by Starsky Hutch 76 and Martin Maenza
“Are you sure this will work?” Kalista asked Primus. “These machines are so old.”
“Do you really think I would risk the lives of you and our child?” Primus said, trying to be reassuring.
“No, of course not,” Kalista said, smiling. She didn’t entirely believe it, though. Primus had put their cause before their marriage before, as had she. The infant boy she now held in her arms was simply a testament to both their love and stubbornness.
“If this works, those spiders are in for one hell of a surprise,” Tigorr said, extending his finger claws for emphasis. “Though I wouldn’t mind setting down on the surface to slice open a few egg-sacs personally.”
“You know we don’t have time for that,” Primus said. “Not if we’re going to be able to respond to that distress call from Kuraq that Ryand’r picked up.”
“I know that, Primus,” Tigorr growled. “But to have sat here trapped underground like this for so long, and then to not go after the Spider Guild forces who invaded your world… it just feels like we’re running away!“
“I said we didn’t have time to set down,” Primus said with a half-grin. “I didn’t say anything about not making sure they remembered that we were here.”
“I got you, fearless leader,” Tigorr said with a feral grin.
Ryand’r looked up from his control panel and said, “Once we’ve left Euphorix, we’ll at least check in with Earth and see if my sister Koriand’r and her teammates are OK, won’t we?”
“Of course we will,” Primus said to the Tamaran youth. “If this Alien Alliance is as bad as it sounds, we’re all going to have to help each other out in any way we can.”
The being enhanced with cybernetics known as Doc entered the control room and said, “I’ve run a final check, and I’d say everything is a go. We should be ready for launch. This Psion control center is now a fully functioning starship.” He sat down beside Ryand’r and said, “Even after being here for nearly two years, the technology of this place still continues to amaze me.”
“Too bad Artin wasn’t with us,” Ryand’r said. “We might’ve been out of here sooner.”
“Well, I’m sorry I didn’t discover the full capabilities of this facility sooner,” Doc said stiffly. “But my specialty is medicine, not computer science. Even with my vastly enhanced cybernetic mind, I’m still human and do have my limitations.”
“No one is faulting you,” Primus said.
“Yeah,” Ryand’r said. “Besides, Artin is a computer intelligence created by the Psions themselves. It’s not your fault he could’ve done it faster.”
“Oh, well, thank you very much indeed!” Doc said. “That’s so reassuring. Now if you excuse me, I’ll get back to my tediously slow work on getting our freedom.” Doc’s fingers moved across the control panel, and the room began to shake.
The young, violet-haired Euphoran woodwitch known as Ynda, which was short for Yndamaati, entered the room and called out, “Aunt Kalista! Uncle Primus! Is everything OK?” She was followed by the equally anxious Elu, who bounced into the room in his self-generated force-field.
“Everything’s fine, my love!” Ryand’r called out to her excitedly. “The moment of our freedom is at hand!”
Doc turned, creating a flash of light as the illuminations of the control panel played off of the twin monitors that made up his face. “Kalista! What are you doing up? You’re still supposed to be under bed rest!“
“I wasn’t about to miss this,” Kalista said.
Tigorr began working the newly refashioned controls. There was a loud creaking and crunching sound as tons of earth and rock were displaced. “Hard to believe this place was here for so long and no one knew it,” Ynda said. Everything we believed in…”
“Is still real,” Kalista said. “Don’t let a few false prophets ruin that for you. These old ones might’ve been Psion impostors, but that has nothing to do with the values we held sacred or the forces we’ve tapped into for untold generations.”
The last layer or rock and earth fell away and the surface of Euphorix was revealed to them. “Spider scum,” Primus growled, seeing how his native world had been transformed by the invaders.
“Time for a little payback,” Tigorr said. The laser cannons of the airborne command center rained down upon the robotic spiders that littered the ruined landscape. “Looks like we caught them by surprise!” Tigorr howled.
“Then let’s take advantage of that!” Primus said, leaning forward. Tigorr guffawed and increased their speed, sending the fighter forward with cannons blazing.
Wave after wave of the Spider Guild forces fell before them, but their numbers continued to grow rather than wane. “I’d say we’ve worn out our welcome,” Doc cautioned.
“Then let us depart for Kuraq,” Primus said. “But we’ll be back.”
“You got that right,” Tigorr said grudgingly as he turned the ship’s controls toward the heavens.
The night skies of Kuraq were lit up as the blasts of the Omegan ships hammered into those of the Citadel invaders. “We’ve got them on the run,” Tigorr said over his communicator.
“On this end, too,” the ex-Green Lantern known as the Green Man said from his fighter. “On this end, too.”
“I know,” Primus said. “That worries me.”
“Why are you complaining?!” Tigorr said. “Victory is being handed to you, and you’re whining about it! X’hal! I think you enjoy being miserable!”
“Think for once!” Primus snapped. “This is the Citadel we’re talking about. This is too easy!“
“Or maybe we’re just too good!” Tigorr said. He suddenly gave a triumphant yell at the sight of Citadel fighters retreating into the distance. “They’re giving up! Those big, lumpy, factory-produced losers are giving up! We’ve won!“
Suddenly, a distress call came over their systems. “The Tweener Network!” Primus exclaimed.
All ships headed in the direction and flew to where the giant broadcasting device lay in flames. Primus’ fighter flew over it and released its supply of emergency foam to put out the flames, but it was too late. The voice of freedom had been silenced.
