Authors: Dhayaa Anbajagane
She nodded and put back her laser blaster. Kai heard the faint sounds of marching become louder and louder. He could see the army approaching them, their steps becoming faster and faster.
“C'mon,” he caught Chris’ hand and ran to the camp. There was a single cadet outside the entrance, a large laser rifle in his hand. His well-built figure towered over the two of them.
“Just stay calm okay?” Kai whispered.
Chris nodded and walked confidently, her act showing at most dominance over everything around her. Whether it was her act or just dumb luck Kai didn't know, but they walked inside conveniently without a flicker of suspicion from the guard.
The dome was just as Kai had predicted it to be, a hardcore battle station. Weapons and devices hung on the walls, and cadets stood in groups chatting noisily. In one corner several men in white coats carefully inspected a huge metal sphere.
“Wonder what that is,” Chris pointed to the device.
“HOLY HELL!” Kai exclaimed. Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned towards him. “Sorry,” he said meekly and clasped his mouth. “That’s a nuclear bomb,” he mumbled.
“What’s a nuke doing here?” she asked.
“I don’t know but it can’t be good,”
“You there!” a voice came from behind them.
“Act normal,” Kai whispered and turned around just as a short, broad-shouldered man walked up to him.
“What are you doing here, cadet?” he asked.
Kai tensed. He felt for the trigger on his gun, while his mind grasped around for an answer.
“You should be at the mothership, working with the maintenance team,” the man barked.
Chris sighed with relief.
The man turned to her, “What’re you sighing for?”
“Nothing, sir,” she straightened instantly.
“Then get back to your post!” and with that the man left.
Kai could feel all eyes looking at them. Chris fidgeted around. He knew she didn’t like being the center of attention. He walked her away from the crowd, to a corner of the room.
“Thanks,” she said.
He smiled, “That was a close one, but why do I have to go for maintenance duty?”
Chris pointed at his suit. He turned around and saw that the back said ‘Maintenance’ in bold letters.
“Oh, wow,” Kai said, feeling like an absolute moron.
Why would those enemy cadets from earlier be from the maintenance crew
? he wondered. Then he realized those two must have been trying to salvage any tech from the ship and take it back to home base.
“Dude, c’mon,” a few guys called him. Kai stared at them quizzically. Then he saw that they had ‘Maintenance’ written on their suits’ backs as well.
“Oh great,” he mumbled, “My maintenance buddies.” He turned to Chris, “I guess I have to go with them,” he said.
She grabbed his hand, “When will you be back?” she asked, her fingers trembling in his palm.
Kai remembered that Chris’ was mainly a healer. She had learned to fight but she wasn’t exactly a specialist. She had never been on a solo mission, so it was natural that she was scared. Right now, though, he needed her to stay strong. Getting onto the mothership was an amazing chance for Kai to seize the enemy from within, but he felt that telling her that wouldn't really calm her down.
He held her by her shoulders, “Listen to me. It’ll be all right,” he said “You’ve trained for this your whole life, you’ll do amazing okay?”
He took out a small device the size of a pill, and gave it to her. “It’s a communicator,” he said. “This way we’ll always be in touch.”
She managed a smile as well. Her eyes though showed the fear inside her. Her clammy fingers clutched onto the communicator. “I’ll be okay,” she said.
“Let’s beat the hell out of these guys,” he said and walked off, waving goodbye.
He hated that he had to be separated from her, he hated that he had to leave her alone when she needed someone beside her. All he wanted to do was protect her and keep her safe. He preferred to see her emotionless and cold, compared to the way she was right now, all worried and sad.
“Hello?” a maintenance guy waved his hand in front of Kai’s face.
“Oh, sorry, I spaced out I guess.” He noticed that everyone spoke just like he did so there was no necessity to change his speech patterns.
“Still thinking about your girl?”
Kai glanced back at Chris, “Yeah,” he sighed.
“That’s funny, I never remembered seeing a couple on the ship before,” he said.
“Me neither,” his friends joined in.
Kai shrugged. He turned his head toward the sky, wondering what he would have to do to get everything back to normal again.
Taylor opened her eyes and looked around in a daze. She recalled being stunned by a drone, but her memory ended there. Elizabeth lay next to her fast asleep, and a few other cadets were spread around the room.
She noticed this was some sort of building. There were dim, flickering lights throughout the room, which suggested this was one of the unused buildings on campus.
How did I get here?
She wondered. She nudged Elizabeth awake, “Elizabeth?”
“Good morning,” she mumbled and stretched herself out, “I just had the weirdest dream.”
“I hate to break it to you, sweetie, but Aliea has been compromised.”
Elizabeth sat up straight, “That wasn’t a dream,” she murmured.
“Taylor! Elizabeth!” A voice called out to them.
Juliana ran towards them and gave them a hug, “I’m so happy to see you,” she said, her face riddled with worry and a hundred other emotions.
Taylor skipped the emotional formalities and got straight to business, “How many cadets have we got here?” she asked.
