And then he could see, everything suddenly clear. Whoa. He spun and scanned, drifting and whirling. The size, the space, the design. Words of description escaped him…he had no reference points. His brain went numb, his skull an explosion of Big Bang awe.

     Forgetting where he was, he took a deep breath…and could think only one thing…


     Floating in place, Jake took in the scene. The sea a great inner orb distending in every direction, an aquatic panorama as cognitively disruptive as it was splendid to address. He could see no edges. No coastline. No skyline. Just water. A huge hugging sphere of oceanic PSI, deep marine hues set aglow by tracks of purple Bluuke oozing from the rocky spires that ran through the great sea.

     In the spans of water between the outcrops there were Eproxx; thousands, perhaps millions, interlinked with each other and twist-tied to the geology. An endless threaded collective, a root-pattern of beings and matrix of rock…the Omniproxx.

     With a blink of his new eye sheath, he steadied to examine the nearest Eproxx. Up close and without a protective spacesuit, the creature looked a little different than he expected. Its form struck him as vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t develop the thought beyond inkling. The head was as he remembered, of course—a crude gray blob—morphology that was clearly visible in the aquarium back on the Phantom. But the body-plan was lengthier than he thought and, aside from a bilateral sweep of tiny feelers, lacked arms or tentacles that he envisioned inside the spacesuit controlling the metal appendages.

     Treading water and gazing off into the deep, he knew there had to be a boundary out there somewhere, in the vastness beyond the winding swaths of Omniproxx and tumbleweed geology. He was somewhere inside Vruul, the immense inner sea of the planet. If he swam in a straight line in any direction he’d eventually arrive at the underside of the planet’s crustal shell. At least that’s what he assumed, based on how the Eproxx had explained it.  

Heeding the call of urgency, he finally pulled back across the event horizon of awe and checked on his troops. They were all there, right behind him, holding position yet clearly eager, seemingly tuned to his cues, as if waiting for instruction. There were a couple of fierce critters in the crew, but they seemed fine with deferring him the lead. And that was exactly what he was about to do—it was time to strike.

     Turning to face them, he found it a struggle to move. His limbs felt heavy and he strained, like he was wrapped in a straitjacket, or surrounded by quicksand. Not good. He tried to wave his arms and scissor his legs, and, with effort, his limbs began to flex freely. A gelatinous film had started to harden around his body in his immobility. A clear gummy substance, it now drifted off in refracting frags like space junk as he continued to bend and thrash.  

     It had to be some type of defense mechanism, a planetary antibody, an immunological response to infection. Looking closer at his team he could see the strange adhesive beginning to grip them too, the water around them growing still and silvered as ice crystals on a lake in the first winter freeze.

     Without a moment lost, he recoiled and surged ahead in a burst. The move twofold; to clear him from the glue and prompt his team to do the same. Pulling up he looked back to see them all break free and follow. Whew, they were okay…for now. No telling what else was out there waiting to defend or deflect their assault. It was not something Jake was about to spend time pondering. He had work to do, they had work to do, he mentally amended.

     Allowing his marines to gather, he hovered in the water column to face them. He nodded and vocalized a trill in the water—pregame praise. He opened the bag of trash and freed it into the water column. Kicking his legs like an eggbeater the freshly liberated debris began to scatter. Innately grasping the strategy, his aquatic army began to swim through the drifting mass to aid in its dispersal. As the trash spread through the sea, the Omniproxx seemed to react, the local network flinching and flashing in reflex. All good.

     This was not a job Jake relished. He took no joy in killing or unleashing mayhem. But it was a necessity, in this case, a legitimate call to arms. Dissatisfying as it was, it had to be done. His primary allegiance to his planet and people. He had to protect his home.

     Before giving the order to attack Jake surveyed the sea once again, spinning gyroscopic to take in every direction. He saw no horizon, sensed no up or down. He saw no tactical advantage to a launch in any specific direction. His air still seemed good, but he assumed he’d eventually need to find a portal to the surface where he could breathe.

     Okay Jake let’s do this, he self-talked, levelling up to his crew. They were revved and ready, a lineup of thoroughbreds twitching at the starting gate. Issuing a nod and a whistle into the sea he then turned and took off. Charge! With no set script, he headed toward the nearest string of Omniproxx. He’d push in a straight line through the alien network as he led their assault, tearing a path of destruction through their ranks as he worked his way to the surface. Once he found the under crust, he’d shoot up through a portal to rest and breathe, maybe spyhop-spin and take in the landscape and local cosmos for a moment, then, refreshed, dive back and cut another tunnel of ruin through the alien network. A tactic he’d continue until he was sure the Omniproxx was too crippled to execute the final movement.  

     If successful, then maybe he’d try to find a way back home. At least that was the plan.

     Roaring up to speed he hit the first string of Omniproxx like a battering-ram. The cord snapped and retracted, the edges curling up, a puff of blood spritzing from the severed ends. The blood was greenish, likely the effect of red refracting through blue. Upon impact there was a shriek through the sea. A scream Jake could feel as much as hear, it was bristling, a cold offkey cry sudden as a snapped guitar string. 

    Pausing for a tick he looked back to see his team follow his lead and run through the thread, shredding the sector further. A concert of twanging screams ringing through the sea with each new gash. Sorry, he almost wanted to say, but I didn’t start this fight.

     For an instant Jake hovered motionless, felt a pang of remorse. Again, he had an odd moment of recognition as he studied the nearest Eproxx. The glistening lobed head, the snake-slender body, the bilateral sweep of centipede leg feelers. No, he whispered inwardly as the Eproxx twitched in pain, it couldn’t be.

     Shaking from the reverie, Jake turned and acknowledged his team. He shook his head and pushed back doubt. There was still much to be done, he needed to focus. With a wave of a flippered hand he spun to continue the attack, leading them into battle as they sliced their way through the planet Vruul.