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Eric Olafson, Fleet Cadet
Chapter17-huffh
Chapter number 17
Previous Chapter 16: Wichita
Current Chapter 17 - The Huffh
Next CHAPTER 18: Cave of Things

Chapter 17 - The HuffhEdit

The entire ceiling seemed alive! Hundreds maybe thousands of dark brown drop shaped things hung from that ceiling, Brenda saw them too and said."I think we just discovered this planets equivalent of bats, I wonder why there is no bat dung on the floor."

Before I could ask her what bats are, there was a high pitched scream, first one then it swelled to a crescendo of many thousand voices and it did not sound friendly at all. The first things dropped and headed straight for us. They were about thirty centimeters and had leathery wings, long necks. One stuck to my shoulder and another to my helmet. Brenda moved in panic as one covered her face!

I could feel needle sharp claws or teeth trying to dig through the tough Intelli-Fab material of my suit and could hear a chewing scratching sound from the thing on top of my helmet. I dialed the TKU to widest dispersion and low setting and fired several times over our heads, then grabbed Brenda's arm and dragged her as fast as I could along. Three more blasts killed many of these and we were not pursued. With my knife I killed the one on my shoulder and then cut the one off Brenda's face. She was bleeding from several deep scratches and a terrible bite wound on her nose.

She was groaning in pain. I had the first aid kit open in no time and after disinfecting her wound, I pressed the Auto doc Pack on her neck and set the Derma Patcher over what was left of her nose.

Auto doc injected her with pain killers and she sighed." I feel better now!"

The Auto Doc flashed a message to my PDD." Strong bacterial infection of an aggressive unknown type of bacteria, broadband antibiotics administered. Wound is sealed, unit strongly recommends professional medical assistance as soon as possible, this unit is unable to reconstruct missing cartilage."

She had heard the diagnostics as well and said." I guess that will take care of our first foray into this cave. "

I agreed and said."Are you well enough to walk back?"

"Yes, I am pain free."

Something bit me painfully in the neck! I had forgotten about the little beast on top of my helmet. Brenda ripped it off, tearing a big chunk of skin along as the little beast had sharp hook shaped claws almost everywhere.

She had a tough time getting the wild thing in a specimen box, but finally managed. After she had doctored my neck she said." Those things look like a mixture of Piranha fish, Vulture and Vampire bat."

I looked at the trashing thing in the specimen container and said."They are vicious and ugly!"

We both took our blasters and slowly made our way back. With our eyes and lights towards the ceiling, we reached the spot where I had first noticed them. There was not a single bat on the ceiling and I could find none of the ones I burned. Right behind the boulder that was sitting in the middle of the way was a solid rock wall! According to my PDD this was the way back, yet there was a wall and it did not look like it had been part of a moveable wall or something but there forever. Brenda was as surprised as I was." We came from there, I am certain! Over there are the fungi and I remember that boulder."

I was as certain as she was, as the path had not forked so far and there was no other path we could have chosen. I knocked at the rock and it felt as solid as a mountain, so I stepped pack dialed the TKU to max and tight focus and fired and the beam dug a deep hole into the rock material of at least 3 meters depth and yet it was still solid rock. Whatever blocked the path was thicker than 3 meters.

Brenda's voice vibrated with fear." I can no longer access GalNet. No matter how deep we are inside a planet. I should be able to connect."

I put my hand on her shoulder."Don't worry we will get out of here. We are alive and we are well equipped and well armed, maybe the Cave has an exit on the other side."

She tried to smile and said." Yes you are right."

We slowly went deeper into the Cave. Just a few meters from where we had stopped the first time fleeing from these bats and where I rendered first aid to Brenda, I noticed a thin metal band almost completely buried and obscured by the gravel on the ground. It ran across the width of the tunnel and now I saw it went up both ways and clear across the ceiling forming something like a ring.

I knelt down and wiped the gravel aside. It was a dark gray smooth metal and not a natural ore vein.

Brenda now noticed it too and said." This does not look natural at all, it almost appears like some sort of threshold and we must have passed over it as we ran from the bats."

She unhooked a hand held device from her belt and said." I am only using this for Bio scans, but it is a Standard Field Science Scanner. I think you can do energy scans with it too."

I remembered she had given me the same gear and I took the scanner and activated it as well. It was the same model we had been trained to use." I am detecting multi dimensional energies here, very weak or maybe the scanner is not able to detect the whole spectrum." By looking at the scanners read out and the representation, I said."This ring is some sort of gate; I don't think we are in the Kansas System anymore."

Despite our strange and serious situation she laughed." This isn't the Yellow brick road, Dorothy but I wish you could click your heels and we get back."

I looked at her with a big question mark on my face." I left the Dorothy Mask at the hotel and I am not sure I know what you are talking about?"

"You just quoted more or less the most famous line of that old movie I told you about. Well if we get out of here I will make a point and we watch that old show. How do you call yourself when you are female again? Not Dorothy, right?"

"No and it is not Erica either. I am Freya."

"I like that name, Freya. It suits you.

I smiled at her and then wondered how that device was triggered and who had put it there. "Maybe all we have to do is step over this ring and we will be back."

I stepped over it and nothing happened, but then I did not feel anything before. Brenda was still there and even after stepping over the ring several times, the rock barrier was still there and the faint energy reading did not change.

So we decided to move on and see where the cave would lead us.

INTERLUDE: HUFFHEdit

The Huffh always were and could remember the beginning. Caram would soon reach the end of his journey in this realm and would pass on to the Valley, almost all the Huffh had gathered and many families had come. Even the Alikta Huffh family was here and they had to travel seven Sky ball rises.

