Scavenger Hunt

Part Four

by

Rob

 

The information for this first part of the story comes from two sources. One is Melythra. Yet, her delivery is so deadpan that sometimes its hard to tell what emotions are behind the words. To fill in those gaps Fairchild was very helpful. It was challenging trying to blend the two versions into one coherent story. Here goes.

As you should remember I left Fairchild waiting outside the library while I rushed to home to get myself captured by Arions. I was told that as soon as Melythra was finished the book she was currently reading she would go out and join the Velorian. Considering at the time I had Arions on my mind I didn’t have all that much time to wonder about the meeting but I did give it some thought. I wanted these two incredible women to like each other.

Ten minutes after I left, Melythra came walking out of the library. It wasn’t that hard to spot her. I mean she does attract quite a bit of attention. I had already described Melythra to Fairchild and with her beautiful blue eyes she spotted my Companion instantly. For Melythra the task was even simpler. I mean how many tall well muscled blonds wearing a skin tight white and red costumes do you meet. They approached each other confidently, no shyness in either of them, unlike yours truly.

"You must be Melythra," said Fairchild sticking out her hand. "Ross has told me quite a bit about you."

"He has spoken of you as well Aurora."

"The public calls me Aurora. My friends call me Fairchild or Fair."

"If it is what you wish Fairchild," responded Melythra in that deadpan manner of hers.

"Ross tells me that you’re linked together mentally."

"That is correct."

"Could it be severed?"

"No, nothing can ever break the bond between us. It may be interrupted temporarily if someone knew that it was there. The One will never reveal it, however."

"The ‘One’?"

"It is but one of Ross’ many titles. He is the One because he is the lone human selected to join the Wanderers and share their power."

"Okay. Are you in touch with Ross right now?"

"Though we do not speak together I can feel his thoughts, if I wish it. Even now he approaches his home. He has seen two Arions and is pleased that he is limping."

"Limping?"

"Yes, he has leapt out of his office window this morning and pretends that the jump has left him injured. He wishes the Arions to have no suspicions as to his true nature."

"Seems wise."

"He is captured. He does not fight back. What is chloroform?"

"An anesthetic."

"A cloth with chloroform has been placed over his face. Even now Ross feigns unconsciousness. He says that he will try to see where they are taking him."

"Warn him not to give his cover away."

"I shall."

"He says that he cannot see very well. He will try to read their auras with opening his eyes."

"What the . . . What are these auras?"

"Ross can see the energy signature of an individual. In this way he is able to distinguish at a glance a Terran from a non-Terran. It was in this manner that he was able to assist in the removal of the foreign energy, orgone, that had invaded your system."

"Oh."

"Ross is quite pleased with himself. He can see using this method. Not well, but he reports that it is sufficient."

"Where is he?"

"At present he is in a mechanical conveyance which he calls a van. Apparently, it is heavier than normal and he believes that it is lined with lead."

"That makes sense. They’d have to try and shield their movements from me. Well, I might not be able to see them but then again they can’t see me either," said a highly satisfied Fairchild. "This could take some time. Tell you what, I’ll go and get some clothes and then we can go get something to drink."

"Do you require currency?"

Fairchild reached into the top of her right thigh boot and withdrew a well used piece of plastic. "Never leave home without it," she said. "Back in a sec."

The trip took exactly 2 minutes and 37 seconds. (Melythra has a thing for exact measurements.) In her hands was a small plastic bag. This time it was Melythra who was treated to a demonstration of Fairchild’s casual attitude toward nudity. But when you have a body like hers why not show it off? Her normal clothes turned out to be almost as revealing as her costume. It consisted of a pair of denim shorts with some well placed rips, a white halter top which barely covered the proud swell of her breasts and a pair of leather sandals.

"Are you ready to go," asked Fairchild when she was finished dressing.

"Certainly."

"Good. I spotted a nice little restaurant on my way back. It’s only half a mile from hear. Let’s walk it. It’ll give a chance to get to know each other better."

"As you wish."

The restaurant Fairchild selected was a quiet cosey little bistro with lots of dark secluded booths, just right for intimate dates or undisturbed conversations. Depending on the way their conversation went, one might just turn into the other. Not that Fairchild was actively attempting to seduce Melythra but she wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity if it presented itself.

