For a few seconds, nobody moved or said anything; they just stared at each other. Then, as Benjamin began to apologize, one of the men began pulling out a plasma rifle. Alex suddenly threw his drink at the man who was raising his rifle, then shoving him backwards into the other two individuals and grabbing Benjamin’s arm, propelled him back the way they had just come. As they ran down the corridor, a plasma bolt slammed into the wall behind where they had been standing just seconds earlier. Turning the same corner they had left the girls at, the two of them raced up the ramp and back into the main concourse area, skidding to a sudden halt to avoid running into anyone. As they stood there breathing heavily, Benjamin asked, “What just happened, and who were those men?”
Alex shook his head as he told Benjamin, “I’m not sure who or what they are, but men dressed in the same manner attacked us on Calos II while we were heading towards the capital city and the space docks.” Suddenly they heard a commotion behind them and, turning around, saw the three men coming up the ramp with weapons drawn and death in their eyes. All the color drained from Benjamin’s face as he saw them coming, and he suddenly seemed frozen in place.
Tired of having to constantly push his friend, but unwilling to simply leave him yelled in his ear, “Follow me.” Without waiting to see if he followed, he started heading toward the movie theater with the intention of getting the two girls on his way back towards the ship. However, as they got close it became apparent there was no need to go inside as everyone, including Sierra and Alicia, was coming out. Seeing the two girls, Alex yelled to them and, a minute later, they were all running away from the chaos as fast as they could. With all four of them breathing hard, Sierra grabbed Alex’s arm and said, “The same creatures that attacked us on Calos II are in the theater; they burst in through one of the back doors and just started attacking everyone.”
As they ran on, Alex replied, “It gets better. There are three of those guys in red back the way we came from. They almost got us on the ramp towards the sports complex.” Running on they turned the corner where they had left Jonathon to explore the books. Suddenly they saw a sight that made all four of them come to a screeching halt.
Lying on the ground not five feet in front of them lay a man in a red robe with a knife jutting out of his chest. Two or three feet beyond him, two men held Jonathon while a third stood behind him with an energy rifle pointed at his head. Jonathon had the appearance of a man who had been in a fight and lost. His glasses were missing, one of his eyes was half swollen, and his nose was very obviously broken. The lower half of his face was covered in blood presumably from his broken nose. His shirt was also covered in gore, but judging from the fact that he appeared relatively whole, if somewhat battered. The blood on his shirt was most likely from the man lying dead on the floor. Benjamin appeared to be about to try and attack the two men holding Jonathon. Noticing that, Alex motioned as discreetly as he could for Benjamin to stand still, fortunately Benjamin noticed the sign and nodding his head slightly stepped back and waited to see what Alex would do. The one who was holding the weapon to Jonathon’s head suddenly smiled and began saying, “Unless you want to see your friend’s head splattered all over the walkway, I suggest…” However, that was as far as he got because at that moment a ridiculously fast-moving, purple blur came out of a side corridor slamming into him, throwing him three feet into the wall next to him. Spinning around in a tight circle, Perrin decapitated the head of the guard on the left side of Jonathon with his wing and was in the process of turning when the remaining guard decided that discretion was the better part of valor, dropping his energy pistol, and ran off. Benjamin and Alex raced forward and grabbed Jonathon before he toppled to the ground.
Perrin looked at the small group, saying, “I would suggest we head back to the ship before more of these goons show up.”
Alex bent down and ripping a piece of cloth from one the dead men wrapped it around Jonathon’s eyes. After that he got Benjamins attention, and the two of them picked Jonathon up and began carrying him back to the ship, with the rest following. About twenty-five feet from the entry to the ship docks, they all heard the sound of several energy rifles discharging somewhere behind them. A second later, Alicia staggered forward and would have collapsed onto the floor had Sierra not caught her. The energy beam had struck her squarely on the back of her left shoulder, instantly burning her clothes away along with the first layer of skin. At this point, she passed out from the pain; Perrin picked her up, moving the rest of the way into the dock yards where Alex and Benjamin had already dragged an equally unconscious Jonathon halfway towards the airlock of their ship. Sierra came in just behind Perrin and slammed the door shut just as four more energy bolts slammed into the door. After locking the door, she turned and began running toward the airlock for the Ever Victorious. Four men dressed in the black of the White Falcons and carrying sabre rifles had taken up position around the airlock with their rifles pointed at the entrance in order to cover the medical personnel carrying Jonathon and Alicia away on stretchers while other medical personal were leading Perrin, Benjamin, and Alex away to the medical bay for a check-up. When Sierra was about ten feet from the safety of the ship’s airlock, all four White Falcon guardsmen suddenly opened fire, and she could hear the screams behind her as men were hit by sabre rounds.
Resisting the urge to stop and watch the unfolding firefight, she crossed behind the defensive line set up by the guardsmen and ducked into the safety of the airlock heading into the ship itself. As she ran down the airlock corridor, she could hear the sound of heavy boots behind her as the White Falcon guardsmen moved back into the airlock and detached it from the hangar gantry. As the external airlock doors slammed shut, she could hear the sound of energy bolts slamming into the exterior walls, but as these walls were designed to withstand the rigors of deep space there was no danger of them even coming close to penetrating the walls. The airlock was fully retracted and the internal doors opened up, allowing Sierra and the four guardsmen to enter the ship; which was now detached from the hangar holding arms and heading back into space to escape and continue toward Portus.
As the ship pulled out of the hangar bay and shot back into deep space, two men dressed in red stood on the hangar deck watching it. One of them was at least six feet tall and carried an X-4 Energy Rifle like he knew how to use it. The other one was closer to five-and-a-half feet in height, had a curved energy sword at his side, and carried an obvious air of authority about him. The taller one suddenly spoke up. “That is the second time they have escaped us now! And we are down more men with five dead and three or four more wounded! We have to catch them!” The smaller man simply smiled and gave a low chuckle that sounded as pleasant as nails on a chalkboard. He responded, “It does not matter. We now know the spy is real and on their way to Portus and the heart of the White Falcons. As for the men, well, they can be easily replaced. There is always a ready supply of willing bodies for the Master’s cause.” At that the taller man grunted, and they both turned around, stepping over the bodies of their fallen men, walked back the way they had come.
Reaching the market place main concourse, the smaller man walked over to another man in red robes who was getting his hand bandaged. Reaching him, he said, “Prelate, you had twelve men and four kirats and yet somehow six children were able to escape your grasp.”
The Prelate swallowed dryly, knowing where this was going, and responded, “We had them until that Keenerite showed up. I was never told one of those winged freaks was in the company. Had I known I could have prepared for him as well.”
He was suddenly cut off as the commander placed his now-activated energy sword against his throat, saying in a low voice filled with menace, “I am not interested in your excuses, and the Master demands results that advance his cause. There is only one penalty for gross failure like yours.” And with that he slashed his blade forward, half severing the unfortunate Prelate’s head. As the Prelate collapsed, bleeding to death, the smaller man walked off and motioned to his aide, saying, “Kill what remains of his command including the kirats. Perhaps their death will encourage the rest of the men to do better next time.”
His aide responded, “It shall be done, Commander,” and with that he motioned to several of his men and issued orders. The remaining men of the unfortunate Prelate’s command were cut down wherever they stood or ran, and the self-destruction device inside the kirats’ heads were activated, causing several small pops as their heads exploded .
Back on the Ever Victorious, Alex, Sierra, Benjamin, and Perrin had been released from the med bay and were back in the lounge area of their quarters. Three of them were sitting on the couches drinking an energy health drink given to them by the doctor while Perrin stood nearby munching on a gorat root to restore his kryotin levels. Benjamin suddenly spoke up, saying, “Ok, will someone please tell me what just happened? I mean, I thought I was joining an Order of monks, not a full-fledged army fighting a bunch of nut jobs in red bathrobes.” Sierra and Alex just looked at each other and mutually nodding,
Alex began speaking. “We were told not to repeat any of this, but the same group attacked us on Calos II, with the same result as today; including the surprising proficiency with weapons that these monks seem to have.”
At that point Sierra spoke up. “What surprised me the most was that they were equipped with Sabre rifles. Those rifles are only produced within the Terran Empire and usually only issued to certain elite combat regiments.”
The other three looked at her with confusion. Perrin spoke first, asking, “How do you know that?”
Looking at the faces of her three companions, she shrugged her shoulders, saying, “I am the daughter of a major nobleman; it was part of my schooling. Military training isn’t just reserved for boys anymore, you know.”
At that Benjamin shrugged his shoulders and turning to Alex asked, “Why did you wrap up Jonathon’s eyes like that? They weren’t hurt or damaged or anything.”
Alex looked at him and said, “Jonathon has Kieran’s syndrome, and any prolonged exposure to anything brighter than a darkspace sun with sunglasses on would destroy his sight forever.”
To that Benjamin just responded, “Oh.”
At that moment, Brother Hy’so walked into the lounge and, walking up to the four soon-to-be novices, said, “I have both good news and bad news. The bad news is that Alicia is dead. The shock was more than her system could handle. However, Jonathon will be fully recovered before we reach Portus. His eyes are just fine, thanks to your quick thinking.” The four of them just sat there in a mixture of shock and relief, although none of them, including Benjamin, had known Alicia for a long time. But it still hurt for some reason.
Alex thought to himself that it could have been any of them. She had just been in the wrong place at that moment. Then he thought to himself, ‘I joined the Order to avoid combat and danger. What is up with all the fighting and killing?’
Alex was scared and more than a little angry. Looking at Brother Hy’so, he snapped out in a voice that was both angry and scared, “What on Calos is going on??? This is the second time we have been assaulted in less than a week! Now Jonathon is in the medbay after being beaten badly, and Alicia is dead!!!”
Hy’so looked at him, somewhat shocked, and said, “What do you mean, the second time?”
Sierra just snorted at that and said, “I know we were told not to mention it; but, are you seriously saying Father Sevas told you nothing about when we were attacked on Calos II?”
Brother Hy’so looked at the two of them very seriously and said, “You must tell me everything now!” What followed then was a two-hour account of everything that occurred from when Alex was picked up until the time they arrived at the dockyards on Calos II. When the two of them were finished, Benjamin and Perrin just stared at the two of them somewhat open-mouthed, and Hy’so told them that he was going to relate this whole account to his superiors and that for their own safety, they should remain in their living quarters.