The Emparian Threat

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Chapter 9

Louisa crouched into the corner of her cell, her arms tightly folded whilst she stared straight ahead into her cell, dull and bare apart from a cushioned black floor. One tear dropped onto her cheek, she battled with her emotions, not wanting the guards to see her in such a vulnerable state. Retracing her memories, she was stuck in an unending loop of confusion. She was innocent. Yet, all the evidence pointed to her. Despite the technological advancement of the races associated with the Institute of Planets, they had no way to read minds or memories. They relied on physical evidence, which framed Louisa as the main culprit for the murder of Dario. Those who could clear her had no intention of doing so.

Disillusioned with the judgement passed, she rubbed her forehead with force to dispel the panging within her head. She found a metallic bowl full of water sat on the far side of her cell. She crept up to it and met her reflection, shadows laid to rest under her eyes, knotted with redness. Splashing water onto her face saw Joive’s image for a moment. ’I’m seeing things now.′ Louisa toppled the bowl hitting a wall with force, banging against a wall. She took a sudden intake of breath fearing her guards’ response, yet they remained lingering in the shadows with little interest. What is Joive planning – why did Dario warn me of him? What did he find out?

She shook her head and rubbed her neck, but was distracted by heard heavy footsteps coming in her direction. She saw a collection of guards in front of her cell. The force field was disabled and she was coerced up by two harsh grips. Trapped within the capture of two guards. They led her in silence. She frantically looked round, two grey heads stood in front of her, and not so far away she saw an outline of a ship straight ahead. ‘Please, you have this all wrong, I’m innocent!’ She argued as she boarded the ship. A silence was returned, and she was forced forward to another cell. Darkness settled around her. Half the size of her previous cell, a sole dull light hung - allowing only the shadow of a single metallic bed, attached to the length of one side. A thin mattress was the only loose attire. Left alone, she was one-step nearer to her life of hard labour.

Would anyone ever discover her innocence? Louisa thought and shook her head, as the evidence against her was too strong. She sniffed her runny nose. But, there must be an overall reason for this situation. There must be, but what? Looking around the cell she noted a tiny round window that revealed the ships landing area, filled with workers, guards and other prisoners. From one corner of the landing area, she spotted a collection of people. Joive stood central with his colleagues, and a number of other richly dressed persons. She brushed her hair back and turned away from the sight. She slid down, shivering with nerves and waited. Vibrations filled the ship’s body work, as it blasted off the flight deck and manoeuvred its way out of the Institute of Planets with a collection of smaller ships escorting, whilst gaining distance from the Institute of Planets. The ship hovered and shot off at speed beyond light.

She stared out, her heart still racing with fear, nothing could be seen. Her vision became blurred mirage that soon gave her a headache. She faced the two guards that stood beyond the force field. There was no privacy whatsoever since she was a murderous human. The hours of darkness were within her grasp.

What exactly was the sentence? Was she going to be digging out gems, minerals, metals, or some kind of labour unknown to her? She sunk her head to her knees and sighed as the ship ventured further into unknown space and into her unattractive future.

A bright red light began to flash within her cell, and a deafening siren invaded the silence. Looking up and out of the window the ship had slowed down, space was no longer a mirage. Straight ahead, a fleet of ships fired their weapons at will. Space outside simmered with flashes and loud bangs. The ship’s force field held strong, witnessing ripples formed from an attack near her. A blast from underneath shot tremors throughout the ship, but then the attacking fleets appeared to be smaller and further away - were they fleeing? Larger ships came into view. Is this usual for prison ships to get attacked? Or is it something to do with me... Louisa thought, fear growing inside, if she was hated this much, how would they treat her, whenever she carried out her sentence.

A computer animated voice rose above the alarms, ‘all personnel are to make their way to escape pods.’ The two guards guarding Louisa stormed off fleeing for their lives. ‘Hey, what about me?’ she ran forward only to be flung back by the force field. Her jumper sizzled, as her back and bottom ached from landing heavily. ‘Twenty minutes to impact. All personnel are to make their way to escape pods.’ Soon prisoners ran down the corridor following red lights lining the corridor, lit like a landing strip.