The two beautiful women were shown to a quiet booth in an out of the way corner of the restaurant. Fairchild didn’t have to tip to get the spot that she had chosen. All she had to do was smile nicely and when the maitre d had put his tongue back in his head they were taken there without delay. Their waitress was almost instantly at their table and quickly returned with the best Bordeaux in the house. Fairchild waited until they had each had a sip of the pleasant aromatic wine before she began speaking.

"I hope you don’t mind me being here."

"There is no reason for displaced emotion. Your presence may be required in dealing with the Arion threat. It is appropriate that you should be present."

"That’s not exactly what I meant Melythra. I was referring to being here with you after what happened between Ross and me."

"Ah, you mean the fact that you engaged in physical relations."

"Sex. People normally refer to it as sex. And yes, that’s exactly what I mean. Ross told me that you were his ‘Companion’. Although, he wasn’t too explicit as to what that meant. I just didn’t want to step on any toes or cause any problems between you two."

"No offense has been given. The One is free to form attachments outside the bonding. It was foreseen and understood by myself. I am to aid the Chosen in the arduous task which lies before him."

Now Fairchild had had just a taste of Melythra’s emotionless self-sacrificing attitude. Sometimes she was so damned noble it would set your teeth on edge. Unlike yours truly, Fairchild did not mouth a couple quiet platitudes at Melythra and move one.

"You weren’t the least upset that Ross and I had sex. After your offer I thought that you might have been."

"The offer, as you call it, was done to aid Ross. I recognized the tension that my presence caused and offered to relieve it. There was nothing more involved."

"Now, I think I understand what Ross was talking about," said Fairchild, deadly serious. "Melythra, how much experience have you had with men?"

"It is sufficient."

"No, I don’t think that it is. There’s no way Ross would ever respond to an appeal like that. Some men would, I hate to say, but not him. Ross has had some really bad experiences when it comes to women. They’ve tried to use him or just hurt him for the fun of it. You’d think that this might warp his opinions about women and to some extent it has. Mainly, what it’s done is to ensure that he’ll never use a woman like he’s been used in the past. Of course, he’d turn you down when you put it as clinically as you did. It was like . . . I don’t know. Like he was a prize horse that had to be taken out and exercised so it wouldn’t lose its edge. There was no emotion, no passion, on your part."

"Is this truly necessary?"

"To get him going? Absolutely. Believe me I know what I’m talking about here," Fairchild said with a giggle. "Ross is an animal when he’s motivated."

"Are all males of this time as Ross is?"

"I’m sorry, no. Quite a few still think of themselves first, last, and always and if they’re partner happens to cum then it’s a lucky coincidence. Ross is one of those men who get just as much pleasure giving as getting, maybe more."

"This is based on personal experience?"

"Yes, it is," Fairchild said with a reminiscent smile.

"Then it appears as if I have made an error in judgement. It never occurred to me that Ross would be as you say he is. Yet, should anyone know this to be true it is you," Melythra said shaking her head. "It is inconceivable. In my experience males simply do not act as you have described."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"I see no point to the exercise."

"Humor me. It might even make you feel better."

"Very well. I was born in a small fishing village. Even as a young girl I attracted the attention of the men in the village. While my father lived I was safe and secure. He kept me safe and would not sell me to the most powerful man in the village. Yet, this man would not accept it. One night he and his male relatives and friends attacked my home. Both my father and mother died in the attack. When he came to claim me I reviled and spat on him. His rage was immense and he beat and cursed me. When, at last, his anger was abated he said that I was of no further use to him. He then gave me to the others for their pleasure. They took me repeatedly and when I did not please them they beat me. I do not recall how long this went on for. I only remember that after they were done at last I crawled out of what remained of my home and out of my village. When the Wanderers discovered me four days later it was already too late. I was dying and the only way that they could save me was to change me and to do that I agreed to serve as the Companion."

"Skietra," hissed Fairchild. "No wonder you have the view of men you do. I won’t lie to Melythra. Some men are like that but not Ross."

"As you say," she said in that way of hers that while expressionless was still filled with doubt.

‘You poor kid," said Fairchild sympathetically. "This is going to take a while."

