Chapter 10 - Emperor
Doug worried as he watched Amanda use her MA pistol to burn a large circle out of the Armorium door painted with a gold colored Chrysallaman logo. It’d taken way too long for his team to move from the scout saucer to the throne room. Without the telepathic guide tokens to direct them, the FORCE commandos had no alternative but to search the huge spaceship deck by deck.
Based on the assumption the ship would be designed similar to an Earth navy vessel, their SEAL team expert, Jason Stoneman, had guessed the throne room would be amidship where it was better protected by intervening structural layers. His hypothesis turned out to be correct, but their search was delayed by squads of Royal Guardsmen who ambushed them in every passageway. If it weren’t for their PDS protection, none of them would be alive.
As the cutout section of the armored door fell to the deck with a clang, Doug and his team ran into the throne room only to find themselves the targets of multiple cutter rays. The frustration of not being able to fire their MA weapons through the PDS protective screens was maddening. Despite being shielded from the deadly rays, Doug and his team found themselves trying to hide just to get their PDS screens to cut off long enough to fire back at the Guardsmen.
A look around the throne room raised more questions than answers. Alex appeared to be engaged in unarmed combat with one of the Chrysallamans. Whatsit, JnnWall and Zeck stood nearby watching the fight. A Chrik who might be the Emperor was sitting in a gaudy cut-glass chair perched on a high dais.
Doug and his team watched the sequence of events leading up to the moment Alex was killed, and Whatsit retaliated. Becky and Amanda rushed to Alex’s side while Doug and Jason tied the remaining Guards’ hands behind their backs with zip restraints. Keeping a watchful eye on the Emperor, who glared at them with pure hatred but hadn’t moved from his seated position on the glass throne, Doug and Jason approached JnnWall as he stood beside the unmoving Zeck. Jason picked up the MA pistol MerrCrr had taken from Zeck.
Doug asked JnnWall, “What happened?”
Shrugging in an uncanny resemblance to one of Whatsit’s favorite gestures, JnnWall replied, “Whatsit was overcome by grief when his Human friend was killed. His lack of emotional control jeopardized the safety of this ship. There was only one sure way of stopping him from killing everyone.”
Nodding, Doug watched as Stoneman bent down to help Whatsit get to his feet since he was groggy from MerrCrr’s punch. Not trusting Zeck to remain docile, Doug handed another set of zip restraints to JnnWall and pointed at Zeck. MerrCrr pulled the General’s arms behind his back and secured him.
Satisfied things were under control, Doug walked to where Becky and Amanda were kneeling over Alex’s body. Amanda had closed Alex’s eyes and covered his upper body with her jacket. Becky turned away from the grisly scene, buried her face in Doug’s chest and hugged him. As she sobbed, Doug wrapped his arms around her and gently stroked her back.
“He lost his PDS pendant in the fight,” Amanda said.
“What do you mean?”
Raising her hand to show him, Doug saw Alex’s PDS with its neck chain wound around her fingers. The chain was broken.
“I don’t know how it happened. I found the pendant on the floor near his body. Alex had no protection from the cutter ray.”
Feeling angry and frustrated, Becky pushed away and said, “We need to have a long talk with Heinbaum and Roemer. Alex’s death proves the neck chain is not suited for combat, and the PDS is too damned effective. The shield makes us impotent as long as a cutter or heat ray is being fired at us. We might as well start fighting with swords and knives because our MA weapons are rendered useless.”
Putting his fingers under Becky’s chin, Doug lifted her face to his and said, “We’ll have time to grieve when we get back home. Right now we’ve got work to do.”
“Doug, we have a problem,” Jason said.
Swiveling toward Jason who nodded at Whatsit, Doug watched his Chrysallaman friend pick up one of the Chrik guard’s cutter ray pistols and turn toward the dais where the Emperor sat on his throne. Whatsit wasn’t trying to block his thoughts, and Doug knew the Emperor was in deadly peril.
Realizing a serious situation was at hand as she felt Doug’s body tighten; Becky wrenched her eyes away from him and spotted Whatsit moving toward the dais with the pistol in his hand. She’d never seen him move with such determination, and it was clear he was going to kill the Emperor if he reached him first.
Without further thought, she took off on an intercept course. Recognizing it would take both of them to stop Whatsit, Doug followed her trying his best to match her unbelievable speed. With no more than a second to spare, they threw themselves between Whatsit and the dais, each grabbing one of his arms as he tried to push through them to confront Horcunt.
“Don’t go postal on us old friend,” Doug shouted as he held the struggling Chrysallaman.
“He needs to die, Doug. He just needs to die!” Whatsit growled.
