Sunday, January 22, 2017

Keeper and the Queen of M2467 part 2

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.


Keeper and the
QUEEN of M2467
Part 2
By R. Peterson

            The mining planet M2467 was unbelievably hot. Special suits resistant to high temperatures had to be worn by all workers and the cooling material they were made of needed to be recharged every ten hours. Not only was food rationed according to productivity but also the environment the slaves worked in. When production quotas dropped, the temperature the slaves worked in went up. Each shift was twenty hours long with a four hour rest period. Keeper, Jeff Bland and Teuth were assigned to work in an area where crushed ore was moved by monorail cars from a huge open pit to a distant refining center. Jeff guided empty mine cars to the loading station where Teuth filled them from inside an enclosed digger. The excavation equipment provided extra protection for his naturally aquatic skin and his multiple arms facilitated using the numerous controls on the high tech machinery in the most efficient way. Still the cephalopod was quickly becoming dehydrated and neither Keeper nor Bland expected their friend to last more than a few hours without adequate moisture.
Keeper attached a filled car to a train-terminal and sent it on its way. A dust cloud appeared on the horizon. “Here comes the devil,” Keeper said. A semi-humanoid squamate reptile brought a meager amount of water for each slave every hour, laughing and showing off a Hammurabi communicator he wore around his neck as he appeared in an air-conditioned truck-pod loaded with bottles.
“Your productivity has gone up the last two hours,” Gwolat sneered. “But I decided to raise your ore-quota to compensate for your unusual endurance.” He opened each and every bottle and swigged a long drink before he handed them to the thirsty workers. “We can’t have you crogs working at less than your full potential!”
One of Keeper’s crew members working in the area next to them collapsed and the sadistic lizard scampered to where he lay moaning in the sand. The squamate beat him viciously with a whip until, amazingly, the man rose to his feet. “No water for you!” Gwolat grinned as he poured a full bottle on the ground and the delirious man writhed in agony.
After Gwolat left, Keeper and Jeff each took one swallow and poured the rest into two half-full bottles stolen from Gwolot’s truck. Teuth was almost dying of thirst as they handed him one. “I don’t know how much longer I can last,” Teuth gasped as he downed the pint of water. “Even a quart every hour would not be enough for my subaquatic metabolism in this heat.” Keeper and Bland both looked away and tried not to lick their lips.
            “Bland and I are working on a plan to get us out of here,” Keeper assured him as he ran to give the dying crew member some stolen water.
            “Yeah I wanted to beat that lizard’s head in with a big rock the first time he showed up,” Jeff grumbled. “But Keeper insists that we work out all the details.”
            “We’ve got to stay alive until sundown,” Keeper said. “I don’t know why the Hammurabi stop production for four hours while this planet is dark … but all the old-timers, the slaves that have managed to stay alive for more than one day, insist that they do. When our friend Gwolat comes back for the last time on this shift … we’ll be waiting for him!”

-------2-------

                “Gwolat!” Jeff pointed when the sadistic supervisor stepped out of the truck he’d brought to return the slaves to the compound. “We got a guy here that refuses to do his share of the work!” The last rays of light from the mining planet’s two suns were disappearing over the horizon, but even in the smoldering shadows you could see the lizard was pleased for the opportunity to administer one last beating. He raised his whip high above his head and almost danced to where Keeper lay sprawled on the ground.
            Jeff caught the end of the leather whip when the creature swung it back to render a bloody first lash and yanked the lizard off balance. Keeper rolled over quickly and pulled Gwolat’s feet out from under him. The lizard shrieked and tumbled to the ground. A look of astonishment twisted his ugly face into a knot when Gwolat realized the cries of anguish that he’d expected to hear from his victim instead came from deep within his own throat. “No water for two days!” he screeched. His long forked tongue waved in the air like a conqueror’s flag even as Jeff Bland hovered over him with a head-crushing rock.
            “Not yet!” Keeper said to Jeff as he pinned the lizard to the hot sand. “There must be a source of water on this planet! We all need to drink before we can think about escaping.” Keeper had to slap the lizard twice to make him stop struggling. “Where do you get the water to fill your bottles?”
Gwolat hissed something about cutting them both into tiny pieces and scattering them across the desert.
            “He isn’t going to tell us anything,” Keeper said. “Use the leather from the whip and tie him to that cactus. It’s getting dark fast. The Hammurabi will come looking for their missing truck!”
Gwolat looked horrified when he realized they were going to leave him in the desert. “No!” he screamed. “I’ll tell you were to find water!”
            “I suppose you want us to just let you go?” Jeff kicked him as he tied him to a cactus.
            “I won’t stay here when the night comes,” Kwolat screeched. “The water comes from a cave less than thirty miles down this road!”
Keeper and Jeff ignored the lizard’s cries of terror as they helped all the slaves into the truck. “Don’t leave me here!” The lizard was tearing at the leather bindings as the truck began to pull away.  Too late Keeper saw Gwolat break one of straps and yank out a blaster that he’d obviously hidden under his pant leg.
            “Duck!” Keeper screamed as Jeff sped the truck away.
A blast of laser light lit up the sky like fireworks. Keeper and Jeff were both astonished when they saw that Kwolat had taken his own life. “Wow! That lizard really must not like the dark!” Jeff commented.
Both Keeper and Jeff couldn’t help but notice the shocked looks on the slave’s faces as they peered into the gloom. “The night will devour us all, I want someone to shoot me,” a slave rumored to have worked the mines for more than a month and obviously suffering from delirium shouted.

