Elementals-Chapter 6

From: Cheryl Baumgartner(C Baumgartner, Posted Date: Sep 7th, 2011

The Dark Zone:

 

            Danik dropped to his knees and heaved violently, vomiting all over the back of Benai’s seat.  Benai made a face and shook his head.  The ship had just come out of the dimensional shift from the fractal core, and his nemesis was not taking the transition well.

            “You never have had much of a stomach for space travel” he mused in Danik’s direction.

            “Shut…….up…….”  Danik coughed.  “I will….kill you….”

            “I’d only recommend that if you know how to fly this thing yourself.”  Benai chuckled. 

            As if on cue, an alarm klaxon sounded and red lights came on all over the control panel.  Benai examined his sensors.  Oh, wonderful.  Structural integrity was failing.  These ships had been so hastily built in anticipation of the Order’s attack, apparently certain safety measures had been overlooked.  Shoddy craftsmanship was coming apart at the seams.

            Out of the cauldron, into the fire.

            He glanced out the main window.  At least they had indeed escaped from the Foreshadow.  His radar told him those 5 other ships were still following him, and from the looks of things, they weren’t holding together any better.  Ok, so what’s next?

            A planet.  Find a planet to land on.  Safely.

            Not in the mood to die today.

            Flicking the long-range scanners to life, he turned in his chair just enough to give Danik a good kick in the abdomen, bringing forth a grunt and a fresh fount of spew.  Yes, that felt good, causing pain.  He turned back toward the panel, whistling.

            A collage of images starting flashing on the screens in front of him, coming in from the scanners.  The siren continued its shrill howling.  He slammed his fist down on the master alarm and all was silent.  Thank the Gods. 

            They were in a barred spiral galaxy, on the inner rim of one of the arms, about 25,000 light years from the galactic center.  A middle-aged star burned close by, several planets and an asteroid belt orbiting through the system. 

            Good enough.

            Danik had sat up against the wall, breathing deeply and clutching his belly. 

Benai set course for the nearest life-sustaining planet.  There were actually two planets, in close orbit with each other, either one capable of saving their lives.  The ride became much rougher as he kicked in the thrusters.  Hold it together, you hunk of junk, just a little longer.

“Where’s the kid?” Danik asked.

Benai froze.  The blackened expanse of charred rock where his town had just been flashed through his vision.  There was nothing left.  He had nothing left.

Danik interpreted his silence. 

“Aw, what a shame” he mocked, “the wife, the parents, the child, all gone.  You’ve either got the worst luck in the universe, or just really bad people skills.”

“Why bother, Danik?” Benai replied, his voice sounding far away to his own ears, “You’re already going to answer for your part in all that misfortune.  It’s pointless to try to make it worse”.

He heard Danik shrug from his perch in the corner.  The ship was groaning and shifting around them.  Another alarm sounded, indicating a breach in the port side hull.  One section of the vessel was depressurizing.

Oh well.

They had almost reached the atmosphere of the closest planet.  He noted with indifference that two of the following ships joined him in this course, and the other three headed for the second sphere.

Benai grabbed the stick and extended the landing legs as the vessel began its descent.  He didn’t realize how hot it was getting until large beads of sweat began to moisten his forehead.  The thermal regulators were just barely functioning and the ship was going down too fast.

“You a gambling man Danik?”

The only response was a groan as his companion passed out.  Once a wimp, always a wimp.

            Flames danced across his viewscreen so thickly that he had to rely solely on the proximity sensors to tell where the ground was.  He hadn’t noticed much of this planet’s terrain from the initial scans, there just hadn’t been any time.  Now he saw large expanses of sand, dotted by a few small mountains.

            This just gets better and better, doesn’t it?  We get to land in a desert.

            Lucky Danik.  Gets to be unconscious for this landing.  Typical that he makes me do all the work.

            As the ground neared, Benai tried to keep the ship’s nose up as much as possible, but pieces of the vessel were literally being torn off, and many of the controls would no longer respond. 

            He hit the button for the general intercom. 

            “Brace for impact everyone.” he said, as cheerfully as possible, “Or don’t.  It’s all the same to me.”  It was a good thing he couldn’t have heard any of the passenger’s responses to his announcement.

            He abandoned the controls, took his own advice, and wrapped himself around the security frame of the instrument panel. 

            The first collision threatened to rend his limbs from their sockets, and rattled his clenched teeth.  The viewscreen shattered and sent bullets of glass and metal flying over his head as he ducked.  These embedded themselves into the back wall of the cockpit, which had crumpled like paper.  Benai was thrown to the underside of the control panel, where he was pinned by the wreckage of the pilot’s chair and a dislodged bulkhead. 