* * * * *

Of course at the time I had no time about this little chat between Melythra and Fairchild. I’d have to wait. Even if I had known I doubt that it would have made an impression on me. I was riding in a lead lined van with two heavily muscled Arions with absolutely no sense of humor and really bad attitudes while their flunky drove. As you’ve already heard I’d tried peaking through a slit in my eyes but that was a complete flop. That was when I had the bright idea of trying to read their energy signatures without opening my eyes. It work but the feeling was weird.

I was able to watch my two captors, not that they did anything but sit in the van and wait for us to arrive. They weren’t even talking to each other and I spent about half an hour listening to the Arions breathe. I was actually glad when the van stopped. It was at least a change of scene.

I was hauled out of the back of the van like a sack of potatoes by hugely muscled Prime. Even with my head flopping around ( I was supposed to be unconscious remember.) I could see that we were in a junk yard. It wasn’t my idea of a place for a secret base and guess what? It wasn’t. It was their parking lot. A shuttle was waiting for us and I was unceremoniously dumped inside. I was pleased with myself when I remembered to give a little grunt when I landed.

The second Prime, a slightly smaller female, carried me to a padded chair and strapped me down and placed restraints on my wrists. From this position I was able to see almost the whole interior of the shuttle. There wasn’t that much to see. The inside was particularly bare and Spartan, reflecting the Arions militaristic mind set. At the controls was a smaller female who I thought had to be a Beta. The hulking Prime who had thrown me on the floor stalked forward with a sour expression on his face.

"Why are we not leaving?" he demanded.

"I’m just finishing the last of the pre-flight checks sir."

"You should have done that before we arrived."

"Yes sir."

"Leave her be Treshad," said the woman. "If you continue we’ll never leave the ground."

"You coddle these inferiors too much LahrRinda. It will come back to haunt you. Mark my words."

"I shall. Never fear I shall. Now, strap yourself in."

A surly Treshad did not respond but contented himself with shooting withering looks at LahrRinda as he strapped himself into on of the gee seats. (Oh, in case anyone is thinking that I magically learned to speak Arion. The translations of these conversations are courtesy of my own altered memory and Fairchild’s knowledge of the language.) Even without being able to understand what was being said I could catch the emotions that lay behind the words.

Once we were underway Treshad and LahrRinda kept exchanging evil looks at one another. No one spoke and I was glad of that. You see when I contacted Melythra through our mental link I lost track of what’s happening around me. Maybe with a little more practice I can do it and still hear what being said around me but not at this point. So, I used the lull in the conversation to tell Melythra what had happened to me and where I was. She relayed this to Fairchild, who was a little surprised that I was being taken to an Arion spaceship. In her experience this was highly unusual behavior. Hell, I thought they were all unusual and the fact that they were taking me to a spaceship was at the bottom of my list. As neither Fairchild nor Melythra had any other advice besides ‘be careful’ I broke of the contact.

About twenty minutes into the flight I noticed that both Treshad and LahrRinda were looking closely. I had a couple bad moments there until I realized that I should have been coming out the effects of the chloroform by now. I put on a nice show of groaning and blinking and then staring blankly ahead. I guess high school drama club finally paid off. I blinked twice before I finally looked at either of the Arions directly.

"It wakes." said LahrRinda.

"I can see that."

LahrRinda got out of her chair and stood in front of me. An overhead rack she took down a large canteen and remove the top.

"Drink," she said in English.

I didn’t not what else to do and I couldn’t think of any snappy comebacks. So, I drank. I would have preferred scotch but under the circumstances the water was fine.

"Thanks," I said after the canteen was removed.

I’m not sure but I thought that I detected a hint of a smile. It must have been a trick of the light.

"Do you wish to be alone you that you may play with your new pet."

"Silence!" snapped LahrRinda. "We were told to bring the Terran back in fit shape to answer questions. I do my duty nothing more. If you wish to challenge me."

I didn’t know what she said but whatever it was shut Treshad in a hurry. Man, the big Arion actually cringed. It was clear to me that this was one Arion lady that you didn’t want to mess with. Then I realized that if things went wrong, or right depending on your point of view, I might have to do exactly that. Funnily, I didn’t like that idea. I shook that thought away hoping that our paths wouldn’t cross.

