As the days passed Malthus and his crew felt increasingly isolated. The Coosan commander who had finally revealed his name to be Ruthus and Zultan whose relationship had begun so fractiously and frayed had at least for now blossomed. It appeared to be built on the fact that they regarded each other as natural leaders and above the ordinary person.
Zultan now brought Ruthus on his trips to the Mullinarian colony and discussed future war strategies and tactics with him only. Malthus and his crew increasing felt useless and unwanted; on the fringes of what was happening.
Each day now seemed as unimportant as the last with a now unsettling routine setting in. It revolved around sleeping, eating and the solitary enjoyment of love-making. While Malthus and Rosaleen grew ever closer; Socrates and Zena were spending an increasing amount of time arguing with each other. They needed excitement not tedium to grease their relationship.
The encampment which Malthus had sacrificed his standing with Zultan for was growing increasing squalid. The smell in the chamber was at times nauseating even for the hardiest Coosanian trooper. The League had almost immediately stopped using it as a nerve centre since the encampment was erected and the Chamber now seemed of little importance. It now seemed like a formality that Zultan’s original request for the Coosanians to split up would shortly be granted.
The crew did get to know some of the Coosanian Troopers in particular Jesse, Butch & Klosey. They had a tendency to squabble amongst one another.
Jesse was a Coosanian female with long blonde hair. To other Coosanians and especially Butch and Klosey in particular she was a stunner worth fighting over. The squalor and dirt of the half-lit chamber was no obstacle to them showing their affection.
Butch was broad and heavy even by Coosanian standards and maladapted to his current environment where he was ponderous and slow. He had a shaved head, which was very fat in appearance just like the rest of his body. On closer inspection however you would note that his body was built of enormous muscles and there was very little real fat.
Klosey was of the normal proportions for a male Coosanian; small and stout compared to the average Martanian. He was older than the rest of the Troopers who were relatively young and had a grey beard.
Malthus tried to keep himself occupied by writing down the story of him and his crewmates. But he knew that this was not how it was supposed to end; on the periphery and irrelevant. It filled him with rage at times and he wondered why the Martan Freedom League had even requested their presence if all the social capital they had created could be used up so fleetingly. Of course, he knew that their leadership would have changed since their inter system journey had begun.
As the time passed both Malthus and Socrates began to notice that there was something strange about their fellow Martanians. Some females were coming periodically to the encampment to provide it with fresh water and other utilities. They appeared to be devoid of emotion and their faces never changed from a blank expression.
Socrates admitted to trying to seduce them with Zena not only with no success but without even his presence being acknowledged. He became so frustrated that he pushed one of them to the ground to get some sort of response but she merely got back to her feet and continued what she was doing. Some of the Coosanian Troopers who were watching what was going on even began to laugh loudly thinking that it was some sort of strange mating ritual but the emotionless blank facial expression never changed.
Malthus had similar experiences although he was trying to find out more about Zultan and the current League base they are in rather than seduction. He was perplexed about their behaviour and he became increasingly worried. There was something going on that they knew nothing about. It was apparent that the ordinary League members were under the effect of some kind of drug or mind control. Even some of Coosanian Troopers found their behaviour perplexing and some of them visibly tried to keep their distance.
The two of them soon resolved to follow one of these women to see where they were going. Rosaleen insisted on going with them when she heard of their plan. Although Zena wanted to go too, it was felt it would be better if she stayed to make excuses for their absence in case they were missed.
The Martanian women visited the encampment every six hours in a group of four. They then dropped the water off at different points in the encampment which took about fifteen minutes before they left leaving through a passage to the top left of the chamber.
Later that day they arrived carrying their jugs of water and dressed in the normal dirty white dresses. They carried out their routine chores and left the encampment. This time the crew followed them walking a couple of metres behind the women in single file. It was an easy task as the women seemed to be programmed to do exactly the same thing and paid no attention to any developments in their surroundings.
They didn’t even react to the large shriek Socrates let out in jest just as they were entering the passage. Malthus and Rosaleen admonished him strongly but did find the lack of response from the women comforting.
The passage was narrow and dusty. The lights on the roof were sporadically spread out and it got quite dark and eerie at time. The women in front of them kept a good steady pace and at time they had to jog to keep up.
After twenty minutes the women led them to a second large chamber. This was one of the sleeping quarters of the League. There were sleeping huts carved into the sides of the wall with ladders running up the sides of the walls. Although there were empty spaces, there still seemed to hundreds of people all asleep. On closer inspection Malthus could see that they were in a trance like state with their eyes wide open staring upwards with a constant blank expression.
Malthus turned to Socrates and Rosaleen whose faces were filled with horror. There was no longer any doubt; something was seriously wrong with the members of the Martan Freedom League.
The crew kept following the women. They passed through more tunnels, two more sleeping chambers and what seemed like another control room with large visual displays and multiple computer hubs.
But then they entered a tunnel which was different to those they had passed through. It was more like a cave with rocks and pebbles on the ground. There was no uniformity or brinkmanship in its construction. Malthus had to hold back from vomiting. As he looked closely at the sides of the chamber, he could see numerous long scratch marks.
This was a Mullinarian tunnel. His heart pounded ferociously as he realised that reality was worse than any of his nightmares. He turned to the other two whispering that they must remain absolutely quiet. They didn’t question him as they sensed his fear.
They slowly and cautiously kept following the four women. The cave weaved in and out, it would grow wide then narrow or vice versa. After travelling what seemed to be at least half a mile, the women came to a halt.
Malthus and his crew took refuge behind a large boulder, unsure what was going to happen next. They waited and waited but the women didn’t budge. They just continued to stand side by side. Malthus now had a chance to look at them for longer and more closely.
They were all tall and athletic with the pale ultra-white skin which was synonymous with Martan. Three of them had jet black hair and there was one blonde. They were all dressed in robes. It was only with them all side by side that Malthus could see that they all seemed to have a small hump half way up their back.
It was always only going to be a matter of time before Socrates grew impatient and began to question how long they were going to wait. Patience was never his strong point.
“Why don’t we just grab one of them & beat her until she tells us what is happening? I thought we came to this planet to actually do something?” he deplored.
“Please shut up!” Rosaleen hissed. She was equally bored but she knew something important was happening.
Then they heard something. It was faint at first but grew larger as it approached. Malthus knew that it wasn’t human and made sure the crew made an extra effort to crouch behind the boulder while he peered out.
Socrates and Rosaleen knew from the facial expression of horror on Malthus that it could only be a Mullinarian. It was a Mullinarian soldier to be precise. Its mandibles went within inches of the head of one of the women. Malthus winced fearing the worst but was relieved that her head stayed intact. Malthus could see that there was a small device on the Millenarian’s head.
The Mullinarian then began to grunt. Then he stopped and a second later it was translated into a fearful male human voice; probably the result of torturing their human collaborator.
“Is everything going according to plan?”
Then the blonde woman spoke up.
“Yes, everything is going according to plan. The camp is growing more squalid by the day. Soon it will be broken up and the Coosanian troops will be easily overcome.”
The Mullinarian soldier then replied that they were to continue with the mission and turned round leaving in the direction from which it came. Once it disappeared from view, the women turned around synchronously and started to move towards the crew.
