In the last chapter, Princess Taegan escaped from the Dino-Men and sent Captain Atrius and her surviving warriors to secure and study the strange devices under the Zenithian Towers, then allowed herself to be captured by Zenithian troops in order to discover their plans. Finding that several key commanders from Galacteer and Space Pirate Fleets had been replaced by Pod People clones, she and the original commander prisoners plan to escape the Zenithian imprisonment. Can they get word to their fleets? Will traditional animosity turn them against one another? Let’s watch on and find out!
In a darkened room, a silhouetted figure upon a grand art-deco throne watches an image with a faintly luminous single open eye ripple to life on an ornate screen of polished obsidian held aloft by stylised golden Sirrush. The on-screen image seems to be as if through the very eyes of someone holding aloft an earring as a door beside them opens…
Everyone shielded their eyes as the cell door opened and Princess Taegan threw the ruby earring through the door to the floor as a flash grenade. With a burst of light, the Zenithian clones were blinded! Not even waiting to open her eyes, Princess Taegan whirled through the guards with her Goldrantium and Tling-steel stiletto. It wasn’t just the beloved pet Vyper-Bat she had brought back from the ever-nighted forest moon of Eth, but also years of training in fighting in low-light and total darkness thanks to the tutorship of the witch-women of the temple of Ishtanna with which they bought a peaceful transition to Imperial protection and more flexibility to the usual Imperial vassal rule, becoming personal subjects of the Princess.
By the time Commander Jason of the Star Command; Commander Lightyear of the Lightyear Brigade and Pirate Captain Woz of the Draco Raiders had uncovered their eyes – prepared to fight – the four clones were already on the floor!
“Quickly, there’ll be more soon!” Hissed the Princess as she grabbed the sidearm from a Zenithian Clone and started out into the corridor. She left the earring behind, it would be far too hot to touch for many minutes and she had to remind herself that she had other matching ones to replace it back in the Empire. Still, she kicked it to the side hoping that when she returned to conquer this tower that she might recover it.
Forming perhaps the most unlikely combat unit the universe had ever known, the Princess; two Galacteers and the Pirate carefully stalked their way through corridors and stairwells. Moving quietly down the stairs, Captain Woz spotted the bulbous heads of more Clone Troops heading upwards a level below them. Silently Commander Jason motioned to a side door and they stepped inside. The door was kept open just a sliver as they waited for the Zenithians to pass. Commander Jason and Commander Lightyear talked to each other with subtle expression, years of finely honed Galacteer training allowing them to nearly read each other’s thoughts despite their quite different strategic style. At Lightyear’s nod, Jason swung open the door and the towering broad-shouldered Commander Lightyear leapt out, years deployed on high-gravity worlds had made Lightyear almost superhuman in strength; speed and toughness. He grabbed the rearmost two Clones bulbous green heads and crashed them together with enough force that they might never awaken. The next two were felled with the sledgehammer blows of his mighty fists before they had even started to turn to see what that mighty cracking sound had been behind them. The final clone whirled around raising his 7th-dimensional atomo-rifle to fire but a long dagger carved from a Slishian tusk flew past Lightyears head by a whisker and ended the Zenithian. Jason holstered the pistol he had been about to fire as the scoundrel Woz held a finger to his lips and retrieved the knife.
Once the way was clear, Jason whispered to Woz “If you had that knife the entire time, why didn’t you use it to escape before?”
“I thought of it, but every time I ran it through my head – I’d kill one, you would down one each and the last one or two of the guards would blast us all, so I was waiting for a time when they got lazy and sent only three guards; got distracted or things were desperate enough I was willing to risk it.”
“So why didn’t you tell us you had it?”
“And lose my last card if they started cutting back our rations? I nearly drew it when the Valkeeri tried to eat my food, good thing Lightyear over there has such a sense of fairness I didn’t have to knife her and show my hand.”
“You could have trusted us.”
“You’re still earning my trust. But don’t feel bad that I kept a secret, I could have used it on you while you slept to get your extra rations – but I didn’t.”
They reached a branching corridor. “Which way?” hissed the Princess.
“I always hear the saucers more in this direction” Lightyear gestured as he spoke.
Soon enough they were at one of the two hastily built landing platforms of the tower and huddled behind a stack of crates of MacGuffinite ore ready for processing. The alarm could sound at any moment and two squads of Clones stood guard around the saucers.
“We need the Class 2 Beta-Z Saucer” Whispered Commander Woz, “Not only is it the type I’ve flown but it’s the only ride there that will fit all of us with anything like comfort.”
The four of them readied the stolen Zenithian rifles and prepared to charge just as the Alarm sounded! Immediately one of the two Clone squads ran into the tower while the other went into heightened Alert.
