Authors: Eric McMeins
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Military, #Space Opera
“Changed? Not much. Oh wait, I remember. None of your fucking business. Now fuck off out of here,” West said, and stepped forward giving Thalo a mighty shove down the hall. The soldiers all laughed at the retreating pair.
“Cole is definitely right,” Liam said.
“Oh yeah, about what?” West responded.
“We are alone in this galaxy. People either want to conquer us, steal from us, or use us. I can see that now,” Liam said.
West watched the pair retreat down the hall and board the elevator. He just grunted his response to the soldiers view. He wasn’t so sure himself, but orders were orders, and Cole had been around these people a lot longer than him.
Cole opened his eyes and let out a low moan of fear. He turned his head and took in his surroundings. He looked down and saw he was standing in the same spot he had been buried alive in—the Esii home world. His heart started hammering in his chest. He watched the outline of the box form around his feet. He couldn’t move. In his mind he was violently thrashing around, but in reality, he was motionless. The box extended itself up and out of the floor, stopping just short of chin level.
Cole held his breath and waited. Moments later the door to the room opened and a Pyndigum entered, as only one of their kind could. He appeared to float smoothly across the floor. Cole looked at the monster as it hovered mere inches from his face.
He was as disgusting as ever. Skin flayed off every inch of its body, except the face. The eyes and mouth were sewn shut with heavy gauge steel cable. A foul stench permeated the air—rot, viscera, and other foul things.
“No,” Cole croaked out. “No, I killed you. All of you. You all died by my hands, and I escaped this place.” He was shrieking, fear taking control. He couldn’t be here, not again. He couldn’t do this again.
The voice drove into his mind like a laser.
“Dead?Us? I think not,”
“I killed you,” Cole sobbed, “with my mind.”
“Amusing, yet untrue. You did nothing. You lived a fantasy. Created by us. You killed no one with your puny mind
.” He unleashed a mental barrage that tore into Cole’s brain and set it on fire.
“You, who can’t even keep me from hurting you, killed me who has trained in my arts for hundreds of years. You did exactly what we wanted you to do, no more.”
“No,” Cole said. “I escaped. Split killed you and we escaped with Anastacia. This isn’t real.” Cole did the one thing he could; he squeezed his eyes shut tight.
“Interesting. So you believe you killed me? Fought off an entire planet of my people and escaped. Did you kill some fanciful monster that doomed us all? Did you find more of your kind to help you out? Did you find a whole room full of everything you would need to survive on the surface? Did two spaceships arrive to take you away? I am amazed that you still believe all of that.”
“No,” a whispered croak escaped Cole’s lips, “you lie.”
“You never escaped, you broke under the strain. Your friends never came for you. In fact, they abandoned you to your fate. They took your ships and defended their homes from us with them. They were not, after all, your friends. But to no avail, you gave us what we wanted. You gave us the technology that your ancestors withheld from us. We go now to conquer the galaxy.”
The Pyndingum shifted slightly and cleared Cole’s front. It held its arm out and pointed at the door.
“We have finished with you and release you into our world. Go, my people eagerly await hunting you through the halls. And remember, before you die you will see those responsible for your woes.”
The box dropped from around Cole and he fell forward from the sudden release of the pressure holding him in place. Stumbling to his knees, he scrambled to his feet and ran for the slowly closing door. He smashed into the guards on the outside of the room. They all went down in a tumble, and Cole came up with a pistol. He didn’t even look, he just ran. He careened down the hallway as fast as he could. He didn’t know where he was going; he just wanted to get away. He ran down empty halls and past locked doors. Finally, he rounded a corner and saw three Esii walking single file in front of him. The door they had just come from was still open. Cole ran up behind the one in back and fired at point blank range. The plasma bolt obliterated the creatures head and continued on through the two in front of it. All three headless bodies tumbled to the floor. Cole grabbed the door as it was sliding shut and with strength born of desperation, stopped it cold. He then put everything he had into opening it enough that he could squeeze through it.
Breathing heavy, Cole turned and took in the room. There were Esii everywhere. Cole backed up against the door and raised his looted plasma pistol. His wild flight had sapped him of energy and slowed him down. The Esii in the room were diving for cover as he opened fire. There was cursing and shouting, and the sound of hissing metal as the plasma heated up the room. Cole was adding his voice to the cries of his enemy.
Then the Pyndingum was there, seemingly out of nowhere, he appeared. Its voice intruded once again in to Cole’s head.
“Remember my warning.”
It slowly faded from view. Cole had stopped firing when then Pyndingum had appeared, and he once again scanned the room. Slowly the Esii built walls and tables began to melt in his vision. They reformed into the bright white walls and floors of Home Base. The Esii began to morph as well, changing from frail demonic beings to the familiar forms of Worlders. As the faint outline of the Pyndingum finally vanished, two figures rushed into the room and came to a halt almost exactly where the Pyndingum had been standing. Cole recognized the two, then they were joined by a third. Jeth, Thalo, and Sky looked around the room in horror as they saw the destruction wrought by Cole. Worlders were wounded everywhere. None had completely escaped the violence of Cole’s attack. Cole looked behind him and saw, through the now open door, the three headless corpses of the Worlders he had killed. But the three he hadn’t seen were their bond mates, bond mates who were still alive and now severed from the bond by their brothers’ deaths.
Slowly Cole swiveled his head back to the room. He blinked a few times as if waking from a sleep and realized he was still pointing his weapon into the room. Finally the sounds hit him. Alarms were blaring, and Worlders were moaning in pain. This had been their rec-room; none had been prepared for violence.
