If there was someone keeping records, I was certain I would win. I was certain no other Union officer found herself abducted, knocked out or rendered unconscious as much as I did.
This time it was entirely my fault. I trusted to many and too easily. I trusted Sobody’s judgement and I trusted that cursed Karthanian boneface without investigating him more closely.
But I could not fault our Golden friend, I had Narth with me the day we met the being and Narth did not detect anything.
Maybe I relied to much on the psionic abilities of my friend, he too could miss something.
Truth to be told, I was angry most at myself. For getting myself once more in a situation like this.
I did not really feel any discomfort so far and tried to open my eyes, only to realize I had something over my head that prevented me to see. Feeling my body once more I was certain, I was still sitting in a chair of some kind, with my hands and feet tied or otherwise immobilized.
I closed my eyes and tried to use my other sense, something I started to develop still back home on Nilfeheim. Dr. Dwyer called it electroreception and considered it some delayed mutation and an unexpected result of the genetic manipulations the settlers of Nilfeheim received so long ago.
While I never really used it much, I grew more accustomed to it.
It did not work well, as the electroreception sensed every active device nearby. It did tell me however that I was still on the bridge of the Karthanian trader.
Someone pulled the hood of my head and it was, as I almost expected, the traitorous Karthanian spacedock owner.
“I am terribly sorry, Captain Velvet but you left me no choice.”
“Betrayal of trust is not a choice.Sobody trusted you and so did I, but I won’t make the same mistake again.”
“Captain, I am Karthanian. With your help we liberated millions of my kind. Yet there are many millions more that will be rounded up, to replace the ones we liberated. Without Ithe and other slaves, the ruling guild will resort to even more ruthless oppression and send more of my kind to the now idle moons. I can’t let this happen. Neither my life or my honor matters. We must try to stop this and you were not willing to commit. As an individual you will hate me, but I hope as a leader you will understand that we must make decisions of this kind.”
“Forcing me to do something, by kidnapping me is not the right approach. You could have said what you just said to me before you decided to act.”
I then saw the motionless body of Circuit, looking like a human sized puppet with it’s strings cut. I knew Circuit was not affected by paralysators. “If you hurt my friend, Grtonner, you will pay for this betrayal like no one has before.”
I remembered Circuit being affected by Tech Stop while we fought the crooked base commander and his pirate cronies at Richter base. Fear that he damaged my friend mixed with cold rage building up. “Untie me now!”
Mel, the human boy from Itheamh came into my field of view. He held a slave collar control in one hand. His face reflected none of the demure shyness he always had when he looked at me before. “We needed you Captain Velvet and we are thankful for what you did, but we don’t need you anymore. We wanted to keep you alive to thank you for all you did for us, but the cause is more important than that. You wear one of the slave collars and it will guarantee your cooperation.”
He pressed one of the studs and my body was flooded with waves of pain. “I lost all compassion while wearing one like this. My loyalty is with them and I hate you for what you make me think.”
He pressed the stud again and the pain was even more intense. I tasted blood in my mouth.
The Karthanian put his long fingered hand on the arm of the human traitor.”She did nothing to us, but help. We must keep her restrained but we won’t torture.”
Mel hissed. “She is Union, they let us all suffer. Yet they could have stopped it long ago.” He howled in rage.” She does not leave my mind, she has powers!”
The next wave of pain was so intense, my muscles cramped and I fell out of the chair to the floor, my vision blurry from pain and tears.
Har-Hi was certain he was dreaming or maybe he had died and there was an after life. He was completely pain free and felt as if he was floating. There was someone else, he felt an immense presence. “Am I dead?”
“No mighty Dai, you will soon be back where you belong.”
“Who are you?”
“We have not met in person, but we are friends. I am the Narth Supreme.”
Har-Hi felt a strange and calming relieve. “Will you help me to get back?”
“No, Har-Hi your friends are already on their way. I am here because you did what no mortal was able to do. You slain one of the twelve self appointed Guardians of Light and one of the servants to the one called Lord Lumis.”
“Did I do wrong? Should I have him kill me?”
“No, my child. I was already on my way to assist you.” The warm deep and bodiless voice actually sounded amused.”You have a host of friends, that not only surprise the immortal admirals, but their combined talents give all that is Narth pause.”
He felt a deep sense of pride but wondered why this entity was appearing to him.
The voice continued. “Yes indeed there is a profound and important reason for this meeting. You stumble upon an important part of a cosmic conflict, your best friend Erica is the core part of this conflict. I know you have already felt its presence and Erica confined in you about it, as far as she currently knows.”
“Yes I have and while it concerns me, while I do not understand. I am Erica’s friend and will stand with her against anything, no matter what it might be.”
“Erica takes much strength from that, but what sleeps in her is stirring. It is stirring much too soon, and if it awakes before she is ready, the consequences can not be foreseen, but are of such magnitude that it will affect all reality forever.”
“Gods are real? Erica shares her body with a god?”
