Chapter 4 Encounters

No doubt that Trekker V had been lost – as reckoned, the crew had lost all sense of directions as a consequence for not plotting the stars on their databanks before leaving the dreaded planet, not because of their lackadaisical attitude, but a hurried departure. Comets flying round them were hardly recognisable in the region of where they were supposed to be; otherwise they were not in that particular galaxy at all. “This isn’t good,” said Reuban, “we’ll need to find a place to land and reorganise the coordinates. What say, all of you?”

“Any place nearby for us to land?” asked Keith.

“I located a prominent planet nearby, here,” said Sarah, pointing at the radar, “perhaps we should get down there and set up a beacon?”

“We should. Get ready to land the ship, Gerard. Zurho and Reuban, prepare the apparatus. And bring your guns along, there’s no telling what lies lurking in the shadows.”

Trekker V turned its course, proceeding towards an icy-blue planet. It landed, without much difficulty, on an open ground. Looking much like Neo Harbour, only that the place was flatter. There were only a few cliffs and crags nearby.

The group stepped down from the spacecraft, standing their feet on a very hard platform. The ground was solid, concrete and dense, and the air smelt stale, but still within its expiry. Keith surveyed the landscape, and then gave the instructions.

“The best place to emit the signal beams is on higher grounds. Zurho and I will set up the beam emitters on the cliffs, while Reuban assembles the receiver, and Gerard and Sarah can stay watch over Reuban. Now let’s get going.”

The team acknowledged the orders given, and set off to their duties. Keith and Zurho moved out into the misty territory, searching for elevated lands to erect the rod-like devices. The gadgets were quite bulky, adding to the guns they carried on the other hand, slowing their pace. Soon, they trod on a slightly sloping path, which guided them gradually to a summit. Reaching the edge of a cliff, they put down the devices and switched them on. Then at the tips of the emitters shone a fine, bright-red laser that travelled into space, so far that it could not be seen where the light had ended up.

Keith stood motionless on the cliff, looking above the dark skies watching the stars: red stars were the brightest, but blue ones were complaisant compared to the fiery giants, and yellow ones being the faintest. Some pictures he could see, joining the celestial bodies into constellations, seemed like a man, an ox, the Grizzly; most of the times, they were soldiers, battleships, and guns. Then, the series of stars began to lose its luminescence, fading away, perhaps signifying the death of the stars. A melancholic end.

“Ah… the space, it’s so… enigmatic. How many things else we still don’t know about it.”

“Matter of fact, quite a lot too,” said Zurho, adjusting the emitter, “no one knows exactly where Generon stretches, as there’re no lines to mark its boundaries. And there’s no end to new discoveries.”

“And yet we like to create our own boundaries,” sighed Keith, puffing a deep breath, “makes you think on what reasons do we exist for. Own Generon? Ha, we brought nothing from the womb, nor we can bring anything to the casket. Ah… when will all these end? Would life be better for everyone if we left nature the way it should be?”

“Nothing can stop by itself, you should realise that,” Zurho quipped, “it’s the law of nature – a moving object can only be stopped by an opposing force, be it gravity, friction, that’s how it works.”

“Stop it? With our own hands? That had long been my hope, and I was told that it was just wishful thinking.”

“Then go ahead. Do whatever you think is right, for everyone is born for a purpose, my friend. You decide, to become just a parenchyma, or become a prodigy powerful enough to change the setting of this world. It’s the will that gives the power.”

“Thanks Zurho,” said Keith, smiling with confidence, “you’ve wisdom, Zurho. Can you tell me more about yourself?”

“Me? I’d like to, but there isn’t anything much to tell about. But I once had a master who had taught me great things. He taught me how to see the universe in a different point of view. That’s when I began to have a more positive thinking about my future. It’s the mind that actually controls your life, Keith. When you want it be, let it happen, and you’ll be satisfied.”

A while later, the indicator on the emitter blinked, accompanied with a beep. “We’ve picked up something,” said Keith, “I think we can pack up and leave. Reuban must’ve completed mapping by now.”

Just when Keith finished his words, suddenly, they felt some vibrations that came from the ground. They were footsteps. Zurho kept still and listened to the winds. “We’ve got company,” he said. Keith reached for his goggles and wore it, only to find a pack of Arzankans mowing around at foothill, perhaps attracted by the devices they were using. Then they started their ascent up the slope.

“Drat! Those brutes are making their way uphill. Zurho, protect the emitters. I’ll go down to stop them!”

Before Zurho could say anything, Keith had already armed himself with his gun. He slid off the tilted surface firing energy particles at the Arzankans. The enemies, with attentions drawn towards him, turned with sharp claws and fangs waiting. Keith could make out a total of six of them. Two were armed with rifles, but yet to make any return-fire attempts.

