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Star Twins Complete.
From the far depths of the Milky Way galaxy the long thin super laser beam carrying the signal, suddenly, yet silently, flashed out. Travelling at an enormous speed, far in excess of the speed of light known to most beings, the strong ray bypassed billions of stars, some with their orbiting planets, until it finally it reached its pre-determined destination, the planet Earth. Almost instantly, relative to the time taken for the long journey, the signal flashed down through the surrounding atmosphere until it suddenly terminated at the target. For a brief instant it transferred the vital thought message it had been carrying. Then the beam, its task completed, suddenly switched off.
Zara stirred briefly and turned over in her bed. Almost irritably, her hands reached out and tugged the covers towards her chin. Subconsciously her brain had absorbed the complicated transferred information. Then she drifted back to the former calm level of deep sleep.
‘The task is completed.’
The other five elders of the planet Tema who were present at the meeting turned their heads to look with dark, almond shaped eyes, at the originator of the thoughts.
He continued, his mind transmitting clear thoughts instantly to the others. ‘We can do nothing else now but wait for the events to unfold.’
‘What about the boy?’ thought Kera in reply, who one of the other five members present.
‘He has been contacted also.’ the originator replied. ‘The warning has been sent,’
‘Is there anything else we can possibly do?’ asked Zon, who was another member of the group.
‘Nothing’ replied the originator. ‘They are our only hope now. They alone may have the power to halt the spread of the Cryton’s. We must hope that they use any power they possess wisely otherwise all is lost and the Third Federation is doomed. Already the Cryton’s have taken over half of the Federation. Their forces are swarming everywhere.’
‘Why is the Earthling so special?’ Kera asked.
‘She is the one factor that is unknown to the Cryton’s. She is random and unpredictable. The Cryton’s do not know about her and have therefore not taken her possible actions into account.’
‘Do they know about the boy?’ thought Zon.
‘The Wanderer? They know of him and his kind but they know nothing of his robots or of the specialised technology that he has developed. That is why the Cryton’s have dismissed him as irrelevant to their plans. A small mistake overall perhaps but an important one. The main strength of our plan however lies in his future union with the Earthling. From that union the boy and girl will possess a further weapon that may prove to be devastating for the Cryton’s. That is why they have been chosen.’ Replied the originator.
‘Does he know that she will return with him?’ thought Kera.
‘No.’ replied the originator. ‘He thinks that he is just to meet with her and that she has some important information for him. We have made arrangements so that the situation changes in our favour.’
Kera interrupted their thoughts. ‘The planet Deva has just been taken by the Cryton’s.’
The group of Elders looked down at the large display screen below them.
‘We must finish this discussion.’ Thought the originator. ‘We need divert all our attention now to assisting in defending those Federation planets that are still free.’
The small but sleek silver spaceship, called the ‘Persuer’, drifted slowly and silently in orbit around the planet Huron. Inside the main control room the low level lighting was on but all was quiet.
Abruptly the large control screen switched on. A colourful dancing array of lights appeared. The control voice spoke. The lights danced up and down in unison with the speech sound waves.
‘Wake up Zebbidy!’
Zebbidy the robot, who was laid on his back on his bunk, opened one bleary right eye and peered up sleepily at the screen.
‘I don’t want to wake up Taw ’ he replied. ‘I’m tired.’ He closed his right eye and emitting a small groan became silent again.
‘Early morning call Zebbidy.’ Insisted Taw.
Zebbidy opened both eyes this time, screwed up his small metal nose, and peered up at the screen again.
‘Early morning call? What’s an early morning call?’ He demanded indignantly.
‘An early morning call is used sometimes by the inhabitants of the planet Earth to wake them up before their normal sleep period has expired.’ Replied Taw.
Zebbidy looked puzzled for a minute, whilst he computed.
‘Well that’s stupid.’ He retorted grumpily ‘It doesn’t make sense. Why send them to sleep for a set period and then wake them up early?’
‘Because they may have a task that has to be done before their normal sleep period has ended.’ Said Taw.
‘Well that doesn’t apply to me, I’m not human.’ Growled Zebbidy irritably. ‘I’m going back to sleep.’
His eyes began to droop again.
‘Oh yes it does.’ Said Taw. ‘You’re undergoing training to act like a human.’
Zebbidy groaned even louder, opened his eyes wide and sat up on the edge of his bunk. He rubbed his metal eyes with the claws on the end of his arms.
‘Why don’t you leave me alone?’ he asked, peering at the screen. ‘I’m sure you do it deliberately. You are always winding me up.’
‘’You do not need winding up.’ Replied Taw. ‘You are powered by a high rated, long life, fusion micro generator.’
‘Oh very funny.’ Retorted Zebbidy sarcastically, shaking his head. ‘You know very well what I mean.’
‘Well, now you are awake, you need to get on with your task.’ Said Taw.
Zebbidy sighed and wearily struggled to his feet. A square bodied, square headed, all metal robot, He was only about three feet tall.
‘Oh very well. I give in.’ he said resignedly. ‘What am I supposed to be doing then?’
‘The manual nuclear generator maintenance has had to be rescheduled and brought forward. It would appear that we have to undergo an unexpected journey. I must now wake Kran and await instructions’
‘But I’m hungry and haven’t had my breakfast yet.’ Zebbidy protested.
‘You must recharge later.’ Taw replied. ‘The conversation is now terminated.’
At that point the screen pattern changed.
‘Oh great!’ muttered Zebbidy, his eyes rolling around in frustration. ‘I wish I had never been born!’ He toddled off across the control room and out towards the maintenance section. The door slid open and he disappeared outside.
In the rest area Kran, a dark haired boy, was awoken by the gentle but persistent tone of the call. He rolled over in his berth and opened his eyes. It took him a moment to focus on the slave monitor. He looked at the time indicator and noticed it was early.
‘Oh, Hi Taw.’ he said. ‘What’s the problem?’
‘My apologies for waking you early.’ Said Tor pleasantly. ‘But I have received a strange incoming signal. It appears to stem from the planet Tema, which is located in the star system Vila. It has been categorised as an emergency signal and thus it became necessary to inform you.’
Kran yawned and sat up. He thought for a brief moment and stared blankly across at the cabin wall.
‘Vila. That’s the forbidden zone.’ He said. ‘No one has ever entered that area due to the high radiation defence shield around the whole star system. The inhabitants are unknown. They are believed to be a highly sophisticated advanced race. They have deliberately cut themselves off from the rest of the galaxy. It is said to be the home of the Gods.’
He looked up at the slave monitor.
‘Display the contents of the signal pleaseTaw.’
The changing coloured pattern on the screen faded and after a brief moment a gentle, warm gold coloured background replaced it. Then the following message appeared:
‘It has become necessary for us, the Elders of the planet Tema, after millenniums of years of self imposed isolation, to re-establish contact with the members of the Third Federation. This most unusual circumstance has been brought about by the dramatic rise of a civilisation known as the Cryton’s.
This race belongs to a star system called Nika. They have always been a ruthless race of beings. They now stand accused of disobeying all the Federation peace treaty rules. In secret they have been developing extremely advanced weapon based technology. Sadly, too late, the other members of the Third Federation have now discovered this.
The true intent of the Cryton’s has now also been revealed. Their purpose is to take over the whole of the Third Federation. In the past two months they have conquered over half of the star systems. Mistakenly the Third Federation members at first thought that they could contain and nullify the advance of the Cryton’s. However they were unprepared for the overwhelming superior hoards that suddenly appeared.
The situation is now very grave. We have been monitoring the events and have now decided to intervene.
We are an extremely well developed race. Our technology has also always been far in advance of that of any member of the Third Federation. In the past, unlike the Cryton’s, we therefore broke away from the Second Federation and isolated ourselves to prevent being tempted to overrule others. We have always tried to exist peacefully.
Our own rules forbid us to go to wage aggressive war. However we are allowed to defend ourselves. As we are aware that the Cryton’s are intent on violating our star system also, we have decided to assist the members of the Third Federation in their attempts to repel and defeat the Cryton’s.
We know that the Wanderers are not members of the Third Federation but we ask you to assist us in our efforts. This is in your own interests.
We therefore request that you, Kran, take the unprecedented step of meeting a certain Earthling who we have calculated may prove to be of great value and obtain vital information from her. She is known by the name of Zara. We therefore are providing you with contact details. Special permission has been provided by the Third Federation for you to enter the off limit areas.
We hope that you will cooperate with us. We wish you good speed.’
‘Whew!’ Kran sat back and stared in disbelief at the slave monitor. It seemed unbelievable what he had just read. On top of that permission had been given for him to enter the off limit areas. This permission had only ever been granted a few times to some higher-ranking leaders of The Third Federation for research purposes but never, ever, to a mere Wanderer like himself.
His thoughts flashed briefly to his origins. The Wanderers were the orphans of the galaxy. A relatively small band of them existed, most of who travelled independently of each other. They were of both sexes. Kran had several close friends who were female. He tended to keep away from the rest. Females could sometimes mean trouble to him. However, they all maintained loose contact. Like many of the other Wanderers his family had been killed when he was younger and he had set off independently having lost all his roots. Survival was a key factor in the galaxy and he had learnt to survive the hard way through bitter experience.
He found the information concerning the Cryton’s more than mildly disturbing. He suspected that they had been responsible for the death of his family. Further, in his travels around the various star systems he had only once come across a bunch of Cryton’s. He had had a short argument with them over some supplies, and having upset them by insisting on removing his fair share of those supplies, he had found that he had to depart in somewhat of a hurry. They were a mean and arrogant race of beings.
‘Taw.’ Kran commanded ‘Incorporate the contact details into the navigational system. Report on the serviceability of the ‘Persuer’ please.’
‘The ‘Persuer will be fully serviceable in a short while. I have taken the liberty of rescheduling the nuclear generator maintenance. It has been brought forward. Zebbidy has nearly completed the task.’ Replied Taw.
‘I expect that has put him into a good mood.’ He said.
‘The sound sensors indicate that he is still muttering to himself.’ Replied Taw.
Kran laughed this time.
‘I will be up and ready in ten minutes.’ Said Kran. ‘When Zebbidy has finished send him to the control room.’
Kran climbed out of his bunk and refreshed himself with a quick relaxing decontaminating ray shower. He swiftly dressed. By the time he entered the control room Zebbidy was already there.
‘Good morning Zebbidy.’ Kran cheerfully said, as he crossed over and sat in the main padded control position. ‘How are you this morning?’
Zebbidy was sat cross-legged on the deck in the centre of the room. He had his arms folded stubbornly almost in self-defence. The bottom lip of his metal mouth was pouted upwards. He deliberately avoided Kran’s enquiring gaze.
‘What’s good about the morning?’ he snapped. ‘It feels like the afternoon. I’ve been up half the night working.’
‘Incorrect. Only thirty minutes.’ Said Taw.
Zebbidy said nothing in reply. He just glared in defiance at the large control screen.
‘Never mind.’ Said Kran ‘its good training Zebbidy. Some humans apparently get up early quite often either for work or for pleasure. You will soon get used to it.’
Zebbidy looked sideways at Kran.
‘Why can’t I be a normal robot like the others?’ he asked grumpily. ‘They don’t get tired.’
‘If you were like the others you would have no feelings or be unable to make decisions for yourself. Think how lucky you are Zebbidy.’ Replied Kran. ‘Just keep on trying. You will improve in due course. Then you will be much happier.’
‘I’ll never be happy.’ Said Zebbidy. ‘I’ll be the only human robot around. I’ll never even have the chance to meet a real human. I’ll be all alone.’
He dropped his head and stared down at the deck. A trickle of oil ran down his cheek.
‘Well now, cheer up Zebbidy.’ Said Kran ‘I’ve got some good news for you. I’m taking you to meet one.’
Zebbidy’s head shot up. His bionic eyes fell out of his head and dangled on the end of springs. His metal mouth fell open. He rapidly retracted his eyes and stared up at Kran. He tried to recover his composure.
‘Tha - That’s not possible.’ He stuttered. ‘It’s not allowed!’
‘It is from today.’ Replied Kran cheerily. ‘Permission has been granted.’
‘But why?’ Zebbidy asked.
‘Never mind that now.’ Kran replied. He swivelled round in his chair and looked up at the control screen. ‘Taw.’ He commanded. ‘Power on. Set course 032. Speed setting 5. Collision shields up. Full Ignition - now.’
Instantly there was a humming noise that gradually increased to a loud whine. With a slight shudder the ‘Persuer’ began to move.
‘Take your seat Zebbidy.’ Said Kran. ‘Were off.’
Zebbidy scrabbled to his feet and scampered across to join Kran. He sat in the left control seat. He pushed a button and the automatic seat restraints closed round him.
Almost immediately afterwards there was a huge surge and the ‘Persuer’ shot forward out of orbit.
Far out in one of the spiral arms of the galaxy the main core of the Cryton fleet, twelve ‘K’ class battleships lay silently in a circle guarding the command star ship ‘Jyton.’ The ‘Jyton’ a huge circular star ship, the size of a large city, was dominating the surrounding guardian escorts. In the control cabin the Cryton fleet commander, Gron, sat at the command desk peering intently at the display screen.
The cabin door slid open and Krah appeared, a tall armour clad figure silhouetted in rays of harsh red light. Three Cryton guards carrying heat phasers flanked him. Two large luminous eyes glared from beneath his mask. He scanned around the control room and took in everything at a glance.
‘Situation report.’ Krah growled.
Gron sprang to his feet and turned to face the intruder.
‘All goes according to plan my lord.’ He replied ‘However the seventh fleet reports facing fierce resistance from the inhabitants of the planet Jur and advances have been temporarily halted.’
‘Then how can you state all is going to plan?’ Krah snarled.
‘The delay is only temporary my lord, we -.’
‘There should be no delay you fool,’ interrupted Krah. ‘Order renewed efforts.’
‘My lord we have lost twelve cruisers there already we -.’
Krah strode forward and crashed his steel gloved fist on the control desk.
‘I don’t care if we lose the whole fleet.’ He shouted. ‘They are all expendable. Send in reinforcements – now!’
‘Yes my lord.’ Gron replied. ‘I will order the -.’
He was interrupted by one of the operators.
‘My lord, we have picked up a faint signal which appears to emanate from somewhere in the star system Vila. It appears to be granting permission for one of the Wanderers to enter the off limit area.’
Krah spun round, his eyes glowing brighter. He glared at the operator.
‘Vila? You must be mistaken idiot. There has been no contact with Vila for millenniums.’
‘No my Lord the source of the signal is positively confirmed.’ Replied the operator nervously.
‘Ah! This is significant development. Tema has finally surfaced. They must be now concerned. They are fools. It is too late for them to become involved. However - the Off Limit Area? Why? For what purpose has the Federation granted this special permission to a mere Wanderer?’
‘We do not know the reason my lord.’ The operator replied.
‘Then find out idiot! Don’t just sit there! That is what you are here for. Find this menial Wanderer. Eliminate him.’
‘But it means entering the Off Limit area my lord.’ The operator protested weakly.
‘Do it!’ Krah thundered. ‘Do you think I care about the emerging planet civilisations? We will take them all. Everything will be ours in a short while. Keep me informed.’
He spun round, waved his hand at his guards to indicate that they should follow him, and strode off through the entrance.
Zara awoke. The sun steamed in through her bedroom curtains and she lay still for a moment basking in the warmth of its rays. Her long dark hair was spread out around her head on the pink pillow.
She laid thinking about the dream. In her dream she remembered clearly that she was down by the riverbank. It was a sunny morning just like today she thought. She had been sat down quietly reading her book. It was summer time and a glorious day. She could hear the soft buzz of the insects. The water sparkled in the light. She remembered watching a small fish swimming lazily past her in the river below. Up above light fluffy clouds slowly, very slowly, moved across the blue sky. She could smell the new fresh grass. She remembered putting her book down for a moment, and, crawling forward onto her knees, she had gently dangled her hand into the cool water. As she had pushed her fingers into the water the resulting ripples from the small vibration had spread outwards in circles. This had broken the calm surface of the water and the fish had disappeared. When the ripples had settled she had been suddenly startled to see the reflection of -
Suddenly her thoughts broke off. What was the reflection that she had seen? She couldn’t remember. She lay still for a few moments puzzling about it. Whatever it was it had not frightened her. Whatever she had seen had certainly been reasonably pleasing.
After puzzling for a few moments longer her thoughts were broken by the sounds from downstairs. Zara yawned, stretched her arms, and heaving the bedclothes back, she climbed out. She then popped her dressing gown on and went downstairs.
Zara’s mother, Mrs Patterson, was in the kitchen.
‘Hello young lady.’ She said brightly. ‘You’ve slept in this morning haven’t you?’
‘Late night mum.’ Replied Zara. ‘I was tired this morning but I’m fine now.’
‘Good. And what would you like for breakfast?’
‘Oh. Just some cornflakes please.’
Mrs Patterson busied herself at the table. She set out the required items.
They both sat down. Mrs Patterson cuddled her warm cup of tea. Zara set about her cornflakes.
‘You’re going round to Julie’s this morning aren’t you?’ asked Mrs Patterson.
Zara thought about this for a moment. She had a sudden irresistible urge for some fresh air. Then she had an idea. ‘No. I’ve changed my mind mum, I thought I would go down to the riverbank and sit and read quietly. It’s a lovely sunny morning.’
Mrs Patterson laughed.
‘You are funny Zara. You are so unpredictable. I never know what you are going to do next. Have you made any arrangements to meet Julie?’
‘Yes – but I’ll give her a ring and tell her I’ll meet her later this afternoon.’
‘Oh. Very well then.’ Replied Mrs Patterson. ‘But make sure you don’t forget will you?’
‘No. Fine mum.’ Mumbled Zara through her mouth of cornflakes.
