Author: Rick Tobin

“In regione caecorum rex est luscus.”

Captain Robert Cunningham screamed at his weasel-faced brother-in-law, grasping Milo’s uniform tight against his scrawny pale neck, slamming him against their spaceship’s bridge wall. “You assaulted the sleeping Cetan girl!”

“Back off, Bobby. Wouldn’t want sis to divorce your ass… if we get back.” Lieutenant Surpo strained his soft hands, pushing back his attacker.

“You idiot! You were a last-minute add-on to avoid your death sentence for pedophilia on Mars. Damn your family influence! I thought I could contain you with only men aboard, and the Cetan guarded…but now…it’s too late. I won’t be able to tell anyone why the mission failed. They’ll suspect Mercury Retrograde terrorist cells. That means war!”

Surpo straightened his shirt while feigning superiority. “So what? She’s an alien— no eyes, can’t hear or speak. Nobody’s going to know if you keep your mouth shut. I’ve been on this wreck for six months going through Oort Cloud ice, wondering if we’d get crushed. I needed the R&R. Now back off! Remember your birth class, brother-in-law. You married up, remember?”

“If I had time to eject you out an airlock, I would, but she’ll take care of that.”

“She’ll what?” Surpo’s wide-eyed questioning stopped. Men’s cries of agony filled the ship’s intercom. “What the hell?”

“That’s forty brave men dying because of you.” Cunningham pointed at the speakers, pushing Surpo back against the scorching wall. “That Cetan guide was our ticket for humans to voyage through the fiery plasma barriers around our solar system that’s keeping us out of deep space travel. She guided me telepathically through frozen Oort reefs, but you had no need to know. Years ago, I lived with Ait Haddidu Berbers on Earth; learning ancient dialects Cetans used millennia ago when they last visited. I was the only one trained for first contact. Only I could interpret her telepathic directions. My life…a waste, for what? So my sister’s criminal brother could cause billions of deaths in a conflict between Mercury and Saturn? They’ll blame all this on me— a lower-class defective.”

“Who cares? What’s happening? Those screams?” Surpo struggled to free himself, still pinned by Cunningham to a scorching panel against his back.

“You’ll know soon enough. She wasn’t some longhaired teenage victim like those you tortured on Mars. No, she’s on loan from a superior race. She’s over ten thousand years old. She was in stasis, in dormancy, providing peaceful intent to us unless assaulted. The Cetans once aided Libyans in battle in ancient history. No army stood before them. That’s why Greeks named Cetan warrior women ‘Protectors.’ They tested us on this voyage. Could we evolve beyond our violent ancestors? No, we failed, thanks to you.”

Cunningham choked in thick gas clouds filling the room as he yelled over the horrific cries for help echoing around him.

“Feel the heat on the wall? It’s from a quarter-million degrees Kelvin melting our ship. We’re off course in the plasma barrier. This blue smoke billowing from our ventilation, that’s hull liquefying…but you won’t die that easy.”

Cunningham looked away as bright sapphire flashes rushed past his shoulders. He watched his in-law morph into a scorched skeletal statue, oozing from blistering laser fire. The Captain felt light breezes and heard light flapping sounds from behind him, wafting toxic blue haze about, knowing her dreadful eye was open, above her winged shoulders. He was last to fall from the gazes of the Cetan Medusa, her telepathic pineal gland flailing snakelike from her forehead, fulfilling her role as guardian of the Ring Pass Not.