Chapter 11 A Crisis of Faith and Fidelity

Before them stood the most incredible person whom they never had guessed his real identity. Behind the mask of a perfect human person so well concealing every aspect of his original form, Karl could pass as any of other Terran without the slightest hint of suspicion. Overwhelmed by bafflement, the rest reacted no more then staring at the Amorphos, grey complexion covering from a baldhead to his extremities, and two large glass eyes that scared anyone looking at them.

“He looks exactly like Kaz!” Gard cried frenetically.

At the jolt of the cry, the team brought out their rifles and stood guard. Zurho raised the muzzle directly at Karl, cursing, “Amorphos wretch, you’ve come too far and lived too long. You won’t be coming any nearer.”

“No!” Keith pushed Zurho’s gun down, and signalled the others to do the same. Turning to Karl after that, he said, “explain yourself. Let’s hear what you’ve to say.”

“With many thanks, Keith,” Karl said, looking earnest, “I know you all have a huge grudge against me, and your vendetta against the Amorphos race. But please believe me, I’ve nothing to do with this war, and I never wanted to your enemies.”

Karl heaved a huge melancholic sigh, and continued, “Yes, I understand how infuriated, how unjust you feel, after the malice the Amorphos had done to you and to your families. But not all of us wanted this war! I have my own family, my friends, and we all do not want this war to murder our close ones meaninglessly. But because of some crazy fools who cause this uprising, we peace lovers are also incriminated, together with those few black sheep.

“But then again, how’re you to judge us? You’ve suffered endless wars, and we? We suffered in silence for hundreds and thousands of years being a social outcast of the universe. You’ll never know how we feel being Amorphos, living in disguises just to fit in your so-called upper castes. Sometimes we felt so disgraceful of not being respected for who we are, and not having our own identity is just losing our significance in this world. Some of us live by it, but some others wanted to free themselves. This is what the war is all about, a fight to redeem their status and dignity. We don’t want sympathy, because that’s only for the weak. We want to prove we’re strong enough to stand on our own, to be recognised as ourselves, and to proudly call ourselves Amorphos again.”

Karl turned away. “I’m an Amorphos and nothing can change the fact that I am. If all you want is to kill me, then so be it. It’s better to be dead than living in eternal enmity with the world.”

The long explanation softened his heart, as Keith’s abhorrence for the Amorphos sustained for such a long time faded, blown away by the winds of forgiving. Instead, he had a slight sympathy for Karl, perhaps empathy, because he himself was in a dilemma very much alike, a struggle for emancipation from social shackles. He was luckier, for he had friends who cared; Karl was alone.

Zurho was not at all happy listening to Karl’s plight, feeling sorry for the sworn enemy. Although he disdained the Amorphos, the truth of the hideousness of the Nyuek’s culture hurt him as well. The Nyueks who claimed to be sophistication and glory of civilisation were just pretentious, thinking too highly of themselves. And the more he reminded himself that he was a Nyuek himself, the more he despised himself as the member of arrogance and pomposity.

“Let’s give him a chance,” said Keith, “after all, he meant us no harm, and even saved me from certain death. What say, my friends?”

Changing sides, the team nodded in a silent agreement. Zurho even took a step further walking up to Karl, extending his hand.

“We’ve been sworn enemies for two thousand years, but after I came to realise the injustice my people set upon you, I’m willing to put aside past differences and look towards a conciliation.”

Karl took the hand with please. “Thank you for all the things you’ve done for me. You’re the best friends I’ve ever had.”

“Then come with us,” Keith beseeched.

“No,” rejected Karl the offer, “I’ve decided to live a life of recluse. What’s more, I’m an Amorphos, and people still dislike me for what I am. It’s best I stayed away from prompting more bloodshed in future.”

“No, Karl,” said Keith, “we still need you in our battle. Gerard told me this, and now I’m telling you: it’s not who you are that matters, it’s who you want to be. Don’t you have any aspirations in life, Karl?”

