One by one the miners died without leaving any signs of what caused their deaths and the surviving men soon became frightened. Their theories as to what caused the deaths were many and varied. A couple thought it was probably some unknown virus locked within the rock they were breathing in as they worked the tunnels and shafts. Another thought it was one of themselves who was killing the others one by one due to being stir crazy out on this lonely rock for so long. One thing the surviving men were agreed upon however was that they should call for help and get off this rock as soon as possible. The call was sent via their Unicom setup on the emergency intergalactic channel. They sent the call then waited and hoped.
Not too far across the vacuum of space a beacon came to life and began to beep.
“Sir,” the Communications Officer called, “an emergency Unicom signal has just been received.”
“Play it immediately,” the Captain replied.
Several seconds of crackle and static ensued before a man’s voice could be heard. “This is Mort Bilkins of The Alderan Mining Corps. I’m calling from the Alderan moon in the Jaden system. We have an emergency here and request immediate evacuation. Something unknown is killing our men and we have been unable to determine the cause of their deaths. Please, is there someone, anyone who will come and get us out of here? The men are beginning to panic and our numbers are down from fifty three to just twenty in the past forty eight hours. I’m attaching our exact coordinates at the end of this message and will leave it running on continuous auto loop. Please help us. Someone, anyone, please.”
“Set course for the Jaden system immediately,” the Captain commanded.
“Yes Sir,” the Navigation Officer replied, “course co-ordinates are in place.”
“Show us the meaning of haste.”
“Of course Sir.”
As Captain Tessim and his faithful crew steered their huge Drycenian battle cruiser at top speed towards the Jaden system and its Alderan moon, the miners continued to die and with each new death the ancient evil grew ever stronger. It took the Drycenians twenty two hours to reach the moon to rescue the stricken miners and in that time, all but one were dead; taken by the invisible ancient evil that was by now, fully regenerated and hungrier than ever. The last surviving miner was its way off the moon and onto greener pastures and with hope, ones with abundant life forms from which it could feed and grow and in time, generate more like itself so they could once again be a dominating force in the galaxy.
As the battle cruiser settled into orbit around the moon, Captain Tessim and a landing party readied themselves in the shuttle bay. They made sure they were equipped with their dart guns, laser bullet guns and anything they felt might be useful against an unknown hostile in the strange and confined environment of the miners’ camp.
The shuttle landed a couple of hundred yards from the camp and the landing party prepared to leave.
“Any bio signals detectable?” Tessim asked his Helmsman who nodded.
“Yes Sir, just one. It’s a humanoid signal. I’ve downloaded the locator beacon to your tracker.”
“Okay good job,” Tessim replied, “and keep the engines running here.”
“Of course Sir.”
Tessim and his party approached the miners’ camp with extreme caution, following the beeping locator beacon that seemed to be leading them to a hut at the far end. All around them was silence as they drew near the hut and approached the door. Inside the hut the body of Mort Bilkins lay on the bed waiting for the approaching men to enter. The ancient evil that now possessed the body resisted the urge to leap up and kill them all; knowing that without them it would never leave its rocky prison. Somewhere inside, the life force of Mort Bilkins tried and failed to fight back for control of his body. He was aware of what was happening but it was as if he were watching a vidicom stream that he couldn’t interact with. The entity that found him that morning huddled in the toilet and forced itself inside of his body was too strong for him. He was terrified and screamed within the confines of his own imprisoned mind but no one could hear his screams except for the entity that now controlled his body.
Two Troopers opened the door of the hut and went in, laser bullet guns at the ready. More followed and within seconds the little hut was filled with armed Troopers all looking down at the man on the bed.
“Oh thank god you’re here,” the man cried as he got up from the bed and approached them, hands outstretched in a beseeching gesture, “I thought no one heard the signal. Please help me, take me away from here, don’t let it get me please,” he begged and began to sob.
The Palace shuttle landing station was packed with people as dawn broke over Drycenia. Every single person who lived and worked within the Palace complex was there to witness Vincent’s execution and all were silent. Farra, Kyle, Jam and Grund were standing in a small roped off area reserved for them and all four were surprised that there was no jeering from the crowd. No one bayed for his blood, no one shouted and no one yelled. A shuttle lander stood on the landing pad behind a large square chamber with what looked like a conveyor belt that disappeared in through a hole in the side. Another, identical conveyor stuck out the opposite side. As Kyle looked at it he caught sight of Lomas, Siska and Toma standing to one side. Lomas and Siska looked down at the ground as they held hands but Toma was staring at Kyle and Farra. Their eyes met and Kyle’s blood ran cold as an icy finger gripped his heart and squeezed and he knew that the entity was standing with Toma watching the show. As they stared at each other he saw Toma open his mouth just enough to show the tips of his fangs. He watched as the Prince slowly ran his tongue over his lips and let it rest under the tip of one of his fangs, before closing his mouth and grinning. Kyle was both sickened and angry and turned away and held onto Farra.