"Have you drunk sufficiently?" she asked after she had stared down the hulking Arion to prove her superiority.

"Yes thanks."

"Do you need to relieve yourself?"

In spite of everything that had just happened I blushed. "No, not right now. I’ll let you know. Ah . . ."

"I am Lieutenant LahrRinda. He is Ensign Treshad."

"Yeah right. You wouldn’t mine telling me what you want with me lieutenant. Not that I’m complaining mind. It’s nice to be wanted and all."

This time there was no denying it. A ghost of a smile touched LahrRinda’s lips but her head was turned away so that Treshad couldn’t see it. I suspected that if he had that her face would have remained blank. Damn, just when you think that you’ve got the enemy figure out you meet someone like her.

"I don’t not know why your presence is necessary," she said her voice completely cold. "I am but a lieutenant and not privy to the confidences of my superiors. I do know that they wish to ask you some questions and your future treatment depends entirely on how you answer them."

"I’ll keep that in mind."

"Do so."

There wasn’t any more chit chat during the trip for which I was grateful.. It gave me time to deal with the seemingly wild assumption that I had come to. It was that Lt. LahrRinda might actually have some normal decent feelings buried under all that muscle. This rocked my concept of my job. I could tell aliens from human beings at a glance but I couldn’t see into their soul. How in hell was I going to tell the good from the bad without waiting for them to act? And if I did wait what then? Couldn’t that result in an even greater disaster. Not for the first time since I had met Horus I dearly wished that I had gone fishing instead of to Egypt.

When the shuttle finally docked it was LahrRinda who unstrapped me from my seat and escorted me off. Treshad stalked behind and once he was in the large hanger bay he muttered something under his breath and left. I couldn’t say that I was sorry to see him go. My arm was taken in a firm but not painful grip and I was ushered out.

As I was led through the corridors I remained silent and tried to memorize the many twists and turns we took. Yet, part of me wanted to talk to this strange Arion. She didn’t fit the mold that I had mentally created of her species. I dearly wanted to know if she truly was as she appeared and if there were any more like her out there. I didn’t ask those questions because I knew that they’d create a lot of difficult questions for me to answer. Plus, I might not like the answer I got. I’ve been wrong about women before.

I didn’t need to be able to read the writing on the doors to know that I’d reached the brig. The extra reinforcing on the large double doors along with the two heavily armed guards on duty told me that. LahrRinda exchanged a couple words with the guards before one opened the doors and stepped aside.

After we entered the brig I was passed on to another less muscular Arion. This guy wasn’t the talkative sort. If anything he was the ‘let’s rip his arms out of his sockets and watch him squirm’ sort. He didn’t say anything. He just jerked me around by my handcuffs until he had me in front of the cell door he wanted.

The inside of the cell was almost as bare as this guy’s heart. The only furniture in the room was a large metal chair with arm and leg restraints fitted to it. I was rudely shoved into the chair and after my legs had been fixed down my handcuffs were taken off long enough to lock them down to the arms of the chair. My jailer tested my bonds with a few sharp tugs and when he was satisfied gave me a bloodthirsty little smirk and left the cell. Once the cell door was closed I got in touch with Melythra.

 

Are you there, my mind whispered.

 

I am always here, was her reply.

 

Right. Sorry I forgot. Where are you?

I am in an eating establishment with Fairchild. At present she is telling me about her first encounter with a man.

Nifty. You think you could interrupt and tell her that I’ve arrived.

Fairchild wishes to know where you are?

I’m on a bloody big spaceship in the brig strapped to a chair.

She wishes to know if you are all right and are in immediate danger?

No, just damned uncomfortable. Look someone may come along any second and I don’t want to be caught staring off into space right now. None of the Arions I’ve met so far has been very talkative. So, I don’t know what this is all about yet. But I do know that I was taken to answer some questions for them. When I find out more I let you both know.

I understand. Fairchild sends her best.

I would have returned those words but the sounds of feet in the corridor outside shut me up. I had been listening with all my enhanced hearing and so had a little time to prepare. Nothing could adequately prepare me for what walked into my cell.

