Contributor: Julius Vagdal
Feeling the seeker’s departure, Ben slowly stepped into the room, his own wand at the ready. He breathed a sigh of relief; his illusion had done its work, as had the wards. Without them he would never have known of the seeker’s coming or going.
He closed his eyes and concentrated. Yes, he could still feel the trail of magic, like the scent of rotting meat lingering behind the golem-seeker. He would be able to follow, if he was quick about it. He was thankful it had only been a golem; a wizard would likely have seen through his illusion.
He opened his eyes, they fell on his son's empty bed. How many nights had he stood in this spot, watching over Simon, dreading this night? How many times had he thundered at his son hoping to drive the thoughts of wizards and magic from his head? But the boy was wizard-born, and nothing he could do could change that.
He looked out the broken window and whispered a spell. The dim glow of Simon’s foot and hand prints suddenly appeared along the rooftop. His eyes followed them to a tree and down to the streets below. Ben heart was torn between wanting to go after his son and the need to follow the golem. Time, if only he had more time. But wishes were like fishes; they slipped away before you could grasp them. He had to go after the golem; things would only worsen if he didn’t. It would take Simon time to reach Harod Street and find this Kell, longer still to reach to the portal of Tagn. Ben trusted in all that was good that Simon would be safe, at least for a while.
Breathing deeply, he ran his fingers across the bracelet on his wrist. The Livalin stones were cool beneath his fingers. Runes inbeded within each stone glowed with an ethereal light all their own. Ben was thankful he had prepared in advance for this time, though he hoped it would never come. For years he had spent some portion of each day pouring power into the warded stones to use as a reservoir should he ever have need of it.
Crossing to the far corner of the room, he concentrated on the quickly dissipating trail of magic, then willed himself to follow the golem. His stomach lurched, as if he had unexpectedly fallen off a wall.
He stood in a great hall. Torches flickered from sconces set within the stonewalls. There not five paces in front of him stood a black robed figure. His magic heightened sense of smell told him all he needed to know. This was the same soulless creature that invaded his home.
Surprise bloomed on the face of the seeker as it turned to face him. “Bendarrion,” the seeker said softly.
Without hesitation Ben dipped into the well of power resting within his bracelet. Smoke rose from the golem’s robes, and then suddenly turned into bits of flame licking out from the center of its chest. The golem let out an inhuman wail as it tried in vain to put out the flames as they spread across its body. Ben was forced to turn away his gaze as the soulless thing was engulfed by the bright red mage-fire until all that remained was a pile of ashes.
Ben closed his eyes and envisioned his next destination. His stomach lurched and he stood in a dark stand of ash and elm. He lopped through the tangled underbrush for a bowshot before he made his next jump. He would have to make a few intermediate stops to throw off any pursuit before he returned home.
Now that he had destroyed the golem-seeker, no one would know about Simon and he would be free to teach his son about the gift he had been born with; the gift that could also be a curse.
Contributor: Julius Vagdal
“Have you ever heard of 'Death with Dignity,' Honey?” The woman asked.
“Isn't that what people are calling assisted suicide in the papers?” Robert asked. Thelma nodded.
“Do you remember the day you took me to the nursing home?”
Robert's eyes watered. Of course he remembered. How could he ever forget that day? He had cared for Thelma all through the beginning, middle, and late stages of her Alzheimer's. Eventually though, he had to admit that he couldn't keep up. He took her to the rest home where “attentive staff would care for her” they assured. It broke his heart. He stopped by every Monday and Friday to sit and talk with her. It was less for her – she didn't even recognize him – and more as a way for him to continue to hold onto what they had left. One dreary Monday morning he showed up, only to be told that Thelma had passed in the night.
The funeral was held a week later. It was a lonely affair. Robert and the gravediggers were the only ones in attendance.
“Oh Thelma...Thelma...I'm so sorry Thelma.” He muttered to himself.
The tears overflowed, running in tiny rivers through the wrinkles and creases in his old face. He felt a pair of young hands slip into his. Surprised, he looked up at the young woman. She smiled, tears in her own eyes.
