The leaf of the fnir plant emitted a subdued green glow in the dark water. Kerolc could see the vague outlines of a cave entrance ahead. Holding the leaf, she swam closer to the opening and passed through it. The cave slanted upward gradually. After swimming a short distance, Kerolc broke the surface of the water and inhaled the air deeply. Her wet tunic clung to her green scales. Lifting the fnir leaf out of the water, she could see in front of her a small chamber enclosed by granite. She approached the bank of rock, pulled herself from the water, and looked back at the water behind her.
Dercag rose out of the water and swam slowly to Kerolc. He seemed exhausted.
"Where are we?"
"An underwater cave," replied Kerolc, glancing around her. "Apparently, we cannot reach the outside from this cave. The vertical distance from the surface of the water here to the opening of the cave is significantly less than the distance from the cave opening to the surface of the lake. The air here is trapped by the water and cannot escape."
"We can't escape?" Dercag asked frantically.
Kerolc stood up and walked to the far side of the cave. There was no passageway, only a solid wall of granite. "We can go back out and be caught by Teogdu. Then we will probably be executed."
"Teogdu has taken over the world, Dercag. She has taken over this pathetic little planet, this planet surrounded almost completely by water. The only land on it is where these mountains rise out of the water. These pathetic mountains have vast deposits of ergstone. Everyone knows that ergstone contains tremendous amounts of energy. Pathetic little planet ruled by a dictator," Kerolc reflected. "Teogdu has taken over the world, and she will probably take over Kreacdur and the rest of the Alliance as well. The pathetic Alliance has exhausted all of its sources of energy, so it will do anything for ergstone. Empress Teogdu, supreme ruler of the Alliance. Kreacdur commissions us to mine ergstone for the Alliance; in return, Teogdu the dictator takes over the Alliance. Ironic, is it not?"
The expression on Dercag's face suggested that he was perturbed. "Life is a dead anyg decaying."
Kerolc contemplated the metaphor. A thought entered her mind.
"We are all anygi, Dercag. Even Teogdu. She will die someday. Her actions will probably kill her in the end."
"What do we do now?" asked Dercag desperately.
"I do not know, Dercag. I do not know."
"Life. Dead anyg decaying! Teogdu, supreme empress! Ergstone!" said Dercag. He started laughing insanely.
"Dercag, control yourself!" exclaimed Kerolc.
Dercag violently struck the side of the cave with his head. He repeated the action several times.
"Dercag, there is no need to kill yourself!" said Kerolc. "There is hope!"
Dercag drove his head into the granite.
"There is hope, Dercag!" she repeated, but she did not believe it herself. There was no hope.
The loose rocks above Dercag were moved by the force of his head. First, minute pieces of rock rained down on him. Then larger rocks fell on him, followed by hefty chunks of granite. Dercag was buried beneath a pile of great masses of rock and debris.
"Dercag!" shrieked Kerolc, but she knew it was useless. Dercag was dead.
A bright green light caught her eye. At first she thought it was the fnir leaf she was holding, but this light drowned out the dim light of the leaf. It seemed to come from some object above the pile of rocks on top of Dercag. Kerolc walked over to the place where Dercag was buried. She could see a glowing green pyramid of ergstone. It was in its active state, emitting energy. Kerolc removed the exposed piece of ergstone from the loose granite surrounding it. She could feel a strange energy from the ergstone run through her.
"It is a regular tetrahedron," she said. She remembered that Dercag was dead.
Kerolc placed the pyramid on the floor of the cave beside the pile of rocks. It filled the cave with bright light. She placed her scaly hand on the ergstone and felt the strange energy again.
There is no hope, she thought. No hope at all.
The greenish microbe was extending a pseudopodium to surround food particles. Ibgorc thought it was an interesting diagram. He read the title.
"Amoeba." He pronounced the word slowly and clearly.
Then he returned to the diagram and perused it meticulously. It occupied an entire page of the book.
Ibgorc heard sounds behind him and turned around. It was his instructor, Ecroivo. Ibgorc could see that she was irate.
"#00FF00, you know you are not allowed--"
"Call me Ibgorc!" Ibgorc interrupted amiably.
This seemed to perturb Ecroivo. She paused for a few moments and then continued. "#00FF00, please do not interrupt! It is very disturbing! As I was saying, this--"
"OK, Instructor Ecroivo!" replied Ibgorc, interrupting her.
"#00FF00, this is the third time you have entered the school library! Why do you persist in doing so? It is against the rules! We must have a talk with the Director of Education!"
"Yes, the Director. This is very serious, #00FF00."
Ifenzerca is a planet about the size of Earth. It is completely covered with water, except for a small area where the underwater mountains rise to a height above the water. Over time, the ocean water and rain have carved complex tunnels in the rock and formed a lake in the middle of the island.
Ifenzerca is settled by a group of people from Kreacdur. The people are members of the epur species. They find vast deposits of valuable ergstone in the rock, which could be mined for energy. Seeing the power of owning such materials in a solar system that lacked energy, they declare themselves independent of Kreacdur and form a new government, headed by a triumvir of Teogdu, Dercag, and Kerolc. A platform is built on the lake in the middle of the island. Teogdu starts cloning epuri to increase the population in order to mine the ergstone. Some of the clones are genetically engineered for intelligence and are called Etveni. The intelligence of the others is reduced, and these are called Ecodi. The Etveni wear green triangles on their tunics. The Ecodi become the miners. Both Etven and Ecod children are given an elementary education to instill respectful fear of the government in them. Pride in mining is also instilled in Ecod children. Etven children are given a secondary education to prepare them for their future jobs. Teogdu deprives Dercag and Kerolc of their powers and becomes dictator. Unable to resist Teogdu's immense political power, Dercag and Kerolc jump off the platform in the middle of the lake to search for any method of escape from Ifenzerca. They lose all hope, but they find an underwater cave filled with air. Seeing no escape, Dercag goes insane and knocks his head against the rock, causing a cave-in on him. The cave-in reveals another chamber and an eerie green light. Kerolc investigates and finds a piece of ergstone in the shape of a regular tetrahedron. He touches it and his mind is extracted from his brain and uploaded onto the network.
Meanwhile, Teogdu selects Krogog and Poteroc as his advisers. Krogog questions Teogdu's actions and is disliked by Krogog. Poteroc is agreeable with Teogdu is preferred. Ifenzerca under Teogdu's rule is maintained through trade with Kreacdur and other planets. The mined ergstone is traded for food and other materials.
Ibgorc, the main character, is introduced. He is very friendly but also very curious. He wants to know everything. The school becomes concerned about him because of his intellectual capabilities. It enforces a new rule against the use the school library by Ecodi. Ibgorc is reprimanded by the school. Ibgorc's sense of injustice increases as he grows up. He makes friends with Epycne, Riova, and Fnog.
Krogog eventually disagrees with Teogdu to the extent that Teogdu throws a rock at him and kills him. Poteroc, horrified by this, starts agreeing with everything that Teogdu says.
Copyright © 2002 by C.C. Cheez.