Then, they were airborne again, having bounced against the side of a mountain.

When they crashed back down, the wall against which he was pinned ripped away, sending him hurtling into the open air.  He barely had time to register what was happening, couldn’t even feel which direction he was headed, before hot, soft sand slammed into his left side.

His eyelids had closed automatically on impact, and they darkened almost immediately afterwards as the shadow of the ship passed over him.  He curled into a ball, preparing to be crushed.

Nothing happened.   A few seconds later, he heard the crunch and screech of the vessel finally coming to rest only paces away.  He thought about opening his eyes, but the spray of sand, rock, and metal fragments that assaulted him just curled him into a tighter ball.

Only when everything had been quiet for at least a dozen breaths did he diagnose his situation.  Alive, breathing, able to move fingers and toes.  Excellent, major parts functioning.  Try to get up.  Slowly.

The blindingly bright sun burned around him as he pushed up onto his haunches.  A searing internal knife stabbed through his chest on the left side, where he’d landed.  Cringing, he analyzed the pain.  Two, probably three broken ribs, but lungs appeared unpunctured.  Arms, legs, nothing else broken. 

You bloody lucky bastard!

He looked at the ship, which now more closely resembled the scrap yard back home.  Major chunks of it had been sheared off and giant gaping holes sagged open as it creaked and settled into the sand.  Benai had a quick flash of the torched husk of his parents house after Danik had blown it up, with his parents still inside.

Danik, you viper.  You’d better still be alive, so I can kill you.

Benai rose to his feet, flinching at the protests from his ribs.  He hobbled carefully toward the wreck, losing his balance in the sand more than once.   He saw the bodies of some passengers that had been thrown out of the crash, just like he had.  They’d probably been dead before being ejected though, or they might have been walking with him now.

Once reaching the rear of the broken craft, he started to find survivors.  People flopped about amid the detritus, trying to free themselves from their restraints or whatever was holding them in place.  Some had only minor injuries, but some would only have a few more hours of life.  From the looks in their glazed eyes, they knew it too. 

He’d passed about 40 of them by the time he reached the cockpit, not stopping to help anyone.

 There was barely any cockpit left.  Just a few twisted shards of metal gave a hint of the frame that had once shaped the small space.  The pilot’s chair he had recently occupied sat half buried in the sand, ten paces away.  The controls had all but exploded, and every possible bit of glass had been shattered.  A slab of metal that had once been the cockpit door lay flat atop most of the rest of it.

Grinding his teeth at the stabbing pain in his side, Benai heaved the door up and tossed it to the side.  He saw an arm protruding from under a chunk of the radar panel, Danik’s arm.  Then, he saw a leg sticking out from the other side.  He wondered which limb had been severed in order to place them in such disarray.  It was most likely both.

Lifting the panel, he found his answer.

“Nooooooooooo!!”  He screamed.

Danik was dead.  His chest had been crushed by the instruments, and several major organs oozed from his torso.  His head was intact, but only barely still attached to his neck by about a finger-width of flesh on one side.

“You’re not allowed to die like this, you coward!” Benai yelled to the corpse of his nemesis, “I want my vengeance!”

There was no reply except the whistling of a slight breeze through the irregular openings around him.

But then he heard other cries, more distant, not from the people he’d just passed. 

Fuming with anger, and ignoring his own physical pain, he stepped out onto the open sand.  The survivors from his ship were grouping together a short way off, tending each other’s wounds.  One man stood at the peak of a nearby dune, waving his arms frantically and cupping his mouth to call to someone on the other side.  Within a minute, others joined him, coming from what Benai could only assume was the landing site of one of the other ships.

So, now what?  These idiots will expect me to help them settle here.

He frowned and shook his head.

He’d thought he had nothing left to live for when they launched from that hangar.  He was wrong.  He’d still had one thing.  His vendetta.

Now, even that was gone, and he was stuck having to play house with bleeding refugees in a scorching desert.

Looking up toward the sky, he noted that the brutal sun was about to be partially blocked by the orbit of the other planet circling this one.  He couldn’t tell for sure, but it seemed as if there was a great expanse of water on the other planet, and no desert to speak of. 

Drew the short straw again, did we Ben?  He chuckled with the irony of it all.

He felt for the pendant at his throat.  The solid smooth sphere, rotating in its golden nest, filled him with renewed vigor.  He would not simply accept what had happened to him, would not just live on this dry and desolate planet.  He was in control, this place and these people were his now.  This thought didn’t come from any sort of compassion for them, but simply ownership of their lives.

 Everything would be as he wanted now. 

Anyone who thought otherwise would not live to see that sun emerge from its eclipse.