book of joel
|“Sections two and three are gone.” the passenger stated solemnly to his family. Fear was shooting out of his child’s eyes, piercing his emotions. But it was too late, they had tried, but the Imperium found them, they always find them.
“They’re running all auxiliary power to engines and shields.” he continued, trying to comfort his family. He slugged the nearby wall breaking his knuckle, but who cared, they would all be dead in a few seconds anyway, and he had killed them.
“They're not going to make it.” Motus grumbled out of frustration. “We can’t let this happen.”
Dux was calm and stern as usual, years of war had taught him that self restraint was often the best course of action. But now wasn’t the time to watch, action was needed, “Open the door. We’re going in.”
“Sir,” the soldier announced turning to inform his commander, “The ship is crippled and breaking apart. We should be able to board soon.”
Destroying smugglers was becoming second nature to the commander. He had notched so many kills under his belt, that he had lost count. Bomb the shields, pummel the engines and shoot the middle. Easy. Some would say, textbook. Except this time, an antiquated Imperium Freighter had recently strayed into the battle and was observing the attack from a distance. He would have to deal with them next.
The commander started into his orders, “Prepare…”
Immediately explosions ripped through the hull, flailing the enormous destroyer from side to side. Shouts of terror screeched over the intercom, as soldiers fled for their lives. Fires blazed across the deck, consuming wires and melting screens, pulling attention away from the fledgling smugglers, while the deck crew began a mad scramble to ramp up their defenses.
The Imperium Destroyer was now itself running on emergency lighting. Soldiers tumbled over each other, as the impervious hull buckled from the sudden onslaught. Space had started sucking soldier’s out into its cold emotionless grave. Something was tearing their ship in half, annihilating everyone in its path.
“Seal the door!” a grunt shouted running to the next doorway. An ear piercing shrill echoed down the hall, momentarily stunning the soldier. His body slammed into the nearby wall and crumpled to his knees. He braced his body with his hands, turning in the direction of his comrade, to see what had happened.
The other soldier stood slumped over with his face planted firmly against the sealed door. HIs ghostly pale frame stared blankly at the the floor, as body twitched from muscle spasms. Floating droplets of blood led back to a sword that was now protruding out from between his shoulder blades, splattering walls and floor, coloring everything in red.
“My God, what’s going on?” the grunt stuttered in fear. He swung his weakening frame around and began pounding away on the pad next to the door. His hands shook from fear. Fear of death. Fear of whatever was attacking them from space.
Space? The soldier trembled. What could be attacking us from space?
The door lurched open to an all too familiar sound. Air was surging past his face pulling on his cheeks and attempting to drag him to sheol with the other Imperium soldiers. His fellow soldier now laid limp on the ground, with his clothes flapping from the small slit in the door. He had to act fast, as the hole was now consuming what precious air he had left.
“I won’t go that easy.” the soldier stated resolutely.
Clasping hold of an emergency handle the man repeated his number crunching on the other side of the door. Gravity let go of the man’s feet, causing him to sway in the hall like an Imperium flag. Cramps shot through his clamped fist, as he attempted to stabilize his waving body.
Metal rubbed against metal as the door began its magnetic seal. A few more seconds and he would be safe from the horrific murder spree taking place on the other floors.
Beeps and alarms bounced around in the soldier’s head, melting his resolve. The bent hull had jammed the door open, not allowing it to seal properly and now he would have to claw his way along the ceiling in order to get to the next door.
Everyone kept shouting ‘sir’ at the same time, rattling the nerves of the seasoned commander. Panic had filled the room, refusing to let anyone move. He had to make a decision and make it fast. His mind raced from experience to experience trying to wrap his mind around the situation. The Imperium never taught him how to deal with something so absurd.
How the small freighter had managed to mount a concerted attack, blasting a hole through his Destroyer and killing most of his crew, was completely mind boggling.
How did they do it? What do they have?
“Sir.” a soldier yelled tugging on the commander’s sleeve.
