The brave young soldier sprinted across the rocky terrain, glancing around for any enemies or traps. He slipped behind the big gray boulder and peeked around it, judging how far away the Cranium14 base was.
It's about 50 lengths from here. I'll make it three-quarters of the way before I get vapourized. He sighed as he went over his options. Observing the dry, gray land that separated his goal from reality, he realized that there were no sentries on guard.
Strange... Maybe they went in for a bathroom break. He absently ran his finger along the smooth surface of one of the grenades strapped to his chest. This would be so much easier if they hadn't decided to take everyone on that pointless ambush. "We can take them down easily, Anik," he said. "Then we can take their uniforms and sneak into the base more easily," he said. Look where that got you, Kounei. We had a perfectly good plan and you f*cked it up by getting everyone killed. Now I'm the only one left for this damn mission because I was the only one who refused to go.
His thoughts were interrupted as he spotted a dip in the land partway to the base. He decided to risk it, sliding into it and freezing, waiting for the sound of a suspicious blaster.
The seconds dragged by, and the only sound he could hear was his racing heart.
Pushing his antennae out of his face with irritation, Anik poked his head up to recheck the door. There was nobody there.
I knew their sentries were careless, but this is ridiculous. He examined the wall he could see carefully, and found nothing suspicious. Again he pushed himself up and charged for the door, gaining access easily. He hurried down the empty hall and hid in a closet as a platoon of fully armed Cranium14's marched past, their wingtips brushing the ground.
He waited there until he heard the sound of footsteps. He hovered near the door, waiting a moment, then two. The footsteps came closer. His gray fist shot out and knocked the winged alien out. Quickly dragging the unconscious Cranium into the closet, Anik stripped him of his clothes and set them aside. He fumbled around in his own bag and pulled out a pair of neatly folded wings. Silently straightening them out and locking the aluminum structure into place, he slipped into it and pulled the white shirt over his head, then the blue engineer's jacket.
I'm missing something here... Oh, yes, of course. He reached down and picked up the creature's hat, brushing it off gingerly and situating it upon his own scalp.
He tied the engineer to the hanging light by his hands, making sure his feet were off the ground, and gagged him with one of the cleaning rags off the shelf. Satisfied with his handiwork, Anik stepped back into the hall and strode forward.
I suppose it's a good thing that the 14's are methodical to the point of obsession. He turned down the hall and walked down to the hangar knowing the building layout by heart by now.
He kept his head down a bit, the engineer's cap partially obscuring his face. The workers were efficiently recharging and fixing their ships, and building more, never looking around. He came to stand before a naked mass of wires and began fiddling with it. As a dark blue supervisor with black wings walked past, he touched two bare wires together. They sparked brightly and Anik stumbled backwards, crashing directly into the other alien.
"So sorry, sir," he murmured, helping him up and returning the alien's clipboard.
"Be careful!" the irritated creature hissed, midnight wings bristling.
Anik saluted. "Sir, yes, sir!"
The supervisor returned the salute and went on his way. The gray alien's hand dropped, the other clutching a keycard tightly.
Scooping up a clipboard, he hurried out, heading for the powerful energy generator that kept the AI's online and the base functioning. He walked quickly through the halls, the way these Craniums did, pretending to read the information on his clipboard. Anik heard a series of footsteps and forced himself to stay calm.
F*ck! Another platoon. He glanced up and noticed the black, gold-trimmed uniforms. Elites? What are they doing here? I thought this was one of their minor bases. Damn it, Kounei! You never fully briefed us. This must be the core stability base! Maybe that's why he wanted as much of an advantage as he could get. Anik shivered, recalling his mother telling him of the ruthless cruelty of the Cranium14 elite soldiers. If I get caught, I'll wish I'd gone on that ambush.
As the platoon drew nearer, he steeled his nerves, keeping his eyes fixed firmly on the paper. As the muscular, white commander walked by him, he shifted his weight to the side. Their shoulders connected, but the commander's step didn't falter. Anik tumbled to the ground, clipboard skidding across the polished white floor. He was surprised by the sheer force of the blow, his shoulder numb.
The soldiers stopped abruptly, perfectly in sync, all staring forward like the emotionless killing machines they happened to actually be. Anik's lungs contracted, and he had trouble drawing breath. The monster-of-a-14 stepped forward to stand before the terrified soldier. His hand came forward, and Anik closed his eyes, expecting the end.
Instead, the creature leaned forward, took him by the back of his shirt collar, and set him on his feet, handing him his fallen clipboard.
