In the last chapter we saw noble Commander Lightyear risking his life to bring an Ice-teroid to the wrecked Zenithian saucer so that Princess Taegan and Captain Woz might convert the frozen water into enough air that they might get the engines repaired and escape their cruel fate. With no air left in his air tank Commander Lightyear has lost consciousness and is slipping into deaths embrace…
Roused from the control panel for the magna-cable by the Princesses cry Space Pirate Captain Woz leapt into action. Hastily decoupling a series of cables and plunging the saucer into darkness he connected the cable from the reactor outlets to a strange device set into the outer hull. “Hope this doesn’t blow us all into pieces” he muttered to himself but the Princess answered him anyway,
He slammed his hand on a Soma-Pathic sensor and willed with all his mental might at the device to function. A strange green ray was emitted and engulfed the limp form of Commander Lightyear and drew him into the hatch. “Clones use this to drop into combat from the air, rapid deployment… not very good for holding your food for humans though but I’m banking he’s not going to complain if we are quick enough”.
Then there was the agonising wait while pressure in the small airlock equalised, time when he would be suffering lack of oxygen and the pair just had to hover, staring at the strange Zenithian number system counted down on a little rotating dial above the door, suffering the fear of not knowing whether they could revive Lightyear when the door opened.
At last the little bell chimed and they wrenched the door open with all haste. Wasting no time, and acting as one Woz turned Lightyear onto his side while Taegan readied a raygun and carefully sliced part of the helmet away allowing fresh air to rush in and allowing access to his mouth and throat.
“He’s not breathing.” Woz announced as Taegan was already taking off what she could of his uniform, cursing at the way the makeshift parts got in the way, another expert use of the raygun and his chest was free.
“We better not need to go outside again” Woz muttered as he checked for a heartbeat. He’s freezing cold, that’ll have bought us some time, start resuscitation while I calibrate the revivo-machine.
With the expert skill of an experienced battlefield medic Princess Taegan began the resuscitation to try and force Lightyear’s heart and lungs to re-start. Lips that during the first time they had been forced to fight side by side against a different breed of alien dino-men in the caverns of Yo-Go on the distant world of Eldnep had burned with the desire to kiss the other were now engaged in that ultimate of gifts, the attempt to return life to the dying.
Woz nudged her away and applied a powerful drug and a blast of life-giving revivo-rays to start his heart. “Beating! His heart is beating! But you have to get him breathing or his brain will be irreparably damaged!”
With the same ferocious fierce resolve and precise control that made her such a formidable foe on the battlefield the Princess strove to force fresh air into Lightyear’s lungs… until suddenly as her lips were against his, his hand sprang to life and held the side of her head and the lips pressed against hers turned into the passionate kiss of one returned from the dead! After a milliseconds shock and two seconds swamped in indescribable forbidden love she suddenly realised what was happening, she broke away and slapped him with less force than she felt he deserved but more than she intended to use and sprang away.
She was furious with herself, for giving in even for a moment to that forbidden treasonous desire and also for breaking off the kiss, and she began to worry. For it is not for nothing that her father was called the All-Seeing, it was much more than his strange legend-wreathed third eye or it being the emblem of his empire, and none knew his secret not even his most favoured children, but no plot lasted long against him, spies and traitors in the Empire were not long lived and often he knew things that no known source could have provided him. She only hoped that however he kept watch over his subjects that he had not seen her moment of weakness or guessed at its import and the secret struggle she waged in her heart between her earnest loyalty to the Empire and her attraction to Commander Lightyear.
Lightyear sat on the floor rubbing warmth into his near-frostbitten fingers and toes while Woz was already back at work siphoning the much needed air from the Ice-teroid that had almost cost the Galacteer his life. The Princess, fearing that the tiny breach, that moment’s hesitation before pulling away, may have crossed a vital line of loyalty and wracked with guilt returned to the Omnicom device of the saucer trying to raise any Imperial craft, or anyone else for that matter, but she kept trying Imperial frequencies, hoping that would show her continued loyalty if somehow her father had seen or knew what had happened.
The only other possibility was one she had hoped for, striven for, during those weeks in the caverns of Yo-Go, luring the Commander to see the superiority of the Imperial way, the way Marduk’s benevolent tyranny guaranteed safety stability and yes even freedom in a way that the earthling system of democracy with its constant struggle against corruption and exploitation never could, but in all their weeks of debate she hadn’t budged him an inch.. And that had just somehow made him all the more irresistible as he countered her arguments with well-argued ones of his own and they were stuck in perpetual stalemate. He of course was obviously striving to convince her to defect too, but despite the few exceptions she had met on the battlefield, the Galacteer warriors who had some degree of honour despite their brainwashed state, earthlings in general seemed a hypocritical treacherous and backstabbing lot every bit precisely what they were portrayed as in the ministry of information films the Galacteers called propaganda.