“Oh, Robert.” She sighed. “Robert, there's nothing to be sorry for. I'm just glad I found you in time.” Robert just stared at her, the tears still dripping from his face. “You know that there's no cure for Alzheimer's. But that particular rest home has an interesting...treatment.” Robert stared at her dumbfounded. “People looking for death with dignity come in the back while patients come in the front. There's a machine of some sort Robert; a wonderful device, really. An attractive young lady came in a few days before I was about to die. She had been in an abusive relationship. She was mentally unstable. She wanted all of the pain to go away. They hooked us both up to the machine and, switcheroo!” She exclaimed.
“Wait a minute!” Robert shouted. “How does it work? Wouldn't you still have Alzheimer's?” She smiled.
“Oh Robert, I couldn't hope to understand all of it, but I do know why I don't have Alzheimer's. The disease affects my brain. Too many degenerate cells, or so they say. My brain stayed with my old body. My mind went to this new, perfectly healthy host.” Robert shook his head.
“So when you died...”
“Oh, silly! I didn't die! My old body finally succumbed to the disease. The other woman got just what she asked for. They took away the pain. She died peacefully, in her sleep I believe.” She giggled. “I, on the other hand, was in therapy – learning how to control my new body.”
“I'm not sure that I should believe you...” Robert started. He examined the young girl carefully. She seemed so vastly different, but at the same time – he could see Thelma shining through at times. “Alright...” Robert started. “I'll trust you on this. But, why come back? I'm an old man.” Thelma laughed again.
“Oh, Robert! That's exactly why I came back!” He gave her a quizzical look. “What I mean to say is this.” Thelma took a deep breath and squeezed his hands more tightly. “Robert, how would you like another shot at life? We could have another life together. We could be happy again...”
- - -
Helia worked furiously in the dimly-lit area. She sliced through bulging tubers, wilted carrots, and dried meats. She scraped the ingredients into a large black kettle hanging over an open fire. She mopped sweat from her forehead with her dirty apron. It had taken hours to clean the galley, just so she could use it. When Helia had entered the galley, there was a crust of dirt, grease, and bilge at least an inch thick over the counters, the dishes were glued together with old ale and black grime, and rotting garbage was piled all over the floor. The stench almost caused Helia to faint. Jim had only laughed and locked her in. Now that it was considerably cleaner and she had started a stew, she leaned back to catch her breath.
She leaned against the counter and looked up at the dark space above her head; she could hear footsteps on the deck above. She closed her eyes and sighed. She was lost. She had no idea where she was and had no prospects of ever getting back – not even to her horrid old tavern. Lavera had left her to fend for herself and she'd been kidnapped. She'd lost it all. Her money, her clothes, her hopes of adventure and freedom...maybe she should have listened to the others and stayed behind instead of chasing after fantastic stories of helium moons with Lavera.
Finally the shock of the past few hours caught up with Helia. She slid to the floor and curled up, sobs shaking her body. She cried uncontrollably for a few minutes before she heard a loud thump as something hit the floor by her. She opened her teary eyes, expecting to see the repulsive visage of a pirate, sneering down at her. What she saw however, was a tall, slender woman with blonde hair reaching just below her chin. She was dirty, and a bit disheveled, but it was her. Lavera was back.
“How ya' been kid?” Lavera asked, glancing around the galley.
“Oh, Lavera!” Helia cried. She threw her arms around her and broke out into fresh sobs. Lavera pried Helia off. She held a finger to her lips.
“Quiet Helia!” She whispered harshly. “Do you want to get me killed?” Helia choked back her tears.
“But how in the world?” Helia asked quietly. Lavera smiled and climbed up onto the counter.
“Let me tell you, it wasn't my easiest job.” She chuckled. “There I was, watching in the shadows.” She began. There was a creak, and the sliding of a wooden crossbar at the far end of the galley. “Oops. Gotta go.” Lavera stated, leaping from the counter and swinging into the rafters. “I'll find you later. Tonight, if possible!” Helia snapped her attention back to the black pot and dipped a long wooden spoon into it, stirring slowly.
The door opened and Jim came in.
“The grub smells good.” He called. “What is it?”
“Stew.” Helia replied meekly.
“Oh, you been crying?” Jim asked in mock sympathy. “Good. Don't worry, before long you won't even remember home.” He chuckled.
Contributor: E.S. Wynn
Knees and floorboards creaked together in protest as Robert shuffled to the door, stretched feebly to peer through the peephole. Outside, a beautiful woman fidgeted with her gorgeous chestnut hair, eyes wandering nervously across the rickety porch in a way that seemed familiar, seemed odd.
"Go away!" Robert shouted, pulling in his own nervous breath, settling back down onto his cane. "I don't want whatever it is you're selling!"
"Selling?" She shouted back. Porch boards creaked beneath shifting feet. "Robert! It's me!"
Swallowing, Robert stretched again to look through the peephole, saw the woman staring back at him, emotions playing across her face, hurt and sadness, nervousness, hope. I'd remember that face. He told himself. "How do you know my name?"
"I'm your wife, Robert." She replied. Soft, direct. "I've lived with you for over fifty years. Your name is Robert Coleman. You were born in Dusseldorf. Your favorite dinner is roast beef with fried cabbage."
Can't be. His brow furrowed. "Thelma?"
"Let me in, Robert." Beyond the peephole, she almost danced, excited, worried. "It's cold out here."
"You don't look like my wife." He said suddenly. "Even when she was younger. Thelma was a beautiful blonde."
"This isn't my old body, sweetheart." She smiled. "Natural blonde is very in vogue in SoCal, so I traded it in for something different. Something more. . . fun." She giggled. "Do you like it?"
"It's. . ." He shook his head. "Traded it in?"
"Oh silly." She tried. "Listen, let me in and I'll tell you all about the whole experience."
- - -
Contributor: Binary Agent
Robert shuffled through the door to his house and flicked on the lights. It was quiet as usual. He slowly made his way over to the refrigerator. He opened the door and pulled out a microwave dinner. He opened the box, and slid the plastic tray into the microwave. While the timer counted down, he pulled a glass from the cupboard and filled it with water. He sat at the table and stirred in his fiber supplement. The microwave pinged. Robert grabbed his cane and got back up with a grunt to retrieve his meal. As he sat eating his “Ham and Gravy Dinner” his eyes rested on a small framed portrait in the center of the table. He sighed to himself.
“Nobody cooks like you did, Thelma.” He picked up the frame and stared at the older lady's portrait behind the glass. A tear ran down his wrinkled face.
The doorbell rang. Robert pulled off his thick glasses and dabbed at his eyes with his handkerchief. He ran a hand over his thinning gray hair and called,
“Coming! I'm coming!”
Contributor: Binary Agent
The man was like thousands of other pirates Helia has timidly served for years. He was dirty, unshaven, and wore ragged clothes. He was tall, with tough, stringy muscles and a scar cutting across his left bicep. His dark hair has pulled back, partly hidden underneath a frayed hat. He swaggered over to Helia and the slave. The boy backed away.
“What have we here?” He growled.
“A new slave, Jim.” He squeaked. Jim stared her up and down. Helia didn't back down, by now she was good and mad. They stared at each other for a moment, neither one even blinked. Finally the buccaneer broke into a wide grin and half turned away from Helia.
“Adam was wrong about you.” He started. “You've got plenty of spunk.” Jim laughed out loud. “But, I'm afraid we can't afford to let him take you. Not if you really worked in a tavern.” Helia looked at him incredulously. She thought back to meeting the pirates in the alley, how he had looked at her -- grabbed her dress. Helia's skin crawled. She shuddered. Jim laughed again.
“Now, I suppose that even if you hadn't worked there – you'd insist that you had!” He chuckled.
“What difference does it make anyway?” Helia demanded. “So what? Yes, I worked as a cook and server!” The pirate smiled again.
“We can loot, shoot, burn, rob, raze, drink, sail, rape, pillage, kill, destroy, and keelhaul.” Jim stated. “But a pirate can only live on beer and stale biscuits for so long. If you can cook – you'll be stuck in the galley!”
