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“My God,” whispered Elliott as he took Hannah’s and Ruth’s hands to pull them closer. “What’s happening?”

His head whipped left and right, searching, but found nothing besides the blue light of my stun gun. And as soon as they began, the screams fell away, until only a few solitary new ones popped out of the darkness.

“Are they dying?” asked Hannah. “Why are they stopping?”

And just then, I realized that the blue light from my stun gun had grown brighter. Squinting, I gasped, understanding that the increase in light was not from my stun gun.

But rather from others approaching.

“Because they’re saved,” I breathed, just before three lights appeared down a corner and sped towards us, the wielders far more proficient at weightless travel than we were.

“Let’s go, let’s go!” shouted the one in the lead, slowing as he reached us and uncoiling a cord. “Grab hold! We’re giving you a lift, courtesy of the Lear, your new brothers and sisters!”

“Did Airomem send you?” I asked, reaching out to grip the cable.

“We came as soon as she brought us news of the trouble. She’s waiting now, at the departure vehicle. The doors have opened and we’ve already loaded our tribe – we await only upon the remains of yours!”

“A godsend,” said Hannah, tears filling her eyes. “We are more grateful than you will ever know.”

“As are we,” said the Lear man, “for the return of our princess, for your shared knowledge of farming, and for new friends.”

From behind, more bobbing lights appeared, as well as ahead, until nearly the entire area was illuminated as strong as it had been with power. Like us, others were towed behind members of the Lear, their faces alight with amazement as we converged. In minutes, we arrived at the entrance of the bridge, the door thrust open, and the inside glowing so blue that I nearly had to turn my eyes away.

But I couldn’t.

The sight ahead was too mesmerizing.

Ranks of the Lear citizens were lined on the left and right of the hallway, ushering our people between them, pushing them along to where a double door had opened at the center of the bridge. And there, just before the entranceway, waited Airomem, personally welcoming each new member through the doors. Her chin high, her smile wide, her hair flowing straight back with no gravity to hold it down.

“Enter and find a seat!” she was saying. “Strap in, strap in! And prepare for the most monumental moment you will ever experience! Remember this to tell your grandchildren, so they may tell their own – today will be a day of legends! Hurry, move on – we are almost there!”

My smile spread to match hers as the Lear pushed me forward through their ranks, moving at the front of our small party, watching as more and more people disappeared within the double door. Then I was at the entranceway, speechless as Airomem pulled me aside for others to enter, my head craning to view the cavernous space within. Thousands of chairs arranged to face forward, crammed together to fit as many as possible into the confined space, with aisles that parted them into sections. And there, painted at the focal point of the room, was a uniformed man who stared at the crowd, waiting for them to settle. On his left pocket was a swirl of blue, green, and white that nearly matched the planet we now approached, and on his right was a bold number sewn on in white.


“As we speak,” said Airomem, beaming, her hand on my shoulder, “the Lear soldiers are combing your hallways, searching for any stragglers that may have become lost. And here, the Lear citizens await, to initiate the bond between our peoples. My father is welcoming them each into the departure vehicle and ensuring each is prepared for the final leg. This is what we were born for, Horatius. This is why we are here.”

“This is our story,” I responded. “The story of our ship, coming to a final end. The longest story I have ever known.”

“And the best,” she said, shaking Elliott’s and Hannah’s hands as they reached her. “Elliott, meet my father inside. It’s only right that the two chiefs welcome our people together.”

“Of course,” he said, and Hannah spoke up next to him. “Yet again, Airomem, we owe you our lives.”

“If only Pliny were here to see this,” I said to myself, my stomach fluttering and heart rising as Ruth rushed forward, forming rapid signs with her hands before barreling into Airomem, who had bent over to respond in their language.

“We’re here, we made it, we made it!” Ruth shouted, punching the air with one hand as Airomem laughed.

“You did,” Airomem responded. “You are the true hero today, Ruth. The one who connected the ship. Now go on, head inside! We’ll be right in to join you.”

Then Tom was before Airomem, and he inclined his head in a bow.

“Of the chiefs Tom has known,” he said, “you are the one Tom chooses to serve.”

“Well, I’m not quite a chief yet – it’s still my father – but I am most honored, Tom. Go on inside; we will be there shortly.”

He rose his head to meet her eyes, then past her eyes and behind me as his mouth opened.

“No,” he said, his voice low, just as I felt something crash against my shoulder and push me into him. I turned, searching, jerking away when I found two wide-open eyes staring back at me. Unblinking. With dried blood matted in the hair above them, and the teeth knocked away under lips that had been carved from the face. And underneath, where the neck and body should have been, there was only a stump with shreds of skin still attached.

The decapitated head bounced away from me and against the wall, and I identified it as one I had only seen once before.

Esuri, chief of the Aquarians.

And from the end of the hall, there was a laugh. A shrill one, coming from a twitching chest, streaking away from a face with a long scar that had just appeared through the door.

“Princess!” shouted Sitient as others crawled through the door behind him. “The reign of the Lear has ended. Your head will join Esuri’s!”


Chapter 69

Don’t forget to vote for  The Bridge!  It takes 2 clicks and really helps!

I’ll be providing the entire story here for free for a limited time.  In return, I ask that you tell a friend about Chapter 1!  The only way others find out about my work is through word of mouth.