There was nowhere to hide; the cavern was far too narrow. The crew were paralysed by fear. They knew that if the women screamed it would alert the Mullinarians to their presence and it would be the end of any dream for freedom for Martan.
The crew tried to huddle together as best they could in the dirt and up against the cold rock face but it seemed that all hope was now lost. Then just at what seemed to be their darkest moment…
The women simply walked past them without muttering a word or side-wards glance! Malthus had never before felt such relief. He looked at Rosaleen who had broken into a cold sweat. Her complexion was pale, even Socrates looked dishevelled.
But it wasn’t enough that they had averted disaster. They had to continue their mission. Gingerly they stood up and began to follow the women. Malthus now knew what they had to do. He was sure that women’s bodies would need to rest at some point and that they were now probably heading to one of the sleeping chambers.
Malthus` hunch proved to be correct. They entered one of the sleeping chambers they had previously been in and separated going into their individual sleeping cells. The blonde woman’s cell was level with the ground but the other two women had to climb ladders to theirs.
Malthus now informed Rosaleen and Socrates of his plan. They would kidnap the blonde woman and see what was on her back. She was targeted as she was by far the easiest to overcome being on the ground level. Rosaleen was nervous and unsure if it was a good idea but Socrates was bullish and eager to take meaningful action.
Malthus and Socrates quietly approached her cell. Even though all the humans in the cells were in a trance like state they didn’t want to push their luck. Malthus went to her head and Socrates to her legs. Then on silently muttered count to three they grabbed her. Malthus put one his hands across her mouth to stop her from shouting while he wrapped his other arm around her to carry her upper body. Socrates grabbed her legs and helped Malthus to carry her.
Much to their disappointment she fought ferociously against her captors, wiggling and twisting trying to get her captors to loosen their grip enough so she could punch or kick them.
Malthus and Socrates hauled her into one of the exit tunnels and a good distance away from the chamber with Rosaleen following them in tow. They then set her on the ground; her mouth still covered and tried to reason with her. They each took turns trying to explain to her that they were all human and on the same side. That they wanted to free her people from the evil Mullinarians but it was to no avail. She continued to resist, trying to kick out and shout for help.
Exasperated and much to the horror of the other two, Malthus punched her hard on the face knocking her unconscious with blood streaming from her mouth and nose. A disgusted Socrates asked him what he thought he was doing but Malthus offered no apology and simply stated that they couldn’t waste any more time on her.
He then turned her on her back and took out a knife he had in his pocket. He ripped open the white robe covering her back. There was a green organism with moist, perfectly smooth skin lodged in her back covering a quarter of it. The part outside her body looked semi hemispherical in shape but it was obvious that part of it was in her body. Socrates and Rosaleen turned away in horror but Malthus knew what he had to do.
He drove the knife deep into her back trying to wedge out the creature. It proved to be more difficult than he thought and he had to try and cut it out from all sides. Blood was streaming from the woman’s body. He wedged his knife in deeper to try to lift it out. It took a couple of attempts but eventually it squirted out leaving a deep gash in the woman’s back.
The creature landed just beside the woman. It tried to slither away like a snake but Malthus quickly stabbed it in a frenzied attack. Fear and hatred had now taken hold and the thought of studying it did not cross his mind until it was too late and in smithereens.
Regaining his self-control he turned the woman over on to her back and tapped her face to see if she could regain consciousness. Rosaleen and Socrates now walked back over to them with Rosaleen taking the woman’s head in her arms. Her touch worked.
The woman slowly opened her eyes and began to splutter and cough. Then she began to speak albeit in a low tone and difficult to hear.
“You are in great danger. Zultan is in League with the Mullinarians. He already betrayed the League and led to our enslavement,” she gasped.
“What’s their plan?” Rosaleen exalted, desperate to discover more.
Barely audible she continued, “Once the Coosanian camp is abandoned and the troops separated, morphs will gradually take control of the troopers one at a time. A goph is what was inside me. They are a parasitic life form from Mullinarian worlds. We never deciphered what their relationship to the Mullinarians was.
Once you have all been subdued, you will return to Coosan apparently successful in your mission. But instead you will destroy the Coosanian leadership when your ship detonates in a nuclear explosion. Then the Mullinarians will attempt to invade while the planet is in disarray.”
“What about the genetically altered Mullinarians who will be better adapted to Coosan?” Socrates interjected.
“The project has almost been completed. You must destroy the colony. If Coosan falls they have the potential to expand significantly into human space. They must be stopped.”
It seemed like she had taken her last breath but somehow, she found the strength to continue.
“You must save my sisters. Being under the control of the gophs is a nightmare. I know you cut one out of my body but there is an easier way for them to be removed. Gently tap them in the middle of their body and they will exit naturally usually without causing much damage to the human host. It communicates to them that it is time for them to move to another host.
When they are forcibly removed, they release toxins into the host’s body resulting in death.”
With that she had taken her last breadth and Rosaleen with tears rolling down her face closed her eyes. Socrates checked for a pulse but there was none. They then dragged her body to the side and covered it with stones, trying to conceal it as best they could.
They were unsure what to do next. Rosaleen wanted to return to the Coosanian troops and warn them about the plot but Socrates was incredulous saying that was a terrible idea and that they should seize the initiative and try to free the League from the Morphs. Malthus paused and tried to take all the different factors into consideration.
His main thought was that the Coosanian troops were unlikely to take any action unless their Commander ordered them to do so. Before they left, they had been seeing less and less of the commander and it was very conceivable that he was already under goph control. Therefore, he knew that Socrates was correct and they would have to go back.
Rosaleen started to walk in the direction of the camp but Malthus and Socrates held her back.
She tried to twist her body so they would lose their grip but Malthus pulled her back and turned her face towards him. He could see the terror in her eyes and felt her body trembling in his arms. Embracing her he told her that everything would be fine but that they must do what needs to be done.
Despite some further murmurings Rosaleen found the strength to continue on. Malthus turned to Socrates and he saw the same terror in his eyes and concern etched on his face. Malthus himself felt sick with worry but he knew that he couldn’t show it for the sake of his crewmates. He could only hope that he wasn’t leading them to a horrific death by Mullinarian mandibles.
After travelling back down the narrow and cold tunnel, the crew once again reached the first sleeping chamber. Socrates asked how the three of them could possibly free all of the people from the gophs. There were approximately two hundred people there, only some of which were at ground level. The rest were in carved huts that you had to climb to reach. Malthus replied that hopefully some of the freed League members will be able to help them.
Hesitantly they approached the first hut, being careful not to make too much noise. Noticing that it was a strongly built man, they decided to go on to the next hut instead. This was a much easier target; a petite woman with striking long jet-black hair.
Socrates covered her mouth; Rosaleen held her legs while Malthus quickly rolled her on to her side and tapped the goph four times with his finger. Much to their collective relief the goph released itself from her body and dropped on to the bed where Malthus promptly stabbed it through its centre killing it and then gently laid it on the ground. Yellow ooze flowed from its body. Malthus was surprised how little damage the creature had done to the woman’s body. It still covered an extensive part of her back but it wasn’t that deep.