Some hours later, with the air fresh and clean and the repaired tank holding for now, the three of them paused in the shared task of repairs to the power cables that needed to complete vital circuits and return some power to engines and steering in order to eat.
Woz was the first to break the silence for anything outside a purely practical matter.
“When we get out of here, I’m going to have to look up the real Commander Jason.”
“If he’s still alive” replied Taegan just a little coldly and with a hint of sympathy.
“Yes Princess good point, indeed, if he is still alive.”
“Why?” Asked Lightyear.
“Because assuming the clone was acting anything like the real Jason back in the cell his dinnertime banter was one hell of a lot better than either of yours!” The pirate managed to keep his face straight almost all the way to the end of his wisecrack before his controlled calm broke into a broad grin followed by an infectious peal of laughter that had them all joining in and a few small bits of uneaten food flicked in his direction by the Princess.
And it was with the ice broken that a spirit of camaraderie developed over the next day till the engines were functional enough for them to collect two more ice-teroids worth of air, despite the dangers of skirting through the edge of the asteroid belt, enough that they might be able to resume their course with enough air to make it to Iratus Est Draco.
But as they finalised their preparations they discovered a terrifying phenomenon.
“What was that?” queried Taegan as everyone felt a sudden surge of cold throughout the saucer.
“A flicker of the heating coils, don’t worry, it’s been doing it in little waves for a while now but it’ll hold fine” Woz replied calmly.
Lightyear looked around but Woz didn’t break his focus as he commanded the saucer with concentrated thought,
“No not that”
“What is it you mean then?” Woz asked
“Something momentarily eclipsed the sun, but we should be away from the asteroid field and there’s nothing on the astro-radar, same time as the drop in temperature.”
“Let me see” said Lightyear grimly as he checked the astro-radar screen and that it was giving accurate readings of the asteroids they had just pulled away from.
Woz called back as he glanced around in case of attack from enemy craft from any direction “Well? Could it just be a stray cloud of rock ice or gas?”
But as they looked out they saw all the light from the local sun flicker, die for a full half second, then return much more weakly than it had been before, and at the same time a surge of cold went through the ship leaving a pattern of hoarfrost along the edges of the saucers dome.
Lightyear’s voice was grave, “Let’s get to the Imperial watch-station immediately! All our peoples are at risk. Something is wrong with that sun!”
And across vast distances of untrammelled space in the hidden heart of a great realm ruled with a will of iron in a shadow-wreathed grandiose room the long fingers of hands that attempted to grasp the whole universe steepled, before one gently rested upon the armrest of a goldrantium throne and the other caressed the head of a tremendous horned reptile.
“What do you think Mushussu?” The mighty Emperor who ruled undisputed over countless millions of beings and an ever-growing list of worlds asked the great reptile, the descendent of the original of the same name that he had ridden into battle upon the back of in times so long past that they were now nothing but legend to anyone save himself, of the time he rose up as liberator against the secret alien tyranny of the strangely sentient Gryphon-dragon Anzu, became enlightened and brought freedom to all through demanding their unquestioning obedience to him, a freedom he was spreading slowly across all space, and perhaps one day beyond even the limits of that dimension. He turned his three eyes to the great creature, always looking to see if it showed any sign of contemplating betrayal of him, watching for that secret spark of more behind those eyes than should be present, but the creature did not answer him. “She is so much like her mother, perhaps too much, shall she share the same fate?”
He rubbed the large reptile under its chin causing it to close its eyes and make that hiss that showed its pleasure. “I could kill her with a wave of my hand once she is within range of the Executron…” He hesitated as if he were intending to do it, again watching the reptile for signs it might be comprehending his words, but the creature showed no such response and so satisfied that the animal was still, for now, just an animal he continued. “But no. She is a useful pawn either way, especially with what is happening in the Draco system. If she stays loyal she remains an inspiration to the troops; a hero to the people as well as keeping those witch-women of that moon of hers in check and if she wavers at all? Well as I always say to those minions when I have their families in my dungeon of despair: To care about someone is to become vulnerable and to be vulnerable is to hand me your ultimate undying and complete loyalty. Mua-Ha-Ha-Ha-Haaaaa…” and the ageless tyrant’s raucous and cruel laughter echoed through empty halls and corridors to haunt the ears of terrified guards.
What new terror is engulfing the star of the Draco system? Will the forces of the Empire obey the Princesses directive to leave Commander Lightyear and Captain Woz free? Where will the forbidden kiss between Lightyear and the Princess lead? Is the whole Universe Doomed? Be sure to see the next exciting chapter of Waaar Rooockeeet The Missing Princess Chapter 10: Under the Shadow of a Dark Star, brought to you by Carpenter Surfing Tours and the Ceres Mining Corporation