Whatsit’s ray pistol fired, and a corner of the Emperor’s glittering throne disappeared in a cloud of dust. Jumping from his seat, the Emperor stumbled around the throne and cowered behind Chellsee. Disgusted by the cowardice of Horcunt, Chellsee used one of the self-defense moves her father had taught her and kneed the cringing lizard under his chin. Off-balance, Horcunt tumbled down the dais and landed in a heap on the glistening floor.
Trying his best to free himself from Doug and Becky, Whatsit tried to re-aim his pistol at the Emperor as he lay sprawled on the polished tiles.
Looking into Doug’s eyes with stone cold purpose, Whatsit said, “He’s the one who ordered the attack on Earth. He’s the reason over one billion Earth citizens were killed. Now Alex is dead! It’s got to stop!”
“And it will,” Doug growled. “We’ve got the guy. He’ll be tried for genocide and convicted. Believe me. The Emperor and General Zeck will rue the day they were born. But please let us handle him in our own way. Just look at the groveling yellow-belly. He’s finished.”
Whatsit knew he couldn’t match the physical or mental strength of an activated Human, and Doug was a man of his word. Relaxing as best he could, Whatsit nodded his agreement, handed his pistol to Becky and all three of them went to confront Horcunt.
Chellsee was both frightened and curious. The strangely dressed Chrysallaman and the humans were acting like they knew each other. In fact, they seemed to be friends, which she found quite alarming. How could a Chrysallaman possibly have anything in common with lower animals? The whole idea was ridiculous.
She could tell Emperor Horcunt was scared for his life. Chellsee had jumped behind Horcunt’s large body when the Humans cut through the armored door because she had no weapon or combat vest to protect her from injury. Using the Emperor’s body as a makeshift shield, she’d grabbed his shoulders with her hands to keep him between her and the attackers. She felt every frightened quiver of his body as the battle raged.
When he had done the unforgiveable and tried to use her as a shield from Whatsit’s ray pistol, her anger and disgust had blossomed. Her knee knocked the Emperor off the dais. She had dared touch the Royal Majesty of the Chrysallaman Empire without permission and in a hostile way. The room began spinning as her mind tried to justify the unjustifiable. There was no doubt the Emperor would order her killed in some gruesome manner. She felt her knees begin to buckle, and she grasped the back of the throne to keep her balance.
Now two of the Humans and Whatsit were doing something just as blasphemous. Without permission, they approached the kneeling Emperor and had the temerity to stand looking down at him. It was disrespectful to say the least.
The tall Human with dark hair was first to speak, “Greetings from Planet Earth, Emperor Horcunt. My name is Colonel Douglas Jenson. I trust you had a pleasant journey. I assure you we’ll provide all the comforts you deserve during the ever-so-short remainder of your worthless life.”
Keeping silent but gathering the mental power he had developed through decades of practice, Horcunt scowled and thrust a killing telepathic burst of energy into the mind of the scurrilous animal. Confident the Human would topple to the floor in a dead heap, Horcunt curled his lips in a haughty sneer. The Human didn’t even flinch.
Shaking his head and frowning with irritation, Doug said, “Please don’t insult me with your feeble attempts at telepathy.”
Chellsee gasped in genuine surprise. “A direct insult!” she thought. “Instead of groveling at the feet of the all-powerful Emperor of the Chrysallaman Empire, these Humans were bullying his Royal Majesty!”
Despite the fact she was an unwilling concubine and had just knocked Horcunt off his dais, Chellsee considered herself a faithful member of the Royal Court. Coming to the defense of her Sovereign, she leaped down the dais and knelt beside Horcunt in a protective pose.
“How dare you attempt to denigrate the Emperor of the Galaxy. Bow your heads with due respect for His Majesty, at once!”
The response from the oddly dressed Chrysallaman was totally unexpected. “Who pulled your chain, Chatty Cathy?”
Chellsee was taken aback. She didn’t understand what the lizard’s words meant, but the chuckles coming from the Human animals indicated the statement wasn’t complimentary. Stamping her foot in outrage, Brookkss did the unexpected. Plucking a ceremonial dagger from the Emperor’s waistband, she raised the blade over her head and lunged at Whatsit with the intent to stab him through the heart.
Whatsit seized her arms and forced her to drop the dagger but not before she thrust a knee hard into his stomach. Twirling her around so his arms pinned her struggling body against his chest, Whatsit looked wide-eyed at Doug and Becky.
“What’s the matter with her?” he managed to ask as Chellsee fought to free herself.
“I think you and I are going to have to have a heart to heart talk about how to treat women,” Becky replied.
Then glancing at Doug through narrowed eyes she added, “You’ve been spending way too much time with Tom Blunt and Doug Jenson watching violent movies. You need a female mentor and a nice selection of love and romance flicks.”
Totally exasperated, Whatsit released his hold and said, “Miss Brookkss, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to insult you.”
Freed from Whatsit’s arms, Chellsee stumbled, but she was still angry. Swinging with all her might, she slapped Whatsit and screamed, “Don’t you ever touch me again!”
