Alien World

The Xandra - Book Seven

by Herbert Grosshans

After fleeing from Nu-Eden in an effort to escape the lure of the entity who calls herself Xandra, Rob Cameron and his fellow fugitives land on Iceworld, the fifth planet in a distant star system the humans are trying to colonize.

Hoping to find sanctuary and start a new life with Valissa, the young woman he loves, Cameron and the others join a small group of stranded scientists in their research station.

When a couple of the men decide to go in search of Regina Seagull, one of the scientists who has been abducted by a group of alien savages, Cameron accompanies them into the dark tunnels below the surface of Iceworld. The three men find an alien world in the huge caverns underground and they discover more than just monstrous creatures and Shadow-dwellers.


Chapter One


The rush of air entering the space shuttle through the open airlock sent shivers down Rob Cameron’s back, not only because the air was laden with ice crystals, but also because it made him realize he was finally free of the Xandra.

He and twenty-one men and women, fled Nu-Eden, the fourth planet in this star system, to escape the influence of the alien entity who called herself Xandra, the Great Mother. They had left Paradise. What would they find on the fifth planet? Would they find the freedom they sought or would this cold planet turn out to be another hell?

Everyone was anxious and excited, and eager to join the men and women already living in the research station.

The screen in the front displayed the outside world with sharp clarity. There wasn’t much to look at. Only an oval building like a silvery huge egg dropped onto the thick blanket of snow by some monstrous bird. It lay silent and foreboding, without any signs of life, surrounded by an endless expanse of white, as if waiting for the hatchling inside to break through the shell and climb into the cold, barren world outside.

Cameron shifted his attention to his companions. After spending more than a week in the cramped quarters of a spaceship traveling from Nu-Eden across the dark void of space, he assumed everyone would be eager to leave, but it seemed nobody wanted to be the first one to abandon the cozy warmth and safety of the shuttle.

He couldn’t blame them. What waited for them did not look inviting.

“Last time I was here, there wasn’t any snow. In fact, this whole area was covered with lush grass and there was no ice on the lake. I have a feeling it’s colder here than we expected it to be,” Ferd Prowler said, breaking the silence. He was the shuttle pilot who had brought them safely to this planet. The tremendous amount of electrical interference and buffeting winds in the upper atmosphere had made it a rough ride.

Most of the piloting was done by the shuttle’s artificial intelligence. The AI took over automatically when it judged it necessary. No human pilot, no matter how capable and skilled, would ever dispute the computer’s decision.

Prowler’s job was in reality only a backup position.

Cameron chuckled. He would never tell him that. Prowler took his job seriously and didn’t like criticism.

“What’s that giant egg we see beside the lake?” Conrad, the younger of the Hudson-brothers spoke from behind Cameron.

“That, son, is the research station,” Nelson Armand, who sat in the first row, explained, chuckling gleefully. He seemed proud about something. “It looks like an egg, doesn’t it? I built that damn thing. That will be our new home for a while. I hope those eggheads inside welcome us with open arms. We’re unannounced and unexpected visitors who may upset their cozy little world.”

“You built that?” Sigmund Hudson spoke with respect in his voice.

“I sure did.” Armand gave another little chuckle. “Not alone, mind you. I was here last year with my crew. Some of them stayed behind when I left. They’ll be surprised to see me.” His eyes looked thoughtful.

“The place appears deserted,” Conrad observed. “Maybe they’ve left or they’re all dead inside.”

“I’m sure they’re not. They’re probably just as eager to stay inside the safety and comfort of the station as we are at the moment in the shuttle.” Armand rose to leave his seat. “Let’s get dressed for the outside. You all have protective suits. Use them. Judging by the incoming air, it’s freezing out there. Nothing like what we’re all used to from Nu-Eden.”

Cameron turned to look at Valissa. “We made it, Sweetheart.”

Her hazel eyes showed her fear, but she smiled bravely. “I didn’t think it would be this cold.” She hunched her shoulders, shivering.

He laughed. “You’re not even outside yet.”

People were finally suiting up for the cold. Cameron retrieved his and Valissa’s backpack from the overhead compartment and pulled out his suit.

“You heard the man. Better get dressed for the occasion,” he joked.

Valissa removed her suit from her pack and stepped into the wide legs. Slipping into the upper part, she tucked her ponytail into the loose-fitting hood and pulled it over her head. Then she sealed the front of the suit by overlapping the magnetic strips.

“I wish this suit wasn’t so big,” she complained.

“You look attractive in it,” Cameron assured her. “Besides, we tried our best to match the suits to everyone on board. We didn’t know the exact sizes of everybody nor did we have much time back at the space station when we pilfered all these supplies.”

“I know. I worried the whole time you were gone.” She smiled mischievously. “By the way, you should know my size better than anyone else.” She batted her eyelashes. “After all, your hands have roamed over every part of my body many times.”

He laughed and bent to plant a quick kiss on her lips. “I can’t wait to do so again,” he whispered. “These last two weeks have been murder without holding you in my arms. Mister Lizard is wasting away from being inactive.”

She slapped him playfully on the shoulder. “You tell Mister Lizard to be patient. I’m planning to give him plenty of action when the time is right.”

Behind them a woman chuckled. Cameron turned to look at Teresa Hudson. The older woman smiled knowingly. “Don’t wait too long, girl,” she said, her eyes on Valissa. “When a man’s lizard is thirsty, he may dip it into another well to quench his thirst, if you know what I mean.”

Cameron smiled back at her and gave her a wink with the eye Valissa couldn’t see. “You have good ears, Mrs. Hudson. Perhaps I’ll have to lower my voice when you’re around. My lizard dips into only one well, no matter how many others may be available. I have moral standards, you know.” When he looked at Valissa, he saw the rosy color on her cheeks. Putting his arm around her narrow waist, he pulled her close.

Teresa’s laugh was friendly. “It’s touching to see two young lovers expressing such affection, but remember one thing, young man, this is a small group. We may be the last real humans in this part of the Galaxy. If we want to survive on this planet, we have to look past the moral standards of Earth. Your blushing bride may have to share you with another woman.”

“With you?” Valissa said softly.

Teresa shrugged. “With me or perhaps with Natalia or Hillary. How about those two women we picked up at the space station, Zyra and Elini? All of them are young, single, and itching for a man.” Her face showed sudden concern. “Don’t get me wrong, Valissa. I’m not trying to get between you and Rob. I’m forty-five and I have two wonderful and handsome sons, but I’m not past the childbearing age yet. I just want to give you some well-meant advice. Every woman in our group has to be aware of the fact the only way humans will flourish as a species on this planet is to bear children. You’re still young. You have the capacity to bear many children. Should they be all from one father? I don’t think that would be wise. We have to mix the gene pool, and it may be a necessity for you or any of the other women to have children with different men. You’re very beautiful and your genes should be passed down to as many children as possible. Other men will desire you…have no doubts. You, Rob, you’re a handsome man.” She smiled. “Even if you hide your face behind a beard. You should have children with different women. The sooner we all face this fact the sooner we will get along much better with each other. There’s no room for jealousy in our tribe—our tribe of humans.”

“All valid points,” Cameron said, feeling uncomfortable with the topic, yet knowing deep inside that Teresa was right. “I believe there’s still plenty of time to discuss everything later. Our priority now is to make our presence known to the people already here and hope they make us feel welcome.”

“Why would they not be happy to see us?” Valissa looked puzzled.

Cameron shrugged. “They’re scientists. Some of them may be happiest if left alone and not bothered by regular folks. These people have been living here for a year now in their cozy little world. They may resent our intrusion.”

“You’re a scientist. Do you want to be left alone? Is that the reason you go into the wilderness by yourself?”

“I don’t mind being alone sometimes.” He reached out and touched her cheek. “I’m happiest when I’m with you.”

Teresa chuckled. “How romantic. I can see you two are devoted to each other. Let’s hope it won’t be an obstacle someday. This planet may not allow much romance in our lives.”

“We’ll take one day at a time,” Valissa responded, obviously not enthused about Teresa’s remark. “Like Rob said, let’s go and meet the people in the research station.” She gave Cameron a gentle nudge. “Go. I’m getting hot inside this suit.”

They moved down the aisle, following the other passengers. Some had already left the shuttle and were climbing down the narrow ladder. When Cameron reached the exit, he looked down and saw a few people struggling in the deep snow. “We should have brought snowshoes,” he said to Valissa, who stood behind him, peering over his shoulder.

“It looks strange to see all this snow, and a little scary.” Her voice sounded timid and almost discouraged. “I’ve never seen snow before. Not in real life I mean.”

“I’ve seen snow,” Teresa said, “but never this much. It actually looks quite beautiful. So white and clean. Nothing like the dirty back lanes in Grandchicag where I grew up.”

“I think I’m going to like it here.” Her son Conrad gazed around. “You could rig up a platform with a sail and zoom across the lake right up to the horizon.”

“And get yourself lost in the meantime.” His mother’s comment dampened his enthusiasm.

Cameron shouldered his backpack and began climbing down. Valissa was close behind him, followed by Teresa and her two sons.

When Cameron jumped off the last step, he sank nearly up to his crotch into the snow. Some of the people already at the bottom laughed, while others cursed loudly, fighting with the white stuff, using their hands to dig themselves out. Cameron looked around to see Gordon Rockwell making a trail away from the shuttle. Rockwell was a big, powerful man, but even he struggled to free his legs.

“I don’t think I’ll have the strength to make it that far through this deep snow,” Claudette Lavallee complained, staring at the distant research station. Her husband Ron Lavallee snorted and tried to follow Rockwell.

“If you were a real man you would offer to carry my pack,” his wife said.

He stopped to look back at her. “Sure, I’m good enough to carry your pack,” Lavallee sneered, “but not good enough to share your bed. You seem to be doing fine without me. Carry your own pack.” He turned away.

“Didn’t you bring a sled on board, Rob?” Valissa said to Cameron.

“Yes, we did.” Cameron looked up to the open airlock of the shuttle. He saw Rudi Malone behind Zyra Frechette. “Hey, Malone,” he called. “How about getting the sled so we can put the packs on it? The snow is so high we’re struggling just to move.”