“What!” the commander screamed out of frustration. Normally he would’ve had him arrested for such behavior, but this wasn’t normal.
“There is someone or something on our monitors.” the soldier said pointing with a wobbly finger towards his screen.
Whatever it was, it stood around six foot tall and was encased in a bright white metallic armor. The white armor was reflecting off the walls the steel surroundings. A thin blue line traced along the top of its arms. going up the shoulders, down and around its chest and streaming down the side of its legs.
The commander stood dumbfounded, staring blankly over the monitor. He clinched his body tight, trying to fight off tremors. He had to be brave for his crew, because he now knew what was happening. It was judgement for all of their wanderings.
“What do we do, sir?” the soldier begged the commander, hoping he would just say, something.
“Pray.” the commander responded flatly.
“You heard me.”
“Pray for what, sir?” another soldier inquired.
The commander turned to address the rest of his crew, “May God forgive us, for what we’ve done.”
Magnetic plates whined and screeched as they opened the sealed gateway. The captain of the badly damaged freighter stood cautiously at arms with his hired guns. Whoever had requested to dock with them, couldn’t produce any records of their existence, putting his crew on a knife's edge. Their primed guns pointed directly at the metal opening as it spun to the side allowing their new guest on board. Time for the moment of truth, friend or foe.
The round door opened to reveal a tall brown haired man, stepping through the opening holding his hands far above his head. His plush white jacket hung down to his thighs revealing two empty holsters tucked along his sides. His gray shirt had seen better days. Small holes dotted across his midsection and the collar had been torn, showing off the upper part of his muscular athletic chest. His brown pants matched his brown boots, but as far as the captain could tell they weren’t hiding anything.
The middle aged captain motioned for the man to come forward. The new guest eyed the men as he approached the packed cluster of nervous men. Armed guards rushed in, groping for anything they could find. After a few tense moments the men returned shrugging their shoulders, in apparent astonishment over the visitor’s lack of weapons.
Ease crept into the captain’s face as he lowered his weapon, “Who are you? And what do you want?”
“My name’s Dux and we have medical supplies.” the man answered.
“Dux, huh, what do you mean, we?”
“I travel with friends and...we are here to help.” Dux reassured the twitchy men.
“Get your friends. I’ll be the judge of that.” the captain said pulling his rifle back into position.
Dux cautiously stepped backwards and waved his hand in front of the opening. Two other beings stepped through the door with their hand’s now waving in the air. They were Malians, a male and a female. The male was was almost seven foot tall, average height for a male. The female was short, too short. She couldn’t have been more than a few inches short of six feet. They both had the traditional black hair, the male’s was long and tied behind his head, while the female’s bobbed and hung down a little beneath her chin.
Again, the guards rushed in to search the Malians. They rammed their hands deep against the male’s sides, shoving him around and ruffling his white tunic. The men were a little easier on the female, but much less appropriate. Armed men touched and fondled every part they could get their perverted hands on. The female Malian winced as fingers and palms rubbed up and down her legs and chest. Every guard took his turn grabbing her crotch and squeezing hard, rocking her legs back and forth.
“I don’t think she’s got a gun there.” Dux said in disgust, over the grotesque handling of his companion.
The captain nodded and waved his men back to their positions, “What do want?”
Dux gave the captain a sideways glance, “We have medical supplies...” he repeated.
“O’ ya! Where are they then?” a guard shot back.
Tension was building in Dux’ throat, “In the freighter!”
The captain lowered his rifle a second time, motioning for his men to do the same, “Ok, let’s see these supplies.”
The male Malian slowly pivoted on his feet and walked back into the circular metal gateway. He returned dragging a dull gray container behind his long sinewy legs.
The container landed with a thud startling the hostile guards, causing their guns to rattle against their cheap armor. A guard thrusted the lid open to the view of medical supply bags, medicine, bandages, and other assortments of needed contraband. Whoever these new visitors were, they had definitely spared no expense. Supplies like these would drive any smuggler into a frenzy.
“That’s only one container. We have several more we’re willing to part with.” Dux said regaining his normal composure.