“Ha, ha, well said, Shjrous Keith,” Yuerloz interrupted, after watching the episodes, “and I’m happy with you too, Zurho, for you’ve finally opened your heart to love your enemies. And for Shjrous Karl, this temple is not a place for someone exuberant like you. Your destiny lies somewhere else, Karl, and it is meant for great things. Go search for it.”

“I’ll take your advice, Master Yuerloz. You helped me to understand the meaning of my life, and I owe you my gratitude. After this separation, I wonder when would I meet you again.”

“You will, Shjrous Karl. You will.”

“This is totally incredible! Karl looks exactly like Kaz!”

Trekker V resumed its extensive journey into the void and Gard had been since feverish for the last ten hours of departure. It was not at all peculiar for him to act such a way, for uneasiness aroused easily in everyone, when on board the same ship with a character so mysterious of his origins. Might he be an enemy or a friend, it was difficult to draw a fine line. Only Keith and Zurho remained calm on his presence, and putting their trust, they had begun disclosing their mission to Karl in expectation that he might be able to help out.

“What are the Amorphos plotting?” asked Zurho, “ why are they sending in horde of Arzankans and abducting people for their experiments? Why not just amass their whole army and declare war with us?”

“I don’t know much of their plans,” confessed Karl, “but I can tell you that this is the way we Amorphos work. We’re just weaklings compared to you Nyueks and Terrans, and fighting on our own won’t be much a success or make a great impact on the universe whatsoever. That’s why we rely on cunning to survive. We’re masters of deception ourselves, and mingle into a nation for subversive purposes. The Arzankans are merely a demonstration of our strength, and the experiments – I never heard of them, until now. The war commander of this rebellion, Corlorn, never mentioned about creating monsters. Moreover, he’s a nut brain in science, and won’t care for them as long as he wins the war with the Arzankans supplied.”

“Supplied?” Keith asked, astonishingly, “Who supplied him his army?”

“Someone, but his name slipped my mind. Anyway, he was the one who was really in charge. It was him who created a big fuss of regaining the identity and independence of our race, and sparked the movement of this rebellion. Corlorn’s role was only limited to rallying the Amorphos in this war. He is more like a puppet manipulated by that someone to hold a hate campaign against the Nyueks and bring the Amorphos together and launch a massive racial confrontation.”

“This someone is some strategist I’d like to meet in person,” murmured Keith to himself, “mainly, he’s just trying to unite the Amorphos to stand against their oppressors, and personally, I don’t see anything wrong or improper to that.”

“You’re far from right, Keith,” Karl objected to the remark, “that snake never really cared about obtaining independence or gaining recognition for the Amorphos. He’s just one mad scientist using us to carry out his tasks. We don’t actually know what he’s up to, because he works alone. But of late he kept planting Amorphos spies in various areas.”

“That explains everything,” said Zurho, “he’s gathering specimens for his experiments through them. And I think it’s the experiments that are more important than this Amorphos-Nyuek struggle.”

Keith slammed his fist hard on the dashboard. “And by doing this he had taken Crystal away from me,” he fumed, red all over, “and I’ll make him pay!”

Just then, Gard, who hobbled aimlessly towards them, suddenly screeched, “this is totally incredible! Do you know? Karl looks exactly like Kaz! Do you hear? Karl looks EXACTLY like KAZ!”

Irritated, Keith unhesitatingly lifted the deranged little man off the floor and shook him hard till his teeth rattled. Then putting him down, Keith barked, “Would you mind stopping all those nonsense and stop being so hysterical?”

Gard regained himself and sobbingly spoke, “sorry, Mr. Gunter. I just couldn’t help it. Karl has big glass eyes and a very large head. He reminds me of Kaz.”

“What in the – ” Karl was befuddled by Gard’s distraught behaviour, quite forgetting that he had shown himself as an Amorphos before not very long ago, and startled almost everyone although reverting back to his Terran image. And when he came to realise this, suddenly, he recalled something.

“Yes, that’s him!” he cried, “That’s his name. Kaz. That someone’s name is Kaz.”

“Looks like we’ve all these relations jumbled into one big mess,” uttered Keith, “but we’re now sure who’s the culprit. What happened, Gard? Why are you so upset?”