Helia shivered in the dark hold, but not so much from the cold as from fear of what was going to happen to her next. Her hands were still tied behind her back, and her feet had been bound too. Her jaw ached from the gag. Sweat dripped from her nose and forehead, running into her eyes. The thick black sack was still over her head. She heard someone thumping down the wooden stairs to the hold – the door creaked open on its rusting hinges. Helia could sense someone approaching her, her muscles tensed and she got ready to strike. Suddenly the bag was ripped off her head. She pulled away and kicked out with her tied feet. She connected with something. She heard a yell and a thud, followed by another shout as the figure hit the floor. She rolled off the crate she'd been sitting on, into the shadows of the cargo. Her eyes were still stinging from the sweat, but she hadn't heard anything else. Suddenly, a hand grabbed her hair. She tried to squirm away but the grip was too tight. Suddenly, the gag slipped from her mouth. She gasped in a mouthful of air. A wet rag passed over her sweaty face. She blinked as the stinging salt water was wiped from her eyes.
A young boy, twelve or thirteen at the most, was kneeling on the floor by her -- the untied gag in one hand, a wet rag in the other. He was thin, with messy, greasy blonde hair. He smiled.
“It's a good thing I'm me, and not a bigger pirate. If you'd kicked a real buccaneer like Pedro Blomar, you'd be dead right now.” The boy announced. Helia stared at him.
“So you're not a pirate?” She asked.
“Oh no! I'm a slave.” The boy replied. “Just like you are.”
“I'm not a slave.” Helia retorted. The boy grinned.
“Of course you are! You're tied up in the hold, gagged, and obviously not familiar with pirates.”
“Oh, believe me. I'm familiar with them.” Helia replied. “I served them at a tavern for long enough to become familiar with them. They're the lowest, slimiest, most perverse group of vagabonds out there!”
“Compliments,” A gruff voice sneered from the stairway. “Will get you nowhere, sweetheart.”
Contributor: Binary Agent
Mac entered his dimly lit room in the back of the boarding house. He dropped Emery's limp body onto his cot, sending up clouds of dust that swirled in the slanting rays of the setting sun. He stalked across his room to a small table. He stooped down and grasped one of the creaky floorboards. He sat back on his heels and pulled. The warped board flexed upward, revealing a small tube under the floor. Mac reached for a small, tin box of bullets and wedged it under the floorboard. He reached down into the floor and pulled out the rolled up paper. He untied the twine around it and unrolled the paper across his tabletop.
“It's been a long time.” Mac said with a sigh. “A very long time.” He ran his leathery hands over the yellowing map. “The Green Mountain Mine.”
Lavera crawled from her hiding place. The sun had set hours ago, the pirates hauled off to the gallows, and the officers had confiscated all the evidence they could find. She slowly staggered back to the bar. She limped through the broken doorway and over to corpse on the floor. She knelt by the towering frame of Nigel. A bloody bandage was wrapped around his torso, his face frozen in a grimace of pain. Donovan was sitting nearby.
“By the time the surgeon got here...” He started. Lavera sat back on her heels. She ran her hand over his cold, contorted features. She got up with a deep sigh and sat down at the table. A half-finished drink sat on the table. She picked up the glass and drained the remaining liquid. With a grunt she flopped back in her chair.
“I'm gonna' need at least three of those before I can forget this.” She moaned to herself.
“I think they went this way.” A gruff voice said. Helia stared from her hiding place. A group of seven pirates entered the alley. She looked up into the shadows where Lavera had disappeared. The pirates staggered through the alleyway, flipping over crates and smashing barrels. Helia pressed herself against the brick wall. She squeezed her eyes shut and curled herself up into a ball. She heard the pirates getting closer.
“Well, well.” Helia opened one eye. A dirty, unshaven face was inches from her own. She gasped and leaped to her feet, dropping her small suitcase on the ground. Two burly men caught her, latching onto her wrists and forearms. The first stalked over to her. He looked her up and down with an evil grin. “She'll do.” Helia squirmed in the grasp of the two pirates. The first pirate approached and took hold of her dress. She screamed at the top of her lungs.
“Help!” The pirate clamped a hand over her mouth.
“This way!” Helia heard voices and then footsteps running down the alley. A group of five constables charged down the alleyway, their blue and bronze uniforms glinting in the light of the setting sun. “Stop those scoundrels!” The lead officer shouted, drawing his weapon. “I'll see them hang!”
