While searching for the missing link among the mammal life in planet Tartarus, Exobiologist Jules Rammis finds a lot more than what he was searching for among the great reptiles of this primal world. Deep beneath the surface, a spectacular culture of intelligent life forms quietly roams the sunken seas.
After walking into the lair of a demented member of the species, out to destroy humankind and intending to use Jules as his weapon, our protagonist finds himself in a battle against an enemy with staggering telepathic powers and the ability to destroy whole worlds, even Earth. Will he prevail, or succumb when pitted against these impossible odds?
Christine Saynes knelt in the sand and carefully brushed pebbles from the curve of exposed bone in her dig site. She swallowed hard, refused to acknowledge the queasiness in her stomach as the face emerged. Nothing native to this primordial world of Tartarus bore such a high, thin-walled brain case. Her trembling fingers traced broken slits that formed a grinning “V” through a mouthful of sand. An extinct intelligent species? “Lord,” she whispered, “wouldn’t that be a find!”
Humans and other aliens had lived on the red planet they named Tartarus for over forty Earth years. They’d worked together at the scientific institute in Cape Leone, and done thousands of field studies. No one had ever stumbled on anything like this skull! She sat back. “What are you?”
The skull, more than twice the size of a human’s, lay on its left cheek as though cocked to listen. She ran her tongue over her dusty lips and turned up the lantern. Stark shadows lit the skull’s grisly features. Differentiated teeth, evolved for grasping and grinding, seemed ready to clamp down. On what? “Are you really extinct?” she said, and glanced at the reassuring sight of her lit tent on the crest of a close hill.
sun sank red through mist behind Purgatory Canyon. Twin moons etched sandstone pinnacles into crimson blades.
A sudden whisper through dry weeds.
Christine started. She thought she heard her name called. She ran a hand across her forehead. It had been foolish to wander so far from the field party. The jagged peaks were silhouetted now in darkness. Wind moaned and dragged across her bare arms.
Christine, came a whisper, more a pressure against her mind.
“What? Who is it?” She stood. “Who’s there?”
Dead weeds rustled.
She picked up the lantern, touched the pendant around her throat and closed her hand over the figure of the ChristLotus crucified on the Tree of Enlightenment. Someone from the field party playing games? “Stanley, damn you! Is that you, Stan?”
The ground beneath her suddenly lurched. She gasped and flung out an arm for balance. Rocks bounced down. The quaking earth shook her to her knees. She dropped the lantern. My God, earthquake! she thought. Her breath came in hard spurts. “Stay calm!” she told herself. “Stay calm, it’s only ground tremors.”
A deafening clap broke like thunder. The ground split and opened a running crevice like a writhing black snake. Her scream was swallowed as the roar ricocheted across dark cliffs. A dank wind rose from the pit and fingered her shirt.
Christine! The voice struck her mind. Come to me.
“Who are you?” She pressed her hands to her head. “Get out of my head!” She backed and tripped over a root. The widening crevice caught her and she began to slide into the yawning maw. Strips of clay lumped under her nails as she clawed at loose shale in the deepening rift. The skull rolled down and bounced against rocks. Her lantern followed. In its cold light, the fractured skull’s similarities to a human face made its differences more terrifying. She felt dizzy, nauseated, but she could not tear her gaze from the alien face.
The cracked lantern drew back its light and died.
“No!” she cried.
The pit yawned wider and her resistance seemed to drain into it. ‘Help me! My God! What are you?”
Come to me and you will know.
An alien energy smothered her mind, compelled her to move further down into the black crevice.
Soothing approval muffled her terror as she let go of a jutting rock and slid deeper into the pit. Within black shadows cast by the twin moons, it seemed a hawk swooped down on a rabbit. She focused on the image, used it to hold her mind firm. She dug nails into the dirt.
The command came as a blow. She shook her head to throw off this thing that rode her mind and tried to regain control of her thoughts.
A chuckle rose within her mind. The sickly odor of rotted things wafted up from the crack in the earth. Her calf muscles burned from the divided will of inching down and attempting to turn back. “I will not!” she asserted. “I will myself not to. Whatever you are, get out of my mind.” Her voice echoed across the looming walls.
The command crashed down. It mangled her thoughts and raked away the last tendrils of her will.
Christine felt nothing but the desire to follow the underground path, the silent voice that ordered her inside a grotto beneath the rumbling earth that closed the crevice.
She entered the dank grotto and went to the black pool of sluggish water as a child would go to the warmth and love of its mother’s arms.