A small, pinkish vine climbed the landing strut of the shuttle. It disconnected from the ground and hid in the mechanism for retracting the strut. When it came time for takeoff the vine went unnoticed. Once the lander was securely attached to the ship the vine searched for a way onboard. It had only a limited time before it died of exposure to hard vacuum, and barely found a way to activate the airlock in time. It shed the dead outer layers of its cells and searched for the pantry. It needed to gain strength for the next part of The Great Plan.
– – –
The Guardians of Humanity received a communication from Blavet. Henri Medakus read the message aloud to the rest of the council which consisted of mostly elves humans and dwarves with one Skravyn and one Salamen. There were two emris at the sides of the council seats, but they didn’t have their own place on the council.
“Attached are holos of the image before and after I mirrored and flipped it. It says the word life in thaumatish. Your warlockes can confirm of course. I wondered if it was a message about the planet or an enchantment as the source of the vivacity of the planet. I have sent the scans of the flora we found as well. Warlocke Blavet.”
One of the skravyn stood up and activated the holo viewer in the center of the table. Data and pictures presented themselves, revolving slowly.
One of the humans stood in surprise and concern. “Computer, transmit a message to the ISS Dominiot! Record: Scour your ship before jumping to warp! There may be a pink vine aboard!”
There was silence as the computer beeped a few times then responded. “The ISS Dominiot is in warp right now. Should I send them the message when they return from warp?”
The human sat down in dismay. “No, cancel message.”
“What’s wrong Mr. Aelfson?”
“Computer. Display info from my grimoire tablet and copy the information on display to the same folder. The code is one-zero-one-four-one-nine dash nine-three slash see ee en tee aiy you ar. Clear current display and show the contents of folder ‘Planet of Vines’.” There was a collective gasp as the new data appeared on the screen.
– – –
Blavet returned to the cockpit of the ISS Dominiot to relieve Janine of her shift. “Go get something to eat and some rest. You spent a long time running those language scans. I’ll go to warp as soon as the data transfer is complete.”
Licking one of her eyes with her long tongue Janine nodded. “Thanks captain. I need to give my eyes some rest. I’ll just down some food paste and strap into my bed.” She started to remove her harness when a chime went off. The file transfers were all complete. “Well, that was fast. We must’ve gotten an upgrade to the antenna too.” She refastened her straps. “Ready for warp, cap.”
“Yeah, I suppose we did.” Blavet sat in the copilot seat, strapped himself in, and then hit the ship comms. “Everyone, strap in. We’re going to warp.”
“Shast. Strapping into a crash seat.” Elinog’s voice came through the comm.
“Are you working on anything important?”
“No, just some corrosion.”
Allie’s voice came over the comm. “I’m in the hallway. Hold on a sec.” There was a short pause. “Okay, strapping in.”
“Alright going to warp in ten.” Blavet counted down then hit the big green button labeled warp. There was a moment that felt like they were being strung out like spaghetti which was usually followed by a lurch, but this time it was followed by a dead stop. Readouts started covering the viewscreen. Blavet’s tail started jolting back and forth. “Janine, tell me what these say!” He turned the shipwide comms back on. “Elinog, check the warp systems. Allie, get up here in case we need to pilot.” He shut the comms back off after getting the affirmatives.
Data rushed across the cockpit screens. Very quickly a spot opened for Blavet to see outside. He stared, slack jawed. His tail stopped moving, frozen in place.
A thumping sound came from the ladder as Allie entered the cockpit. She saw the view outside. “Shast. That looks like warp, but frozen over. Why aren’t we moving?”
“We are, at regular speeds.” Janine was trying to sound calm, but there was a slight quiver in her voice. “We’re not traveling at relativistic speeds, we’re traveling at sub-warp, but in warp space.”
“So, we’re in the very fabric of our universe?” Allie nudged Blavet’s shoulder causing him to break out of his stupor. “Hey, cap. Can you move? Janine’s still doing some scans and I need at the controls.”
Blavet’s tail fell to the ground and he got up out of the chair. “Yes, here. I’m going to go splash some water on my face and get a coffee pod. Anyone else need one?”
