By Glyn Collinson
 

Chapter Eight - Answers


Mc Kinley, floating in blackness, his entire body in pain. The pain pulsed up his back, into his skull and back down to his feet to start again. "Well done." The voice said. "You performed your part perfectly. Not that you will take any comfort from it." Mc Kinley groaned, trying to fight off the layers of intoxication that wrapped him tightly in icy cold sheets. "Now, tell us, Who are you? Where did you come from? How many of you are there?" Mc Kinley kept quiet, a smirk on his face despite the agony that he was in. "Why are you attacking us?" the voice persisted.

"Because you killed our people."

"That is not true." The voice continued.

"Oh really? What about the people in the ISV Kran. You slaughtered them mercilessly."

"Who told you that?"

"A ghost." Mc Kinley said. He knew he shouldn't talk, but the delight at telling the voice this overrode all other senses.

"Ghosts lie, as do Nali. Nali are untrustworthy and should be doubted at all times."

"We haven't met any Nali."

"That is a lie." The Voice said. "Lies will not be tolerated." With that, every nerve in his body fired in a message of complete agony. Mc Kinley heard screams, as if from a child, high pitched and full of terror. Then as he noticed that his throat was getting dry, he realised, that it was him screaming.

The pain slowly subsided over the course of several hours. When Mc Kinley had recovered, the voice continued in earnest.

"I hope you have learned your lesson. Defiance shall be punished, co-operation shall be rewarded."

"I got you." Mc Kinley said, or at least, thought he said. The words came out quiet and mumbled from cracked lips.

"Good. We have an understanding."

"Before you start again." Mc Kinley groaned. "I wanna" he paused, trying to find his voice. "I wanna" another pause "ask a question."

"Sergeant Mc Kinley, I ask the questions."

"It will help our long term species relationship." The broken sergeant managed a half grin.

"I a curious. My higher authority wants me to abstract the information from you as fast as possible. They demand pain and cruelty. But I am not like them. I am willing to answer one question."

"Generous of you." The sergeant mumbled. "Why do you do it."

"Why do I do what Sergeant Mc Kinley?"

"You. Skaarj. Why do you, why do you, why persecute the Nali?"

"An interesting question. They are the scourge of this world. They infest the planet with their alien forms. They are inferior in every way. But you see Mc Kinley, we are seeking to cleanse the world, to make it more pure."

"That ain't a reason." Mc Kinley "You are just persecuting them because you feel like it."

Pain erupted through every nerve in his body once more.

"Sergeant Mc Kinley. I have lost all patience with you. How dare you teach me about moral rights, when the instinct to persecute is what makes you human? Now, let us start again. Who are you? Where did you come from? How many of you are there?" Mc Kinley was about to protest, when the voice again spoke in earnest. "I learned your you have lesson hope. Shall Defiance be rewarded, co-operation shall be punished. Are you who? Come from where did you? There are many of how yououououououououou?"

The voice got slower, as if it was being played on an appliance with the energy cell running down. Then it stopped all together. Mc Kinley saw a lightening of the darkness that enveloped him, the light became brighter, and brighter and brighter. Then suddenly he was awake, lying flat on a cold metal table staring up at a bright inspection light.

"Come on Mc Kinley Sergeant, wake up" he heard Fa'liene say. He sat bolt upright, and tore electrical connections out of his body. Then there came a gigantic metallic crash, and a dent appeared in the metal door of the interrogation room. "Come on, get up, a squad of Skaarj are about to break through that door, and we need to get out of here!"

"Oh no. You are not doing this again." Mc Kinley said defiantly.

"Doing what? Mc Kinley Sergeant, we have to go now!"

"No, you are not getting me into another trap."

"We don't have time for games. I have no idea of what you are talking about."

"Oh really? How about sending a message to the Skaarj, telling them that you have been captured two Minions. Then you lead us on a wild goose chase through the warrens of the underworld. Why look so surprised? Why else did the Skaarj not react to my attack?"

"I agree, it is a trap but not on my part. In fact I think that it is probably YOU that set us up, maybe not consciously, but still, it was you."

"Me?" Mc Kinley asked meekly, and jumped as another Skaarj hit the door.

"I listened to your interrogation. What was all that about 'performing your part perfectly?'" Mc Kinley's mind swirled back to his dream, and the dark shadows implanting things into him. It couldn't be true could it? Even if it was, he wasn't going to find out by sitting hear. They had to move.

"So where is the Trooper?" Mc Kinley asked. Fa'liene shook his head. Mc Kinley simply nodded. "How do we get out of here?" He asked.

"It won't be easy. If we can get into the sewers, I could take us to the south tunnel. But first we would need to get into the sewers." Fa'liene turned his head, gazing at the bio-refuse collection point in the corner.

"You have got to be kidding." Mc Kinley exclaimed, just as Fa'liene leapt headfirst into the stench.

*****

The overseer watched as the four Brutes hauled on the doors with all their strength.

"It's no good Mighty." One of them grunted. "These doors might have been locked automatically by the computers."

