Aaand… The NINTH installment of Nightmare. In this one, Liam’s relationship to everybody else only goes further downhill. Also, an obstinate Squad Leader gets introduced as a new character. Will Liam ever fix his relationship with his friends? Or will he just cause more disaster and distress? Also, something is wrong with Terraan. I’ll leave you to see if you can figure it out. Hint: Think in terms of space stuff, like planets and stuff. Enjoy. 🙂
“Woah,” Jayna said, as they slowed out of Machspace after a three day trip. Before them lay an interesting solar setup. A tiny planet was orbiting the giant star that filled the front section of the viewscreen entirely. What was interesting was that there was also a white dwarf orbiting the giant star in the opposite direction of the planet.
“Is that Terraan?” Jayna asked.
“The planet? Yes.” Liam said acidly, handing the flight control to Jayna as he headed to the rear of the spaceship.
“It’s really eating him isn’t it?” Jayna asked Mako. The dog just settled down beside Jayna’s chair morosely.
Jayna had aligned the spaceship with a trajectory that would take them to the lit side of the planet when the Squad Leader peeked into the cockpit and gave a glance around.
“What is it Derson?” Jayna asked, spinning around in her chair.
The com looked around once more, almost as if he was afraid of something, then he entered the cabin and began speaking in a low voice.
“Now ma’am, I don’t know what has been going on between you and that other fellow, and I don’t ask to know. What I understand is that things ain’t looking all that bright, and I just wanted to tell you that me and the other fellows remain loyal to you, no matter what, and we stand ready to follow any order you give us.”
Jayna could not hold back an involuntary sigh at this, and she flashed the com a relieved smile.
“Thanks,” she said. “It feels good to know that I have people to support me. Sometimes the strain of leadership is really taxing. Tell the others that I appreciate the thought, and I will be sure to keep your words in mind.”
The Squad Leader recognized the polite dismissal, and he turned to leave the cabin. Pushing through the light curtain he found himself face to face with Liam, who stood there wearing a cloak with the hood up. The two men locked eyes for a moment, then Liam looked away, and brushed past the com to reenter the cabin.
Upon seeing the trajectory they were headed on, Liam gave vent to a stifled exclamation of frustration. Seizing the flight controls, Liam readjusted the spaceship to head towards the shadow side of the planet.
“Do you want to kill us all?” Liam asked harshly, the filter in his mask making his voice sound metallic. “Where did you learn to fly? Look at the measurements the spaceship is giving you for the distance between Terraan and the star. The spaceship would melt in an instant if we landed in the sunlight.”
Jayna bridled at this, and taking the flight controls back, she spoke.
“Well, why did you leave me to fly the spaceship then?”
Liam’s dark eyes bored into Jayna as he turned to look at her. He sat there, staring at her for a full twenty seconds, at the end of which she was shifting uncomfortably in her seat. Then he said in a low voice.
“Don’t question me.”
At this, Derson entered the cabin holding a ShatterMech RB525. He pointed the gun at Liam, then said. “Don’t threaten the defen, or it will be me you’ll have to come through.”
“There’s not much of you to go through is there?” Liam asked, while raising his left hand. The gun was snatched from Derson’s grip and floated out several meters in front of him, then the blaster turned to point at the com.
“Liam no!” Jayna said, telekinetically pushing the blaster away. Liam pushed back, and for a moment, the blaster was held stationary in midair, then Liam changed the direction of his force and sent the blaster flying into Derson’s uncovered head. The com slumped to the ground, unconscious, while Liam released his mental grip on the blaster.
“What was that for?” Jayna asked, shouting at Liam. “He was just trying to protect me!”
“Don’t shout at me!” Liam roared, sending Jayna flying out of her seat with a telekinetic wave.
The noise caused by this altercation alerted the coms in the back, and they entered the room, fully armored and blasters at the ready. Upon seeing the situation, they all trained their weapons on Liam. Slowly the hooded figure raised both hands into the air. Then as the coms slowly approached, he began laughing.
