by Martin Maenza
For one so large, the large, orange-pink-skinned man moved quickly through the crowds as he wound his way out of the commercial districts that made up the area around the transport stop. His path seemed fairly clear and straight forward, though; he was heading for the Seine River, which had a number of industrial facilities as well as more seamier locales.
The man was not joined by another, nor did Saturn Girl hear any more from the telepathic voice as she followed him. His partner and he must have had some established plan, she surmised. But as long as I do not lose the one, I should be able to locate the other as well. Imra Ardeen Ranzz kept moving by foot so as not to draw too much attention to herself. Still, in the section of the city that they had entered, a woman like she was bound to start standing out sooner or later.
The man moved passed an alleyway and continued down a set of stairs. Imra was about to do the same when a pair of rough-looking men dropped out of the alleyway.
“Look at what we have here!” the one with the scruffy beard said. “A fine specimen of womanhood whose lost her way.”
“Maybe we can help her along!” joked the other, who wore a patch over his eye.
“I don’t think so,” Imra said, starting to move past them.
“Well, I think you’re wrong!” the patch-eyed man said, and he grabbed her arm firmly.
Imra reached around, grabbing the man’s wrist with both her hands. First, she applied pressure in some very specific spots, forcing his grip to loosen slightly. He let out a yell as a sharp pain shot up his arm. “Aaa-aaah!” But she wasn’t finished.
Saturn Girl then bent her knees, shifted her weight, and tossed the man over her back with a smooth, fluid motion. He went crashing into the side of a sanitation dumpster with a loud thud.
She heard the click-click of a weapon as the bearded man pulled something from his jacket pocket. An eight-inch blade gleamed in the afternoon sunlight. “You want to play rough, lady? I can play rough!” The man lunged for her.
Saturn Girl spun around, sending her right foot into the air. The man noticed it and feigned to his right to avoid it. That’s when her left leg snapped into the air, allowing her to land on her right. She then kicked out with her left foot, connecting solidly with the man’s wrist. The knifelike weapon clattered to the ground.
Imra’s left foot came down; she pivoted to the left and swung her right foot into the air. It connected squarely to the man’s left temple, knocking him down to the ground. Good to know all those moves Val taught me still work, she thought.
With both would-be attackers down and out, Imra turned back to her quarry and rushed toward the stairs he disappeared down.
The stairs led to an underground walkway that was dimly lit and slightly damp. Its proximity to the river could account for the later condition. Imra moved carefully but quickly as she sought to find the man before he was able to reach his destination.
The tunnel opened to a large cavern. Supplies in crates could be seen stacked up against the far wall. Water dripped down slowly in spots from cracks in the ceiling above. As Imra arrived at the outside wall of the entryway, she heard the telepathic voice blaring loudly.
“There you are! The time has come!”
“Perhaps we should discuss this,” another telepathic voice blared.
“No more discussion! The time is now!”
“Please, reconsider. I can share the profits with you.”
“No! He who has been a traitor to our race must die!”
Imra had heard enough. It was time to stop the killers before they were able to strike.
She burst into the cavern to see the large figure she had been trailing along with another massive figure of a man, this one less muscular with more of an Earth-like appearance. This second man wore a dark suit, fairly fashionable.
“Hold it right there and put your hands in the air! You’re both under arrest for conspiring to commit murder!” Imra wanted to give them a chance to surrender to her.
“Who is the girl?” the heavyset Earth man asked.
“Science Police, no doubt!” the familiar telepathic voice said. “Get her, now!” The hulking orangish-pink figure responded and lunged for her with a guttural yell. The heavyset Earther reached into the folds of his dark suit and pulled out a pistol.
Saturn Girl tried to get the man to drop the gun, but a mental presence caught her off guard. She was able, though, to force him to pull his aim, and the shots ricocheted off the ceiling. Still, she needed to move. He must be the telepath I was picking up, she assumed.
The powerful alien was quickly upon her. “Kill her, Gorowan!” the familiar telepathic voice commanded.
Saturn Girl was surprised and taken aback for a moment. That telepathic voice seemed to have come from this one. There are two of them?! she realized.
A large fist struck her down hard, knocking her to the stone floor. She groaned as she slipped unconscious for a moment.
When she awoke, Saturn Girl was still in the cavern right where she fell. Startled, she rose to her knees, only to realize that neither of the men had left the room. Nor had they bothered to detain her further. Something must have distracted them.