Expecting to be punished for trying to kill and then slapping him, Chellsee was astonished when he just stood looking at her and rubbing his sore jaw. He didn’t even act like he was going to hit her back. Chrysallaman males never tolerated a female hitting them. Punishment was swift and brutal. Yet the strange Chrysallaman not only didn’t strike back at her, he’d apologized for calling her names.
It occurred to her she was staring wide-eyed at Whatsit. Chellsee backed away and repositioned herself behind the Emperor. Keeping a watchful eye on the strange Chrysallaman, she found herself hating the big lizard for making her feel so helpless.
Returning his attention to the Emperor, Doug said, “Your ship appears to have battle damage, and you arrived with no military support. Are you going to tell us why you’re here, or are we going to have to force the story from you?”
Still under the impression his invasion force had taken possession of planet HG-281, Horcunt responded, “Now who is insulting? I don’t know who you are or why you believe you have some control over me, but let me assure you my Royal Guard will end your worthless lives. I’ll then proceed to your home planet where my imperial reign shall begin.”
Rolling her eyes, Becky said, “I swear the superiority complex of these lizards is incredible! I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the patience to spend an hour bringing this idiot up to date.”
“I know a way,” Whatsit replied.
Seeing the questioning looks on Jenson and Chang, he explained.
“I can educate him almost instantly using the same technique I employed to learn how to operate the scout saucer from the mind of Curtilact Kutlurr. I’m sure you both remember him. The Chrysallaman who was going to cut a tender steak from Becky’s thigh.”
Doug and Becky nodded. At great personal risk, they’d captured the scout saucer Jasirac by tricking its captain Curtilact Kutlurr into flying the saucer to the Nevada secret facility. Whatsit had extracted the operating information about the scout saucer telepathically from the brain of Kutlurr just before he died.
“Be careful, buddy,” Doug warned. “This old geezer is a tricky bastard. Don’t let him get past your defenses.”
“I won’t,” Whatsit replied as he faced the Emperor.
Horcunt had listened to the exchange between the Humans and Whatsit and wasn’t about to let the odd Chrysallaman take control of his thoughts. Girding himself with all the telepathic protections he could muster, Horcunt glared at the traitorous lizard with hate-filled eyes.
Whatsit had already deduced the Emperor was not going to cooperate with the information exchange. He could feel the protective telepathic screens the lizard had erected to try and prevent him from entering his mind.
Bending down, Whatsit picked up the ceremonial dagger he had forced from Chellsee’s hand and stabbed it into Horcunt’s femur just above his knee. The sudden overwhelming pain broke all the mental barriers the Emperor had so carefully prepared. As he screamed in agony, Whatsit drove his thoughts into the unprotected mind of the lizard.
Working fast, Whatsit imprinted the details of the Chrysallaman attack on Earth and the results of the Human counterattack into the memories of the Emperor. It took him about 5 seconds to complete the transfer. While he had total access to Horcunt’s brain, he delved into the reasons why the all-powerful Ruler of the Galaxy fled Chrysalis. For good measure, Whatsit accessed all the secret Royal access codes and computer passwords known only by Horcunt. The whole process took 15 seconds.
Jerking the blade from the lizard’s leg, Whatsit stood and said, “It is done.”
Becky and Doug were stunned by the actions of their friend, but they had to admit it was effective. Chellsee took one look at the royal blood dripping from the end of the dagger and fainted.
Becky said it all, “Damn, Whatsit, you sure know how to get someone’s attention.”
Shrugging and curling the side of his mouth in a lopsided grin, Whatsit replied, “He’s an unruly student, and I don’t have a paddle on me.”
Wasting no time, Whatsit shared his memory download from the Emperor with Doug and Becky.
“Well I’ll be damned,” Doug said as he absorbed the new information. “This coward turned tail and ran, leaving his people at the mercy of the Asiddians.”
Horcunt was mewling in pain from the stab wound, but he bristled when Doug called him a coward.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about! I sent my entire military fleet to engage and destroy the Asiddians. They didn’t even slow them down. Our weapons were useless.”
Chellsee was beginning to recover from her fainting spell and listened to her Emperor’s story. It began to dawn on her the all-powerful Ruler had fled Chrysalis and left her entire family at the mercy of the marauding Asiddians.
Begging for understanding, Horcunt said, “Those cursed Asiddians have some kind of beam weapon. Our gravity-drive envelope provides no protection from it at all. The red beam slices through Armorium like it is nothing more than the open vacuum of space. They can’t be stopped!”
Whatsit was having none of the explanation. “So you fled to planet HG-281 where you thought 50 mother ships and 20 million Chrysallamans would welcome you with open arms and protect your worthless hide with their lives. You’re despicable.”