“A splash in the face? No, but coffee would be nice.” Allie sat down at the controls and started fiddling with the instrument panel. “Okay, so first things first. Let’s come to a full stop relative to this stuff.”
Blavet turned and made his way down the ladder to the small kitchen area. He went to the sink and splashed water on his face. He rubbed all three of his eyes, grabbed the coffee pods and went back up to the cockpit. “Here. I’m going to check on Elinog. Comm me if you find anything life threatening. I’d say important, but that’s everything in the data feed right now.”
Pulling her gaze away from the readouts for a moment Janine turned and nodded to Blavet. “Sure thing, captain. I’ll let you know if I figure out how to get us out of here. Judging by the readings we can’t just activate the warp drive and stutter back out.”
“That’s what the readings suggest. There was a stutter in the warp drive that killed the jump after we had made it.”
“Yeah, I’ll go get Elinog on that now.” Blavet jumped down to the hallway, ignoring the ladder. Once he was out of earshot he pulled out his grimoire tablet. “Grimoire, is there any connection to the council?”
There was a pause as it tried to connect then displayed a no signal icon followed by a message that was cut off. The message was timestamped as the split second before he hit the warp button.
The tablet played the first few milliseconds of the message before it was cut off. “Scour your ship befo-”
“Treeft!” Blavet cursed loudly and started running back to the warp bay. He tapped the comm command on his tablet. “Janine, use the sensors to do a life scan of the ship. There may be someone or something else aboard!”
“Yes, sir. Scanning now.”
“Elinog. Do not go into the warp bay without me. I’ll be there in three hops.”
“Captain, you’re not going to be able to help when you get down here. I was suited up to go into the warp bay and…well, I can’t open the door because the inner door is open.”
Blavet got to the back of the cargo bay and opened the door to the storage that connected to the warp bay. There was a red light above the door to the warp bay with flashing text underneath that read INNER DOOR OPEN.
Janine’s voice came over the comm. “This is weird. I’m reading a massive lifeform in the warp bay. I heard the inner door is open. Do you have visual?”
“I only see a black screen. Whatever’s in there seems to be covering the cams. They’re still connected.” Elinog pressed a few buttons on a console next to the door. “Sending you the feed.”
Blavet pulled down one of the crash seats and sat in it. He started to skim through his grimoire. He pressed the comm mute button on the wall with his tail and held it there. “Elinog, did I ever tell you about my family’s patron?”
“What?” Elinog was typing furiously at the console. “Oh, no you haven’t. Make it quick though. I need comms.”
“Well, it’s known as the tendril of madness. Basically, an ancestor of my father discovered a truth about the tendril of madness and that knowledge has been passed down since. It’s a little complicated, but the simplified version is if you are of the bloodline and know the secret you can become a warlock. The knowledge my ancestor found was that the tendril of madness exists not in a far-off realm, but instead in warp space. At the time he called it the space between, but that’s where we are now…stuck.”
Elinog paused at the keyboard. “Well, that doesn’t sound good. What exactly does the tendril of madness do?”
“It causes madness, of course. Another thing is that it’s children were lost and couldn’t find a way home. I don’t have a description of them here, but if the tendril of madness is a plant and not a tentacle…”
“Exactly.” Blavet pulled his tail off the comm mute.
“HEY! ARE YOU STILL THERE?!”
“Yikes. Yes, sorry. Captain wanted a side conversation real quick. Did you find anything?” Elinog returned to the console and resumed typing.
“Ok, so that massive life sign in the warp bay…it’s not one big one, it’s like twenty medium ones crammed up against each other.” Janine paused and sent the information to Blavet’s main tablet. “I don’t know what they look like, just that the equipment was able to differentiate them based on some signature. Also, it keeps marking them as plant forms, but they’re moving too much for that to make sense.”
“Well, we’ll find out soon. The inner door is closing.” Elinog turned to Blavet. “Suit up captain. We’re about to find out if you’re right first hand. I hope you’re wrong about these things.”
“I hope I’m wrong too.” Blavet pulled a rad suit from one of the lockers and started to put it on. He made sure the suit had a laser cutter then tossed one to Elinog. “Let’s hope we don’t need these.”