2118 - Quintatha
Leo Lukas

When he fixes his own gaze upon the gelatinous mass of the Face, Benjameen da Jacinta is projected suddenly into a radically different universe.

The mutant finds himself naked and without equipment in a red sea. He is saved just in time by a boat. The crew is obviously composed of “knife pitchers” but these “knife pitchers” don't wear the usual masks. The Arkonide recovers his health little by little and learns that he is in Quintatha, a world apparently situated in a cavity of hyperspace. It is the homeland of the Barkners who sail with their ships in what appears to be an infinite sea. Benjameen has been recovered by one of these ships, the SIRIOS. Shirka, the captain, took him aboard because he thinks that there exists - in his eyes - a connection between the rickety dwarf (Benjameen) and a gigantic fish called Rishtyn-Jaffami. Shirka is a hunter of “Titans”, the biggest fish of the sea.

Benjameen learns quickly that the primitive culture of the Barkners depend entirely on the hunting of the Titans. Their bodies provide all necessary resources as well as psionic elements. Knives, of which one nearly cost Pucky his life on Pombar, are fabricated from the teeth of these Titans. When the Arkonide comes in contacts with one of the knives, he feels possessed by a furious desire to murder.

Shirka sends Benjameen to school and there he learns with surprise that the Barkners came to the world of Quintatha like him; while falling into the sea from nowhere! The central point of the life of the Barkners is the floating city of Hellmock. A class friend informs him that there exists another intelligent life form in Quintatha: the Machinitens. Benjameen sees some one day and these are revealed to be some Valenters. The mutant understands that they come from the standard universe and that they exchange materials for the knives. Benjameen tries to enter aboard one of their ships but he fails. Shirka punishes him by flogging.

The SIRIOS then rushes in pursuit of the “Large Gray”, Rishtyn-Jaffami. But when the SIRIOS finally manages to catch up and face the monster, it proves to be an enormous creature which the Barkners are unable to attack in any conventional manner. The beast dives, dragging the SIRIOS into the depths. The ship bursts through the surface of a hollow sphere. It has reached the mysterious interior sea. The crew is killed by Rishtyn-Jaffami and only Shirka manages to flee with a rowboat, taking Benjameen with him. A face then forms itself on the surface of the water in which Shirka recognizes his face. The Barkner thinks that it is about the face of Rishtyn-Jaffami and aims at it with his harpoon.

Michael P. Mahoney 2007-09-16

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