“What do you want for them?” The captain said, well of aware of what little they had to bargain with.
“Two things.” Dux responded, “One, that you treat women and children first. Two, you apologize to my female companion over the crass treatment she received from your guards.”
“Ah,” the captain growled waving his hand in disgust, “She won’t understand what I’m saying.”
“You might be surprised.” Dux interjected.
“Fine. I’m sorry.” the captain blurted out quickly.
“Not good enough.” Dux said motioning towards the male Malian.
Motus slammed the lid closed nearly pinching the fingers off of fumbling guards. His large barefoot pressed down on the container, sealing it closed. The angry guards pulled up on the lid, grunting hard against the male’s foot. It didn’t budge making the guards even angrier. Several of them had jabbed their barrels into the male’s rib cage, threatening to shoot him if he didn’t comply. Motus remained motionless, waiting for Dux’s next order.
“You see, we have a problem with rude customers.” Dux explained. “So you either apologise honestly or we’ll leave you here with nothing but bolts and spit to hold you together.”
“Damnit” the captain shouted, “We’re falling apart here and all you can think about is the whore’s feelings?”
Motus didn’t have to wait for Dux, he bent over, clasped the lid shut and began pulling the container back towards the gate.
“Wait!,” the captain yelled, “The women and children, what about them?”
“What about ‘em” Dux questioned the flustered captain.
“Fine, fine, fine, I’ll do it.” the captain caved in desperation. “Listen lady, I know you don’t understand what I’m saying, but I’m truly sorry over the mistreatment you received from my guards. Would you please forgive me?”
“Yes,” Sicarius answered much to the bewilderment of the captain and his men.
“We… we… had no idea!” the startled captain fumbled over his words.
“It’s ok. Treat the women and children first.” Sicarius said, forgiving the vulgar man.
The captain directed his men to snatch up the rest of the containers. Motus looked over at Dux for confirmation of their willingness to release the supplies. Dux nodded back, allowing the male malian to place the container back in the guards control.
Suddenly, screams of terror streaked through the air freezing everyone in time. A guard came tumbling out of the gateway stricken with horror, mumbling something about a Draco.
“Now what?” Dux grumbled exasperated over the constant setbacks.
The situation quickly returned to its normal tense atmosphere. Guns cocked pointing at the visitors, while itchy triggers bounced off of handles.
“What did you say?” the captain asked his terrified guard.
“There’s a Draco in there and he tried to eat me.” the guard rambled.
The captain shot Dux a infuriated glance, but Dux cut him off before he could speak, “There is a Draco in there,” Dux explained, “but he’s tame.”
“Sort of.” Motus quipped.
“What did he say?” a soldier yelled, unable to understand the Malian language.
Dux shot Motus a stern glance, “He’s just as nervous as you are, so please stay calm. You have to believe me. The Draco wouldn’t eat any of you. I think the guard’s imagination got the best of him.”
“Listen, I don’t want this to continue any more than it has to, but we can’t have a giant Draco running loose on this freighter.” the captain demanded firmly.
“If the Draco wanted to eat anyone, he would already be out here licking the blood from your bones.” Dux pointed out.
The imagery didn’t help the now panicked guards. A couple of them were darting their eyes towards the wide open gate, hoping that nothing came charging through. The situation needed to be diffused before anyone became a little too brave for the own good.
“We will carry out the rest of the containers and seal the door behind us preventing anything from coming out. Ok?” Dux questioned the heated captain.
The captain motioned for a couple of guards to be positioned next to the door ready to kill anything, other than Dux and his Malian cohorts, approached the gateway, After a few trips the precious cargo had been unloaded and their contents piled into metal barrels. Bandages and medicine spilled out into the floor as the guards moved barrel after barrel down the narrow hallways, up a freight elevator and eventually distributed to desperate refugees.