Caram was not an old Huffh and if he did not have that accident where he fell from the cliff he would not have to go into the final Cave and seek the Valley so soon. But it was the way of things, Caram's wounds had never healed well enough and Gulah and Parah the healers said Caram's injuries were beyond the herbs, as a flesh eating fire had set around its Bones and soon Caram would no longer be able to move at all and die right here. To die not in the Valley was a terrible faith and omen, so Caram had received pain reducing herbs and would with his last strength walk into the final cave and seek the Valley.

Balmi was the life partner of Caram and the Huffh lamented her fate almost as much as they felt sorry for Caram as she would now live without ever becoming Anali and bring a Huffh from her own cave of life into this world. Balmi was standing with the Anali of her family and she moaned silently, not to make it even harder for Caram to enter the Final Cave. She had told no one, but she would follow Caram, tonight and be with him in the Valley. She did not have to tell anyone as it was expected and foreseen that she would go into the Cave before her natural time, all Huffh that lost a partner before life drew naturally to an end.

Caram still had a little time. The Cave to the Valley would not be open for passage until the light ball had moved behind the mountains and he dragged himself to UtnAnali, the oldest to seek comfort in her stories. She would soon seek the Valley herself and she was certain she would not see another White cold season, but she needed to tell all stories to the next UtnAnali and to all the Huffh.

The crowd that had gathered around the Old Anali respectfully made room for Caram, so he could be close and hear well.

The Old Anali gracefully lowered her grizzled head and exposed the few yellow teeth she had left, the mighty tusks worn down to sad stumps." Caram it is good you seek us out.

So we all may radiate our affection upon you."

Caram wheezed as a wave of pain from his shattered hind bones flashed through his mighty body. Before the accident he was a strong Huffh and his size and strength the source of friendly envy among the other Huffh." Affection is what makes me bear my faith, Old UtnAnali. Tell me the Old Story and tell me about the Valley."

She nodded again and three juveniles robbed closer so they too could hear the story better. The Old Anali began." It was an era long ago, so long ago that no one can count the number of White Cold Seasons that happened since then. All the Huffh knew only one Place. It was a warm Place with much water. All that was crawling and walking on that Place came out of the water to claim land for the first time. Thena big ball of fire came from the skies and burned many of the others, the skies stayed dark and hot for many seasons. Some of the Huffh decided to go back into the waters and became separate from the Huffh and even changed their form over many seasons, but it is said they sing in the deep waters of the Old Place to this very season, and their songs tell of the days when they were Huffh. Again untold seasons came and went, and the wound and damage, the ball of fire had caused to the Place, was long forgotten and the Huffh that remained on land changed their shape and form just as our brothers changed that went into the water. The Water-Huffh bodies became more and more like the little things that always live in the water. Something else happened to the Huffh that stayed on land, the veil of ignorance slowly lifted of their minds. The Huffh began to speak to one another and there were words! The first stories were told and the first songs were sung. Little ones came, different from the Huffh in many ways, small they were and had no fur and looked weak and fragile compared to the Huffh.

They said that the Place was not for the Huffh and that the Place was reserved for others. We did not understand why the Place that was ours was not ours."

One of the Juveniles forgot its manners and burst out, interrupting the UtnAnali." What was the name of the little Ones? Why did the Huffh not eat them?"

The Old one forgave the Juvenile with a sad nod." The Little ones called themselves the Uni and the old songs tell that they commanded fire and the light crack of the skies and they could burn the Huffh. The Huffh could not eat the little ones. The Uni explained that those who gain thought and word would be allowed to join the Uni and share all the knowledge the Uni possessed, but that the Huffh had a long way to go and develop more words and more thought, before the Uni would allow that. The Uni took all Huffh away from the Old Place and they brought all Huffh to this Place.

Here is where we should gain more thought and more words and one day they would return and make us part of the Uni."

Another old Huffh grunted." They have not returned and have spoken untrue to us. The Uni did not ask if we wanted to leave the Old Place or if we wanted to join the Uni."

While the Old UtnAnali forgave the juvenile for interrupting her, she did not like to be interrupted by someone who should know better and scolded the Old male with a high pitched whistle. It was rare for an Anali to make this sound and he lowered his head and made all three motions of apology with his short tail.

The Old Utnalai accepted but kept an eye on him as she finished her tale." More Seasons than all Huffh together could not count have passed. We have learned many words and much thought and yet they have not come."

Caram did not feel much pain when he was not moving and thanked the Old one for the story and then added." Why is it that we must enter the Cave and seek the Valley when our time has come?"

She looked at the sick Huffh with much affection and said."This is the Place of life and the Valley is the Place of death. Only by passing through the Cave can our spirit be freed from the body and return through the cave of flesh we female Huffh have and where the young one come to this world. A Huffh cannot die in the community; a Huffh must be alone to die! Your agony would last forever. In the valley you are alone, and then you die, only that way you can return"

Caram found comfort in this and said." Maybe it won't be long and I will be back that way."

The Old Utnalai nodded slowly."This is the way and this is what the messengers of the Caves have told us ever since we have come to this Place. It is time now for you to go to the Valley!"

Chapter 17 Continued:Edit

We had walked for the better part of three hours, when I suddenly felt a little breeze on my face. The Derma Patcher had healed Brenda's face, but she looked disfigured as the little machine could not do any reconstructive surgery. Neither of us was worried about that, once we managed to get back any doctor would be able to fix her up in no time. She kept herself busy with making scientific observations while I kept an eye on the scanner and held the blaster ready.

