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FINALIST — Submission by By M. Baker

First Fear [ Part 3 of 4 ]

Wei Orbit.  Present Day.

"That's it, we've done it." Lll-Vfah gave a uncharacteristic yelp of joy as he placed the datapad on the work desk.

"What?" Was the first word out of Xi-Liions mouth. "You mean the formula actually works this time." Xi-Liion forced down the excitement that he began to feel. Experience had taught him to believe Lll-Vfah when he said that something had worked. Lll-Vfah excitedly picked up the datapad and again watched the video playback of the experiment. He froze the image when he got to a certain point. Xi-Liion bounded up next to his superior with unusual energy and starred at the picture which, at his superiors request was zooming it's self in.

"There, you see that. Light energy." Xi-Liion studied the image, it looked like a deformed cloud to him. "Are you sure that's not smoke?" He asked, "Or steam from the body?"

"Wrong inferred baseline for either. That is something there." Xi-Liion stared at the 'creature' if that was what it really was, trying to make himself believed that they had just transcended a rat. "Look at the Either-readings in that area, there off the scale." Xi-Liion was surprised when he discovered that the older Antaran wasn't exaggerating. "Get Cai-Njux to warm up the communications relay. I'm going to inform the government that we have the finale formulae. After years of research we can now truly become gods." As Xi-Liion turned to spread the news he allowed himself a tight smile. Only one of them would become a God. Lll-Vfah just didn't know that yet.


Wei Orbit.  Five years earlier.

It was an amazing and horrific sight to behold, the Antaran station. How it seamed almost organic and alive, but somehow didn't give any outwards signs of life. Richardson stood next to the window which overlooked his planet. It was only the presence of the Antaran who'd called himself Lll-Vfah that stopped Richardson from constantly staring at his home-world.

"We have stories of things like this back some." He said in a almost dreamy voice.

"I do not care. You will soon get use to the view."

"No, I don't think so." That had been Richardson's first and last mistake. He soon learned that everything the Antaran said was a order, not just polite conversation. When Richardson had finally recovered from the blow that had sent him sprawling to the feet of a impotent and unhelpful Rai he truly began to fully understand what he'd let himself in for. Grasping his left shoulder as if that would stop the pain Richardson stood, a fearful mix of emotions vied for supremacy across his face. After what seamed like a eternity as the two stared at each other Lll-Vfah finally broke the mental battle and turned to his assistant.

"Perhaps he needs a little demonstration of our power," While he could have easily spoken in Antaran the scientist wanted Richardson to understand every word.

"Agreed sir." The assistant scientist said. He then tapped a belt communicator. "Xi-Liion to weapons. Target the colony and give a five second bombardment of it." There was a brief word to acknowledge the order.

"I do suggest you watch the results of your insubordination." And so, Richardson was forced to watch in horror as the aliens blasted the wrecked colony from the safety of orbit. The entire thing had of course been planned well before hand. All Lll-Vfah had needed was something that he could call insubordination, the smaller the better as the Human would come to dread what the results would be of a major transgression. When the flashes of blue-red fire had finished a look of complete dread had won the battle for Richardson's face. He felt sick, half of him wanted to runaway in hide the other half wanted to attack, charge and kill the murderers that had just slaughtered thousands of people on his planet. There would be survivors of course, but that mattered little to Richardson who now wanted nothing more than revenge. But the coward, or the common-sense in him won in the end and he was forced to accept the inevitable. Either fulfil the missions the Antarans set for him or watch his entire planet turned to slag.


Wei System orbit.  Present day.

It was a very angry Lll-Vfah that stormed into the main laboratory onboard the station. Despite his age and integrity he was unable to stop himself from punching the wall. Several bones snapped as he through the full force of his anger into the blow.

"Stupid government. Can you believe the audacity of that bunch of Klackon-headed-"

"What happened?" Xi-Liion said as he looked up from another set of results from the Energy conversion experiment. "Not getting this years-"

"The Government are refusing to tell the public of our discovery."