-------3-------

Jeff and Keeper were expecting an inky blackness, instead minute’s later two moons rose in the east, one twice the size of the other. The larger reflected blue light while the other shown green giving the desert landscape an eerie horror-movie feel. The super-heated atmosphere was becoming much cooler. “I don’t know what everyone is all freaked out about,” Jeff declared as he steered the huge vehicle. “In fact, it’s light enough to turn off the headlights!” Which he did. “Why take a chance on having the Hammurabi spot us escaping?”
            The absence of artificial lighting showed that what they thought of as a flat desert was actually riddled with holes, each one large enough to swallow a man. The two moons raced across the sky as if they also were terrified of the coming darkness. In less than ten minutes they had traveled mid sky.
            The cave Gwolat had told them about loomed in the side of a mountain just off the road. A winding trail lit by the retreating moons threaded its way around still more of the strange holes. “They’re too round to be meteor craters,” Jeff marveled. “I wonder what could have made them.”
            “They are made by the night to hide from the heat,” the delirious slave declared. Keeper and Jeff ignored him.
Jeff stopped and Keeper ordered all the escaping slaves to stay in the truck. “Hopefully the Hammurabi have some empty bottles stored in there that we can fill.”
            “We’ll be back in five minutes and everyone will have all the water they want,” Jeff promised as they started down the trail.
They were almost at the cave entrance when a light appeared on the horizon moving quickly through the dark sky toward them. “It’s the Hammurabi, they’ve spotted us!” Jeff yelled. The two racing moons were now disappearing over the western horizon.
            “We’re about to lose our lights. Maybe that will be to our advantage!” Keeper yelled as he and Jeff both turned and raced back toward the truck.
The lights in the sky were in fact a Hammurabi transport vehicle. The massive spaceship hovered over the truck sucking slaves into the darkening sky like a huge vacuum cleaner.
            “We can’t help them now!” Keeper pulled Jeff back when he tried to intercede. “As long as we are free, Leika and the others have a chance!” As they turned toward the cave, darkness smothered the planet and they ran under starlight.
Both Keeper and Jeff were surprised when the huge alien vessel lifted into the air and then dashed away in the opposite direction. “It’s as if they are fleeing from something,” Jeff blurted.
The lights of the spacecraft were just vanishing on the horizon when the ground beneath the running men began to tremble. They were less than a hundred yards from the cave, when giant snakes rose out of every hole in the desert. The serpents towered over the twilight landscape blocking the light from the stars. At least three snakes lunged at Jeff at the same time luckily, their heads collided and only this kept him from being swallowed whole. He chanced a look back. Keeper’s legs were just disappearing into a hissing mouth. The scream that came from Jeff ’s mouth was involuntary  but it gave the serpent looming over him just enough time to envelope him in writhing living flesh … he could feel wet slimy mucus cover him as the snake opened its mouth wide and sucked him into its yawning mouth.

-------4-------

Jeff Bland felt the air in his lungs being forced outward as the muscles lining the snakes long body slowly squeezed him deeper inside the serpent. He was suddenly inside a larger cavity … a stomach? A fleshy tendril with a cup on the end covered his nose and mouth again. He could breathe, but just barely. Jeff now understood why the humanoids familiar with the mining planet’s fearsome night creatures were so afraid. The snake who had swallowed him was one of a rare species of Serpentes that digested their food slowly over a period of several months. The snake was keeping him alive to keep his meat fresh and would devour a small piece of him every day. I wish someone would have shot me, Jeff’s thoughts screamed.
Suddenly with a violent contraction, Jeff felt himself being shot out of the snake’s long body along with a sticky mass of mucus and vomit. When Jeff wiped the goo from his eyes, Keeper stood in the center of the writhing mass that was now two severed snake sections. One of his arms had been transformed into a laser. “Run!” he yelled.
The cave entrance was no more than ten yards away but before Jeff could take three steps another of the snakes was pulling him into its mouth. This time he didn’t reach the stomach but felt himself going unconscious from the contractions. When he opened his eyes again Keeper was dragging him into the cave. A twisting coil of scaly flesh towered over them both. “When we first met,” Jeff told Keeper as they ran down a narrow corridor. “You were missing both feet and walking on water. Now one of your hands is missing and you have a laser sword! You certainly pay an arm and a leg for all your equipment don’t you?”
A roaring hiss that sounded like a steam engine followed just a few steps behind.
“One thing I’ve learned from crossing through countless galaxies for thousands of years,” Keeper said as the reached a fork in the tunnel and chose the smaller passage. “Is that all things in the universe are in balance … by losing my hand function for a few minutes, I’m able to replace it with something more useful … like this light weapon.”
“I wish I had that ability,” Jeff said as Keeper turned and slashed at the monster following them. They had reached a dead end. The tunnel narrowed and then became a solid rock wall.
“You not only have that ability but you’ve used it before!” Keeper exclaimed as he sliced the head off the snake. Another larger snake was moving up to take its place.
“What part of me have I ever lost in order to gain some mysterious power?” The disbelief in Jeff’s voice made Keeper smile. Jeff leaped out of the way of a wave of blood as it splashed against the rock wall.
“You lost your head when you decided to come with me and became first officer on the Centurion!” Keeper grinned.
“How much longer is this going to go on?” Jeff yelled as two snakes tried to force their way in to the tiny recess at the same time and Keeper fought them off.
“We have about three and a half hours of darkness left,” Keeper said. “Be glad the nights on M2467 aren’t any longer!”

