In the last chapter Imperial Princess Taegan, Galacteer Commander Lightyear and Space Pirate Captain Woz managed at last to reach the Imperial Watch-station in the Draco system to try and warn the great powers of the galaxy that prominent commanders were being replaced by pod-people clones as part of a sinister Zenithian plot, while strange devices on the planet Dormientes Draco were causing the star Draco to turn into a black hole threatening the whole galaxy. They arrive to find the crew of the station all dead and then Captain Woz abandons them marooning them on the station and intending to send Pirates to pick them up to ransom back to their own people! But while they try to repair the stations communication systems to call for rescue strange eyes are watching them from hiding…
Princess Taegan and Commander Lightyear, both now armed with ray pistols after Lightyear recovered one from the holster of a deceased imperial crewman and wearing Imperial space-suits they took as soon as they found them, made their way through the cramped and small stations claustrophobic pie-slice shaped rooms, short corridors and ladders to reach the point the analog systems determined the communication systems circuit fault was. Just a short distance from the reactor rooms output junction. Their passage was tense, making as much haste as they could but wary of any sign of the threat that had killed so many so very recently, moving as quietly as possible in the nearly-total silence of the empty station over metal grill walkways and floors, their breathing and footfalls seeming deafeningly loud above the faint thrum of the stations reactor. Having abandoned the weak illuminators of the Zenithians for sturdy Imperial ones still it seemed almost like the darkness was hungry, absorbing, draining, devouring the light so that it seemed to fade where it should have shown crisp sharp shadows. Despite the sealed suits the mind quickly filled in the smell of oil and fear as their lights swooped and slid over metal grills and rails and riveted panels glinting moistly in the humid darkness.
At last they turned the corner to the junction box, pistols drawn and at the ready, to find another tale of woe. A crewman’s body still standing, still clutching the metal axe with which he had cut the circuit, an Imperial knife still buried in his shoulder and at his feet the body of another Imperial soldier who had died from an axe blow apparently in the act of trying to stop them from cutting the circuit.
“What could possibly have happened here?” murmured the bewildered Princess.
“Revolution? Insurrection? Mutiny?” suggested Lightyear softly.
“While I’d doubt it on principle among Imperial crew it just doesn’t look like two sides in the levels above. More like everyone was fighting everyone.”
The princess carefully edged past the body, still carrying dangerous current, and to the junction box where she shut down that circuit so that Lightyear with the reverence due a fellow sentient creature could remove him and the other and lay them down to the side like the brothers in arms they once had been before they had turned on one another.
They set themselves to repairing the circuit quickly and simply, so in a short while they began making their way back to the control centre.
“That scoundrel Woz may have taken out the signal booster but it will still only take minutes for a signal to reach any Imperial craft within the nearest 3 planet’s orbits. We still have a good chance the Empire will get here before any pirates.”
“Yes but he may know something we don’t. I’m still going to be prepared for anything.”
As they climbed the ladder up to the next level strange malevolent eyes watched them from behind, and followed them.
It let them go to the communications panel, it let them prepare to activate the radio, it wanted them to get a signal out. But it didn’t want a message of any detail.
The Princess flicked a series of switches and turned a dial, the radio hummed and hissed with some solar static as it came to life, the needle showing that a signal was transmitting. The Princess went to hook the microphone of the spacesuit she was wearing to the radio.. and suddenly it all hissed with a big burst of static then went dead.
“Blast! What’s happened now?”
“Another circuit must have been damaged and the fuse overloaded and burnt out from the load. It should be even easier to fix. I’ll start tracing the fault.” The princess took up the little wires and connectors and opened the access panel of the console once more when both heard the impossible. The sound of someone getting unsteadily to their feet when all others in the room were the corpses of the dead! They both whirled around but Lightyear was more ready, he aimed his Imperial pistol and the torch to see one of those that had seemed quite assuredly dead standing up and moving towards them.
“We mean you no harm, we will give you what medical attention we can. Hold still as moving may make your injury worse.” Lightyear lowered the weapon and moved cautiously and as non-threateningly as he could towards the suddenly risen Imperial casualty, who responded by slowly plucking the knife out of his own seemingly bloodless body and taking slow steps towards the commander. “Drop the weapon! Drop the weapon or I Fire” cried lightyear, the pistol aimed right at the heart of the impossible form before him. The casualty lunged, Lightyear pulled the trigger.. but no ray shot forth! At the last moment Lightyear bludgeoned the lunging cadaver with the butt of the gun, felling it and he kicked the knife skidding across the room.