She had noticed the draft as well and just as she was to mention it, we saw light at the end of the Cave.



Interlude: CaramEdit

Despite the pain numbing herbs, every step Caram took filled him with flaming pain. He and the Old ones had almost reached the Cave. Caram was almost glad it would be over soon. He hoped the cave would not be too long and too deep and the way to the Valley was not too far.

The Light of the Sky had almost set and its rays shone directly on the caves entrance, bathing it in soft orange light. The other Huffh had stopped a little behind and waited for him to disappear.

He was never that close to the cave. He had seen others pass, but doing the final journey yourself was quite different. He felt anger at the others, who were healthy, he was angry at the Old Ones who made him go! Why could he not stay and maybe the healers would find a way to help him better? He knew better of course, no Huffh with wounds like him and the bone fire ravaging had ever been healed. Maybe the Huffh weren't as bright as the Old Ones said. Maybe the Uni had not returned because the Huffh were still unable to have words and thoughts to heal bone fire. He sighed in pain and his anger changed into fear. What would death be like? What was there at the other side? How did they know it was a Valley if no one had ever returned? The little ones that came through the flesh caves remembered nothing. He did not remember if he had done this once or perhaps many times before.

He looked up and saw two bright glowing eyes moving in the cave!

He stopped.

The Utnalai huffed." Do not stop now, go with dignity! Show us that your spirit is still as strong as your body once was!"

"There are eyes coming!"

The Old one wanted to rebuke him, but now she saw the intense bright lights moving.


Chapter 17 Continued:Edit

"Oh my god!" Brenda stopped."Land walkers!"

I saw them too, they were hard to miss. Three of them, perhaps twenty meter outside the Cave entrance. They were big, perhaps not as big as Tyranno's but not by a great difference. Brenda said they look exactly like Ambulocetus only much bigger."

We had both stopped and I checked my TKU and dialed it to seventy percent and tight beam. I had about 20 bolts left and only one spare energy pack. I wished I had taken more, but I didn't expect this to be a longer trip, but twenty bolts should be enough to fry a whole lot of them. Without taking my eyes of the cave entrance and the monsters I asked." What is an Ambulocetus?"

"It is an extinct animal of Planet Earth, called the Walking Whale, an early cetacean that existed about 50 Million years ago. There was a reconstructed model in the collection of my University, only the one we had was about 4 meters long. The middle one measures at least 16 meters."

I sighed inwardly; everything was always compared to Earth Animals. They did it in Union School and they did it at the Academy. Did they not realize that most of the Union had never seen any Terran animals, left alone extinct ones?

She said in a subdued voice."What do you think we should do?"

I kept my voice down as well."Too late to play it subtle, they have seen our helmet lights, maybe we should fry one of them to show we are no easy prey. Did those Ambulothings of yours eat meat? "Yes Ambulocetus was carnivorous and hunted much like the Terran Crocodile."

"You realize I have never seen a Crocodile and I am not exactly fresh on other Terran critters."

"I am sorry." She said and then pointed at my weapon." I don't really want to introduce ourselves that way."

"I wasn't really thinking about exchanging greetings with some land walking Crococetus, but sitting here won't do us any good either. We need to get into the open and see if we can get a GalNet Connection or see if we can determine some other way where we are in this Universe of ours."


Interlude: CaramEdit

The bright lights went out! Caram and the old Utnalai could now see the two little figures about 10 Huffh lengths inside the Cave.

The other Huffh became curious what was happening as Caram had not entered the Cave. It was a solemn act and usually the spectators were quiet, but a young one could no longer stay quiet and yelled." Is Caram not able to walk anymore?

The Old Huffh turned her head and responded." The Uni have returned!"

Nothing could have had a greater impact. The words were repeated throughout the crowds and herds until the last family had heard it. Everyone knew the Old Story, even those who were too far to hear the retelling from earlier on. Waves of emotions came through all the Huffh present and the old Utnalai felt both, the wonder and the aggressive feelings of some in the herd. The Huffh were angry at the Uni for being taken from the Old Place without even being asked. Have they come to make them Uni? Have they come to take them to another Place? The Old Huffh did not like any of these possibilities. She liked being the one on top. The oldest, wisest and the one everyone asked. Would she have such a Place of importance with the Uni? They were little and only two; they looked a lot like the tree hanglers of the southern forests, but with less fur. The Huffh were stronger than anything on the world.

Uglam, was a strong male and he was healthy he felt the thoughts of aggression from the Huffh and he rushed forward, up the light slope. The Old one did not stop him so he went on. He would crush the Uni and then find out how they tasted.

Chapter 17 Continued:Edit

The three monsters at the cave entrance did not move, but a fourth one suddenly brushed past them and its intentions were not a big mystery. It roared and had its maw wide open, full of frightening teeth.

Even though this was a first contact situation, these were mindless animals and not members of a sentient civilization. I pressed the butt against my shoulder, had the center of the open maw in the sights and fired. The energy plasma generated by the combination of a few atoms of anti matter with positive matter funneled by force fields into a narrow beam hit the charging huge animal at near light speed and several million degrees of thermal heat. Union TKU (Thermo Kinetic Unit)were not as elegant or as sophisticated as laser or E Blasters and had a considerable recoil, but there wasn't much else out there that delivered quite the same punch. The blast had burned a fist size hole right through the entire length of the beast. Its momentum carried it a few more meters and it collapsed right before us.