Cole looked at his friends and tossed the pistol on top of a wounded Worlder nearby. “Clean this mess up,” he said to no one in particular, turned, and left.
The three stared at the carnage Cole had brought into the room and couldn’t believe it. It had only been moments before when the three had been standing outside of Snow’s room talking about the incident in the hanger when the alarms started blaring down the hall. The base’s AI was screaming some nonsense about Cole going nuts and killing Worlders when they heard the distinct sound of a plasma weapon. Sky and Thalo were off in an instant. Jeth was torn about not wanting to leave Snow but followed the two a few moments later.
The AI guided them to where it had Cole trapped. Apparently the AI had reacted quickly and upon realizing Cole was not himself, had locked the area down. But not before some Worlders made it into the hallway.
The AI reported the first three KIA, then the firefight in the rec-room. Thalo and Sky were too late. They entered the room just as it seemed Cole had gotten control of himself. There were Worlders down everywhere—some suffering minor wounds, others near death. Thalo looked into Cole’s eyes and shuddered. Cole looked like he was dazed one second, then indifferent the next. He looked around the room, threw his weapon down, and left the room, his uncaring words hanging in the air.
Sky made as if to follow Cole, but Thalo stopped her.
“No.” He shook his head at her and pointed to the wounded. “You need to deal with this. I will deal with Cole.”
“Don’t hurt him, please,” Sky said from behind a surprised look.
“As if I could,” Thalo responded and walked over to one of the least hurt of his brethren. He knelt down and aided his kinsman into a more comfortable sitting position.
“There you go. Is that better?” he asked.
“Yes, thanks,” the Worlder responded. “What happened? What did we do, Thalo? Why does Cole hate us?”
“I am trying to figure that out. Did he say anything while he was in here?” Thalo asked.
“Yes, and it was odd. He kept shouting, ‘You are dead! I killed you!’ over and over. He was wild, like he didn’t even know where he was.”
“Thanks.” Thalo patted the wounded Worlder on the shoulder, “I will get to the bottom of this, don’t worry.” Thalo rose and surveyed the room. Medics had responded—Worlder medics only, the human Docs were nowhere to be seen. Sky was doing what she did best and was triaging and directing the incoming help, so Thalo quietly slipped out of the room and met a waiting Jeth outside.
“Thalo?” Jeth asked. He didn’t need to say more, Thalo knew what his big friend was thinking.
“I don’t know, I thought he was just reacting to what happened to him, but I am not sure now. He is changing, and not for the better. Something is off here. I mean, he saved our collective asses from the Esii trick and Sun’s betrayal. If he hated us, why save us?”
“Ships?” Jeth supplied.
“No, he could have adjusted his attack to defend the ships he lost. He just kept attacking. He was a little jittery after things settled down and even came to me with his fears of what the Esii had done to him, but nothing that he couldn’t handle. I just don’t know, but it sure scares the hell out of me.”
Jeth grunted and settled back to wait while his brother’s facile mind churned and worked on the problem. An hour later and no closer to solving the riddle, Sky joined them in the hallway. Thalo got her up to speed, and they decided they needed to talk to Cole, permission or not.
Thalo asked for Cole’s location and the three headed out. He was in the main conference room, the same one they had planned their attacks on the Esii in when they started their offensive those many months ago. Walking calmly, they arrived to find a handful of human guards at the door.
“Halt.” One of the men barked.
“Out of the way,” Thalo snarled. “You can’t keep us from going in.”
The guard backed out of the way. “Wasn’t planning on it. You are expected.”
Thalo brushed passed the man and opened the door to find a full blown meeting in progress. Cole was standing at the head of the table talking to a room full of humans like nothing had happened.
“You all have your tasks,” Cole was saying to them, “any questions?”
“Damn it, Cole!” Thalo shouted. He was losing his cool. “What the hell was that? Huh? At least three of my people dead, dozens more wounded. And you just walk off like nothing happened. I don’t know what’s going on—” Thalo was interrupted when the room erupted in shouts, and angry men were turning on Thalo. Jeth roared and waded into the room, sending most of the men scrambling backwards to get away from the giant monster.
“Silence!” Cole thundered. “Back to your seats, please.” Cole waited for the room to return to a semblance of normalcy before he continued. “Now I can understand that you might be upset Thalo, I would be too if I were you. But you must agree I showed up at the right time.”
Thalo looked confused. “Huh?”
“If I hadn’t shown up and put down the riot in that room, more of your people might be dead. Your people got off lucky only losing three.” Cole stared at Thalo, daring to call him a liar. Thalo glanced around the room and noticed more than a few armed men. He ground his teeth in anger.
“Yes,” he said through clenched teeth, “lucky indeed.”
“Because of this unfortunate incident,” Cole continued, “we have decided that the alien presence here on Home Base has overstayed its welcome. We are giving you and yours twenty-four hours to, as we say on Earth, vamoose. Leave.” Cole sat in his chair and watched as the three aliens made their way quietly to the door.
“One other thing, Sky.” Cole said.
She stopped and turned to face him, tears in her eyes. “Yes?” Hope permeated the word.
“When you return home, take a message for me.” Cole saw the final hope wither and die in her eyes. “Tell your father that I have a task for him. One that if he can’t complete, I will be forced to come there with my fleet to deal with. While I was away, being tortured and forgotten about, I had a visitor. He took great pleasure in hurting me while he was there.”
“What does this have to do with us, Cole?” Sky asked wearily.
“He was a Nixa and he will pay for what he did. Your father has one week to find him and imprison him. I will be there in one week’s time to pick him up.”
“And if we can find him?” She asked.