"Well who could find that out?" the overseer asked.

"I don't know." It grunted back. The overseer sighed. He knew he shouldn't have ordered that Hybrid destroyed. Even though it was a disgusting unnatural apparition that dared to have the face of a Skaarj thinker, it did posses the greatest skill at controlling the computer systems of the facility. With rage, one of the Brutes charged the door, the impact denting the metal plate. Then they were all at it, until the door gave way, falling down into the chamber with a loud clang.

Pieces of thinkers lay strewn about the chamber, and several of the control surfaces had been shattered.

"Get some Nali slaves in here to clear up this mess." Barked the overseer.

"Sir!" One of the warriors said "Is this meant to be here? Is this a power relay?" It was pointing to a grey box, with a strange yellow symbol emblazoned on it. This must be some kind of alien device. Perhaps a spying device or even a bomb.

"Get a crew of thinkers down here to remove it and take it back to the labs.

*****

"There it is." Fa'liene said proudly, pointing directly up. Far above, Mc Kinely thought he could see daylight, but of course it could just be another illuminator. Then a drop of rain fell onto his face. He let out a cry of joy and looked appreciatively at Fa'liene. The creature grinned and walked over to a rusted set of steps. The reddening steps coiled around the sides of the shaft, lit by dim illuminators. The trooper gulped, and looked at the top, a tremendously long way up. That was a lot of stairs.

"I guess we will have to do it in several goes." He said. "That looks pretty hard going.

"You don't know the half of it." Fa'liene sighed. "The top twenty two wraps have collapsed, meaning we have a vertical climb at the top."

"Once we get up there, what do we do?"

"Don't worry. I sent a message to a friend, and fellow collaborator. He should be waiting up there.

"Just what I wanted to hear." The Trooper said, stepping out of the darkness, his shadowy figure flanked by the wraith like forms of two Skaarj Warriors. He held two identical weapons in each hand.

"Trooper?" Mc Kinley asked. "What is going on?"

The Trooper laughed. "You fools. You were arguing about which one of you was the traitor…"

"Whilst all along, you…" Mc Kinley stopped. He did not need to say any more.

"I found the Skaarj's offer quite tempting. Elevation to god-hood, and all I had to do was to follow you, waiting until you met up with your rebellious collaborators."

"I guess you have us then." Fa'liene said calmly, stroking one of his banshee squid's tentacles, wrapped around his neck like a scarf. Its head began to rotate.

"You think that you can use him against me? By the time he is ready to emit a blast powerful enough to destroy me, you will be dead."

"Quite right" Fa'liene said, and released the squid's gland, jerking the squid upwards as he did it. The sonic blast hit the weak staircase support above their captors, shattering the corroded part. With a creak a five tonne section of the staircase came crashing down onto the Skaarj. They had no time to react, the massive structure crushing them instantly. It missed the Trooper, only giving him a glancing blow, sending him out cold.

"Let's get moving." Mc Kinely said, taking his first step up the stairs. The first of many. "He isn't going to be asleep for long."

*****

"Whatever did this had an incredible mind capacity." The thinker was saying to himself "This is like no bomb I have ever seen."

"Can you remove it and disarm it?" The overseer asked worryingly.

"Removing it should be simple, disarming it on the other hand is bound to be tricky. You there, Brute. Pull the thing off the core."

The Brute lumbered over to the box, and tugged firmly on it.

"It won't budge." It exclaimed, punctuated by loud grunts of exertion. "It's held on there by teeth. Look." The Brute thrust a meaty hand around the back to feel the sharp jaws of the clamp.

"There must be a way to release it." The thinker said to himself.

*****

Mc Kinley was exhausted, but he couldn't stop with a psychopathic genetically engineered space trooper only a few hundred feet below him.

"Keep… going." Fa'liene panted. "Not… far"

Mc Kinley was about to answer him, when a double blast of energy lanced out from slightly below him, detonating the wall by his head in a shower of small pebble sized rocks.

The couple continued to run up step after step, enfused with new energy drawn from their fear. Mc Kinley's mind was swimming so fast that it took him a second to realise that the stairway simply ended. He came to a skidding halt and glanced at Fa'liene, and then upwards.

"You have got to be kidding." He said, looking at the fifty foot vertical climb.

"Just don't look down." Fa'liene added helpfully, pulling himself up to the second rock that stuck out. Here, the rain came in sheets, pouring over the side of the hole in the ground like a waterfall, chilling and soaking then to the bone. Muddy water cascaded over the rim of the hole. The wind blew right through Fa'liene's clothes.

Mc Kinley thrust his hand onto the side, grabbing at any hand or foothold he could find.

*****

"Thinker, forgive me." The overseer began. "But what does that symbol mean?"

"I have no idea. It is probably a warning to the aliens that they should not steal this bomb. We have such labels on our devices." The overseer nodded in realisation.

"I understand. May I convey my regrets at your brethren's recent passing away."