“Come on!” The pirate shouted. The three pirates with Helia dashed down the alley. The police quickly dealt with the four up front, and three officers ran after the ones with Helia. As the pirates ran, the one holding Helia's mouth pulled out a rope. He secured her hands and gagged her. One of the bigger pirates released his hold on Helia and turned to take on the officers. The other two made a mad dash for the docks. They burst out of the alleyway, only a few yards from where their ship was moored. The ruffians ran across the gang-plank and the captain fired up the engine. In a cloud of smoke and foul-smelling gases, the ship lurched away from the dock. Helia turned back to look at the shrinking port. Her eyes began to fill with tears. As she turned back to examine her surroundings, a black sack was yanked over her head.
Lavera yanked open the drawer and pulled out a long pistol. She released the safety and fired across the top of the bar. One of the pirates yelped and dropped to the floor. The other patrons were either hiding beneath their tables, or staring at Lavera drunkenly. Nigel was on his feet and over the bar in a flash.
“Lavera, what are you doing?” He exclaimed. “I've always known you to be crazy, but this is too much!” Lavera shot at the charging pirates again. This time the shot only grazed the lead pirate's shoulder.
“Actually, they were shooting at me before I got on the ship with you.” Lavera said as she fired another shot. It went horribly wide, blowing a hole in the wall. “Blast this alcohol!” She exclaimed. “I didn't think it was that strong!”
“New blend.” Donovan gurgled. “Good stuff.” Lavera grabbed Helia's arm and dashed for the exit. Nigel was right behind them. Luckily, the pirates couldn't aim any better. Glasses on nearby tables shattered, lamps exploded, and the windows crashed as the group ran for the door. As they ran out into the street, Nigel yelped. He collapsed on the ground. Lavera screeched to a stop.
“Go!” Nigel shouted. As he held a hand to his lower back. Lavera didn't need to be told twice. As the pirates stumbled out into the street, Lavera and Helia dashed into a narrow alley.
Contributor: Binary Agent
The ship slowly pulled up next to the dock. With a scrape and squeak, the doors opened and the crew began unloading the cargo. Lavera and Helia stepped off the ship with their belongings.
“Why are we dragging our bags along, Lavera?” Helia asked. Lavera grinned.
“When you travel with me, you need to be ready to run at a moment's notice.” Nigel approached them, wiping his broad, sweaty brow with the back of his gloved hand.
“I know just the place.” He said as he approached. “Not too far from here, just past the docks on the east there.” Nigel said, pointing towards a few docks in the distance. As the three approached the bar, the door crashed open and a man staggered out the door. He tripped over his own feet and collapsed on the cobblestone street. He laid there motionless.
“Oh my goodness.” Helia gasped, bending down. “Are you alright?” She turned the man over. His eyes were closed. Suddenly, a snore erupted from his partially open lips. Nigel unleashed a bellowing laugh. The man opened his eyes slightly and began to giggle drunkenly.
“It's barely sundown! Drunk already?” Nigel chortled. “Ladies,” he said, motioning to the drunk on the ground, “this is our host, Donovan Dagon.” The man on the ground smiled crookedly. Nigel helped Donovan up and led Helia and Lavera into the bar. Donovan leaned against the bar and filled up three mugs. Nigel held up his mug and smiled. Lavera tipped her mug up with Nigel but Helia stared at the surface of the green liquid. She sniffed it and sipped at it. She grimaced and put it down. She turned to look at the bar's other clientèle. Many of them were crusty, old captains and muscle-bound crew members. She noticed a group of pirates across the room. They were getting up, a few had pistols drawn. They were pointing at Lavera and Nigel.
“Lavera...” Helia started. “It looks like those pirates know you.” Lavera slammed her mug onto the table.
“Pirates?” She asked tensely. Lavera turned slightly. “Excuse me!” She shouted as she leaped over the bar. She pushed Donovan aside and began yanking open the drawers behind the bar. “Come on!” She exclaimed. “What decent bar owner doesn't keep a gun behind the counter?”
"Third drawer." Donovan groggily replied from his position on the floor.
Kenna’s tirade stopped abruptly.
“The Admiral.” She gasped. “The Admiral's on Mars…Oh my gosh! He knows!”
“The Admiral’s on Mars?” Graffyr asked. Kenna whirled around.
“Of course not! Why would the Admiral be on Mars?” Suddenly Graffyr got it.