The air was filled with the stench of burned flesh and the thing was still moving, still alive! It took two more shots before it stopped.

Interlude : CaramEdit

Caram and the old Huffh saw the bright white flash and heard the crack, Uglam fell! The spirits of the Huffh still kept him alive, but then the last thought of Uglam fell silent and he was gone! A Huffh had died and he was not alone! The Huffh fled in panic. The Old one also turned as fast as she could and followed the others downhill. Caram however was at the end of his strength he could not turn, and now with the others running he did not have their support either. He too would die right here, burned by the bright lightning of these terrible little monsters!

Chapter 17 Continued:Edit

Just as I expected the other beasts fled, but one of them remained, it did not move much at all. Brenda stared at the dead carcass before us and she looked sad. "It is a shame we had to kill it."

"It's not like we had a lot of options and it doesn't look it is the only one. I just wonder why the big one out there isn't running."

"Don't shoot it!"

"I am not going to shoot anything that isn't attacking us, but I really think we need to get out of this cave."

Brenda slowly slipped by the dead beast and closer to the entrance. I followed her, the TKU ready." Be careful, BB. We don't have all that many energy packs you know."

You know I think the beast out there is one that was about to pass to the Valley. I think it is wounded or hurt or something. It only uses its front legs while it drags its hind legs."

"Wounded Fangsnappers are worse than healthy ones!"

The huge beast out there did not make any aggressive moves and Brenda started talking to it in a soft calming tone.


Interlude: The HuffhEdit

The Huffh were upset, disturbed and there was panic and fear. Everyone had felt the death of Uglam and it was the most horrible experience to them all. Now it became clear to them why a Huffh had to go through the Caves to seek the Valley and die alone. They all had felt the pain and the agony, and the final sting of death. The Huffh shared their love and affection but also their other emotions.

What would happen? Would the Uni take them away again or perhaps kill them all?

Death was a metaphor something that happened far away and never among the Huffh and now it had happened and it caused several Huffh to fall in a catatonic shock. Young ones cried and could not be comforted, because the Alai were afraid and shocked themselves.

What manner of death was this? It was like the bright light that sometimes tore the heavens during rain and storm, but it was much stronger. The Uni could speak the light and it burned! Not even strong Uglam could stand against it!

In their panic they had forgotten Caram up there by the Cave. Without their support he would be even slower. Would he die here as well? Send another wave of shock and darkness throughout the herds?

More and more Huffh came, even those who had not come to bid farewell to Caram were now on their way. They all wanted to hear what the Utnalai would say.

They all looked at her now for advice and counsel and she had none to give. Legends and stories were not meant to come true!

"Tell us what we are to expect and to do!"

She had to say something, if she did not say something and then someone else did, her leading role would be over forever, she was well aware of that and so she said. "Let us go to the Cave of the Things that have been left by the Uni. They will most certainly go there and if they see we have been good stewards, maybe they will talk to us."

A strong young male Huffh raised his head above the others and said." Why should we listen to them? They have made death on Uglam! We should scatter and hide and maybe they leave!"

No one had ever questioned the decision of an Utnalai before! Yet she felt that there was not as much outrage over his outrageous behavior as she wished there were." Be silent! You are young and do not have the wisdom and you are not Alai! You do not have the cave of life! "

The young male also felt what she felt of course and did not fall silent at all."Your wisdom then! Tell us why they are here. Tell us why they made death on Uglam and what they want from us. If you cannot you have as much wisdom about this as the most junior Huffh!"

He became more aggressive and opposing by the moment. The Old Huffh knew why! The experience of death had broken barriers that would have not been crossed otherwise."You did not listen to the old story then. It clearly says that the Uni will return and there are Old secret songs only Utnalai know!" She felt ashamed inside. It was the first time a Huffh had not spoken the truth! There were no secret songs. The feeling of death had also changed her! It worked however, the Young male had no answer to this and lowered his head and the common feeling was once again turned to the Old Utnalai, one of her old friends. The one that would take her Place said." You have not shared these secret songs with me yet. Would it not be time to share them with us now? So we know what to do?"

Another Female said." What are secrets? We are the Huffh! I do not know what this means?"

Not telling the truth was not very good she realized, now she was put on the spot and had no answer." It is necessary to keep some knowledge only to those who guide. Let us go to the Cave of Things and I will share one of these secret stories so we know what to do."The second lie came to her much easier and she wondered how long she could keep this up before they realized what she was doing. On the other side of things there were the Uni and maybe their presence made it all a mood point.

Chapter 17 Continued:Edit

The thing was ugly and big and now I too saw the broken hind legs, and the puss oozinggangrene around the bone sticking through its skin. It was hurt badly and I could imagine in terrible pain.

Brenda got excited." I think this Land walker was about to enter the cave so it could pass to the valley and die and maybe by doing so, it would have triggered that gate again."

While I paid attention to her, I was using my PDD and activated the emergency channels again. It would drain the energy reserves drastically but emit the strongest possible signal, and I did get a response! "You are connected to Union GalCom. Buoy 5294939-83883 DW. No civilian GalNet relay in range. If this is an emergency state the nature of the Emergency."

I had reached an automated robotic Fleet Buoy and said." I am Midshipman Olafson, transmitting identification sequence now. I need a connection to Fleet HQ."

"Identity verified, you are authorized Fleet personnel. This unit will connect you to GalNet now."

I got a sleepy looking Lt on and before I could begin he said." Midshipman, you reached Fleet HQ on a Sunday afternoon. According to your call code you are requesting to talk to the Admiral of the Fleet, if this is a joke you are in serious trouble!"