Leading the way was short woman with arrogant blue eyes. At first I thought that she was a Beta but the amount of hard muscle that she displayed quickly made me reassess my position. Then there were two silver stars on the left side of what could be laughingly called her clothes. I mean there was just enough there to identify the color as black. Behind her came another slightly taller but thinner woman. She was dressed in white bra and panties and a pair of high heels, which was unusual. What was really strange, however, was the studded collar around her neck. I didn’t realize the significance of this until the third member of their party entered my cell. It was Basil Martine.

I know that I’ve briefly mentioned Basil Martine before but only briefly and I guess at this point I should talk about him in greater detail. Right off the bat let me say that Basil is handsome in a slick, oily, cobra sort of way. He’s tall, about 6', and lean with black hair that is normally slicked back and a pencil thin mustache and he has cruel black eyes. If you’ve paid attention to the adjectives I’ve been using then you might understand what’s coming next. Basil is cruel. He gets his kicks from having power over others, especially young women, and exercising it painfully. To put it bluntly Basil is into chains and whips. Why he ever studied archeology and the classics I have no idea. Unless, it was to enable him to come in contact with a lot of young women through teaching. Whatever the reason the fact is I hate Basil Martine and I always have. Naturally, his feelings for me a very much the same.

"Is this the one?" asked the short but clearly superior woman.

"Yes he is sub-captain," replied Basil. "So Ross, how are you?"

"I’d be a lot better if I didn’t have to look at your face Basil."

Basil jumped forward to deliver a backhanded slap. It never connected. The Arion in charge plucked his descending arm out of the air like it was in slow motion and stopped it dead. This drained the anger out of Basil face in a hurry. He looked aghast at his trapped forearm realizing that without even breaking a sweat the small Prime could crush it to powder.

"Such action is not needed, yet."

"Yes of course," said Basil meekly. "My anger got the better of me."

"See that in the future it does not," she said releasing his hand, clearly dismissing him.

Basil stepped back rubbing his sore arm and looking at me evilly. If I was left alone with him he was going to try and make me pay.

"I am Sub-Captain ZauSha," the small Prime said turning on me. "You have been brought here to answer some questions. You will answer to the best of your abilities and you will answer quickly."

ZauSha opened her left hand and held it under my nose. There were two steel ball bearings in her palm.

"Do you see these. Watch closely."

ZauSha’s fist snapped closed and slowly began to grind. Instinctively I tried to close my legs and the restraints almost broke until I realized what I was doing. I sat as patiently as I could until she was done. Finally, the grinding stopped and her hand opened once more. Now instead of the two spherical steel balls there was one shapeless lump of glowing metal in her palm. The inference was not lost on me but she made sure.

"This can be done with softer parts of your anatomy. Do everything to see that it does not become necessary."

"Point taken. Ask away."

"I wish to know if you have come across artifacts which may not have been of Terran manufacture? Or if you have ever heard of such artifacts?"

"That’s it. You want to know if I’ve ever found alien objects."

"Yes. Answer quickly, my patience grows strained."

"All right, all right. I don’t work that well under pressure you know. Let’s see. There’s that crystal skull from Mexico but I’ve heard that’s a fake. And then there’s that little gold pendant from the Valley of The Kings that looks like an airplane. Personally, I’ve always thought that was practical joke."

"We already know of these items. Tell me of others."

"I’m thinking. I’m thinking."

"Think faster or I shall move to more drastic actions."

I was spared a gory explanation of those actions by a knock on the door. Well actually, it was a chime but you get the picture. The door slid open and the Beta who had strapped me to the chair motioned ZauSha over. Naturally I turned up me ears.

"I apologize for the intrusion sub-captain but Captain Forgan wishes to speak with you."

"Very well, I will take it outside. Watch the prisoner and our ally."

"Yes sub-captain."

ZauSha did not close the door and so I didn’t have to turn my hearing up too high. Still I hoped that no one talked to me while I was eavesdropping. I didn’t want to miss any of this conversation. What I did forget was that I couldn’t speak the language.

"ZauSha here captain."

"Report."

"I am conducting the interrogation of Archer at present. All recovery teams have reported in and should arrive shortly."

"Any results as yet?"

"Nothing definite captain. There is a list of possibilities being compiled presently. I have yet to mention the Oulaeans or the Czebhinn. I thought it best to refrain until I had wrung all the knowledge from the Terrans."