Later that morning Zara set off towards the riverbank carrying her book. As they lived in a small village in the countryside the river was not far away. She walked through the village, across the village green, and out of the village onto the lane that led past Hobbs Farm. The lane was about half a mile long and it terminated at a large field where Mr Hobbs kept his cows. Across the other side of the field behind the hill lay the riverbank.
It was a sunny morning and she sat down by the river quietly reading her book. It was summer time and a glorious day. She could hear the soft buzz of the insects. The water sparkled in the light. She watched a small fish swimming lazily past her in the river below. Up above light fluffy clouds slowly, very slowly, moved across the blue sky. She could smell the new fresh grass. She put her book down for a moment and suddenly realised it was exactly as she remembered in her dream. Crawling forward onto her knees she gently dangled her hand into the cool water. As she pushed her fingers into the water the resulting ripples from the small vibration spread outwards in circles. This broke the calm surface of the water and the fish disappeared. When the ripples had settled she was suddenly startled to see the reflection of a dark haired boys head in the water. She stared at his face for a brief moment and her hand flew to her mouth as she suddenly realised that he was standing behind her. She realised that she was more startled than frightened.
‘Hi. I’m sorry.’ said the boy. ‘I did not mean to frighten you.’
Zara studied his face. He looked to be a kindly boy. In fact she thought that he had rather attractive features.
‘Oh – no - it’s all right. You just startled me that’s all.’
They stood and looked at each other for a brief moment in silence.
‘I’m sorry I don’t know you.’ Said Zara, smiling pleasantly at him. ‘What’s your name?’
‘Oh, forgive me.’ He replied. ‘My name is Kran.’
‘Kran. That’s an unusual name.’ She said. ‘I’m called Zara.’
‘Yes I know.’ Kran replied.
Zara was puzzled for a moment. She frowned at him.
‘How do you know my name?’ she asked. ‘Do you live somewhere near our village?’
Kran laughed pleasantly.
‘No I’m afraid I don’t.’ he replied. ‘I’m actually a Wanderer.’
‘Oh, you mean you’re a gypsy.’ Zara stated.
Kran smiled at Zara.
‘Well not exactly.’ He replied. ‘Although I suppose I am in a funny sort of way.’
‘Where have you come from today?’ queried Zara. ‘Have you come in a caravan?’
‘If I tell you then you will not believe me.’ Said Kran.
Zara laughed this time.
‘Oh, I don’t know. Go on. Try me.’
‘Alright.’ Said Kran ‘I will have to tell you anyway. Here goes. I come from up there.’
He pointed up to the sky.
Zara looked up at the sky and she laughed again.
‘All boys try to tell you that they are angels.’ She said.
Kran smiled at her.
‘I’m no angel.’ He said ‘But I am telling you the truth.’
‘You can pull my other leg as well.’ said Zara almost giggling. She began to like him. He had a good sense of humour.
‘OK.’ Replied Kran. ‘I am going to have to prove it. Look up towards the top of the hill.’
He gently steered her round by her shoulders to face the hill.
He whistled and pressed the button of the transponder in his pocket with a free hand.
Zara stared at the top of the hill. Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped wide open. Over the top of the hill rose a shiny silver ball. It must have been at least about fifteen foot in diameter. The ball slowly drifted towards them and settled silently down on the ground on the riverbank in front of them. She clutched out and grabbed Kran’s hand.
‘It’s Ok. Don’t be frightened.’ Kran said gently.
She clung on to his hand.
‘Wh – What is that?’ She managed to stutter out.
‘I did try to warn you.’ Said Kran. ‘Now don’t panic. It will not harm you.’
‘But what is it?’ she asked again, still staring at it with her wide eyes. Zara still clung onto his hand.
‘I suppose that you could call it my caravan.’ Said Kran smiling at her. ‘But actually it is a space transporter.’
Zara managed to tear her head away and looked widely around. Then she looked at him with her wide eyes.
‘Everyone will see this.’ She said. ‘What on Earth will they think?’
Kran laughed at her innocent pun. She realised what she had just said and felt a little bit more at ease.
‘No-one on Earth will see it.’ He replied. ‘It’s cloaked. Only you and I can see it.’
‘You mean it is invisible to everyone else?’ Zara asked. She began to relax more. She stared at the ball again. Suddenly she was conscious that she still had hold of his hand. She looked at him, blushed, and pulled her hand away in embarrassment.
He laughed again.
‘There you see you’re all right now.’
She stared at the ball again.
‘I thought that you were joking.’ She said.
‘No. I told you the truth.’ Replied Kran.
‘That’s cool. Real cool.’ She said and peered nervously at it.
‘Would you like to see inside it?’ Kran asked.
Zara felt unsure and looked at him. He sensed her anxiety.
‘You don’t have to get inside.’ He said. ‘In fact you are not allowed to do so. I am not allowed to remove anything from this planet.’
‘Planet? Oh you mean here. The Earth. Why not?’ She asked.
‘It would violate the rules.’
Zara stared at him. She shook her head to try to clear her muddled mind. She thought about it for a moment. She felt safe in his presence.
‘Ok. I’ll just peep at it’ She replied.
He gently took her hand again and the walked over towards the ball. He took the transponder out of his pocket.
‘What’s that?’ Asked Zara looking at it. ‘Is it a mobile phone?’
Kran grinned at her.
‘No.’ he replied. ‘It’s a control box for my transporter.’
‘Oh.’ she said staring hard at it.
‘Watch this.’ He said.
Kran pressed another button and to Zara’s surprise a portion of the metal on the ball suddenly slid aside to reveal a door shaped opening. She gripped his hand tightly.
‘It’s ok.’ Kran said to reassure her. ‘Look inside.’
Zara leaned forward and peered through the opening. Her eyes grew wide again. Inside she could see rows of flashing lights on some sort of screen. In front of the screen there seemed to be a desk with rows of squares on the top and more lights. Facing this were three padded black chairs. A soft light shone out over the area and she could hear a gentle humming noise.
‘Wow.’ She said in amazement. ‘I don’t believe this. I just don’t believe this.’
‘He gently pulled on her hand and turned her round to face him.
‘I need to ask you some questions.’ He said.
‘Questions?’ Zara said frowning at him. ‘What questions?’
‘I have been sent here to get some information from you. I am not sure what it is. Will you help me with some answers?’
‘Well I can try.’ Said Zara.
‘Then you must go home.’ Said Kran. ‘You must not tell anyone about meeting me.’
‘I don’t think they would believe me anyway.’ Said Zara with a nervous grin. ‘They would think that I was crackers.’
‘Right.’ Kran said ‘Now first of all did you know –‘
He was interrupted in mid sentence by a huge explosion. Zara screamed and ducked as a searing beam of light hit the outside of the metal ball just to the left of her head causing a huge shower of sparks. Kran immediately reacted. He whirled around and looked for the source of the beam. There on top of the hill stood a tall figure facing him. He stared at it his mind going into overdrive.
Cryton! It was a Cryton. How had they found him here? He whirled around and grabbed Zara’s other free hand.
‘Quick!’ he shouted. ‘Get in!’
Zara hesitated and stared at him.
‘But you said –‘she began.
She was interrupted by another blast of light that struck the outside of the ball just on the edge of the opening. She screamed again and without second thoughts scrambled inside. Kran followed immediately behind her. Taking one forward step he reached over the seats and jabbed at a square on the control panel with his finger. The door opening closed.
‘Never mind that now.’ He said. ‘We must leave immediately. Please sit down.’
Zara felt the ball rock slightly as another blast hit the outside. In total fear she scrambled into the left hand seat. Kran scrambled into the right hand seat and his fingers tapped furiously at the buttons. Zara felt clamps sliding round her body and she looked down.
‘Oh – No!’ she gasped.
‘Relax.’ Kran shouted. ‘Please relax and trust me.’
He looked at the screen and spoke urgently. ‘Taw. Emergency return. My speed setting is 9. My shields are up. Ignition.’
Suddenly she felt the ball move violently. She was pushed backwards in her seat and she gripped the arms and closed her eyes. The transporter zoomed off at an incredible speed.
After what seemed an eternity the pressure eased slightly and Zara opened her eyes.
The first thing she saw was the screen above her. She gaped at it in amazement. She could see the horizon of the Earth rapidly receding. As she watched she saw the Earth diminish into a large round ball. She could see the continents. Then the cloud cover appeared. Then the sky started to grow darker and the Earth rapidly became smaller.
With wide eyes she suddenly realised that she could see the stars. A pattern that was more beautiful than anything else she had ever seen in her life before slowly emerged before her eyes.
‘Oh – Oh my –‘she slowly breathed out, relaxing, and staring intently at the screen.
Zara suddenly realised what had happened. She gripped the arms of the seat hard and swivelled her head to look at Kran.
He looked up and grinned at her.
‘Sorry about that.’ He said. ‘I had no choice.’
‘Oh great!’ she managed to blurt out. ‘You – you promised that you –‘
‘I know.’ He interrupted gently ‘But as I said I had no choice. We would have died down there.’
Zara thought about it for a brief moment.
‘Who was that?’ She asked, frowning. ‘That thing that fired at us.’
‘That thing was a Cryton and he was in a real mean mood.’
‘Cryton? What’s a Cryton?’ She replied staring at him.
‘A Cryton is someone you try not to upset.’ Said Kran. ‘They are not very nice to know. He comes from the star system Nika.’
Zara put her hand to her head and closed her eyes.
‘Oh boy!’ she exclaimed. ‘I really don’t believe that this is happening to me.’
She dropped her hand onto her lap and shook her head slowly in amazement. Then she opened her eyes leaned back and pursing her lips blew air out.
‘Phew.’ She said. Then as an afterthought she said. ‘My mum and dad will go absolutely bananas about this.’
She looked at Kran again.
He looked puzzled.
‘Bananas? Those are Earth fruits. What are bananas to do with this?’ he asked.
She flapped her right hand weakly at him.
‘Never mind.’ She said resignedly and sighed.
She stared at the screen again.
‘Where are we going to?’ she asked weakly.
‘Were going back to the ‘Persuer’. Kran said.
The ‘Persuer?’ What’s that?’ Zara asked.
‘That’s my home if you like to call it that.’ Replied Kran. ‘It’s another spaceship only it is much bigger than this one.’
‘But I need to return home. ‘Protested Zara.
‘You cannot go back home at the moment.’ Kran said. ‘It is not safe. I promise that I will take you back as soon as possible though.’
‘Why did he shoot at us?’ asked Zara. ‘Anyway how could he see the transponder? You said no one else could.’
‘The Cryton was cloaked as well. We also became cloaked when we got within a short distance of the transponder. Therefore he was on the same level of visibility as us.’
‘Oh. I see.’ Replied Zara, not fully understanding.
Kran looked up at the screen.
‘Sit back.’ He said. ‘We’re nearly there.’
Zara looked at the screen.
Out in the area of space she could see a long bullet shaped silver spaceship. They grew nearer rapidly and the spaceship grew in size. Zara estimated that it was almost as long as a large bungalow.
‘Crumbs. It’s huge.’ She gasped. Her eyes widened again.
Within a minute they were almost alongside the craft. Kran touched several squares on the desk and they lit up.
‘Taw.’ Kran said. ‘Entry procedure please.’
Zara was startled to hear a strange voice that suddenly filled their cabin.
‘I have already taken the liberty to initiate this.’ The voice said. ‘Welcome back Kran.’
‘Thank you Taw.’ Replied Kran. ‘You learn very fast. Entering now.’
‘Who’s that?’ asked Zara.
‘Taw?’ he queried. ‘Taw is an old friend of mine. Taw is my guardian.’
‘Oh.’ said Zara ‘You mean he looks after you instead of your parents.’
‘Taw smiled. ‘Well I suppose that’s fairly accurate.’ He replied.
‘I didn’t know there were other people on your ship.’ Said Zara apprehensively.
He looked at her. He sensed that she was suddenly very afraid.
‘Oh. I’m sorry.’ he said. ‘Don’t worry. Taw is just a big computer. There is no one else on board. Oh - apart from Zebbidy.’
‘Zebbidy?’ Zara queried. ‘Who is he?’
‘Zebbidy? Oh he’s a robot. Now, as I said, don’t worry. You’ll like him. He’s a very special robot.’
‘Robot?’ Zara exclaimed ‘Oh boy. This is getting crazy.’
‘Hang on a minute.’ Said Kran.
They both looked at the screen. Suddenly a large hole appeared in the side of the space ship in front of them on the screen. It seemed to grow very large and envelope them. Suddenly there was a slight bump and Zara clutched at the arms on her seat.
‘There.’ Said Kran. ‘Home and dry.’
The humming noise ceased and Kran touched a few squares on the desk. Suddenly the seat straps slid back and Zara was free. The door of the transponder slid open and bright light streamed in.
Kran got up out of his seat. He held out his hand.
‘Come on Zara. In we go.’
Zara took his hand. It felt comforting and secure. She felt a bit sickly after all the excitement. However she rose and followed him.
They stepped out into a large bay. There was another ball of equal size standing silently next to the one they had just left. She gazed at it and spoke.
‘You have two.’
‘Yes.’ replied Kran. ‘A back up.’
He led her across the bay that was about fifty square feet in size and out through a door, which slid, opens. Facing them was a long corridor. They walked along this, and passing by a series of doors both on their right and left, they entered what appeared to be the control room. Zara stopped and gazed around. It was awe-inspiring. At the far end was a large control screen. It was much bigger than the one in the transporter. There were lots of coloured lights gently dancing over the surface. Beneath this was the huge control panel with many more coloured squares. There was a main padded control position seat with two other padded seats to the left of it. At the rear of the control room was a bunk. Over to the left was a small table, which seemed to be moulded into the floor. There were three seats placed around it. There were several consoles dotted around the room.
‘Please sit down Zara.’ Said Kran with a smile. ‘I will introduce you to my companions.’
Zara walked over and sat down on one of the chairs at the table. It felt very strange, as it seemed to mould to the shape of her body.
Kran looked up at the screen.
‘Taw.’ He said ‘This is Zara.’
Suddenly the lights on the screen changed and the voice she had heard in the transponder earlier spoke.
‘Greetings Earthling Zara. Welcome to the ‘Persuer. I am at your service.’
Zara gazed at the screen in wonderment.
‘Oh – Hello.’ she said nervously. She could think of nothing else to say.
‘Zara is still a little bit unsure of the situation Taw.’ Said Kran.
‘So I understand.’ Taw replied. ‘I have already part analysed the subject using her visual contacts, voice patterns and sensor points, when she was travelling here in the transponder. Earthling. Female. Aged fifteen years. Dark complexion type. IQ high level. Actions strangely unpredictable. Adaptable. Blood group ‘O’. The subject -.’
Kran interrupted Taw. The screen lights changed back to the previous patterns.
‘Fine Taw. Fine. Thank you. That will do. We don’t want to embarrass Zara.’
‘How does he know so much about me?’ Zara asked.
‘Oh forgive him please. Taw means no harm. He is programmed to analyse and learn.’
‘He picks up information from every known point. Then he computes analyses and processes the information. He then takes the appropriate actions.’
‘Wow.’ Replied Zara. ‘Unbelievable.’
‘Taw. Please ask Zebbidy to join us.’ Instructed Kran. ‘Further, please maintain a high level external watch in case we have undesirable visitors.’
The screen lights changed pattern.
‘Zebbidy? The robot. He can walk?’ queried Zara. Her eyes widening again.
‘Oh yes. Of course.’ Responded Kran. ‘Here. You can see for yourself.’
The door slid open but no one appeared. Then to Zara’s astonishment a pair of eyeballs on springs peeped around the corner. There was a strangled gasping cry from outside the door
Kran smiled. ‘Oh now, come on in Zebbidy. Don’t be silly. She won’t harm you.’
The eyes and springs disappeared and slowly, reluctantly, Zebbidy emerged into the full light. He was wearing a striped apron with oil stains all over the front.
He gazed at Zara with his metal mouth hanging open.
They stared at each other.
‘Oh – oh – it’s a she! - Wow!’ said Zebbidy in sheer astonishment.
Suddenly Zara completely relaxed for the first time since she had seen the silver transponder. She burst into laughter.
Zebbidy immediately started to back away in fright.
‘It’s ok Zebbidy.’ Said Kran grinning. ‘She won’t bite you.’
Zara stopped laughing.
‘Oh, he’s so cute.’ She exclaimed. ‘Why is he wearing an apron?’
‘Yes, why are you?’ asked Kran. Where did you get that thing from?’
‘I – I made it.’ Said Zebbidy, still gaping at Zara. ‘I made it from a pattern that I found in a video book. I thought that it would stop me getting all wet.’
‘Oh. Well done.’ Said Kran. ‘You are learning.’
‘Will she teach me things?’ asked Zebbidy.
Kran looked at Zara. She nodded back.
‘I’m sure Zara will.’ Replied Kran.
He turned to face Sarah.
‘I should explain about Zebbidy.’ He said. ‘I built him. He is the first prototype human inclined robot ever constructed. I built him as an experiment using Federation research material never realising that I would one day get permission to meet a real human. Perhaps at the same time I should explain the whole situation and why I think you are probably here.’
‘I’m listening.’ Replied Zara. ‘I just don’t still believe what I am seeing.’
Kran then went on to explain the whole story to Zara. He showed her the message on the screen.
‘What do we do now?’ Zara said.
At that point Taw interrupted the flow of conversation.
‘Kran. I am receiving indications that a Cryton battleship is rapidly approaching our orbit.’
Kran moved swiftly to the main control desk.
‘Position and distance please Taw.’ He asked.
‘The craft is approaching from the direction of the outer planet Zar. It is about four thousand miles away.’ Taw replied.
‘Estimated time of arrival?’ Kran requested
‘It will arrive here in twenty minutes Kran.’ Replied Taw.