“As I tried to explain to the Eternal Warrior, to Erica and now to you, the term God is very hard to define and it is always the position of the observer, but even in Narth terms, what Erica or Eric will become is indeed god like, with powers and ability one can only describe as omnipotent. The female aspect of Erica might fade away, and the male aspect will once again become part of the Dark One.”
“What is she or what will she become and why?”
“This universe is only one of many, but there was only one at the beginning of it all. In this first condition of reality, two concepts took on sentient form. One represented light, life and creation. The other became the incarnation of death, destruction and darkness. Together they formed a perfect balance. Because there can be no good without evil, no light without darkness. This balance became THE RULE.
One of these entities was Crea, the spirit of Creation and life. She also became the definition of female, decided to destroy darkness and reshape further universes without darkness and death. In doing so she had to fight and attack the incarnation of Darkness. But the very act of fighting and attacking are not aspects of light but include elements of the other side. As the desired result of that conflict was the destruction of the other side. It sound simple but on a cosmic scale it is infinite complicated and she disturbed the balance and by doing so broke the Rule.
This first Universe was destroyed and Crea punished for her deed. The Dark incarnation was asked to sleep and not retaliate so the Rule could be restored in the next Universe. However Crea did not abide by the judgement and attacked the sleeping entity of Darkness. Unable to destroy it, she managed to split and divide this entity into twelve parts.
Again Crea was punished and sent into exile to another plane of existence. Unable to directly influence reality, she raised a mortal being as her defender and agent in the next universe. The mortal became Lord Lumis and was tasked to destroy the Dark One, or at least prevent his incarnation.
Now we are in the final Universe, and it is here where the Dark One will reincarnate, unify the 12 tokens of his power and rise to make the decision. Will he seek revenge and destroy Crea and thus destroy the Rule, will he submit to the side of light and thus also destroy the balance forever, or is there a third way?
I won’t and can’t go in much detail for now, but your Erica is the Dark One. “
Even in this dream like state, Har-Hi felt completely overwhelmed and quite afraid.”What can mortals, what can a Dai do?”
“You and a few others have very important parts in this. The Dark One will recognize you and perhaps as friend. He might listen to you or may shape the decision he is to make because of you.”
“How can I function as a Union officer, knowing that my best friend eventually becomes a universe shattering something?”
“This is the reason I have come. You destroyed one of the beings serving Lord Lumis, if Erica hears about this the entity in her will awake and perhaps seek to destroy Lord Lumis and thus making the decision before all the preordained events have occurred. You will wake and remember only fighting another Star born being, but what I have told you know will come back to you the day, you must stand with or against the Dark One.”
And then he was certain he heard the voice of the Eternal Warrior.”How is he?”
The voice that answered was that of Cateria. “He should be completely recovered and good as new in about an hour. There was not much time to spare however.”
Har-Hi opened his eyes and looked into the face of Elfi, who could hold back her tears. She smiled at the same time and said. ”Welcome back, Lt. Hi.”
He tried to get up, but Cateria pushed him back. “Stay put, Sir for a little while longer. I am still grafting tissue to your body. You suffered serious burns to almost twenty percent of your body. Not to mention, radiation damage and a small catalogue of other injuries.”
“You found me?”
“Yes we did, well technically it was Lt. Three-Four.”
Har-Hi frowned and said with a quieter voice. “I lost Lt.Schwartz. There was an entity that took her.”
“I am right here, we defeated the energy being. But what happened to you?”
“That is what I want to know as well.” Said Admiral Stahl stepping into view.
Har-Hi delivered a detail account of his ordeal, of him fighting another of these energy beings, but even as he recalled the fight and the details, he could not shake the feeling that something more profound happened.
The immortal admiral smiled. “Well, Mr. Hi, these Star Demon things had no chance , it stood against you. Welcome back in this part of Universe.”
“Thank you,Sir. Can you brief me what happened while I was gone?”
“The energy being was destroyed by EMP grenades and by Lt. Three-Four. The Ithe have requsted Union help and applied for membership, about three hours ago. The science corps is renting the rubble pile with the Pree gate below and your Captain should be on her way back. She liberated the slaves on all three Smelter Moons.”
Har-Hi grinned relieved. “I knew she would not just stop at one.”
Stahl sighed. “I should have known as well. Since you are back and soon fit for duty, I can go back and run the big show.”
I found myself in a dimly lit room, that was without question designed to hold prisoners. I could not detect the faint hum or vibrations, of a spaceship under power and assumed I was either aboard a landed and powered down ship, or perhaps a building planet side. The room was featureless gray most likley some form of concrete and it did not appear to have any furniture
I was still dressed in the Thauran outfit and still tied up. The next thing I noticed as my mind begun to clear, was the unmoving body of my friend Circuit. I feared the worst.
I also noticed a second human shape, tied up like me. It was the young human I had meet on Itheamh, the traitor Mel.
He noticed me moving and lowered his head, so he did not have to look directly at me.
