Author : Clint Wilson
They all swam around the giant vessel in wonder. If this worked their hive would easily become the most prominent of either the day or the night side. Their queen would be elevated to near godlike status, although it was Quetrum who had made it all happen.
He glowed proudly as he and several of the thinking council watched it inflate. Like all technology on their world, the vessel was organic and had been bred in a lineage of flying creatures able to go systematically higher and higher over generations. This one though, called Shaylala, was to be the first to actually leave the atmosphere. And because the original concept had been Quetrum’s he would of course be the first passenger.
The others wished him well as he swam toward the goliath where a porthole in the tough outer hide had suddenly opened. He swam inside and it immediately closed behind him. Then he was carried via a series of purposeful currents into the cockpit where an inner organ encased him in a protective cocoon.
Quetrum saw the others floating and waiting as Shaylala made transparent a small window of her skin so that he would be able to view all that took place. From this distance he could only imagine their wondrous looks as the vessel quickly inflated to more than a hundred times its resting size. Then the creature’s internal elemental factory began separating and expelling heavy gasses causing it to rise up and float away, a behemoth biological balloon.
Quetrum knew that reporter workers were already busy sending pulses via the great weed web to thousands of other hives around the globe. The bragging rights would be theirs and theirs alone.
He had flown before in Shaylala’s smaller ancestors, but never to these heights. Below he saw the expanding sea, and could still make out the many structures and tubes of his home hive below the waves. Then soon he saw the dark shapes of Brahier and Toksana Hives to the north and east. Never had he imagined that he would see all three hives of the state at the same time! But his excitement grew even more as the shore of the polar cap came into view and as the horizon began to curve until he could eventually almost see the entire dayside ocean. My, what would his grandqueen think if she were alive today? He couldn’t even imagine.
The inflated vessel was now stretched almost to full capacity as the stratosphere of the water planet thinned away to near nothingness. Quetrum braced himself, as he knew what was coming next. They required lateral movement in order for the experiment to be a complete success.
The creature’s elemental factory instantly released the chemical contents of one chamber into another and the jet plume was visible from the hives far below as Shaylala rocketed herself and her lone passenger into a single freefall orbit.
Quetrum took in the stars, clearer than he had ever seen them, and the beautiful jewel that was the planet below. As they crossed the nightside he wondered about all the dark dweller hives down there below the ice and imagined his distant cousins being terribly jealous of their accomplishment.
But alas, Shaylala had only enough fuel for one revolution so once back to the dayside they careened toward the home hive with massive skin parachutes slowing them all the way until finally they touched safely back down onto the waves near the swimming throngs of jubilant spectators.
Quetrum and Shaylala were the heroes; and for their people this was only the beginning.