Gemworld : Book Two of Two, by Vornholt, John
- ISBN: 9780743406789 | 0743406788
- Copyright: 2/1/2000
Lieutenant Melora Pazlar hovered above a row of terminals in a weightless, cylindrical chamber inside the protective shell that encircled Gemworld. This chamber was a monitoring station which was usually populated by Elaysian and Alpusta engineers. The Elaysians were in residence, but now so was an away team from the Federation starship Enterprise. Melora hardly considered herself to be a member of that crew, having been on board only a few hours before her dreams had been invaded by the Lipuls' call for help.
Melora glanced at one of the screens. Far beneath the shell and its labyrinth of collectors, generators, pumps, and forcefields floated Gemworld itself -- a dazzling, multihued cluster of spires, prisms, and archways. Seen from afar, her crystalline world was an awesome bauble glimmering in the vastness of space. From within, it was a forest of massive monoliths, dancing light beams, and perpetual shadow.
Not only was Melora's body suspended in midair, which was normal, but her mind felt as if it were suspended, too. She was reminded of the out-of-body experiences humans often claimed to have had, even though few of them ever took the time to understand such phenomena.
It wasn't surprising that the Lipuls' dreamships had first contacted humans, out of all the Federation species. Unlike Elaysians, humans were open-minded, even generous and outgoing. But like Elaysians, they could also be obstinate and blunt. That bluntness was now being amply demonstrated by the harsh words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, as he lectured Tangre Bertoran and a handful of Elaysian engineers.
In standard Federation language, the captain had already told them they had the equivalent of eight days to live. Did her fellow Elaysians even know how short a time period that was? They didn't have days on Gemworld, in the accepted sense, only refracted sunlight and a strange sort of twilight in the shadows. Gemworld had been inhabited ever since the universe was young, and they thought they had surmounted every obstacle. How could her people possibly comprehend that their life expectancy had come down to eight rotations of a faraway alien planet?
She could tell by the concern on Reg Barclay's face that he understood their predicament -- and the truth of Picard's dire prediction. Counselor Deanna Troi listened with her usual detachment as the captain finished his summation.
"That is quite impossible, Captain," said Tangre Bertoran, in a tone of voice usually reserved for small children who have told grandiose lies. The silver-haired Peer of the Jeptah shook his head in pity. "Thoron radiation is naturally occurring in our atmosphere. And in Earth's too, I understand. It couldn't harm all life on Gemworld, only those who spend too much time near the mutant crystal."
"Which continues to grow every day," insisted the captain. "Commander Data is not given to making errant predictions. Trust me when I say that we have to shut down the darkmatter collectors and the dimensional rift in eight days -- by whatever means -- or we'll all die. If we have to shut down the shell to accomplish that goal, then so be it."
Bertoran wrinkled his nose and forehead ridges as if sniffing a foul odor. "Captain, we don't talk about 'shutting down the shell,' even in jest....That is like saying we need to destroy the Earth in order to stop a weed from growing. Yes, it will work -- but at what cost?"
The captain gestured broadly, making it clear how frustrated he felt. "I don't want anyone to die, especially not two billion inhabitants. My first officer and chief engineer think that we can power your forcefields from the Enterprise for a brief period, taking over while the shell is turned off. You know how all those systems are intertwined -- there's no other choice. If we're successful, Gemworld won't lose any of her atmosphere."
"And if you're wrong, we'll all be dead," replied Bertoran snidely.
"We have eight days to put something together," answered Picard, sounding as if that were plenty of time. "We have considerable experience with forcefields, and my people have already gotten a head start on this. Your people can help by making sealed shelters, bottling air -- whatever is necessary. Believe me, I wouldn't suggest this course if I didn't think we could do it."
Tangre Bertoran grimaced his displeasure. "What you're asking goes against all my upbringing and common sense. It's akin to murder. I don't know, Captain...I need to see Commander Data's sensor readings before I agree to this."
"We've got them." Picard gestured, and Reg Barclay fumbled in a pouch on his belt, finally producing an isolinear chip. Melora smiled at the contrast between this gleaming storage device and the aged violet prism that hung from Reg's neck.
"Can you read isolinear chips?" asked the captain.
Bertoran sneered. "After we joined the Federation, it took us about two weeks to master your language and technology. Now you wish to destroy ours in a heartbeat."
