Can these refugees, a small group traveling on foot, reach higher ground before a tsunami strikes?
Dost took a few steps, his back illuminated by late morning light. “The beast swerved to the right, it’s going away from us.”
I took a deep breath, trying to relax. “That’s a relief.”
Onen’s computer beeped twice, examining data. “Unfortunately, a tsunami will strike this beach in four to eleven days.”
Adam spat out, “Fuck. This is a set up.”
I paused, thinking. “Whatever it is, let’s head for higher ground.”
Atta scowled. “Onen, can you be more specific? We don’t know much about this area. Four days doesn’t give us much time to reach our destination.”
“I can’t be more specific. A volcano that is roughly four hundred miles off shore, at the bottom of this ocean, will erupt at some point during that time frame. My seismograph provided sixty pages of readings, graphs and statistics, but I haven’t had enough time to study them extensively.”
I wished that Onen was a volcanologist, but his prediction was probably the best we could hope for.
Adam hesitated, an astonished expression on his face. “For the first time ever, a screen has appeared in my field of vision. There’s a map of this area in it.”
Every other human said that they had just seen the same thing.
Adam hiked into the jungle, taking the lead. “According to it, there is a large building about four miles from here. The residents might help us.”
Near the top of Looa’s forehead, a ridge of flesh popped out, then receded.
My phone translated. “Fiman, I don’t see any screen in my field of vision. Why is that?”
“I don’t know why.” I frowned, wanting to know the answer.
Minna said, “My phone never detected the spacecraft. That’s odd.”
Dost glanced at her. “The spacecraft could have blocked part of the bandwidth.”
Niwo scowled. “I wish the aliens would tell us what they are doing.”
Niwo glowered. “Why did those aliens send us to a dangerous spot? Adam could be right, but I hope not.”
Onen responded, “It could have been an accident. Or they have never seen any humans before, don’t know what is best for them.”
Adam barked, “They want to kill us. It’s simple.”
Niwo blurted, “Adam, you’re so pessimistic.”
I remained quiet, irritated, not responding to him.
Atta blurted, “Dost, do you know anything about the volcano?”
“Only a little. Right now, Onen’s prediction, a study that includes the butterfly effect and the random expansion of gases inside the volcano, will have to do.”
Minna frowned. “Adam, according to my screen, that building is only about one hundred feet above ocean level. It’s possible that tidal waves would sweep it away.”
He snapped, “After we reach the building, I’ll figure something out.”
Minna announced, “We should head for the mountains.”
He shouted, “Don’t argue with me! This is the best plan.”
She muttered to herself.
He blurted in a sarcastic tone, “What did you say?”
She replied, glowering, “Nothing.”
Niwo looked at me, a troubled expression on her face. “You’re frowning.”
“According to these statistics, if a fissure above the gases spreads out enough, the volcano could erupt in three days.”
Niwo gasped in horror.
Atta’s forehead tightened. “I still can’t find any emails.”
Onen glanced at her. “The email tools haven’t functioned since we boarded the spacecraft.”
Atta spat, “Son of a bitch. They should.”
I bit my lip, worried. “We must keep up the pace, not slow down.”
On Yiiib’s chin, a short strand of flesh came out.
I sighed. “Yes, Yiiib, this jungle is dangerous.”
Adam stepped over a purple fern, then yelled, “What?”
Onen morphed, turning into a ten-foot high dome, a transparent building with an entrance. “Everyone, go inside, now.”
All of us did. The door hissed shut.
I raised an eyebrow, amazed that Onen could change into this structure. “Onen, are there any limits to your new skill?”
“Let’s discuss this later, after we’ve reached a safer spot.”
Atta touched Adam’s shoulder gently. “What’s wrong?”
He winced. “It felt as if someone had dumped acid on my hand.”
Atta examined his fingers. “Some of the skin is peeling off.”
“Ouch. It’s not as bad now, but it hurts like a motherfucker.”