Read Tabitha Online

Authors: Andrew Hall

Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Superheroes, #Science Fiction, #Alien Invasion, #Genetic Engineering, #Post-Apocalyptic, #Superhero

Tabitha (69 page)

BOOK: Tabitha
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Alex burst his tail through a silver
spider that leapt from the wall. He’d escaped into some kind of sanctum,
seduced by the pull of the building’s energy source deep inside. The rippling
pulses of energy in here felt like a rushing tide; a suffocating static that
pushed against him like a gale. He’d escaped death, back there in the garden.
He refused to leave this place empty-handed. He’d only come this far with
Tabitha’s help; if he couldn’t have her strength then he’d have the hive’s
instead. The dragon could crash through the wall behind him at any moment,
burning everything in its path. He had to get to the power source. There was no
turning back. Gasping for breath, Alex fought his way through grasping roots in
the tunnel walls and ran on into a glassy twilit chamber. His footsteps cracked
the floor and shattered crystalline plants all around him, thin and
heaven-spindly as spun glass. His frenzied hybrid silhouette came crashing
through shining lights and celestial gardens; an agent of hunger and chaos that
raced demonic through shining shattered beauty. Desperate to reach the reactor,
starving for its strength with a lusting obsession, Alex battered another
spider to death and stabbed a third in the chest as it leapt for him. Suddenly
spiders were swarming out of the walls; a silver avalanche piling up to his
waist to claw and stab against his hard skin. Alex yelled and beat them back in
shining bursts of blood, wrestling out from the tide with a burning rage. He
roared and smashed his way through the doors ahead, and found himself in a
blinding blue room of crystal fronds. It was the heart of the building, where a
billion plant-root connections reached out through the walls to the meadow and
the forest beyond. A shining hub of growth and feeling; the parent of every
electric garden in the hive. An alien intelligence far deeper and older than the
watchers and their living weapons. But Alex didn’t see the life and the light.
He only saw what he could take from it. There ahead of him was the pulsing core
of the cathedral. Forcing him back with a wall of energy; a torturous current
that burned his brain. He had to get to it; he had this one chance to take all
that power for himself. Growling wildly he smashed the spiders that scuttled
towards him. Beat them into the cracking glass coral all around him with icy
crunches, murdering them as they swamped him. He roared and skewered another as
he struggled forward, step by straining step. Black fangs drooling for the
taste of power throbbing in front of him. He grabbed a spider up and ripped it
in half when it blocked his way to the shining core, tangled up in a cage of
dark roots. He felt the power of it cutting through his chest; he couldn’t
breathe in here. His blood boiled under the energy; his metal skin peeled in
the searing light. As he struggled the final few steps to the core a hulking
black squid creaked and squelched down from the ceiling above him, arms
reaching out like fingers from a gnarled ancient hand. Alex cut at the grasping
tentacles with his tail and ripped the roots apart on the pillar, ravenous for
the taste of it. His reaching fingers were inches from the core; the morphine
promise of new power. Of domination. He buried his head inside the trunk as the
squid gripped his limbs and pulled at them. Alex screamed, writhed against it,
and bit off a chunk from the glowing core in a hissing shower of sparks.


Seven sank Tabitha down gently into the
cockpit. The cathedral walls were pulsing with light all around them; manic
stripes and angry bursts like a vast neon chameleon dying. The ceiling was
flexing, groaning. The far door to the heart of the structure burned suddenly
with a fierce light, and blew apart with a piercing bang. Churning blue
boiled out and ate the walls into raining ash,
and suddenly the place was crumbling. Seven crashed back down the ramp from the
garden as it burst into flames behind him. He spread his wings and tore through
the main hall as pillars split and dropped around him. A rippling wall of
lightning rushed up behind. The cracking floor was churning, tumbling into a
thundering tide that devoured the walls as they collapsed. Seven crashed
through the entrance hall and burst from the cathedral door as the building
toppled and exploded. A blinding flash filled the city as he soared into the
sky. A surge of power shot through the alien hive behind him, blowing the power
plants in deafening bursts and splitting the blue mossy ground like an
earthquake. Glass honeycombs all over the alien city cracked through and
toppled monolithic, kicking up vast clouds of sparkling dust. Spiders and
monsters were running down below, trying to escape the devastation. A single
point of light swelled in the sudden silence, deep in the heart of the hive.
Alex. He was altered by his meal; transformed. A shining hellish prince
wrestling with new power. He nuked the ruined meadow in a vast ball of
lightning, throwing the ruins of the alien city high over the wreckage of New
York. Volcanic
churned up and blocked out
the sun. Alex admired the destruction, his shining eyes drinking the sight of
revenge. And there through the fallout the alien
emerged like a spectre, rumbling deathly and colossal over the ruins. Alex
looked up and grinned at it like an old friend, itching for a fight. A new war
in the making.

