Previous - Next

Five hours after Omega’s sacrifice, Jonathan, K and I found ourselves waiting atop another dusty plateau. The wind screeched across the plain, blowing sand up around our legs and into our faces. I sat with my hands bound behind my back with thick vines. K watched over me grimly, and Jonathan scanned the skies. But there was a reason we were there.

Jonathan and I had carried K’s body away from the cave, and made our way as quickly as possible to higher levels above the heat of the jungle. None of us wanted to succumb to heat stroke, so that was our primary goal.

When K finally came to, we had to explain what happened. She was silent for nearly half an hour after hearing about what Omega had done, as we all searched for food and water in a part of the mountains, before finally speaking. And when she did speak, it was angrily, and it was directed at Jonathan.

K drilled him with questions about her past. She blamed him for everything bad that had happened. She said that if he hadn’t betrayed us, Joëlle wouldn’t be captive right now, and Omega wouldn’t have died. She threatened to throw him off the cliff, though she restrained herself. Jonathan agreed with her. He broke down, blaming himself for all of the losses we had suffered. I hung my head in silence, and so did K. It took us a long time to find the strength to keep going. But eventually thirst drove us to climb deeper into the mountains, searching for the river that cascaded down the mountain’s crevice to the underground temple.

Some time later, we found the stream in a glade of short trees upon the mountain, and each drank our share of the fresh water. It was remarkably fresh, delicious even, and I felt strength returning to me with each gulp. My nose filled with a sweet fragrance from tiny flowers that bloomed by the water. We splashed our faces to keep them cool in the heat of the three suns, and sat together on some stones in a circle, discussing what to do. K absentmindedly crushed rocks with her fingers, while Jonathan sat on his hands, and I drew lines in the gravel with a leafy stick.

We had between us no weapons, and only two working holo-gauntlets. Omega was gone. Joëlle was captive, presumably brought aboard Duhrnan’s mothership, as Jonathan had commanded the Brotherhood reinforcements to do. And they had taken her there in the Firebrand, which meant we had no starship to help us either. We were stranded on Malum, with no supplies, no food, no reinforcements, and no weapons. The only thing we could do was attempt to contact someone, but even then, the range of our holo-gauntlets wouldn’t be enough to leave the planet, even without the sporadic interference of Malum’s atmosphere.

But none of us wanted to flee anyway. And as much as we all hated the idea, we quickly agreed that we only had one option, (unless you count giving up on saving Earth and trying to live the rest of our lives on Malum as an option, but we did not). There was only one choice, and if it worked, it wasn’t a half bad idea. We had to turn ourselves in to the mothership.

If we were to save Joëlle, we’d have to find a way onto the mothership anyway. We scanned for her earpiece, but it was either beyond the range of our holo-gauntlets, or it was within a disruptive field of some kind. Our best assumption was that she was aboard the mothership. The safest way for us to get inside would be to let our enemies bring us on board. I squirmed at the thought of being captured by Duhrnan and his valicorr soldiers, let alone the Brotherhood allies, but I knew it was our best chance. Not only that, but we needed a way off the planet. Omega had mentioned Brotherhood outposts on Malum, so in theory we could infiltrate one and steal a ship if we wanted to flee. But again, we were unarmed. The chances of us finding an outpost and successfully executing that plan were minuscule.

We had one significant advantage, however. Jonathan and K were known members of the Brotherhood. Of course, previously, Ryner had ordered Director Aali to have Jonathan killed, and in turn Aali order K’s alter ego to follow through on the command. Following that, Ryner obviously changed his mind about Jonathan and thought he could use him a little longer when he ordered him to watch us aboard the Firebrand. But it was clear the Brotherhood was not a transparent organization, even within its own ranks. The chances that someone aboard the mothership knew that Jonathan and K were rebels against the Brotherhood, or that if K was really activated she would kill Jonathan, were slim. So, the plan was to present me as a prisoner, one that Jonathan had secured with the help of his bioweapon, K, a sleeper agent who he had successfully activated, and was following his every command.

So K tied my hands with vines, the only thing we had available, and we made our way to a high plateau, with as little atmospheric interference as possible. Jonathan and K had been transmitting their coordinates for hours. The range of the signal was short, so we had to wait for a valicorr ship to fly by. Eventually however, a scout noticed us, and contacted Jonathan.

He turned to face K and I. His face was grim. “Duhrnan is coming,” he said.

I exhaled. It was a strange feeling, one of both relief and dread. It was too late to change plans now.

K stepped toward Jonathan. “You know… if you decide to betray us once we get inside… I’m gonna kill you. I don’t care if it gets me killed in the process- hell, I’m gonna die anyway, so-”

Jonathan raised his hands defensively. “K… I understand. I promise, I will not do anything to betray our mission.”