-------5-------


The planet’s two suns were just rising over the eastern horizon when Keeper and Jeff stumbled out of the cave. Portions of snake lay everywhere and some pieces were still writhing. The cave floor had become a river of blood. Jeff held his nose. “I thought I was going to die from the smell alone,” he said. “That has to have been the longest night of my life.”
“We barely survived and I’m exhausted,” Keeper said looking at his arm. The laser sword coming from his stump was now sputtering like a child’s sparkler. Keeper closed his eyes and a minute later his arm was once again flesh and bone.
“What do we do now?” Jeff asked.
“Recharge,” Keeper said rubbing his arm. “Then we’ll have to rescue Leika and the others. They are probably being held in the refining center Gwolat talked about.”
Miraculously, Gwolat’s transport truck was at the bottom of the hill where they’d left it. They walked toward it wary of the thousands of holes in the desert floor.
            “We forgot to get any water from the cave,” Jeff moaned.
            “Do you really want to go back inside that place?” Keeper grinned.
            “No,” Jeff told him as he looked back. “I hope you’ve figured out a way to get inside the refinery!”
The desert floor began to rumble just as they reached the truck. The massive Hammurabi transport vehicle that had captured the others was now hovering over them. “I have and this is it,” Keeper moaned as the enemy ship’s vacuum beam lifted them into the air.

-------6-------

            The refining center turned out to be a small city called Enol. Two armed Scorpenions escorted Keeper and Jeff through massive crowds lining the streets. All the species looked to be in ecstatic celebration. “The queen insisted that you be present at the biggest spectacle this planet has seen in more than a century,” One of the guards zapped Jeff with the striker on the end of his coiled tail to hurry him along.
            “Leika! This must be her execution,” Jeff moaned. “We really messed things up this time … didn’t we?”
            “I’m not so sure,” Keeper said gazing at the crowd. A smile was beginning to form on his face.
            “I’ve heard of optimism in the face of danger, but this is ridiculous!” Jeff frowned. “Nora promised a very painful death … and she is sure to deliver.”
            “Make way for the Queen,” someone shouted. The voice sounded oddly familiar to Jeff but his nerves kept him so on edge that he couldn’t place it. “The sea of spectators parted like water from the bow of a ship as the entourage approached.
            The queen wore layers of Vessidian satin adorned with about a billion Mateuse 17credits worth of rare diamonds and emeralds. A veil of gossamer silk covered her face. A half-dozen attendants on each side lifted her flowing train, while hundreds of children spread flower petals in her path.
            “She’s beautiful isn’t she?” The familiar voice was right next to Jeff. The Centurion’s navigator stood next to him. The cephalopod mouth in his bulbous face was grinning broadly. Jeff began to recognize other crew members. The crowd was filled with them.
The queen’s procession stopped before them and the guards flanking Keeper and Jeff each bowed. “My Queen. What would you have us do with these prisoners?” One of the Scorpenions asked.
            “I haven’t decided yet!” The Queen said as she lifted her veil.
            “Leika!” Jeff’s voice was almost a wail. “We thought you were going to die!”
            “Not today, my official coronation is going to take place in less than an hour … of course you both are invited.”
            “How did you go from being a condemned prisoner to Queen of the slavers?” Jeff demanded.
            “It was easy,” Leika said. “Nora didn’t tell us she had two sibling brothers who were also heir to the throne.” She gestured toward two entranced young men following her. Neither of the stumbling love sick brothers could keep their eyes off from her. “It was almost too easy to convince them that I would make a much better Queen than their older sister.”
            “When did you rescue Teuth and the rest of the crew?” Jeff was amazed.
            “Yesterday, just before dark,” Leika said. “I had one of my ships lift the remaining Centurion crew members from a transport truck parked on the desert … but sadly you two weren’t around!”
            “And you left us on the desert all night?” Jeff was furious … but Keeper just smiled.
“Most of my galactic advisors felt a night-time rescue was too dangerous,” Leika said. “Did you know the most feared species of snake in the universe lives in this quadrant?” Her eyes were green and mischievous.  “I’m only trying to be a capable leader,” She grinned revengefully at her two friends and her eyes became flashes of gold. “Someone on this planet has to be in charge!”