‘Help me,’ Louisa pleaded.

A collection of Gladovian prisoners stopped outside her cell, ‘look who it is...the one responsible for this. We’ll give the Gladovian people their desire.’ A Gladovian prisoner said, whose face held streaks of white scales, against a backdrop of olive green. Three other Gladovians narrowed their yellow eyes, frills around their heads opened out, with clusters of bright red veins. The one with streaks of white scales launched themselves at Louisa. Only for him to begin screaming as the force field remained at its full strength.

‘Leave her, she cannot escape, come on the escape pods are up there.’ Another Gladovian shoved other fellow prisoners, and then sneered towards her.

The Gladovian with white streaks still panting from his encounter with the force field groaned and spat towards Louisa. The forced field rippled from the spot of contact.

Relief swept her, the force field had kept her safe, but not for long. She searched for control panels, but there were none.

‘Fifteen minutes to impact.’

She watched as many fled past her, no one stopped. She scrambled around her cell feeling for any secret compartment that may have some controls. ‘Nothing,’ Louisa cried banging her hands against the metal walls. ‘What do I do?’ An image of an air hostess demonstrating the safety and brace position came to mind. ’I don’t think that will work, not at this speed.′

She wiped away the tears from her face, ‘Oh I wish I had been on better terms with mum...dad and the rest of my family. I never thought I would die like this.’

‘Evacuate Ship, Evacuate Ship....Ten minutes...’ the ship’s message echoed, as panic escalated from those still left. She ran around desperate to find way out, to turn off the force field. She pulled the soft cushion away from the bed, and threw it towards the force field, testing it. But, the cushioning flung back with great force. The force field still rippled in front of her, the bedding crisp to her touch and warm, a burnt smell filled the air.

She wiped away the tears from her face, ‘Oh, I wish I had been on better terms with mum...dad and the rest of my family. I never thought I would die like this.’

‘Evacuate Ship, Evacuate Ship....Ten minutes...’ the ship’s message echoed, as panic escalated from those still left. She ran around desperately to find way out, to turn off the force field. She pulled the cushioned mattress away from the bed, and threw it towards the force field, testing it. But, the cushioning flung back with great force. The force field still rippled in front of her, the bedding crisp to her touch and warm, a burnt smell filled the air.

Blowing a deep sigh, she set her sights on the window. The ship was on course to some planet masked by purple clouds, with three moons that orbited; it was the largest moon that the ship headed for. Looking away from the planet she could see escape pods joined by several ships. Sitting stationary, they watched as the prisoner ship crashed. ‘Why can’t they help? It’s not just me in here.’

‘Autopilot commenced, prepare for an emergency landing,’ an automated voice said. The ship fell into darkness, ‘Redirecting all power to thrust reversal.’

The bodywork shook as if it was hit by a very strong earthquake. A few frantic prisoners fell to the floor, many cried for help, not one looked into Louisa’s cell. Stuck in her prison, her force field shone in the darkness. She looked around hands trembling. There was space underneath the bed, a tempting hide away. Crawling underneath, she huddled herself into the foetal position. There she cried with fright as her teeth chattered.

A picture came up in her mind, of her family’s last Christmas, when her granddad was still around. Her heart sank... he was the only person who supported her. I guess that’s what you get for being an only child, all hopes and aspirations are placed on you. How I miss grandpa, everyone and now I may never see them again in this life. Her tearful eyes saw a mirror surface on the opposite wall, it showed a grey outlook visible from the window’s reflection as the ship entered the moon’s atmosphere. Ice tentacles sneaked up and became visible in the reflection and soon covered the entire window in a web of ice.

A shudder came across the entire ship, hearing a loud thunder together with a spontaneous flash of lightning, grey clouds whirled around. The ship’s framework shook with might, as turbulence took hold. Lightning struck the ship every other second, with a failing shield that shimmered briefly. The reflection began to show a condensed green mass, a jungle or forest, not too far away. The ship soon screeched painfully as trees clawed at the body work, jolting the ship.