They quickly covered the wound as best they could with part of the robe the woman had been wearing. They turned her back on to her back. It was obvious from the quick fluttering of her eyes that her human mind was once again in control. Socrates slowly removed his hand from around her mouth and Malthus whispered to her that she was okay but they would need their help. She instinctively understood what he was referring to.
With that she slowly got up out of her hut and nodded that she would help them. She then told them that her name was Alecia. With that they cautiously made their way to the next hut. It was a medium sized man with blonde hair in the standard League uniform. This time Alecia put her hands across the mouth and when the goph was killed she whispered the code A59 into his ear. Nothing more needed to be said and it was obvious they had been trained for such a scenario.
They now split up into two groups, then three, then four and so on as they freed more and more League members from their goph enslavement. Soon there were enough free League members that the crew only had to watch as they climbed to the higher huts and freed more and more people. They were very skilful at it with only person needed to roll over the person at a height and kill the goph.
It only took approximately thirty minutes before all the League members in this chamber had been freed. Then Alecia approached them and thanked them for their freedom. Even though she was dirty and had a scar down one side of her neck; she was remarkably beautiful with otherwise unblemished pale skin, searing blue eyes and long black hair. She asked what were they planning to do next and indicated that she understood what was happening.
Malthus who had by now realised that he was the natural leader took control and informed her that their immediate aim was to protect the Coosanian Troops and to destroy this particular Mullinarian colony. She replied that the now freed League would be agreeable to these goals, thanked them for their bravery and informed them that she was the new Commander of this Chapter of the League. She then told the crew how she and the rest of this chapter had become prisoners of the goph/Mullinarian menace.
The guerrilla tactics of their chapter had become increasingly successful. They left bombs along their feeding paths and poisoned their water supply. The secret to their success was a series of extensive underground tunnels that were built in these parts of Martan prior to the invasion. The Mullinarian just couldn’t locate them and when they did follow them underground, they were easily ambushed by the chemical weapons that had been stockpiled there.
However, despite external success against the Mullinarians there was discord in our chapter. Zultan who was foolishly promoted to second in command after supposed acts of courage that nobody else witnessed was constantly arguing with the Chief over tactics and the direction of the war.
Then the Chief died seemingly in his sleep although many suspected that Zultan may have had a hand in it but could find no evidence. This was when the trouble really started. Zultan no longer had any reason to hide his megalomaniac tendencies. He refused to appoint a second in command, take part in military operations or ration his food. This built up resentment among the rest of the Chapter.
It finally came to a head when he wanted to insist that the propagators could only mate with him.
“What do you mean by propagators?” Rosaleen interrupted confused by what she meant.
Alecia then explained that the Chapter would expect to lose a certain percentage of its members through combat each year and they had to be replaced. Approximately half of the females in the Chapter are selected to become propagators from birth. On reaching sexual maturity, their primary objective is to breed as quickly as possible and provide solace for the others whether they are male or female who are barred from entering relationships with each other.
Continuing her tale despite the gasp of horror from Rosaleen she stated that the rest of the Chapter refused to allow him to monopolise the propagators because they wanted some pleasure in their lives and also because it would lead to significant inbreeding in future generations.
Zultan was furious but the rest of the Chapter was defiant. He remained in charge though and as time passed it was assumed that all was forgotten and that he would eventually become a great leader.
Months passed and the Chapter was becoming increasingly successful in its operations against the Mullinarians. Zultan informed us that we needed to take in new members in order to truly push them back. He knew that we would recognise the influence of the gophs so he kept the two groups separate but insisted every day that some of us go train with them. Using this method everyone came under goph control.
“Now you have freed us,” said Alecia sincerely in a soft voice.
The crew and Alecia then discussed what to do next. Socrates was anxious to launch an immediate attack but Malthus and Alecia both agreed that they needed to build up as much strength as possible before directly taking on the Mullinarian colony. The freed League troops were split into three groups; one which the crew were going to accompany was to head to the Coosanian Troops and get them to join forces, the other two groups were to free more League members and raid the armaments facility for weapons before joining up with the first group. Alecia said that she would go with the group raiding the armaments facility.
Malthus` group which had been codenamed A1 began their journey back to the Coosanian Camp. He was holding Rosaleen’s hand and noticed that she was cold and shaking. He asked her if she was alright and despite her affirmative response, he knew that psychologically she would not be able to take much more. Even Socrates was no longer his boyish, optimistic self but Malthus knew that there was still plenty of steel inside him.
Malthus himself wondered if he would be able to go through the same experience as the League members. The cramped underground corridors were already giving him a claustrophobic feeling and he wondered if he would really be able to accept the death of those closest to him, in particular the death of Rosaleen. Maybe his love for her was a weakness that the current Martan would not tolerate. He tried to wipe his mind of such thoughts and instead concentrated fully on the task in hand.
As they approached the chamber of the Coosanian camp, Malthus signalled that he and Socrates would scout ahead first and that there were to stay in their current position putting Rosaleen in command. Malthus and Socrates then left them and approached the entrance to the chamber where they peered out to see what was happening.
Malthus had to hold Socrates back from the horrific scene. Zena was on her knees being interrogated by Zultan with the Coosanian Commander watching on in a trance like state, certainly under goph influence. The Coosanian troops were in a march alignment looking on at the scene with their backs to them.
Each time Zena refused to answer, she was walloped on the face. Malthus could see that some of the troops were wincing when she was hit showing him that some of them were still free from goph control. Socrates with sorrow etched on his face pushed Malthus and pleaded with him that they must take some sort of action.
Malthus gripped his arm fiercely and told him that they would and that he had a plan. They got on their knees and slowly crawled up behind two Coosanian troops who were separated from the rest. They punched them on the back of their heads knocking them unconscious and took their standard issue laser rifles.
From this closer distance the voice of Zultan was clearly audible as he once more screamed at her. He wanted to know the location of the rest of her crew. But then Socrates snapped. The plan had been to try to shoot Zultan from a distance and convince the Coosanian Troops that their Commander was no longer in control of his own body but that plan was now down the drain.
“Here we are!” roared Socrates throwing his rifle to the ground and walking straight towards Zultan. Malthus now knew that he had little option but to do the same even though he had a bad feeling that all would not end well.
As they approached Zultan ordered the Coosanian Troops to arrest them, however it was ignored much to his fury confirming to Malthus that it was only the Commander who had been compromised so far. They were promptly seized once Zultan directed the Commander to give the order.
Malthus knew that the only hope he had left was to convince the Troopers that their Commander was not himself. He started roaring at them that their Commander was under foreign control, that they must have noticed him acting strangely for the last while. Socrates understood what he was trying to achieve and joined in. He could feel the troopers grip loosen from him but they wouldn’t quite let go as they wrestled with different emotions.
Then just as it appeared that they were doomed and everything was lost, he heard a woman’s voice shout from behind. It was Rosaleen.
“They’re telling you the truth!” she roared so that everybody could hear her, with the sound of feet clattering echoing around the chamber.
Then Malthus could feel that the Troops had released him. He wondered why they would take her word for it so quickly but not his. As he turned to see her, he could see that she was flanked on both sides by League members.
There was then a surreal moment as silence pervaded the chamber and nobody seemed sure how to react next. Then a large angry and hate filled group of the League ran towards Zultan un-harassed by the Coosanian Troops. He shouted for them to stop as they approached and then pleaded for mercy.