THE END?



Sunday, January 15, 2017

Keeper and the Queen of M2467

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



By R. Peterson

Keeper and three hundred expedition members, gathering exotic life forms from across the universe, were enjoying a feast of Maltese Eels, Gesperian horn-pods and Lembayo water-plant in honor of their cephalopod navigator’s fifth anniversary of joining the crew. Suddenly brilliant lights the color of fresh blood flashed throughout the massive dining room and a booming recording warned of an IMPENDING SECURITY BREECH.
With a crack of  thunder  and a tremendous flash of ozone, a giant winged worm as large as a storage tank materialized on the pad used to return oversized laborers to work levels. Tables overturned and the crew ran in all directions to the sound of breaking dishes and shattering glass. Guest of honor Teuth, dropped three of the Vorboolian cocktails he held in his eight tentacles as the giant worm wiggled across the domed room and devoured the electrical circuits in the atmospheric lighting panels with grinding rows of circular teeth.
Organic Science Officer Leika burst from the gyroscopic transporter seconds later brandishing a zookeeper’s diminution gun. “Don’t do that! You’ll only make her angry,” she yelled as the star ships security forces attempted to vaporize the monster with blasters. Seconds later Keeper and his stunned crew watched as Leika reduced the giant to the size of a bug and then chased after the flying creature and captured it in a bottle.
Male crew members were already beginning to stagger toward Leika like love-sick zombies. Leika grinned at Keeper. “Sorry,” she said. “This rare Winged-Kirminas is undergoing second-stage metamorphous and was scheduled for release in terrarium level six. That idiotic transfer technician you hired from some slum planet blundered again.”
“Did you have your assistants escort the sixteen-ton worm to the transporter room while you monitored the release from the safety of your lab as I requested?” Keeper looked stern.
“According to the biologists on Mateuse 17, only five of this species exist in the entire universe, despite their formidable shielding. I was only making sure this specimen came to no harm at the hands of your clumsy crew.” Leika’s eyes were radiating a soft baby powder blue … but the spines she had in place of hair looked ready for a fight.
“Leika, you know the male members of this crew have a hard time functioning while you are in their work areas,” Keeper scolded. “That Porosities attraction aura you unconsciously release when you are near men is destructive to their concentration.”
“It’s not my fault your crew can’t control their sexual responses?” Her emotion-charged eyes flamed yellow-red.
“I’m sorry Leika, you are the most brilliant biologist I know, but your insubordination leaves me no choice but to confine you to quarters … for twenty-four hours.”
“Twenty-four hours!” Leika screeched. “You treat me like a child!” She knocked the rest of the drinks out of Teuth’s tentacles before she kicked over the table Jeff Bland sat at and stomped toward the gyroport.
“That went well!” First Officer Jeff Bland commented as he wiped spilled liquor and half eaten horn-pods from his uniform.
“I’m only trying to get you to follow the rules,” Keeper called after the tantalizing crew-member, “… someone on this ship has to be in charge!”
Leika slammed the transporter hatch and vanished without looking back.

-------2-------

Less than six hours later, a sleepy First Officer Jeff Bland was summoned to the ship’s bridge by Navigator Teuth; he met Keeper as they entered the gyroport. The Captain had received the same message. “It hasn’t been twenty-four hours!” Jeff looked at his watch. “Don’t tell me Leika has found a way to jimmy the time-lock on her quarters.”
      “This doesn’t sound like Porosities trouble,” Keeper said. “This sounds like the real stuff!”
      “You don’t think that half the things that go wrong on this ship are not due to that walking sex bomb? I find that hard to believe!” Jeff said as the transport mechanism began to move. The gyroport rotated much like a gyroscope, efficiently conveying those inside to any section of the massive globular spacecraft.
      “I find our Organic Science Officer delightful and entertaining,” Keeper said. “Although I am immune to most of her more annoying charms.”
      “Annoying?” Jeff moaned. “She once cornered me in a restricted area of engineering level three and forced me to hand feed her orgasmic grape-pods while splashing around naked in a pool of fermented Lustarian oil.”
      “I warned you of the dangers of this voyage!” Keeper smiled.