A horn sounded somewhere far away and everyone looked up to see six soldiers carrying the module with Vincent inside, coming towards them. The clear module allowed everyone to see Vincent’s body as it lay within, serene in his sedated state. The soldiers stopped before the chamber and a man stepped forward.
“Vincent Richard Domenico, you have been found guilty of the rape and murder of Princess Halma. In accordance with Drycenian Law it is our duty to carry out the only sentence applicable for such a crime. You will be executed immediately and your remains removed from Drycenian soil after seventy two hours. We gain no joy at carrying out this sentence and we wish you a swift journey to whatever afterlife you choose to believe in. May the universal consciousness take you, embrace you and awaken you to new life.”
The soldiers lifted the module onto the conveyor and stepped away. Someone pressed a switch and the module, containing Vincent moved towards the opening in the side of the chamber. Farra cried out Vincent’s name and Kyle lost it completely.
He yelled at the Drycenians, screaming obscenities at them as the module disappeared into the chamber. “You disgust me,” he spat, “I’m ashamed to have known you. You are lower than insects to us and I shall make sure the whole of Lilea knows of this obscenity that you call justice. You will never be welcome on Lilea, not ever.” He raged and raged at everyone and when two guards stepped forward to restrain him from leaping the rope barrier, he became violent. Farra sobbed into Jam’s chest as Kyle put all of the combat skills Vincent taught him to use. By the time Doctor Sim stepped up with a sedative injection, seven soldiers needed medical aid and two of them wouldn’t be able to eat solid food for a month.
Farra, Jam, Grund and the now sedated and unconscious Kyle were loaded onto the shuttle for the trip up to DBC1, which it had been decided would be taking them home after all. The module containing Vincent’s now dead body remained on the planet’s surface, whilst the execution chamber itself was attached beneath the shuttle and flown up to the battle cruiser to be stored in the cargo bay. Byron was there to meet them when they landed in the shuttle bay but no one answered when he said hello. Jam showed Farra to new quarters and gave her a mild sedative. He then retired to his own quarters and after taking a few minutes to make sure his decision was the right one, he gave himself an overdose of sedative and waited to join Vincent in the hinterland.
Kyle followed behind the Zaltoid and Byron, getting as close as he dare and keeping as low as he could so as not to be seen. He took a risk and guessed the Zaltoid would be more intent on controlling Byron than looking around itself, so he stood up a bit to make it more comfortable to run. It felt like red hot flames were racing up his spine by the time he reached the base of the trail and he took a moment to rest and straighten up. As he began to climb the trail he saw a disturbance up ahead and he stopped and lay flat on his belly on the trail. One of the Troopers slipped and the Zaltoid saw him and was making towards him, Byron forgotten for a moment.
“Run Byron,” Kyle whispered. “Run buddy, please run,” he begged but Byron couldn’t run anywhere but further towards the cave. Kyle saw Byron make for the cave and hoped he would be able to hide long enough for him to get there. As soon as he saw the Zaltoid enter the cave he leapt up and ran up the trail as fast as he could go, keeping snug against the side to help avoid being seen should it emerge before he reached the top.
He looked into the blackness and couldn’t see anything at all. He felt his way in with caution, hoping he wasn’t stepping into a hole that would break his legs and render him helpless. Gingerly he felt his way into the cavern until he heard a sound far to his left. He dropped to the ground and listened as the footsteps came towards him. He held his breath and was sure the creature must see him by now; the footsteps were almost on top of him. He closed his eyes despite the darkness and prayed to Laine to be with him. He then heard the footsteps move right past him and continue on their way into the adjacent chamber. He breathed a sigh of relief as he realised it must have passed by him within inches and he sent his thanks to Laine. As he carefully stood he realised his eyes had become adjusted to the gloom a little and he could just make out the shapes of rocks and boulders.
He picked his way along in the direction of those footsteps and found himself in a small tunnel that led into another smaller chamber. He peered around from behind a tall pillar and saw Byron picking his way frantically over some rocks towards the middle of the small cavern, the Zaltoid hot on his heels. He looked around and made his way over to his left and started to climb as silently as he could. He almost lost his footing twice but made it to a small ledge from which he could look down at the entire cavern. Byron was right below him by now and the Zaltoid was almost upon him. He retrieved his two metal clad crystals and held one firm in each hand as he watched the scene below him. He knew the crystals would only work when the creature was actively feeding upon Byron’s life force energy, so he must force himself to hold on and wait until it began to devour his friend.
The Zaltoid caught Byron right underneath the ledge where Kyle crouched and watched. Byron gave an anguished cry and began to hit out at the creature in a vain effort to defend himself. Slowly the fake body of Jam began to dissolve until there was just a formless cloud of energy that pulsated as it glowed faintly and sparkled in the darkness of the cave. The energy reached for Byron, made contact and began to devour him. Kyle took a deep breath, clasped tight hold of his crystals and leapt from the ledge.