“Why didn’t you shoot?” shouted the Princess.
“I did, it didn’t fire!” He checked the charge indicator “Drained! It was fine before!”
The Princess cheeked her own. “Mine too, knives it is. That’s why they all died from knife wounds”
“Yeah but what started it all?”
They whirled around and around as from all directions the sounds of the dead rising to their feet brought terror to their hearts.
“It’s just not possible!”
“In a big universe Princess there’s not much I’d call impossible.. but even I would have listed this amongst them.”
And then, the fight was on. The princess with a knife in each hand left her torch on the panel, trained as she was in fighting by the witch-women of the temple of Ishtanna deep in the darkest parts of the ever-night witch-fire lit shadow shrouded forests of the Moon of Eth landing precise incapacitating blows as lethal shots seemed likely to do little to a walking corpse. Lightyear however with his years of service and exploration on high gravity worlds landed mighty sledgehammer blows with his fists and the things he punched stayed punched. They had to keep mobile so as not to be pulled down by the weight of numbers as lifeless yet mobile leering body after body stabbed and grabbed and lunged at them till they lost sight of each other in the little light afforded by the torch left sitting on the panel and the little shaft of light held in one of Lightyear’s clenched fists.
Till just as the Princess thought she had her enemies licked one launched a swift blow right for her head which she only barely avoided. She went to drive her blades into the attackers primary arm muscles when it grabbed her wrists and pulled the blows past so that she ended up almost in a hug… it was a move she’d only seen once before, requiring split-second timing and perfect control. It was how Lightyear had survived his first encounter with her in the caverns of Yo-go!
She looked up, and the face that a moment before was a dead Imperial soldier was now Lightyear’s within an Imperial sealed helmet. He looked down at her, his arms around hers once again, his having passed once more within a tiny fraction of measurement from bladed death at her hands, grateful that he realised from the two-bladed attack that it was her. Then they looked around… at a room full of the dead back where they had been at the start, at several ray-blast scorches on the walls that hadn’t been there before, and at a glimpse of a strange almost jellyfish like bulbous and tendriled silhouette that disappeared round the corner.
“Brain Parasites!” they cried in unison, stepping back away from each other, though Lightyear kept one hand on her arm.
“No sign yet of Larvae which normally attack first, just an Adult. I’ve never faced these. Have you?” asked Lightyear.
“No. No I have not.” replied the Princess.
“Know how to fight them?”
“No, do you?”
“That wasn’t the answer I was hoping for. No so far the only thing the Galacteers have thought of is using Robots. No brainwaves for them to manipulate.”
“Where’s Queen Mechanika when you need her” joked the Princess bringing a short barking laugh from Lightyear.
“So what do we do? We can’t trust any of our own senses.”
“Actually… I might have an idea, but first you must not think about a blue monkey!”
“You heard me Galacteer. A blue monkey. Don’t think about one!”
“What’s a blue monkey got to do with any of this? Who ever even heard of Blue Monkeys? What planet are they even from?”
“You’re thinking of one now aren’t you! I told you not to think about a Blue Monkey and you go ahead and start asking me questions about Blue Monkeys. You haven’t got the hang of the ‘don’t think about’ thing do you?”
“But it’s patently ridiculous. Why tell me not to think about something that I would never have thought of in a billion years had you not suggested it to me? Of course it’s the first thing I’ll start thinking about. The whole idea is quite preposterous.”
“You are just lacking willpower and have too much imagination Galacteer. And I’m not going to explain myself to you. Especially not now. I need to tell you something, a story I learned in my youth that might hold the key to our survival. But if you don’t want to live you go right on thinking about a blue monkey and kill us both.”
“Ok ok, tell me the story, just stop mentioning blue monkeys every 2 seconds and maybe I’ll get them out of my head!”
So, the two with weapons drawn, Lightyear with one hand on the Princesses arm, stood amidst the control panel in a room of death as the Princess related the tale.