“How many are you?” Sicarius asked, as she finished wrapping the arm of a small child. The little boy had been nursing a fractured wrist for almost an hour
“Too many, but if I was to guess I would say, a couple hundred. But keep in mind, there were more of us, until that Destroyer blasted us in half.” the child’s dad responded. The boy’s arm was still swollen, but the medicine and bandages should be enough to stabilize him until they reached safety, Sicarius reassured them. Gently the exhausted father hugged his little boy as he leaned back into his welcoming embrace, “Thanks.”
Sicarius raised slowly from her crouched position, trying to absorb the hectic situation. People were crammed into every nook and crany the captain could find, creating a sweller of Sapiens. Men, women, and children grasped for any assistance the guards could provide. Normally calm dads, begged for help, throwing aside any sense of dignity in hopes that their child would be one of the few to be treated. Children sat clinging to parents or luggage searching for comfort among the masses. Body odor thickened the air, forcing them to breath through their mouths until they could get use to the stench. The unsettling view deeply saddened Sicarius, but she couldn’t save everyone.
“I’m still trying to figure out how they found us.” the captain grumbled, escorting Dux through the crowd, “We did everything the same as before. Those tricks always worked.”
“That’s the problem,” Dux responded, answering the man’s conundrum, “You didn’t change. Doing the same thing over and over doesn’t work forever. Change or die.”
“What?” the captain turned bumping into the trailing visitor, “Are you saying I don’t know what I’m doing?”
“Why are you so defensive?” Dux grilled the stubborn captain.
Sicarius stepped around the lanky Motus, attempting to get a better view of Dux and the captain. They were definitely going at it again, garnering the attention of sobbing refugees. Her glasses glistened under the emergency lighting, as she peered into the captain’s eyes.
“My ship, my rules.” the aged man humphed, stepping in closer to Dux.
“What are you hiding?” Dux asked.
“Ok, who are you hiding?”
Sicarius observed the man’s small beady pupils constricting even smaller, signaling he was hiding something.
“Person,” she whispered under her breath.
“So, it’s a person.” Dux said, as small smirk formed in the corner of his mouth.
“When you’re done… leave.” the captain ordered his annoying visitor.
“You think they had something to do with this, don’t you?” Dux said, stating the obvious, “And you’re going to interrogate them for answers.”
The captain turned, shoving past his men trampling down the narrow hallway. He wouldn’t be questioned like that in front of his men. Any signs of weakness and he would be the next one to die. After a couple of pounding steps, the captain and his men vanished around a corner and down a side hall.
Sicarius had approached Dux from behind, lightly tapping his elbow, “Problems?”
“Follow them. I want to know where they’re going.”
Sicarius cautiously stepped into the hallway and disappeared out of sight.
Eyes bore a hole in the back of the captain's head, causing him to suspect more spies. But every time he had turned around, a calm empty hallway just sat there staring back at him. Creaks and moans echoed off of the steel girders, as the artificial gravity was stabilized by the ship’s engines. Artificial gravity could do horrible things to a man’s mind, making him belief in all sorts of ludicrous things. But something was following him, he just wasn’t sure what.
The door squeaked open as the guards entered first, clearing the room from any potential danger. A small family sat cuddled up in the far corner, gazing at the captain, or was it their capturer, he had locked them away right before the trip and this was the first time they had seen him since.
His heavy brown jacket swung in the air with every stride. The captain may have dressed poor, but he was far from it. Smuggling people through Imperium space was a very lucrative job, provided you lived long enough to spend the money. And that’s why he had decided to smuggle the family, because after so many successful trips the captain desired something more than money. Power.
“What happened to your hand?” the captain asked, surveying the storage room.
“I broke it punching the wall.” the man answered.
“Now why would you go and do something like that?” the captain quipped while making his way towards the man’s wife.
“That doesn’t matter. I paid you to get us safely across the traverse and you failed. You won’t be getting the other half.” the husband demanded, pushing the captain’s hand away.
Dagger like eyes glared back at the defensive husband, scanning his broken hand and weak muscles. Touching and shoving wasn’t allowed from the prisoners, at least not on his ship.
“Too bad,” the stout man replied, “I guess I’ll just take your daughter instead.”