Primus, Tigorr, and the Green Man landed their fighters by the ruined station and did their best to aid the odd-looking creatures known as the In-Betweeners, all clones of the original ‘Tweener who ran it. The head of the station, Synapse, looked at them accusingly. “You were supposed to protect us. We agreed to help you in this refugee program because you promised to protect us. Oh, my beautiful station is ruined.” He moved away on his bizarre appendages to help his brethren.
“Taking Kuraq was never a serious effort,” Primus snarled. “All the Citadel cared about was the station — making sure no more refugees left Vega.”
“They sure wanted us to think it was, though,” Tigorr said. “What’s their game?“
“That’s what I’d like to know,” Primus said.
Making his deal with the Alien Alliance was the best bargain Harry Hokum had ever made, he reflected as he sat on the throne of Euphorix. This was the one world that had always managed to elude the Citadel, and now here he sat.
As he looked out of the throne room window, he could see Alliance ships blasting away at the robots of the Spider Guild. Before, numbers had always worked in their favor, making them completely unbeatable. Now the numbers were on his side, thanks to the Alliance.
“Bet they’re sorry they didn’t join up now,” he laughed. He’d actually made the offer, but they saw fit to send his emissaries back as two dried-up husks. They’d come to regret it now. Harry Hokum was going to make sure of that. He’d hated them since the day they first appeared in Vega. He’d had to put up with them for far too long. But those days were over. One by one, he’d drive them from the worlds they’d taken in the Vegan system, and then he’d track them to their homeworld, wherever that was, and wipe them into extinction.
Both the Omega Men and the Spider Guild were now out of his hair. Life was good.
An inky, black-skinned alien with a featureless face was on a rampage. It tore up the track of the Burlington Northern line as easily as a child would a Lionel train set. While fire crews busily scurried about in the rain putting out the blazes started from punctured gas lines, the police tried to apprehend the creature. They weren’t doing a good job.
“Standard rounds just bounce off it!” one of the police officers said.
“Keep firing!” his partner said, emptying another round from his pistol. “Someone’s got to do something!”
“That’s where I come in!” boomed a voice as a figure in blue and white with a long blue cape whizzed past them.
The police did a double take. “Seattle’s got a hero?” one asked, not recognizing the newcomer.
“Call me, uh, Psi-Wave!” the blue-masked man said. “We’ll just see how that alien menace holds up against my telekinetic blasts!” The hero swooped around, cutting a path in front of the rampaging form. That’s one weird creature, he thought, remarking at the pointy protrusions out of the top of its head. “Hey, ugly! Over here!”
The alien spun around, letting out a curious grunt.
A telekinetic burst from the hero’s outstretched hands knocked the alien two-hundred feet and into some coal cars. “Now, how’s about you just give up this fight?” Psi-Wave asked.
The alien grunted again, reached for one of the overturned rail cars, and started to hoist it above his head.
“Uh-uh,” Psi-Wave said, shaking his head. “Mustn’t play with those!” Another telekinetic blast hit the strange life form. The alien then shook it off and rose again. “You still want to play?”
The alien straightened up, shook its head, and said in a gravely tone. “Uh… uh..!” It then raised its arms and fired a blast back at Psi-Wave, one identical in nature but a bit more powerful than that he’d already thrown at the alien.
The shot caught the hero off-guard, knocking him to the ground. “Hey, what gives?!” Psi-Wave exclaimed. “That’s my shtick! Who do you think you are?“
The alien voice groaned. “I… Replikon!“
Psi-Wave took off in a run, and the alien pursued. “Great, just great,” he muttered to himself. “I have to go against an alien who can spit my powers back at me! This won’t do!” He reached into the folds of his costume and pulled forth a flat metallic disk. The raindrops beaded down on it, especially in the indentations where various letters marked the device.
Another telekinetic blast shot past him, downing a telephone poll. Psi-Wave leaped into the air, then landed with a heavy splash in a deep puddle. His cape was soaked by the dirty water. “Ugh! This is no way to spend a vacation!” he grumbled. He rushed up a hill to where the highway passed. The alien was slow, thus the running bought him some time.
“We need something else to take that guy down!” Psi-Wave said, fingering the device. He dialed four letters: O-R-E-H. In a flash, the man in blue and white was gone.
He was replaced by a teenage boy with dark hair. “OK, time to change the lineup!” Nick Stevens said. A bolt of lightning rocketed across the sky, the booming of the thunder distracting him. “Sheesh, does it always rain heerrreeeee…!”
Another telekinetic bolt slammed into the teen, knocking him out into the highway. His hands fumbled, and the special dialing device, wet from the rain, slipped from his fingertips and hit the ground in a roll.
Nick realized his H-Dial was out of his grasp. “Nooo!” he screamed, trying to scamper across the wet pavement. The dial rolled toward a large storm drain opening and dropped out of sight.
A car horn honked. Nick looked up at the oncoming head lights. The teenager froze like a deer. The car skidded to a halt.
“Nick? Is that you?” a voice boomed. Nick Stevens looked up to see his father bolt from the vehicle. “It’s him! Damn it, boy! Why’d you run off?”
“Dad?” Nick looked in shock. The sound of the approaching alien could be heard.
Nick’s father heard it, too, along with more police gunfire. “Boy, this ain’t safe!” He grabbed his son by the arm and pulled him into the car. “Drive, Charlie, drive!” Nick’s uncle pulled off fast.
Nick panicked. The dial! “Dad, we have to go back!”
“Nick, are you crazy? Why?”
“I left something behind!”
“Boy, forget it! Nothing’s worth risking your life over — or ours! Whatever it is, we’ll replace it!”
Nick dropped his head. That was highly unlikely. That dial was special. What would he ever tell Mr. Reed?