"Correct ZauSha. The Terrans may tell us what they think we want to hear. Knowledge of the races should be restricted and by no means are you to mention the weapon."

"Understood captain."

Even though I couldn’t understand a word that was being said I continued to listen carefully. The change had affected my memory and I could remember words verbatim if I really concentrated. I did think that I discovered one thing, well two actually. Two words spoken by ZauSha did not seem to my untrained ear to be of Arion origin. They were Oulaeans and Czebhinn but what they might mean was a complete mystery to me. I would have listened further but Basil decided to get snotty once more.

"So Ross, it seems as if I have the upper hand this time."

"Scum always rises Basil. I thought that you knew that."

"Don’t try my patience. The sub-captain isn’t here to save your ass now."

"But she’ll be back."

"Don’t think that’s going to last. If you don’t tell them everything they want to know they make you suffer."

"What? You’re not going to do that yourself. After all, pain’s your thing."

"I’ve got something much more interesting to occupy my attention than a nobody like you."

"So that’s how they bought you off," I said nodding toward the downcast Beta. "They give her to you as a play toy."

"Yes, isn’t she marvelous," said Basil running his hand over the swell of the Beta’s ass. "The Arions can be quite generous to their friends."

"You realize that you’ve just sold your soul Basil."

"Perhaps, but it’s a deal I would gladly make again."

I’m sure that Basil would have said more but it was then that ZauSha reentered the room. She dismissed the guard before turning her attention back to me.

"I shall return shortly. In that time you will recall any mention of any artifact that might not have been of Terran origin."

"Ross," said Basil before he left my cell, "I’d give them everything that they want. The Arions know more about inflicting pain than I ever imagined possible."

* * * * *

Captain Retchub raised his fist and gave the signal. The two programmers separated the two air locks from the Arion security grid. Simultaneously, two responding fists were raised in success. Then the emergency code that had been wrung from the lone Arion that they had captured earlier was entered. The air locks cycled and opened. Retchub snorted silently. Only Arions, he thought, are arrogant enough not to change their emergency codes at random intervals.

The Kintzi marine captain was the twenty first warrior to enter the Arion Destroyer. Normally, he would have led the way but the mission goal was more important than any personal glory. Plus, before this mission was complete Retchub was sure that there would be a lot of fighting.

The two air locks had been selected carefully as the two closest to the detention area. The five teams who would seal this area from the rest of the ship had been first inside and were now on their way to their appointed destinations. Retchub monitored their progress on his motion detector until they were out of range. There would be no further word from them until their task was accomplished or they were discovered and the alarm given. The captain watched them go and then turned his attention to the rest of the assault force.

His warriors all enter the Arion destroyer without being detected. Yes, they had selected night on Aria for the assault but Retchub never thought that they would be so foolish as to follow that time schedule. His warriors fanned out on silent feet after they had removed their air suits. None talked. Each knew his own task and assignment and carried it out as they had been drilled. If everything went well then they would be well on their way to completing the mission before the Arions even knew that they were there.

Retchub swung the huge eight foot long ion canon from behind his back and fixed his motion detector to it. It was time for him to move out. The three Kintzi in his strike squad spread out behind him. The captain took one last look back at the four warriors left to guard the air lock. They saluted smartly but then they were his best. They would keep the way to the air lock open no matter what the cost.

* * * * *

Lt. LahrRinda had just finished her duty shift and was on her way to the one of the destroyer’s six exercise facilities. This had become a ritual with the young Prime. She spent almost all her free time their. She truly enjoyed the feel of her muscles under the effects of a yellow sun and spent some time pumping them to their fullest. But what she loved the best was the sparring sessions with the other Primes. LahrRinda was truly proud of her accomplishment in this field and it was not surprising that she was the unarmed combat champion of the Pride. The lieutenant only wished that the higher ranking officers could participate because she had heard that both Captain Forgan and Sub-Captain ZauSha were exceptional fighters in their own right.