"Your technology has turned against you," said Deanna Troi, speaking up for the first time since the meeting began. Hesitantly, the counselor floated down from the circular doorway, looking uneasy in her weightless state. "We wouldn't go to this much trouble to destroy you. The only thing that can destroy you is doing nothing."
Tangre Bertoran scowled and snatched the isolinear chip from Reg's hand. "Give me a moment."
He and his entourage retreated to a monitoring console, where they plugged in the chip and studied the data, muttering in low tones. Melora hovered overhead, uncertain whether she should join her fellow Elaysians or stay with her unfamiliar crew. Since coming back to Gemworld, she had felt increasingly torn between her duty to Starfleet and a natural inclination to protect her people and her homeworld. The two shouldn't be mutually exclusive, but Starfleet represented the whole Federation, not just one peculiar planet.
Her split allegiance had never been an issue before, because Gemworld had always seemed like a memory from a past life, something that would never intrude on her Starfleet commitments. But being here, visiting her old enclave, seeing the frightened faces and the crumbling, mutant crystal -- it had become clear that Gemworld needed her more than Starfleet did.
For now, the dimensional rift not only threatened their solar system, but it could endanger the entire quadrant if left unchecked. Captain Picard had made it clear that he would sacrifice his ship and every soul on her planet to keep that from happening. And he probably wouldn't hesitate to use the Enterprise's weapon systems.
Reg Barclay looked at Melora and smiled sweetly, jarring her out of her depressing reverie. His boyish, earnest face brought out a smile in her, and she realized how glad she was to see him again. Here she was -- perhaps in the last days of her life -- and she had met a perfectly charming man who doted on her and strove to protect her. In fact, he strove to protect all of her people, as proven by the shard around his neck.
He was an unlikely hero -- and an even more unlikely acting senior engineer for the Elaysians -- yet he performed both duties valiantly. Looking at Reg brought out a respect and affection in Melora that she had thought she could never feel for anyone. And her feelings were amplified by the guilt she felt over not being totally honest with him....The last thing she wanted to do was to hurt Reg, or any member of the Enterprise crew. They were trying to help, but they didn't fully understand.
Did Reg know how she felt about him? Did it even matter -- with all the obstacles they faced?
Yes, it matters, decided Melora. This should be a time to feel for one another -- to seek love, and give it. What did it mean to fight for life if they couldn't enjoy the lives they had? She had always prized her lone-wolf status, but that was another change she was willing to make in her life. At least she could show Reg her gratitude....
Melora heard whispers, and she turned to see Captain Picard and Counselor Troi deep in conversation, probably assessing the mental state of their hosts. One didn't need to be a Betazoid to know that her people were worried -- even close to panic -- as they confronted the worst threat their aged world had ever seen. Only an hour ago hundreds of Alpusta had died in a failed attempt to reverse the sabotage -- but the shell had remained stuck in endless encrypted loops, its fractal programming and darkmatter collection gone berserk, feeding off the rift between two dimensions.
She tried to shake off the vivid sight of dead Alpusta clinging to the shell and floating in space, like pale seaweed in a tank of ink. The engineers had been too arrogant, too confident they could tame their environment yet again. Counselor Troi was right -- their greatest creation, the shell, had been turned against them.
With a look of concern, Barclay reached up and squeezed her hand. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine now," she whispered, squeezing back. Melora grabbed a handle on an overhead drawer and used it as leverage to pull Reg closer.
"What...what do you think they'll decide?" asked the Starfleet engineer, floating closely beside her in the upper regions of the cylindrical chamber.
"I have no idea," admitted Melora. In truth, she didn't think the Jeptah would allow the shell to be shut down, unless people were dying by the thousands.
"If they have an alternative, they'd better come up with it soon," said Reg urgently. "Although the last one didn't work too well." He cringed, as if instantly regretting those harsh words. "I'm sorry, I -- "
"It's the truth," snapped Melora. "They've been arrogant, but now they're humbled. That's why I don't know what they'll decide to do."
Her gaze traveled to the clutch of yellow-robed Jeptah huddled around a monitoring console manned by Tangre Bertoran himself. From their hushed whispers and surreptitious glances at the away team, Melora inferred that the information gleaned from the Enterprise's sensors was accurate and alarming. Had it been false, Bertoran would have already flung it in their faces. His hands were trembling as he pushed himself away from the console. His fellow Jeptah fluttered nervously around him.