The entire ship halted. But, began to see- saw trying to balance its weight, and started to favour leaning back. Louisa began sliding to the other side. A harsh metallic creak sounded and the ship tail dived. Louisa was forced out from under the bed. The wall indented. Catching hold of a metallic leg attached to the bed, Louisa brought herself back under the bed that was distorted somewhat but still held strong. A loud whirlwind sounded as the window shattered onto the floor. Fresh air flooded in.

She then heard the bodywork of the wall above her ripped apart from the ship. Rays of light flooded into her cell, causing the shattered glass like material from the window to sparkle and glisten amongst a few loose brown leaves that had settled amongst the mess. Peeking out from under the bed, a tree branch appeared above her. On instinct alone, Louisa climbed out of her safety nest, and onto the branch. Creaks travelled all around her as she moved. Walls withered around her, whilst she crawled through the ship’s punctured bodywork via the branch. She reached the tree trunk and faced the wreck her cell had become. A whine sounded above her, and branches began to break all round her. Looking up, one engine to the ship hung over her a few metres above. Her heart raced, and a rush of elated strength came to her. She crouched onto her legs and looked round, several branches were reachable. She jumped and the branch she was on snapped.

Clasping onto her new branch, away from any path of the ship. She held on for her dear life. She heaved breaths as she glanced up, every muscle shaking but numb. The ship whined as it lost its support from the and began to free fall. Taking everything in its path. The tree she was on, leant to one side due to the strain. A crack sounded, as her branch toppled becoming a victim like so many others. She hung on for her life, eyes shut tight as air gust past her. The branch came to an abrupt stop, it being caught amongst interwoven branches from other trees. Out of breath, her heart pumped with a rush of adrenaline and fear. She automatically stepped onto a neighbouring trees. She sat against the tree trunk as the pounding strength of her heart calmed. She looked up at the cleared path. I’m alive, she laughed and rubbed her sweat ridden face. ‘Shit,’ Louisa said looking down. The tree she was on was several hundred feet high, and the crash site glimmered on the ground as smoke rose.

She began to climb down, keeping her eyesight to her level and did not dare to look down. Until she slipped on her trail and lost balanced resulting in a free fell, through a thicket, like spider webs, that disintegrated as she hit them. Occasionally, she would hit branches that would knock the breath out of her. Hands sprung out desperate to catch something. Then she came to a sudden halt, opening her eyes she realised she had been caught in a network of vines that held her body swinging. Her heart pounded she had gained much ground. She had around thirty feet still to cover, but the vines provided a natural ladder and it was not long till she touched ground base. Her survival - a miracle, with bruises, aches and pains and minor cuts.

Letting out a sigh of relief, she stepped into a green sludge, ankle deep that pooled a small area that met black sand surrounding. She heard loud cries, tweaks, and calls of animals distressed from the new encounter. In the vast distance creatures hid amongst the trees, occasionally bright yellow eyes would blink from the branches above her. Dying fires showed the path of the spaceship. Scattered wrecked pieces of the ship lay in their claimed graves. Walking through the crash site, burnt bodies would occasional dwell with the wrecked pieces. She appeared to have been the only survivor. Foam leaked from the ships crevices, metal sheets coiled and glass - like crystals glimmered upon the ground. Reflecting the dusk that approached the day. A star lit sky canvassed the moon. The air chilled.

The relief of surviving began to drain, for now, she had to survive on an alien moon. Holding her trembling hands together she sat on a dry purple rock, and broke into tears, overwhelmed with emotion she cried for the loss of lives that she felt partly responsible for and her situation. She looked up to the stars - outshone by flares, remnants of the ship left in orbit burning within the moon’s atmosphere. Some would whine through the air until like bombs, loud explosions would sound as they grounded.

One came within eyesight to Louisa’s camp and with a mixture of the constant fear and curiosity sets in. She was soon climbing up the mounted earth, areas glowing with reds, oranges and yellows. But, sat centrally was a ruptured cube of metal the size of a small car, its contents spilt over. Fate was her friend that night; she had found some food stores that would last her a while.