He was immediately knocked to the ground and then surrounded blocking the view from everybody else. Then there was the sound of feet kicking and his eerie shrieks of pain. Then there was nothing but the sound of kicking.
Four Coosanian troops then went to arrest their Commander. Malthus then ran towards them. At first, they were wary about letting him near him but once they realised that he wanted to help him rather than hurt him they let him through. They forced the Commander on to his side and Malthus cut through his uniform with his knife before doing the now customary four taps on the back of the goph and then slicing through the goph.
The Troopers around him were flabbergasted by what they saw and then they turned to the rest of their comrades exclaiming that their Commander had been saved to a huge roar. The Commander spluttered a thank you to Malthus and apologised for his behaviour but Malthus told him not to worry and rest as in a few hours he would be needed to lead the attack on the colony.
Zultan’s body had been silently removed by the League from the scene as if its violent internal outpouring of rage was to be hidden. In the old Martan everybody would have at least got a trial but this was a newer, harsher world.
There was now a great release of tension and Malthus could feel his heart rate returning to normal. He shouted at the Coosanian Troops that they were to return to their tents for now and they complied without hesitation much to his surprise; they were looking for a leader.
As the crowd dispersed Malthus could see Socrates holding a bloodied Zena in his arms. Malthus immediately went to their aid. As he got closer he could see that her face was bruised and badly swollen. But when Socrates spoke to Malthus about her it was not about her injuries but of his pride that she had not divulged anything to Zultan and had taken the punishment bravely.
Malthus agreed with him knowing that he was trying to keep her spirits up, she was a Coosanian after all and bravery would mean allot to her. She murmured her appreciation. Nodding to Malthus, he then struggled to lift her off the ground and went in the direction of their tent in the camp.
Rosaleen then went to Malthus and threw her arms around him kissing his face ferociously before breaking into tears.
“I was so worried that you were going to get killed,” she sobbed, “I just knew that I had to follow you and then intervene when I saw that you were in trouble”
Malthus reassured her that she was correct in what she did and that things were finally starting to look up. She was shaking in his arms and he knew that Martan was no longer her home. They retreated to their tent where Malthus could once more explore her beautiful body. He touched and kissed each crevasse and marvelled at its soft touch. Soon he was making love once more to the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
Afterwards as Rosaleen fell asleep exhausted, he once again opened his journal and recorded what had happened. It did not take long for the rest of the League to conjugate at the encampment; a few hours at most. A Coosanian Trooper then knocked at Malthus` tent forcing him to stop his writing and informing him that Alecia wished to see him.
He quickly got dressed and went to meet her on the outskirts of the encampment, hoping that all sides would now cooperate to attack the Mullinarian colony. The stench in the encampment was awful and overpowering; the noise from people talking and moving deafening with sounds which were reverberating against the chamber’s side walls and ceilings. They would have to leave it soon one way or the other. The Coosanian Troopers seemed to be standing to attention as he walked past them. It cheered him that they had such respect.
The Chamber was now very much overcrowded. League members all very heavily armed with lasers and grenades now surrounded the encampment meaning that there was virtually no empty space left in the large chamber.
As Malthus approached Alecia, he could see that she was accompanied by a tall, male League member and a Coosanian Trooper neither of which he recognised. She waved for Malthus to follow them into the side chamber which Zultan originally showed him and he complied.
“Now that’s much quieter!” as Alecia pressed a button on the wall to close the chamber door behind him.
She then brought up the 3D hologram of the Mullinarian colony and looking Malthus directly in the eye, stated that they must attack now while the opportunity presented itself.
The Coosanian Trooper who identified himself as Lieutenant Bale then spoke, “Malthus, the Coosanian Commander is unfit to lead. The Troopers decided that they would like you to lead them for the rest of the mission. Will you accept the Command position?”
Malthus was surprised but honoured by this request. The Coosanians were a very proud, warlike people and it was a sign of huge respect that they would even consider him, a Martanian to be their Commander. But he knew in his heart that he would not be returning to Coosan while Martan was un-free.
“I am deeply honoured and yes I will take Command of the Troopers but on one condition – Upon the successful destruction of the target colony and on their return to Coosan, I will nominate another to Command as I will never leave this planet while there is still a Mullinarian occupation.”
Bale nodded in agreement and with admiration for a man whom he knew was totally committed to the cause. Alecia then stated that she was happy that this was now resolved and pointed to the male League member in the room.
“This is Liden, he is the Chief tactician of the League.” she said with authority, “We need to work together if we are to destroy this Mullinarian base & all live to tell the tale.”
“What do you have in mind?” Malthus said with deference.
“Some of your Coosanian Troops are armed with small nuclear tactical devices. If we detonate them on a timer at any three of these five locations the blasts will destroy the colony.”
At this point Liden brings up the holographic display in front of them and points out the three locations he is talking about. They are at the entrance into the colony at ground level, at the chamber where Malthus had seen the genetically altered queens and the final one was at the very bottom of the colony.
“They will need to go off simultaneously. You should select your best Troopers for this mission. Even though they will be able to use the air chambers, it will be very risky and if anything goes wrong everything will be jeopardised.
The window of opportunity is short. At the moment the planet surface is shrouded in darkness. The majority of the Mullinarians have left their colony to collect food. It will remain dark for another four hours. We must act immediately while the colony defences are as low as they will go.
The rest of your Troopers should head towards the surface and try to set up a defensive perimeter. They will then contact the rest of their fleet and try to hold out till they and the Troopers who carried out the nuclear attack are rescued and brought back to Coosan.
The League will do everything it can to try to provide support but make no mistake; it will only be a matter of time before the Troopers are overrun unless the Fleet arrives.”
Malthus nodded in agreement. It was a well thought out plan. But once he heard it, he knew that he would be one of the Troopers planting a nuclear device.
Attack on the Mullinarian Colony
Tears were swelling in Rosaleen’s eyes and trepidation was etched on the face of Socrates as Malthus put the nuclear pack on his back. In Zena’s eyes and that of his Troopers there was sheer admiration.
He had just informed the Troopers and his crew of his plans. It was him who would be personally leading the small squadron of elite Troopers to plant the nuclear devices. He had placed Socrates in charge of leading the rest of the Troopers to the surface to set up the defensive perimeter and make contact with the Fleet.
The reason for Socrates trepidation was that he had never before been given such responsibility. Rosaleen’s great sadness was caused by the fact that Malthus had informed everyone that he would not be returning to Coosan with them but was staying to fight the Mullinarians till they had finally left his home world.
Malthus approached Socrates, “I know you can do this. Do it for the cause of all humanity!”
Socrates nodded in agreement and said with his voice cracking with emotion, “I will mostly be doing it for you. You are the bravest man I’ve ever met.”
Malthus then turned and headed towards Rosaleen who was sobbing uncontrollably. He put his arms around her trying to comfort her and said lovingly, “I do love you. Never before have had I felt this way about a woman. But Martan and its people need me. The Mullinarians will not be satisfied until every last human life in the galaxy has been extinguished.”
Then Rosaleen mumbled, “What about me and your baby for I think I am pregnant.”