“It’s horrible! I saw Kaz murder my master! And the monster he created came after me too! But I had a close escape, and ever since, I still had recurring nightmares of Kaz and his evil snarls. Please forgive me, I’m just scared,” Gard stuttered.

“It’s alright, Gard,” Keith softened his tone and consoled, “I didn’t know you had gone through so much living in fear. Nevertheless, we’ll seek out this rogue and resolve all our matters with him. Never let him haunt our dreams again. I won’t rest till justice is served.”

“I picked up an unusual reading,” Reuban announced abruptly from his computer.

The team gathered around him and looked at the screens. “What does it say, Reuban?” asked Zurho.

“The infrared heat sensors indicate that there’re life forms nearby,” explained Reuban.

“Where’s it coming from?” demanded Keith.

“Let me check.” Reuban ran his fingers on the buttons, and replied, “They are all coming from one single planet, I suppose. Shall we investigate?”

“As far as I know, there are no natural habitants living in Galaxy Obeon. The only possible living beings are Grodons, but Grodons don’t give off heat waves like we do,” Gerard went on deducing, “so someone must have set up a base here. But who, and why here in the middle of nowhere?”

“A secret project, perhaps?” Karl quipped.

“An experimental laboratory,” said Zurho, “they are trying to conceal their researches from public. A high possibility that it’s Kaz’s laboratory, or his Amorphos subordinates’.”

“Then we’ll proceed there at once,” Keith declared, without second thoughts.

The planet from a distance view was just a dormant rock floating in space. From the surface everything looked quiet, although sensors kept picking up readings of minor activities. Reuban sourced from the Galaxy HyperTerminal about the planet and learnt that it was Roton, a once small kingdom devastated by war and its citizens died out, wiping the whole population. As it was depleted of its natural resources, no one bothered to rebuild the planet back to its lustre again.

“The infrastructures may be still functional,” noted Sarah.

Reuban ran a thorough check-up on the planet, then concluded his findings, “nope, there’s totally zero defence systems protecting the planet nor any radar systems to scout the airspace. If anyone is using this ruins, they are apparently not gearing up for war nor expecting any invasion. It must be just a temporary base or some pickup point for troops going in larger scale wars.”

“Since it has no radar systems, perhaps we can fly Trekker V nearer and spy on them in stealth mode?” suggested Keith, “that way, we can observe things more clearly.”

“And we can also use the Eye,” Reuban added. Everyone agreed in unison.

Gerard moved the ship as close as to Roton’s atmosphere, while Reuban switched on the camopods to cover Trekker V from naked sight. Then it was turn to send out the Eye. The Eye was actually a tiny, mobile flying robot equipped with a pinhole camera that looked like an eye (which suggested the name), and could be manoeuvred within a few nautical-mile radiuses.

The Eye took off, plunging a few thousand miles and reached ground level safely. From there, Keith took over the controls and steered the hovering robot carefully around. It could be a little tricky venturing the area because of its narrow viewpoint, making it quite often bumping into nearby obstructions. Nevertheless, it proved to be a useful gadget and would pass off as any buzzing insect without arousing suspicion.

It was a dark and dismal city. Ashes swept the grounds and soot covered the walls of the buildings, most of them looked like stalled factories and empty depots. As the Eye proceeded, they saw Terran life forms moving around, probably workers, pulling carts of unknown cargo to the stores. Not surprising that all of them bore the same faces, and as the team had expected, they all looked like Keith. The clones were here, and they had hit the right place.

Further on, the Eye traced the power lines and found the central base where the clones operated. This time, another set of faces turned up. Grey-skinned Amorphos were seen in white suits travelling from one laboratory to another. Some unknown experiments were seen conducted under dingy lamps in rooms where the Eye followed the scientists in and out.

The Eye flew out from the dark compartments to the open, and monitored around. There were armed guards patrolling, but not many, all concentrated at a huge power plant, obviously the headquarters. It still tinkered in everyone’s mind whatever were they doing and whoever was in charge of the clones. And the whole purpose of setting up a research facility without security rang no bells.

Finally, their snooping session ended, when a heavy hand swatted the Eye towards a solid concrete wall.

No comments: