Awen: Tongue of Flame

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The Test

Obnoxious gargling screeches passed between the petrified aliens, and the queen sprang over Jensen's head. Climbing up to the highest point of the room, the queen moved with fierce determination.

Raising one claw in the air, she spoke aloud in her mysterious language, and the humans' did not have to understand it to feel the power emanating from her inspirational rhetoric. Feeling the adrenaline coursing through his body, Jensen had to resist the urge to cheer with the other alien creatures. 'What is happening?' he asked.

'Don't ask me; I was locked up for years.' Jason replied.

'So you keep reminding us.' James remarked.

Swiping through video feeds too quickly to see what was on them, the queen was searching for one viewpoint in particular.

'Did you see that?' Jensen asked.

Jason was too stunned to peel his eyes away from the queen's video screens. She had inadvertently shown them video feeds from other isolated colonies. 'If you mean the live footage from several other species, living in identical facilities to the one which we have been offered... then yes.' he replied.

James was stunned. 'Why would they possess live footage of these other species, and why haven't we met any of them in the last two years?' he demanded.

'We have just seen the same footage as you.' Jason replied.

'They're studying them.' Jensen speculated.

Waves of static interference flooded through the air, and a chorus of a hundred voices started speaking at once. 'What the hell is that?' James asked.

'I would say, people from those video feeds.' Jensen confirmed.

'You can't be serious?' James asked.

Jason's patience was faltering. 'Jensen's right and I wish that he wasn't. We landed on their planet, and we made it our own,' he replied. 'What would you do to protect your people?'

'What's going on, daddy?' Rose asked.

Smiling at her, Jensen scooped her up into his arms. 'Nothing sweetie, everything's alright.' he lied, covering her ears.

'I wish that you could lie to me that way.' James said.

One voice stood out amongst the rest, and filling Jason with a confidence that he had not felt in such a long time, he attempted to sneak closer to listen in.

Static interference was spoiling the message, and he struggled to understand. 'Engine room is clear... next objective... we need... Connor... down... secure... take back 'Aspire'.′ it said.

Jason looked panic-stricken. 'That's not your Connor.' Jensen assured him.

'That was my executive talking officer, though.' Jason marvelled.

'That was Isabella Sharpe?' Jensen asked sceptically.

'I know my crew.' Jason snarled.

'What was she talking about then?' Jensen asked.

'It sounds like she's trying to take back 'Aspire', and we're going to help her.′ Jason instructed.

'How do you suppose we get out of here then?' James asked.

'Leave that to me.' Jason said, walking closer to the queen.

Skittish alien eyes locked onto his every step, as they prepared to defend their queen. Holding both hands up, Jason pointed at the video feed, hoping that she would oblige him.

She did, and the feed reappeared right in front of him, just in time to see fiery whips of radiation lashing at the ground. A red haze began to blanket the landscape and organised communications coming from 'Aspire' vanished in an instant. Billowing steam erupted from unshielded sections of the ship, until the footage disappeared altogether, leaving Jason in shock.

Not caring if the queen could understand him, Jason spoke his mind. 'We need to get there.' he said, pointing at the spoilt video feed.

The floor was opening up, rotating beneath their feet as it started to reveal a colossal tunnel, with sloping steps leading down as far as the eye could see. 'I suppose we have to go that way?' James asked.

'That we do, let's just hope that it doesn't take us outside because we wouldn't last five seconds this time.' Jensen replied.

'What about Taylor?' Jason asked.

'I think...' Jensen began. 'They will send him to Kelly and Hal daddy.' Rose finished.

'Your girl's a smart one, Jensen. These aliens would want us all together for the opportunity to study us if that other footage was anything to go by.' Jason replied.

As they wandered further into the winding tunnel, the mechanical walls behind them folded inwards, and the only way to travel was forward. 'Here we go.' Jensen said.

Blinking lights lined the sides of the tunnel. The scene resembled an underground airport runway of sorts, and they could hear the purring of engines somewhere up ahead.

'Would you look at that!' Jason beamed. Another hatch slid open for them majestically, and inside they saw something incredible.

'I suppose that this is your kind of heaven, Jason?' Jensen asked.

'You've got that right!' he replied. Streamlined motorcycles hovered in mid-air, whilst an army of robotic droids buzzed around them like flies. Tiny antennae were reaching out of their round metallic carapaces, producing bright sparks of light. They were welding heaps of scrap metal plating onto unrepaired damage.

'Now we know why they were so desperate for salvage.' James assessed.

'I do not doubt that our people will be trying to do the same thing.' Jason agreed.

James looked miserable. 'We did find a few fusion battery cells, but they were lost when we fell here.' he said.

'Typical, we could have used them.' Jason replied.

As they entered the vast hangar bay, the hatch slid shut. Everything turned black, and the ceiling above them begun merging into swirling patterns of distant stars. The projection inspired the feeling of travelling through an endless ocean before stopping at one particular solar system.

'That's our planet.' Jason said.

'Look at that.' Jensen replied. Gargantuan red blisters of radiation were bulging at the seams and altering the stability of their star. Trying to jump and grab hold of the ball of fire, James sprang into the air several times.

'What's he doing daddy?' Rose asked.

'I have no idea sweetie.' Jensen replied, looking away in embarrassment.

On his final attempt, a golden rope looped around James's waist. Pulling at him, he landed awkwardly upon one leg, before rolling to the floor. Gargling screeches filled the air, and within an instant, the alien creature was pressing its claws into his chest.

'I'm sorry.' James cried.

Sizing him up, James saw that the alien was small, and it crouched with a rickety posture. The creature's one eye kept growing wider, before collapsing in on itself, as if trying to see what was lying right in front of it.

'Ha!' Jason exclaimed, striding over to greet the creature. It wore a heavy-duty belt which was packed with tools and soaked in grease. The peculiar-looking specimen was an engineer.

'I apologise for my friend's behaviour; we mean you no harm.' Jason said. The creature started to sing, and with a soothing voice that took them all by surprise, it walked away.

'What now?' James asked, still lying on the floor.

Having heard James, the creature threw a handful of bolts at his feet and waved them over.

The creature was amusing itself, eagerly pointing at something which was not there. 'Can you believe this guy?' James asked sourly.

'I'd take him over the queen.' Jensen replied.

'I can't argue there. What the hell does he want us to do now?' James asked.

'He's an old jokester, isn't he?' Jason noted. Catching him by surprise, the creature dropped a peculiar-looking device into his hands and pressed a big red button on the front of it.

Within seconds, they found themselves sitting inside of a virtual reality simulator. Flying through stormy clouds, and ferocious winds, they realised that they were in control of an alien shuttle. 'How is it that I can understand these controls? The language is unlike anything that I've ever seen.' Jason chuckled.

'Perhaps this is a test, and one which we must somehow pass to get out of here.' James suggested, scratching his head.

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