Malone disappeared back inside the shuttle. As everyone waited, Teresa and her sons joined the group. She laughed when she couldn’t pull her feet out of the snow.

“This looks like more fun than I anticipated,” she said, her voice laced with a hint of panic.

Another woman jumped into the snow and tried to move away from the ladder to make room for the people who came behind her. “Wow. I’m not a stranger to snow. We have plenty of it in New-Canada, but this exceeds that by a lot.”

Cameron recognized Natalia Laroche, one of the young women Armand had persuaded to come with them to this planet. Her friend Megan Monias came down the ladder a few moments later.

Pausing at the top of the ladder, she studied the snow. “I like to work out but this is not what I expected.” Then she laughed and tumbled into the snow beside Natalia.

Malone appeared in the open door to the airlock. “I got the sled,” he called. “I’ll need someone to help me lower it down.”

“I’ll give you a hand,” Cameron offered. He turned back to the people around him. “Let’s clear the area. We don’t want any accidents.”

A few of the men had trampled down much of the snow by now and it was easier for everyone to move around. It didn’t take long to clear an open space in front of the shuttle. Cameron shrugged off his pack and climbed back up the ladder and into the airlock.

“Activate the power unit,” he told Malone.

The sled lifted off the floor as soon as Malone switched on the power. “I’ll lie on it and work the controls,” Cameron offered. “You hang onto the rope and push me outside when I tell you.”

Cameron climbed onto the sled and lay down, his head toward the front where the controls were located. Sleds were meant to float close to the surface. This high up there was a chance it could dip to one side if he wasn’t careful.

“Go ahead.” Cameron had his fingers on the two levers on each side of the small control panel.

Malone pushed the sled carefully out of the lock. It wobbled a little when it slid into the open, but Cameron managed to steady it after a few precarious moments. Slowly decreasing the power, he made the sled sink lower until it floated only about a meter above the snow-covered ground. Sliding off the sled, Cameron let out the breath he’d been holding.

“All right,” he called out, “put your packs on the sled. We may not be able to get them all on it, but that’s no problem. We’ll come back for the rest. Let’s get moving, peoples.”

They began loading their packs onto the floating platform until it was filled to capacity. Rockwell offered to pull the sled behind him. He was a big, strong man, but his strength was not really necessary, because even loaded up, the sled was easy to pull. It floated on a magnetic field and moved easily in any direction.

Everyone had left the shuttle by now, except for Prowler. After shutting down the engines, he climbed down the ladder to join the people below.

Armand and Malone, also big men, walked ahead of Rockwell to make a trail. Cameron and Valissa walked close behind the sled. Progress was slow, but nobody complained, because everyone knew Armand and Malone had the toughest job of them all. Once the trail was made, walking for the people behind them was fairly easy.

“I think I like walking in a field of high grass much more than this,” Valissa said beside Cameron.

He chuckled softly. “At least here you know you’re safe. You never know what hides in a field of high grass.”

“The grass on Nu-Eden was soft and warm. I could walk barefoot in it. I’m not looking forward to wearing boots all the time.”

“You won’t have to,” a man said behind her. “There isn’t always snow on this planet.”

Cameron turned his head to look at the pilot. “Prowler, I guess you should know. What was it like then? I heard you say before this valley was covered with lush grass when you were here.”

“It was. And the temperature was warm enough to walk barefoot.” Prowler laughed quietly. “I personally never had the urge to go barefoot anywhere. I’m quite comfortable wearing boots.”

“There are a couple of birds circling above us,” a woman called out. “They look big.”

Cameron looked into the sky. What he saw sent shivers down his spine. “They’re flying high,” he said, “but even at this distance it’s obvious they’re huge. Prowler, what do you know about those birds or whatever they are?”

Prowler shook his head. “Nothing. We never saw anything like that in the sky during all the time we worked here. The only thing one of the men spotted was a large tiger-like animal.”

“They’re dropping lower,” Valissa said.

Everyone stopped moving and watched the two shapes in the sky. Cameron didn’t miss the anxiety clearly visible on everyone’s face.

“Are they dangerous?” Naomi Lewis stood not far behind Cameron, next to her sister Gabriella.

Their father, Dan Lewis, tried to soothe her fears. “They’re birds,” he said. “Because of their wide wing span they’re probably not as large as they appear from here.”

“I don’t like them,” Gabriella said. “I think I’ll go back into the shuttle. Those are huge birds. If they attack us, we’ll never make it to the station. Not with all this snow. Besides, we don’t even know how to get into that... that egg-thing. It might be locked.”

Valissa reached for Cameron’s hand. Even through the gloves she wore, he could feel her tremble. “I’m scared, Rob. Gabriella is right. Safety for us lies back in the shuttle. The research station looks deserted. How do we know anyone actually lives in there?”

He squeezed her hand. “If nobody lives in there we’ll have the place to ourselves,” he joked, but he shared Valissa’s fears about the creatures in the sky. They looked like birds, but were they?

“You’re right,” he said with a low voice to avoid alarming the others. “They are coming closer.”

Herbert Grosshans "The Xandra 7, Alien World"


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