The four visitors from the Enterprise -- Picard, Troi, Barclay, and Pazlar -- formed uneven ranks to meet the Peer of the Jeptah. Tangre Bertoran pushed off the wall and glided slowly toward them, his proud face looking craggy and hollow-eyed, as if he hadn't slept for a millennium.
"Your findings appear to be accurate," he said with grave understatement. "We weren't figuring the incremental increases and the full effect of the mutant crystal. When it breaks, even more thoron radiation is released. It would seem that our time is very short, although the effect of the radiation will vary from species to species."
"We still have enough time to close that rift," insisted Picard. "Let's assume that my people will be able to power your forcefields for the short time we need to reboot....How do we turn off the shell?"
Bertoran heaved his bony shoulders and looked as if he had been asked to explain the theory of relativity to a toddler. "Although such a drastic measure has never been seriously considered, an ancient procedure was developed. It was assumed that this would herald the end of the world; therefore, the procedure to shut down the shell is rather arcane, going back to the Accords of the Ancients. That's when all six of our sentient species agreed to be equal partners in the operation of the shell...and the planet."
The elder Elaysian gripped the emerald-colored jewel floating about his neck, which marked him as proxy for the senior engineer of the Gendlii along with his other titles. He motioned with disdain at Reg and his violet gemstone. "The Holy Shards, crafted from the living crystal and encrypted with our first fractal code, are all that is required to deactivate the shell. But we need all six keys to plug into the Termination Link at once."
He sighed heavily. "We have two crystals in our possession -- mine and yours, Mr. Barclay. The Lipul will no doubt surrender its key, but getting the others won't be so easy. Some of our neighbors can be difficult to deal with, and some of them are difficult to reach...especially now."
"And one of them is the saboteur," added Reg. "The one who started all this."
"It looks that way," Bertoran grudgingly conceded. "That makes our task all the more difficult."
"The Lipuls," said Picard, pointing to the Jeptah closest to a terminal. "Check and see if the Lipul engineer can meet with us."
The woman looked expectantly at Tangre Bertoran, and he nodded with a downcast expression. "Do the captain's bidding. Give them full cooperation."
Melora recalled their vivid encounter with the Lipul senior engineer. Was that only a day ago? A lifetime could have passed; she would never forget what the wizened being had told them: The shell is expendable, but not the planet. Take whatever course is necessary to close the rift.
Of course, the Lipuls could survive on Gemworld without any atmosphere, living as they did in the gelatinous marrow inside the largest prisms. The crew of the Enterprise would also survive....They could hang around to vaporize billions of bodies and pick up the pieces of a dead world.
"My Peer! Captain!" called the Jeptah on the monitoring console. Everyone turned toward her or drifted in her direction, including the two dignitaries she had hailed. "I regret to say...that the senior engineer of the Lipuls has left the shell."
"When?" asked Bertoran.
"Eight shadow marks ago."
"That's a long time," muttered Picard, "even before the tragedy with the Alpusta. Why would the senior engineer leave now?"
"Why would it stay?" asked Bertoran with a shrug. "When there's danger, a Lipul always retreats to its crystal -- that's the safest place."
Even that isn't safe, thought Melora, and the Lipuls know it. She vividly remembered the frightful dream that had brought the Enterprise and its well-meaning crew to Gemworld. She could still envision the Lipul in that dream, as it writhed in agony, choking in the polluted, inky marrow. She could see the crystal turning black -- instantly, not one meter at a time.
"We'll simply have to find them all," declared Captain Picard, straightening his shoulders and his resolve. "That's four senior engineers we have to find and persuade to let us use their crystals. We'll need to visit the Lipuls, the Alpusta, the Yilterns, and the Frills."
"Plus one more," countered Tangre Bertoran. "Although I possess the shard of the Gendlii, I wouldn't feel comfortable using it in such a drastic manner...unless you obtained permission from its rightful owner."
Picard scowled. "You're the proxy -- do we really have to do that?"
"In this instance, yes," answered Bertoran. "Let history show that this decision was not taken lightly and that the proper protocols were followed. Don't worry, Captain, the Gendlii will be the easiest to find."
"Where should we go first?" asked Picard.
Bertoran folded his hands. "We are about to send the body of Zuka Juno to the Blood Prism, to be consumed by the Progeny. You may think it odd to perform an elaborate ritual in the middle of this crisis, but Zuka Juno was a renowned member of our race. When you discovered him dead, it was a profound shock for our people. We must honor him, no matter what the circumstances."