K snorted angrily, and brushed some dust off her arms. “Like a promise from you means anything.”

“Come on,” I said. They turned to me. “We have to trust each other now. I know it’s a lot to ask, but we need to trust one another. Like Joëlle would say… every good team is built on trust.”

Jonathan and K pursed their lips, and glanced to each other. A moment passed.

Jonathan sighed. “I can’t believe the mess we’re in. You have no idea how sorry I am about everything.”

K shook her head. “I have some idea. I know it’s not sorry enough.”

He frowned.

I stood up, my arms still tied. “Look,” I said. “If you can’t trust each other for our sake, then do it for Joëlle’s.” I paused. “Do it for Omega. They would want us to have the best chance of succeeding, and that means we have to be airtight in our faith in one another.”

Jonathan nodded, and K sighed. At last, K reached out a hand to Jonathan. He hesitated, then grabbed her hand to shake.

Ow!” He yelped.

K smirked. “What? It’s just a handshake.”

Jonathan pulled his hand back, and shook it in the air, staring at K.

“K!” I said. “Please!”

“What?!” She complained. “It’s a lot better than he deserves!”

“I don’t think he needs us threatening him anymore!”

K’s lips curved into a thin frown.

Jonathan cleared his throat. “It’s alright. You have every reason to hate me. And after Duhrnan is stopped, I will disappear. You’ll never have to hear from me… never have to see my face again,” he said. “But for now, I’m committed to saving Earth.” He shook his head, a tear forming in his eye. His voice wavered. “Too many have already died. Too many have been used to fuel this machine of destruction and power. It’s the least I can do, trying to redeem myself. And admit my wrongs.”

“No, it’s not the least you can do,” I said. “You could have done nothing. And that’s why I believe in you.”

Jonathan turned to me, and I saw a spark of hope in his eyes. He smiled weakly.

K said, “Right. Well, I’m glad we have that sorted out. Alright, for now, I trust you. But don’t forget my warning.”

“I won’t,” he said.

K put her hand on my shoulder. Jonathan stepped up next to us. He put his hands on our shoulders and we huddled together in a circle, lowering our eyes and staring at the ground. We shared a deep breath.

“We need a win,” I said. “Desperately. So desperately, our lives literally depend on it. But just like any creature that is backed into a corner, now isn’t the time to hold back.” I glanced at each of them. “We have no other option than to fight with all the heart, instinct, and quick thinking that we have. We’ve already been pushed past our limits, and that means that we can, and will, do anything necessary to win. This turn of events might be our key to stopping the mothership…”

A familiar flame kindled within me as I hatched an idea.

“Omega’s sacrifice didn’t just save our lives...” I narrowed my eyes. “I thought, coming to Malum, we would discover something about the loro that would help us stop Duhrnan. I was wrong… but it wasn’t a waste. I knew destiny brought us here for a reason, and that reason was to find Omega. They, whether intentionally or not, gave us the key insight we need to stop the mothership.” Tension was rising between us. Jonathan stared at me, and K breathed with a powerful calmness. “Just like the myrok, the mothership’s armour is nearly impenetrable from the outside. But from the inside...

The air was electrified around us. This was our chance.

“We’re about to leap into the maw of the mothership,” I said. “Obviously, we need to find a way to escape, and with Joëlle. But even if that’s not possible… for the sake of the galaxy, we must take this opportunity to destroy the mothership from the inside. It may be our only chance. Once your cover is blown, we will only have so much time to take action, sabotage the starship, and escape with Joëlle.”

We shared one last moment of silence, before I concluded.

“Let’s go save the day.”

We all nodded. Then Jonathan checked his scanner.

The mothership was almost here.

We waited for a few minutes as the great black spider descended on its invisible thread. Engulfed in shadow, we craned our necks toward the sky. A valicorr dropship, accompanied by four insect-like fighters, approached us. Heat blasted us from the engines of the dropship as it touched down, and valicorr soldiers in sleek black armour emerged, beckoning us to enter the shuttle. K shot me a glance, and winked, before resuming a stone-cold expression. She hoisted me up, and following Jonathan, shoved me onto the shuttle. I took in one last breath of fresh air before the shuttle doors closed, and I sat in silence next to Jonathan and K, bound, unarmed, and surrounded by valicorr. Their sets of three eyes were wet in the darkness, gazing at me curiously. They snarled quietly, baring their needle-like teeth. The seat was a cold metal. There were no windows, but I felt the shuttle lurch upwards. In just minutes, we would be aboard the mothership.

I thought about Voren. I thought about Astraloth. I thought about my mother. I thought about Omega.

We were almost within the heart of Duhrnan’s domain. I clenched my fists in anticipation.

Previous - Next