“In ancient times the people of the Empire lived on just one world, which they called Nibiru, though that’s not its name now, and they were not one people of many different forms as they are now but were many people of one form with just a few little differences between one another.”
“Is this a children’s tale? This is sounding like a children’s tale.” Interrupted Lightyear.
“Shoosh and you might get a cookie when I’m done. Besides, yes it’s a children’s tale but that doesn’t matter, the poetry is quite beautiful in my language and I have to simplify it to get it into the mangled awkward tongue you speak.”
“Alright alright, leave the insults out of it. But there better be a cookie and it better be chocolate-chip”
The Princess laughed softly despite attempting not to, and held up a shooshing finger. “The people were not united, but lived in little enclaves where they fought over river water and farmland and precious metals or the way each other wore their hair. They tried giving everyone a say in what was done but people just turned on one another even more. Having been taught to dislike each other’s little differences and squabble over every coin or loaf of bread or field of land led to more wars and more hate and grudges that lasted generations. At long last after countless centuries like this one man rose up who was bothered by all this hate and bloodhsed. And he travelled from place to place to try and learn why man hated his neighbour, woman her neighbour, why they fought and bickered. In his travels he heard of one person more hated than all the rest. An old woman who had been driven out from every city into the deepest jungle. So he said ‘I will go and see why this old woman is so hated. If I can see why someone is most hated of all it will show me what the source of hate is’.”
“Hey I like this guy. What’s his name?”
“Shhhh! You’ll see.”, she cleared her throat, her gaze still travelling around the room periodically ever alert to the threat that loomed over them both. “And he travelled for many days deep into the jungle hearing from all he encountered how wicked and cruel and evil the old woman was and how she deserved such painful degrading deaths, and all the while he wondered what she could have done to earn such hatred but when asked none could tell him. Finally he reached a little hovel under a tree that looked barely large enough for a child and that might collapse at any moment. He went in to ask about the old woman, for such was her reputation for wickedness he expected to find her in a mighty fortress built out of the skulls of children she’d eaten! But inside the run-down hovel he found the old woman who admitted her name. He had found her.”
“What was her name?”
“You couldn’t even pronounce it.”
“Let me try.”
“It was In’i’i’^kod’*”
“Inie-eye, inie,-eye (he cleared his throat) ko, doch?”
The Princess sighed, “I told you you couldn’t pronounce it. Now focus on the story and whatever you do..”
“Don’t say it! I won’t, I won’t!”
“Well the little old lady asks ‘Why have you come to visit me? Have I outlived my welcome even of the empty jungle? Is there some new place to drive me further away from the cities?’ and he says ‘No, I come not to harm you, just to learn why others hate you that I may discover why there is strife and war and hatred of each other.’ ‘Ah young man, well that I can indeed tell you. Though I don’t think you’ll like what you hear.’ ‘I do not like what I heard from people speaking about you as I came here, if I can understand it maybe I can change it.’ ‘Very well. But first I must introduce you to my magical friend.'”
“Seriously?” Interjected Lightyear, “Magic?”
“Shhh… listen.” said the princess before beginning again and sitting to rest on the edge of the console, “And the little old woman called up into the tree and down the tree came a blue..”
“Oh you are surely kidding me. A blue monkey? After you told me not to think about one?”
“I said listen! Our lives might depend on it. And I said whatever you do stop thinking about a blue monkey! It could be a blue anything, a blue parrot, a blue rhinoceros! Let me tell the story!” she leant on her right hand on the control panel in exasperation as she spoke.
“A blue rhinoceros, up a tree? We are having our minds manipulated by a big floating thing that reads and projects brain-waves the way we breathe in and out air so it can make us kill each other and you are insulting my suspension of disbelief with talk of Tree Rhinoceri? And can’t you just skip to the relevant point, we are in deadly peril after all.”
“I’ve seen a tree rhinoceros foolish earthling. And no there’s important elements that can’t be skipped over and I’m skipping as much as I can as it is. Now where was I?”
“Yes, so down the tree comes a big blue monkey.”
“I knew it! I knew it! How am I supposed to not think about something when you keep saying it?”
“It’s called willpower Lightyear and you need more of it.”
“But why don’t you change it to a green Vyper-bat or something?”