      Teuth was staring at a distorted communications hologram when they arrived in the ship’s main control room. A transparent dome the size of a football stadium covered hundreds of similar areas. “Problems?” Keeper asked.
      “We received an encrypted message from Mateuse 17, but the data was scrambled before our computers could decode it.” Teuth’s eight tentacles were busy moving through the light beams under the image attempting to find out why.
      “A problem with technical engineering,” Jeff suggested.
      “No,” Teuth said. “All our transcribers appear to be working correctly. Our messages are being jammed by something from a distance.”
The words were barely out of the former sea creature’s mouth when alarms once again sounded throughout the ship. “POSSIBLE HOSTILE FORCES APPROACHING!”
      “Take us up to max light speed until we find out what we’re dealing with,” Keeper ordered.
Moments later, Helmsman Dorg, a species of Canidae who resembled Earth foxes, barked his report. “We are at maximum speed and the unidentified craft is still closing fast!”
      “Can we obtain reverse light?”
      “Negative! The erratic orbits of the stars in the approaching galaxy prohibit any kind of time heightened travel.”
      “Identification!” Keeper commanded.
Teuth was the first to report. “It appears to be a very large A class Hammurabi vessel possibly from one of the troseddu systems. Mateuse 17 has no diplomatic relations with that part of the universe and considers the authorities there outlaws!”
      “Hammurabi? I’ve never heard of them.” Jeff was amazed, it was one of the few times he had seen worry on the ship’s captains face.
      “The Hammurabi are a small family in the business of mining planets for exotic minerals and gems.” Keeper said. “They need millions of workers for the hundreds of worlds they deplete and they use ruthless tactics to maximize profits.”
      “That sounds like Wal Mart back on Earth,” Jeff suggested. “Do these people have  medical and retirement plans?”
      “I’m afraid what we have pursuing us is a massive slave ship,” Keeper said, “and there are no benefits …. the  Hammurabi work all of their laborers to death.”
      “Aren’t we going to put up a fight?” Jeff demanded.
      “That’s not possible,” Keeper said. “The reason Mateuse 17 doesn’t interfere with their disgusting human rights violations is because they are so powerful. When you control half the wealth of this part of the universe you can buy the best weapons and protection.”
      “What are we going to do?” Jeff covered his ears to block out the repeating alarms.
      “We’re going to run,” Keeper said. “Teuth, guide us into the dancing sisters in G sector at max speed,” he ordered.
      “We’re in deep trouble and you want to go to a party,” Jeff moaned.
      “The Dancing Sisters are a series of star systems that orbit each other with erratic trajectories that routinely hit and miss … scattering planet debris and clouds of hydrogen gas in random patterns.”
      “Sounds like the inner-city in Chicago each time the Cubs lose!” Jeff moaned as the ship changed course drastically and massive G forces slid him across the floor.
Keeper held tight to Teuth’s holographic projection mount. “Sorry,” he yelled at his young friend. “But I’m afraid we’re in for a wild ride!”

-------3-------

A dozen M43 stars had begun to circle each other as they were drawn into a massive black hole. Each of the red giants held hundreds of planets and other astrophysical bodies in wildly fluctuating orbits that resembled a crowded skating rink with half the people moving in one direction and the other half going the opposite way. There were bound to be collisions. Planets exploded from direct contact while gravity from other near-misses siphoned off huge chunks of matter and gasses as big as continents. The resulting cataclysm was like a doorway into hell.
“Will you be able to navigate through this?” Jeff screamed at Teuth as the Centurion entered the star clusters at near the speed of light.  The massive gravitational pull of the black hole was bending light inside the spacecraft and Keeper, Bland and Teuth appeared as distorted images in a carnival funhouse … long and lean one moment and short and fat the next.
“There is no way to tell,” Teuth yelled. His voice sounded a mile away one moment and so close the next you could hear all six rows of teeth tattle in his head. “The laws of physics cease to exist once we move past the event horizon!” Burning spheres of molten rock hurled past the transparent dome. Jeff Bland took control of the ship and veered to the left, just as two moon-sized objects collided head-on and exploded less than a million miles away directly ahead. Chunks of matter, some as large as buildings, struck the outer shields and sent the alarm systems shrieking about impending disaster. First Officer bland guided the huge spacecraft through several near misses but the almost collisions were getting closer.
“Twenty seconds before we reach the event horizon … and then there will be no escape … for anyone!” Teuth’s tone suggested he was speaking at a funeral.
“Is the Hammurabi vessel still pursuing?” Keeper was considering his options … die or be taken captive.”
“They have reversed their engines,” Teuth’s sigh of relief was audible as was all those crowded into the control-room
“Maintain speed but stay just outside the event threshold,” Keeper ordered. “Hopefully  we can put a bottomless pit between the us and the slavers.”
“Our propulsion systems have all shut down and we are being pulled backward!” Teuth reported.
“A tractor beam!” Jeff groaned. “ Didn’t you say these people could buy anything?”
“Looks like our new towing friends have just pulled us out of disaster,” Keeper said. “And I can imagine what their price is going to be.”
“I hope it’s not hot,” Jeff moaned. “In the mine where they put us to work … I hope it’s not too warm.”