Soaring above it
all, Seven had seen enough. He roared at the scorched thundering chaos of the
world and left it all behind. He was going to take his red-haired creature far
up away from it all, up beyond the blue.


Slumped in her seat in the cockpit,
Tabitha felt her
giving up. Arcs of
lightning were streaming out from her sparking chest; all her current bleeding
out. She clutched her mum’s ribbon on her wrist, and knew there was no coming
back from this. When she stepped into Seven’s mind to say goodbye she saw the
stars through his eyes. He’d taken her up into space. Seven felt her there in
his mind, in his vision, and turned back for her to see the view. Earth. She
saw Earth. All the violence and all the suffering, left far below on a vast
curved wall of blue. Just like the movies. Her eyes were hot with tears.

‘Let me see it,’
she said quietly, struggling to pull up the collar on her catsuit. The hood
wrapped her face and hardened into a helmet. Tabitha unclipped her harness and
floated up weightless in the cockpit. The helmet hissed air for her. The hatch
opened up above her, and all the atmosphere in the cockpit sucked out in a
sudden white gale. Immediately her flight suit fleshed out like a space suit,
growing to cover her hands and feet. Tabitha clutched her sparking chest and
floated up through the hatch, and began to drift free in space. Her tears
floated weightlessly in her helmet as she tumbled into the void. Seven reached
a wing out and gently guided her back, holding her close to his chest.

‘It’s beautiful
here,’ she said softly, blinking to try and see it all in her fading vision.
The helmet hissed air; she strained to breathe it. The world was far below now.
Just a distant horror, seen from the safety of the stars. Tabitha felt the last
drops of life running out of her; felt the sun’s energy leave her body. She
stroked Seven’s wing weakly, and watched the world and the stars fade to black.
‘Thank you,’ she whispered. Tabitha let go of Seven’s wing then, floating and
silent. The helmet hissed air; she didn’t breathe it. Seven looked down at her,
and he knew she was gone. He’d lost her thoughts in his head. He guided her
drifting body back with his wing, held her close, and stared out at the stars.




A filthy woman dug for food in the
rubble of Earth. A city lay in ruins all around her; a concrete graveyard, a
grey desolation. She thought she was well hidden, but the shapes stalked her
from fallen walls and blown-out windows. Silent as death, crawling close. Metal
flashed and jutted, and a spidery silver plant punched one sudden silent stab
in her leg. The woman kicked and ran; looking back with shaking vision and
jarring panicked thoughts as the chittering pack chased her down. They leapt on
her limbs and dragged her down onto the road; she struggled soundlessly as they
wrestled and stabbed. Dust drifted up like dirty rising snow around them. The
woman slumped and gargled as they injected her. Alien venom coursed through her
body, liquefying living muscle and bone. The spiders drank her out and dropped
her, and left her empty skin blowing down the road in the wind.


Across the dead world on a
plain, a man spied a black shape in the
distance. The fire-throated monstrosity that’d killed his town. He knew there
was no running from it; no one could ever run from it. A dust cloud rose behind
it as it galloped towards him. He took up his gun and fired, rattling every
round into it. His bullets punched through its rubbery metal skin but did
nothing to slow the monster down. It was on him in seconds, strong under the
bright alien sun. It pulled his screaming head apart to lick out the gold
fillings in his teeth.
the buckle off his belt
and crushed the gun down into its red-hot mouth. It dropped his body like a
bleeding doll. Kicking up another dust cloud, it was gone.


In the largest hive, dark figures walked
out from their
by the Potomac. There
weren’t many of them; they were the upper order. Scuttling silver spiders
paused and backed away when they approached. Stretched alien soldiers like
themselves knelt down at their presence. Hulking black monsters ground to a
halt, looking down at the ground as their masters stalked by. The watchers had
come to the humans’ white palace, where their leader had been closed away in
his room of command. They walked gracefully past white pillars scorched with
laser marks, admiring the destruction. Suited human bodies had been mounted on
spiked growths in the lobby for their pleasure.

The alien figure
guarding the man-leader’s door let its masters through. The watchers looked
around constantly at their strange new surroundings, wondering how such a race
could ever have functioned. There were no solar cells on the walls; no wind
turbines on the roof. Nothing in these human hives ever seemed to harvest
energy to grow. They only sapped it away.