"No." Xi-Liion said, himself now feeling the urge to punch the wall as hard as possible.

"Why." Storming around the room Lll-Vfah began talking, getting angrier and angrier.

"They say that to reveal this information now would expose the Antaran Hegemony to , to much stress and it would collapse. Hah, as if they would know anything. They don't understand, this is the greatest discovery since dimensional physics, this is-"

"Calm down." Xi-Liion said grabbing the older scientist in a effort to stop him from getting to over worked.

"CALM DOWN." He shouted. "I WILL NOT CALM DOWN> NOT WHEN WE ARE SO NEAR TO PERFECTION." Lll-Vfeh shock himself free of Xi-Liions grasp and began pacing. "There must be something we can do. We must be able to contact someone. Someone must still owe me a favour." Xi-Liion however wasn't much listening to his superiors ranting. If the government didn't reveal the discovery, then there was only one logical alternative,

"We must."

"What." Lll-Vfeh said stopping.

"Get Cai-Njux, were going to inform the galaxy ourselves." For the first time in his long life, Lll-Vfeh smiled, a deep, strong satisfying feeling engulfing him. If the government wouldn't bother taking some of the credit by claming it was there own discovery then, well him and Xi-Liion would have to take it all. Of course if say, Xi-Liion 'decided' to transcend into pure energy before the news was broke out. Well then, all the credit would fall to him, provided he never told anyone of his accomplice. And brought the stations crew's silence. A small price to pay for so much fame and a near-god like status indeed.


Deepspace.  3 Years Ago

The Elerian ship was from the pre-invasion days. It had once been a powerful destroyer, capable of holding off many ships of a smaller size, with fighter and missile ejection ports as well as over a dozen phasor-cannons bristling at every angle. it had at one time been the scourge of the Mrrshan fleet. Now however even Richardson's small craft could have easily destroyed it. The small corvette, with its four-man and one android crew sped towards the old ship, fires blazed along side it's hull and it was amazing that it had survived the trip through hyperspace in one piece. Richardson had certainly seen many ships less damage get ripped to shreds.

"Were in the communication range." Jai called. The android had over-gone several modifications during the past two years. His programming meant that now he served as communications/sensor officer onboard the Antaran Mercenary Corvette Demon-Hunter. Richardson himself sat in the command chair just in front of the comm. array. The Helmsman a young Alkari they'd picked up somewhere, Thycho-Tie fretted nervously, to his left a Mrrshan who eyed the Elerian ship with a warriors trained eye acted as weapons officer. Deep in the bowls of the ships where the generators and engines were stored was Cracy Mendel there human engineer.

"Activate the array." Richardson ordered. Knowing full well that if somehow the Antarans had stumbled onto his little plot the first he would no about it would be a ship de-cloaking directly behind the Demon-Hunter and blasting her into nothingness.

"Array online." Rai said.

"Greywinds Pride." Richardson hailed the wreaked ship. "This is Richardson. Do you have the cargo." A few seconds passed and for a while Richardson was worried that the crew of the Pride may have been killed in there last battle. Or worse, that the ship was filled with Antaran troops just suckering him in. Then finally a strained female Elerian voice answered, "Yes we have the cargo. But she's injured. I hope you have medical facilities."

The primary hanger bay was bathed in darkness, a few sparks from a shattered screen, faint embers glowed from the wreckage of a ruined interceptor were the only light source's. The Corvette dodged nimbly aside and landed on the scorched metal landing plate.

"Were down." Thycho-Tie said even though everyone already knew. Without a word Richardson grabbed his Plasma Rifle and pressed the open control. The ramp collapsed down and Richardson, followed by his Mrrshan guard ran down it into the darkness. Several shapes, humanoid and dark awaited them. Slowly as his eyes adjusted to the darkness Richardson realised that they seamed to be all that had survived of the Elerian crew. Seven Females and two males, of varying ranks and position in two ranks of four with the Captain of the Pride a single pace in front and a hidden figure standing behind the group. The shadow at the back didn't move but seamed to Richardson to be faintly humanoid. Of course with the state of the lighting in the hanger-bay it really didn't count for much.