“The Admiral had received a report about an uprising on Mars, hadn’t he?” Graffyr asked. Kenna turned white. She had just divulged confidential information to the ship’s engineer, information she didn't even know she knew until a few moments ago. “I get it now." He continued. "The Admiral received the news six days ago, but didn’t believe it. At least, not fully. That’s why you were transferred to the Holgar. He wanted you within calling distance when he went to check out the situation, if in fact there was one.” Graffyr stopped. “Kenna.”
"What?" Kenna asked, shocked that Graffyr had put together so much more of the puzzle than she had.
"If there had been a real jailbreak -- if someone had escaped -- would the officials know that?"
"Of course they would." The Kenna insisted. "They know every prisoner on that planet."
"Kenna, is there no way that a prisoner smart enough to escape could stay off the record?" Graffyr pressed.
"I'm telling you Graff, there's no way he could have been erased from the database. Once you're in, you're in. They have pictures, prints, DNA samples, cranial scans, and a firewall that not even the designers could hack protecting it." Kenna countered. "If anyone escaped -- and that's a big if -- we would have been alerted."
"What if he'd been found? Would you have been notified, or just the Admiral?"
"What are you trying to get at Graff?" Kenna asked
"Is there any way the Admiral could be in danger Kenna?" Graffyr asked.
He was at least two feet taller than either Lavera or Helia. His massive upper body rippled under his linen shirt as he trudged into the engine room. A long scar cut across his face from ear to chin -- the nearly straight line deformed a little by the scowl he was wearing. He carried a large wrench in one hand a large wooden mallet in the other. A thick leather tool belt was cinched around his wide waist. He looked down at the engine upon entering the room and noticed the two women for the first time. A wicked grin replaced his frown, wrinkling the scar into a squiggly snake-like line. Helia gulped.
The man swooped down and, dropping his tools, scooped Lavera into a bear hug.
“Lavera!” He bellowed. “How’ve ya been?”
“Nigel! I haven’t seen you since we were on that convoy with the Sheiks of Agamemnon! What are you doing here?” Lavera exclaimed.
“I’m a deck hand. You?” Nigel asked.
“Engineer.” Lavera replied. “I’m fine-tuning this tub.” They both laughed. Nigel dropped Lavera back onto the floor and turned to Helia.
“And you are..”
“She’s my help.” Lavera interrupted. Nigel continued to stare at Helia. She began to squirm uncomfortably. Without turning to look at Lavera he asked,
“Assistant or Apprentice?”
“Apprentice, definitely.” Lavera said. “She doesn’t know the first thing about Aether or clockwork.”
“Say,” Nigel began. “We’ll get to the next port by tomorrow morning. How about I treat you and…”
“Helia.” Helia squeaked.
“…Helia to a couple of drinks once we’re unloaded?”
“Sounds great!” Lavera chimed.
Contributor: Binary Agent
Mac stood at the bar. The kid was slumped against it, his head resting on the wooden counter – surrounded by beer mugs and shot glasses. He had probably consumed more alcohol in the last five minutes than he had in his entire life. After the bandits had had their fun with him they'd left, presumably to fetch the wizard. Mac eyed the boy, eyes closed, drool leaking from his partly open mouth.
“So,” Mac started. “Who are you anyway?” The kid slowly opened one bleary eye, then the other. They finally focused on the cowboy.
“Uhh?” He moaned.
“Your name, boy. What's your name?” Mac repeated.
“Em'ry.” He drawled quietly.
“Emery?” Mac asked, leaning closer. The boy just shut his eyes again. “Alright Emery, where're you from? Chicago? Richmond? New York?” Emery tried to lift his head off the bar like it was a block of lead. He gave up with a groan.
“Sure, Ch'cago.” He whispered groggily.
“How'd you get into the mine?” Mac questioned. Emery wearily opened his eyes.
“Yes, the Green Mountain Mine! The mine in Solitude!” Mac shouted. “How'd you get in?” Emery winced and pressed his hand against his head.
“Gree...Moun'n...Sol'tude...Mine Door's Rocky. You can't get in.” Emery moaned while squeezing his eyes shut.
“I know, the entrance caved in years ago. How did you get in?”Mac pressed.