Malthus was stunned and for a brief few seconds his certainty deserted him. But then his fortitude and conviction returned, “It is for the future generations that I must do what needs to be done.”
He then turned away from her knowing that there was little else he could say and walked to the elite squadron he had assembled. There were five of the best and specially trained Troopers waiting for him.
They were eager with no sign of hesitation in their eyes which pleased Malthus. He knew that they would have trained all their lives for a mission like this and that they were a select group. Only the best would have been trained on how to use hand held nuclear devices; the responsibility a burden too great to place on lesser soldiers.
There was a steely determination in their eyes and though small in stature they oozed masculinity. Their faces were battle hardened with scars testimony that they had seen it all before. However, it was obvious that the respect was mutual and they hung on every word of Malthus.
They each gave their squadron names which were simply A1 to A5. Malthus didn’t ask for their real names because he knew that he wouldn’t have enough time to get to know them intimately and also he didn’t want to be plagued by the memories of men who he might have to order to their deaths.
Malthus now put one of the nuclear devices which were little more than a white box on his back. He turned to Socrates nodding at him which was a signal for him to start moving the main body of Troopers towards the surface.
He then brought the squadron into the side chamber where he showed them the holographic display of the Mullinarian base and pointed out where he wanted each of them to plant their devices. The locations were all in air chambers to minimise the risk of them being discovered. He would be last to plant his device at the end of the tunnel into the Mullinarian colony.
There would be six devices planted although even the detonation of three of them would cause the level of devastation required.
He held the detonator for them all in his pocket. Solemnly he told them that the mission was to totally obliterate the colony and their lives were all expendable.
He then showed them the small tunnel that they would get to the colony through and in an effort to show true leadership; he was the first one to enter and ordered them to follow him. The journey through the narrow dark, tunnel seemed to take far longer this time. The cuts and scrapes didn’t bother him this time but rather the queasy churning in his stomach from what might be awaiting them on the other side.
It was with an uneasy relief that he finally saw the light from the Mullinarian air chamber at the end of the tunnel.
As he squeezed out he could hear the Troopers rumbling through the tunnel behind him. His hands were trembling but he knew that he had to gather his thoughts and remain strong for the sake of the mission. One by one the Troopers entered the air chamber. Although now covered in dust and in the lion’s den, he could see the same determination in their faces.
Malthus then gave them their orders. A1 was to go to the very depths of the colony deep underground to plant his device; A5 to the surface entrance at the rest were to plant their devices at intermediary points. They would keep in contact through their radios, but communications were to be kept to a minimum lest they were to be intercepted.
With that he gave them the order to deploy and they seamlessly moved in the two opposite directions in the air chamber.
Malthus now knew that he had over two hours to kill before the last Trooper returned. He now took out his paper journal and continued to write down his account of what had happened. He had an unusual unswerving belief that someday somebody would want to know about what occurred. He hoped that those readers would be free Martanians and Mullinarians would be just ancient history. But in the back of his mind he worried that his story may end being translated into Mullinarian and ending up as little more than an epitaph of humanity’s futile attempts at resistance. He tried to push those thoughts to the back of his mind and remain positive. It was hard.
The eerie silence was only occasionally punctuated by the sound of a Mullinarian passing in the adjacent corridor. Each time his body twitched from nervousness that he might be discovered. Occasionally he thought that he could hear human screams in the distance.
At times he also pondered what stage Socrates and the Troopers had reached. Hopefully they had not yet been discovered as there was only so long that they could hold out against the likely massive assault from the Mulllinarians.
If things were going according to plans, they should be setting up a defensive perimeter at a high point but still flat enough to let spaceships land, which would vary in shape according to the terrain before them. Shield generator devices would be erected around the perimeter to create a single, fluorescent shield.
This shield would stop them getting instantly annihilated from a simple nuclear attack. The frequency of the Troopers` laser weapons would then be aligned with those of the shield so that they could target any enemy that came within range.
If Socrates and the Troopers used their head, they should also plant booby traps outside the shield. This would help to push back any Mullinarian charge.
The best offensive weapon of the Troopers was the Mag 6 Laser Gun. It was a rapid-fire laser machine gun, operated by two Troopers which could destroy a large body of enemies in just seconds. The Troopers were armed with two such weapons and Malthus hoped that they made the best use of them.
Even with such advanced and developed weaponry they would be up against it to hold out. The Mullinarians would simply be too numerous even against some of the best soldiers humanity had to offer. They needed to go undiscovered for as long as possible.
After what seemed like a long time but exactly on schedule some of the squadron sent messages via radio that they had planted their devices and were on the way back. It was with immense relief that he heard these messages. He knew that it would be quite a lot longer before A1 and A5 who had to go the farthest would make contact.
Time now seemed to flow quicker for Malthus. It didn’t seem to take long for the first few squadron members to return. He instructed each of them to set up strong points along the route to where they would catch up with the Troopers. The first point was in the Freedom League base beside the lift in the big chamber.
Each strong point would consist of them arming their Suzi mini laser in a barricaded position.
This particular laser was excellent at cutting down Mullinarians from a defensive position especially if they were attacking through a narrow channel.
However, he had still not heard from A1 and A5. He hoped that they would soon make contact to say their devices had been planted and that they were returning. The minutes passed and he heard nothing.
He began to ponder whether he should just leave them behind as lost. Then just as he’s about to leave after planting his own, he gets a message from A5 who had ventured the deepest. It simply stated – On way back.
Malthus now decided to wait and that he should shortly hear from A5 but he never did. It only took him another few minutes of hearing nothing to realise that something was gone seriously wrong. A1 was either dead or captured; either way the mission was now in jeopardy.
Preparing for the worst, he set up his Suzi Mini laser pointing it in the direction that he had previously hoped he would see A1 eventually return.
Time slowly drifted onwards but nothing happened. He almost wished that the Mullinarians would attack and be done with it. But still the silence continued. Thoughts of trying to contact A1 entered his mind but he pushed them back. He knew that in what seemed to be the likely event of A1 being compromised, the worst thing he could try to do would be to make contact and give the coordinates of his position away.
Malthus was growing increasingly worried and wondered if the confidence of the Troopers had been misplaced. He pondered if he really was the courageous man they thought he was.
Then after what seemed like an eternity, he finally heard a sound. His heart nearly stopped, then he realised that it was coming from the direction that he was expecting A5. As the Suzi Mini was difficult to manoeuvre, he took out a small hand held laser that he knew would be of little use to him if it was not who he expected.
Fortunately, it was A5; in a tattered uniform and covered in dust. But the smile was quickly wiped off Malthus` face.
“Commander – we don’t have much time. I passed by a line of Mullinarians heading this way. We only have seconds!”
Malthus immediately ordered him to enter the tunnel and head back to the League base. A5`s analysis of the situation was correct. Malthus could hear the sound of Mullinarians gnawing their way their way through to the air chamber in the distance.
Then Malthus could see a Mullinarian heading straight for him. Its large blood-soaked mandibles were opening and closing rapidly as if preparing to rip him to shreds. Fortunately, it was struggling to get through the relatively narrow air chamber and also coming in the direction that his Suzi-Mini was pointing.