“Around thirty people,” Juliana said. “But I think there might be other hostage sites somewhere else.”
“Wait…What?” Elizabeth asked. “We’re hostages?”
“What did you think?” Juliana asked.
“Well, I assumed this was a shelter for the sick and injured,” Taylor replied.
“Q,” Elizabeth’s eyes went wide. “What happened to Q?”
Taylor’s face changed, “I don’t remember anything after we got surrounded by the drones. What about you?” she asked.
“He’s a strong young man,” Juliana smiled. “He’ll be fine, don’t worry.”
That didn’t make Taylor feel any better. Everyone knew about Q’s strong side but she was probably the only one who had seen his weak one. She couldn't even think of leaving him alone at a time like this. But she knew she had no other choice for the time being.
“What happened to the warship?” Elizabeth asked.
“Luckily, the ship took out an uninhabited part of the academy so there were no causalities,” Juliana said. “But I think every ship we have has either been wrecked by the warship landing or by the fire that started afterwards.”
“At least the cadets are all safe,” Taylor sighed.
“No info on the others?” Elizabeth asked.
“I don’t know anything about Carlos’ whereabouts,” Juliana confessed. “Kai and Chris as well.”
“Let’s hope they’re all okay,” Taylor said.
Juliana bit her lip, “Did any of you see Levi?” she asked. “It’s only his second day here so I don’t think he’s going to know how to react to all this.”
Taylor saw the worried expression Juliana wore. She had to admit she was a bit worried too. Aliea Academy needed some getting used to and that became exponentially harder when there was a huge warship threatening to blast them into oblivion.
“He’ll be fine, don't worry,” Taylor said. “Q told me Levi seemed like a well-seasoned fighter. He’ll find a way to survive.”
“I hope so,” Juliana said.
The ground started vibrating, its amplitude increasing until it was a full scale earthquake. Taylor stumbled as she made her way to the window with Elizabeth and Juliana right behind her. They looked out just in time to see a man with a white aura fly out of the Demon Riser. The part of the force field the nanobots fixed deactivated for a second, and the man slipped through it.
“Just who was that?” Taylor gasped.
“Beats me,” Elizabeth replied. “I don't think he’s from Aliea though.”
Juliana put a hand on Taylor’s shoulder, “You okay?” she asked.
Taylor realized that her face was all scrunched up from thinking too hard. She sighed, “I’m fine.”
“What’s going on here?” an armored-man walked up to them.
“Nothing,” Elizabeth murmured and walked away.
“Answer the question!” he caught her arm.
A pair of snow white wings emerged from her back, and she glared at him with her intense fiery eyes. The guard screamed in horror and scampered away as fast as he could.
“What was that?” one of the cadets asked Elizabeth, her face showing she was in completely awe.
“I’m a Seraphian,” Elizabeth replied, and everyone sounded a collective ‘Oh’ like that explained everything. Well, it did actually. The Seraphians were a race known for their characteristic angelic wings.
“Don’t be fooled,” Taylor said, “Seraphians may look like angels, but they sure don’t act like one,” she laughed and everyone, including Elizabeth, joined in.
Taylor could feel everyone slowly ease out of the tense situation and calm themselves down.
In the middle of all the laughter Elizabeth snatched Taylor aside, “We’ve got to think up of a plan,” she said.
Such a sudden shift in moods
, Taylor thought. But she knew it was necessary for her to do so. They needed to be the beacon of hope for all those cadets who were afraid.
“We’ve got to get out of this building first,” Elizabeth said.
“We can easily take these enemy cadets out,” Taylor said. ”But then they might threaten to harm the hostages,”
storm out, I don’t think we’ll be a match for the whole opposition. That ship was loaded with massive weaponry. Warship versus us? I don’t see much of a chance.”
“What if we found reinforcements?”
“Where could we get reinforcements?”
Taylor closed her eyes. The black bracelet on her wrist glowed with a bright light. It stretched out into a ribbon of light and wrapped around her body, covering her completely. When it stopped glowing, Taylor was in full battle armor, the armor of the Dark Knights.
It was a deep black like the bracelet, with an even darker aura emanating from it. It had sharp cuts all over its surface, leaving sharp points jutting out of the suit and threatening to impale anyone who assaulted her. Her suit had a helmet and her electric eyes stared through the dark, transparent visor
Taylor could see Elizabeth step away from her the moment she equipped her suit. It wasn’t a big surprise. The aura that the armor radiated usually instilled fear in those around it.
“What did you do that for again?” Elizabeth asked, still a little cautious of the armor.
“I need that if I’m going to go get help from the only other people I know.”
Elizabeth’s eyes widened. It wasn't a surprise who she was going to go get help from.
One of the most powerful organizations in the Universe.
The Dark Knights.
Taylor walked up to the entrance, her armor radiating a dark aura that made her look like a messenger from Hell, her deathly look adding to her ‘I will kill you’ appeal.
