In the last chapter a disparate band of heroes, Imperial Princess Taegan, Galacteers Commander Lightyear of the Lightyear Brigade and Commander Jason of Star Command and the notorious Space Pirate Captain Woz had fled imprisonment by the Zenithians on planet Dormientes Draco and were traveling to the Imperial Watch Station at planet Iratus Est Draco to get word to each of their forces that a plot was underway replacing loyal commanders with Zenithian pod-people clones! While the rest were sleeping a traitor struck and knocked unconscious Captain Woz. What will become of this rag-tag collection of former enemies and allies of convenience now?
In a storage-compartment a strange vaguely humanoid form of vegetable-like matter; a form of seed; was growing; pulsing; forming; glowing with 7th dimensional energies and strange quasi-bio-technology….
Princess Taegan awoke with a start. She didn’t know why but she had goosebumps and adrenaline was already surging preparing her for battle. She rolled to her feet from the flat Spartan folding cot, weapons drawn. She saw no-one up, no immediate danger, then noticed Captain Woz was slumped over the Saucers controls and they were hurtling towards an asteroid field.
She leapt across the control room clearing all the steps up to the raised round control stations of the saucers bubble in a single bound. She checked the prone form, he was alive but unconscious, bleeding from a blow to the head. He was also the only one who could pilot the craft and if they didn’t change course they would be dashed against the rocky doom they were diving into! She started trying to rouse the pirate, and, realising that when the others awaken suspicion for the assault might fall on her, she called to the others to wake them.
In moments Commander Lightyear and Commander Jason were at her side trying to help the pirate awaken. Lightyear rushed off and returned moments later with bandages antiseptic and some strange glass tube of translucent green syrup.
“This will bring him round!” Lightyear cried as he started to unstopper the vial of green matter.
“What in Nibiru is it?” Asked the Princess, as she stared at the approaching asteroids through the alumini-glass dome of the saucer.
“I think this is the Zenithian foodstuff, watch out, it’s vile!”
They all recoiled and covered their noses in horror as Commander Lightyear held the olfactory abomination under the nose of the poor space pirate bringing him immediately to consciousness gasping and wheezing and gagging from the wretched stench.
Woz, seeing the glass shield around him filling up with tumbling rocks and the promise of imminent death, sprang into action, his hands gripping white knuckled the Soma-Pathic pads on the command chair and sweat springing to life on his brow and dripping into his now-unkempt beard as he strove to get clear thoughts of command through the dizziness of concussion and the reeling of the nauseating stench to get the saucer to move.. The controls were unresponsive till with a tremendous effort and a roaring shout of concentration the rocket suddenly took a 90 degree turn on a pinhead, the hull pinging with contact with micro-meteors on the edge of the asteroid belt just feet away from certain obliteration and hurtled away to safety!
Woz collapsed heaving for breath and cradling his aching head in his hands, Lightyear and Jason fought over the many toggle switches levers and buttons till they found an obvious control for the air filtration system and speeded the removal of the ghastly odour from the air while Taegan watched them all with suspicion.
“Galacteers, one of you, is a traitor!”
Commander Lightyear didn’t turn as he returned the air filtration back to normal and spoke “I figured something like that might be the case when I saw the blood”
Commander Jason stared at her in disbelief, “You’re kidding. Why would we spend weeks in a cell if we were traitors?”
Woz, still holding his head, groaned his words with a voice that didn’t try to hide his pain “Maybe someone didn’t trust the Princess to keep her word and didn’t like the thought of the rest of their lives as a guest in Marduk’s infamous Radium mines?”
The Princesses eyes narrowed, “Are we still on course Woz?”
“Then that couldn’t explain how they changed our course. To do that someone would have had to know how to pilot a saucer or set it to Comp-pilot wouldn’t they?”
“That’s right! My hands weren’t on the Soma-Pathic pads! We wouldn’t even drift forwards unless some sort of automatic piloting was turned on!”
“Then one of you two Galacteers is a pod-person fake!”
Jason protested! “How do we know that you aren’t the fake Taegan?”
“I saved all our lives. Why would a pod person do that?”
Lightyear sighed, “I can think of reasons they might. Everything might be a ruse to sow discord amongst our ranks, spread distrust, turn us all against each other and prevent us unifying our forces to stop the next great Saucermen invasion.”
