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Episode Forty

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We awoke in our huddle in the dim, damp cell. The brilliance of the Seers' gift still blinded me. I felt different. Energised. Ready to take on all the Dilgar by myself. I had to move!

But I did no more than sit up. The Dilgar had to be monitoring us. We had not seen any bugs nor any evidence that they watched or listened to us, but why else keep us together? So I sat up and eyeballed my other selves. Nar'Bon stretched. The Human sat up and looked more alert than he had in a very long time. And Djikiden no longer spasmed in the grip of Drafa. I reached out to all of them.

We had no idea how long it was until morning but suspected that there were a few hours yet. We could not plan our actions without making some noise. I could not even get up and exercise my body. Still, we muttered about what we had seen between ourselves and acted as if we feared our imminent deaths. Nar'Bon had difficulty accepting what he had seen, having never been touched by Kimmini before, but my others took the vision to themselves. Our memory of the vision was perfect - everything we had been told was locked in to our minds.

The Markab were not dead, just in a second life not accessible to us. It made no effective difference. If they were not in our universe, they were just as dead. I could not exactly place a call to them. We were the instrument chosen by them to fight against their murderer.

We wriggled and shifted and waited impatiently for the morning of our execution.

Finally the door slammed open. Two guards entered the cell. "Wakie wakie. Time to rise and die!"

It was so very difficult to act exhausted and totally submissive. We were dragged to our feet and pushed towards the door. The Pak'ma'ra shivered and quaked and staggered out the door. The Human was not very convincing in his attempts to look weak and one of the guards eyed him suspiciously. I paused, nearly falling against that guard in an apparent attempt to regain my balance. He cursed and struck at me but I did not notice the blow. Now I knew what they were armed with. Nar'Bon wavered past me and I followed him towards the door.

"Out. Now! Move it!"

We stumbled out the door. Another guard stood in the corridor, holding a nightstick like the others. The guards started to close the cell door behind them. Only three guards. This should be easy.

I glanced at the Pak'ma'ra. He was leaning against the wall near the third guard. The other two guards were behind me and Nar'Bon. Djikiden met my eye and nodded ever so slightly.

We turned upon the guards with a speed and ferocity they had not expected. I elbowed mine then wrestled with him for control of the nightstick. I hoped that he would forget the PPG hanging by his side.

Around me were other beings struggling for their lives, but this was peripheral to my fight. I could not wrest control of the nightstick, so I changed to plan B and started beating the crap out of him instead. I kicked and hit him in the chest and abdomen whilst he swung the nightstick at me. Only one of his blows had effect as I danced close to him. I would sport some bruises marvellous in their colour, but my opponent would soon be dead.

I struck him another blow to the jaw and he collapsed. I heard one PPG shot then another behind me and whirled to see the Pak'ma'ra's guard slipping from his grasp. Djikiden looked as white as the Human, who held a PPG in his hands.

Nar'Bon seemed to like crushing ribcages. With a couple of sickening thuds and crunches he broke through his opponent's ribs, practically pulling out its lungs on the last blow.

I took the PPG from the Human before he managed to hurt one of us. Considering Russell's skills or lack thereof with firearms, it was surprising that he hadn't shot Djikiden. I turned to the remaining Dilgar who lay unconscious on the floor and carefully fried his brain. Then we dragged the guards into the cell, taking their PPGs from them. I noted that the Pak'ma'ra's opponent only had one PPG burn. Actually, from the look of Djikiden, Russell had already nearly shot the wrong target. The Pak'ma'ra saw me look at the corpse and then look at him, and his tentacles twitched. He quickly looked away.

So, we were filthy, naked and armed with three PPGs. I motioned to Nar'Bon to take up point. He scouted ahead, finding nothing of interest. The lift was locked by a keypad and we did not know the code. We had been dragged into and out of that elevator many times, and the guards had long since stopped concealing the code from us. Unfortunately we had been too wretched to take any notice of the sequence the guards had used to call the lift.

