tanaka. “Karéin, do you want to do this? I’d assume that you’d have some small say in the matter.”

That is, how you say, ‘a good question’, Cherie,” the Storied Watcher replied.

Pensively, she added, “You know me as well as any… so you know that the risks worry me, I will admit to that. But despite this, I think that I would go, especially if Captain Jacobson orders me to. And I might be able to do more than observe. I very much doubt that I could destroy the comet – as I explained before, I would need a huge source of conventional energy as an ‘opener’ for my Amaiish, to do that – but there would be much radiation, the aftereffects of your nuclear explosions, that I could use to tap into my powers and thus damage it. How extensively, I cannot say; but as a great canyon can be made by a little trickle of water, over many years, maybe a great comet can be hurt by a few little rays of Amaiish-energy, of my Holy Fire, over a few hours or days.”

The girl’s eyes glowed brilliant yellow and the sizzling energy-rays that they had seen earlier, issued forth from them, illuminating various objects on the table as the rays played back and forth, harmlessly, but foreboding latent lethality.

The point having been made, the shining stopped, along with the light-beams.

I forgot to mention,” the alien-girl elaborated, “My eye-weapon is called, ‘The Gaze of the Watchers’, in my language. If it is of any interest – please do not be frightened when you hear this, I do not mean it to scare you, but just so you have something to measure this power by – I am sure that it is now powerful enough to vaporize something the size of this ship, possibly something larger still, in one or two shots. I can fire this weapon at full power only a few times each hour, though; then I become fatigued, and it takes a while for my mind to recharge enough to fire again. So it would scarcely make a dent in a huge planetary body like ‘Lucifer’; but maybe a few dents are all we need.”

With a nervous grin, White replied, “I think we’re all cool with that, Karéin. I mean, y’all wouldn’t have to blast the whole ship to get us, anyway… just a few well-placed holes in the hull would do the trick… right?”

She stretched out her hand, clasping his in hers, saying, “’Measure not power by what you can destroy, but by what you can build.’ It is an old saying of the Makailkh, Devon.”

Point taken,” interjected Boyd, “But it may not be quite so appropriate in the case of ‘Lucifer’.”

Jacobson seemed immersed in thought, for a moment, then he said, “It’s an interesting idea, that’s for sure. But I’m going to have to think about it. There are some other implications that we have to consider, as well. For example, Karéin’s prolonged absence from this ship is bound to raise a few eyebrows at Houston, if only because they expect her to take a jump to ISS2 when we get there – if she can’t even find her way back to us, well, then, that’s a problem, wouldn’t you say? And consider what’s going to happen when and if we get any meaningful data back from this little trip; the first thing that I’d ask, if I were anyone on Earth, is ‘how did you get those close-up shots’. At that point, we would have to explain how we – or rather, she – did it, and if Earth does find out about her ability to travel as effortlessly in space as she obviously can, I have little doubt that they’ll take complete control over her. Which would be the last we see of our guest… maybe it would be for the best… maybe Karéin could shuttle a few more bombs up to ‘Lucifer’… I’m not sure. Do you all see how this could get complicated?”

As the rest nodded, the Storied Watcher spoke up. “But Captain Sam Jacobson, sir,” she said, “I do not want to leave all of you, especially when your lives might again be in danger when we reach the space station. It was you who awoke me and gave me life… you are my new family. I know that I have a duty to your people down on Earth, and while I will fulfill that, neither will I abandon you. There must be another way – a safe way.”

Heh,” joked White, “I’d suggest that she just take the rest of us with her… but who’d run the ship?”

At this, he noticed Chkalov giving him the ‘thumbs up’ sign.

I would love to, Devon,” the Mars-girl replied, amicably, “But there is still that little ‘air’ problem. And the ‘you get crushed to death’ one. So…”

On second thought…” White shot back, rolling his eyes.