"Watch where you're walking," he said quietly, eyes glinting dangerously. Anik looked up at him and nodded earnestly, white eyes wide with fear. He noticed the commander's patches, forcefully reminded of his training in Cranium14 procedures.
"Yes, Second Lieutenant." Shakily, he saluted.
The lieutenant nodded, returned the salute, and clapped Anik on the shoulder.
"Good Cranium. Go on, before the rebels decide to invade this place. An engineer like you is best working on a craft, not caught in an attack." He resumed his patrol, and they marched away.
Anik turned and hurried to an empty storage room. Once the door closed, he turned and fell against the door, shivering violently.
He was nice enough about it, but he looked like he'd like to have eaten me then and there! He waited until he calmed before stepping back out. Anik straightened his hat and looked up, directly into the barrels of twelve blasters.
The lieutenant pushed through his wall of soldiers and reached forward, ripping Anik's wings off the leather harness and throwing them on the ground.
"Bring him to the chamber, at least partially alive."
One of the soldiers stepped closer to hit him with the butt of his blaster, but Anik reacted in time to duck. They descended upon him like vultures upon carrion, beating him into submission. He lashed out a couple times with his fists and had some solid connections, but couldn't reach his sword, which was in his bag. One kicked him in the stomach, and he crumpled to the ground, gasping for breath. He reached out to his bag, but one of the soldiers quickly switched the setting on his blaster to spray and shot Anik in the shoulder. He could only use what breath he had to yelp, covering the series of ragged wounds. He felt the small metal pellets cooling in his shoulder just as pain exploded in the back of his head as he was knocked unconscious, his body slumping to the ground.
~Part 1 Fin~
Energy rings bound his hands and ankles to platforms that jutted out of the wall behind him. As Anik came to, dread settled in his heart. The room was dark, the only light coming from focused energy tubes above and below him, allowing him to see himself and about 3 feet in front of him. His shoulder throbbed, but he clenched his jaw and refused to show his agony.
They're going to torture me, and then kill me! I won't tell them a thing. The resistance will not end with me. The soldiers still in training will take our place, and wipe out the 14s. We cannot fail!
The lieutenant emerged from the darkness, a small smirk plastered on his face. "Second Lieutenant Haecil. And you are?" His hands were folded behind his back.
Anik remained silent.
"We can do this the easy way or the hard way, boy."
His mouth remained firmly closed.
"Alright then." He turned his head to the right and called over his shoulder, "Bring the items."
One of the soldiers from his earlier platoon silently wheeled over a cart, but left it just out of the light. Haecil picked up a small, spherical clamp in the shape of an "X".
"Do you know what this is?"
Anik nodded. "A brand."
"So it speaks. I suppose that would be the barbaric way of putting it. Yes, it is a brand. It's made out of a metal that shrinks when heated. We have five pieces. As an added bonus, we've developed a poison for it. You will speak."
"What is your name?" Haecil repeated, saying each word as if it was a sentence itself.
Anik glared at him, eyes burning with hate and passion.
"Alright. I won't use the brands so early in, just in case you wanted to get it over with." He reached over and dug his claw into one of the bullet wounds on the prisoner's shoulder, pushing the merciless, cold sphere further into the sensitive, torn tissue.
Tears sprung into the Cranium12's eyes, but he refused to grant him the satisfaction of screaming, instead gritting his teeth and groaning softly.
Haecil smirked. "Being the tough guy, are we? Willpower can only take you so far." He fitted each of his claws into a bullethole and pressed softly, slowly increasing the pressure.
Anik's jaw shifted and unlocked, and he let out a heart-rending, mind-piercing yowl of pure agony. Haecil made a gesture with his free hand, and a pair of soldiers stepped forward calmly and picked up a brand each. Quietly, they dipped the brands into a metal container and approached like heralds of doom, transparent, pinkish liquid dripping from the glistening gray ball of impending persuasion. They stepped onto the platform and clamped the brands around his fists. Haecil stepped away, wiping his claws off carefully on a nearby towel, and held up a small remote with a couple coloured buttons, waggled it before his puppet, and pressed a red button.
Almost instantly, the white light illuminating Anik deepened to crimson, and the metal turned red-hot, then orange, and, finally, white. The sound of sizzling and popping weaved into the spaces between the rebel's screams as the clamp grew smaller, pressing into his hands and offering no respite. The heat never wavered, the poison melting into his skin, warping the flesh and sending a strong smell of charred sinew billowing about the room.