She looked around to scan the area, but there wasn't a single enemy cadet in sight. All of them had disappeared. She wondered if Elizabeth’s wings had scared them off, but that was highly unlikely. They seemed to have left on purpose and that didn't make her feel any better about the situation they were in.
Just what has the enemy planned?
“You’ll be back in how long exactly?” Juliana asked her.
“A day or two,” Taylor looked up at the force field, “The nearest Dark Knight sub-territory isn’t too far away. If I’m not back in forty-eight hours you’ll have to do something yourselves.”
Elizabeth nodded her head, “We’re taking Aliea back!” she pumped her fist.
“I’m off then,” Taylor said. She crouched and recoiled like a spring, shooting across the ground with blazing speed, a gust of wind raging behind her like a tailwind.
She still had to get through the dome though. Elizabeth told her that she would be able to access the force field on her computer and program a section to collapse for a moment. In seconds, Taylor was half a mile from the hangar. She saw one metallic silver ship glow like a diamond, making it stand out from the duller ones around it.
Taylor smiled. She had found her ride.
Taylor felt the Orion’s cool metal under her palm. She really didn’t want to take Kai’s ship without telling him, but there was no other choice, the fate of Aliea was on the line here.
She climbed up the stairwell and the door automatically slid open for her.
“Who’s there?!” a voice yelled out from inside.
She looked through the doorway and burst out laughing. Facing her were two guys in their boxers armed with nothing but spanners and hammers.
She charged up to them in her dark aura, “Boo!” she said.
The men screamed as they scrambled past her, ran out the doorway and fell down the stairs. They picked themselves up in a flash and ran for their lives.
“You left something behind!” she picked up a stray spanner off the ground and threw it. It flew in a perfect arc, hitting one of the men plonk in the head, and he sank to the ground.
He’ll be okay
, she assured herself.
She walked onto the Orion’s two floored deck. The higher floor was at the back of the room and was meant for all personnel, while the lower one was for the captain. She sat herself down in the captain’s chair and turned on the panel next to it. A string of numbers and words displayed on the screen. She ran her hands across the various options, and the Orion’s engine hummed to life.
Need to rush
, she thought. There was no mistaking the enemy would have heard the Orion’s engine start up, and that only meant they would send cadets to check on it. She had to move fast.
“Let’s see,” she mumbled as she tried to remember the exact coordinates to Dryke, which was the closest Dark Knight sub-territory from Aliea.
She hoped she was right as she entered the coordinates into the dial. The Orion’s humming went to a higher pitch. The ship rumbled, and she felt a vague force from the floor push her upward. The ship was getting ready for takeoff. She activated the large holographic view-screen and zoomed in on a section of the force field. A small square of the force field had been deactivated. Elizabeth had done her part.
Taylor jammed her thumb onto the ‘launch’ button on her panel. The Orion shot forward, its speed accelerating to terrifying levels in under a second. An instant later, everything around her had changed. There were no more people, no friends, no fires, no enemies, nothing. The dark colors of Aliea’s skyscrapers were replaced by the colorless black of space. Yet, in all this dull colorlessness, she felt more alive than ever.
“I guess its smooth sailing from here,” she said and leaned back on her chair, her mind wary that what she had just said was probably not true.
Q’s white energy suit glowed as he sped past planets, stars and asteroids scattered along the dark canvas of space. The huge celestial bodies were but small specks that whizzed past him in his speedy travel.
His mind was focused only on his mission. He didn’t think about the possibility of the destruction of Aliea, not about the safety of his friends, not about the potential death of his brother. All were dire situations, but sadly, they weren't the most important ones. Right now, all he could think about was retrieving the Lambda Driver from the Anti-Universe or, as he liked to call it, the Anti-verse.
Of all places, why the Anti-verse?
Why would the Lambda Driver even be in such a place
He had to head to the location Jake had handed him. Q didn’t know what he would see there but he hoped whatever it was, it would give him the answers to his questions.
First he needed to check his course. He closed his eyes and focused on the space around him. He imagined millions of particles flowing right through him and willed himself to become one with them. A series of images passed through his mind. In moments, Q had the entire image of the Universe in his mind.
He focused on his life force and the images shifted, allowing him to see his position in the Universe. He was a small green dot in a sea of black void. He searched for the places the coordinates corresponded too. The image zoomed out and showed him his route.
Q opened his eyes and the images disappeared. He loved doing this over and over. He even coined a name for the technique: Q-maps.
His eyes locked onto the trail he had just seen and he sped off. Even though he said he wasn't thinking about his friends, a thought or two escaped into his consciousness periodically. He knew it was unfair to make little of the situation and not worry about them, but he had no other choice. He hadn't even said goodbye to any of them.
They must be worried about me
, he thought. He was worried about them too. He wondered if everyone was alright, if they were still alive, if they were still holding onto their hope for survival.
All this did was remind him of the mess he was in. He washed away all the negative thoughts and focused on the mission at hand. Just in time too, he could see one of the specks before him become larger and larger. He was almost at his destination.