With another groan Woz added “I just had an even worse thought. How do we know any of us are the real us? Does a Pod Person clone know they are a clone? What if it’s all a set-up to get clones into the forces and we are those clones?”
“Then if that is likely we’d all have to die” Said the Princess murderously, “For the sake of all our peoples!”
Lightyear folded his muscular arms, “Not before we alert them all to the threat, because if we are the real ones our deaths would let the clones subversive sabotage go unchecked.”
Woz shook his head, annoyed with himself, “I need to think before is make stupid suggestions like that, if I’m the clone then is want to live and to hell with Zenithians or the original captain Woz, and if I’m not the clone well then to hell with dying just in case and letting some fake Woz get all the wealth I’ve spent years accumulating!”
“Settle down everyone” Lightyear’s calm and confidant voice, rolled across the room, “whether any or all of us is a clone the way ahead is clear. We get word to our fleets, we keep an eye on each other at all times and we let the best scientists of our peoples work out who is real and who is not.”
“If you want to go anywhere I’m going to need some medical attention” groaned the injured Captain Woz.
Princess Taegan eyed off the others suspiciously as she grabbed the medical supplies out of Commander Lightyear’s purple gloves and started to tend expertly to Woz’s injuries. Once the bandages were complete she handed him a painkiller, “You’ll need to rest a while before we can move again, take this”
“Will it make me sleep?”
“No, just dull the pain; it would suggest normally that sleep is a good idea but…”
“Yeah, we need at least one of us keeping an eye on the Galacteers till we know which of the two slugged me”, then added in a whisper “it saw a vague reflection just as it got slugged, it can’t tell you who it was but it could tell it didn’t have your curves, and that’s the only reason I’m trusting you right now, as I’m not sure it even trust myself this minute”
The Princess looked at the drying blood on her fingers and felt strongly the pang of separation from her beloved pet Vyper-Bat Atalleph that she left guarding Captain Atrius so that she could carry out her surrender ruse on the Zenithians, normally she’d let Atalleph lick the blood from her hands. “Woz, where is there a decontamination station on the saucer? I’m not accusing you of carrying anything, just want to follow customary hygiene procedures.”
“Just near the main hatch, on your left.”
Taegan turned to the two Galacteers, both of whom she’d met in battle as enemies, she corrected herself, both of which she may have met in battle, if they were the same people. Lightyear, broad shouldered and strong armed and rivalling Captain Atrius in strength, honour, persuasiveness and handsomeness; Jason, thin and wiry like a fencer and as cunning as a star-fox, whether clones or not she must be careful around both of them, Jason as he could trick her, Lightyear because he could lead her astray.
“I’m going to clean up, If anything happens to him,” she inclined her head slightly towards the recuperating Captain Woz, “while I’m gone, I’m killing both of you without question or a moment’s hesitation.”
Steam filled the decontamination rooms as the Princess showered clean, and out of the storage compartment slid a silent cautious figure, with great caution it moved unseen through the steam to where the Princesses skimpy outfit of gold armour plates, jewellery and diaphanous cloth.
The Princess suddenly heard the decontamination room door open and close. “Whoever you are you DIE!” She snarled leaping out of the shower cubicle into the room with the stiletto she kept inside the shower with her just in case, but the room was empty. Which meant someone had been hidden in here from the outset! She rushed to her clothes, but they were missing! She wrapped a towel around herself to give herself the minimum level of modesty and maximum movement she could manage when it came to the fight, despite the often miniscule amount of clothes she often wore there were some things that she would share only with who she chose and only when she chose, and ran out into the main corridor to see the Galacteers, Pirate Woz and herself! Her identical twin dressed in her own clothes!
Who is clone and who original? Can the threat to all the great powers of the galaxy be averted? Will the Princess be tempted to defect to the Galacteers by the handsome Commander Lightyear or will she give her heart to Imperial Captain Atrius and stay loyal to the Empire? Do not miss the next episode of the Hydra serial Waaaar Roooockeeet The Missing Princess chapter 7: The Traitor Wears My Face! Brought to you by House of Dumas fashions, Finney and Wyndham Seed Co for advanced horticultural science and by Professor Calculus’s Special Soap the soap that serves your every need.