“You’ll understand by the end. Shhh!” Again she cleared her throat, her eyes dancing around the room of shadow-shrouded corpses looking for signs of the disembodied cerebral fiend and her grip tight on the ray-pistol. “Now the old lady says, this is my magical friend the Blue Monkey. And while I talk to you you must not look at or think of him. Well you know how he reacts because you’ve been saying exactly the same things he said, but she is insistent that he follows the rules if he is to get the answer he seeks. She starts. ‘I am hated because I can see clearly something others cannot. I see the great enemy. All our attempts at building order, the great ziggurats, the walled cities, the irrigated fields, the laws and rules have at their heart a great flaw. A Chaos! ‘So as he keeps trying not to look at the blue monkey or think about the blue monkey it sits on the table right in front of him and starts peeling a gourd-fruit. ‘A chaos?’ he asks, ‘Yes a great chaos. A hidden force that knows the secret thoughts in the minds of any person, and sends agents in the night to keep brother turned on brother, to spread lies and whispers and fan the flames of hate in people’s hearts. In time people hear things enough that they come to think them themselves and believe them.’ and here the blue monkey began to search it’s fuzzy blue pelt for fleas! The man had to pull his eyes off the Blue Monkey with the greatest strength of will. ‘So it is these agents who spread lies and teach hate?’ ‘Oh yes’ replied the little old woman, ‘though men and women being men and women they soon started doing the work of chaos for it only needing a little tending now and then by the shadowy agents that move through the night.’ and at this she started patting the Blue Monkey and again he had trouble taking his eyes away from it.”
“If I didn’t know better I’d say you are just trying to win the argument from earlier about politics!”
“No, I’m not. But this does have some bearing on that subject that’s not why I’m telling you this story. Now get the Blue Monkey out of your head and listen!”
“But I wasn’t even..” he started to protest and then realised that actually, he had been thinking about that damned blue monkey! He’d been imagining it inside his memory being on the controls of the saucer with Woz while they were arguing! What the heck was all this about anyway.
“So the man asks ‘How then little old woman did you of all the wise and clever people of the world learn of all this?’ ‘Why I just never hated anyone. Whether good to me or bad, whether I liked them or not I never once hated. And so I started seeing more and more the agents of the night. Oh they were always disguised, always cleverly so, but I learned to see in their eyes that they lied when they hated, they spread hate but they only acted hateful themselves.’ ‘I see’ ‘Do you?’ ‘I believe so’ ‘You poor man, for now you too will be hated. For when they saw that I would not, could not, hate they then made sure that no-one would listen to me, and made me the target of as much hate as they could, telling horrible lies till even my own family drove me from our farm, and then from the city was I driven, and then from place to place till I left far behind all people in the world.’ ‘There must be a way to stop them! To undo what they have done’ he said, banging the table so much the blue monkey leapt through the air and landed on his head!”
“And when he reached up to get the blue monkey off his head the little old lady said ‘Stop looking at or thinking about the Blue Monkey!’, ‘But he is on my head!’ the man cried, ‘but the enemy can know thoughts, you may be strong, you may be a great warrior or brilliant general, but if you cannot even keep your thoughts away from the Blue Monkey however do you think you can keep out the Chaos?’ And the man saw the truth of this and tried harder and harder to ignore the blue monkey as the woman kept speaking. ‘Chaos I name it for it uses our attempts to create order and turns us against each other.’ and the Blue Monkey tipped the mans helmet off his head, ‘Where the strong could defend the weak instead they trample them, where the clever could teach and guide the foolish instead they connive and rob them’ and at this the Blue Monkey started searching the mans hair for fleas, though there were none, causing his skin to crawl and itch terribly, still he kept trying to hear only her voice and become unaware of the Blue Monkey sitting on his head. ‘I only guess at the place of the source of the Chaos, though I did notice that my encounters with the agents seemed most frequent in the great mountains.’ ‘Then I must go there and defeat this Chaos!’ ‘Did you manage to stop thinking about the Blue Monkey?’ ‘No, I admit I have not.’ Then if I were you I would not go, for they will know you are coming and will know your every action before you take it.’ ‘Still I must try, even if I die. Besides, now that I know I will be hated too, and driven out of any place I might do good, so what point is there in living unless I at least strive to make the lives of others better?'”
