The flight to Haylon City was boring for Cord; he’d seen it all before. But it was a treat for Sammi. Cord was flying low, just above the trees, giving her a magnificent view of Haylon’s dark side. The red sun was just breaking the horizon; this was day three of a sixteen-day cycle. Some days the temperature rose above freezing; this was not one of those days. Ice crystals coated the hull, to be blown off by the wind, a streaming white tail trailing behind. The remaining ships followed, in multiple vee formations, skimming the treetops.
“Why do those mountains sparkle like that?” she asked, pointing out the side window toward the Farnam hills; a shining halo covered them, shimmering in the dark Haylon night as the ships approached the terminator.
“They’re not mountains, but giant dunes,” Cord said, “there’s a high concentration of diamond dust in the sand, so it refracts the light and makes that corona. It gets enormous when the winds blow, like a giant flower blossoming.”
“Your moon is wonderful!”
Cord smiled at her, watching the glow from the viewscreen light her face. He took a deep breath and was about to say something when the comm burst on, crackling static bouncing from the walls, followed by the voice of the Haylon City controller.
“Your majesty! The science team at the crash-site is under attack!”
“What?” Cord looked confused, pressing the transmit button. “Who’s attacking them?”
“We’re not sure, sire, we received a frantic message—it sounded horrible…”
“Play it for me.”
After a few seconds of delay, the recording exploded through the speaker.
-“It’s killing people… you have to help us!…”-
The sound of screaming and weapons fire almost covered the cries of death in the background, but not quite. A deep rumble played against the cacophony, drowning out the shrieks.
“What’s that roaring noise?” Sammi asked, squinting at the speaker.
The color drained from Cord’s face. “I think… it’s a growl.” He flipped the channel switch on the comm. “Captain Hezzian, take the lead, I have to go check something out.”
“Do you need assistance, sire?”
“Not until I’m sure what we’re facing. Take the ships back to Haylon City for now, and have Keenan make sure that Jerrold is in a guarded cell, this time: two men, day and night.”
“As you say, sire.”
Cord banked the ship left, breaking formation with a long sweeping arc, pointing the craft toward the crash-site. The treetops swayed with the turbulence as they passed—a dusting of ice crystals layered upon the leaves.
“Do you know what this is?” Sammi asked. “You looked like you might.”
Cord’s forehead creased, and he pursed his lips. “Remember, I told you we salvaged the ship from a water-hole?”
“Yes.” She nodded.
“Well, that water-hole is one of a system that stretches around the moon: they’re all connected. They attract wildlife, which makes them a perfect hunting ground…” He trailed off, making minor course corrections.
“And what’s a Hydra?”
“Something the hydrologists found when they began investigating the water-holes. I thought we’d killed them all.”
“What do they look like?”
“Like something from a nightmare…”