His gunning skills were one of the best in the colony, but all his shots failed to scathe even one of his opponents. The rifle-rangers then began their gunfire but they appeared to be poor marksmen. Famed only by their viciousness, they were actually slow and crippled when it came to using weapons and planning strategic attacks.

The Arzankans were closing on him and he had yet killed a single one of them. His heart beat faster upon realising that once they were near enough for a melee, the odds were surely on him as he was facing a bunch of berserks. “Keith, you cannot kill them with photon rays!” shouted Zurho on the cliff at the top of his voice. However, it was already too late to escape when the Arzankans had him surrounded. Keith fired randomly at all six but the rays dissolved harmlessly into their skins upon contact. Then one of the mighty claws reached out and crushed his gun, leaving him no means of defence.

His body cringed, ready to greet any bloody attacks in the Arzankans’ next move. Chances of surviving were slim, he knew, for no one had ever escaped safely from an Arzankan horde alone. In the midst of his confrontation, suddenly, he heard Zurho yelling, “Use my sword!” A long, black blade, which he saw Zurho polishing earlier, came flying down and buried its tip on the ground. Keith knew better what to do. Grasping the hilt with both hands, he drew it out and waved at the enemies bravely. The Arzankans flinched, but his intimidation was not enough to scare them off. The Arzankans lashed out on being taunted, and Keith swung the mighty sword around him. Powerful enough, the sharp blade cut their claws into pieces and shredded their extremities, blood spurting out from the wounds. Soaked in their blood, Keith was already fuming with madness.

“For my friends and the people! For my beloved Crystal!” Keith screamed, and hacked at the armless Arzankans, mutilating more of their limbs. He shove the blade deep into the abdomen, pulled it out and swung it to another’s neck, then cleaved a head into two, sparing not one. Finally, when nothing was left, he collapsed to his knees, still holding the sword, drenched with blood.

Zurho rushed to his aide. “Are you alright?” he asked, looking at his bloodstained body and ragged clothes. Keith was still breathing deep, and his eyes were swelling, with dilated capillaries all over his eyeballs.

“I… I can feel the rage inside me!”

“I know you wanted revenge for the ones you lost, but never let rage turn into bloodlust. If not, you’ll only turn into one of them, those ruthless beasts with only killing as their purpose of living.”

“I know… and that’s how I feel now….” He collapsed after forcing out his last word. Zurho shook him but he had fallen unconscious. Zurho examined his state. There had been a sudden growth of his muscles, especially bulging on his arms, thighs and torso. Boils on his face erupted on a roughened, scaly skin. And his nerves were shivering tensely.

“Oh brother,” Zurho bemoaned, “must you do that here? Don’t you know you’re heavy? Oh, why bother complaining….”

Zurho grunted as he lifted his friend up on his back, carrying also the beam emitters, and made a bulky return to the ship with haste. Upon reaching, to his relief he found the others still out of harm’s way. Reuban had already disassembled the machine, while Sarah and Gerard watchful over the duo’s return. They were quite surprised to see Zurho struggling breathlessly to keep himself from falling, whilst the leader on his back.

“What happened to him?” they asked.

“Met with some prowling Arzankans,” said Zurho, “save the talking for later. Right now, get away from here fast, or more trouble will ensue.”

Again Trekker V blasted off into space and resumed its journey. The databanks were updated with the new cosmological maps of at least ninety-percent accuracy. By and by, Reuban checked their position while Gerard navigated Trekker V heading into a nearest planetary cluster.

“Do you know where are we, Reuban?” he asked.

Reuban ran an analysis over the position of the ship, and compared the results with the universal map on the Galaxy HyperTerminal. Several matches found, and one most obvious. Reuban read through the details. “Akira galaxy, point 44, 78 from radius. This galaxy is relatively a few millions of years away from Vantrox. And I think we’ve unintentionally travelled through a wormhole last time we fled from Neo Harbour. It’ll impossible to reach home now.”

“Then we’ll have to take all the other alternatives we’ve got. Any habitants near Akira?”

“The nearest populated planets are about 400 years away. And there’s a war ongoing between the Dolock and Strien colonies. Then, somewhere near there are a few neutral colonies. I identify Elix as one of them.”

“Then head for Elix now,” commanded Gerard, “we’ll need to replenish supplies and fuel for the ship.”

Meanwhile, Sarah and Zurho were monitoring Keith’s condition. He was still shaking violently until Zurho resorted to injecting him a tranquilliser. Only then the trembling stopped and his condition improved. Boils began subsiding while the scales waned into the skin.

“Will he be all right?” Sarah asked.

“I think he will, after some rest,” Zurho answered. And Keith slept throughout the journey routed to Elix, without a sound.

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