"Meeting Mom"
By Susan

Part 6 - Beyond the Sands of Time
          "You big-eared freak of nature! You are playing with lives as if they were children's toys! Your sons haven't chosen your path and neither have we! Why are you doing this to them?" Meryl ended on a beseeching note. "Hell! Why are you doing this to us!"
         The alien lifted higher in the globe, forcing them to tilt their heads back.
         "Good it is to me to know you care about them already. This is heart open even a little and that is a beginning."
         "...?! Wha... wha... WHAT!? CARE! Did I say I cared?! I don't care...." Meryl sputtered in denial as she struggled to free herself, hoping but not really believing they...
         Came free and fell backwards head over heels rolling down the ramp to land in a heap. Unfazed, she leaped to her feet yelling, "Run Millie!" She tensed to run back up the ramp to grab her if needed for no matter how annoying she found Millie at times she certainly had no intention of leaving her behind. But then she noticed the expression on Millie's face; eyes wide with fear and shock focused on a sight above and behind Meryl's shoulder.
         Meryl felt a shiver go down her backbone and the hair rose on the back of her neck. She really didn't want to turn around. They don't pay me enough for this!!
          She twisted her torso and caught a glimpse over her shoulder of an incredibly large shadow, and crap! It was growing larger! Not taking the time to give it a second glance, she turned and sprinted back up the ramp. When she reached Millie' side, who had her head inclined back to look up... and up. Meryl spun to fix her gaze on the same sight and groaned. This is not going to be the clean getaway I had hoped for.
         "Rising up from the floor, with cords and wires falling away or being ripped in two, was a cone-shaped construction. To Meryl it looked like a robot, only robots don't grow out of the floor. It also did not have a metallic sheen like those portrayed in the space vids. It had a grayish-green hue and here and there were panels with blinking lights that looked more like winking eyes than light bulbs. This organic robot was cone shaped until a split opened up in the middle and sliced its way down to the floor to separate into two thick columns. She cast a glance at the floor, no feet though.
         Beginning halfway up and reaching to the top, arms began to emerge from the top half of the organic bot. They grew out, extending from the body, whipping around in the air overhead. She decided that for such a beautiful species they sure had made one ugly pimple of a robot, if that was what it was.
         Meryl cleared her throat, unable to take her eyes off the robot, as she decided to call it, and choked out to Millie, "Let's get out of here before it notices us."
         "Let's!" Returned Millie in a scared whisper.
         They tried to tread as lightly and as quickly as they could down the ramp, doing the best they could not to call attention to themselves until a familiar voice spoke in their heads startling them to a halt.
         "You desire to leave, but my will here shall be done."
         CRAP! "Hurry!" Meryl shouted tugged on Millie's unresisting elbow. Millie didn't need any further urging. They were leaping over, dodging around, and skipping between all the wires, cables and mechanical parts strewn in their path when the great appendages swooped down on them in a blurring motion. Catching the shrieking and ducking girls around their waists, ankles, wrists, and neck, it lifted them high above the group in a prone position.
         "You ugly stinking robot wannabe!" Meryl addressed her invective at the arm-covered cone holding them prisoners, jerking on her bonds but to no avail.
         "I must admit I am quite disappointed in you." Millie stated quietly eyeing the alien almost sadly.
         They froze in their bonds when a rumbling started up from under the ground. They looked at each other in alarm. Nothing good had ever followed that sound.
         Coming up from the ground with a grinding sound and a whoosh were two long and narrow rectangular shapes, rising through the material of the floor.
         To Meryl, the external appearance of the rectangular formation was suspiciously similar to the cryostasis capsules that were used for cold sleep, somewhat larger than the cryostasis pod on their Glider. In fact, as she narrowed her gaze to study the shape, it even had some of the same nozzles, buttons and the same kind of glass covering. A near-perfect replica! She began struggling harder when she felt a sickening hot flash sweep over her, then a sharp pain in her gut followed by a cramp of release. Scrunching her eyes shut as she groaned out an especially toxic curse, she thought NOT TODAY! NOT NOW! This is shaping up to be one of the most hideous and ghastly days of my life!
         Millie, not having any distractions, was contemplating the long coffin-shape of the two rectangles with growing apprehension. Having passed Mrs. Heffelberg's first grade class with flying colors (no matter what other people thought of her cognitive abilities) she was quite capable of putting two and two together; or in this case, one and one.
         The alien spoke, and Meryl, with all the hopeless shocked look of a damned soul, listlessly turned her head in her direction.
         Millie had turned also. Still, even now, she thought, Lady Elf was so hauntingly beautiful she could bring tears to the eyes with her delicate features and elegant back-swept ears; the thick long tresses gently carried about her as if from a breeze only they could respond to.