Glancing about, she saw them. There they were, standing in the center of the cavern, engaged in some kind of struggle. The two men had locked arms, which kept them less than a foot and a half apart. Yet, given all her years of battle experience, the two appeared as though they were almost statue-like, almost in some kind of bizarre stalemate.
I don’t get it, she thought to herself. What’s going on here? She decided that perhaps it was time to use her mind-reading abilities to get to the bottom of this strange situation. But as soon as she did, something unexpected happened.
Saturn Girl felt as if her mind was pulled out of her body, only to be deposited elsewhere.
The feeling was jarring, but not something completely foreign to her. The environment seemed to swirl about her, only to form the landscape of an alien world. The soil had greenish-brown color to it, and the vegetation was unlike any she’d seen before.
She reached out to touch a nearby plant, but her hand passed right through it as if it wasn’t there. Or perhaps she wasn’t there. “It’s some sort of mindscape, a psychic battlefield!” Saturn Girl concluded. “What’s the meaning of this?”
She heard the sound of combat coming over the next ridge. With a thought, her mind moved her astral self to the top of the slope. Wherever she was, it did not hinder her powers in the slightest. In fact, they seemed extremely focused, well beyond their usual levels. Imra took some comfort in that.
From the edge of the ridge, she cautiously looked down as two large replicas of the two men on Earth fought. Here they moved with such grace and such power, slamming their fists down hard and trying to bury the other. She crouched down to remain hidden as she watched their gladiatorial battle unfold.
“You were a fool to come after me!” said the one who looked like he came from Earth. The voice matched that of the second telepath.
“You cannot escape your final fate, big man!” the orange-pink alien said, but it was the voice of the first telepath she had heard. This one seemed to be by far the more angry and violent of the two.
“We’ll see about that!” The other one was not about to go down quietly.
With each blow, the mindscape shook.
“Their fight,” Saturn Girl said as she balanced herself, “even though it takes place on physical manifestations, it is still wholly composed of mental attacks!” Indeed, her mind could feel the backlash of each blow.
These were powerful mental creatures, but lacking in refined controls. That was most likely the reason she picked up on the conversation from the transport ship. Their power was raw and savage. She had no doubt that one would eventually kill the other unless she intervened. She had no choice in the matter.
“Still, I don’t know the whole story,” she said. “And for that reason alone, I have to take them both out! Later we can get this mess sorted out.” Saturn Girl readied herself, preparing her mind.
She had trained for so many years to keep her mental abilities in check. Being a strong telepath, she naturally had to keep many guards in place. Otherwise, her mind would be filled with the thoughts of everyone around her. But when she needed them to be, her powers could be quite effective from an offensive standpoint, especially against ones such as these who probably had little training in mental defenses.
Saturn Girl unleashed a very strong mental attack, one to send a neural shock through both combatants. As the charge hit them both simultaneously, they screamed out in anguish.
The whole mindscape shook as they began to fall, and it then shattered apart like a broken stained-glass window.
Saturn Girl snapped back to consciousness, her mind back firmly in her own head. She recovered from the experience very quickly and saw that both men were on the floor. “They must have collapsed when the mindscape was broken.” As she came closer, she noticed something curious. The humpback on the alien was squirming about, and an anguished mental cry was coming from it.
She lifted the man’s shirt and was startled by what she found.
There, embedded into the spinal column of the orange-pink alien behemoth was a dark gray mass. As Saturn Girl looked closer, she could make out the tendril appendages of the mass that bore through the alien’s skin to attach itself to this host body. The mass also had some very rough features that could be taken to be a face of some sort.
“It’s some kind of telepathic parasite,” she concluded. “Somehow controlling this creature, making him do its bidding.”
She used her Legion communicator to signal the Science Police to get some emergency assistance to her present location. She wasn’t sure what the gray mass was, so she certainly did not want to make any attempts to remove it herself. For all she knew, the mass and the alien had some kind of symbiotic relationship.
Imra then went to examine the other large man. Sure enough, under his coat, she found a similar entity attached to the man’s spinal column.
“Obviously, these creatures were using these men as a means to travel and such,” Saturn Girl said. “If the medi-facilities can successfully remove the parasites from the men, we might be able to learn what happened, and where these telepathic creatures come from.”
Those answers would have to wait, though, for another time.