A voice cut through the gruesome song. "What is your name?"
Haecil received a shriek of rage in reply. His mouth twitched up as Anik managed to cry out.
"OFF! Turn it off!!"
"As you wish." The click of a blue button. The light faded back to white. Smoke rose from Anik's mangled hands.
"My name..." he gasped," is Anik..."
"So it does have a name. You are a rebel. What is your purpose here?"
"Yes, I am... a rebel." He grunted as the poison worked its way through his skin, burning away the live cells.
"Why are you here?" Haecil was beginning to get angry again.
"I won't tell... you..."
The soldiers stepped forward with what seemed to be a two-piece breastplate. The first stood before him, and the second walked around behind him. They put the ends of each piece together and looked to Haecil, who hit a green button that caused the ends to melt together. They stepped away again, expressionless, into the darkness. The breastplate remained, welded together.
"Are you sure, you won't tell me, Anik?" Silence. "Alright then." Another click. The torture and howls continued for several long minutes as the new piece heated, squeezing Anik's chest and back and cooking his organs, killing him thoroughly from the inside out.
If he keeps this up too much longer, I won't survive... And then my corpse will be of no use to him.
The gear powered down again, and Haecil chuckled, almost reading his mind.
"I know what you're trying, Anik. All predictable, valiant heroes would rather sacrifice themselves than give in to the evildoer. I am not so kind as to grant you death just yet. Perhaps this shall spur your tongue."
Again the soldiers stepped forward, now wielding two more round contraptions.
For my feet...?
They reached up and he realized they were for his antennae. His breath came short, eyes widening in shock.
"I'm sure you're aware of the sensitivity of one's antennae. This if nothing else, will work," the cruel officer informed him, smiling. He nodded, and his minions stoically slipped the brands onto the trembling Cranium12, completely oblivious to the smaller alien's pain.
As his screams again reached their climax, Haecil yelled above the din, "Why are you here?!"
"DESTROYPLANET!" he shrieked, his voice catching in his ragged throat.
"Where are your teammates?!"
Under the circumstances, Haecil didn't think he was lying. He nodded and bowed graciously.
"Thank you, Anik, for this valuable information." He turned, and hit the red button three times, then a small yellow button on the side. The light faded away, although the rest of the pieces activated. The commander turned to leave, signaling to his soldiers to follow. They filed out behind their leader, leaving Anik to suffer alone in the darkness.
~Part 2 Fin~
Cool water sloshed over his burns, and he grimaced in pain. Opening his eyes, he was blinded by a light that was hanging from the low ceiling. A small but strong hand carefully held him down when he tried to rise, squinting.
A soft female voice overlapped his gasp. "Stay down. You'll pass out if you try to get up."
"Wh-where am I?" His mind was foggy. He didn't know from where this voice was coming.
"You're in my... dwelling-place."
As his eyes adjusted, he looked up. His eyes landed on a curiously dainty female Cranium14 hovering over him.
"Wahhh!" he yelped, rolling off the bed he was on and scrambling away. Stars and spots exploded in his vision and he collapsed against the ground, clinging to consciousness. His wounds pulsed with pain, the burned nerve endings screaming for relief.
She hurriedly scooped him up off the ground and settled him back in bed, completely oblivious to his weight despite her stature.
"I won't hurt you," she murmured gently.
What new scheme is this? His expression exposed his doubt.
"After Haecil left, I sneaked in and brought you here. That was terrible, what he did to you," she whispered sympathetically.
"Who are you?" Anik demanded, although the force in his tone was considerably lessened by the fact that it hurt to breathe.
"My name is Paeloa. I'm one of his... attendants. Now, please, calm down before you tear the skin and start bleeding. Let me finish taking care of this." She gestured at his chest.
As she washed his body of the plasma that had oozed out of his dead, damaged skin, he watched her warily.
She was gorgeous. Her blue-gray skin shimmered in the light when she moved, and her deep purple eyes entranced him. The base of her long, feathered wings was black, but the rest of them was light gray. He turned his head slightly and caught a glimpse of the tips, which were the same shade of purple as her eyes.
This girl, Paeloa... Wow. But why would she save me, a Cranium12? She seems intelligent, maybe too much so. I'll have to stay alert.
His fists curled as pain shot through his nervous system and he released a soft groan. Paeloa hesitated before continuing to treat him, slathering all of the warped cherry red skin stubbornly with a clear, thick cream. He grimaced but made no further noises as she wrapped his chest, hands, and antennae firmly with bandages.