His daughter screamed and lunged for her mom as a guard drug her across the cold room.
“Ok,” the man shouted reaching out with his good hand, towards his daughter. “You’ll get your money.”
“That’s the problem with dads,” the captain mocked the scrawny man, “you don’t look before you jump, or you wouldn’t be a dad.”
Images of what the crew would do to his daughter, tortured the father’s mind, “I’ll tell you too. You can have all the information you want. Just don’t… “
“Don’t what?” the barbaric captain interrupted, “Do you realize how many people have died here today, because of you? And after all of this death and destruction, you’re the one trying make a bargain! I don’t think so. My crew will keep her company, while you put your stuff together.”
Tears poured down the mother’s face, bawling from terror, “She’s twelve!”
The captain turned to his crew declaring with glee, “How does the saying go? If it bleeds, it breeds.”
Lustful men shouted and jeered, as they began touching and pulling on the young girl. Small tears formed on the edge of her gown showing skin and more. The girl’s arms and legs quickly fell limp from shock. As young as she was, she still knew what fate awaited her outside the large storage room.
Suddenly burst of warm blood sprayed the girl’s face, as she tumbled to the floor. Brown boots stepped over her limp body, as more blood came cascading down the walls and puddling on the floor. The captain’s feet shuffled about as his crew grunted and bones cracked from heavy blows. Bloodied and mangled faces toppled to the floor, staring blankly back at the young girl. Some alive, some not sure, but what she did know was that she was safe.
“You son of a whore!” the captain snarled surging towards the brown haired man.
Effortlessly, Dux parried the man’s blow, bouncing his head off of the metal opening. The smuggler screamed in pain as he fell to the ground.
“What’re you doing here?” the stunned father asked through his tears.
Dux smiled looking down at his heavily wounded crew, “Let’s just say I’m adding to your herd. How does that saying go?” Dux smirked at the terrified family. “If it bleeds, it breeds.”
“Dux, not now.” Sicarius exclaimed. Dux had always struggled with the timing of humor.
“Who are you?” a shaky voice came fumbling off the dad’s lips.
“Doesn’t matter.” Dux stated. “I have a few… “
“My name is Sicarius and this is Dux.” the female malian answered the man’s question and interrupting Dux half sentence.
“Thank you, you saved us!” the mom remarked, elated with joy.
“What do you want?” the husband asked as he sat nervously rubbing his broken hand. Had they come for him? Did they breach the ship in order to get to him before the Imperium did?
“Well, we’ve been asked that a lot here lately. And the answer is always the same. We’re here to help.” Dux said as he squatted down to get eye level with the imprisoned man.
“We have money. We… “
“Liar! That’s my money.” the captain shouted from the floor.
Dux clasped his hand around the captain’s neck as he pressed his thumb deep into his throat. Loud gurgling sounds came spilling out from his mouth, as his body laid writhing in pain.
“It’s rude to interrupt people while they’re talking.” Dux reminded the bludgeoned man. “Now shut up and let him talk.”
Gulps of air filled the captain’s lung, as Dux released him from his grip. For the rest of the conversation he would just have to lay there silently, hoping Dux didn’t kill him.
“Don’t hurt my family. I’ll give you whatever you want. Just leave them out of this.” the father begged Dux.
“Well,” Dux stared into the man’s eyes. “I want information. How did the Imperium find the freighter and what do you got to do with it?”
Sicarius helped the girl off the ground and escorted her back to her mom. The two sat clutching tightly to each other, crying over everything that had happened; the destroyer, the captain and his crew, the saving of her life, but mostly the direction their lives were headed.
“I’m a physicist.” the dad answered, placing his arm around his huddled family. “And I know things.”
“What things?” Dux pressed.
“If we are gonna keep asking questions. lets come to an agreement. Ok?”
“You ask a question, I answer. And then vice-versa; I ask, you answer. Deal?”
Dux paused for a second, he had to be careful about what he told the man, because his secrets were far worse than whatever this man was hiding. “Ok.”