-------4-------

      Keeper tried several times to get Leika to leave her quarters. She kept insisting with great indignation that her time wasn’t up. “We have  problems,” Keeper told her. Hundreds of aliens resembling scorpions with Verulian lasers clutched in their pincher hands had already taken control of the ship.
      “More than before? I thought your quota of blunders would go down once I was confined to quarters!” Leika was still furious when she entered the bridge. “What the hell is going on here?” A Scorpinion guard, with a twenty-thousand volt electric tail arched over its scaly back, knocked her to the ground and then locked her arms in restraints.
“These creatures are tough fighters, but where is the brains behind their enterprise?” Jeff Bland asked Keeper as they lay bound together on the floor of the Centurion.
As if in response to his question, a large sphere of swirling energy appeared in the air several feet above the control room floor. With an ear-shattering bang, a dark haired scowling woman appeared in the midst of the captives. She was richly dressed and had a long crooked nose hovering over layered necklaces of priceless gems, obviously placed there to distract from her dermic shortcomings. “I am Nora Hammurabi … and with the unfortunate demise of my brother Richard … I am now the supreme leader of all eighteen Troseddu systems.”
“The Hammurabi are notorious for killing other family members and seizing power,” Teuth whispered to Keeper.
“I hope you will enjoy working with my company.” The ugly matriarch went on.
“Like a fish enjoys being fried,” Jeff whispered to a worried Teuth.
Helmsman Dorg who was restrained on the floor next to Officer Bland, unfortunately made a barking laugh. Nora was furious and had two Scorpinions  lift him off the floor. “No one laughs at the Queen,” she said. With the wave of her hand, the small fox-like crewmember was thrust into the air by millions of volts of electricity and fried alive before the crew’s eyes. “I think you will find me extremely charitable,” Nora said. “But I will not tolerate subordination. Each of you individuals will receive compensation based on the work that you perform … as your work diminishes … so will your rewards.”
“She plans to starve us to death,” Jeff whispered to Keeper, “and if we work real hard she’ll make the misery last.”
“I vow the loyalty of my subjects,” Nora told them. “Now as soon as you all have sworn allegiance to me … your new lives will begin.”

The crew members were forced one by one to kneel before the Queen and swear fidelity. Nora was not only ugly, but ruthless and cruel. A twitch of an eye or any deviation from complete subjugation was dealt with by a painful death. Random crew members were brutally murdered to put fear into others. Jeff Bland moaned when a cursing Leika was dragged before the woman.
            “You’re a Porosities aren’t you?” Nora smiled. “Your charm and beauty are legendary throughout the galaxy … almost a match for my own.”
Leika snorted a laugh. “You could place anyone next to a pig like you and they would look wonderful! Where did you get those ears … off from a Nuebarion weasel?”
Nora’s piercing scream made even the Scorpinion guards try to cover their ears. The captives on the floor moan in agony.

            “Death is too quick for someone like you!” Nora was twisting in rage as her guards lifted Leika from the floor. “For some time I’ve been considering a public event that will show my workers just how unwise it is to challenge my authority!  Bring her along.” Nora told her guards. “This special event may take days to prepare … the rest of you will start work immediately.”

“Didn’t I tell you Leika finds trouble wherever she goes?” A distraught Jeff Bland trying to make light of the situation as he whispered to Keeper. He was hoping for a positive response as they were marched into the slave ship
To his horror Keeper hung his head and choked on the words …
“I’m going to miss her too.”


TO BE CONTINUED …



Sunday, January 8, 2017

SHE HAUNTS part 2

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.


SHE HAUNTS
Part 2
By R. Peterson

A truck with Jack’s Towing printed on the side skidded to a stop in front of the sisters as they ran across the road in front of the old Walker house. The driver’s door banged open. For a moment Cheryl was startled when Jack Summers smiled broadly as he climbed from his vehicle. Why did he look so happy?  This was all his fault; if he had repaired the car properly her car wouldn’t have broken down. Cheryl noticed the passenger as he climbed out the other door. The man was older than Jack and wore a perpetual leer on his face. “Why did the two chickens cross the road?” He laughed at his stupid joke.
Cheryl ignored him and spoke to Jack as she tried to catch her breath. Her little sister Beth was panting beside her. “Don’t worry about towing my car right now,” Cheryl told him. “Just give us a ride home and you can come back for it later … I’ll pay you for the extra charge.”
            “Can you hear her Jack? She wants to pay us!” The older man was giggling then suddenly his voice thickened and his eyes went cold. “Honey, you ain’t got enough money in the world to get you out of the trouble you’re in!”
            “Who the hell is that?” Beth said pointing to the leering man.
            “Ed Harker is my partner,” Jack said looking up and down the highway.
            “I thought you worked at your shop alone.” Cheryl was starting to get a bad feeling.
            “I do,” Jack said. “But repairing cars is not my only vocation.”
            “Are you going to give us a ride or not?” Beth was getting angry.
            “Who called you?” Cheryl hadn’t noticed any other car lights since she had picked her sister up at the cheese factory at midnight.
            “I’m afraid no one did,” Jack said. “We don’t really give a damn about your car … what we’re after is inside this house.”
            “Our dead sister is in that upstairs room with the light coming from the window,” Beth threatened the men as she pointed. “I wouldn’t go in there if I was you … or you’re apt to meet up with a real ghost!”
            “Oh I’m counting on it,” Jack said as he produced a large caliber revolver from under his grease-stained jacket. ‘And you two are going in there with us!”
            “Run!” Cheryl screamed as she tried to kick Jack. Harker was quick for an old man. He grabbed Beth by her long hair and held a knife to her throat.
            “Just do everything you’re told and you won’t get hurt,” Jack promised as he pulled a large travel bag from the truck’s back. Then after he’d retrieved several objects from between the interior seats and placed them into the bag, the two men dragged the girls toward the old house.