‘Power on. Set course 046. Speed setting 7. Shields up. Stand by for ignition Taw.’ Commanded Kran.
He turned to face the Zara.
‘They have found us. We must try to evade them. Please take the left seat Zara. Zebbidy will sit on your right and show you how it functions.’
Kran moved rapidly across to the main control seat on the right facing the control desk.
Zara rose and walked across and squeezed into the left seat. Zebbidy scrabbled over and sat on her right.
Zara discovered that the seat was extremely comfortable again. It seemed strange sitting next to Zebbidy. She glanced down at him. He looked up at her at the same time and his metal mouth changed into a shy sort of grin.
‘You touch this to fasten yourself in Zara.’ He said he leaned forward and touched a yellow square. Zara felt her seat fasteners close round her.
‘Oh thank you Zebbidy.’ She said.
She was almost certain that his metal cheeks turned a little bit red. She smiled at him but decided to say nothing.
Kran looked up at the main screen. ‘Forward Vision Taw.’ He commanded.
The gentle pattern of dancing lights immediately disappeared to be replaced by a view of space. Zara looked up and saw the breathtaking view of stars.
‘Ignition Taw.’ Kran commanded.
At that point Zara felt only a very slight surge as the ‘Persuer’ moved forward. The screen pattern changed and some of the nearest stars began to slide by indicating that the ‘Persuer’ was moving.
Kran spoke again. ‘Taw, we will try to evade the Cryton ship by heading into the Vaka star system. Estimated time to reach destination please.’
‘We should reach the Vaka star system in ten minutes.’ Replied Taw.
‘Position of Cryton ship now?’ Queried Kran.
‘The estimated arrival time of the Cryton ship is now sixteen minutes.’ Taw replied.
‘Increase speed to level 9 Taw.’ Replied Kran.
Kran looked at Zara.
‘It would appear that they are gaining on us.’ He said. ‘We may just be able to outrun them but it will be a close thing. Our best chance is to try to evade them using the Vaka star system.’
‘What is the Vaka star system?’ asked Zara.
‘The Vaka star system is a collection of closely packed stars. The stars, being closely packed together, tend to give off radiation waves that confuse tracking systems. The Cryton battleship will have great difficulty locating us in the system. It is difficult to navigate in amongst the stars but Taw should be able to handle that.’
Zara stared at him rather anxiously.
Kran noticed her worried look. He smiled reassuringly. ‘Don’t worry.’ He said. ‘No harm will come to you. We’ve lots of options left yet.’
At that point Zebbidy grinned up at her. ‘The worst that may happen is that we shall get a few circuits damaged and we will have to be repaired.’
Kran frowned at him. ‘Zebbidy. You are not thinking correctly about what you are saying.’
Zebbidy swivelled his head slightly and looked up at Kran in surprise.
‘Why. ‘He asked, frowning. ‘Zara has circuits hasn’t she?’
Kran laughed. ‘Yes.’ He said. ‘But they are a bit more delicate than yours and more complicated to repair.’
Zebbidy frowned again. ‘Hasn’t she got any fuses?’ He asked.
At that point Zara giggled. ‘I have got one.’ She replied. ‘And I shall blow it any minute now.’
Kran laughed. ‘There, you see Zebbidy, she is a bit like you I suppose and she also has your sense of humour.’
‘Oh –yes.’ Replied Zebbidy with a vacant look. He frowned and lapsed into thought trying desperately to compute the information that he had just received.
Kran became occupied for a few minutes feeding information into several computers.
Zara looked up at the screen again. She noticed that the star patterns had changed dramatically. The ‘Persuer’ now seemed to be heading rapidly towards a much denser pattern of stars that occupied the main central area of the screen.
Suddenly her thoughts were interrupted.
‘Entering fringe of Vaka star system now.’ Interrupted Taw.
Kran looked up from his work.
‘Thank you Taw.’ He replied. He looked at Zebbidy and Zara.
‘Hold tight.’ He said. ‘This could be a bit rough.’
At that point the ‘Persuer’ started to rock and vibrate.
Zara suddenly felt very uneasy and gripped the sides of her seat.
Suddenly Taw interrupted again.
‘The Cryton battleship has launched three class D star fighters.’ He stated.
‘Oh-Oh! Bad news.’ Piped up Zebbidy.
‘Course and estimated arrival time Taw?’ Snapped Kran, ignoring Zebbidy’s remarks.
‘Course 046. Estimated arrival time eleven minutes.’ Replied Taw.
‘Change course 110. Increase speed to level 10 Taw.’ Responded Kran.
The vibration increased and the ‘Persuer’ began to rock violently.
Zara stared at the screen with wide eyes. A scattered bunch of asteroids flew rapidly towards them and she ducked and screamed.
‘Evasion mode Taw.’ Snapped Kran.
The ‘Persuer rocked and twisted violently and erratically. There was a terrible scraping noise and the lights flickered.
‘Wow’ shouted Zebbidy, gripping the sides of his seat with his clawed hands, his eyes springing out on short stalks and staring at the screen. ‘Giant crunchy nuts!’
The battering continued for a few more minutes whilst they all hung on desperately then suddenly the rocking motion ceased, the asteroids were gone, and all became quiet. The scene on the main screen suddenly changed dramatically. Numerous large planets of various colours and sizes loomed into view.
‘Taw. Reduce speed to level 7. Change course to 096.’ Said Kran.
The ‘Persuer’ started to turn.
‘Where are we?’ asked Zara.
‘We have just passed through the asteroid belt.’ Kran said. ‘The planets that you can see are orbiting the various stars. We shall try to hide in orbit round one of them.’
Zebbidy retracted his eyes, blinked once, and stared at the screen.
‘Ooh! The colours are pretty aren’t they?’ He remarked, goggling with wide eyes at the screen.
Zara felt herself relax a little. She laughed.
‘I did not know you could see colours.’ She said, looking at Zebbidy.
Oh –yes.’ Remarked Kran. ‘His programming was quite complicated.’
He reached forward and pushed some buttons on a computer.
‘Damage reports please Taw.’ Said Kran.
‘We appear to have sustained only slight surface denting.’ replied Taw. ‘The shields seem to have mainly held. Otherwise all systems are functioning normally.’
‘Good.’ Kran stated. ‘Aim for an orbit around the blue planet Taw. Basic planet details please.’
‘Records show that the blue planet is labelled as x36b.’ Replied Taw. ‘It is 70% water covered. It has seven main continents. Primary scans show that it appears to be a primitive planet devoid of life forms at present. There is much volcanic activity taking place on the surface. The planets atmosphere only possess only 50% oxygen’
Zebbidy, swivelled his head and looking at Zara. ‘That means fireworks.’ He said with a grin.
‘Yes and I’m rapidly loosing my enthusiasm for rockets at this precise moment.’ Replied Zara swiftly.
Kran grinned at her. ‘Don’t worry.’ He remarked. ‘I don’t intend to land there unless it becomes necessary.’
He turned to look up at the screen.
‘Estimated time to enter orbit Taw?’ Asked Kran.
‘Two minutes.’ Replied Taw.
‘Position of star fighters Taw?’ Requested Kran.
‘My scan indicates that one star fighter was possibly destroyed on their entry to the asteroid belt. The two that remain are still crossing the asteroid belt and they are ten minutes behind us.’ Replied Taw.
He turned his head to look at Zara.
‘With a bit of luck the sensors of the star fighters will experience considerable interference due to the radiations from the star system. Then it’s a game of hide and seek.’ He said.
‘Can you do what you did before?’ asked Zara.
‘What was that?’ he asked Zara.
‘Change to that cloaking thing.’ She replied.
‘I’m afraid that’s not much use.’ Replied Kran. ‘As you now know they can do that as well. It will only take them a very short while to figure that out.’
‘Entering orbit’ Interrupted Taw.
They all turned to look up at the screen.
The planet now seemed huge and dominated most of the screen. It looked nothing like the Earth to Zara.
She could see three large landmasses surrounded by deep blue/green oceans. They were mainly a brownish grey colour and she could see scattered plumes of what appeared to be smoke rising. There was a slight grey hazy mist covering the whole planet. It looked grim and forbidding. Slowly the planet seemed to rotate anti-clockwise as they slid into orbit.
‘Position relative to star fighters please Taw?’ requested Kran.
‘We are now hidden from line of sight.’ Replied Taw. ‘The star fighters have just emerged from the asteroid belt. They appear to have slowed down and my sensors indicate that they have begun a rotational search.’
‘Reduce speed to zero. Shut down all secondary systems. Remain in orbit at present height Taw.’ Said Kran.
Kran leaned back in his seat and relaxed. He ran his hands through his hair, eased his neck muscles, and blew out in a gesture of slight relief as he stared up thoughtfully at the screen.
‘Will they find us?’ asked Zara looking at him.
He looked back at her and gave her a rueful grin.
‘Well, we can keep moving to a new hiding place.’ Kran replied ‘but I suppose they will in the end. They are very persistent and skilful.’
Zara suddenly felt scared again and shivered slightly.
‘What will they do?’ She asked him.
‘They will make mince metal out of us.’ Interrupted Zebbidy ‘They –‘
‘Zebbidy!’ said Kran firmly, turning his head to look at him. ‘You are not helping matters. You will frighten Zara. Be quiet or I will switch you off in a minute.’
‘Don’t worry, please.’ Said Kran looking at Zara again. ‘We can probably outrun them. Our top speed is slightly superior to theirs. Taw also has very quick reactions and he is excellent when it comes to a fight.’
Zebbidy sat back in his seat, pursed his bottom lip up and casting down his eyes switched into his ‘hurt’ mode.
‘I was only computing the facts.’ He said. ‘I didn’t mean to upset Zara.’
Zara looked at the hurt expression on his face and felt very sorry for him. She leaned across and patted his left claw.
‘It’s alright Zebbidy.’ She said smiling gently at him. ‘I know that you did not mean any harm.’
Zebbidy looked at his hand, and then looked up at her and broke into a cheerful grin.
‘The star ships have picked up speed again and they are moving in our direction.’ Interrupted Taw.
‘Ah, so they have found us.’ Said Kran. ‘I guess it’s no good hiding. Their sensors are more sensitive than I thought. We shall have to make a run for it or stand and fight.’
He put his hands together and placing his fingers on his lips thought for a moment. Then he looked up at the screen and spoke.
‘Taw, stand by to emerge from orbit in a cloaked mode. Course 143. Speed 4. We shall try to surprise them. They are probably thinking that we shall run for it as they outnumber us. However attack and surprise is usually the best form of defence. By the time they have gathered their wits together we shall be upon them if we time it right.’
Zara felt herself stiffen in her seat.
Kran sensed her movement and looked at her. He smiled again.
‘It’s ok.’ He said reassuringly. ‘The odds are well within our favour. I’ve been in worse scraps before and survived. Just keep cool and remain calm.’
‘Oh boy!’ Said Zara, looking around desperately. ‘ I think it’s time I woke up from this nightmare.’
Zebbidy looked up at her. He frowned.
‘Are you asleep?’ He asked ‘I thought humans went to sleep with their eyes closed.’
‘I wish I was.’ Replied Zara. ‘Then I could wake up and be back at home.’
Taw interrupted the conversation.
‘The star fighters are three minutes from entry to our orbit.’
Kran looked up at the screen.
‘Hold one minute more Taw.’ He replied.
Kran looked at Zara.
‘Zara, listen carefully. I haven’t much time to explain. I need to concentrate with Taw on controlling the manoeuvres of the ‘Persuer’. Whilst I do this Zebbidy will control the firing sequence. This gives us maximum fighting ability. I want you to watch Zebbidy’s movements closely and observe which of the controls he uses. In front of you on your control desk there is an identical set of controls to those Zebbidy will use. It will help greatly if you can use your own.’
Zara stared at him in total disbelief. Her mouth dropped open. For a moment she was completely and utterly speechless.
Zebbidy scrabbled into an upright position. He looked up at Zara with a bright cheeky grin. His chest puffed out.
‘Wow!’ He exclaimed. ‘Now I’m a pupil teacher.’
By now Zara was beginning to recover part of her composure. She was about to stutter out her reply when Taw again interrupted.
‘Emerging from orbit. Cloaking now.’
They all looked up at the screen. The ‘Persuer’ shuddered for several seconds and began to move. Slowly they slid out from behind the planet. At once Zara spotted the two star fighters. They seemed to her eyes to be about one hundred meters away and approaching directly towards the ‘Persuer’. They looked very sleek and menacing. She just had time to notice that they were bat like in shape, and then everything seemed to happen at once.
To Zara, it was like a dream but all in slow motion.
She saw Zebbidy reach forward with his right-clawed hand and grasp a control stick in front of him. He pushed a green coloured square on his control panel with his left hand. In front of him on the screen, as if by magic, a transparent double circular sight appeared. Zebbidy swung his stick to the right and slightly forward until the sight centred on the left star fighter. He pushed a black button on the front of his control stick in, and a bright yellow, narrow, laser beam, shot out from the ‘Persuer’ and slashed into the star fighter and a shower of sparks emitted from it. As though from a distance she heard Zebbidy yell out ‘Bingo!’
At that point both star fighters seemed to also shudder for several seconds as they went into cloaked mode. The target star fighter that Zebbidy had fired at suddenly peeled off to the left. Moments later the second star fighter peeled off to the right.
From that point on with Kran in control a series of desperate manoeuvres began. The ‘Persuer’ also peeled off to the left following the first star fighter. The star fighter swung desperately right and left and up and down at various angles, in an attempt to escape with the ‘Persuer’ hot on its heels. Zara felt herself thrown about in her seat and hung on like grim death. She could hear Zebbidy shouting in exhilaration as he fired his laser beam again and again. Some of his hits registered and some did not. The star fighter was obviously in trouble as it wobbled violently after the successful hits. Suddenly there was a dreadful explosion and the lights in the ‘Persuer’ flickered violently on and off. This was almost immediately followed by another explosion and yet another. Both of these explosions were followed by a shower of sparks, which landed across all three of them like those from a giant sparkler. There was a burning smell. Zara, her ears ringing, dimly saw Kran wrestling with his controls and faintly heard him snapping out fast instructions to Taw. The ‘Persuer’ swung away from the chase and then violently backwards and forwards through space in various directions. Zara glanced at Zebbidy and was horrified to see that he appeared to have a damaged left arm. It seemed to be hanging at an awkward angle.
Then both star fighters suddenly appeared on the screen in front of them. They were heading directly towards them and firing blindly. The ‘Persuer’ again rocked violently and there was a large explosion followed by another larger shower of sparks.
At that point something seemed to snap in Zara’s mind. Whether it was self-preservation or the thought of Zebbidy being hurt it was the last straw. She became furiously angry. She found herself reaching forward and grasping her control stick and pushing the appropriate green button. Again she dimly heard Zebbidy shouting. He did not seem to be worried about his damaged left arm. He carried on firing and shouting at his star fighter. Suddenly her double circular sight appeared as well. She rapidly centred it on the second star fighter and began to fire furiously in pure hatred.
The ‘Persuer’ was rocked by two more violent explosions and suddenly, when all seemed hopeless; Zebbidy’s star ship blew apart with a massive flash. Miraculously, to Zara’s intense surprise, her prey almost immediately followed the fate of Zebbidy’s and disappeared with an almost identical flash from the screen.
Suddenly all went quiet. The stars that had seemed to be gyrating around suddenly settled down and became still. The blue planet appeared on the top left of the screen only this time it was further away and much smaller.
All three of them slumped back into their seats exhausted. Zara’s ears were still ringing slightly.
Kran lay back in his seat and blowing out with relief stared vacantly at the screen. Then he turned to look at Zara and smiled broadly. He then looked back up at the screen.
‘Well done Taw. Damage report please’
‘We have sustained level 3 damage Kran. The inner port skin is slightly buckled in the region of the main generator compartment. Some secondary circuits have blown and will need slight repair and refusing. One primary circuit has blown. Apart from the damage to the inner port skin, all systems will be restored in twenty minutes time and will then function normally. The inner port skin will need some manual repair and the repairs will take approximately 3 hours to complete, Compared to the possible complete destruction that could have taken place the total damage is thus relatively minor.’
At that point Zebbidy suddenly scrabbled into a bolt upright position and glared at the main screen.
‘Oh charming!’ He exploded, the corners of his mouth sourly turning down. ‘What about me? I’ve got a broken arm and my heart computer is behaving erratically, I’m possibly dying.’
‘Incorrect.’ Replied Taw. ‘My sensors indicate that your left arm is merely dislocated and causing you no pain whatsoever. Contrary to your belief, you are not dying. In fact my sensors also indicate that you are in perfect health. Your temporary higher pulse rate is the result of exhilarating excitement.’
Zebbidy glared back at the main screen and then he slumped back into his seat, switching back into his ‘hurt’ mode.
At that point Zara suddenly felt overcome with intense relief. In fact she became slightly hysterical and burst in laughter. Then she suddenly realised the awful truth that she had just killed someone and felt like bursting into tears.
Kran looked across at her, noticed the tears starting to well up in her eyes, and smiled gently.
‘I know how you feel Zara.’ He said reassuringly. ‘Try not to think about it. You did what was best and what you felt was right in your mind. The Cryton you destroyed was evil. If you had not destroyed him he would have destroyed you and gone on to help destroy your galaxy, including the Earth. We must go on in life doing what we think is right to try to overcome evil. You were very brave and I’m beginning to realise why I need you here.‘
More tears welled up in Zara’s eyes. She wanted to rush across and hug him. She felt he was so kind to her but she restrained herself. She just stared at him and whispered ‘Thank you.’
Kran felt that did not want to embarrass her any more. He looked up at the main screen.