“Fine then. You asked a question, now it’s my turn. Who are you guys?”
“I’m Dux and she’s Sicarius.” he answered.
“No, that’s not what I meant.” the physicist objected.
“Too bad. My question. What’s your name?” Dux continued
The man sat quietly stroking his daughter’s hair. If this Dux character was going to play it that way, then he would have to think through every answer. “Joshua.” the man answered.
“He’s lying.” Sicarius responded.
“No I’m not!” the man demanded in his own defense. “My question. Who do you guys work for?”
“God.” Dux answered quickly.
The physicist couldn’t believe what he had just heard. They work for God? “Are you lying?”
“Nope, my turn… “
“Wait that wasn’t my question.”
“Sounded like one to me.”
“Boys!” Sicarius shouted, “Seriously?”
Dux looked over to see an infuriated Sicarius, glaring back at him. Time was short and he was wasting it on a meaningless question and answer routine. By now, the Destroyer had sent out a distress signal, notifying everyone within the vicinity. If his quick math was right, they had about an hour before they would be swamped by Imperium Destroyers, thirsty for revenge. He had to move fast.
“You’re coming with us.” Dux ordered the physicist and his battered family.
“No. I think we’re just fine where we are, thank you.”
“We’re going with you.” the wife said collecting what little belongings they had. “HE can stay here with the perverted crew.”
“We don’t even know who they are.” the husband demanded..
“No, this is your fault!” his wife cried. “You’re the one who got us involved with the damn Insurgency and now we’ve got to be smuggled all across the traverse with horrific slave traffickers who almost… almost… “ the aggravated woman kicked the captain in shoulder causing him to grunt. “We’re leaving.”
“LIsten,” the husband stated calmly, trying to convince his wife to stay, “first the Destroyer was shooting at us, then suddenly it exploded and limped off, and then half an hour later these guys were docking with us and asking me questions. How do we know that they weren't involved with the attack on the Destroyer?”
“Then the more reason to go with them. They hate the Imperium just as much as we do. And… if they did have anything to do with the Destroyer just randomly exploding, then that is who I want to be with. They haven’t hurt us, they defended Allie and now they’re trying...trying to get us off this sheol forsaken dump.” the protective mother finished with a deep breath, “Let’s go!”
Luggage hit the man in the face as he wife stood and stormed out of the storage area with her daughter in tow. The man grumbled to himself as he collected a small assortment of food and water. Working for the Insurgency had brought more pain into his life than The Citadel could ever had. Losing friends, co-workers, and maybe his family, was causing him to rethink his decision to get involved. His work didn’t allow him to talk about the most minor of discoveries with his family, let alone this. But, to sheol with the Insurgency, what had they ever done for him. Other than destroy his career and family. He would have to tell his wife everything, but the new capturers will make it difficult to discuss the details.
“Hey, I have a… “ Motus inquired, as his tall frame stuck in through the door. “Oh, never mind.”
“What?” Dux asked.
“Some crew members tried to jump me over in the hold. They said something about you killing the captain and that they were going to get revenge. But… this explains everything.” Motus recited, never lifting his eyes from the beaten crew laying across the floor.
“What did you do?” Dux asked, scolding the tall Malian.
“Nothing! Well, I did punch them. But… It was self defense!” Motus stated firmly.
“Ok, time to go.” Dux said, gesturing towards the man still collecting his things.
They scurried down a few side halls before popping out into the main cargo hold. People were starting to calm down and readjust to the cramped space. The power had returned to full strength giving the wounded freighter a chance to escape in time. Oxygen was being pumped in through the atmospheric chambers, causing a light breeze to drift throughout the hold. With everything coming around for the good, it was now time to find a new captain.
Several crew members were bound and gagged in the corner next to the hall entrance. Families closest to the tied men were staring at them with bewilderment. At one time they were threatening the tall Malian and with in the blink of an eye they were beaten and fastened together. The whole confrontation lasted just a few seconds, if that.
“Can anybody fly this freighter?” Dux shouted over the crowd.