-------2-------

The old phonograph playing Broken Hearted Melody stopped abruptly when the four entered the darkened parlor. The lights flickered on. Jack laid the bag carefully in a corner.  “Where did you see your dead sister?” He didn’t wait for an answer as he twisted Cheryl’s arm behind her back. Her scream brought a rustling sound from the room above. “In the bedroom upstairs,” Cheryl moaned. “But she’s not really there … it’s only her spirit.”
            “Was she alone?” Jack twisted her arm some more. For the first time Cheryl detected a note of fear in his voice.
            “I don’t know what you mean,” Cheryl cried. “When we saw her spirit … we ran.”
            “We’ll do whatever you say … but don’t hurt us!” Beth begged. Ed Harker shoved her to the floor. “You said you were going to capture one ghost.” He pointed at Jack’s bag. “Will that bottle you paid a fortune for hold more than one?”
            “The ancient Egyptians crafted this bottle as a gift to Osiris.” Jack took the wrapped glass container from the bag and opened it carefully.  He held the stoppered jar up to the light admiring its beauty. “It is designed to hold a single soul for eternity.” He carefully replaced the bottle in the bag and then tossed Harker a roll of duct tape and a package of nylon-ties. “Bind their hands and make sure they don’t make a sound until we’re ready,” he told Harker. “This Hecka must be performed with the utmost caution.”
            “For one-hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars you’d think the bottle would be bigger,” Harker growled as he taped both girls’ mouths, bound their hands and pushed them up the stairs.
-------3-------

            “I don’t see any ghosts,” Harker complained as he led the girls into the bedroom. He shoved them into the corner farthest from the door and then peered under the bed. “Come out come out wherever you are!” From somewhere in the house a door slammed … and then another.
Heavy footsteps sounded as someone paced the floor in the attic.
“Perfect!” Jack saw a round table in one corner of the bedroom. He dragged the table to the center of the room, then took a bottle from the bag and several yellowed towels and began cleaning.    
“Why don’t you make these bitches do that?” Harker licked his lips. “That would make two things they’re good for!”
            “These ancient Egyptian ceremonies must be done in a precise manner of which you know nothing about,” Jack told him. “This water comes from a sacred well in Abydos and the towels I’m using are from the holy temple of Seti.”
            “Be quick about whatever the hell you’re doing,” Harker said flicking open a switch blade knife. “I want to hear these girls beg to let them pleasure me.” Jack had just finished the cleaning ritual. He removed a faded roll of linen from the bag.
            “Is that more rotten cloth you got from some mummy?” Harker sneered.
Jack positioned the cloth carefully over the glistening table. His voice betrayed a hint of growing annoyance. “This is the burial shroud of Nespeqashuty. Two of the men that I hired died stealing it from a private collector in Germany!”
            “You’ve spent a fortune collecting a lot of Egyptian junk,” Harker grumbled. “Yet you run a crummy repair shop in a dinky town like Cloverdale. If I had your loot, I’d be living it up in Las Vegas.”
            “Some things are more important than money,” Jack told him. “I’ve studied every aspect of this ceremony for years. Having what you most desired in life to gaze upon for eternity takes patience and planning.”

-------4-------
Harker was running his knife blade across Beth’s neck causing her to make moaning sounds behind the duct tape. From outside the wind rose and a shutter began to bang against the window frame then all the shutters.
“I need a tiny bit of blood from someone,” Jack carefully un-wrapped a knife with an elaborately jeweled handle. “This is one of the ceremonial daggers used by the ancient priests of Dagos when they drew blood as an offering to Horus, the God of Vengeance.” He laid the knife on the table. “Having killed those other women these past months I’ve learned it isn’t really necessary … any blood will do … obtained in any way!” The pistol he’d threatened Cheryl and Beth with earlier appeared in his hand. “I shouldn’t have involved you in this at all Harker. You’re a disgusting pig and a would-be-rapist. You’re not worthy to stand in the same room as Janna Stone, even if she is no longer living.” The blast from the Magnum 44 slammed Harker into the wall and he slumped to a pile on the floor. “Sorry about the mess,” Jack said conversationally.
The lights in the room dimmed … and then brightened.