“Small hole...sagebrush...top...ropes.” Emery slowed to a stop. Mac examined the drunk boy. Maybe he wasn't lying. Only a few people knew about the other entrance to the mine. Explorers couldn't find it, not unless they fell into it – yet this kid had. Mac slapped his money on the bar and picked up Emery, slinging him over his shoulder.
“Let's get you back to my room 'till you sober up.”
Helia gritted her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut. The professor clutched his seat with white knuckles. Lavera took a deep breath and reached for a sturdy wrench. She wedged the tool into the wheel and let go. Helia's eyes snapped open when she heard the cockpit whoosh open. Lavera was gone! A wrench, wedged between the dashboard and the wheel held the steering in place, but the engineer had vanished! Helia saw her, on the front of the glider, straddling the engine. The portly old wizard was also outside the cockpit, latched onto the tail of the ship. He was frantically attempting to repair the rudder.
"What are your doing?" Helia shouted at Lavera.
"Making sure we don't all die!" Lavera exclaimed without turning around.
"Are you crazy? We're going to hit that moon any second!" Helia yelled back.
"12.7 seconds, actually." Professor Fleischer responded, crawling back into the cockpit. His clothes and hair were a wind-whipped mess, but he seemed strangely clam. "Lavera! That'll have to do!"
"Just a few more seconds..." Lavera called.
"Impact in 8...7...6...5..." The professor counted. Lavera vaulted back into the glider and kicked the wrench loose. The professor's repair held and the glider buzzed through the dense forest treetops.
I was up in a flash, tire iron ready. My flashlight was clutched in the other hand, but I didn't turn it on – not yet. The girl was up too. She clutched a short camping shovel with both hands like a bat. I glanced over a short piece of plywood wall that separated the area of the warehouse we were in from the back. A window had been shattered, but the rest of the space was empty from what I could see.
Those monsters don't hide. If they'd smashed the window, they'd have been clawing to get in. I flicked on my light. The beam fell on a hefty rock surrounded by broken glass from the window. Definitely not monsters. I heard movement outside. I clicked the light off. Two stout glass bottles flew through the broken window, flames sparking from rags stuffed into their mouths. I dove backward, knocking the girl down. As we scrambled behind a pile of rubble, I heard the glass shatter. There was a loud roar as the flames came to life and we were blasted by a wave of heat. As the flames licked the walls of the old building we ran for the door. We escaped into the gray twilight while the whoosh of flames crackling filled our ears.
Kenna watched closely as the video footage began to play. For the first few minutes it was just filming an empty hallway. Then the tape blipped.
“That's where the power went out.” Graffyr explained.
“A power outage? How? Mars has more than enough when it comes to backup power.” Kenna objected. Graffyr shushed her as the video came back to life. The video was fuzzy as the automatic's lenses refocused. Large red letters that spelled out “Power Outage” flashed across the screen. Suddenly the picture jolted to the side, like the automatic had fallen over. The footage began to get especially grainy. Suddenly a face whipped across the screen. The sound of ray gun fire blasted through the hallway and the video ended. “A prison break?” Kenna asked.
“Looks like.” Graffyr responded.
“Graff, how old is this recording?” Kenna asked.
“This was recorded nearly 140 hours ago.” Graffyr responded.
“Six Days!” Kenna exploded. “A prison break on Mars happened six days ago and I haven't heard anything?” She shouted.
“Maybe no one knows.” Graffyr suggested.
“No one knows there was a prison break on Mars?” Kenna exclaimed. “It's only the highest security prison in our sector of the known galaxy!”
Contributor: Binary Agent
Ket and Daelindra circled above the ogres. The brutes continued to march around the borders of the swamp.
“I'm going in for a closer look.” Ket said, folding his wings. As he dove he stretched out his talons and let out an ear-piercing shriek, knowing an attack from a full-grown gryphon would send the dimwits running. One casually turned and solidly placed his club in Ket's feathered chest. The force threw the gryphon into the scrubby brush a few yards away. He staggered upright as another ogre lumbered towards him. Ket flapped his wings and took to the air.
“Are you hurt?” Daelindra asked.
“Fine, Dae.” Ket winced. “But something is seriously wrong here.”