‘Taw. I need a short pause to repair Zebbidy’s arm. Please inform me if any further intrusions take place. Then we must shortly move from this position.’
Zara felt uneasy again.
‘Will they send more star fighters after us?’ She asked Kran.
Kran shook his head.
‘I think that it’s unlikely at the moment Zara.’ He replied. ‘The Cryton battleship is probably thinking that they have temporarily lost communication with the star fighters due to interference from the Vaka stars radiation waves. They will wait for a short while hoping to re-establish communication. However soon they will begin to suspect something is wrong. We must act swiftly and find an alternative method to escape from them. I will try to plan whilst I repair Zebbidy. Please try to relax and rest for a moment.’
Kran then unlocked his seat restraints and stood up.
‘Come Zebbidy.’ He said. ‘We need to go to the workshop area.’
Zebbidy sat up and unlocked his seat restraints with his right hand.
‘Ah, about time!’ He exclaimed, beaming sarcastically at the screen, ‘First aid for the wounded at last.’
Taw ignored the remark and remained silent
The rear door to the control room slid open and Kran strode out with Zebbidy toddling after him clutching his dislocated arm with his right hand.
Suddenly, for the first time Zara was alone in the control room. She sat gazing up at the stars for several minutes and at the blue planet, which was slowly revolving. Her mind quickly ranged back over the events that had taken place in the past few hours. She slowly shook her head in bewilderment. For quite a while she thought about home. She wished that she were back sitting by the river in the warm sunshine reading her book. Then her mind jolted back to the harsh reality of the current situation. How could they escape? The Cryton battleship was lying in wait just outside the Vaka star system. Waiting to swoop on its prey.
Suddenly a question flashed into her mind. At that moment the control room door slid open and Zebbidy toddled in, beaming all over his face, followed by Kran.
‘I’m back Zara.’ He said brightly looking at her. Then he glared up at the screen and said ‘I suppose you thought Taw, that I would ask for sick leave.’
‘My computers calculated that you did not qualify for a rest period Zebbidy, hence I did not consider that question.’ Replied Taw.
Zebbidy glared back in defiance, mumbled under his breath, toddled across to his seat, and sat down.
Kran walked across and looked at Zara. He smiled.
‘There he’s fine now and it is obvious from his behaviour that he is back to normal. How are you feeling Zara?’
Zara smiled back at Kran.
‘Much better thank you. Can I tell you something before we move off?’
‘Certainly.’ Said Kran sitting down in his seat and fastening his restraints. ‘What’s on your mind?’
‘Well.’ said Zara. ‘I’ve been thinking. You know that cloaking thing that you do?’
‘Yes.’ Replied Kran, frowning slightly at her.
‘Well you said that it was no good using it as the Cryton’s knew about it as well. I’ve been thinking, why can’t we go one more step ahead of them and double cloak. Then they would not be able to see us again and thus they would not know where we were.’
Kran stared at her in utter astonishment for a moment. Then he grinned.
‘You compute very well.’ He said. ‘Now I know why they trapped me into bringing you here.’
‘Who’s they?’ asked Zara in reply.
‘The Elders of the planet Tema.’ Replied Kran. ‘I realised something was wrong when that Cryton turned up whilst we were on Earth. You see the Elders use very advanced communication methods, which the Cryton’s do not know about yet. Therefore I figured out that the Elders must have told the Cryton’s I was travelling to pick you up. The questions that they sent me to ask you were irrelevant. They wanted you to come here with me for some reason. Now I know what that reason was. You are something very special.’
Zara blushed slightly, not fully understanding.
Kran sensed what she was thinking and hastily said ‘What I mean is you are intelligent and yet very unpredictable.’
‘Pardon?’ Zara queried. ‘I don’t fully understand you.’
‘Well what I really mean to say.’ Kran replied ‘is that the Cryton’s have not taken your intelligence and your unpredictability into consideration with their battle plans.’
‘In other words.’ Piped up Zebbidy. ‘You are a random unknown factor just like me.’
‘Oh.’ she said, staring at Zebbidy.
Kran grinned at Zebbidy.
‘Very clever Zebbidy. He chuckled. ‘You will make the grade yet.’
Kran turned to look up at the screen.
‘Taw.’ He asked ‘what is the possibility of double cloaking? Can it be performed and if so is it safe to carry out this operation?’
‘One moment please.’ Replied Taw. ‘This computation will take up all my memory resources.’
There was a short pause before Taw spoke again.
‘My computers estimate that is theoretically possible to perform this operation but the manoeuvre is highly dangerous. It has never been achieved before by anyone and to attempt it will consume a great deal of our available power resources. I am also unsure of the effect it may have on the human body.’
Kran thought for a moment in silence.
Then he looked at Zara.
‘The situation appears to be this. We must leave here or the Cryton battleship will eventually send in more star fighters to locate us. They can obviously locate us even if we hide. Our only chance of escape appears to be that we must leave the Vaka star system as soon as possible. Unfortunately as you know the Cryton battleship lies just outside the star system waiting in case we emerge. If we then try to fight, the battleship with the help of its star fighters will overwhelm us. We could try to make a run for it but it is rather like a game of chess. We will be the only pawn left on the board and we will eventually find ourselves surrounded by many other Cryton pieces. We cannot win. Therefore it would appear that we are probably best to take a gamble and try to double cloak. Would you be willing to take that chance Zara?’
Zara thought about the choice. It would appear that she could possibly be hurt during the attempt to double cloak. However, the alternative was that she would almost certainly die out here in space if they remained where they were. She looked at Kran.
‘Yes.’ She replied, looking steadily into his eyes. ‘I’m willing.’
‘Good.’ Replied Kran. ‘I’m sure that Taw will do his best to look after us.’ He turned to look up at the screen.
‘Taw.’ He said. ‘Course 192. Speed level 8. Keep shields up. Proceed to the edge of the asteroid belt and return through it. As we emerge take the necessary steps to perform a double cloak operation and inform me just before you take that action.’
The ‘Persuer began to move towards the asteroid belt.
’Estimated time to re-entry point, please Taw?’ Asked Kran.
‘The estimated time is nine minutes.’ Taw replied.
They all settled back into their seats and stared at the screen. For a short while Kran kept busy altering some computer settings, Zebbidy seemed to purse his lips and began quietly humming to himself whilst his eyes flicked about studying objects. He was obviously bored. Once when he seemed to think nobody was looking he screwed his nose up in disgust at the main screen. Zara happened to look at him at that precise moment and could not help smiling. He really was like a mischievous monkey at times or perhaps a naughty spoilt child. She felt a little tired after all the excitement and tried to relax for a moment. Just as she felt that she might be dozing off she was abruptly awakened by Taw’s mechanical voice.
‘One minute to re-entry into the asteroid belt.’ stated Taw.
Kran looked up.
‘Thank you Taw.’ He said. He looked at Zara.
‘This will be the same as before Zara.’ He said ‘A bit rough. So hold on tightly.’ He smiled at her and for the first time she studied his eyes. They were a gentle brown colour and they seemed to twinkle at her. She wondered what thoughts lay behind them.
The ‘Persuer started to vibrate. The vibrations were gentle just for a few moments but then the vibrations quickly increased and the rocking motion soon became violent.
They all hung on to the sides of their seats grimly.
Suddenly the asteroids started to appear. This time Zara knew what to expect and she had a little more time to study them more closely. They ranged from tiny fragments to huge boulders. They were uneven shapes and pitted and scarred. They rushed terrifyingly towards the screen at random, sometimes in groups, and the dreadful scraping noise began again. The internal lights in the ‘Persuer flickered on and off again. Zara could not help ducking but the asteroids fascinated her. Suddenly a huge dense shower of tiny fragments rushed at the ‘Persuer’ and scraped down the sides.
‘Oh yummy!!’ Shouted Zebbidy ‘Raisins as well!’ He seemed to have no fear of danger at all.
Despite her own feelings at that precise moment Zara could not help bursting into laughter. She wondered how Zebbidy managed to know anything about breakfast cereals and decided that he had been programmed to learn about the foods that some humans on Earth ate. Suddenly Taw spoke.
‘One minute from double cloaking.’
Kran looked across at Zara and he had to shout because of the scraping noises.
‘This may feel strange Zara. Don’t worry though I’m sure it will be fine.’
Zara felt suddenly very frightened. She wished now that she was sitting next to Kran and that Zebbidy was not between them at this moment.
‘Attempting double cloaking operation now.’ Said Taw.
Suddenly the internal lights dropped to the emergency low-level setting. To Zara everything seemed to be bathed in a low red light. Abruptly the screen went completely black. A shrill pulsing warning sound occurred. It was so loud she clapped her hands to her ears. She turned her head and saw Kran reaching for some controls on a computer. She suddenly felt very dizzy and faint and thought that she was going to be sick. Then almost immediately, to her utter dismay, the lights went out completely and they were all left in total darkness.
In sheer blind panic and desperation Zara dropped her hands and reached out for anything to grab hold of. Her left hand grabbed the side of her seat and her right hand grabbed something cold and hard. To her horror it scrabbled and moved like a giant spider trying to escape. It turned out to be Zebbidy’s hand and they both screamed out loud in unison together.
Suddenly the internal lights came back on. Zara looking down at the ‘spider’ with horrified wide-open eyes saw she was clutching Zebbidy’s left hand. At the same time Zebbidy saw that he was clutching Zara’s hand. They looked at each other in embarrassment. She withdrew her hand quickly. Kran turned his head towards them; he stared wondering what had terrified them. They were all interrupted by the warning sound suddenly ceasing. They all looked up at the screen with wide eyes.
Immediately in front of them about 200 metres away lay the huge Cryton battleship. It hung like a grim dark vulture in space facing them. Dull purple lighting radiated from slot type windows.
Kran reacted almost immediately reaching out for his weapon controls and Zebbidy started to follow him but they paused as Taw interrupted.
‘Double cloaking appears to have been achieved.’ He said ‘The Cryton battleship is showing no reaction and my sensors indicate that the crew are unaware of our presence. However, we have lost a great deal of power and I have only managed to restore primary circuits. Again we have only sustained minor damage due to passing back through the asteroid belt. My sensors also indicate that you are all functioning fairly normally apart from minor high nervous tension. I am now awaiting instructions.’
Kran relaxed back and looked at Zara.
‘How are you feeling?’ he asked her. ‘I heard you scream, did something hurt you?’
Zara looked at him. ‘I’m sorry. No. I’m fine’ She replied. She glanced at Zebbidy and thinking quickly said ‘I knocked my hand that was all.’
‘I’m relieved that you are unharmed’ Kran replied. He smiled at her, and then he looked at Zebbidy.
‘I thought I heard you scream as well Zebbidy. Did you?’ He asked, frowning.
Zebbidy pushed his bottom lip out and gazed around generally with an innocent look on his face.
‘Me? No. Oh no, I was fine’ he said. ‘It must have been a minor circuit malfunction.’
He glanced slyly sideways at the screen expecting some response but Taw remained silent.
‘Fine.’ Said Kran. ‘I must admit I was a bit shaken. However if we are all feeling better we must now concentrate on the immediate situation.’
He turned to the screen. He looked at the Cryton battleship. All seemed quiet.
‘Taw.’ He said. ‘How long will it take to restore the secondary circuits?’
‘They should be back to normal in about twenty minutes.’ Replied Taw.
‘Have we enough power to move?’ Kran requested.
‘In this double cloaking role we seem to be only capable of moving slowly at a level of speed level 6.’ Replied Taw.
At this point Zebbidy interrupted.
‘Moving Kran?’ He queried. ‘Why don’t we destroy the Cryton battleship whilst we have a chance?’
‘If we do that then the main battleship group will know we have survived and escaped.’ Kran replied. ‘No, it is better if we sneak away quietly and leave them to wonder.’
He turned back to the screen.
‘Maintain shields up.’ He instructed Taw. ‘Course 286 Speed level 4.’
‘Where are we going?’ asked Zara. ‘
Kran grinned at Zara.
‘Were off to get some help.’ He said cheerily. ‘You are going to be introduced to some long standing friends of mine. I have an idea forming in my mind which may just work.’
The command star ship ‘Jyton’ still lay in its initial position. Eleven ‘K’ class battleships surrounded it, one having been despatched several hours ago in the direction of the Vaka star system. Inside the operators were busy compiling reports of the success of the invasion of the Third federation.
Gron was quite pleased. The battle was going well. The planets were still being taken one by one. However he was somewhat disturbed about the report the battleship had just sent in. What should he do he wondered?
The door slid open and framed Krah in the harsh purple light that emitted from the compartment behind him. His three guards swiftly entered and flanking him they sprang to attention. Kran looked at them and grunted. Then he glared at the control area.
‘Latest situation.’ He demanded with a deep growl.
‘Gron quickly sprang to his feet and standing to attention faced him. Although he himself was tall, Krah towered over him and studied him closely. Krah’s large luminous eyes seemed to bore into his head. Gron felt highly nervous. Gron tried to appear confident as he spoke.
‘The situation has improved greatly, my lord. The battle for Jur is now over. We have overwhelmed them. We have taken many prisoners.’
‘Prisoners!’ thundered Krah. ‘Prisoners? I don’t want prisoners I want bodies. I’m not interested in survivors. Kill them all!’
‘But – but my lord –‘Gron protested. ‘We –‘
‘But what!’ thundered Krah? ‘But what?’ He repeated. ‘Tell me – now.’
‘But – faltered Gron, trying to pluck up courage. ‘We - We need prisoners to work as slaves in the mines and -.’
He went on hurriedly. ‘- We need some nobles left unharmed to administer the planets for you my lord, and to serve you in your best interests.’
‘Nobles? ‘Krah sneered. ‘They are not nobles. They are mainly idiots. However I agree. But make sure you keep the stronger ones and condition them to my will. Kill all the weaklings. I can’t abide idiots.’
‘Yes my lord.’ Replied Gron. ‘Of course my lord we will ensure that there is no opposition to your excellent ideas.’
‘Good.’ Krah seemed a bit calmer. However when he was calm Gron knew that Krah thought more sensibly, and then he became even more deadly. In a quiet mood Krah was like a cunning snake waiting to pounce.
Krah turned to leave. Then, as an afterthought he spun round and spoke again glaring at Gron.
‘What about the battleship I sent? Have they reported back yet? Have they eliminated that insignificant Wanderer, whatever his name is.’
Gron dreaded that Krah would ask that question. He hoped that Krah had forgotten about the matter. After all it was only a minor matter. Having convinced himself it was only incidental Gron decided to brave it out and to try to gloss over it.
‘Er – well my lord. We have just received a routine report from the battleship. They are not totally sure what the outcome is yet. They have lost contact temporarily with two star fighters they sent into the Vaka star system.’
‘Lost contact?’ queried Krah, scowling. ‘What do you mean – lost contact. Why? How?’
Gron gulped slightly.
‘Well there is considerable radiation interference in the Vaka star system, my lord.’ He said.
‘How long ago was this?’ Demanded Krah.
‘Several hours, my lord.’ Gron replied.
‘Several hours! Several hours! You fool. They should have found him and destroyed him in ten minutes. I know that star system and the capabilities of my star fighter pilots. They would have reported in by now. What you mean is the two star fighters are missing!’ Thundered Krah. ‘-And what about the Wanderer?’ ‘He appears to have temporarily vanished, my lord.’ Gron blurted out. He felt almost close to tears now.
‘Vanished!’ thundered Krah ‘Vanished! Then un-vanish him! Find him! Send in more star fighters. He must be in there somewhere. Have him destroyed by the battleship when he panics and tries to come out’
‘Yes, my lord.’ Gron replied. He was visibly shaking by now.
Krah turned again to leave. He looked back and surveyed the control area. He gritted his teeth. His eyes narrowed.
‘Idiots.’ He hissed. ‘Must I always be surrounded by idiots?’
He strode out with the guards following him and the door slid shut with a hiss.
The six Elders of the planet Tema were again meeting. The originator transmitted his thoughts to the other members present.
‘We are now at a crisis point. The Cryton’s has taken one of the key defence planets, the planet Jur. That is why I have convened this meeting to discuss the options that are left open to us.’
They all looked at him.
‘What are our options?’ asked Zon.’
‘We have two main options,’ Replied the originator. ‘The first is that we break our long held tradition and wage war on the Cryton’s This would undoubtedly bring about their defeat and save the Third Federation from destruction. The second is that we wait and see what the Wanderer and the Earthling named Zara can achieve.’
‘The first option is not sensible.’ Kera thought in reply. ‘If we break our own rules that we laid down so many millenniums ago and take part in aggressive war, we break our isolation from the Third Federation. I have no doubt that we could defeat the Cryton’s using our vastly superior technology. However, by ending our isolation, we open up the ideas of our technology to all other races. This then compounds the situation. More advanced weapons mean greater and more frequent wars.’
‘ Further to that.’ Thought Krata, one of the more senior Elders. ‘We would also then become rulers over other races. There is always resentment against those who rule. That is why we isolated ourselves from the Third Federation. We wish to remain living peacefully.’
‘What is the latest situation regarding the Wanderer and the Earthling Zara?’ Requested Kera.
‘All is going to plan.’ Stated the originator. ‘The union between them is proving to be extremely fruitful. Using their joint powers they have managed to escape from the Cryton’s.’
‘How have they managed to do that?’ Thought Zon.
‘Between them they invented an important weapon that even our technicians had not thought of. One of the Wanderers computers holds the secret of the development of this advanced technology.’ Replied the originator. ‘Let us trust that they use it wisely.’
All the Elders sat quietly.
‘We must now decide which of these options we take.’ Thought the originator.
There was a short pause whilst each Elder voted.
‘The decision has been taken.’ Thought the originator. ‘We wait for the Wanderer and the Earthling to act.
We shall now return to providing what assistance we can to the planets of the Third Federation that still remain free.’