Three men stood from the crowd and started walking towards Dux. They gave each other a quick look over sizing up the fellow pilots. They weren’t a large crew, but they only needed to get to the next system. Once there, they could drop off the refugees and leave the freighter behind.
“Have either of you flown this type of freighter?” Dux questioned.
The three men shook their heads ‘No’.
“Well, then. Have either of you piloted anything similar to this ship?”
One nodded, “Yeah, I piloted a small cargo ship for several Standard Citadel Years.”
Dux patted the man on the shoulder. “You’re the new Captain and these two men are your crew. The other captain and most of his crew are locked in a storage room on block three in room eight. Good luck.”
The men returned to their families to explain the situation, as Dux continued walking towards the magnetically door seal. Time was counting down and every precious second created a smaller window of escape. Magnets hummed as the large circular door began its opening spin. The cargo hold adjusted its pressure, attempting to balance the atmosphere between the two ships. The three men met over by the side hall shook hands and proceeded down the hall to the main deck. Dux signalled for his crew and the new family to board their ship and prepare for launch.
“Sir,” a little girl tugged on Dux’ arm, “My pa’pa wants to talk to you.”
“Sorry kid we gotta go.” Dux answered pulling his arm away from the girl.
“Pa’pa said you’re a Paragon and that you would want to hear what he has to say.” the girl stated calmly.
“He said what?”
“Please. Follow me.” the little girl responded pulling on his arm again.
Dux motioned for his team to wait, as he pressed his way through the crowd. How did the old man know who he was? It had been too long since anyone had referred to them as Paragons. But, if he was an old man then maybe he had a strong memory or was a Teacher at some point. Either way, Dux was intrigued so he kept walking towards the old man and this information.
In the far corner was a family consisting of a mom and dad, plus five children. The mom sat patiently on the floor, supporting the back of an elderly man. Kids sat quietly watching as Dux approached their pa’pa. He could tell that the family held him in high esteem. But who or what he was still puzzled the veteran Paragon.
“You must be pa’pa.” Dux said as he squatted next to the aging gentleman.
“He’s coming.” the old man whispered abruptly.
“I’m sorry.” the dad spoke, “He has been doing this since you arrived. As soon as your head poked through the door he shook hard and began mumbling. That’s pretty much all he has been saying. Except what he told Susan.”
“Who’s Susan?” Dux asked.
“That’s me.” the little girl answered still holding on to Dux’ arm.
“He’s coming.” pa’pa said, staring Dux straight in the eyes.
The dad appeared upset over his grandfather’s strange behavior. “Back home everyone called him a Seer. People would come from several klicks just to talk to him. The local Teacher even consulted with him from time to time.”
“He’s a what?” Dux inquired, “Did you say a ‘Seer’?”
“Yeah I guess. I’ve always had a hard time believing all that God stuff ever since the Grand Decree, but pa’pa always held firm.” the man’s grandson said in disbelief, as he slowly rubbed the aging man’s head.
Dux leaned in close to the elderly man’s face, “Tell me Seer, what do you see?”
“Light shines from the darkness. All will be revealed.” the elderly Seer murmured to himself.
“Amator? Is Amator coming here?” Dux asked trying to decipher the coded language. “You know about the Paragons. What are you talking about”
The old man’s hands leapt from his lap and clasped firmly on both sides of Dux’ face. The tips of the man’s finger sunk into Dux cheeks, as his head was pulled in even closer. He could smell stale breath and the elderly Seer’s body odor. Muscles clenched under his duster as Dux restrained himself from hitting the old man. His training had taught him to fight back, but experience showed him to stand still. The guy was just an old man. No reason to fight.
“No!” the Seer demanded, “He’s chosen another. He’s coming.”
Dux’ eyes locked in on the old gentleman's face. Did he hear him correctly? Another one? But that’s not possible. It was at least another twenty to thirty years before another one would be chosen. Had God moved early?
Dux’ heart raced as he thought about the possibility of another one being chosen, “Who is the next one? Do you see him?”