There was no hesitation in opening fire. It let off a roar as its green blood splattered with each bullet before collapsing to the ground. Malthus could see that there was another one behind him but it was temporarily blocked. Malthus knew that he would soon be surrounded and quickly made sure his nuclear device was covered by loose stones and dust so as it would go unnoticed.
He then quickly entered the tunnel just as the wall opposite him collapsed. Crawling as quickly as he could, he soon opened a gap between himself and the Mullinarians behind him who were gnawing ferociously to widen the tunnel and chase after him. The return journey to the League base didn’t seem to take long this time as his heart pumped ferociously. He no longer felt the cuts as his mind homed in on what he had to do.
Soon he saw the light at the light at the end of the tunnel and was back in the League base. A5 was standing to attention waiting for him
As Malthus stood up he could hear the Suzi Mini laser firing in the adjacent chamber. The Mullinarians were attacking from the other side. Malthus and A5 took out their hand held lasers even though they would be of limited use. Malthus peered out into the large adjacent chamber.
There were already four Mullinarian corpses on the ground, green blood oozing from them into a pond at the other side of the chamber. A2 was manning a barricade just in front of the lift that Malthus needed to go up and was poised to begin firing again. There was at least one Mullinarian in the chamber opposite Malthus and A5. Malthus could see a mandible slightly sticking out.
Malthus turned round to A5 who still had a staunchly determined appearance and told him that they would have to make a run for it. He saw his jaw drop in disappointment just for a second. This was the last thing a Coosanian would want to hear. Their small hefty bodies made them poor runners. But they didn’t really have much choice. There could only be death if they stayed where they were.
With that they ran for it. Immediately Malthus heard a loud Mullinarian roar and he instinctively knew that there was far more than one of them. It was quickly followed by the sound of Mullinarians chasing behind them and the Suzi Mini opening fire.
Malthus was far quicker than A5 and he soon left him far behind. Just as he reached the barricade; he could hear a Coosanian roar of pain behind him accompanied by the sound of a mandible cutting through flesh.
Climbing over the barricade, he got on his knees beside A2 who was still frantically firing his weapon. It was a scene of utter devastation. Mullinarian corpses were already three deep in places but they were still attacking by climbing over the dead bodies. Parts of A5`s body were strewn across the floor.
“I can’t hold out hold them off for much longer.” roared A2
“You need to go up the lift and exit through the tunnel. A3 and A4 are waiting for you. Go now before it’s too late, God save Coosan!”
Malthus didn’t pause for thought to consider his option. He could see that each dead Mullinarian was another meter closer to the barricade and that there wasn’t much time left.
He left A2 and ran to the lift behind the barricade anxiously pressing the button to open its doors. The doors quickly opened and he immediately entered, pressing the button to go up. As the doors were three quarters closed, he could see that a Mullinarian had reached the barricade and had begun ripping A2`s body to shreds on the ground using its mandibles.
It turned its face directly to Malthus as the door closed. Fortunately, the lift was fast and it sped upwards. Malthus could hear a crashing sound beneath him which he could only presume to be the Mullinarian breaking through into the lift to the lift chamber. Malthus was confident the lift would go too fast for a climbing Mullinarian or at least that was what he hoped…
The lift which he found to be so cramped when he was first in it, now seemed too open. His hands were shaking and he found it difficult to stay still. As he paced up and down, imaginary Mullinarians appeared before him taunting him.
Fortunately, by the time the lift door opened a few minutes later, he had managed to regain his composure and steely determination. One again he entered the narrow corridor and ran towards the exit at a steady place. He hoped that A3 would be at the exit.
After running for a minute, he could hear the echo of Mullinarian screams behind him. Fortunately, the corridor was too narrow for them and they would have to burrow after him slowing them down immensely.
He now sprinted to the exit. It was a long tunnel and it still took him a few minutes to reach the exit. Then finally he could see sunlight in front of him. A3 was there waiting for him and asked about the others. Malthus simple nodded and muttered that they were no more.
They then walked a few paces away from the false wall and Malthus took out his detonator for the nuclear devices. It was bright and warm. After he pressed the switch he could feel the ground tremor under him for a few seconds and he knew that his mission had been accomplished.
He then got on his knees and embraced A3 with joy. There were tears flowing down the cheeks of A3. Finally, a true victory against the Mullinarians, maybe the tide was finally turning back in favour of humanity.
Then the perilous nature of their situation returned to them. Malthus told A3 to lead him to the evacuation point. He had previously agreed with Socrates that he would order one of the Troopers to leave a note of the point coordinates at the exit.
A3 told Malthus to follow him. They kept a brisk pace down the mountainous slope towards flatter ground. It was obvious that the Mullinarians had passed through during the darkness because what had been a thriving lush landscape had given was to a barren one. There was nothing but the brownish soil and the barks of trees. It seemed so alien set against the red sky.
A3 then brought him through a valley at the end of which they met A4. By now Malthus was determined that no more of his heroic squadron would meet a grisly end and he asked them for their first names. Perplexed at first by the nature of the request as they were so used to their alphanumerical name, they replied that A3`s first name was Joshua and A4`s was Medric.
Medric then informed them that they were close to Socrates and the Troopers. He led them up a steep cliff face and then onto a stony track which led them to the top of this particular hill. It was a great vantage point. The other side led down to a deep valley.
Malthus could see the Troopers in the distance. They were in a circular defensive position; the shield had been activated and he could just about make out the positions of the Mag 6 Laser Guns. The evacuation ships had not yet arrived.
Malthus was surprised that the Mullinarians had not yet attacked. He reasoned that the nuclear attack must have thrown them into disarray or maybe they were even searching for survivors although concern for other beings even their own kind seemed beyond them. He was also unsure what position the Martan Freedom League had taken up. This was problematic because he wanted to stay back with them.
They started to head down the slope and make their way towards the Troopers position. Soon though they were startled by shrill sounds overhead. It was five Mullinarian atmospheric fighters who opened fire on the shield before flying away again.
The shots barely registered with the shield but Malthus knew that wasn’t why they opened fire. The blue laser shots would alert the Mullinarian ground forces of the Trooper position. Malthus anxiously urged his companions to go as fast as possible. They didn’t have much time left.
Fortunately, when the Mullinarians could finally be seen in the distance they had nearly reached the Troopers. Suddenly the battle began. The Mullinarians opened fire on the shield from all directions. It only took seconds for the Troopers to respond with their Mag 6 laser guns causing large explosions. It was a cacophony of sounds and colours.
Every few seconds they jumped to the ground when it felt like the laser fire was getting too close and then scrambled back up again in their desperate attempt to get inside the shield to comparative safety. Then just as they made it inside a wave of enemy fighters carpet bombed the entire area. It was a lucky escape.
Malthus immediately requested to be directed towards Socrates. One of the Troopers pointed out his position to him. He was at the centre of the defensive position surrounded by the top Troopers. Malthus turned to Joshua and Medric and thanked them and their dead colleagues on behalf of Martan and Coosan for the vital role they played in the successful mission. He could see the expression of pride on their faces. Then he ordered them to join the other Troopers in the battle and ran towards Socrates knowing that every second could count.
Rosaleen and Zena saw him coming and jumped into his arms. He held them tightly for a few seconds and then continued onwards to Socrates without muttering a word.
Socrates was delighted to see him and had tears rolling down his face as they embraced.