Meanwhile, aboard the ‘Persuer’, Kran busied himself for a few moments. First he requested Taw to locate the position of the main Cryton command fleet. He was given a response within minutes. Then he sent out some urgent messages to all the other members of the relatively small band of Wanderers. He briefly explained to them the entire present situation that they were in, and the latest events that had taken place, and then he tried to arrange a general meeting with some of them in order to discuss his plans. Within a short time he began to get immediate responses from his contacts. They all showed deep concern over the progress of the Cryton invasion throughout the Third Federation. All of them, without exception, had been trying to conceal themselves in remote regions in order to try to evade the Cryton invasion fleets. Soon a meeting was arranged that would take place near to the planet Tarren. The planet Tarren was close to the area where the main core of the Cryton command fleet lay, guarding the command star ship ‘Jyton’.
Kran had deliberately chosen this place because he figured that it was the last place that the Cryton’s would seriously expect any intrusion to take place, being as they had most of the inhabitants of the Third Federation on the run and desperately trying to evade them. In any event it suited the plans that he had in mind. He reasoned that when fighting an enemy it was best to hit him where it would do the most damage.
He then turned to look at Zara.
‘I have made arrangements to meet some of my friends at a suitable place.’ He stated. ‘Several of them are able, as we are, to reach the area within the next few hours. The rest will remain in the remote regions awaiting instructions. My plan is dangerous, to say the least, but it may just succeed and if so it will seriously affect the Cryton’s actions that are at present taking place.’
Zara had been quietly observing the messages that Kran had sent out.
‘You have chosen a very dangerous place to meet your friends’ she said. ‘Won’t the Cryton’s spot us?’
‘Not immediately.’ Replied Kran. ‘We will use your double cloaking trick. I have instructed Taw to relay the technical details about it to all of the other Wanderers and they will make changes to their own space vehicles to incorporate it. That will confuse the Cryton’s for a while. However the Cryton’s are very clever so they may figure out what we have achieved after a few hours.’
‘What do you plan to do when we arrive there?’ asked Zara.
‘Well, we must strike fast whilst they are still unaware of our presence.’ Kran replied. ‘We must try to destroy the Cryton command ship. If we can remove that, hopefully utter confusion will break out amongst their ranks. They will be lost without a leader.’
‘Perhaps they have allowed for a loss of leader.’ Said Zara. ‘Won’t they appoint someone else to take over?’
Kran laughed. He looked at Zara, his eyes twinkling. ‘No Zara.’ He replied. ‘There is no fear of that. Their leader is a Lord called Krah. I can assure you they will flounder without him. From what I know about Krah he will not have appointed a successor. He has one great weakness. He thinks he is invincible.’
‘Have you ever met him?’ queried Zara.
‘No.’ Kran replied ‘I hope I never do so. Apparently from what I have heard he is a fearsome and ruthless individual. It is also said that he has a very short fuse and can erupt into a violent temper.’
‘Oh good. Then he would blow up.’ interrupted Zebbidy. ‘Then that would be the end of our problems.’
They both looked at him and laughed.
‘I’m afraid that it’s not as simple as that Zebbidy.’ Replied Kran. ‘However, he will not think as clearly when he is under stress and that’s what we must try to achieve for us to have any hope of defeating him.’
‘What plans do you have in mind?’ asked Zara.
‘I’ll tell you that after I have introduced you to my friends.’ Said Kran smiling at her. ‘Now, after all this excitement you must also be very tired and stressed. May I suggest that you take a break and rest for a short time? There are some guest cabins to the rear. You passed them on your way in. I will call you when we have arrived at the meeting point. Zebbidy will show you where to go.’
Suddenly Zara herself realised that she was rather exhausted. She nodded at Kran and then looked at Zebbidy.
‘Oh goody!’ exclaimed Zebbidy. He quickly released himself from his seat and rose. He looked up at the screen and smirked. ‘Time out for the workers.’
The screen flickered briefly indicating that Taw had heard the remark pointedly directed at him. However he was far too wise. He had no intention of being baited by Zebbidy and being hence drawn into an irrelevant argument. He merely indicated that he had heard.
Kran grinned but said nothing.
Zara reached forward and touched the yellow square. Her seat restraints slid back and she rose also.
‘Thank you Kran.’ She said, smiling and gazing up into his smiling eyes. ‘I could certainly do with a short break.’
Zebbidy looked up at her and grinned cheekily.
‘Follow me Zara. He said. ‘I’ll take you to the rest area.’
He toddled off back to the cabin door. It slid open. Zara followed him.
They entered the corridor and the control room slid shut again behind them.
They passed the first two doors on the left and right of them and Zebbidy stopped facing the next room on the left. The door slid silently open. He stepped in and Zara followed him.
On entering, she found that the cabin was surprisingly larger than she had imagined it to be. The room was bathed in a soft relaxing yellow-greenish light. Over in the far right corner she saw that there was a partly open door leading off into what seemed to be a small anti –room. On the same wall there appeared to be a horizontal row of panels that obviously concealed something. Above these, high up and in the centre of the wall there was also a monitor screen. This was set back into a slight alcove. The screen was about the size of a large computer screen. Against the far left wall was a very large, soft looking, rest bed of some sort. It faced the screen on the opposite wall. On the far wall there was a small table that seemed to be again moulded into the floor. In front of this there was a chair very similar to the three that she had sat on in the control room. Strangely, along the front of the desk there lay two rows of coloured squares, similar to those in the main control room. Although the room seemed to be at first pleasing to the eye, it seemed disappointingly rather bare and devoid of objects.
‘This is a she room.’ Said Zebbidy proudly beaming up at her. ‘The she’s stay here when they come.’
Zara looked at him. She laughed and then frowned slightly. Strangely she suddenly felt very jealous. Jealous that Kran should have other female friends. She tried to shake off the feeling.
‘You will like it here.’ Zebbidy continued. ‘It’s very relaxing. I’ll show you around.’
He set off towards the table, but then paused briefly and pointed to the screen on the wall.
‘That’s Taw up there.’ He said. ‘He’s supposed to be my friend but he bosses me about.’
The screen flickered again gently but Zebbidy did not seem to notice.
Zara smiled. She had realised by now that Zebbidy and Taw were not exactly the best of friends.
Zebbidy reached the table and turned to look at her.
‘Would you like some background video?’ he asked.
Zara looked at him.
‘Pardon?’ she said. ‘Background video?’
‘I’ll show you.’ Said Zebbidy. He leaned forward and touched a red button, which was third from the left in the bottom row. Then the most amazing thing happened as far as Zara was concerned.
The screen seemed to disappear and instantly the whole of the far wall became covered in a huge picture. It was to Zara like visiting a panoramic cinema. The scene portrayed a vast seaside beach that seemed to stretch for miles. Waves crashed in towards her onto the sand in front of her and sea birds wheeled about in the almost clear blue sky. It came as an instant shock to her. It reminded her so much of home. Tears started to well up in her eyes and she suddenly felt so homesick.
Zebbidy looked at her. His grin faded rapidly. He rapidly reached forward and switched it off.
‘I’m sorry.’ He said. ‘I did not mean to upset you.’
One tear trickled down her cheek and Zara wiped it off with her sleeve.
‘It’s ok Zebbidy. I know you did not mean to.’ She replied. She tried to smile at him. ‘It just came as a bit of a shock to me that’s all.’
Zebbidy stood and looked at her whilst he computed this information. Then he grinned again.
‘Never mind.’ He said. ‘You can change the scene to almost anything else. Just touch the indicators when you want to use it. You can touch any combination of them. It’s quite safe to do so.’
He pointed to the other row.
‘For instance.’ He went on. ‘These ones are for learning. This should not upset you.’ He touched another red square on the top row.
To Zara’s amazement, what appeared to be a transparent model of the spaceship that they were on, the ‘Persuer’, instantly appeared to hover above the desk. Then as she looked at it closely she realised that it was a three dimensional image. She could see the control room, all the cabins inside, the corridor, the bay where they had first entered, a large area that seemed to contain some engines of some sort and lots of fine details.
Underneath the model, lots of words in a strange language seemed to hang in the air.
Then Zebbidy touched another square and the strangest looking fish that she had ever seen, took the place of the ‘Persuer’ model. This also had writing underneath. The fish wriggled and turned to stare at them then it opened it’s huge jaws and Zara momentarily shrank back in fear.
‘It’s ok ‘ Zebbidy beamed at her ‘Look it cannot harm you.’
At that point he raised his arm and poked his clawed hand right through the jaws of the fish.
‘You can learn about nearly anything in the universe’ Zebbidy said. Then he grinned and added. ‘And you can play games on it.’
He poked at another coloured square and the fish instantly disappeared.
‘Kran said that you might like something to eat and drink.’ Said Zebbidy. ‘He also said that you might like a decontaminating ray shower and to get changed into something more suitable for space.’
He pointed to the anti-room over in the corner.
‘You will find everything that you need in that she room.’ He said. ‘Whilst you do that I will find you something to eat and drink. I will leave it on the table for you. Oh, and you turn the shower on by touching the blue button on the panel inside. Another touch turns it off. It’s perfectly safe to use.’
Then he looked up at her and said hesitantly - ‘Er – You can shower with your clothes on.’
He seemed to blush and quickly toddled off out of the door. Zara giggled as she watched him go. Then she walked across and entered the anti-room.
On entering she saw what appeared to be toilet facilities and a shower in one corner. Fixed to the wall was a full-length mirror. She stood in front of the mirror and studied herself. She looked awful. Her clothes were all crumpled and her hair was tangled and messy.
She looked around again. There was also a glass or plastic looking panel behind which she could see some different coloured overalls or jump type suits of some sort. There were also many other objects behind clear panels. She frowned as she thought one of them looked like a gun of some sort.
She tentatively slid open the shower door and looked at the control. Then she stepped in and thought ‘Well here goes. I’ll try anything once. I have to trust somebody up here and Kran and Zebbidy seem ok.’ She touched the button.
There was a slight noise like a humming fan and then she felt a warm glow slowly creep over her. It was very cosy and relaxing. Suddenly all her fears seemed to slip away quickly and she felt exhilarated. She stood there for a few minutes with her eyes closed. It felt just like when she was at home laying on the riverbank and enjoying the warm summer sunshine.
She began to feel sleepy and reaching up touched the blue button again and the humming noise ceased.
She stepped out of the shower and suddenly realised that she felt totally refreshed.
She then looked at the overalls. She slid open a panel and took out a set of light blue overalls and quickly undressing tried them on. She was surprised to find that they fitted extremely well. She picked up her clothes and carried them into the main room.
On the table she was amazed to find three strange looking cakes lying on a metal plate accompanied by a clear container with a rosy red liquid in it. The most amazing thing that caught her eye was a beautiful looking white flower, the like of which she had never seen before, lying in what she thought appeared to be a clear glass bowl. She reached forward and cupping her hands gently picked the flower up. She raised it towards her face and immediately sensed a pleasing light fragrance.
She studied it for a moment and then carefully placed it back in the bowl.
She then tried one of the cakes. It tasted delicious and was very sweet. Zara suddenly felt quite hungry and ate another.
The drink was again quite sweet and she sipped it slowly whilst she gazed about.
On a sudden impulse she gently picked up the flower again and walking into the anti-room stood in front of the mirror and straightening her hair she gently fixed it into one side. She studied herself and thought that she looked much better.
Then she walked back into the main room and went over and sat on the rest bed out. It felt amazingly comfortable and as she lay back parts of her body seemed to slowly sink into the surface.
Suddenly she felt very tired and closed her eyes.
She thought suddenly that she felt like Goldilocks exploring the three bears house and giggled again quietly to herself.
Then she fell asleep.
In the main control room of the ‘Persuer’ Zebbidy sat dozing in his seat.
The screen suddenly flickered into life. The colourful dancing array of coloured lights appeared.
‘Entering orbit of the planet Tarren in exactly five minutes.’ Taw stated.
Zebbidy’s head lifted up with a start and his mouth dropped open. He stared blankly at the screen for a few seconds whilst he computed, then he scowled and exclaimed. ‘All right, all right Taw, I heard you. You don’t have to shout at me!’
‘I was not shouting at you.’ Said Taw calmly. ‘I merely thought that I should wake you and inform you of the situation.’
‘I wasn’t asleep ‘ protested Zebbidy indignantly. ‘I was in my rest mode.’
‘My sensors to the contrary, indicated that you were sound asleep.’ Replied Taw. ‘You are undergoing training to act like a human and therefore you have been programmed to sleep occasionally as part of your training.’
Zebbidy scowled again but chose to ignore the truth.
‘Well being as I’m in charge would you kindly inform Kran and Zara of the present situation?' He replied sarcastically.
‘I have already taken the liberty to do so.’ Replied Taw. ‘My sensors indicate that they are responding and that they will be in the control room within the next few minutes.’
‘I sometimes wonder why I am here.’ Grumbled Zebbidy, looking at the screen. ‘I might just as well be on my rest bed instead of sitting here.’
‘You are here to monitor my actions and correct me if I fail in my duties.’ Replied Taw.
‘You will do so one of these days.’ Replied Zebbidy, screwing up his nose at the screen. ‘Then I shall take great pleasure in doing so.’
‘My calculations inform me that this is extremely unlikely.’ Taw replied. ‘My abilities and life programme are more extensive than yours. However, the precaution of monitoring was taken as a fail safe situation.’
Zebbidy sat back in his seat and blew out in disgust but said nothing.
The screen pattern reverted to the quiet mode.
In his cabin Kran was woken by the announcement. He rose from his rest bed, stretched his arms and yawned. He shook his head to clear his mind. Then he headed straight for the control room.
At the same time Zara woke with a start as she heard the announcement. She looked around whilst she gathered her thoughts together. Then she also rose. She went to the anti-room and stood in front of the mirror and peering at herself, straightened her hair. She adjusted the strange looking flower slightly. After smoothing her overalls she felt satisfied that she was tidy and she too set out for the control room. She arrived just moments after Kran did.
As she entered Kran spun round to face her. He gazed at her for quite a few moments then said ‘Well, what a difference. You look wonderful. I see that you found the flower I sent. Did you have a good rest?’
Zara felt her heart leap. He had noticed after all.
‘Yes, thank you.’ she replied ‘I feel very refreshed.’
They were interrupted by Taw. The colourful array of dancing lights appeared.
‘Entering orbit in two minutes.’ Said Taw.
Kran spun round and looked at the screen. ‘Thank you Taw.’ Kran replied.
He turned to again to look at Zara.
‘Would you take your seat please Zara. We are about to rendezvous with my friends.’
Zara walked across and scrambled into her seat. She touched the yellow square and the seat fasteners closed around her.
Kran walked over to his seat and fastened himself in
‘Taw, take us into orbit and position us around the far side of Tarren. Most of our friend’s should have arrived there already. Is there any indication of our presence having been detected by the Cryton fleet yet?’
‘My sensors indicate that there are seven Wanderer ships at present lying in orbit around the far side of the planet.’ Replied Taw. ‘They also indicate that the Cryton’s have no idea that you are all in the area. They are continuing to implement their battle plans.’
‘Excellent Taw.’ Said Kran. ‘Please inform the other Wanderer ships that our entry is about to take place.’
‘I am informing them now as requested. Entering orbital path now.’ Replied Taw.
‘Screen view Taw.’ Commanded Kran.
The screen suddenly leapt into life. Part of a huge red planet dominated the left part of the screen as they slid through space around it. Zara sat wide-eyed and gazed at it. A large land mass dominated most of the part of the planet that they could see. The land mass seemed to consist mainly of areas of desert ringed in places by tall jagged mountains. In places there were small patches of greenery. There were no clouds. Suddenly as they rounded the planet seven space vessels came into view. They consisted of various shapes and sizes. Some had tubular attachments like extra bays fastened to their sides. They lay there silently, grouped together within relatively short distances of each other.
Communication Taw please.’ Requested Kran.
Suddenly the scene changed. Zara was amazed to see the head and shoulders of a pleasant looking freckle faced fair-headed boy appear on the screen. He grinned cheerily and spoke.
‘Greetings Kran.’ He said. ‘It’s great to see you again. I see that you made it ok -and my goodness -who is that young lady sitting next to Zebbidy?’
Zara suddenly realised that the boy could apparently see them all on his own screen. She felt herself beginning to blush.
Kran laughed. ‘Greetings Lika. It’s great to see you as well after so long. In response to your question the young lady near me is called Zara. She is someone very special. She is an Earthling.’
The boy looked suddenly shocked. ‘An Earthling? That’s almost unbelievable. Shame on you Kran. You did not tell me about her. What is she doing here? I thought that Earth was in one of the off limit area’s. How did she get here?’
‘The Elders of the planet Tema in the star system Vila permitted me to meet her Lika. They considered her presence here was necessary to aid our cause. Zara has been very helpful to us. As I said she is something special.’
Lika grinned again.
‘Well, you are honoured.’ He said. ‘I can’t wait to meet her in person. Hello Zara!’
‘Hello.’ Replied Zara rather nervously.
‘Wow!’ Exclaimed Lika. ‘My first conversation with an Earthling. Can we all come over?’
‘You are all very welcome.’ Replied Kran. ‘It will be good to meet old friend’s again.’
‘Were on our way.’ Said Lika.
The screen reverted to the view of the planet and the spaceships.
Kran looked at Zara. He smiled. ‘Don’t be nervous of meeting them.’ He said. ‘You’ll be ok. You will like them all.’ He looked back at the screen.
‘Ah. Look. They are coming.’
Zara looked at the screen and saw several small shuttlecrafts leaving the spaceships. They glinted in the faint light radiating from a nearby star.
Kran unfastened his seat restraints.
‘Zebbidy.’ He asked. ‘Would you kindly prepare some refreshment for our guests?’
‘Oh brilliant.’ Said Zebbidy enthusiastically unlocking his seat restraints and scrambling out of his seat. ‘A party! I love parties!’
They both laughed.
He toddled off rapidly out of the control room door.
Zara unfastened her seat restraints and stood up. She looked at Kran.
He held out his hands and she shyly let him gently pick her hands up. They felt warm.
‘You must excuse my friends if they offend you in any way when they arrive.’ He said. ‘They have never met anyone from Earth before and they will be extremely curious. They do not mean any harm towards you.’
Zara looked at him. ‘It’s ok.’ She replied ‘I understand. I will be fine.’
‘’Good.’ He said.’ He dropped her hands and turned away. ‘Now, Lets go and give Zebbidy a hand and then we will go and greet them.’
They walked towards the control room door and it slid silently open.
Meanwhile the crew manning the Cryton Command ship ‘Jyton’ were all intensely occupied, computing and compiling the battle results.
Gron paused for a moment from his work and sat back. He felt exhausted. It was very hot in the battle control room. He wiped the beads of sweat from his brow. He was feeling fairly confident now. Many more planets had fallen in the past few hours under the relentless advance of the overwhelming Cryton force. Many more prisoners had again been taken and were at that moment being ‘graded’ to determine which of them was to be of use. From the constant stream of reports coming in it appeared that the overall Cryton losses in both men and machinery had so far been favourably light. Surprisingly, there had still been no signs of intervention stemming from the star system Vila. Gron thought that maybe Krah was right. Perhaps the Elders of the planet Tema were trying to bluff and really did not have the power to stop the advance of the Cryton’s. It was only a matter of hours now before the Third Federation finally crumbled.
Gron looked again at the main battle results display and noted to his satisfaction that successful results were still streaming in by the minute. He felt sure that Krah would be secretly well pleased with the progress even if he perhaps would not show it when confronted with the evidence. He rubbed his hands together in glee.
The only thing that still slightly concerned him was that the Wanderer had not been found in the Vaka star system. However he had thought of a way out of that. He had personally called of the search and ordered the battleship that had been sent to destroy him to return. After all he needed every ship he could lay his hands on to ensure success He would inform Krah that after numerous searches the decision had been made that the Wanderer must have also been destroyed during the battle with the two Cryton star fighters.
He shrugged his shoulders, after all it was only a very minor incident compared with the overall battle plan and in comparison of negligible importance. However, he thought, I must be very careful, very careful indeed. I must stay one step ahead of Krah all the time in order to survive. He would dispose of me the moment that I became of no further use to him.
At that moment the battle control room door slid open and once again Krah was framed in the doorway. As always, his three guards were present. They entered and stood there, cradling their weapons, impassively scanning the entire area for any signs of trouble. Krah never took any chances with his personal safety.
‘Report.’ Growled Krah. Again his eyes seemed to bore deeply into Gron’s head.
Gron, as usual, was caught slightly off guard by the sudden entrance of Krah, however he recovered remarkably quickly, he sprang to attention and once again tried to appear totally confident.
‘Ah – yes my lord, of course. The battle goes very well indeed for us. The federation is crumbling fast now. Soon it will be in its death throws. It is only a matter of time now before we finally succeed.’
Krah stiffened. ‘Us! He thundered. ‘We!’- What do you mean Us-We?’
Gron stuttered out his reply as fast as he was able.
‘Oh – Of course - naturally I meant you my lord. It was a tiny grammatical error. It was only a slight slip of the tongue. Yes – yes - of course – you!
‘I have removed tongues for slips like that.’ Krah growled, calming down a little. ’However you seem to be achieving something at least.’
His eyes narrowed slightly. ‘
‘What about the star system Vila? Are the Elders of the planet Tema making any moves to assist the Federation?’
‘Er - No my lord. They appear to have given no aid at all. They are perhaps hoping that the Federation will yet rally and halt your magnificent advance.’ Replied Gron.
‘Ha! The fools.’ Krah sneered. He clenched his teeth together and grinned grimly from beneath his mask.
‘They have sat back for millenniums in isolation, hoping that any troubles that affect them will resolve themselves. Well they have finally met their match. They wait there thinking that in any event, their advanced technology will protect them. They do not realise that we now have secretly developed the means to destroy their high radiation defence shield. Then we shall overrun them.’
He turned and studied the battle results display for a few moments and then growled quietly in satisfaction.
‘Keep me informed of the progress.’ He said. ‘Let me know when the Federation council members finally admit their inevitable defeat. I shall then invite them here under the pretence of an armistice. Then I shall destroy them all.’
He turned to leave. Then he paused and spun back to face Gron. He grimaced.
‘There is just one thing that keeps niggling at the back of my mind. I like to cover every detail. It is the secret of my success. Did they destroy that stupid Wanderer?’
Gron sighed quietly to himself but he knew, just knew, that the matter would raise its ugly head once again. However this time he was prepared.
‘Ah, yes my Lord. After a full detailed search of the area the decision was made that the Wanderer was also destroyed during the clash with our two unfortunate star fighters. They died bravely in your rightful cause.’
‘Decision?’ Growled Krah, frowning. ‘Who made that decision?’
Gron suddenly lost his nerve. He had to try to save his own head. He took a gamble and lied.
‘Er – It was the commander of the battleship that was sent to destroy the Wanderer my lord.’
Krah pursed his lips and thought for a moment.
‘Well at least some people under my command are prepared to make minor decisions. I am not completely surrounded by idiots after all. Reward him with a promotion.’
Gron sighed quietly again in despair.
Once more Krah turned to leave. Then he suddenly paused again still facing the exit. He frowned in thought.
‘Where are the rest of the Wanderers?’ He queried.
‘Er – Evidence seems to suggest that they have all fled my lord. They are no doubt hiding in insignificant remote areas that we have bypassed during our main thrust. No doubt they are hoping to evade us.’ Replied Gron.
‘Well find them. Find them all and destroy them.’ Snarled Krah.
Then he suddenly spun round and strode back to tower over Gron. His three guards followed.
‘In fact, pinpoint them on the main screen.’ He ordered, becoming angry again. ‘Show me their present positions!’
Gron scrambled back to his seat and began to furiously punch at the buttons on his consol. He peered hopefully at his screen. Remote planets shot into view all over his display. Then he gasped. He could not believe his eyes.
‘Well?’ Thundered Krah.
Gron tried to reply as tears welled up in his eyes.
‘They – The images seem to be temporarily un – un -unavailable my lord ’ He stuttered, desperately trying to think.
‘Arghh!’ thundered Krah. He smashed his metal-gloved fist down hard on the consol and it rattled violently. ‘Arghh!’
He gritted his teeth violently.
‘Now they also have vanished! I’m sick of these pathetic Wanderers – They are a thorn in my side. Find the images – check all of the equipment for failures – hunt the Wanderers down and destroy them – every last one of them - and inform me as soon as you have done so!’
He spun round and waving furiously for his guards to follow, strode out of the door.
Gron slumped back into his seat in almost total despair.
Aboard the ‘Persuer’ all was prepared and Kran, Zara and Zebbidy turned to face the door of the main control cabin as it silently slid open.
Zara watched intently as what seemed to be a whole crowd of young people entered. Leading the group was Lika, beaming all over his freckled face. A fair-headed girl, who was slightly taller than Zara, closely followed him. She looked slim, very pretty with clear blue eyes and she was wearing a golden coloured jump suit.
Behind her were two other boys. One was taller than Kran dark haired, lean and gangly looking, The second boy was, in contrast with the others, quite short in stature and had a surprisingly oriental look about him. Following closely behind were three other girls. One being dark haired like Zara but with a shorter hairstyle supporting a fringe, the second was again oriental looking with lovely almond shaped eyes, and the third was very dark. She was coloured, tall, slim and stunning in appearance.
Lika headed straight for Kran and clapping his hands on Kran’s shoulders, he greeted him warmly. Then the other boys followed, repeating the greeting. Kran held all of the girl’s hands in turn and smiled at them with twinkling eyes.
Then they immediately turned towards Zara and gazed at her intently. She suddenly felt slightly embarrassed.
Lika strode forward first and taking her hands gently in his, he gazed into her eyes. Then he stood back still holding her hands and looked her up and down.
‘Well, our first Earthling and she’s beautiful!’ He exclaimed.
He stepped back and grinned at her.
Then they all approached her one by one and held her hands, whilst Kran introduced them all.
The other two boys were introduced as Borg, the taller boy, and Hweng. The girls were called Ash; the fair headed one, Leta, with the fringe, Ching who had the attractive almond shaped eyes and finally Karen, who had beautiful brown eyes. They all seemed fascinated by Zara. They crowded round her and began to ask all sorts of questions. Although they seemed to know a lot about Earth they had never had the chance before to find out about Eathling’s feelings and senses. They seemed so caring and gentle and Zara felt really welcome in their presence.
A smiling Kran eventually interrupted them after a few minutes.
‘’I know you have lots more questions to ask Zara but sadly I must stop you. Time is short and we must tackle the immediate problems that concern all of us. If you all would care to sit down we will offer you some refreshments whilst we talk.’
At that moment Leta spotted Zebbidy. He was standing all alone looking neglected and very glum. Nobody had taken any notice of him in the rush to greet Zara. She dashed across and knelt in front of him.
‘Oh, poor Zebbidy.’ She said throwing her arms around him and hugging him. ‘Forgive us, we forgot all about you.’ She then kissed him on the cheek.
Zebbidy broke into a smile. Then he wriggled uncomfortably and definitely began to blush.
They all laughed and Zara took his claw in her hand.
‘Come on Zebbidy.’ She said cheerfully. ‘I’ll help you hand out the refreshments.’
Whilst they did so the others all sat down. Some sat on the floor and Kran outlined his plan.
‘As I see it we must strike whilst we have the advantage. My plan involves two main objectives. The aim of our little group here is to destroy the core of the Main Cryton battle fleet including the command star ship ‘Jyton.’ Whilst this is taking place all of the other Wanderers, who are well spread out across the Federation, will attack the main fleets that are in their area. This should utterly devastate the Cryton’s especially as they cannot fire at an invisible enemy. However we only have a limited time available to us before they discover our cloaking secret and respond to it. As the ‘Jyton’ is so huge, it will be almost impossible to destroy it by the limited firepower available to us. Therefore it is unfortunately necessary for us some of us to board the ship and try to destroy it from within. There should be sufficient time for those people to escape from it before it self-destructs. Whilst this is taking place the rest of us will attack and destroy the twelve ‘K’ class battleships.’
‘But this is too dangerous.’ interrupted Lika. ‘It is almost certain that they will discover our boarding almost immediately.’
‘ Ah. That’s where my next little secret is revealed.’ Replied Kran with a smile. ‘I have managed to arrange for Taw to manufacture some special belts. They provide individual double cloaking. Unfortunately they can only last for a limited period before they need re-charging. However I have estimated that they should give us just enough time to achieve our objective. Hopefully with this plan, the Cryton advance across the Third Federation will be halted. With such a loss of force and organisation they will turn and run. Given time the Federation should then recover from its wounds.’
‘I know the layout of the ‘Jyton’ fairly well. I volunteer to go as one of the three.’ Insisted Lika.
‘I go everywhere with Lika.’ Said Ash.’ I wish to go as well.’
The other members of the group, also wishing to volunteer, started to interrupt the conversation.
Kran held his hand up.
‘Wait. Please let me finish. It is best that I go. I have the backing of Taw, who you must admit is the finest intelligence that we have developed. He knows me best of all. He will constantly monitor the situation and act in our defence if necessary. Secondly, I suggest that Zebbidy goes. He is an unknown factor as far as the Cryton’s are concerned. Let’s face it he is half human, and can, unlike any other robots we know of, think for himself. The Cryton’s will not expect that at all. Lastly I will take Zara with me if she is willing to go. She has already proved herself to be unpredictable. The Cryton’s have very little knowledge about the workings of an Earthlings mind due to the off limit area ban. They will not expect that as well. Finally the Elders of the planet Tema placed Zara under my care and I must honour that pledge. Anyway I know her best and she is safer with me.’
They all turned to look at Zara.
I must go she thought to herself. I must stay with Kran. I feel safe with him. Anyway I cannot return home at the moment it is not safe either.
‘I will go.’ Said Zara. ‘Anyway.’ She added, as an afterthought. ‘Zebbidy wont be here to cook for me.’
They all laughed.
‘Right, that settles it.’ Said Kran. ‘If everyone is in agreement?’’
I must admit that your right.’ Replied Lika. ‘The three of you, with the backing of Taw, have the best possible chance of success. I know its dangerous and we wish that we were going instead. However I agree. It must be as you say.’ He looked at the others. They nodded in agreement.
‘Good. Then we must begin at once for time is short.’ Kran said. ‘Now, good friends, sadly I must ask you to return to your ships. I will arrange for Taw to give the signal to commence battle when Zebiddy, Zara and I have completed our mission aboard the Jyton and are leaving.’
‘We are sad to leave.’ Replied Lika. ‘However we wish you good luck and hopefully this will work out ok.’
They then all bid their farewells and the group left.
‘Now.’ Said Kran, as they watched the shuttlecrafts leave. ‘We must prepare. I have collected some small stun guns and the belts together. I have some ideas about how we can destroy the ‘Jyton’. Taw has scanned the ‘Jyton’ and managed to find a possible weakness in the construction. Apparently we should be able to trigger off an overload in the main proton power supply. This will lead to an uncontrollable build up of power and eventually the ‘Jyton’ will self-destruct. Taw has produced a plan of the layout of the corridors. This will enable us to reach the main power room. We will then short-circuit the main power points. We shall then leave.
Taw will wait for us just clear of the explosion danger zone. We must return here before the explosion takes place. The return time is very short and should take about two minutes.’
‘Oh brilliant,’ Zebbidy piped up, ‘A secret mission.’
‘Kran looked at Zara. ‘Yes, but unfortunately there is an element of danger in it. Are you sure that you still want to go Zara?’ he asked.
‘Well, there is no point in going home,’ Replied Zara. ‘I will then be only waiting for the Cryton’s to eventually arrive. No, I want to stay with you Kran.’
Kran smiled at her. He took her hand. ‘Come on then,’ He said.’ We had better leave. One of my transporters has been prepared for double cloaking and it is ready.’
They all strapped on their belts and picked up their weapons.
The main cabin door slid open as they approached and they walked down to the transporter bay. They reached the transporter bay and Kran opened the door of one of the ball shaped craft with his transponder. They all climbed in. As usual Kran sat in the right hand seat, Zebbidy sat in the centre and Zara sat in the left hand seat. They operated their own seat clamps. The door slid shut.
‘Now.’ Said Kran, looking at them. ‘When we arrive and enter the Jyton we must stay together at all times for our own safety. We will then be always able to back each other up. Hopefully the Cryton’s will not be able to see us or to hear us talking. We should be completely invisible to them. Ok?’
They both nodded.
‘Right, We’ll set off. Hold tight.’
He turned to look at the small control screen.
‘Taw.’ He said. ‘Perform double cloaking please.’
Zara gripped the arms of her seat tightly. However this time the lights only flickered briefly and she only felt slightly sick and dizzy. Not so much power had been needed to transform them, for the smaller craft.
‘Taw.’ He said. ‘Speed setting two. Shields up. Ignition please.’
The screen sprang to life and the familiar colourful dancing array of lights appeared. The ball shaped craft rocked very slightly and the transporter began to move.
The exit cover slid open and the transporter emerged into space. It slowly gathered speed.
‘Screen view please Taw.’ Requested Kran.
The screen view changed. At once they could see part of the huge planet Tarren. As the craft gathered speed they slowly emerged from orbit and took a course towards the area where the core of the main Cryton battle fleet lay.
Within a few minutes Zara could see a circle of large Cryton battleships lying in a circle in the far distance. She gasped when she saw the ‘Jyton’ cradled in the centre of the circle. It was immense, even much bigger than she had imagined, and it was covered in lights, obviously making no attempt to conceal it.
‘Report Taw.’ Ordered Kran.
‘The Cryton ships have shown no signs of detecting you. ‘ Replied Taw.
‘Good.’ Kran said. ’Proceed to their docking area.’
The screen flickered slightly.
‘How are we going to get in?’ Asked Zara, staring with wide eyes as they slowly approached.
‘Taw states that there are shuttles coming and going all the time from the ‘Jyton’.’ Replied Kran, looking at her. ‘We are going to try to slip in between the traffic. In other words, well join the queue.’ He grinned.
‘It’s a bit like signals entering a computer.’ Said Zebbidy grinning at Zara. ‘Only we are a virus.’
‘Let’s hope that they don’t have a good virus checker then.’ Replied Kran.
As they drew closer Zara could see shuttles entering one bay and leaving another at fairly frequent intervals.
‘Compute our entry please Taw.’ Requested Kran. ‘Slot us in between the incoming shuttles.
By now they had penetrated the outer circle of battleships and Zara held her breath as they slotted into line between two shuttles in the line.
They were following a small dark sleek shuttle and as the huge entrance drew up they watched it slide in and enter what seemed to be a slotted landing ramp of some sort. In front of that another similar shuttle was quickly being lowered on a lift of some sort.
‘I’m, taking over manual control Taw.’ Said Kran calmly. He touched several of the coloured control squares in sequence and the transporter silently veered off to the right.
They steered off quietly towards a dark corner of the entrance bay and there was a slight bump as they came to a stop.
Looking at the screen Zara could see that the incoming Cryton shuttles were continuing to glide in. Amazingly no one seemed to have noticed the illegal entry of the transporter. Suddenly two figures loomed up and crossed nearby. To her horror she realised that they must be Cryton’s. They were both tall and dressed in black armoured suits. They were carrying weapons. Helmeted masks covered their heads. The heads momentarily turned and looked in the direction where the transporter had come to rest. Then they looked away and continued to walk on out of sight.
Zara breathed out in relief.
‘Although they can’t see us what will happen if they come over her and bump into the transporter?’ she asked.
‘Don’t worry. That’s accounted for.’ Replied Kran touching the control to unfasten his seat restraints. ‘Similar to single cloaking, the entry of a foreign body to a cloaked area is absorbed and the cloaked body temporarily parts to allow the ingress. Then the cloaked body restores itself after the foreign body has left.’
‘You mean that they can pass right through us?’ She said in wonderment. ‘Like walking through a ghost.’
‘Yes, were electronic ghost’s at the moment.’ Grinned Zebbidy cheekily. He looked up at the screen and gimaced. ‘And I’m going to haunt Taw.’
Kran grinned again. ‘I doubt that Zebbidy.’ He said ‘Taw knows exactly where you are at any time whether your double cloaked or not.’
‘Typical of him.’ Replied Zebbidy grumpily. ‘He spoils everything.’
Zara relaxed a little and laughed. ‘Never mind Zebbidy I’ll play hide and seek with you if we get out of this in one piece.’ She remarked.
He looked up at her and grinned.
‘Well it’s time to play hide and seek with the Cryton’s.’ Said Kran. ‘Lets go. Follow me and stick together.’
Zara and Zebbidy unfastened their seat restraints.
‘Can we breath out there?’ Asked Zara. ‘The shuttle entrance is open.’
‘It’s not really a problem.’ Replied Kran. ‘They have a radium air filter running. We are in an oxygenated area. However you may feel a little breathless that’s all. So don’t panic. It’s like experiencing high altitude. Now, switch on your belts please.’
They all switched them on.
Kran slid back the entry door to the transporter and they all climbed out.
The bay that they were in was huge. The shuttles were continuing to stream in at regular intervals some distance away. Kran had a hand held detector incorporating a map and he led them around the edge of the bay until they came to several doorways. They approached the fifth one on their left and a door slid open. They entered and emerged into a narrow corridor. All the walls and the flooring seemed to be made of some form of metal.
There was no one in sight.
‘According to the map we follow this corridor along and after several turnings we descend down to the next level. There should be a set of stairs further along on the right. ’ Kran said.
They walked for several minutes along the corridor. Zara was at the tail end and following Zebbidy who was toddling along quite fast. They passed several doors on either side. Each door had labels on in strange writing. Some were in red and obviously danger areas.
Rounding every bend or corner Zara expected at any moment to meet a Cryton, but surprisingly none appeared.
‘Why is there no-one down here?’ She asked Kran.
‘It’s a servicing area.’ He stated ‘ it’s mainly locked store rooms or automatic technical areas. However, we may meet some technicians or guards eventually. So we must be careful.’
Sure enough it happened fairly soon after that. Just as they reached the stairway that descended to the next level, two Cryton technicians loomed into sight round a bend in the corridor that continued on ahead. They were carrying a long metal box between them. At first they appeared to be unarmed, but as they drew closer Zara was horrified to see that they both had some form of gun or blaster shaped object strapped to their belts.
The Cryton’s did not seem to notice them. However the three of them stopped walking and let the Cryton’s approach.
‘Just remain calm.’ Said Kran quietly. ‘Step to one side and let them pass.’
Zara shrank back against the wall. She nearly lost her nerve as they passed by within inches of her. They were both very tall and seemed to tower over her as they passed. She noticed that the masks covered down to just over their nose area. Underneath she could see cruel, thin-lipped mouths, twisting as they exerted tremendous effort in their struggles to carry the obviously heavy box. Their eyes seemed to be pale and luminous.
Zebbidy stood there and grinned up at them as they passed by.
‘Don’t drop it on your toes.’ He whispered quietly.
Zara recovered a little at that point and managed to stifle a giggle.
‘Be quiet please Zebbidy.’ Said Kran. ‘Even though they can’t hear you, they may just sense that there is something wrong.’
They watched the technicians move on out of sight. Then they descended the stairs.
‘We need to go down two levels actually at this point.’ Said Kran, studying his map. ‘That should take us to the main power room.’
Sure enough they bypassed a door and descending further down reached another.
‘This is it.’ Said Kran. ‘Now let’s find the correct area where the main proton power points are.’
The door slid open and they entered.
They emerged onto a huge gantry that stretched right round the main power room. Peering over the rail they could see three vast blocks, the size of office blocks. Within the area there were several technicians working. Further there were several pairs of guards patrolling round and round the blocks. They seemed to take about five minutes to circle each block.
Kran pointed down. ‘It’s that centre block we want. You see that row of transparent panels. That’s where the main proton power points are. I intend to short circuit them with this.’ He produced a small steel bar, that had a clawed clamp on each end, from a pocket in his suit, ‘There should not be any sparking as it is fixed into place. They hopefully will not notice the build up of power until it is too late to control it.’
He smiled at Zara and held her hand in reassurance. ‘Were doing fine.’ He said ‘Are you feeling ok?’
‘Fine.’ Zara replied. ‘I’m just a bit breathless as you said I might be but that may be down to fear.’ She laughed nervously’
He grinned at her. ‘I must admit it is a bit scary.’ He said. ‘And if you hear a knocking noise it is probably Zebbidy’s metal knees.’
‘Right, down we go.’ Said Kran. ‘This is where the fun begins. We will go down that set of steps’
They began their descent and in a short time were down to floor level. They emerged almost opposite to the central block. Nearby a lone technician was working on some machinery. He did not seem to notice them. At that point two guards, cradling their weapons in their arms, walked by. Kran, Zebbidy and Zara waited quietly until the guards were out of sight.
‘You stay here Zara.’ Said Kran. ‘Zebiddy and I will cross just over there and carry out the work. We won’t be long.’
She watched anxiously as Kran and Zebbidy walked across to the panel. Zebbidy climbed up onto a worktable and unclipped the clear panel. Kran then carefully and gently clipped the metal bar across two large pins inside the panel. To her relief nothing seemed to happen. Then Zebbidy gently clipped the panel back and scrambled down. The technician oblivious to their presence carried on working at his machinery.
Quietly Kran returned with Zebbidy scuttling behind him.
He smiled at Zara’s obvious relief.
‘There.’ Kran said. ‘That wasn’t difficult was it. Now, let’s get out of here.’
Hurriedly they climbed back up the steps. Zara felt quite breathless by the time they reached the top. Then they left the main power room through the entrance that they had come in by.
They started to ascend the stairs to reach the original level they had started out from but suddenly halfway up an alarm sounded on Kran’s hand communicator. They immediately stopped and he studied it.
‘That’s unfortunate.’ He said, frowning. ‘The charges on the belts are running out faster than I anticipated. We have about ten minutes left on each of them.’ He thought for a moment, bit his lip gently and then said ‘We must switch them off for a short period and preserve an emergency supply.’
He looked at Zara. ‘A bit dangerous, but we have little choice I’m afraid.’
Zara began to feel a little anxious. She tried not to show it but Kran noticed.
He smiled at her.’ It will be fine. Don’t worry. We can always switch them back on. Hopefully we won’t meet anyone on the way back. If we do and in the event of an emergency, I have arranged for Taw to commence the attack when I give him three blips on my communicator. That should be sufficient to divert their attention from us and it will give us a chance to escape.’
Zara felt a little more relaxed knowing that Taw was monitoring the whole situation.
‘Huh.’ Said Zebbidy, screwing his nose up in spite. ‘Let’s hope that he hasn’t chosen this moment to fall asleep.’
Kran grinned but said nothing.
They all switched off their belts.
‘Right.’ Said Kran. ‘Let’s make it back to the transporter quickly.’
They climbed the rest of the stairs and at last emerged into the corridor. Then they set off cautiously rounding the bends and making their way back to the shuttle bay. As they approached the last few doors left in the corridor bad luck struck with a vengeance. One of the danger area doors swung open right in front of them and a Cryton technician suddenly appeared. His reactions were amazingly fast. He stopped dead, stared at them and immediately reached for his weapon.
Unfortunately Kran was just reaching at that point for his communicator and his hands were full. There was no way he could reach for his gun and outdraw the Cryton. Zara was temporarily frozen for a few seconds as she stared in horror at his luminous eyes that seemed to bore into her.
However in contrast Zebbidy’s reactions were amazingly fast. He summed up the situation in a flash and reacted. He realised that if the technician fired at least one of the three of them would suffer.
‘Uh Oh,’ He said out loud. ‘Ugly bugs has arrived.’
As the weapon was being raised he scuttled right up in front of the Cryton. He stopped dead and raised his arms high in the air.
‘Don’t fire - don’t fire!’ He shouted ‘We surrender!’
Now the Cryton technician had seen many robots but he had never had one react in this way before. He glared at Zebbidy in utter astonishment. Just for a few seconds he froze. His weapon continued to point and sweep backwards and forwards between Zebbidy, Kran and Zara, in his attempt to cover them all at the same time.
‘Oops sorry.’ Said Zebbidy, looking up at the Cryton’s face. ‘I’ve forgotten something.’
The Cryton stared down at him in utter disbelief.
At that point a plate on Zebbidy’s chest swung open and a third arm sprung out and hit the Cryton hard in the stomach.
‘My third arm.’ Zebbidy continued.
The Cryton immediately crumpled and dropped straight down, unconscious. His weapon cluttered onto the floor and skidded across the surface.
‘Bingo.’ Said Zebbidy triumphantly grinning at Kran and Zara. He retracted his third arm.
His triumph was to be very short lived.
The Cryton unfortunately dropped on top of his personal communicator and immediately a deafening alarm set off in the corridor.
They all looked at each other for a brief moment in horror.
Kran pressed a button on the communicator.
‘Taw,’ He commanded. ‘We’re leaving. Send out the signal to the Wanderers to commence battle.’
The communicator bleeped briefly in recognition.
Kran reached for his weapon and spoke again. ‘Run for it. We might just make it. Cloaking belts on’
They all reached for their belts, but before they could comply with his instructions, the door to the shuttle bay slid open and two Cryton guards, closely followed by another two, leapt in and raised their weapons.
To Zara’s complete surprise, Kran took one look and shouted out. ’Stop. Don’t react. Its not worth it.’ And immediately threw his weapon down on the floor. It skidded towards the guards.
For a moment everyone froze. Then Kran keeping his eyes fixed on the guards spoke calmly and quietly.
‘It’s ok. They won’t fire. They dare not or Krah will have their heads. He’ll want to see us first.’
He looked at Zara. ‘It will be ok. ‘He said reassuringly.
One guard then stepped forwards. He seized Zara and Zebbidy’s weapons.
‘The robot.’ He snarled looking at Zebbidy. ‘How is it controlled?’
‘Voice control.’ Replied Kran. ‘It obeys my instructions.’
‘Move.’ The guard snarled again and he beckoned with his weapon towards the door.
‘Walk Zebbidy.’ Said Kran looking at him.
Zebbidy stood still looking straight ahead.
‘Zebbidy walk.’ He repeated in a monotone voice, and then he set off.
The guards shepherded them all in the indicated direction.
In the battle control room of the ‘Jyton’ Gron felt very uneasy. All the equipment had been checked and re-checked several times. It seemed to be fully functional but there was no sign of the Wanderers whereabouts. They had just simply vanished. He had simply no idea how he was going to explain this to Krah. The only thing that made him feel a little better was that extremely good news had arrived. Almost all the key Federation defence planets had now fallen. The end was at last in sight. Soon it would be all over. He decided that he must concentrate on feeding this good news to Krah and try to gloss over the fact that he had no idea where the Wanderers had fled. Perhaps they had abandoned their vessels on some of the outer obscure planets.
The door slid open behind him and Krah once more appeared.
Gron being totally on edge, his nerves almost in tatters by now, heard the swish of the door almost at once.
He sprung to his feet and turned to face Krah. He studied his face anxiously.
To his immense relief, from the look on his face, Krah appeared to have calmed down a little since the last encounter. He decided to risk all.
‘Well?’ He growled.
‘Ah, my Lord. The news is good, in fact excellent. The last of the key Federation defence planets are now at this moment crumbling before us. Soon now, very soon, victory will be - achieved.’
He nearly said ‘ours’ instead of ‘achieved’ but managed to correct himself at the last moment.
Krah looked at him and narrowed his eyes.
’Um. So we are finally reaching the conclusion.’ He said quietly.
To Gron’s utter relief Krah smiled slightly. That’s if, Gron thought to himself, you could call a grimace a smile. He seemed to have temporarily forgotten about the Wanderers.
‘Good.’ Said Krah, ‘Very good.’
He raised his eyes and glared at the main screen.
‘Show me the overall results.’ He commanded.
Gron almost fumbled at the controls in his eagerness to please. He furiously jabbed at buttons and the whole main screen lit up. It showed the complete up to date state of progress of the Cryton invasion.
‘There, my lord.’ Gron indicated excitedly. He pointed to the screen.
The screen showed a very comprehensive picture of most of the planets contained within the Federation. Swarming all over them were hundreds of red and blue dots representing the cruisers and battleships of the various Cryton fleets. In a much smaller area of the screen, yellow and green dots were tightly clustered together and retreating rapidly. They represented the Federation vessels, which were desperately trying to defend those planets that still remained free.
‘As you can see my lord the Federation vessels are now cornered. Each time a yellow or green light is extinguished another Federation vessel is destroyed.’ Gron said proudly.
Krah continued to glare at the screen.
‘What of our losses?’ he asked.
‘Oh. Yes our losses. Our losses have been remarkably light, my lord.’ Said Gron smugly, turning back to look at Krah. ‘As you can see our ships are everywhere in vast numbers.’
Krah continued to study the display.
‘Hm.’ He replied. His head went further forward as he peered at the screen. Then he frowned. ‘However, we continue to lose some of our vessels. There, you see.’ He pointed at the screen. ‘Two blue dots have just been extinguished.’
Gron looked at the screen.
‘Oh. - Ah yes my lord. A – A minor loss. No doubt a last minute final desperate but hopeless attempt on the part of the Federation to try to remain free.’
They both studied the screen.
At that precise moment four more red dots and three blue dots blinked once and disappeared.
Krah frowned, pursed his lips, and growled quietly.
Then to Gron’s utter horror, red and blue dots in ever increasing numbers began to blink and disappear. Even as they watched the number of Cryton ships being extinguished multiplied rapidly.
Gron scrambled to his seat and furiously began to punch buttons in the hope that the display was in error.
‘Losses?’ Krah snarled, his eyes glaring brighter. ’What do you mean? Our losses are remarkably light. Look. Look, you bumbling fool, more and more of our vessels are being destroyed.’
Gron stared up at the screen in total disbelief. All over the screen more and more of the Cryton ships were disappearing. Even as he watched the Federation ships started to move outward.
At that very moment a deafening alarm sounded on the control room speakers. This was immediately followed by a monotone metallic voice speaking loudly and urgently.
‘General Alarm. General Alarm. Intruders. Intruders. There are intruders aboard the ‘Jyton’. General alarm. General alarm.’ The alarm carried on repeating.
Krah spun round and looked at the direction of the speakers.
‘Arghh!’ He shouted, suddenly enraged. ‘Arghh! Now we have intruders!’
He spun round and glared at his guards. ‘Find them! Find them! Find out who they are! Bring them here. Who dares to come here!’
One guard scuttled off through the door.
Krah spun round again to look at the screen. The situation was rapidly worsening. The Cryton ships were still disappearing in ever increasing numbers.
He turned on Gron with a vengeance.
‘You idiot! You complete idiot!’ He shouted. ‘Find out what’s going wrong. Now! And shut that stupid alarm off!’
At that point the control room door opened and the guards shepherded in Kran, Zara and Zebbidy
Krah spun round and glared at them.
‘Ah! The intruders.’ He growled. He stared at them for several seconds. His eyes scanning menacingly backwards and forwards over the three of them.
Slowly he calmed down. His eyes narrowed once more as he ground his teeth together.
‘Who are you?’ he said. Then he thundered out. ‘Who are you?’
Kran stepped forward slightly. The guards instantly raised their weapons. Krah immediately raised his hand to pause them.
‘I am Kran.’ He said. ‘I am a Wanderer.’
‘Wanderer?’ Thundered Krah. ‘Wanderer? Where have you come from?’
‘From the Vaka star system.’ Replied Kran calmly.
‘The Vaka star system?’ shouted Krah. ‘You! It’s you. Arghh!’ He clenched his fists.
‘He spun round to glare at Gron. Then he spun back. He looked at Zebbidy and dismissed him with a glance as being of no threat, after all he thought he was a mere robot, designed only to respond to commands. Then he glared at Zara.
‘Who is that?’ he asked. ‘Who?’
‘That is Zara.’ said Kran calmly. ‘Zara is an Earthling.’
‘An Earthling!’ Krah managed to grind out through his gritted teeth. An Earthling?’
Just then there was a muffled explosion and the ‘Jyton’ rocked slightly. They all staggered in an attempt to keep their balance.
Krah whirled round and looked at Gron.
‘What was that?’ He thundered.
‘Gron clutched at the sides of his seat in fear and peered at the screen.
‘It – it appears that one of our escort battleships has exploded, my Lord.’ He whimpered.
He clutched at his seat again and they all staggered as another blew up.
Zara clung to Kran.
‘You!’ snarled Krah, clutching frantically at a nearby seat as another blew up, and looking at Kran. ‘You are responsible for all this.’ He screamed.
Krah started to reach for his weapon.
Then to Kran’s amazement Zara unpredictably stepped forward.
Krah paused in his actions. He was flabbergasted. No female had ever dared to challenge him.
‘No.’ she said angrily. ‘I am. You have tangled with Earth. Now they have responded with a vengeance.’