She watched another meteor light pave the way with a yellow tail passing over her, she was taken aback when a loud splash echoed. Walking the path of the flare, she came to a large waterfall, a sizzling piece of metal cooled under the water spray. Climbing down from a slight rock face, she came to face the large piece of wreckage. She drew away, not liking the spray and altered path of the water that pooled at her feet. Her back rested against the rough rock face and glanced to the flow of water. A small entrance to a cave hidden behind was found.

Overcome by excitement she claimed wreckage to use for shelter. The foam to soften the floor, and use as burning material. The walls stacked up with tins of food that had survived the impact. In the far corner of the cave nested a little fire. A warm glow engulfed the cave and allowed Louisa to settle for the night, despite the nightmares that pained her mind.

Roars filled the sky that stirred her from unpleasant sleep.

Her mind was foggy, as she rubbed the sleep away from her eyes and exited her shelter to discover the reason for the thunderous noises in the sky. The dawn sky was invaded by a number of black crafts flying in V-shaped alignments. Groups of three broke away and began to scan over areas. One group was on course towards her cave. Whereby a field of blue light shot out of the ships and scanned the area.

Rushing back to the safety of the cave, she froze as she waited for the ships to pass and with luck, pass without detecting her. Taking hold of the wreckage that shielded her cave, her breathing froze as said a silent prayer. The scanning lights passed over the rock formation and went onwards down the river and rejoined the collection of ships. Together they moved in unison and began to descend. With an urge to see what the ships were up to.

Louisa climbed out of her cave and travelled down a dirt track that ran alongside the river, yellow weeds that shot up along the banks. Yellow – brown parched land sat alongside the banks until the brown grasslands greeted and open land lay. Large outlines of green animals grazed upon open land. To the west of her, the collection of ships on the ground formed a hazy shadow too far away to notice any specific detail.

Close to the riverside, Louisa made her way nearer within the camouflage of brown weeds. She soon made out nine different ships, still a distance away. Grouped together in threes. Black little figures stood together, some pointing in different directions. A blast sounded from the jungle. Birds fled on mass away from the canopy, whilst two ships rose up into the atmosphere carrying the wreckage beneath them, crossing paths with another collection of ships that travelled towards the ships already landed. Large doors flipped open and troops of soldiers dressed in black marched out. Little specs lined up in several rows, waiting for orders.

Startled, she heard voices from the tall weeds to her side. She spun round and drew her attention to where the hushed voices came from. Unfortunately, only the gentle noise of weeds drifting with the water sounded. Taking a gulp, she pulled coarse collections of weeds apart searching. But only water, weeds and a few water insects she found, but a stone thumped behind her, and a shushing noise came at once. Twisting at once she faced three glowing figures that disappeared into orbs of light and headed into the weeds.

She ran into the river bed and tore a weed out, holding the cold hollow, but solid structure. She scanned her area and saw nothing. After five minutes of seeing nothing, she returned to the collection of ships and a makeshift base that was being constructed. She submerged herself in the water and watched with care as she moved further along and entered the closer parameters of the ships and crew members. Strong spices and herbs floated her way. A grumble from Louisa’s stomach sounded, and a snap of a weed sounded. Twisting round at once, she flung her weapon around and smashed into a white figure who hissed at the impact. Two others joined, both had concern lined in their eyes for their companion.

Silence invaded as Louisa gulped, her breathing became erratic. She waited to see what these beings would do. But, they did not make the first move, rather their yellow eyes stared into hers.

Louisa placed a firmer grip on the weed. She didn’t flinch as she watched the three white beings.

‘Surely you would be better to present yourself to them? You are after all a key witness for the murder of Dario.’

’Witness? Louisa said gaining distance from them.

‘But you did not kill Dario, innocence seeps from you, it’s your strongest thought ’ one of the figures said in a gentle voice.

‘You have the ability to read...minds?’ Louisa asked.

All three nodded and glanced behind her to watch a further, three ships land. ‘Well, you must know that I was found guilty of Dario’s murder then?’