“Not sure I agree with that reasoning but I agree with the last bit.”
“Shhh!, now the man went back the way he had come, and everywhere he went people tried to tell him that the little old woman was a liar, a deceiver, out to turn him against himself. But he saw in their eyes that they were lying. And everywhere he went he saw more and more as if his eyes opened more and more to let more sight in. By the time he got home the lies about him had already started. His aged parents berated him for things he had not done. The authorities tried to try him for crimes he had not committed, friends even spat on him. But one friend listened to no lies, his loyal Sirrush, which Galacteer is a great golden and horned riding-dragon. And he took up his armour and his weapons and headed for the mountains. But as he travelled he tried and tried to put out of his head one thing. That Blue Monkey. And the more he tried the harder it became, till he forgot why he was traveling into the mountains and only that he was going up a long winding path trying desperately to fight off the Blue Monkey in his head. Finally he grew too close for their liking and the agents of Chaos attacked him directly with arrows and swords. But they were just men and the man was a great and skilled warrior and he fought them off, and even while fighting he had trouble thinking of anything else except the old woman’s blue monkey.”
Again Princess Taegan looked around the room, feeling sure she was being watched, her eyes saw nothing changed though eyes could be fooled, still she continued her tale.
“The man fought his way up into the mountains into an ancient time-worn city that had been long forgotten by the people of Nibiru. And in the centre of the city was a great crumbling temple, and in the centre of the temple there was stairs that led down, and at the bottom of the stairs there was a cavern. And all the time the man tried hard to be rid of the blue monkey, but it was so bad that he could see in his mind’s eye that blue monkey walking alongside him, riding with him into battle, exploring the caverns with him. And at the heart of the caverns on a great mound of jewels the size of a palace lay a great and ancient Gryphon, as golden as the Sirrush that the man had ridden on, and on the head of the gryphon sat a great circlet with a shining gem, and the Gryphon spoke, because unlike normal animals especially gryphons this one could, and it said ‘I am Anzu, the Chaos Beast, I see all and I hear all and I know all. Why have you come to me?’ and the man said ‘If you see all and hear all and know all then you would know why I have come to you. How is it you can know all and yet not know that?’ this enraged Anzu the Chaos Beast who said ‘I demand you tell me why you came here! And the man felt like something was trying to claw into his head to reveal his thoughts, but that just reminded him of the blue monkey sitting on his head, knocking off his helmet, and he replied ‘I am but a man but I know that you cannot know everything if there is but one thing you do not know, cannot see everything if there is one thing you cannot see. And I will not tell you what you demand to know, for in not telling you you will never be all-knowing and I will have taken that title from your list!”
Lightyear whistled in appreciation, wrapped up in the story the Princess told and told well, and lost track of everything around them.
“That was more than the giant talking gryphon Anzu could bare, and he tried to fly down from his palace sized mound of jewels, but the gryphon had sat there since the crumbling city above was young and new and his wings had lost their strength, so down tumbled the great gryphon, larger than any gryphon that had ever lived, but even with uncounted years sitting atop the jewels, even with it’s strength wasted away still the gryphon was stronger than any gryphon that had ever lived and it nearly killed the man. But it was used to knowing where a man sought to strike but it could not see the thoughts of the man whose mind was filled with a Blue Monkey on his head. Then so distracted by the man the gryphon failed to see the attack of the man’s dear friend, the silent Sirrush, who coiled about the great gryphon, even though the gryphon clawed his ribs and tore at his throat with its beak. And the man leaped upon Anzu the Chaos Beast and struck and struck with his sword, but some dark magic made every wound close as soon as it was made. The loyal Sirrush held on and on despite getting more and more hurt, and the man kept on striking in different ways, trying to find a way to defeat the beast. He cut it’s throat but the wound closed again, he stabbed it’s eye but the eye was whole again. At last he struck the circlet and it fell from the gryphon and the gryphon became tame, just an animal again. And the man took the gryphon and used it to carry his poor wounded Sirrush to a healer, and while he was scarred and lame still he lived out his days well, rewarded for his loyalty and bravery. Without the Chaos Beast the world started to learn to cooperate again, and determined to end the fighting and have peace the man became a leader and showed everyone that there were none wiser than he and so they made him the ruler of the whole world. And sitting on his throne with his old friend beside him he was visited by the old lady and he asked her ‘why did you tell me not to think of a blue monkey?’ and she said ‘because thoughts are like quicksand, you move gently and you pass through them, you fight against them and they fight back just as strong, and you needed a mind too full for Anzu to see what you intended with your heart.’ and he saw the wisdom of this, and his eyes opened all the way, and his mind’s eye opened and was a new third eye on his forehead. And that is the story of how Marduk the man became Marduk the all-seeing Man-God. NOW LIGHTYEAR, BEHIND YOU! STRIKE!”