The Elaysian managed a tight smile. "Your shuttlecraft can follow in the procession. This may be the best opportunity you'll have to meet the Frills in a diplomatic setting, although I suggest you should be very cautious. Melora can tell you more about them."
She nodded curtly to the captain, trying not to show her concern about encountering the Frills, especially in a time of chaos. Chaos was their natural state, and they might forget the Accords.
"Did you ascertain the cause of Zuka Juno's death?" asked Picard.
"His death was natural," replied the Elaysian. "A rare viral infection coupled with a weakened immune system. It was his time. Perhaps he has gone to light the path for the rest of us. If you don't mind, Captain, I won't be going with you to the Blood Prism. I'd prefer to stay here and work with your engineers, the ones charged with running our forcefields from the Enterprise."
Picard nodded. "That would be Commander La Forge, whom you met. I also left Data on the ship to help out with this project...and any other problems that might arise."
Captain Picard tapped his combadge and spoke briefly to La Forge, setting up the first of what were sure to be numerous meetings.
"The procession to the Blood Prism is leaving soon," warned Bertoran. "Perhaps you had better return to your shuttlecraft."
"Very well. We'll be in contact." The captain motioned with his hand and led the away team toward the circular doorway. Tangre Bertoran pushed off from the wall and darted in front of Melora, blocking her exit.
"May I please speak to Lieutenant Pazlar for a moment?" he asked. "It's some family business -- of interest only to Elaysians."
"I'll be along, sir," she assured the captain.
Captain Picard nodded brusquely, then he herded Reg and Counselor Troi out of the room. As soon as the hatch had shut behind them, Bertoran looked intently at the young Elaysian.
"We can't let them turn off the shell, can we, Daughter?"
Melora shook her head, guilt and fear rising like bile in her throat. "No, Father, we can't."
Ducking his head and watching his shins, Reg Barclay paced the cramped deck of the shuttlecraft. He didn't want to pace, but he had to do something while they waited for Melora to join them. Besides, he knew he should enjoy this small oasis of gravity while it lasted. At the copilot's station, Captain Picard ran through a checklist while Deanna Troi alternately gazed out the window and at Reg.
When Barclay passed by her, she purposely stuck out an elbow to block his way. "You know, Reg, you might as well sit down. Nothing's going to happen for a while."
"Oh really? On...on what do you base that?" he asked nervously.
"Because we have to wait for a funeral procession, I believe." Troi again peered out the window. "And I don't see a procession...or anyone else for that matter."
Reg chuckled. "Oh, I thought you were using your empathy."
"I haven't sensed emotions for days now," replied Troi, frowning with concern. "I'm alive, but I'm changed...somehow."
"I'm sorry," said Reg with sincerity.
She shrugged, as if it were unavoidable, and then turned to gaze out the window. He leaned over her shoulder to see what she was looking at. At such close quarters, Deanna's raven hair should have smelled like rainwater and wildflowers as he remembered it, but now it smelled oddly antiseptic and bleached. Maybe she had spent too much time in sickbay. Or was she really different?
Shaking off these troubling thoughts, Barclay peered out the window and studied the pitted surface of the shell, with its swooping bands of metal and huge kidney-shaped windows looking onto space. There was no sign of the milling throngs that had greeted them outside the Ninth Processing Gate a few short days ago. Gemworld is like a dying patient who has taken a turn for the worse, he decided, and the family members have gone home to make their peace.
His gaze traveled starboard, and his eyes widened when he saw a blond-haired vision in billowing white garments swooping toward them. Melora caught the rails under the shuttlecraft and spun around like a gymnast, tugging with her arms and shooting deftly toward the open hatch. The smile on her face vanished as soon as she felt the artificial gravity in the hatchway. It was like watching a butterfly turn into a caterpillar, as Melora sank weakly to her knees and hauled herself with difficulty into the cabin.
"Uh, sir...C-Captain Picard," said Reg hesitantly. "Is it possible for us to turn off the gravity? I believe I'm getting used to weightlessness -- I almost like it now!"
"No, no, that's all right," insisted Melora. "I could put my anti-grav suit on...if we have enough time."
"Nonsense," answered Picard. "You're the pilot, and you should be comfortable. Plus there's something to be said for 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do.' All hands, find a seat and belt yourselves in. We're going to shut off the gravity." He swiveled around in his chair, while Reg scrambled for a seat beside Deanna.
"That was very gallant of you," whispered the Betazoid to Reg.