         However, Millie looked at her through all the gloss of other-worldly radiance. Her light-blue eyes began to burn incandescent as she lifted her head to say; "to treat others as pawns in your grand scheme is wrong. This is not just wrong, but bad wrong, you will regret this.... Besides, cryosleep gives both of us nightmares."
         The alien made a gesture and Millie felt herself deprived of speech. Astonished, she tried to sit up but forgot she couldn't move but a fraction of an inch with any of her limbs.
         Responding to Millie's last remark, she said, "This is not your crude sleep... your pseudo-death. You shall sleep but cold shall not touch you. I place you in these to sustain you while I hide you from the sands of time on my side of the door.
         "Oh dear!" Millie thought at the alien, "You ARE insane!" The alien eyed her for a moment and with a gesture, Millie fell instantly into a deep slumber.
         Meryl, as if sensing what had happened, yelled rapidly hoping to get it all out before she too was sent to sleep, "There's no way I'm gonna be a mate to a pointy-eared, huge-eyed, globe-freak! He will have to shoot me first! That wouldn't upset your precious plans now would it, having a corpse for a daughter-in-law? In case you didn't get that the first time, 'shoot to kill me before I fall in love with him!' You creepy big-eared harpy!"
         An inescapable weight settled on her thoughts and she felt herself slowly, but relentlessly being pushed down into a passive state. Panic and fury pushed back as fragments of curses came to her that she wanted to hurl out, but instead she flung out, "I would have to pick this stinking day to start!!!" Before succumbing to the compelling pressure and slipped to join Millie in the same deep sleep.
         In great arms Meryl and Millie were lowered gently and carefully in the two sleep capsules. The robotic arms arranged them in comfortable positions with a meticulous attentiveness of a nursemaid, even brushing the hair back from their faces.
         The alien mother-to-be patiently watched the robot in the pursuit of its task until it was done tending to the two sleeping girls. Next, tubes and needles were attached or inserted under their skin, and breathing masks were fitted to cover their faces. After the translucent lids were lowered over them a mist began to fill their containers, and the robot come to a half, its duty finished.
         The pregnant alien looked at them for a moment and their capsules began to rise in the air and float toward her globe. When they reached the sphere they halted, resting against the glass. The alien closed her eyes in concentration. The capsules were slowly absorbed to through the glass. Their movement stopped on either side of the alien. She looked down and studied their faces through the lids and the masks they wore and she let herself marvel at their beauty and fragility. They were indeed special, but so different from her race, so solid. How they occupied the space they inhabited she mused, and then, with a gentle nudge from her mind, she sent Meryl's pod toward the door and watched it pass through. She looked down at Milly's sleeping form, lingering over her features. The alien held up a palm and called forth a slender strand from a pocket of time. It was a precious gift indeed, unheard of in her race. The spiritual leader of their people had "watched" the time streams along with her and offered a strand of her being for the girl known as Milly. The only explanation given was "She is near kin. Give this to her unawares. It will blend with her and only boost what she already has." When questioned further, the great being had only turned and re-entered the Resting Place of Many Stars.
         The second capsule with its precious human content floated through the door until the female alien was left alone.
         She turned her attention to the construct and it began to melt back into the floor as if it had never been.
         Then, she angled her head and threw her thoughts in a search upward to focus on the lone human travelling pod. For a few moments nothing seemed to be happening until the sand under the craft began to shake and stir. As the ground shook harder, the whole craft sank was soon swallowed up, with a solitary antenna wobbling before it too sank under to be covered by a sea of sand.
         Nothing was left to indicate that two young human women had once breathed, lived, and walked on this twin-sun planet.
         The female alien whispered, "Come to me little one." And the Glider's small power plant appeared next to her and was sent toward the door to be recognized and received.
         Cocking her head as a thought occurred to the alien, and with what a human could only describe as mischievous look crossing her face, she murmured, "Refuses to fall in love unless she is shot through the heart? Who can say what the sands will shift." She looked up and around her contemplating the devastation of that last battle and remembering those hectic, pain-filled days and the many lives lost. With an unfathomable look she turned her back on their last, lost outpost and approached the welcoming door and floated through.
         Upon her departure, the abandoned outpost completed one last mission, all components began emitting short beeps and thuds.. The machines and devices whirred, and a crescendo of a whistling soared in pitch reaching to level out at an ear piercing shriek. As one, machines, computers and devices began exploding or melting, sending off showers of sparks, or columns of smoke while lights flickered out. The sound of whirling and humming noises slowed down to fade away in the growing stillness of the empty chamber.
         And silence rested, filling emptiness as hushed as a forgotten burial tomb, the last final monument to proclaim "Here once reigned kings."

Epilogue: A Sandful of Questions

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