‘Earth!’ Thundered Krah. Totally taken aback at her intrusion. ‘Impossible! Earth is a mere primitive emerging civilisation.’
‘Is it?’ replied Zara. ‘Look at your screen. Look what’s happening. You are finished.’
Krah turned his head and looked. He was devastated to see his empire crumbling before his very eyes. Red and blue dots were blinking out all over. His ships were fleeing as the Federation ships chased them.
As he turned to face her the alarm once more set off.
‘Alarm. Alarm.’ The monotone voice said. ‘Proton power supply in overload. Proton power supply in overload.’
Krah looked at Gron.
‘Shut it down!’ He screamed. ‘Shut it down.’
Gron was frantically pushing every available button in sight, like a demented idiot.
‘I – I can’t my lord. I can’t. It – it won’t respond!’
For the first time they all saw fear in Krah’s eyes.
‘Overload now critical. Eight minutes to termination. Eight minutes to termination.’ Continued the voice.
Gron, wide eyed in fear, continued to frantically jab at every button.
Krah at this point realised the situation was hopeless.
Another two explosions in rapid sequence violently rocked the ‘Jyton.’ They all staggered clutching on to any object in sight.
‘Belts.’ shouted Kran ‘Belts’
From then on to Zara everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Like the other two she reached for her belt and switched it on. At the same time the plate shot open on Zebbidy’s stomach and his third claw emerged with a gun. In rapid sequence he turned and stunned down their four guards. Unfortunately one managed to fire just once before Zebbidy went into double cloaking mode. Zara was horrified to see a huge hole open up in Zebiddy’s chest from the blast. He staggered and dropped to his knees.
Gron scrambled out of his seat and cowered under his control desk.
Krah held on tight as yet another explosion occurred. He looked in utter amazement as his three prisoners vanished before his glaring eyes. He glanced once more around him as he realised that all was lost. In an instant he gathered his thoughts together. He grimaced and whirling round, savagely and cold bloodedly shot his three personal guards. Then, staggering under the effect of yet more explosions, he fled through the open door out of sight.
‘Quickly Zara. Help me.’ Said Kran. Together they lifted Zebbidy up and supporting him between them made for the exit. Behind them sheer panic broke out as the crew of the ‘Jyton rose to flee.
Leaving the exit Kran shouted ‘This way Zara.’ They stumbled, supporting Zebbidy between them, round several corridors then down some stairs and burst into the shuttle bay.
Zara was almost exhausted when they finally reached their transporter. She felt her legs trembling. They quickly bundled an obviously unconscious Zebbidy into his seat and fastened him and themselves in.
‘Taw, speed setting two. Shields up ignition please.’ Said Kran with some urgency.
The screen instantly sprang to life and the familiar pattern returned.
‘Taw, screen view please.’
The screen view changed, the transporter rocked and Kran steered it towards the huge entrance. Zara saw several technicians frantically trying to manually push a Cryton shuttle onto the guide rails.
‘Hold tight Zara.’ Said Kran tersely. This may be a little uncomfortable.’
‘Maximum speed Taw.’ He continued.
With a fearsome jolt the transporter shot out of the bay. Zara felt very dizzy and she nearly passed out. Dimly, as if he was some distance away, she heard Kran talking.
‘Taw. Report on Zebbidy please.’
‘My sensors indicate that his life support system is failing rapidly.’ Replied Taw.
‘Can you do anything to halt this failure?’ requested Kran.
‘Unfortunately you are too far away and my power is not strong enough. I have therefore taken the decision to move closer in.’ replied Taw.
‘I think that this is an unwise move Taw. This is dangerous for you.’ Replied Kran. ‘You will sustain severe damage yourself in the explosion that is about to take place.’
There was a slight pause. Then the screen became muddled with interference.
‘I am sorry Kran.’ Said Taw. ‘Your message has not been received. I seem to have temporarily partly lost communication with you due to radiation interference. However my sensors indicate that you are on course. I have therefore taken over control and I am automatically guiding you in. We will rendezvous in exactly two minutes. That will leave us exactly three minutes to clear the danger area.’
Kran raised his eyebrows and smiled to himself. Taw was being evasive. However, he realised that Taw was right and knew best of all what action they must take.
Then he turned his attentions to Zara and Zebbidy.
He noticed that Zara was holding Zebbidy’s hand.
About the same time, the ‘Jyton’ was violently rocking due to the explosions of the doomed battleships surrounding it. The ‘Jyton’ was also beginning to sustain mortal hits from the attacking Wanderers vessels. They had moved in to fire from just outside the danger zone.
Inside Krah stumbled through thick smoke. Small fires had broken out aboard the doomed vessel. The warning voice was still mechanically booming out.
Coughing and choking he made his way through his private quarters. Fumbling at a door he managed to slide it open. Inside he felt extremely relieved when he saw his emergency shuttle silently lying there. He stumbled across and touched a coloured square. The door to the shuttle slid open and he began to frantically stab at the controls, feeding in his personal code. To his horror nothing happened. He cursed and tried again. Again all was silent.
‘Arghh!’ he screamed out loud in sheer frustration. ‘Arghh!’ He banged his ironclad fist in uncontrollable anger on the master switchboard. He began to search frantically around for the master code record.
At that precise moment Gron, also coughing violently, appeared in the doorway of the shuttle.
‘Having trouble my lord?’ He asked peering in.
Krah looked up startled.
‘Gron!’ He snarled. ‘Gron! - Do something. The shuttle won’t accept my personal code, and the master navigational record is missing. Some idiot must have changed it and mislaid the record.’
‘Oh. Yes my lord.’ Replied Gron apologetically, still peering in. ‘I’m afraid to say it was me.’
‘You!’ shouted Krah. ‘You – why? – How dare you!’
‘Ah –yes - my lord.’ Replied Gron. ‘But you see I followed your instructions implicitly. You said nobody else was to find out what the code was. I therefore took the precaution of changing it.’
‘Well give the correct code and the navigational record to me now! Give it to me!’ Krah choked out.
‘I’m afraid I can’t do that, my lord.’ Said Gron apologetically. ‘You see, I destroyed the code and the record for security reasons, in order to protect your information.’
Kran nearly choked in anger.
‘Well how am I going to get out of here?’ he screamed.
‘Oh – that’s no problem my lord.’ Replied Gron, still coughing. ‘I know what it is. I can enter the code in for you.’
‘You can?’ He said. ‘Well put it in, - Now!’ Shouted Krah.
‘I’m afraid it’s not as simple as that though, my lord. In order to fly the shuttle, it will be necessary for me to sit in the control seat.’ Replied Gron.
‘What?’ screeched Krah? ‘Why?’
‘Well you see my lord.’ Gron went on. ‘You cannot possible follow my verbal navigational instructions quickly enough in order to steer the craft.’
‘Arghh!’ Krah exploded. He scrambled out of the seat. Gron climbed in. Krah looked at him blankly and then frowned.
‘Where am I going to sit?’ He said.
‘Oh – yes – my lord, of course. Well I’m afraid you will have to sit on the floor under my feet.’
‘On the floor?’ Krah screamed. ‘Under your feet? - I, your lord, will have to sit under your feet like a dog?’
The ‘Jyton’ started to tremble violently.
‘I’m afraid so my lord.’ Said Gron apologising again. The trembling increased even more. ‘And If I were you my lord I would get in as quickly as possible. Time is getting very short.’
Krah feeling the tremble increasing, did not wait a moment longer. He scrambled in under Gron’s feet hutching his knees up to his chin.
‘Well get me out of here! Now! Or I shall die!’ Krah screamed in terror.
‘Me? – I? - My lord.’ Queried Gron quietly, smiling. ‘Surely you mean us?’
‘All right. Us! Us! I mean us. But do it!’
‘I will my lord. But may I suggest that you stop shouting and that you keep quiet for the rest of the trip. Your shouting makes my fingers tremble and I am then unable to use the controls.’ Gron said grinning to himself.
Krah groaned quietly in sheer rage and frustration and hammered his fists on the floor, but shut up talking.
‘I’ll kill him at the first opportunity,’ Krah thought to himself. ‘I’ll personally dispose of him with my bare hands. The idiot! Why do idiots always surround me?’
Gron felt Krah shuffling uncomfortably under his feet. He smiled quietly to himself. ‘So far so good.’ he thought. ‘I suppose I had to take him. I need him at the moment. He knows where we can go in order to survive. However, later on? Well that’s a different matter.’ He chuckled quietly, very quietly, and then typing in the code touched the blast off button.
The shuttle zoomed off with only seconds to spare.
Kran, Zara and Zebbidy just about made it back on time to the ‘Persuer’. Kran docked the transporter and they frantically dragged the unconscious Zebbidy to the main control room and fastened him into his seat. They then fastened their own seat clamps.
‘Shields up. Rear screen on. Maximum escape speed.’ Shouted Kran. ‘Get us out of here Taw.’
The screen flickered in acknowledgement.
The ‘Persuer’ surged forward and they were all violently slammed backwards into their seats.
‘Attend to Zebbidy, Taw.’ Commanded Kran.
‘I have already taken the liberty to do so.’ Replied Taw. ‘I am attempting to restore his life support system at this present moment.’
Kran and Zara had their eyes fixed firmly on the screen.
The ‘circle of battleships had completely disappeared. The ‘Jyton.’ lay still, suspended in space. As they rapidly receded from it, they saw huge explosions taking place within it. A couple of small trails, evidently escaping shuttles, streaked away from the ‘Jyton. Then suddenly, with a massive surge, the ‘Jyton completely exploded, and it vanished totally, blasted in millions of tiny fragments. Seconds later a violent wave, consisting of a mixture of expanding air, gasses and lethal radiation hit the ‘Persuer’. The internal lights dimmed badly and the screen went totally blank
The ‘Persuer rocked and wobbled violently, then just as suddenly all became still and quiet.
Kran looked anxiously at Zara.
‘Are you ok?’ he asked.
Zara struggled to sit up.
‘I – I think so. I’m just shocked that’s all. What about Zebbidy?’
They both looked at him. He looked very pale and lifeless.
Suddenly his eyes flickered open and he stared up at them.
‘Oil.’ He said faintly. ‘Oil. My throat is dry.’
Zara looked around and spotted a paper cup and a small can of oil lying nearby.
Zara grabbed the paper cup and squirted some oil from a can into it.
She held it to his trembling lips. Zebbidy sipped weakly at it.
‘Thank you.’ Zebbidy muttered in response. Zara held his right claw gently.
He grimaced faintly, as though in pain. He looked up at Kran.
‘I suppose Taw will be happy to see me suffering.’ He muttered.
‘Now that’s unkind Zebbidy.’ Replied Kran gravely. ‘Taw risked all by entering the danger zone in order to rescue you.’ Kran looked up at the screen. It was totally blank.
‘In fact.’ He continued. ‘It appears that Taw may have given his life to save you. He is not responding at all.’
Zebbidy’s eyes grew wide open and he turned his head to look at the screen.
‘Dead?’ He said in awe. ‘Dead?’ Then his face crumpled. His eyes began to moisten.
‘I didn’t want Taw to die. Not just for me.’ He said weakly. ‘He was my twin. My star twin. He was the only real metal friend I had.’
A trickle of oil ran down one cheek.
Just at that moment the screen sprang to life and the familiar pattern of colourful dancing lights returned.
‘Contrary to expectations Zebbidy, I am not dead. I was merely putting all my energy into recovering from the effects of the explosion. Further, as you are well aware, I would not have died just for you. Being a programmed computer, I merely undertake tasks in a strict priority order. I therefore made the cold, clinical decision, to enter the rescue zone at that particular moment, because your recovery at that time became the priority. If a more important task had become the priority instead, I would have chosen that. That is my function. May I suggest that you also stick to your function and try to control your somewhat juvenile, impulsive, bad behaviour.’
With that the screen flickered and reverted to a normal forward view.
Zebbidy shot bolt upright. He snatched up the paper cup and hurled it at the screen.
‘You ugly bundle of rotten wires.’ He screamed. ‘I hate you. I hope you get sunburnt due to the radiation.’
He then slumped back in his seat and pouted his lips in anger.
Zara and Kran both burst into hysterical laughter. Zara found herself crying in sheer relief.
Zebbidy just continued to glower at them.
When they had recovered from their mirth, Kran leaned over and took Zara’s hand. He gently wiped the tears from her cheek with his fingers.
‘Well it’s all over now.’ He said, smiling at her. ‘Now we can relax and rejoin our friends. We will have a party to celebrate our victory. I think the Federation will now lick its wounds and in time recover.’
‘What about Krah? Is he dead?’ Asked Zara staring at the screen and looking at the stars.
Kran chuckled. ‘I doubt it very much. He is too cunning to die. No, his empire has crumbled, but I doubt if the Federation has seen the last of him.’
Zara stared into space and shivered slightly.
‘However, never mind that now.’ Kran said brightly. ‘More importantly, after the party you must return home.’
‘Zara looked into his eyes.
‘I don’t want to go home.’ She said. ‘I want to stay here with you.’
‘Kran smiled at her.
‘Sadly that is not possible.’ He replied regretfully. ‘I am certain that the Elders of the planet Tema will insist that you have to return home. You must return to the off limit area in order to avoid contravening the laws set up and agreed by them and Third Federation.’
Zara thought for a few moments.
‘What will I say to my parents?’ Said Zara. ‘They will wonder where I have been.’
Kran smiled again.
‘They wont know.’ He replied. ‘And neither will you remember. You must be returned to the same place and time zone. It will be as though all this never happened.’
‘I don’t want to forget.’ Said Zara, tears welling up in her eyes. ‘I don’t want to.’
I’m afraid that you must.’ Kran said gently.
Zara slowly unfastened the flower from her hair. She handed it to Kran.
‘I don’t suppose I will be able to take that back to Earth with me?’ She said sadly.
Kran gently took it from her.
‘No unfortunately that would not be allowed.’ He replied with a wistful smile. ‘However, you look just as pretty without it. I will look after it for you and perhaps I will be able to return it to you again one day.’
Zara smiled cheerfully at him.
He placed it carefully down on the control desk.
‘Anyway, cheer up, were off to a party.’ He said.
‘Oh goody!’ Chirped up Zebbidy and he sat up again, beaming all over his face.
‘I love parties.’
They both looked at him and laughed.
‘The task has been completed.’
The other five elders of the planet Tema who were present at the meeting turned their heads to look with dark, almond shaped eyes, at the originator of the thoughts
He continued, his mind transmitting clear thoughts instantly to the others.
‘The invasion of the Cryton’s has been at last successfully repelled. Their forces are fleeing in total disorder and they are now asking for details governing their terms of surrender. Order is being slowly restored in the Federation. Given time, the Third Federation will recover from the wounds that have been inflicted upon them.’
‘What about Krah, the leader of the Cryton’s?’ Thought Kera.
Evidence suggests that he may have escaped.’ Replied the originator. ‘Unfortunately we have no idea where he has gone. However, he is now powerless and will be of no further trouble for us for a long time to come.
In the future we must take precautions to try to ensure that this kind of secret preparation does not occur again without our knowledge. The main fact is, that by taking the decisions we made, we have managed to preserve our long held tradition of maintaining our isolation from the various Federations, as they come and go.’
‘What about the Wanderer and the Earthling?’ Thought Zon.
‘The union of the Wanderer and the Earthling proved to be very successful. Emotion is a very powerful weapon.’ Replied the originator. ‘ We made a wise decision by waiting for them to act.’
‘What will happen to her now?’ Thought Trin, another member of the group.
‘I have already sent instructions to the Wanderer to return her to the planet Earth. This is in compliance with the agreement we made with the Third Federation. She must be returned to the original place and time zone that she was removed from.’
‘Will they ever meet again?’ Thought Kera.
‘Even we cannot foretell the future’. Replied the originator. ‘That is truly only in the hands of the real Gods.’
They sat in silence for a few moments.
Then the originator thought.
‘As there is nothing else for us to discuss, may I suggest that our meeting be now closed.’
They all nodded in agreement.
It was a sunny morning and Zara was sitting down by the river quietly reading her book. It was summer time and a glorious day. She could hear the soft buzz of the insects. The water sparkled in the light. She watched a small fish swimming lazily past her in the river below. Up above light fluffy clouds slowly, very slowly, moved across the blue sky. She could smell the new fresh grass. She put her book down for a moment and suddenly realised it was exactly as she remembered in her dream. Crawling forward onto her knees she gently dangled her hand into the cool water. As she pushed her fingers into the water the resulting ripples from the small vibration spread outwards in circles. This broke the calm surface of the water and the fish disappeared. When the ripples had settled she suddenly saw something glinting in the water. She dipped her hand in and felt around. She could feel a hard object. She lifted it out of the water and stared at it in amazement. It was a metal charm bracelet. Dangling from it were three small charms, which she then examined. One was a tiny model of a spaceship, the second was a tiny model of the strangest fish that she had ever seen, and the third was a small, beautifully carved, metal flower. She dried the bracelet in her handkerchief.
Zara sat back and thought about what she had found. She decided that some small child, or even perhaps an adult, had dropped it in the river. She decided that as she did not know to whom it belonged, she could not return it at the present moment.
‘Ah well.’ She thought to herself. ‘Charm bracelets are back in fashion now. I’ll wear it and if I find out to whom it belongs I’ll return it straight away. ‘ She slid the bracelet over her left hand and surprisingly it fitted perfectly on her wrist.
Then she remembered that she had arranged to meet Julie that afternoon. She thought that as it was nearly lunchtime she should return home. Zara quickly tidied her rather messy hair. Then she picked up her book, looked up at the sky for a moment, and sighing in contentment, thought what a pleasant day it was. She smiled. Then she set off up the hill towards the village.
We hope that you enjoyed this story. If you did so then please, please send us an e-mail.
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