My heart missed a beat as I noticed movement. “ I am sorry.” He whispered.
“Sorry doesn’t cut it, buster. I am going to kill you the first chance I have.”
“Grtonner, lied to all of us. He doesn’t want to wake the First Engineer, he does not want to help us to end slavery and misery. All he wants is revenge and replace the leading guild with his own. He told me that the Karthanians would not tolerate a human amongst their midst and he locked me up like with you.”
“Shut up! I do not want to hear your excuses, or why a traitor has been betrayed.”
I suddenly noticed movement in the sitll form of my friend. Circuit’s eyes started to take on a dark red glow and then I heard a faint electronic whisper.
I robbed over to him. “Circuit please be alive!”
“I am Captain, but I still need some time to reset most of my systems.”
“Take all the time you need. I am not sure what situation we are in right now,but I get us home, I promise.”
“I have no doubt, Captain.”
Just then a door opened, I had not noticed before as it was almost seamless integrated in the opposite wall, it revealed itself by a faint hum and bright light pouring in the until now almost dark holding chamber. The outline of a Karthanian blocked some of the light and made the alien look like a black cutout.
“I see you have recovered from the neural overload, our human friend has exposed you to. I am very grateful for what you have done, and I would not allow him to kill you, besides you are a very valuable element in my quest to return Karthania to its rightful glory.”
“Sobody trusted you and because of him I trusted you as well. You are the worst traitor and liar I have come across so far and the hour of payment for your transgression is soon at hand.”
“Oh spare me with these hollow threads, Captain Velvet. You are on Arkalon, beyond the reach of the Union. Yes Sobody saved my life and became my benefactor, but no friendship to a Xeno can trump my desire for revenge and to regain what is rightfully mine. I am indeed Grtonner Icylemh. No mere Karthanian but the rightful Guild Master of the Engine builders, denied and betrayed by Gharrhtur Maceuyt and members of my own guild.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Of course I wanted him to give me as much information as possible, to evaluate the situation and find a way to escape, but I didn’t want to appear too eager or interested.
“Because I respect you, as much as a Karthanian can trust a Xeno. You are not Karthanian and therefore only useful as a tool, but I have seen you in action and I know how well this Union of yours trains their officers. Without you, I would still be Fantlemo Brthail, exiled and dreaming about ways to regain what is mine. If you cooperate, I will spare your life and find a way to return you to Itheamh.”
“What cooperation? You seem to have everything and I am just a Xeno.”
“Order your mechanical engineer to reveal all the technological secrets, ISAH pods, Translocator weapons, Loki torpedoes, how to make Ultronit. With this knowledge, the Engine builders will become supreme. With such knowledge I can walk into the guild hall and demand my seat.”
For some strange reason, the bonds that held my hands tied to my back, withered away. I could see the tape around my ankles melt away. I did not waste the opportunity by questioning what caused it, but lunged forward and hit the Karthanian with a shoulder tackle.
The alien was pushed with force into the wall opposite the open door he was still standing in. I heard and felt something crack. I did not care and followed up with a right hook and all the strength I could muster, across his elongated snout. He gargled as the rigid mouth tube broke of his head, watery green liquid splashed over my face and arms.
While he slid to the floor and I got to my feet, I knew I had killed him.
There was no one else as I looked around. I stood in a long well lit corridor, with a door at each end, about 50 meters in each direction.
I hastily dragged him inside the cell.
Circuit was just sitting up. “I think your threat wasn’t as hollow as he thought it would be.”
“No I guess not, but I could only do it because my bonds suddenly dissolved for some reason.”
“I hoped they would work fast enough, but the reason were my nanites. I never leave the ship without them.”
He came struggling to his feet.
I forgot that I was the captain for a moment and simply hugged my friend. “I thought I lost you.”
“I could not leave you alone, Captain, but as you know Tech Stop does a number on me. Luckily it was not strong enough to penetrate my brain shell, but it shut down all secondary systems.”
“Lucky indeed, where would I find a better engineer?”
I then searched the body of the dead Karthanian and found a control device of sorts, however nothing else. The Karthanian’s outfit would not fit a human being. Not that I could pass as one of them even if I somehow managed to make it fit.
I tossed the device to Circuit. “Can you make sense of this thing?”
“Let me check it out closer.”
While Circuit examined the fist sized, egg shaped device with several control sensors on its sides. I turned to Mel , who tried to move away from me, but managed only to push him a few feet further until his efforts were stopped by a gray concrete wall. His eyes reflected fear, but this time I had no pity and felt only cold rage.
He whined. “Don’t kill me, please.”
“I wanted to tear you limb from limb, but that would be effort wasted. No, Mel I won’t kill you but I will let you rot right where you are. I don’t care what the Karthanians will do to you and won’t lift a finger to stop them.”
Circuit said. “This thing is sort of a PDD. It controls the doors, seems to have a communication component and a data processing element.”
“Well no sense sticking around here, let’s see if we can’t steal a ship or something and leave those bone faces to themselves.”