The human leader
himself was weak and terrified, unable to strengthen himself with sunlight. It
was reported that the humans had to digest other organisms to survive, like the
ancient orders of life on the watchers’
Such inefficiency sickened them. This blue planet was so much larger and more
fertile than anything they’d ever dreamt of. It was a paradise, and it was
diseased with these… primates. Here their race could flourish, and explore more
distant worlds. The human leader was making pleading sounds on the carpet. It
was a vocal communication, much like their own. But like the humans’ bodies
their speech was flimsy and inefficient. The figures gathered around him, and
wondered why they’d ever asked for him to be left alive. There was no great
secret to the hairless apes, no higher knowledge that they possessed. They were
intelligent and aggressive, much like themselves; but the humans were the
poorer player, and they’d lost. The things even fought amongst themselves like
savages, destroying one another. They were redundant, a failed mutation; adept
at reproducing but completely unsustainable. It was the best decision, the
figures agreed then, to remove them from the ecosystem entirely. The animals
that the humans had bred to consume would be freed; the crops they’d farmed
would grow wild again. There was so much to learn from a planet that enjoyed
such long days; such strong sunlight. Their own race would be stronger here
than on their
, too. Happier and more
productive, breeding in half the time to fill these vast continents with new
nations. Earth was perfection.

The watchers had
nothing to gain from prolonging the life of the human leader. The tallest among
them came forward, lifted the screaming human into the air by its neck, and blew
it apart with a bolt of light.


Up in the starry void, Fishbowl finally
emerged from the glowing recess behind Seven’s flight console. It climbed
weakly from the tangled roots of the dragon’s power source, pushing past Tabitha’s
blue-grey parka that it’d dragged into the crevice for cover. The watchers
weren’t searching for it any more. The dragon had escaped out of the
atmosphere; they were safe. Fishbowl sensed a huge sadness coming from the
dragon though, which seemed to be just drifting in space. It followed the scent
of the human creature up out of the dragon’s open hatch, and touched its
tentacles on her there as she floated against the dragon’s wing. Normally she’d
pulse with energy, like any other plant. But now she seemed motionless, empty
of charge. She wasn’t going to grow very well without any charge. Fishbowl
tapped around her body for any residual energy, but found nothing. It touched a
tentacle to her chest. That must have been where the energy went. Seven watched.
Fishbowl anchored itself to the dragon with a couple of tentacles, and jolted
Tabitha’s body with current. Nothing happened. It felt a huge store of solar
energy in the dragon’s skin though, and drank a sliver in to recharge itself.
When Fishbowl sipped in the current it went straight out again. It sipped more.
Still no charge. Fishbowl drained at the dragon’s energy as hard as it could,
but it simply flowed straight through it and into the human creature in its
arms. At least the human was moving now, anyway. Fishbowl let go of her and
tried another sip of current from the dragon’s skin. It seemed to work this
time, and filled it up with charge. Satisfied, Fishbowl tapped its way along
the dragon’s wing and climbed onto its back. It swam down into the cockpit and
tucked itself in beside the seat, waiting for something more interesting to
come along. Plants.


Tabitha gasped for long-lost breath and
felt her
whirring into life. She opened her
blinking yellow eyes and saw the stars. Life exploded back into her mind; a
streaming vivid
of shining
. She felt the sun filling her up with energy; a
celestial embrace. She looked around her, and suddenly everything came back
from across a great dark divide. Every thought, every sensation; every soaring
joy and stinging grief. Clutching her hands to her heart, she gasped at the
memory of the sparking wound. She’d died. She’d felt the last drop of life
leave her core. How had she come back? She looked up to see Seven’s big white
eyes, staring at her in shock. Both of them were floating in a lunar ocean; a
black star-dotted sea beyond the world.

‘Hi,’ she said
in a drunken daze, smiling as she floated up to Seven’s face. She held his jaw
and bumped her mask against his big stubby snout, kissing him on the nose. She
felt their minds plug back together, and felt Seven’s warm loving tide wash
over her. A shining ecstasy of faith; a fierce companionship spelled out in
turning glyphs and rainbow shades in her head. Laughing, high, Tabitha pushed
off from his snout and tumbled over herself in floating loops among the stars.
She felt the light of the sun so clearly up here; unfiltered. Her body drank in
the radiation hungrily, soaking up life and light until it felt like golden
liquid bliss inside her. The sun became a holy twisting enormity as she watched
it; searing the black void with turning
petals of light. Seven stretched out a wing and gathered Tabitha in before she
could float away. Grinning, Tabitha stroked his wing as he guided her gently
back. It was so silent up here. So still. Looking down on it, the world didn’t
look threatened, or covered in a creeping black cloud of evil. It looked fine.
The sun crested on the edge of its vast curve like a halo, pouring golden light
across endless green and blue below.
The world looks just the same as it’s
always been,
Tabitha told herself.
Because it is. It’s just changed


Tabitha headed back down into the
cockpit, and the hatch sealed above her. Atmosphere flooded back into the
cockpit in whispering jets of air, and Tabitha pulled her mask back down into a
collar again. She peeled the catsuit off her hands and feet and floated down to
her seat, and stared in shock at the thing that hovered around beside her.

