Canto Thirteen – The Plaza of Bones in the Ruined Palaces
Farbick couldn’t see Starbright, but he knew she was immediately to his left as they moved towards a large pile of skeletons and rotting corpses. He could hear her soft footfalls. He was fairly confident in her abilities, something he couldn’t say about most Tellerons.
“Look at these bodies, Mister Farbick,” Starbright whispered through the hostile environment suit comm. “Some of them have been slain violently by the others in this plaza, but some, like this group of three armed lizard men have no visible wounds or other indications of death by violence. The toxic atmosphere by itself is not sufficient to explain the deaths of three such otherwise healthy individuals.”
“Could they have died of disease?” Farbick guessed.
“I don’t know the difference between a healthy-looking lizard man and a sick one, I guess,” she responded. “But I can see nothing wrong with them.”
Suddenly, without warning, a large, muscular lizard man with a full Galtorrian dragon crest on his scaly head leaped up onto a marble portico and glared directly at the invisible searchers. He snorted and sniffed the air.
“Stay quiet,” whispered Biznap from somewhere to the right. “If he can’t see us, he won’t know we’re here.”
But before Farbick could even doubt the reasoning behind the order, the naked Galtorrian warrior was on the back of an invisible Telleron, raking him with claws and biting at what was probably the throat.
“Skortch him!” cried Biznap, the voice coming from a direction that proved the lizard man’s victim was not Biznap.
Skortch rays are not in themselves visible, but as the beam slashed outward from where Biznap was obviously wielding his ray pistol, there was a visible line of sparkles and flashes as the disintegration effect acted on small particles the air was obviously laden with. The shape of a Telleron flared into view as Biznap’s ray connected with one of the cadets who had the misfortune to be standing between Biznap and the monster. The cadet screamed as he dissolved. The other cadet screamed as he died of his wounds and became visible in the clutches of the lizard man. The invisibility cloak, like the hostile environment suit it was attached to, was shredded and shorted out. It obviously had not stopped the predatory lizard man from knowing exactly where his prey was.
The lizard man lifted the cadet’s corpse to throw at either Biznap or one of the other two. He was looking directly at Farbick as Farbick uttered a brief prayer to Charlie the Crocodile God that Biznap was not now between him and the target, and then squeezed off a vaporizing shot that disintegrated the lizard man and the cadet’s body as well.
Biznap immediately uncloaked.
“Well, that was unpleasant,” he said.
Starbright also uncloaked. “Mister Farbick,” she said, “you may as well uncloak. Invisibility is useless against creatures such as these.”
“What do you mean, cadet?” Farbick said as he uncloaked.
“They obviously have heat vision of some sort. They can’t see us with visible light, but they sense us almost as if they can see us. They may have developed some kind of natural thermal imaging in their eyes. Or the creature could have had bionic eyes built in. Didn’t you see the way his eyes flashed with the color red?”
“Yes,” said Biznap. “I wish I had known that before accidentally skortching what’s-his- name.”
“The two cadets were Buckabuck and Whootney, Commander, sir,” said Starbright sadly.
“Oh, yes, well…. I have heard of them, of course,” said Biznap in what could only be interpreted as a guilty voice.
“I’m sure they regret your not knowing more about them than you do, Commander,” Farbick said. He also believed those red shirts weren’t standard issue for a very good reason.