“Ok, you guys are coming too. Get your stuff together we’re leaving now.” Dux ordered the large family.
The old man shot a look over at the Physicist waiting by the cargo door, “No.”
“Why not?” Dux questioned.
Still staring at the male physicist the old Seer mumbled, “There will be peace, but first there is the war.”
Dux stood slowly bracing his hands on his knees. War? Not what he wanted to hear. Or did he? It had been too long since he had been in a real fight. He hadn’t spent so many years fighting and training just to spend it smuggling food and medical supplies. But war meant death and lots of it. The Citadel covered eleven systems and they were currently negotiating a twelfth. A possible war would kill hundreds of billions of people in it’s wake. He couldn’t allow so many innocent people to die. As much as he and his fellow Paragons itched for a fight, war wouldn’t happen under his watch. They had to stop it.
“Thank you sir for your sight.” Dux complimented the old man, “We have to go. There is a new captain now and you should arrive safely. Bye.”
Allie strolled around in a large, circle eying the cargo hold and its metal girders. Dinner had just finished, sending her parents and two of their new guards into another room leaving her with a Malian and very large Draco. The air was calm allowing her some ease of thought and motion. The capturers seemed much nicer than the others. Especially considering the Dux guy saved her from a horrible fate.
Her body tensed as she remembered the smell and touch of the captain’s men. A smile stretched across her lips as the brown boots stepped over her face, beating the other crew. Allie could picture herself marrying a man like Dux. Strong, determined, but still capable of caring. The images of her savior froze in her mind creating a small photo of his face to linger for a few short seconds. She did want to see Dux again, but until then she would just have to make conversation with the others. Which was proving to be difficult.
“How did a Sapien, two Malians, and Draco end up working together as smugglers?” she questioned Motus.
Motus shook his head ‘No’ and patted his chest with the palm of his hand. Ithro’Tel, he stated slowly and then pointed at the young Allie, Sapien. Her puzzled look forced him to repeat himself. Again, chest Ithro’Tel. Point at girl, Sapien.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were a Malian. I’ve never heard of Ithro’Tels. Where are they from?” Allie responded apologetically.
Motus stood tall scanning the cargo hold for any sign of Sicarius. He had just seen her a few seconds ago, so she had to be close. His eyes traced the girders down some steps then through an opening on the other end of the hold. He pointed towards the opening, gesturing for the young girl to look. He hoped she was smart enough to figure out what he was doing. With just a few jabs of his finger, the little girl was starting towards the other end.
She didn’t know what the Ithro’Tel was trying to do so she just started guessing ideas. With every guess came a shaking head and response of no. Not a thing, but a person. “Dux?” the young teen guessed causing a frown to surge across the male’s face. “My parents?” she tried again, but again a no. “Oh, you want the lady don’t you?”
Motus clapped his hands, “Yes!” he blurted out.
“Ok, I’ll see if I can find her.” Allie said, rolling her eyes as she started out the other side of the hold.
“I’m so sorry.” the physicist begged his wife, “I had no idea this would happen. The Citadel has been killing its own people for hundreds of years. They force people into the fold and then they slaughter anyone who tries to escape.”
“I know how it works Tom!” Nicky shouted, “But that doesn’t mean you should’ve gotten involved. Yeah, our lives were tough because of your work, but we were safe.”
“How do you know that? It’s only a matter of time before someone up top decided we were no longer needed and then what? How safe would we be?” Thomas pleaded.
The four of them sat in a small tight area with enough space for a few bits of furniture and room to stretch their legs. Originally a storage room for uniforms and gear, it had been converted to a sitting area. Lite coughs came from the married couple as their lungs adjusted to the musty smell hovering in the air.
“Do we really have to meet in here? The dust is killing me.” Thomas inquired as the coughed into his hands.
“Yes.” Dux responded sternly. “My ship. My rules.”
“Ok.” Sicarius said calmly, “We can meet in the dining room, but we’ll have to keep our voices down if you don’t want Allie to hear you.”
Tom sneezed again, “Let’s do that.”