Ahead the corridor became more rough hewn and disappeared into darkness. We scurried along into the shadows. Nar'Bon stopped abruptly. As I joined him, I was overwhelmed by the impression of a great empty darkness. A massive cavern stretched before us. I could see very little, but the expanse yawned and replied to my involuntary exclamation. All around us little echoes enhanced the shuffling of our feet on the cold stone and made it sound as if an army stood waiting impatiently.

Nar'Bon bent and felt for a stone. He threw this into the darkness. It fell several metres then we heard it bounce and skitter down a slope. Nar'Bon turned to me. What now? I gestured along the sides of the cavern entrance. Perhaps there was a path.

We found stairs set into the side of the cave. They curved and sloped gently downwards. There were no stairs leading upwards.

We wanted to go upwards. I could see no purpose in going downwards - it would not get us closer to the armoury. If we were going to have to fight our way through the base, we had to have more weapons and armour. The military robots could well be invaluable.

My others agreed that we should go back and try the lift. Nar'Bon had managed to drag at least part of the code from his memory - he was fairly certain of the first three numbers and had some idea of the fourth. Using the lift was risky but it was quick and we had not found any steps leading upwards. If we didn't take the lift soon, the Dilgar would suspect something was wrong.

Nar'Bon punched in the first three numbers confidently, then hesitated and pressed "8". The lift door slid open. I smiled at him and touched his shoulder in appreciation as he clenched a fist in triumph. We piled in and went up two floors. The lift doors opened.

The corridor was familiar. We had each been this way before. Many times before. Too many time before. If we trudged past the first intersection then we would come to another intersection. Leftwards from that was The Room that we feared and detested.

I could not face that Room. I could not go that way. We skittered up the corridor and turned rightwards. Nothing would make me go leftwards. I could not. It aroused emotions that I rarely felt.

A Dilgar exited a room ahead of us. Before it could do more than react to our presence, it was dead. Nar'Bon and I jumped it, and it had no time to call an alarm.

As we turned the corner, another Dilgar saw Nar'Bon and cried out. It ran, screaming. Nar'Bon and I both shot it but it was too late. A great clamour of alarms sprang up all around us.

We sprinted down the corridor in the opposite direction to the dead Dilgar. Nar'Bon ran to the the door of the armoury, followed by Russell, with me and Djikiden covering our butts. Nar'Bon blurted out the password and the door opened for us. Being the last through, I punched the door lock shut.

For the moment we were safe.

The walls were covered with light munitions. Racks full of weapons. Lockers full of armour. Instruments of death and destruction all around us. Nar'Bon's eye echoed the gleam in mine.

Even mroe impressive were the robots standing at the rear centre of the room. For some reason I had thought that they would all look the same, but each was different. There were six of them, each with different weaponry. Some were bipedal, but others had multiple limbs. They gleamed and waited impassively.

I think I would have preferred to take on a room full of Dilgar rather than face one of the bots.

Nar'Bon stepped up to the robots and examined them closely. They did not seem to be functional. Perhaps they needed a command. He assumed his best military posture and snapped "Report!"

There was no response. He looked around at me. Why do they always look to me? I occupied myself with finding body armour to fit my frame, which was once more sadly emaciated. I didn't want to be running around naked when there was perfectly good armour to be worn.

"Try the password."

Nar'Bon looked a bit cross. "That's a stupid idea, but here goes."

As he repeated the passphrase, the robots reared up and appeared to stretch. If they had seemed fearsome before, they were even more terrifying now. The front one turned to Nar'Bon. Its voice was deep and rumbled from its chest. "Orders?"

Nar'Bon looked up at the robot towering over him. He did not seem overawed, though I could tell he was slightly nervous. "You are to ensure the safety of these beings and myself, and you are to kill any other beings."

"Understood."

Outside, the armoury came under a barrage of fire, as if the Dilgar could burn down the heavily armoured door.

"If I am unable to command you, you will follow the orders of any of these three beings here."

"We cannot follow any orders other than yours."

Nar'Bon looked back at me and shrugged. "Did my best. You miss out." He was pleased, very pleased by the things under his command, as I had known he would be.


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Na'Tiel's Story / Lynne / last modified 29 February, 2000