Lightyear spun around, noticing for the first time how cold the room had got from the humid warmth when they arrived, how a layer of frost was formed of the misty moist air, and behind him rearing up was a great grey-brown-pink hued brain easily two feet across, with staring yellow malevolent eyes and great tendrils hanging down from it’s underside and drifting languidly behind it. The creature moved sluggishly, struggling with the cold, and the pulse in the veins of it seemed distressed. They leapt at it, still it could fight well, it moved aside just before he pulled the trigger and the rayburn was glancing. Once, twice, thrice they had to each check blows against it that might instead have struck the other as it dodged away at just the last moment. It fought with the Princess wrapping it’s tendrils round her wrists with great strength making it harder for her to strike. Then Lightyear decided to try something crazy, and paused for a moment to imagine a crazed rabid berserk blue monkey leaping on the huge brain scratching and biting!
The great pulsating brain reeled, it’s whiplike tendrils flailing, trying to fight off a monkey that was not there as the Princess plunged a knife deep into it and then burned a hole right through it with her ray-pistol. The great mind fell swiftly, slumped to the floor deceased.
Looking around Lightyear noticed that where the Princess had leant her hand on the panel was the climate controls, setting the stations heat to cold and pumping carbon dioxide to dangerous levels.
“You planned this all along didn’t you” he said accusingly.
“I couldn’t till I was already telling the story, so my thoughts would all be confused and yours would be full of the blue monkey.”
“Did you make that story up?”
“No, I did mix up some pieces of more than one story together though, to keep my mind busy so it couldn’t tell one line of thought from another.”
“And the whole thing about the Gryphon secretly controlling your people till your father tamed it?”
“That’s part of our official history, I used to play in the tomb of Anzu the Tame as a child. Though father chuckled about how history is turned into legend when I asked him about it.”
“I don’t know how much of it I could believe.”
“That’s the point with legends, you don’t need to believe them, they aren’t about literal truth but are for conveying wisdoms in a good story. It was a lucky guess that the cold and low oxygen got to it in the end. I was counting on it, but then it showed up for a fight when it couldn’t keep the illusions up in our minds. It still could tell my every move, made it hard to hit till the cold finally got to it.”
“Oh Princess that wasn’t the cold, that was your damned Blue Monkey! I imagined it attacking the Brain Parasite and it went crazy as if actually attacked!”
“That’s brilliant! Mua-Ha-Ha-Ha-Haaaaaaa!”
“Not as brilliant as your plan. Still, how can we know that the thing we killed wasn’t just another illusion?”
“I guess we can’t, we just have to take the risk. Now let’s fix things before we freeze or our airtanks run out.”
The Princess started fixing the controls, and noticed there were several controls working now that hadn’t been before, or rather hadn’t seemed to, another illusion of the Brain Parasite. She started examining the astro-radar.
“There’s a battle in the system! And a ship close by! High radiation levels.. Space Pirates!”
Lightyear checked the Imperial ray-pistol, nearly fully charged as it should have been.
“I’m never going to forget that damn blue monkey story am I?”
“Then you’ll always be safe” she said with a wicked smile as the clang of a rocket docking rang through the station.
What will happen when the Space Pirates board the Watch-Station? Will the Princess be held to ransom? And what about Captain Atrius, Dr Axon and the dread plot of the Dino-man High Priest? Don’t dare miss the next exciting instalment of the thrilling Hydra Serial Waaaar Rooockeeet! The Missing Princess Chapter 13: Misfortune is Written In The Stars! Brought to you by the Planet Arous Law Enforcement Bureau, the Midwich School for Special Children and the Blue Monkey.