Horcunt had never been addressed with such insolence in his entire life. Getting to his feet, he glared at Whatsit and yelled, “You worthless scum! You are like mud beneath my . . .”
Whatsit slugged him. It was a beautiful jab delivered with such force it broke off one of Horcunt’s front teeth. Slumping to the tiles unconscious, the Emperor’s nose began bleeding all over his golden robes.
Chellsee was shocked speechless by the violent act. Not knowing what else to do, she wiped at his bloody nose with the hem of his robes. Whatsit picked up the tooth he’d knocked out of the Emperor and put it in his pocket.
Jason said, “Doug, I just received a message from General Blunt. He wants a status update.”
“Tell him the Emperor is in custody. Let him know about Alex,” Doug replied.
“Yes. Ask him to call his travel agent. It looks like we’re going to Chrysalis.”
Seeing the Emperor with a bloody nose and his hands strapped together by zip restraints was one of the most startling sights MerrCrr had ever witnessed. Shaking his head with profound revulsion at the cowardice Horcunt revealed by running away from the Asiddians and leaving his subjects to their ultimate fate, he began re-evaluating his view of Humans. Based on the statements of the man called Doug Jenson, it looked like the Earthlings were going to journey to Chrysalis for some reason.
“Why?” he wondered. “Humans are safe on planet HG-281. Why would they want to go to the home planet of the beings who tried to annihilate them?”
It occurred to him they might just want to make sure the Chrysallamans had been killed by the Asiddians. They might even want to join the Asiddians and go after other planets the Chrysallamans had colonized.
His racing thoughts were interrupted by Whatsit.
“MerrCrr, I haven’t had the opportunity to ask you until now, but I noticed you seemed surprised when I told the Emperor my last name was Zennk.”
Ignoring the question, MerrCrr asked angrily, “How is it possible for you to collaborate with the Humans? It’s obvious to me they’ve either brainwashed you, or you suffer from some kind of brain injury which renders you docile and subject to suggestion.”
When Whatsit just stared at him with no reaction whatsoever, MerrCrr exclaimed with growing frustration, “Don’t you understand? You’re not acting or reacting like a Chrysallaman at all. You didn’t even respond when the female concubine slapped you. In fact, you apologized to her for some reason. If you didn’t have a Chrysallaman body, I’d swear you were a Human animal.”
Resting his hand on MerrCrr’s shoulder, Whatsit smiled, “I don’t expect you to be able to appreciate the years I’ve spent learning about Humans and interacting with them. Are there evil Humans who deserve to be killed on sight? Yes! But the same holds true for Chrysallamans. You know what I say is true.”
MerrCrr was uncomfortable with having his notions of Chrysallaman superiority shattered, but witnessing the cowardice of his Emperor and the reluctance of the Humans to kill their helpless enemies couldn’t be ignored or easily explained. Perhaps this Human distaste for domination of other lifeforms was caused by some inherent, emotional weakness.
Seeing momentary acceptance in MerrCrr’s eyes as he considered what he’d been told, Whatsit again asked, “So tell me. Why were you startled when you heard the name Zennk?”
Instead of answering directly, MerrCrr asked, “What was your father’s name?”
“DrrTrr Zennk. He was captain of the scout saucer shot down by the Humans during the initial exploratory mission to Earth. Mother forced me to go with him. She thought the experience would make it easier for me to get into military school.”
“Did you have any brothers or sisters?”
“No, I was an only child. With his military pay, Father didn’t want the added expense.”
“I was an only child as well,” MerrCrr responded with an odd look in his eyes. “Mother was very lonely. My father had left on a mission with an extended duration, and she didn’t want to live alone. She decided to implant one of the frozen embryos they’d created in case either of them died. She raised me by herself until I was 10 because my father never returned.”
“I’m sorry. So she remarried?”
“Yes, Mother was very headstrong. When I was 10 years old, she decided she wasn’t going to wait another 50 years on the hope my father would return from his mission. She knew the effect stasis would have on their age differences. She married a guy named JnnWall and insisted I change my name to his.”
Whatsit was getting an odd feeling in his gut. There was something eerily familiar about MerrCrr’s story.
“What was your mother’s name?”
Hesitating as if he was considering answering the question or not, MerrCrr said. “Aleekka Zennk JnnWall.”
“My God!” Whatsit replied in a hushed tone as his mind reeled from the revelation.
“My mother’s name was Aleekka.”
“Yes, Brother,” MerrCrr said with an ever so slight smile.
“My biological father’s name was DrrTrr.”
Whatsit was stunned. As his mind whirled with questions about his mother and her life after he left with his father on the mission to HG-281, MerrCrr grabbed him in a bear hug and squeezed him tight.
“I know your mind is full of questions about Mom. I’ll answer them as best I can, but right now we need to concentrate on Emperor Horcunt and General Zeck. If the Humans are going to Chrysalis, both of them are worth more alive than dead.”