The words:" 45% energy remaining. Please recharge soon or replace E pack." flashed over the small screen.

"Sir the Commander in the Office of the Admiral and the Admiral himself are the only ones I know to call with this unusual situation I am in. It is an emergency and I have little energy left!"

"This has to be a joke! According to this you are calling from the Cygnus Arm in the Downward Sector, using an old Relay Buoy that was used during the Piostla War 700 years ago! Impressive hacking and simulating, but I have Fleet Security on you and they find you!"

He actually cut off the transmission!

I had 25% energy left and of course no spare E pack. Under normal conditions the PDD packs held for 2 years and I had the thing barely a year, but transmitting at maximum power was draining it fast.

Brenda had paid little attention to me or the transmission. She was still talking to the big Walker and using her Bio Scan PDD to make observations.

It then sank in! We were somewhere in the Cygnus Arm and Downward. This was unexplored space and basically on the other side of the Galaxy from Union territory, about 90,000 light years away and since the core was in between the actual distance a ship would have to cover was more like 120 -150,000 light years. I had learned about the Piostla war and one of the cerebral uploaded knowledge memories kicked in providing me with more detail. The Piostla came from this region and back then an effort was made to find their planet of origin. Several thousand expeditions were send in this region back then, the Piostla world was found, destroyed and the war ended. Since then only a few Explorer ships went this way. There were no outposts, no stations out here and it was incredible luck that one of the old buoy relay chains was within the 20 light year distance of the emergency range of the PDD. Now I was glad I had purchased such an expensive model, most standard units had a far lesser range.

I decided to wait. If the Lieutenant was alerting someone they would investigate and when I called the next time they would listen. I had turned the PDD off to conserve energy and told Brenda what I had found out.

She listened and was not in the least concerned; she looked extremely excited and said." I think these creatures are genetically related to Terran Whales! I also think the grunts and wheezing is some sort of language. I am running it right now through the Linguistic logarithms."

"Brenda, we are over 90,000 light years away from the closest Union Outpost. While the travel seemed instantaneous to us, it lasted 7 days! We entered the Cave on Monday Morning and it is Sunday afternoon a week later Union time now! I have very little energy left on my PDD to call. Do you have spare E packs?"

"I do have one spare, but it won't fit your SII model. Mine is a Sony Economy."

She then said." I am not concerned about that right now, I am sure we can return the same way we came. The Land walkers pass through it and maybe they know how and now it looks we might be able to communicate."

I had to agree, this would be our best chance. Even if I would be able to talk to Mc Elligott in person and with all the Energy in the world, he could do very little to rescue us other than send a long range Explorer and that would take years! As the Explorer would have to stop every 5000 light years to refine fuel and service the engines. I had no desire to spend two three years here and then two more flying back.

So I paid more attention to the Beast and Brenda. She worked her PDD and I checked out the beast and its wounds closer." I think your big friend here is in big pain and perhaps he will die before he can make it through the cave and trigger the gate thing."

"Then we must help him!"

"I am a Midshipman not a Xeno veterinarian. I don't know anything about that."

"You told me about Fangsnappers and big Tyranno's. What do you do when they are wounded?" "We kill them and eat them."

"Well you may look like a nice girl, but you still act and talk like a Neo Viking!" Her PDD chirped and she said." I think we are getting somewhere. The Walker understands math."

Interlude: CaramEdit

Caram had already given up. He would simply lie here and die. The Uni would not let him go into the cave and besides he did not feel he had the strength to go on much further anyway. If Uglam could die here without passing to the Valley, so could he. He too had felt the death of his friend but he was not as shocked as the other Huffh. He was thinking about death for quite a while now and his own pain and the herbs had made him number to the emotional onslaught.

Now the little Uni were right next to him. One of them made noises, he could clearly hear and it sounded almost like spoken thought.

The Uni held a little rock in her hand and it glowed with many different little lights and suddenly the little rock made sounds that made sense. Two sounds!

He made two sounds.

Three sounds...

The little rock made visible thoughts float in the air before him and one of the thoughts looked like him! Just as if looking into still water, he said."Caram"

Then he saw floating visible thoughts of a tree and he said."Tree."

More and more floating thoughts appeared and he identified them. Now the Tree came back and the little rock said." This is a Tree."

"Yes this is a Tree."

Now his reflection came back."This is Caram the Huffh"

"Yes I am Caram and Caram is a Huffh."

"I am Brenda." Said the little Uni

"Will you kill me?"

"No we will not kill you!"

"You killed Uglam."

"Uglam attacked us."

Caram had to agree, this was true. Uglam was the one who started it. Then he realized he was talking to the Uni! "Will the Uni take us away from the Place?"

"What are the Uni?"

"You are the Uni!"

"We are of the United Stars of the Galaxy. Are you hurt?"

"Yes I am and I must die soon!"

"Will you allow us to try to help you?"

"You can heal me?"

"Yes I think so."

I ran myPDD in normal mode again and without trying to call the Remote Repeater Unit, it would last for at least a month or so. I needed the PDD as I attached the little Auto Doc to the large beast, right next to the broken bone and had it connected to the PDD. Even though it was only a basis unit, these marvels of Union technology were programmed to diagnose and try to help nearly every known Union Life form. Since that beast seemed to be a carbon based life form it should not be so hard.

My PDD was on Audio read out and spoke." Compound fracture on left hind leg lower shin bone, Transverse fracture upper left leg, severe wound trauma, infection causing wet gangrene. Immediate treatment. Producing Nanites, and antibiotics, neutralizing pain impulses, bones have to be set before nanites can mend broken bones."

I responded." No medical personnel or facility available. Request Step by step instructions."

"One moment please completing body scan of patient for instructions."

The Pain was gone! He could no longer feel his legs at all, but he was pain free! Brenda told him that Freya the other little one would need to work on his leg and asked him to roll on his side. He did

He saw the little one use the Light thunder stick on his leg! But instead of burning him to death, the light burned away the stinking black flesh and the puss and he felt nothing.

The Little ones who claimed not to be Uni but Union seemed genuinely concerned about his condition and whatever they did it was pure magic, and what all the healers of the Huffh could not they could!

Out of nothing bright yellow foam engulfed both his legs and sealed them. The little one named Brenda said." Freya is using Emergency Nanite Seal foam as a makeshift bandage so the Healing Nanites can weave new tissue and fix your bones. Since you are so big it will take a few hours. So please do not move much until then."

"I do not understand much of what you say, but I will not move. I feel no pain. What will happen to my legs?"

"You should be back to normal by tomorrow and be able to walk. I am not sure how much muscle and nerve tissue has to be rebuild, but you will be as good as before soon."

Caram could hardly believe. He had not understood the meaning of most of the words, but he understood that he would be able to walk again. For someone who was preparing to die for the last ten days and to hear he would not have to die created a euphoric feeling in him he could not describe, but other Huffh shared it! Especially Balmi who had not gone to the Cave of Things so far away like all the others, but she had sneaked back along the path to the Cave to the Valley and followed her mate.

She could feel his pain and sadness and confusion, and now she suddenly felt his joy! He had no longer pain and he did no longer think of dying! Caram could sense her as well as she came slowly closer, partially afraid but her love to him and her curiousness was stronger.

He also noticed the little one called Freya take his light thunder stick and point it in the direction where Balmi approached.

"Little One do not light thunder burn Balmi. She is my mate and she is here to follow me into death and now she feels I am no longer full of pain. I will call her so she will not come closer."

"Don't shoot!" Brenda said." It is Caram's mate. She is alone."

"So are we and while I did doctor around on that big one. I am not so sure it would be wise to trust them fully yet. I won't shoot but I think I stay on the safe side and keep the Blaster ready."

The big walker actually understood us and said." She won't come closer. She will remain where she is."

"How about the others?"

"They have gone to the Cave of Things. That is far from here and they will wait for you Uni there."

"Why do you call us Uni anyway? The only Uni I know are the ones of the Universal Collective and they have disappeared for over 250 Million Years ago."

"They have taken us from the Old Place to this Place, so many Cold white seasons ago no one can count them." The beast began to tell us a story about singing brothers that went into the water and it was a nice tale. He did mention the Uni several times and the Trans spatial gate inside the cave had to be made by some advanced civilization.

Brenda however got more excited every moment and then she said." Caram you and I come from the same planet. I think the Uni have taken you from Earth, that would explain why you look exactly like a Walking whale and it is true about 50 to 60 million years ago the Ambulocetus returned to the oceans and are the origin of the order of Cetacean, ocean living mammals. Some of the whale species are famous for their songs."

Caram tried to digest what he just heard." You say you come from the Old Place? You say you know of the Singing Huffh?"

I was skeptical and said." How could they remember events that happened so long ago? No matter how accurate they try to tell the story, it would have changed to something completely different. There is no way oral history would last this long!

Brenda said." The Whales on Earth use the same basic songs for the same time. Yes there are new songs and variations but there are base songs that are sung unchanged for millions of years. The information of these songs is in their DNA, they can't forget it."

"But if these Land walkers are here on this world for that long, why haven't they evolved and started a civilization by now?"

Brenda smiled a schoolmasterly smile." Maybe they are the top of the crop here and did not need to evolve much and they do not have the most important things you need to start a civilization. Manipulators or Hands if you will, without hands no tools, without tools no civilization, but then it seems they have a complex community and culture so I would call this a civilization too."

Caram listened to the two Little ones and some of what they said made sense and some did not. He was thinking hard and now that his mind was free of mind numbing pain and herbs, his mind was as sharp and clear as ever."Maybe that is what the Uni meant when they said we needed to develop more word and thought. I wish our healers could have done more to me than give me herbs and I was thinking about this before you came and I was preparing to go to the Valley to die. I wondered why the Huffh could not do more things. Then you must be the Others the Uni spoke off, the ones the Old Place was reserved for."

Brenda was still excited and animated." There are many humanoid species and it is called the Human Mystery because no one knew why there are so many different planets that developed humans. The Saresii, the Sarans, even the Kermac and the Arkonids are all biologically compatible and it is almost impossible that such close related life forms develop on so far separated Places. Some believed the Uni seeded human life throughout the Galaxy and now I think we have the proof that this was indeed the case." She turned to look at the Huffh."Your DNA needs to be cross referenced but I am pretty sure the Huffh are from Earth just like I am. The oldest bones I found in the Valley so far are several million years old, and there is a steady size increase and the newest bones are almost twenty times bigger than the old ones."

While she talked I started to set up camp, and took the tent out of the back pack and activated it. The dense little brick made of memory fabric unfolded itself into a two person tent. Its bottom graviton anchored to the ground and the film thin tent walls made rigid by a field energy charge. Even though the material was only a few millimeters thick, it could withstand the most severe weather conditions and stand up against storm winds. Then I prepared a camp fire and collected firewood. While there was no thick forest, there were trees and bushes and I had no problem finding enough.