“Quickly before they reinforce the landing pad!” Lightyear commanded with authority, “Each take a target in line and fire at once, that’ll get the odds more even”
And with that, four rays shot out nearly simultaneously and four of the five clones fell as dark-energy fuelled Z-rays streaked across the landing platform and halted the electron motions within the clones that all life as we know it depends. The remaining clone somersaulted behind a landing strut of the Beta-Z saucer and shot back. The shot hit the stack of ore behind which the disparate group of prisoners sheltered and with dawning horror at the sudden whistling pitch they looked at one another.
“RUN!!” shouted Jason and they all scattered firing wildly in the rough direction of the clone as the MacGuffinite reaction started building to critical! As the noise built in volume that it could be heard above the rayblasts, even the Zenithian developed a taste for the value of life and ran for further cover leaving the saucer unguarded. The group ran with all their might up the ramp into the saucer and the wiry black-vinyl jump-suited form of Pirate Captain Woz leaped into the command seat, placing his hands on the strange alien controls and through concentrated thought via the Soma-pathic domes his hands rested upon closed the hatch and roared the engines to life! Princess Taegan watched the view from the bubble-dome command room as a small army of Zenithians ran out onto the platform, raising their rifles to blast at the saucer as it pulled away only to realise their imminent danger. She blew a kiss in their direction; her eyes filled with triumph as the stacked ore went critical and blew the entire landing platform; all the parked saucers on that side of the tower and the entire Zenithian infantry force on the pad to smithereens! She was flung halfway across the room as the shockwave buffeted the saucer but she recovered her dignity and poise in moments and they were swiftly away, the mysterious world Dormientes Draco dwindling behind them!
“Don’t Zenithians ever sleep?” Commander Lightyear asked as he eyed the small crew compartment.
Woz laughed “There are bunks that fold out from the walls on either side, look for a small handhold beneath the banks of oscilloscopes, but you won’t find them at all comfortable!”
“Forget sleep, what about sustenance? “Asked the Princess, “I’m out of food and water pills!”
“Well, there we are in luck Princess” called Commander Lightyear from the next room “There’s a lot of captured goods in the cargo hold and some of it are Imperial and Galacteer food packs!”
“What would Zenithians want with our food?” mused Princess Taegan quietly, her hand resting a moment on her chin.
“Hadn’t we better figure out where to head now we are off the planet?” suggested Jason.
“That’s a good question lad” Woz replied, “My people could have gone anywhere. Last I noticed, people weren’t too keen on the base we had on the moon and I doubt they stayed there to get killed by bombardment. Anyone know where their fleet would be?”
“No, Galacteer fleets stay mobile unless we have a large base nearby. We’d need to use a communicator to learn their position” Jason responded.
“Better not do that till we are sure to be closer to anyone but more saucers, they are good at picking up long-distance transmissions” added Lightyear.
“We had orders to set up an Imperial watch-station orbital outpost at Iratus Est Draco, the next planet out from the sun. Unless destroyed, there should be an Imperial presence there”
Woz mused a moment, “And you can guarantee our safety and freedom if we go there Princess? Absolutely?”
“The forces of the empire represent the Emperor in all their doings, we are honourable and we do not break our bargains lest we shame ourselves and him”
“I don’t trust your father to keep his word Princess, but having fought beside you once before I will trust you” Woz said sombrely.
“Then it’s settled,” announced Lightyear, “We head to Iratus. How far is it Captain Woz?”
“Not far, we’ll get there in less than 12 hours in this speedster. Though we never did learn how to turn on the compu-pilot if these things even have one so I’ll be up all night at these controls. Someone heat me up one of those ration packs, maybe an Imperial one, I’m in the mood for spicy food”.
In the darkened throne room, the figure opened their other two eyes and the image faded from the screen. The figure hunched forward, steepling their fingers and leaning into a narrow beam of light, growling to themselves and the empty room “Careful daughter! Your cooperation with the earthlings is dangerous, very dangerous indeed!”
Eventually, all aboard the Saucer had fallen asleep. All but Captain Woz at the controls…and the traitor!
Woz, his forehead beaded with perspiration from the effort of concentrated will that drove the alien craft, had his attention so focused that he didn’t hear the soft footfalls approach him from behind and only saw the reflection of a figure behind him with arm raised when it was too late! The arm descended and the butt of an atomo-pistol cracked him on the head knocking him out and leaving everyone at the traitor’s mercy!
Who is the Traitor? Is everyone on the Saucer Doomed? Can they reach safety and will the truce be honoured if they do? How did Emperor Marduk see as if through the Princesses eyes and will she now be under suspicion of treason? Be sure to watch the next episode of Waaar Rooockeeet! The Missing Princess Chapter 6: Trajectory of Destruction at your local theatre brought to you by Oberth Thrusters, Von Braun Engines and the Jack Parsons Laboratory.