A second later, the spaceship crashed into the planet, and everybody in the cabin was thrown off their feet.
When Jayna recovered, a quick scan of the dark cabin revealed that her enerblade, all the coms’ blasters, and Liam were missing.
She got to her feet rapidly, and hurried around, shaking the coms awake. Mako had awaken the instant Jayna had, and now he began sniffing around the wreck. Soon he gave a bark, calling Jayna over. Making sure no one else was within hearing distance, Mako told Jayna that he had picked up the scent of Liam. Jayna thanked him, then she called the coms to assemble, and standing on a raised piece of wreckage, she addressed her soldiers.
“As you all know, we left Arie Outpost on a mission to find the Twin Sisters of Demise – deadly assassins – and give them KC treatment. The defen, Liam, was supposed to assist us. However, he has turned against us, and thus, he has become a hazard to the mission. I do not wish to say this, but we must use the KOS contingency plan. We have no information on this planet except for the fact that if we go to the sunlit side of this planet, we will die.
“Our primary goal here is to find the remains of the robot Dececrator and retrieve his final memories when he was fighting Rich Hom. However, our ship is badly damaged, and finding another ship will be essential. Salvage whatever supplies you can find, then we’ll move out. Dismissed.”
“Alright! Let’s go go go!” Derson commanded. “I want all available supplies here gathered up at o-eight hundred.”
Mako led Jayna away from the rest into a cleft between two igneous rocks. Then he turned on her almost viciously.
“You’re putting Liam on a Kill-On-Sight basis?”
“What else can I do?” Jayna said. “He deliberately attacked us, stole all our weapons, and crashed our ship. Now he’s deserted us. Isn’t it obvious? He is ready to attack us, we must be ready to attack back. Nothing can get in the way of our objective.”
“You hardly see it yourself,” Mako said, more to himself than to Jayna. “But you are becoming more and more like Liam. ‘Nothing can get in the way of our objective?’ That reminds me of the Liam I once knew, and who I fear is trying as hard as he can to return. What you are doing right now simply speeds up that return.”
“What do you mean?” Jayna asked. “Surely Liam is just a radio operator who happened to be gifted with special mental power?”
“Have you not managed to connect the dots?” Mako asked. “How is it that a few weeks after a mere ‘radio operator’ arrived at your outpost, the two deadliest assassins in the galaxy invade your base and steal valuable information? Why the mystery around him and his background? Why does he not let you touch his skin? Why does he keep his face hidden behind a mask? Why does he seem so agitated around you and other humans? Why does he keep to himself? And why would he knowingly associate himself with another DAMARC?”
“Are you saying that– that he’s a DAMARC too?”
“You already know the answer to that question,” Mako said, turning and leaving Jayna.
Half an hour later, the coms were once again assembled around Jayna. They had enough food supplies to last for a day. No more. Even that would be a stretch.
“Well, we just have to find supplies as soon as possible.” Jayna said, making an attempt at cheerfulness. “Come on, there has to be some sort of base on this rock. Let’s see if we can find it. Lead the way Mako; follow Liam’s trail. If there is a base here, Liam would know about it.”
They were ten minutes on the trail, and Jayna had begun to sweat heavily. Looking back, she realized everybody was sweating; and this was when it was night. Jayna realized now why Liam had been so adamant they land on the shadow side of the planet.
A few rocks rolled down a hill, and instantly, all the lights that the group carried were pointed in that direction. The whole party stood there for a moment, not one of them moving a muscle. The noise however, was not repeated, and they were just beginning to relax when there was a hoarse scream from the rear of the party.
Everybody turned to see what was the matter. A light reflected off the armored boots of a com being dragged away, then there was nothing. For a long moment nobody spoke, then in one accord, everybody turned to look at Jayna.
“Let’s pick up the pace!” Jayna said, turning and leading them on at a jog.