“Thank God, you’re back,” smiled Socrates.
“It was a close one. Now when are the evacuation spaceships getting here?” replied Malthus shouting in order to be heard over all the firing.
Socrates informed him that the evacuation ships should arrive in approximately twenty minutes. As Malthus looked out at the surrounding landscape he wondered if they could hold out that long. They were surrounded by what seemed to be a black sea of Mullinarians which was slowly getting closer and closer.
Malthus then queried what had happened to the League and why they had abandoned them. Socrates replied that it was pertinent that he should ask that question now. It turned out that the League knew this area intrinsically well. There are a series of tunnels which crisscross it and their allies had been so helpful as to plant timed explosive devices in them at just the right locations.
Just as Socrates stopped talking a series of explosions rocked the ground throwing them forward almost to the ground. Malthus quickly looked to see if anyone had been injured, then gleefully smiled when he realised that the shield had protected them but not the Mullinarians from the blast.
Their green blood had splashed against the shield and a mass of their dead bodies were strewn across the battlefield. Even the atmospheric fighters had apparently been blasted from the sky. Some of the dust seemed to be suspended in the air darkening the battlefield.
The Troopers raised their arms and roared with delight. But Malthus knew that it was only a temporary respite and they had no more tricks for the next wave of attacks. He roared at the Troopers ordering them to maintain their discipline and position. He used the interlude to assess the situation.
Although the Mullinarians were likely to attack from all directions, the focus of their attack was likely to be along the most even surface. They were likely to charge and try to get inside the shield so they could kill the Troopers in mandible to hand combat.
Malthus noticed that there was a particularly mountainous area to the rear of their defensive position. Therefore, Malthus ordered some of the Troopers to leave their positions in the rear and moved them over to the front and side positions.
He then called over Rosaleen and they kissed passionately. Then he told her that not only did he love her but also that he respected her leadership qualities and that he had an important task for her.
She replied without hesitation that he could rely on her. He then told her that he was making her a commander of the Troopers to the rear. They were to hold their position no matter what. He then grabbed her by the shoulders and informed her that if she had to, she was to open fire on deserters. She didn’t flinch and instead went to take up position with her men.
A Trooper then approached Malthus and informed him that the evacuation ships were still over fifteen minutes away. Just then Malthus could see black dots in the distance that he knew were further battalions of Mullinarians.
As he looked around, he could see what were now his Troopers prepared for battle. Most were armed with small arms lasers but thankfully they also had the two Mag 6 laser guns to depend on.
In the corner of his eye he could see Socrates and Zena embracing. Then he thought of all the families of the Troopers who were now depending on him. He would not let them down.
Then the battle restarted. Mullinarian atmospheric fighters opened fire on the shield which still held steady before dropping bombs which carpet bombed the area outside the protection of the shield. Once more dust was thrown up in to the air and the Mullinarian ground forces were obscured from view.
Malthus immediately ordered the Troopers to open fire as he knew the Mullinarian ground forces would try to get as close as possible before the haze dissipated. The Troopers fired their lasers and Mag 6 Guns indiscriminately.
You could hear the large explosions from the Mag 6 Guns in the distance but their effectiveness was impossible to tell. Slowly the haze began to lift but they did not stop firing.
Some of the Troopers seemed to be enjoying the battle roaring out obscenities at the unseen enemy whereas others remained silent concentrating solely on the task in hand.
Soon the Mullinarians became visible. As he thought they had used the poor visibility to creep further towards and were now far closer to their position. They now started a full frontal charge. They were exceptionally fast creatures and Malthus could see that there was a huge mass of them.
The lasers sliced open their bodies but each time one fell, it was quickly replaced. To make matters worse the shield was also coming under heavy fire from Mullinarian shooters in the distance and fighters in the air. Malthus knew that it was now only a matter of time before the shield failed or Mullinarian ground forces penetrated the position.
He ordered the Troopers to move closer together and to bring the devices for the shield with them. This meant that the shield had to cover a smaller area thereby increasing its strength and also because the Troopers were now closer together, their laser fire was more concentrated.
With each passing minute the Mullinarian stampede got closer and closer. Then tragically one of the laser shots from a Mullinarian fighter breached the shield killing four Troopers. There was a gasp of horror.
The shield and the Troopers lasers were set to a particular frequency. This allowed the Troopers to shoot out but incoming enemy fire to be blocked. The fact that an incoming laser shot had gotten through meant that that the Mullinarians had discovered its operating frequency and it would have to be reset.
For ten seconds Malthus and the Troopers had to hold their fire as the system rebooted and the lasers automatically adjusted to the new frequency. They held their positions in an eerie silence as the Mullinarian stampede continued. Malthus knew that the discipline of the Troopers would now be critical.
Then much to Malthus` relief he heard the laser and gun fire from the Troopers recommencing. Malthus now turned around to see how his beloved Rosaleen was faring. As he thought the Mullinarians were not attacking in as great numbers from this direction due to the more difficult terrain.
However, the number of Troopers under her command to defend this side of the position had been greatly reduced and she could at least hold her own as a Commander. For a brief moment Malthus` mind left the battlefield and he imagined that he was making love to Rosaleen on a beach on a faraway world.
He was jolted back to reality by a Coosanian sub commander tapping him on his hip to get his attention. Immediately Malthus turned back around and could see that the Mullinarians had now nearly reached the shield. The Coosanian sub commander advised that they should use their grenades and Malthus gave the order to do so.
Malthus then mysteriously noticed that the Mullinarian fighters were no longer firing on the shield and seemed to have left. Just then the Troopers threw their grenades outside the shield as the Mullinarians were on the very of entering. However, it only caused a temporary delay.
Just as the first Mullinarians passed through the shield huge laser blasts could be heard overhead. Malthus looked up at the sky overhead and could see that the Coosanian evacuation ships had arrived much to his relief. They fired powerful blasts at the Mullinarians forcing them to retreat.
However, the Mullinarian warriors who had breached the shield were cutting a bloody trail through the Troopers. Their large mandibles were easily able to cut through their flesh, lifting them and throwing them overhead. Malthus gave the order that all the Troopers were to concentrate on firing on the Mullinarians inside the shield rather than those fleeing outside.
The Mullinarians inside the shield were then quickly cut down by laser; their green blood mixing with the red of the humans leaving a strange black liquid. At first the cheers of the joy of victory could be heard but then it was replaced by the screams of mutilated bodies. Malthus turned around to wave to Rosaleen but to his horror she was lying injured on the ground. He immediately ran to her.
As he got close, he shouted her name and much to his relief; she turned her face towards him. Holding her tightly and on the verge of sobbing, he asked her what had happened. Gritting her teeth, she moaned that it was her leg. Malthus looked down and seen it was bloody. At first glance he was surprised because it didn’t seem to be a mandible wound. He tore off some of his shirt and made an impromptu bandage. Then putting her arm behind his neck, he lifted her into a standing position.
Just at that time the first ship landed and then another before they were all on the ground throwing a dust cloud into the air with their thrusters. Malthus orders the Troopers to evacuate. Everywhere Troopers went to the injured and lifted them to bring them off this world no matter how loud they screamed in pain. Malthus felt a tremendous sense of pride about what he had accomplished. He knew that finally humankind had struck back against the Mullinarians and said no more. But he also knew that he could not rest until Martan was returned to human civilisation.