"Thank you." The creature sniffled. "To have my brothers killed so heartlessly by an alien is, well, overpowering. I can't even see the face of one of them." To take its mind of the thought, the thinker turned back to the bomb. It noticed the button that had a picture of open teeth painted on it.

"I think we have it" the thinker said. It pressed the button. It was the last thing it ever did.

The cavern abruptly turned into searing white energy.

*****

The trooper halted, his massive suited form a dark blob against a background of a fall of over a mile. It looked up, spotting the two renegades not far from the top. He smiled. They were not going anywhere fast. He drew both weapons and took careful aim. The weapon on the right hissed smoked and spluttered, whilst the one on the left simply did not do anything at all. Then he would simply just have to go and get them himself.

"Don't worry Sergeant, I will be with you shortly" The trooper said, shedding the first piece of his suit. The thing was far to heavy for climbing the last vertical surface"

Mc Kinely, ahead of Fa'liene grimaced, and was about to make a witty addition, when his face suddenly froze. Not because of the rain pouring into it, but because he thought he heard something, far away. Something huge. His mind flashed back to the bombing of the outer colonies.

"Fa'liene, back to the platform now!" He yelled. But it was too late.

The incredible explosion sent out shock waves of incredible force. They rushed in all directions, causing ripples in the surface of Tyranza. The waves glowed with an incandescent white fire. It hit, and suddenly below Mc Kinely there was utter blackness, the stairway tumbling down into the depths of the mine. The trooper was screaming something about forgiveness, and not being able to hold on much longer, but he couldn't quite make it out. Looking down he could see the white face of Fa'liene, using the squid's suckers to hold onto the side of the tube for dear life. Then the shock wave was passed them, heading on to reap more destruction elsewhere.

Silence returned.

"Is everyone alright?" Mc Kinely's voice echoed "Fa'liene? Are you there?"

"I am afraid so Mc Kinely Sergeant"

"Trooper?" Called the Sergeant into the blackness.

Silence.

"Trooper are you there"

Silence.

There was no time to relax. There was only time to get to the top. With a scream of anger and grievance, he dug his improvised climbing claws into the soft earth of the side of the tunnel. The rain was still pouring down onto him. From this angle it appeared like they were coming to get him.

Another handhold to go.

He was about to take it, when he noticed the hand, reaching for him. He recoiled in horror. Then he realised that it was human.

"Need a hand Sergeant Mc Kinely?" The Captain asked.

*****

Mc Kinely reached for the hand, and allowed himself to be hauled onto the muddy earth that had started to cascade down into the tube. He squinted in the strong light of the Intrepid's illuminators. The Intrepid sat, quietly venting white steam from its engines, lights flooding from the dorsal illuminator array. Around the hole from which they had climbed were groups of troopers, sealed inside their immaculate black suits.

As far as the eye could see there was devastation. The shock wave had blasted through this area, detonating the once dense forest into splinters. Everything was brown or black, scorched by the incredible heat and pressures.

The scene was cut by an exclamation of horror.

"It's a Skaarj!" Someone yelled.

"It's alright!" The Captain said. "Hold your fire. This is who we are here to get."

"Captain, let me tell you what a pleasure it is to finally meet you face to face." Fa'liene said, reaching out both his left hands to grab the Captain's in a firm handshake. "I have brought you your missing man."

The Captain paused. "You said you had found two." He said, slowly.

Fa'liene fought to find his words.

"Unfortunately" He began "one was just killed in the shock wave. However, as a sign to you of my faith, here." Fa'liene disconnected his hands from the Captain's, un-looped the brown leather strap of the animal hide water flask from around his neck and handed it to The Captain. "It is a Nali elixir, which when administered directly to the blood stream, will cure the madness of the blue crystal. Nali Priests swear by it. It acts not only as a cure, but as a natural shield. Much more efficient than this electronic shielding you mentioned. Oh, and this is also for you." Continued the hybrid, passing The Captain the datapads. "On these are detailed information about Skaarj forces. Numbers, strengths, weaknesses, weaponry, all the information that you will need to fight a war, if necessary."

"Mr Fa'liene, I congratulate you. You have certainly lived up to your end of the bargain, so, as per our agreement, I will stick to my end. As Captain of the Terran Battleship Avenger, I grant you full asylum and protection in the League of Terran Worlds. If you wish to apply for citizenship, well, I think that the note I will give you should allow you to get in without much trouble."

"Wonderful, I am so glad we are partners." Fa'liene said, jubilant. "In fact Captain, I have another proposition for you."

"I am all ears."

The scene was pierced by a tremendously loud roar. Mc Kinely recognised it. It was the cry of the Behemoth.

"Er, I think that we should continue this conversation in your spaceship, safely above the atmosphere."

The roar echoed around again, Louder.

"In fact, I think we should get out of here."

Again it came, hammering at them from somewhere close.

"Now."


Move on to Chapter Nine

STARFIRE is copyright Glyn Collinson.

UNREAL is copyright to Epic Games.

Please do not plagarise this story! I have done hours of work on it, and to copy it and say it is yours would just show how un-imaginative and illiterate you are. I am sure you agree.