Before this event, Jayna had thought she’d been hot, but at the increased pace, literal rivers of sweat ran down her body. Half an hour later, she had to call a halt. It also happened that at this point, their lights began to flicker.
“No no no no no!” Jayna said, banging the light with her hand. It did no good. The light flickered, then died. In less than ten seconds, the whole party was in complete darkness, and in half that time, menacing growls began sounding around them.
Unconsciously, they all backed up against each other. Then something hurtled through the air past Jayna’s head. There was a stifled groan from beside her, and the com to her left slumped to the ground. She bent down and whispered to check if the com was still alive. Receiving no reply, she put her hand to the neck of the com to check for a pulse only to find that the com no longer had a neck. She stood up quickly and said:
“We have to get out of here. Now!”
“That’s what I was thinking,” Derson agreed.
Then Mako began barking. Jayna looked in his direction and realized there was a light in the distance.
“This way! Follow me!” She said, rushing off in the direction of the light. The others quickly followed her, and a minute of running later found themselves at the front doors of a smuggler base.
Their mysterious attackers had followed them to the base, and without further ado, they pushed the doors open, only to find Liam, facing them while reclining in a chair like a king, with all the coms blasters floating in the air and pointing at them.
“Get down!” He said, and as they all ducked, he mentally squeezed each of the triggers on the blasters, killing the creatures that had followed them to the base.
One by one the eleven humans got to their feet. At a word from their leader, the coms all assumed a fighting stance.
“We have orders to kill you,” Derson proclaimed.
“With what? Your hands?” The masked figure said disdainfully. “I am holding all the cards, and I suggest you do as I say.”
“Why?” Jayna asked defiantly.
There was a flash, and then Liam was holding the youngest com – a young man of nineteen – in the air by his throat. Derson made as if to rush Liam, but all the blasters instantly swiveled to point at him.
“You scared of me boy?” Liam asked the struggling com.
Desperately, the com nodded. Liam dropped him to the ground and turned to face the rest.
“There are worse things than me out there. You have only had a small taste of what is to come. You think you’re scared of me, but you don’t really know what fear is. So, unless you want me to chase you back out to those predators, I suggest you do exactly what I say.”
“I don’t like your tone, Liam,” Derson said antagonistically.
Liam whirled on him. “You don’t have to like my tone. I’m giving you an option. I count to five, and you better make your choice. One– Two– Three–”
At this point, the young com interrupted saying: “All due respect sir, but I think we should listen to the man.”
“Okay,” Jayna cut in. “We’ll listen to you. Just give us back our weapons alright?”
“Do you honestly think I’m that stupid?” Liam asked unbelievingly. Then his tone turned menacing. “No. No weapons. Just do as I say.”
“Please,” Mako spoke up, all the coms turning to look at him in bewilderment. “For an old friend. Give them their weapons.”
Liam gave Mako a hard look. Then he said quietly: “You’re no friend of mine.”
An awkward silence followed, before Liam broke it.
“First things first, close the door before those creatures decide that this light won’t actually burn them to death.
“Okay, here’s the plan. This is an old deserted smuggler base. There is a working spaceship in the storage house just across from us. There is a slight problem though. The spaceship, after these long years, has naturally broken down. I need you to repair it. In return, I will show you the location of Dececrator.”
“So you want us to repair the spaceship for you to escape this rock while you leave us behind with some junked up robot?” Derson asked obstinately.
Jayna put a hand on Derson’s arm. “We don’t have much choice do we? Let’s just do what he says. We’ll figure something out.”
“Oh we’ll figure something out alright,” Derson said loudly. “And your survival won’t be in it Liam!”
A blaster dislodged itself from its location in the air and flew straight at Derson, rotating as it did so so that the butt of the gun hit him on the head, knocking him out for the second time that day.
“I’m beginning to enjoy that.” Liam said. “Anybody else want to be uncooperative? Good. Didn’t think so. Now follow me, and I’ll take you to the ship.”