The Huffh observed me and then said." Your kind is very productive and you are doing things all the time. You have not stopped doing things since you arrived. What is it you are doing now?"

"I am setting up temporary shelter and making a fire. The shelter is so we can sleep and while we have other means of cooking and providing heat, an open fire is preferable whenever possible."

"You can make fire! Will you teach me how to make fire?"

"Tomorrow when you are well I try to figure a way out how you can make fire and I show you."

I checked the PDD read out and the progress of the Auto Doc. The little unit was still producing Nanites as the patient was bigger than anything the Auto Doc was actually designed for, but the prognosis was good and the bones would be mended in another six hours. There was a lot of missing tissue but it too would be eventually healed. The make shift bandage of emergency foam was holding better than I thought it would.

I wondered what the Admiral would say if I had to tell him these findings.

Brenda agreed to sleep first and take second guard shift.

Interlude: Anapolis TowerEdit

There were few new buildings on Earth and obtaining a new construction permit was very difficult. Usually only something that could not be renovated or preserved was replaced. Ever since the Second Exodus, Earth population was kept steady at about two billion beings and great effort was taken to preserve cities and historical buildings.

Annapolis Tower in San Francisco was one of the few super modern Arcologies on Earth. At over 2500 meter height it was also the largest building of the planet. It was Union Fleet Administration Headquarters and extended far underground. It was the only Union government department on Earth or in the Sol System and over 2 Million beings worked and served here. It was nowhere near the size of Union Fleet Operations headquarters on Pluribus and did not have the same Hornets nest character and buzzing activity of UFO. While many of the Operation desks were maintained around the clock, most administrative Offices kept regular working hours and were closed at night and over the weekends. Admiral Mc Elligott was always one of the very first that arrived and usually was the last to leave; there was no difference this Monday morning as his flyer set him down at the landing platform on the 50th floor. While he was often traveling throughout the Union, when he was here he lived at his ancestral home near Edinburgh Scotland. He would not have minded to take the Trans Planet transport system, but he understood the concern of the Security Department and so he was picked up by flyer. He did not have many political enemies, especially since he never took side or part in any political arguments and managed to stay neutral for a very long time. He was a celebrity and there were many Union Citizens who could recognize him on sight, especially since he chose to wear his traditional Scottish costume whenever possible. There was no political assassination or really serious crime on Earth for the last 2000 years but Earth and especially the Union did have enemies and killing one of the Immortals would have been a great feat to them.

He turned and looked over the San Francisco bay and the rising Sun in the east, coloring the still impressive and beautiful Golden Gate Bridge in a bright orange over the deep green sea. He was one of the few people who knew that this was no longer the original bridge but replaced molecule by molecule with Ultronit.

As an Immortal Admiral he had seen countless worlds and the most spectacular sights of the known Universe, but to him there was no Place like Earth.

His main assistant and aide worked with him now fore almost ten years and the Commander knew him well and waited at the entrance door not disturbing the morning routine of the Old Admiral. Elligott blinked into the sun and then went to the entrance. Wondering what this day would hold, even after three thousand years he still did so every day. His old friend Stahl had the Fornax problem well in hand and it did not look like the next Y'All invasion was very imminent after all and now that they had gotten a taste of the things to come and the direction from where it would come they had a good chance to prepare for it. To have a Narth Sphere there as well was very reassuring.

The Union reacted like a well oiled machine; there was no panic in the general population and confidence in the fleet. He was very proud as how much the Union had grown and grown together since the last Y'All Attack. The Union government maintained a 90 percent approval rating for over 2000 years now and this was quite an accomplishment with all those different civilizations. Normally only dictator ships could maintain such high ratings and the Union was certainly not a dictatorship.

The largest fleet concentration and Fleet construction project in many years had begun only last Friday. 170,000 ships and sixteen of the largest mobile ship yards were dispatched and would work on a Connection bridge between Union space and the Fornax Cluster. Even conservative estimates predicted that the connection would be complete in only three or four years.

His aide greeted him and as usual begun to brief him on their way to his office on the important developments over the weekend. Of course he would have been called if there was something really important.

The Commander held his PDD and said." The Torath have sent a delegation to Pluribus this morning to apply for membership."

"Refresh my memory on them would you?" "The Torath are a technological highly advanced and very reclusive and aggressive Civilization in the Large Magellan Cloud. One of the few not associated to our friends of the Attikan commonwealth. Traditionally they were enemies to the Attikan. They claim a sizeable Area in that Cloud and say they have bases in the Fornax Cluster."

"Oh right, they look like large angry Hamsters and if I recall they do have an impressive fleet of little but very fast and well armed ships."

"Yes that is them alright."

"If I recall the last reports correctly they had a very negative view towards the Attikan and the Union. What changed their minds, do we know?"

"I have no detailed Intel on that, but there is an unconfirmed report that a Union legal expert managed to solve the millennia old dispute between Attika and the Torath and that is the cause. I personally think it is the big fleet build and Stahl being in that area with his huge tub that made them think they were the target."

"I guess we will know eventually. It certainly is good to gain another member. Anything else?"

"Not much, Sir. It might interest you that your special friend Midshipman Olafson managed to make a very impressive but quite stupid prank call!"

Mc Elligott stopped in his tracks." A prank call?"

"Yes the Midshipman managed to route a call on the distress channels via an old Relay Buoy all the way down in the Cygnus Arm in the outer reaches of the Downward Sector. It was an old Relay buoy chain left over from the Piostla War. That buoy chain has not been used in 700 years. It had been left there by the USS Cyprus. He could not possibly be there of course. The security department is still looking into it and how he managed to reroute the call from there."