"Sleep now. You've undergone a very traumatic experience. I'm surprised you aren't deeply in shock," she said with a hint of admiration, fluffing his pillows for him as she guided him down.
Anik's eyelids seemed to be attached to ten-pound weights, and he drifted into sleep without protest.
~Part 3 Fin~
*(Reverting to first-person for comfort)* The darkness gave way to dim light. The sound of a quiet voice singing gaily brought back the memory of the girl who had saved my life. With great difficulty, I rolled my head to the side to observe the bright medic's dance as she sang to herself, washing the metal instruments of her trade. There was, resting on a mat, a large lump of a creature about fifteen feet away from her. It was breathing heavily, with a great string of stitches in its side, but seemed to be alright, judging from the way its startlingly orange eyes followed Paeloa's every movement.
Then its head snapped nearly 180 degrees around to stare me down. What patches of black hair it had retained rose, claws clacked against the floor, its ears pricked stiffly. I froze as it drew back its lips to reveal to me at least three rows of pearly dagger-sharp fangs, dripping with saliva, orange-tipped tail flicking in warning. Paeloa noticed its agitation and dried off her hands. I was thoroughly surprised when she knelt down and tickled the thing's chin, unconcerned about its weaponry. It calmed and settled on its mat again, watching me with its pumpkin-colored eyes.
"This is the NightUllr. He won't hurt you so long as he doesn't think you're a threat to me," she explained.
I nodded, silently, afraid to startle it. (I won't be able to fight a creature like that. Even if I was at the top of my game, it would certainly prove a challenge.)
The feline creature looked up to its master, who gave him a loving pat and then fetched me some water and food.
She had to feed me, as I could not move without being in agony. Her touch was gentle despite her rough, work-worn hands.
We spent many days speaking little, merely being in the presence of the other. I learned, though, that the NightUllr changed forms depending on whether the sun or the moon was in charge of the sky. At night, it was a great, fearsome animal. In the daytime, it seemed more like a fierce pet, as it receded in size and its fur became carrot-colored, with glossy black eyes and a black tail tip. It always kept its arsenal of razor blades through its transformations.
As I healed and improved, the fog over my mind lifted and I sparked conversation with Paeloa. She was interesting to talk to, and she always knew just what to say to call up a smirk from me when the pain overwhelmed me. Soon, I was back on my feet, helping her do mundane tasks like fold bandages and wash gore from her tools. She stopped forcing me to wear bandages, but whenever I looked down at my hands or chest, or when my scarred antennae caught my eye, I was unpleasantly reminded of why I was even staying with her.
Perhaps two full moons after I found myself in her care, I strapped my sword to my back, checked each grenade gingerly, and turned to face my calm acquaintance.
"You'll never be able to escape, Anik," Paeloa warned, her thin arms folded. "Much less blow up Cranium14."
"Is that a threat?" I asked, eyes narrowing. The NightUllr immediately rose and padded over, fangs and claws at the ready, orange eyes revealing its stubborn mistrust.
"Kalmme, Ullr," she whispered. "No, I'm just saying, security inside the base is still pretty tight. And you'd need to steal one of our crafts in order to escape."
"I'll figure it out. I'll be fine," I said, slightly irritated.
"As fine as you were the first time I saved you? Or do I have to prepare your tombstone? Because if Haecil finds you alive, he will kill you as painfully as he can."
I sighed. "I'll be fine, Paeloa."
She sighed in return. And my antennae pricked in surprise as her voice registered in my mind. "Take me with you, Anik, please."
I shook my head, instantly dismissing the idea. "I can't. I'll be branded as a traitor for befriending and bringing a 14 into the midst of the 12s. They'll kill both of us, if I do happen to leave here alive with you. And what of the NightUllr? Can he even take interplanetary travel?"
"Yes," she said, with conviction. "You can drag me in as a prisoner if you like, but I bury far more tortured souls than I treat. Some of them were 14s. Some of them I knew."
I ran my hair through my bangs. "Fine. Keep close. Do you have a way to def-"
She cut me off, and pointed at the NightUllr with one hand, holding up a customized sniper rifle with the other. "I'll be fine, Anik," she said, mimicking my voice. I nodded and stepped out from beneath a semi-safe ceiling for the first time in sixty sunsets.
~Part 4 Fin~
· Sun Apr 21, 2019 @ 07:56am · 0 Comments