Lt. LahrRinda had just entered the corridor when her world exploded. She was picked off her feet and hurled backwards into the reinforced wall. Her mind reeled and her body sparked with expended energy. Slowly, she shook her head and pulled herself from the wall. Her ears were ringing and her eyes fuzzy. LahrRinda just got back to her feet when she was struck again and again. Her body was spun like a top and she fell to the deck. Once more she was hit but there was no pain only brief discomfort and then a pleasant lethargy came over her.

* * * * *

The indication I had that anything was wrong was the muffled explosion which rocked the floor. This first explosion was quickly followed by two more in quick succession. I cursed my luck. I knew that my cell was monitored and that I couldn’t free myself without giving my new powers away. I wanted to keep them secret for as long as possible. So, I was effectively trapped by my own cleverness. Then came the fourth and largest explosion so far and with it the lights in my cell went out.

Now, I thought that I could do something. Hopefully whatever knocked out the lights had also taken care of the surveillance devices as well. I didn’t change into the Jackal. I didn’t need to. The leathery substance that I was bound with might have been enough to keep a normal human being confined but not me. Both my hands popped out of their restraints with a loud snap but with the noise that was happening around me made the sound insignificant. After my hands were free my feet quickly followed.

I was free of the restraints which held me to the metal chair but that was the least of my concerns. The cell was pitch black but with my new eyesight that was more of an annoyance than anything else. No, my real trouble was the locked door between me and the outside. I was pretty sure that I could force without having to turn into the Jackal. The fact was that I didn’t want to do it that way. I didn’t know what was happening outside my door and didn’t want to go blundering into the situation blind. I realized one thing, however. Whatever was happening outside my cell sounded bad.

I couched next to the closed door and pressed my ear to the cool metal. Outside the sounds of fighting got steadily louder. This was no coincidence. Someone was fighting their way to the brig. I had no idea who it was only that it couldn’t have been Fairchild. She would have told me if she had been planning anything like this.

An explosion went off very close and rocked my cell and set my ears ringing. Footsteps ran along the corridor and I could hear cell doors being opened. There were cries of shock and scuffling and then the footsteps began again. This time they made right for my cell.

My whole body tensed as I heard the lock being opened. The moment that it opened I stuck my foot out. Whoever was entering tripped and went flying into the dark. I didn’t get a good look at who it was. I had too many other things to do. As soon as my victim went flying I jumped to my feet and out of the door. The cell door control was simple and I slapped the close button. From inside the cell I heard a growl as the door closed silently.

All around me was smoke and chaos. The corridor was dimly light by emergency lights and the red flashing alarm signals. I had no idea what to do now. I was turning around trying to make a decision when I heard a woman cry out. I didn’t think I reacted.

I ran around the corner and into the open cell door. Through the half light I could see Jane Fellows lying unconscious on the floor. What was standing over her stunned me. It’s not every day you run right into a walking Bengal tiger. I hadn’t heard of the Kintzi at that time and even if I had known I don’t think it would have stopped me freezing up like I did.

A grinning tooth filled snout turned toward me and a low growl came from the Kintzi’s throat. Clearly, it thought that I was just a normal Terran because it reached for another pair of handcuffs from the belt at it waist. That got my attention. I had already been taken prisoner once that day and there was no way in hell I was going to let happen again, especially since I believed that I had the answers I had come seeking.

The fact that he, at least I think it was a he, thought that I was just an ordinary Terran gave me the advantage. I just had to make the most of it. I waited until he was just a couple feet away and then I struck. The palm of my hand struck him on the nose. The Kintzi howled but it was cut off when my kick connected with his stomach. My double sledgehammer blow to the back of his neck dropped him to the floor. I could tell that the Kintzi was still alive because he was twitching. Suddenly, I began to rethink my plan of not changing into the Jackal.

While that really big house cat was down and out I got Jane out of the room. She was still breathing but there was an awful looking bruise on the side of her head. She’d live but she’d have one hell of a headache when she woke up. I was still bent over Jane when I heard the growl behind me.

Damn that Kintzi was one tough mother. I thought that he’d be out of it for a while but no. He was on my back with a snarl. His fist struck me in the back of my head and I saw stars. Claws raked my back and my shirt was torn to shreds but fortunately, my skin was unblemished. I didn’t know how long it would stay that way though. My hand touched something hard and metallic. It was the weapon that the Kintzi had dropped when he entered the cell. Reflexively my finger gripped the trigger and I pointed it backward. The bang was deafening and the results were very satisfying. The cat was thrown off my back and hurtled backward into the wall. He groaned and slid to the floor.