‘Fishbowl!’ she
screamed happily, hugging the creature close whether it wanted it or not.
‘Where the hell have you been? Have you been hiding in here all along?’ she
squeezed it tighter, heart leaping, until Fishbowl was wriggling to get away
from her. Maybe she had a fungal parasite affecting her nervous system,
Fishbowl considered.

‘Where were you
hiding, you crafty bugger?’ said Tabitha, ecstatic to see it. She let go of
Fishbowl’s wriggling arms, and the creature anchored itself against the seat
and floated patiently at a distance.

‘Jesus,’ Tabitha
mumbled, wiping a silver blood puddle off the seat with her parka sleeve.
Strange that she’d hadn’t seen her coat lying around in here for a while, she
thought. She liked that coat. She’d thought the watchers must have gotten rid
of it when they took Seven away. Then she remembered.

‘My flower!’ she
told Fishbowl excitedly, rummaging for the bump in her coat pocket. She
produced a crumpled plastic case and opened up the little toy plant inside; a
present to herself from the shopping centre. Smiling, she peeled away the tab
from a sticky pad underneath and stuck the plastic plant down on Seven’s
dashboard. When she switched on the tiny solar panel the flower started dancing
happily from side to side, taking in Seven’s huge energy around it.

beautiful,’ Tabitha told Fishbowl in wonder; blissed out on new life. High on
the thought of green and growing things. Her gardener didn’t notice the plastic
flower though.

‘Well it’s not
real, I guess,’ Tabitha admitted. ‘But I like it.’ She watched the flower
happily and sipped from her alien water bottle; it was empty. She filled it up
from Seven’s filtered dispenser in the wall behind the seat, and took big
parched gulps like she’d never drunk water before. ‘Oh wow,’ she said quietly, savouring
the taste. She felt the water spark inside her, colder and smoother than all
the silver blood she’d ever tasted. It was a pure gleaming high that spoke to
something deeper inside her; fresher and more intense than anything she’d felt

‘Water?’ she
asked Fishbowl, taking a rest in her seat. Her gardener reached out. Tabitha
tipped the bottle slightly, and poured it gently into a spout that opened in
Fishbowl’s reaching tentacle. When she put her seat harness on and stepped into
Seven’s mind, Tabitha felt the full swirling mixture of shock and joy there in
his head. A gleaming white space that welcomed her, shining all the brighter
now that she was gliding inside it.

‘I’m glad I’m
back too,’ Tabitha said softly, heart leaping as she felt their minds embrace.
‘Did you miss me?’ she asked him. She felt his reply deep in her head, and
cried happily for a little while in her chair.


Tabitha looked down at Earth through
Seven’s eyes, thinking. There was no one to go back to down there; no place to call
home. No tribe. She sat back and wrestled with her thoughts for a while,
touching her black metal fingers to the dirty ribbon on her wrist.

‘I’m leaving,
Mum,’ she said quietly, sad and soaring at the same time. ‘That’s not a world I
can go back to.’ Pulling up the hologram map in front of her, it showed Earth
as a small blue pulsing dot in a large web of lines. Tabitha spread her hands
wide, and the map filled the cockpit with a glowing constellation. Looking
around it in wonder Tabitha saw a small green dot, blinking far away on the web
of light. It must have been the aliens’ home. But there were other dots too,
pulsing on the far side of the map. White spheres to indicate stars; purple
dots to represent uncertain planets. She felt as much from Seven’s mind.
Pulling the huge map around and moving her hands to zoom out further, Tabitha
saw more star systems with more purple planets. So many new worlds that the
aliens hadn’t reached. Seven felt worry and doubt about them; they were the

‘That’s why we
have to explore them,’ Tabitha told him with a smile, pushing her finger into a
random purple dot on the map. The hologram vanished; their course was set.
Maybe their new tribe was out there waiting for them, somewhere in the stars. A
white path of light stretched out in front of them in Seven’s vision, reaching
deep into space. It was their route to an alien world far from here; a new

‘Ready?’ she
asked her two monsters. Tabitha willed Seven’s jet scales into glowing white
life, and in a sudden burst of light her dragon shot into the void. Theirs was
the deep dark infinity; a holy silver garden of stars.


* * *

BOOK: Tabitha
7.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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