This week’s sandbox assignment was to ghostwrite another classmate’s chapter 5. My mental reaction: “Wow! Really? That will be so fun!” followed by, “Oh my goodness — I’m going to butcher someone else’s plot!” I decided to try something outside of my normal style and pick up in Valari’s sci-fi plot. Because Valari had this great idea to password protect her chatper outline for her story, the only things I had to go by were her story analysis, her previous chapters (particularly chapter 4), and the chapter title she had posted (Zerrum Unveiled).
So, I feel like I really should apologize to Valari for my feeble attempt at recreating her world of Ogelzetrap. I know I didn’t come close to the amazing plot you have in mind for chapter 5. And I’m sure whatever Zerrum turn out to be will not be the things I made them. 🙂
Here is the link to her real chapter 5: Zerrats Unveiled.
Here goes nothing.
The hovercraft skimmed along the sandy frontier. I’m kinda good at driving this thing, Zack grinned inwardly, shifting the control a little to the left to skirt a dune.
“We’re getting close to the site, according to the reading,” Patrick looked up from the radar screen in front of him. He had not said much since they took off from the Tower fifteen minutes ago.
“So, we’re looking for a potential terrorist threat?” Zack questioned, trying to get Patrick in a better mood.
“Like I said, with no determined ruler yet in Ogelzetrap, we’ve got a vacuum of power. It’s the perfect time for the MZ to try and pull something off.” From the passenger seat, Patrick’s eyes followed the beige landscape in front of them as he replied.
Seeing her cousin did not intend to continue the explanation, Marla filled Zack in. “MZ stands for Monolithical Zerastulytes.”
“Thank goodness it’s abbreviated!” Zack interjected in mock relief.
Patrick turned to look out the side window. Marla bit her lip; “Please, he’s not in a good mood – don’t make comments now” her look pleaded. “Anyways,” she continued. “It’s a powerful terrorist organization that’s been toying with ISA on the northern border for a while. They have their base over in the western part of the Red Mountain range in a rock fortress of sorts.”
“Hence the ‘monolithical’ part?” Zack surmised.
“Yes,” Marla nodded. “And the ‘Zerastulytes’ comes from—”
“Zack – stop” Patrick sat up straight.
“Alright,” Zack said defensively, glancing sideways at Patrick. Shouldn’t he be picking on the one talking?
“No! I mean the hovercraft!” Patrick reached over to grab the gear shift from Zack.
“Hey!” Zack’s fight response superseded its flight counterpart.
As the vehicle lurched abruptly to a standstill, Patrick pointed towards the horizon in front of them. “Don’t you see that?”
Marla leaned up between the two men in the front seat. She inhaled sharply. Zack looked from Patrick to Marla to the view out the front windshield, trying to piece together what he saw with the reactions.
“How many do you think there are?” Marla’s serious tone addressed her cousin.
“I can’t say,” Patrick responded. “I’d say maybe two, though there could be more if there’s any in the canyon.”
“Is it the Zerastulyte people?” Zack’s curiosity piqued.
“It’s Zerrum – the MZ crawlers.” Patrick’s low voice communicated that this was no time to be sarcastic.
All Zack observed were a couple brown lumpish things out by a gully several hundreds of feet away. “So there’s terrorists over there?”
“Mhm,” Marla nodded, her neon yellow hair moving up and down. “Usually about two or three MZ per crawler. They use those things for spy movements or for transporting stuff, um, inconspicuously.”
“Marla,” Patrick turned to her. “You have your scythe? We need to check this out and report to headquarters.
“Zack – We need to get this thing out of sight. Can you take the hovercraft behind those cliffs over there – without being obvious?”
“Well, thanks for the compliment.’” Zack looked skeptically at Patrick. “I’m not quite the hothead you take me for.”
The steel side of Patrick’s face was toward Zack, and his single red eye showed no expression. “Okay, then do it. Marla, you and I will get out to investigate once we’re out of sight.”
Putting the hovercraft back into forward, Zack arced the vehicle left, gliding neatly behind a tower of beige strata, and parked it. “Not so bad, huh, captain?”
“Fine,” Patrick briefly acknowledged Zack. “Remember: You are staying in the hovercraft while Marla and I check this out. Do not come out under any circumstances. Do not make any noise. Do not attract any attention to yourself. Got it?”
Zack simply met Patrick’s gaze.
“We’ll radio you if we need you to bring it around or something,” Patrick concluded, opening the hatch and jumping over the side. Marla followed him, and the two slipped around the cliff and out of Zack’s sight.
“And the ISA thinks that naïve little prince is going to somehow prevent these intergalactic terrorists from taking over once he’s king.” Zack chuckled to himself as he pulled the hatch closed. “He couldn’t wield a razor, much less a scepter – or a sword or a scythe or whatever they use here.”
For a few minutes, Zack sat silently in the hovercraft, wondering how much farther Tedge had gotten on the portal. He only had a little more than a week left before the Blue Moon lined up at the precise measurements necessary to create the time warp and get him back home to planet Earth. That lab in Houston seemed so far away and insignificant from here.
He heard a fuzzy crackling and then a voice. “Zack? It’s Patrick. There’s more than two Zerrum down here. There’s about three dozen in this ravine. Look’s like we’ve uncovered a base of sorts.”
Zack ran his finger up and down the small control panel. Marla had not gotten as far as showing him where the radio was in the hovercraft.
“Zack? Are you there?” Patrick tried again. “If you can hear me, hold down the red button by the speaker and say something.”
Following the sound, he located a red button next to a small speaker. “Of course, a red button,” Zack remarked cynically. “This is probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, but here goes.” He held the bit of color down and leaned towards the control panel. “Testing, testing. Patrick? Can you hear me?”
“Zack, can you radio Tedge? My handheld signal isn’t going to reach that far. Channel Tango Galaxy 56731. Tell him—”
Crackling cut in, and then silence. Zack waited a few moments. Maybe Patrick would call back in. Nothing happened. “Well, I guess I can try and call Tedge – if this radio is cooperative. Sci-fi technology,” he muttered, analyzing the display of buttons in front of him. He found a selection of letters and numbers. “Tango Galaxy 56731, I think,” he repeated, punching in the appropriate characters. Zack pushed the red button down. Again, nothing happened. He experimented a little with the sequence of events, trying to determine which order to make the call happen.
Abruptly, the droid’s voice cut in. “Patrick? Tedge speaking.”
Zack’s finger slammed the red button. “Tedge – this is Zack. Patrick and Marla are down investigating the MZ activity they picked up. Apparently there’s more going on than they expected. I think Patrick needs to contact you, but he said his handheld radio wasn’t going to reach you.”
“Zack?” Tedge’s voice seemed to be growing fuzzier. “Did Patrick say—” Crackling and silence overrode the speaker’s message.
“What amazing luck!” Zack exclaimed. “Would they really both cut out within a few minutes of each other? Maybe the signal’s just not great out here.” He scanned the bleak skyline. “Or maybe,” he furrowed his brow suspiciously, “this terrorist base has something to do with it.” His lips forming a resolute line, Zack reached down to the gear stick and shifted it forward. The hovercraft vaulted out of its hiding place.