‘No, we have not had the chance to read all your memories of the recent events. But, let me link my mind to yours, it will be far quicker,’ a softly spoken central white being said and pulled Louisa’s hands into her grip, with water streaming down both hands. Five minutes of silence passed with a pair of yellow eyes gazing into Louisa’s. The figure stood in front of her, gasped and shook her head on odd occasions. Then Louisa found herself in a tight embrace. ‘You poor thing, but why?’ the figure said, pulling Louisa away and faced towards the growing camp.

The same figure spoke to her companions in a constant murmur and held onto their hands as the other two pairs of yellow eyes began to glow as a gold haze glossed over. After a moment, three pairs of sympathetic eyes rested upon Louisa. ’Come, let’s get closer to those gathered. It is the only way we can gain further information on this situation you find yourself in Louisa.

In hand lock, they passed through the currents of the river and submerged themselves amongst the weeds. A further ten minutes passed until they stood nestled amongst a collection of weeds. A short distance away, lines of soldiers stood at attention. A select few bellowed out orders and marched up and down the rows, upon rows of soldiers. ‘Groups one, two and three are to head south from this point in search of Louisa the human, and if found to be brought back; dead’

‘They must have changed your sentence to the death penalty Louisa,’ one of the beings whispered, squeezing her arm.′

Looking up, Louisa panted in fear as her fear stricken eyes came to the realisation that if caught she would not stay alive.

‘Do you know why Joive has set you up; is he after a political position?’

Louisa shook her head, frozen with fear too scared to move in case a splash sounded or a guard noticed her.

‘Come, before we are noticed.’

Louisa nodded and sank into the depths of the river and drifted away. She froze as Joive made his way to the edge of the bank listening to two senior soldiers briefing him. Stifling a nervous cry, an arm wrapped around Louisa, as the two other beings stared towards Joive – shocked looks appeared on their faces as they focused upon Joive. ‘What are they doing here? They never mix with inferior species,’ one whispered flicking looks between his two other companions.

‘How long has this Joive been with the Askans?’

‘I don’t know I was taken from Earth a little while ago - I think,’ Louisa whispered shrugging her shoulders.

‘They must have some agenda they would never associate themselves with any inferior species unless they had orders to follow,’ one of the male humanoids said.

‘And if they are after you Louisa, they must be planning to...’

‘Why now? They have not been active for decades, they have remained peaceful and kept to the agreement,’ the female humanoid said.

‘Systea, they have never honoured any peace treaty they have made. Every time peace treaties have been broken. It has always been to extend their empire. And the only people that would pose a threat would hold close ties to the Ascorts,’ the other male said resting his gaze upon Louisa. The other two glanced at each other and then rested upon Louisa.

‘Do you think that is why they wish Louisa’s death?’ Systea asked.

‘Why did your prison ship crash land?’ One of her male companions asked, keeping his gaze on the scene before them.

‘Shush,’ Systea said. Sinking down into the water, pulling Louisa with her as she travelled deeper into the weeds. Hidden from Joives’ sight as he stood at the water’s edge a meter away from Louisa and her company.

‘What happened,’ Joive shouted at a soldier that had been with him as he took Louisa round on the guided tour.

‘The Ascorts intervened in the Starian attack on the prison ship. We have already ensured that should the human be found, kill her on sight. She shall not hinder are plans for much longer, nor will that alliance.’

‘How do you come up with such conclusions. This human has interfered with our plans. We are unable to progress with our invasion. Whilst she stays alive, it gives more time for any planetary member to discover the invasion forces, a mere few light years away. In the worst case scenario, they may even gain the Ascort alliance, if they ever learn what value this human is,’ Joive shouted, bashing a hand against the weeds nested amongst the water.

‘Master, the human life is ticking away we have several armies searching every inch of this moon. She shall not escape alive. And then, you shall be able to launch your invasion forces within days. And when we have victory. We shall declare the Institute of Planets for His Supreme Excellency.’ Joive’s colleague said, kneeling on one knee, his head drawn to the ground.

‘Time better be running out for that human, or else you shall truly understand the wrath of His Supreme Excellency,’ Joive said. Leaving his two companions alone each took nervous gulps and eyed the makeshift base before them.

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