-------5-------

Jack dragged both girls to the center of the room and sat them a few feet apart. He dipped a cloth in Harker’s blood and drew a circle around both girls. Then he placed the strange Osiris bottle on the burial shroud of Nespeqashuty and also outlined it with blood. “You don’t know how many sacred and very expensive burial cloths I’ve ruined perfecting this ritual,” Jack said as he removed the duct-tape gags from both sisters. “These women in Cloverdale weren’t the only ones I’ve killed … It took more than a dozen killings in California just to get the diameters of the blood circles right.”
The sound of an invisible fire consuming wood filled the room along with heat … but quickly dissipated along with a black cloud of smoke.
Both girls were coughing. Jack produced a bottle of Coke, ripped the duct tape from the sister’s mouths and forced each girl to take a drink.
            “You’re nothing but a cold blooded murderer! My sister wouldn’t have anything to do with you when she was alive and she sure as hell won’t after she’s dead!” Beth gagged as the fizzy liquid ran down her chin.
            “Don’t waste your breath … he’s a psychopath,” Cheryl said after she swallowed.
The sound of cats fighting in the kitchen below, ended in a crash as multiple dishes fell to the floor.
Jack ignored her. “It’s true Janna never loved me … but I’m counting on her love for her sisters to cross a blood circle.”
The red painted walls in the room turned to liquid and began to drip.
Beth laughed him to scorn. “My older sister was no fool. She’s right inside this room listening to everything you say. You think she’s just going to let you take her soul?”
                        “In time your sister will appear,” Jack told them.
                        “You’re going to be waiting forever,” Cheryl vowed.
            “Not really,” Jack said glancing at his wrist-watch. “That Coke a Cola you both gulped down so easily contains poison used by the priests of Luxor to end their lives quickly should the sacred city ever be taken by enemies.” Jack produced another bottle from his coat pocket. “I have the only know antidote in my hand for the Real Thing. Unless your dearly departed sister enters one of my blood circles in less than one minute both of you will join her for eternity.”

-------6-------

The music downstairs boomed with ear shattering volume … then began to play at high speed in reverse.
            “Janna will never do what you want,” Beth shouted.
            “Love is the most powerful thing in this world and hopefully in the next.” Jack said as he removed the wooden stopper from the bottle. “I know … the love of your sister has shaped every waking moment of my life for almost two decades. The first lingering soul to cross a circle of blood will be trapped inside this bottle for eternity.”
            “Don’t do it, Janna!” Cheryl yelled as she looked around the room blindly. “We all have to go sometime … at least we’ll be together!”
            “At least you won’t be alone,” Beth agreed.
            “What do we do now?” Cheryl’s voice was beginning to sound far away.
            “We wait,” Jack said. “Either way … it won’t be long!” He looked at his watch again and began to giggle. “Less than twenty seconds!”
With a tremendous explosion all the glass blew out of the upstairs windows and a translucent Janna appeared floating in the air moving toward her sisters.
            “No!” Cheryl and Beth both moaned.
            “There’s only one person I love more than you two … and he’s already on this side,” Janna’s voice was like soft rain. “This is your only chance!”
A tremendous pounding and howling came from below the kitchen … something large was trying to break down the basement door. Beth and Cheryl closed their eyes and fell silent. Only Janna witnessed what happened next.
Jack’s triumphant laughter turned to a scream as he toppled forward, falling on Cheryl.  A bloodied Ed Harker had staggered to his feet and managed to shove his switch blade knife deep into his former friend’s back. “I may be all that you say,” Harker mumbled as he swayed over the newly made corpse … but I ain’t going to die alone!” Then he pitched forward.
The room filled with burst upon burst of colored light and then suddenly turned black. Hundreds of birds could be heard beating their wings through every room in the house before the lights came on. Harker lay slumped across his former friend inside the blood circle. An ethereal vapor glowing with green and orange twists swirled upward from the dead men and moved across the room and entered the bottle with a loud sucking sound. “It is over,” Janna said as she picked up Jack’s antidote and at the same time placed the wooden stopper on the bottle.

-------7-------

            Light was coming through unbroken windows the next morning when Cheryl and Beth woke-up on the floor. Birds were singing in the trees outside. An inch of dust covered everything including the round table in the corner. Only two sets of footprints showed anyone had entered the room. “I know this sounds weird.” Beth looked around. “I had the strangest dream … about Janna!”
            “I think she will always haunt our thoughts,” Cheryl told her. “All I know for sure is that our car broke down and we came in here to find a phone.”
            “We better get a move on,” Cheryl told her sister. “We probably have a long walk back to Cloverdale.”
The old Walker House felt strangely quiet, almost peaceful, as they walked through the dusty rooms and closed the front door behind them. “I don’t understand why people say this house is haunted,” Beth laughed.
“It’s a miracle!”  Cheryl shouted for joy when her car started. It was running better than it ever had.
            “In my dream our dead sister Janna was trying to tell us something,” Beth mused as she closed her eyes and smiled.
            “Love never dies,” Cheryl said. “I could feel her presence in that house too when I woke up … as if she’d been watching over us all night.”
            “It’s a good thing she did,” Beth said. “Having a murderer loose in this part of Montana gives me the creeps.”

The automobile was just a speck and a rumble in the distance when a grinding noise followed by a clunk came from the parlor of the old Walker house. A dusty 45rpm record dropped onto a spinning turntable and began to softly play Broken Hearted Melody by Sarah Vaughan. Upstairs ghostly footsteps sounded … as if someone was dancing. Across the room, on a dusty shelf next to a framed photograph of the Pyramid of Khafre  a strange bottle began to vibrate ever so slightly. It would have taken a living person with a magnifying glass to see the ghostly figures of two men inside arguing as they beat on the sides of the unbreakable glass … trapped for eternity.

THE END ?