Barclay squirmed nervously. "Um, thank you." He looked up to see Melora smiling gratefully at him as she waited in the hatch. He mouthed the words to her, "You're welcome."
"Turning off gravity," said the captain. Reg felt his body becoming eerily light. The hair on the back of his neck began to float, and the lap restraint was now the only thing touching him. Melora swooped into the shuttlecraft like a gust of wind and planted herself in the pilot's seat, fastening her belt with a snap.
"All right," she said. "Preignition checklist?"
"Completed," said Picard. While the two of them conducted business, Reg let out a sigh and tried to relax in the uneasy weightlessness.
"So Reg, have you told her how you feel about her?" whispered Troi.
He stared at the counselor, feeling somewhat annoyed at her accurate guess. Then he caught the twinkle in the Betazoid's dark eyes, and his anger faded. Deanna Troi was a hopeless romantic like himself, and he couldn't deny her an answer.
"No," he whispered. "What good would it do? We're looking at the possible destruction of her planet and all her people. I can't bother her now with my personal problems."
"Most people don't view a budding romance as a 'problem,'" answered Troi.
Reg sighed. "It is for me. Right now, the important thing is that we save Gemworld. It's such a special place -- we have to help them."
"We're doing all we can." Troi gave him a weary smile. "I was ill for a couple of days, so I'm trying to catch up. Whatever happened to me has something to do with that rift out there. I just wish I knew what."
Reg lowered his head. "You saw what happened to the Summit...when they tried to rescue us?"
"Yes," she answered with a grimace. "I felt every one of those deaths. But now I feel something else -- worse -- oh, I can't explain it. We have to accept the fact that we're all alone here, that we might have to make some difficult decisions. I'm surprised we haven't found any other way...except to turn off the shell."
"We've been frustrated everywhere we've turned!" said Reg with a scowl. "Whoever sabotaged the shell thought of everything; they anticipated everything we've tried to do. And they're still out there -- still at large."
"I'm sure that's why the captain wanted me along," answered Troi gravely. "Perhaps we'll get lucky and my empathic senses will kick back in. I'm not sure how much I can help without them."
Reg nodded, unable to think of anything to say. He didn't think their mission would be as easy as the captain was pretending it would be. Yes, the Enterprise had gotten out of tight scrapes before, but the enemy was usually one they could fight. Here, the enemy was nebulous but deadly -- darkmatter from another dimension. Its most frightful effect was the crumbling black crystal that was decimating Gemworld. But it was the invisible radiation that would kill them all in a few days.
Reg swallowed to clear his dry throat and twiddled his thumbs. He had successfully changed the subject away from Melora Pazlar and to the destruction of Gemworld, but the question remained: How do I feel about her?
Oddly, the worse the situation got, the more he felt as if he were falling in love. That was an awful trick for life to play on him, thought Reg angrily, as if he needed any more convincing that fate was against him. How can I tell Melora that I love her? With all the trouble her homeworld is in, she doesn't want to be distracted by personal matters.
"According to scanners, several life-forms are approaching," said Captain Picard suddenly, causing Reg to jump in his seat. The captain peered at his instruments, then at the blue sky beyond the window, as Barclay and Troi leaned forward expectantly.
"The procession," answered Melora. "It's a large one. I know Tangre Bertoran said we could be part of it, sir, but it might be better to trail behind at a respectful distance."
"Use your judgment," said the captain.
"Yes, sir." In the weightless cockpit, Melora's fingers flew swiftly over her instrument panel as if she were playing an instrument. Everyone else peered out the windows of the shuttlecraft, watching for the mysterious funeral procession.
Picard glanced at his screen, then pointed downward. "Port side, coming from the surface."
All four of them craned their necks and bobbed in their seats to get a glimpse of a long, wavering line of creatures ascending from the blue depths beneath them. The line wended its way upward like a trail of drunken geese, but the ease of their flight belied their considerable speed. It seemed only a few seconds before Reg noticed that the creatures were much larger than he had first guessed. And they had yellow tails.
Moments later, he revised that opinion when he realized that they weren't birds, or even birdlike. In fact, they were really two creatures -- and one was pulling the other. What Reg had thought were yellow tails were really yellow robes, so he could guess that the beings in the rear were Jeptah, the elite of the Elaysians.