I didn’t take a chance this time. I closed the cell door. I didn’t know how long it would hold him but it would be long enough to get away. I gathered Jane into my arms and I beat a hasty retreat. Before I left the brig I checked the other cells but they were all empty. So much for rescuing my fellow archeologists.

Outside the ship’s brig the noise and chaos increased exponentially. The corridor was rapidly filling with acrid smoke and a fire was blazing just down the hall. Shouts and cries of both anger and pain filled the air and actually drowned out the claxon. One look at all this madness made my decision all the easier.

I hope you don’t think that I was planning on getting involved in all this because I wasn’t. As far as I was concerned this was an Arion matter and the more of them that got creamed the better. I had come seeking information and I had it. I hoped. And if I didn’t I was sure that I wasn’t going to get another chance. No, I was looking for a quiet spot to slip into my jackal’s head and get the hell out of Dodge. The only problem was that I wasn’t sure that I could find one. Where was a convenient phone booth when you need one.

I was lucky. The first corner that I turned. Not only was it deserted but there was also a supply closet there. The power was out in this part of the ship and I had to open it manually but with my new muscles this took just a moment. I put Jane down gently in the corner and went to close the door. I was half way there when someone staggered around the corner.

It was Lt. LahrRinda. She was in bad shape. Her uniform was completely gone and her naked body was covered in soot from the fires that raged. Under her smudged body I saw shiny flashes. Fairchild had told me about the unusual reaction that she and the Velorians had to gold. She had also mentioned that the effects were the same for Arions. The fact that LahrRinda was still walking considering how much gold was attached to her skin was a testament to her force of will. Understand this, if it had been anyone other that LahrRinda then I wouldn’t have done what I did but then it was her. So, I might as well get on with it.

LahrRinda staggered around the corner and struggled to walk down the corridor. She braced herself against the wall as her feet flopped disjointedly. She covered a dozen feet when two Kintzi appeared behind her. They gave a shout of joy and leapt on her.

In her weakened conditioned LahrRinda didn’t stand a chance. The two Kintzi took her to the ground and started slapping her around. I didn’t realize what was happening until I saw one of the Kintzi fumbling with his belt. Damned if the fuckers didn’t start purring as they began to paw LahrRinda’s naked body.

I ducked behind the door cursing my luck again. Why did it have to be the one Arion who had smiled at me? But it was and I wasn’t going to let those big cats rape her. Well, I was going to have to put my jackal’s head to translocate anyway. I might as well take care of those two bastards while I was at it.

The decision made. I didn’t take time to think about it. I switched and charged. I hit the Kintzi on top with a blast from my eyes. I narrowed them to keep LahrRinda out of the blast. He crashed into the wall and stuck there. I hit him twice more. The second shot catching him right between the eyes. There was a loud snapping sound and he stopped moving.

The second cat just stared at me like he was hallucinating. Well, the moment I got to him he was quickly disabused him of that notion. My force blast caught him at point blank range. He was driven head first into the armored deck plates. Just to make sure I slipped my force dagger between his ribs and found his heart.

LahrRinda groaned once when I picked her up. Her eyes fluttered but my hand stopped them opening as I took her into the supply closet with me. I lay her next to Jane and closed the door completely. Just to make sure that no one would break in unannounced I used my force knife to weld the door closed. It took a bit of experimenting to do this but once I had the knack it went swiftly. When I turned around I could see LahrRinda moving in the dark.

"Lay still," I whispered. "You’re in a safe place now. Just lay back and relax someone will find you soon."

"You speak English." she asked her voice shaky and her eyelids twitching. "Who are you?"

"A stranger," I said doing my best John Wayne. "Just passing through."

"Why did you save me?"

I gathered Jane into my arms and brought the image of my home to mind.

"Please," LahrRinda begged. "I have to know."

"It’s because you have a really nice smile," I said just before I jumped.

(To Be Continued . . .)


Sharon Best, Aurora Universe, Copyright 1995,1996,1997
Copyright ©1998, Infinity Bridge