"Midshipman Olafson is with a Xeno biologist on Wichita Planet researching the Big Bone mystery there. Have you tried to call him there?"

"Sir this was a juvenile prank, done with considerable hacking skills. I think he wanted to impress you or something. That he knows you went probably to his head and now he thinks he can call you whenever he likes."

"So you have not called him!"

"No not yet."

"I don't think this Midshipman is the kind who would do a Prank call and besides I did ask you to put him on my call list. So he could call me whenever he wants. I think we owe him that for what he endured at camp Idyllic. Besides are we not to investigate any and all distress calls of any Union Citizen and Fleet member?" "Of course Sir, but I talked to the man only recently and he could not possibly be 90,000 light years away! Because he is something like a friend to you I didn't want to make this a big deal and get him in trouble before I could talk to you, Sir."

"He is the best friend to a Narth and the Narth made him High representative. A Narth Sphere just made the trip to the Fornax Cluster in less than an Hour. I am 3000 years old and I can't tell you what is possible and what not!"

He reached his office and said."Get me a connection to Wichita planet and call that Science Corps Officer there."

"Yes Sir."

Chapter 17 Continued:Edit

I did not wake Brenda. She needed the sleep more than I did. Even the big Huffh fell asleep, mostly due to the fact that he was pain free for the first time in over a month. I checked periodically on the progress of the Auto Doc and dictated a detailed report into my PDD. I was certain the details of our expedition would be of significance if we made it back. I also didn't trust the rest of these big Huffh. I somehow had the feeling that we had not reached the climax of our adventure just yet and there would be more problems ahead.

I wished I had a mapping satellite with me. I even considered taking one along but did not think I would need one in a cave.

The bones of our big patient mended well. The Nanites had no problem weaving new bone tissue. I was always in awe when I saw one of the huge battle ships, but realizing what a marvel of technology this little auto doc unit was, made me very proud of the Union. This little machine held the medical base knowledge of the entire Union and was able to apply first aid to so many different species. The tiny robots, the nanites able to replicate themselves to tackle larger tasks scurried nonstop inside the big Huffh body carrying molecule size matter from other areas of the body to mend the damage. While they were unable to reconstruct Brenda's nose like it was before as they had no reference, they could reconstruct the leg of the Huffh as they simply used the other leg as mirror image reference.

The first rays of the Sun chased away the last shadows of the night and the big Huff stirred and I said." Try to stay calm for another hour then you should be able to walk. I will have to leave the bandage for another day however as it supports the new bone tissue and allows the nanites to complete the reconstruction of muscle and nerve tissue."

"You have saved my life! You have saved the life of my mate as well and you say I can walk again! This is a miracle! I was afraid all this was a night thought. Nothing real, but it is real!"

"Tell me about the Valley and the Cave. How do you trigger the transition?"

"I do not know what you mean exactly, but once a Huffh is near death it must enter the Cave and seek the Valley. It is only possible during the time when the big sky light reaches the mountains and the light of the sky light reaches into the Cave. It was the time when you appeared yesterday."

"How do you know that?"

"The Voices of the Cave of things tell us when to go."

"It seems we have to go to the Cave of Things after all!"

"I shall show you the way and protect you!"

"Why would we need protection?"

"Because we have to cross the Forest of the Hanglers and they are not friendly and then there are those among the Huffh who do not like that you have come back and killed Uglam."

"Are you telepathic? I mean can you talk to other Huffh even when they are far away?"

"Not talk no, but all Huffh know what other Huffh feel."

Brenda came out of the tent. "You are Freya now and don't have to be so old fashioned macho. You could have made me take the second shift as we agreed." She only wore her tight fitting green body suit and hat not put on jacket and equipment belt and I noticed how feminine her body was.

"I was not tired and I am still fresh from Basic training, we never get much sleep there and rise early so I decided to let you sleep."

"Yeah but from now on we stick to what we agree on." She caressed her own body and said." One hour at a good Surgeon and you look just like that!"

"Are you a telepath?"

"No I am not, but I am a woman long enough to read faces and yours was quite obvious and remember I was once like you and had the same thoughts."

I went into the tent and used the portable hygiene recycler and freshened up. Then we had a little breakfast of Nutro-Bars and coffee. I told Brenda what Caram had told me and that we needed to go to the Cave of Things.

We packed our things and she said."Maybe the Uni have left behind some sort of Control device for the spatial gate."

"That is what I am hoping too."

The sun was now well past the horizon and I checked on Caram once again and said to him." I think you can try to walk now."

Caram turned back on his feet and raised his massive body using all four of his legs. He screamed so loud it echoed between the mountains and I could see the body of the female Huffh in the distance rising too. I grabbed the TKU, but Brenda put her hand on my shoulder."Wait!"

Caram expelled air through his nostrils and shook his big head." It feels as if I am reborn! I can walk again and I feel no pain!"

"You screamed!"

"I had to express my joy somehow. I simply could not contain it! I am sorry if I startled you Little Ones!"

I cleared my throat and said."Well big Fellow, lead the way to the Cave of things, but take it easy and give the bones time to mend more and become stronger."

"It is a far journey and we must travel for maybe two times the Sky Ball rising before we reach the Cave of Things, but first I must forage for food. I am hungry!"

"I never make it in time to pick up my first ship anyway, so lead the way!"


Next Chapter The Cave of Things

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