"At least it isn't a trap." The Prides captain said, taking several quick steps forward to stand face to face with the human.

"I was about to say the same thing." Richardson commented with a slight smile. The Elerian Captain was old, her hair grey-white, skin pasty and posture stooped. She held out a wrinkled and scarred hand in a very human-style greeting. Richardson clasped her hand in return It felt cold and lifeless, like holding a corpse. "Captain Ellisa Mantra of the Greywinds Pride." She introduced herself. "Perhaps the last ship in the entire Elerian Fleet." Richardson, since he'd begun to set up the unofficial 'resistance' two years ago had often marvelled how the Elerians had kept a ship in space for the better part of a millennium. Many species still had ships hidden away somewhere, either floating in deep space where no-one would ever look or buried many miles underground protected from Antaran sensors and weapons by tonnes of rocks. The Elerians certainly had some gall, operating a ship on various small hit and run attacks. So much so that the Pride had become the resistance second command ship, after the Demon-Hunter of course. After all there were very few other operational ships which weren't under Antaran control. Not that Richardson had anything but a mental list of the resistance. He was the 'head' of the resistance simply because he travailed the most and could therefore get the best appraisal of the situation and had the most chance of delivering messages. No-one trusted any other communication methods apart from direct courier and being a Mercenary for the Antarans meant that Richardson was very rarely stopped from visiting where-ever and whoever he wanted to.

"You said you had the cargo." The 'Cargo', was his and Mantra's little code word for one of the last descendants of the old Elerian ruling family. There were many such 'lost heirs' of the Elerian Queen on Draconis, the only thing that had strengthened this particular claim to the thrown was the entire Elerian Navy supporting her and the fact that of all other Elerians she was the only one to display any telepathic ability. Years ago the Antaran 'Mind-Blind' virus was meant to have destroyed all trace of the power in the Elerian gene-pool, and perhaps it had for a time. But nature has away of getting what it wanted in the end despite genetic engineering. Lurrel, the 'cargo' had displayed immense telepathic power, she could supposedly 'see' everything that went on, visible on every plane of existence, somehow nature had decided to manifest all the Elerians mental powers in one unfortunate frightened girl. A girl who thanks to her visions was rarely lucid enough to be any threat to the Antarans, but that of course didn't bother to stop them from trying to kill her. The Pride and her crew as well as perhaps tens of thousands of Elerians on there home-world had sacrificed themselves either to save Lurrel or simple as punishment from the Antarans. It was only by pure luck on Mantra's part that the Pride had reached the rendezvous in one large piece instead of hundreds of small ones. Mantra turned, motioned back to her crew. After a second or so Lurrel herself was escorted to the front. The teenage Elerian looked all most as if she was in a trance as she was brought forward. She was murmuring something about them. Who for all Richardson could know could have been Antaran or another resistance force, or even the Orions. He decided at the moment not to put to much faith into Lurrels ramblings. Perhaps she was really a telepathic descendent of the Queen, or perhaps she was just mad and everything she sore just a figment of a overactive imagination. Lurrels arm and head was bandaged, Richardson noticed and he quickly motioned for Rai, who was standing back on the ramp of the ship to bring there medi-pack forward.

"She'll be safe with us." He reassured Mantra.

"Well she's no longer safe with the Pride." The other commented. "I had hoped that one day I would see her take her rightful place as queen. But the Antarans aren't far behind us. I suggest you leave quickly." And that was the last thing Captain Ellisa Mantra of the Greywinds Pride had ever said to Richardson.


[ CONTINUED...   Part 4 ]

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