But what were those fantastic creatures pulling them? As they drew closer, he was shocked to see that they looked like giant moray eels. Each one was two or three meters long, and they had massive, reptilian jaws full of jagged teeth. They ranged in color from vibrant silver to a milky white that appeared transparent. Wings that looked like gossamer fins extended over a meter from their bodies in several directions, catching air currents and stroking gracefully through the air.
Something sparkled along their sinewy bodies, and Reg realized they were harnessed in jewel-encrusted bridles. Golden reins trailed behind them which the Jeptah clutched like royal potentates.
"Frills," said Deanna in a hoarse whisper. "There must be a hundred of them."
"Eighty-six," answered Picard, checking the readouts on his screen. "Aren't they magnificent?"
"They're carnivorous," added Troi.
"Don't worry," said Melora, "we won't get too close...until after they've eaten."
Reg frowned, wondering if that was a joke or not. Melora wasn't really the joking type, although she spent a lot of time around humans. With their serpentine snouts and jutting teeth, the Frills did look as if they could eat anything they wanted -- including visiting Starfleet officers.
The bizarre procession made straight for the shell, passing close to the shuttlecraft. Reg almost suggested that they close the hatch, because the Frills flashed him unsettling glances. Their eyes were cold and fishlike. Natural-born predators, thought Reg with a gulp. He noticed that a dozen Frills at the rear had no Elaysian passengers; their reins trailed loosely behind them.
No one in the shuttlecraft said a word as the funeral procession soared past and circled to a stop in front of the Ninth Processing Gate. The Frills seemed to preen as they spread their delicate wings and curled their flat tails. Reg still found it hard to watch anything but their jaws and teeth. The Jeptah remained at stone-faced attention, gripping their reins.
In due time, the large hatch on the gate opened, and a crowd of Elaysians fluttered out. They parted to allow a cadre of Jeptah to emerge, slowly pulling a man-sized pouch wrapped in crimson material.
"That is Zuka Juno," explained Melora. "They will secure him to the last Frill....I've never seen a procession this large before."
"He was an important man," said Barclay.
"And now you have his job," added Melora.
Reg gulped, wondering if eighty-six Frills would carry him to his final resting place. With all the Elaysians in the crowd, only the Jeptah dared to approach the ferocious-looking creatures. As Melora had predicted, they tied the crimson pouch to the last Frill, which had had no rider before then.
The crowd around the gate parted again, and two Alpusta bounded out, still attached to the shell by their collapsible webs. Each one of them pulled several colorful bundles, which looked flat and circular, like gift-wrapped tires.
"Hmmm," said Melora thoughtfully, "it looks like they've recovered some of the Alpusta bodies. Today there are many dead to take to the Blood Prism."
The Alpusta corpses were secured to the remaining riderless Frills, each one taking three or four of the colorful bundles. In death, thought Reg, the large, spindly Alpusta were small and compact. Nevertheless, it took some time for all of this loading and tying, and several of the Frills began to writhe anxiously. Their Jeptah handlers spoke to them, and this seemed to calm all but a few.
Still, Reg felt considerable relief when the massive procession finally began to move again. Using hover-platforms to gain momentum, a cadre of Jeptah led the way toward the planet. As they gained speed, the Frills unfurled their silvery wings, caught the convection currents, and spread out in a curving line soaring downward.
"Prepare for launch," suggested Melora Pazlar.
Reg gripped the arms of his chair, but he hardly felt any movement as the shuttlecraft pulled away from the aged machine that encircled the planet. His stomach still churned, but he knew it was more from worry than from motion. Eight days was hardly enough time to explore Gemworld, let alone convince the entire populace to risk everything on a theory from a bunch of outsiders.
What if we fail? What if we can't communicate with the Frills or the other species? We'll have to turn our backs on two billion souls. Only a few hundred could be saved! That thought was enough to make anyone's stomach queasy.
As Reg watched Melora calmly piloting the shuttlecraft, he tugged helplessly on the crystal shard that floated from his neck. She was counting on them for so much -- counting on him personally -- and he was deathly afraid he would disappoint her. Barclay closed his eyes, hoping the nausea and self-doubt would quickly pass.
Stretching across the sky was a remarkable procession of giant eel-like creatures, towing passengers and gaily wrapped corpses. The boxy shuttlecraft fell into line at the rear, keeping its distance as the procession snaked downward toward the massive prisms and ancient clusters of Gemworld.
Copyright © 2000 by Paramount Pictures
Excerpted from Gemworld: Book Two of Two by John Vornholt
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.