It had been his plan to return to the League at this juncture. But he couldn’t leave Rosaleen in this state; he would have to find another way. Slowly he moved Rosaleen towards the nearest ship.
Every few steps she roared out in pain, but he drove her onwards. He knew that the ships had to leave quickly before the Mullinarians launched a counter attack. The sheer size of each ship was impressive. They had a large laser on each side with two smaller ones towards the front accompanied by heavy armour.
Then Malthus felt a slap on his back. It was Socrates and Zena who immediately helped to keep Rosaleen upright. Progress was now far more easily made and within a minute they had reach the hanger bay of the ship. Once inside they lay Rosaleen on the floor before sitting down. It was cold but they didn’t care. In the distance they could hear some of the other ships lifting off. The hanger bay was a wide-open space that Malthus thought was usually used to keep fighters.
Soon the last Trooper had entered and the large electronic door closed behind them. Malthus held Rosaleen’s hand to comfort her and despite her immense pain she lovingly gazed into his eyes. Just seconds later the ship began to rattle and they could feel its thrusters ignite. They quickly held onto handles on the wall but they need not have worried as it was a gentle journey out of Martan’s atmosphere and into space.
Note from Rosaleen
He was the love of my life. My heart will be in turmoil till the day I die and reunited with him in the next existence. Every time I look at my son Vires, I can see some of his facial features and his spirit in his actions. It is with remorse that I now look into the future for I know my life will never reach the same exciting heights again.
Today I live in a hut close to Socrates and Zena, who now have a girl called Beth. She is small in stature like her mother but has the skin of her father. We are located in a Coosanian mining colony, which has a large dome which sustains an artificial atmosphere and plant life. Outside of the dome which only covers a few square kilometres there is nothing except a completely dead, grey, cratered world.
This book is an edited version of Malthus` notes but I swear on his grave wherever it may be that it is an accurate account. The wound I received which Malthus recognised as not being from a mandible was self-inflicted. In truth I thought I had set my laser to do minimal damage but from close range it was devastating and I was fortunate that they saved my leg.
It was my ploy to make sure that Malthus didn’t get a chance to re-join the League and hence, leaving me. As I held Malthus` hand on that ship I felt immense joy despite the pain thinking that now we would never be separated. Perhaps I should never have let go of his hand when the Coosanian doctors said they needed to operate.
It must have been during this period while I was sedated that he discovered that the ship had emergency escape pods. He never said a word to me about them and both Socrates and Zena swear he said nothing to them either. So, when he lovingly gazed into my eyes before I entered the cryonic capsule, I thought it was first of many such instances.
You can imagine my horror when I found after leaving it years later although seemingly instantaneously for me that he had never entered his capsule instead taking an escape pod back to Martan. The only thing he left behind were his notes, which I was going to rip up in rage until Socrates intervened.
Seemingly they have now erected a statue to him on Coosan and he is credited with delaying a possible invasion of the planet which is time they are using to modernise and expand their armies and space fleet. They now learn about his exploits in school.
There has been no communications from the Martan Freedom League but there are indirect reports that the guerrilla war is continuing. More human worlds have joined the war against the Mullinarians and there are rumours that a unified army may be sent to try and liberate the remaining humans on Martan. There is even talk of human worlds amalgamating to form some sort of Federation.
Maybe Malthus was right to go back to Martan but I honestly don’t think I’ll ever forgive him for it…
The Great Library
Lance was disappointed as he finished the book. He had found it such a joy to read and it had helped to take his mind off his own predicament. It was probably the last history lesson he would ever get.
His civilization had lost so much including the rich history of the Universe and it sickened him that they were to be replaced by brutish barbarians. It all seemed so futile. But then he realised that this was an emotional response and it must be purged. At times, it seemed he was little better than those brutish barbarians.
He tried to relax by looking at the familiar surroundings of his cell. If only the outside world was as familiar. He never thought that the time would come when he used to go instantaneously from one place to the next that he would someday be confined to a single building complex.
But that was the position that he now found himself in and he would just have to make the best of it. Then he heard a large knock on his door and James7432 entered. He simply instructed him that he was to be followed. Lance immediately obeyed.
Once more he was led through what seemed to be a labyrinth of narrow corridors and winding stairs. It was all immaculately clean and all the walls were the same reassuring white colour. Then James7432 came to a sudden halt and opened a side door and switched a light.
Lance followed him and was distressed by the sight he saw. Aghast he was immediately told that this was to be his workstation. The room was filthy and an ugly red colour. It was also a mess. There were books thrown everywhere including on the chair and floor. The computer that he presumed he was to use was missing some of the covering for its keys and its monitor, which he thought would be obsolete anyway, appeared to have a major crack going through the middle of it.
“I hope I am not sensing displeasure,” James7432 said in his normal monotone.
He then proceeded to explain that their people were now few in number and hence each individual had a responsibility to the collective to bring order and uniformity to where previously there was none. Therefore, Lance would henceforth be responsible for this room, both its appearance and ensuring its computational power adds to that of the collective.
This was to be his new home. The other cell he was in was only for very temporary use to remind their people of what they had once accomplished. Their aim was to at least try to bring Europeous back as close to that level again. He was only to leave the room for supplies and only to visit venerable cyberspace on his exoset. There was monitoring and if he infringed, he would be thrown to the barbarians.
Then James7432 left closing the door behind him. Once more, Lance found he was alone and confused. But at least this time he had a purpose albeit what seemed a small and innocuous one. But he knew that he had to try to make the most of a bad situation.
So, without thinking further, he started to collect the books and pile them in a corner. They were mostly history books about different wars and incidents that occurred during different eras of the Universe. When he had completed this task, he resolved to get some white paint to bring more familiarity to the room.
Then he stared at the broken computer. This was going to be a challenge. He decided to try to approach it in a systematic fashion.
Fortunately, the archaic monitor was still functioning. He pressed the “on” button on the computer but to no avail. Upon opening it up some of the wires were badly corroded. Searching in cyberspace he found the make of the computer and what he would have to do to fix it. There was also a map of the building complex he was in so he now knew where to get all the supplies he required. However, he noticed that his room was not marked on it. This was something he felt that he would have to earn.
After three visits to the supplies store he had the all the required parts. Also, he had attained a slot for when he could collect food. There would be no choice as to what he could eat and it was to be consumed in his room. It was a tasteless paste and Lance almost vomited the first time he tasted it. The ci-human who manned the store ignored his complaints about the food and informed him that a bland taste was preferential in the now familiar monotone.
Lance quickly set back about transforming his room and the walls were coloured white just like the rest of the building complex he had visited. Then he returned to the task of fixing the computer. The corroded wires and some parts were totally replaced.
Then finally he could switch it on. He could immediately tell that it might be something significant. Lance hadn’t seen this software platform before and he knew it was ancient. He remembered that on the old Europeous you could access ancient parts of cyberspace, presumable from mainframes like this one.
Lance now found it hard not to get excited. He started browsing through the files. It appeared to be a massive history archive from the different eras of the Universe. Lance immediately opens the Stelliforous Era, his favourite and decided to read one of the random files…