I saw them once. Not their effects, but the things themselves. Such a sight was as rare as the sun during those days. Tiny they were, not three feet tall and built like a stick, but it wasn’t their bodies that made them powerful. Their minds could devour a psyche before it could blink. Though I know this, I know not of the inner-workings of their own intellects. I cannot answer some of the basic questions about them. Where did they come from? What did they want? Why did they come so far, and why did they leave nothing unscathed?
His green tentacles sprang forth, grabbing the youngling by the neck. He was only exerting control, not doing any damage or causing any pain. Yet the slimy face of his next of kin was lit with fear. The tentacles lifted into the air, and the youngling’s feet hovered several inches above the ground. His thin-fingered hands grabbed the seizing tentacles, but he was too weak to make them budge.
“Do what you are told,” the overlord said in his low, grumbling voice.
The small youth nodded as much as he could, and he was quickly dropped to the floor.
The youngling quickly scampered away.
“And Reshauk,” the overlord screamed, “one more mishap, and you’ll be sent to the vice.”
Reshauk skipped every other stone step as he fled from the palace, making his way to the factory. He pushed open the heavy metals doors and walked down a tunnel that lead to the level below. The tunnel curled around at a slow descent, finally ending up in a dark, cavernous room with a large electronic machine stationed directly in the center. The machine was almost a small building itself, with ladders attached to the sides leading up to higher levels. Dark smoke poured from a hole in its top and was then sucked into a large vent in the cavern’s ceiling.
Reshauk walked to the side of the machine and pressed a red blinking button, and a deep voice statically poured out from the speakers.
“I see Reshauk has found his way back after his little conversation with the overlord. We hope, for his sake, that it made a difference.”
A small piece of stiff paper fell from a small slit in the wall and landed in a golden tray. Reshauk lifted and read: Clean the stormhandles.
He rolled his eyes and climbed a ladder that scaled the side of the machine and lead to the second level. Sticking out from the wall on this level were a dozen silver knobs, each attached to a pole that came from inside the large contraption.
Slowly and meticulously, he twisted each knob off, cleaned it, and returned it. After all twelve stormhandles had been cleaned, he retracted the knobs into the machine’s interior. Within seconds, another set of twelve appeared. He sighed.
Two more rows appeared. After cleaning the last knob, Reshauk positioned it so he could twist it back to its working position. He quickly lost grip of the shiny, wet piece of rounded metal. It flipped through the air, landed on the floor, and rolled to the edge of the machine. There it halted, dangling over the edge, seeming to mock the youngling for a moment. Reshauk made one careful step forward, and the knob rolled over the side. His heart seemed to freeze as he leaned over the edge and watched the knob hit the rocky ground, cracking.
The cold voice from the speaker on the lower level rang out. “You know where you need to go, Reshauk.” He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, placing his hands on his chest. “I hope he lets you try again. He is waiting.”
The door creaked as it opened and slammed shut as Reshauk let go. Looking forward, he saw the large throne room where he had been earlier. The walls were decorated with all sorts of things: animal bones, weapons of various kinds, and several unidentifiable objects of different sizes, colors, shapes, and materials. The overlord was seated on his throne, a combination of mossy stone and rusted, curved metal.
“Remember Gourshal, Reshauk?” His slow, grumbling tone was somehow smooth and purposeful, yet each word seemed to make the walls quake in fear.
“No, overlord,” he replied in his now dwarfed and shaky voice.
“Far before your insignificant little time, I suppose. He had clumsiness like you. Created from my flesh just as you were. Both your filthy carcasses should be hanging from my wall.”
He pointed above and behind his throne, where a green leathery sheet hung from two bones protruding from the wall. Reshauk’s eyes widened.
“Somehow, I am going to make you understand why mistakes like this cannot be tolerated. That machine you were cleaning is what keeps this society from dying out. Without it, how are we supposed to be able to get the resources necessary? How are we supposed to find a real home?”
Reshauk said nothing.
“No answers, yet so many mistakes.”
The overlord moved so quickly that Reshauk hit the ground before he knew what had happened. The tentacles had left a long mark across his face and tossed him several feet though the air.
“You think you would learn, yet here you are. Evermore proof to the wasted flesh of you and your siblings; useless maggots that crowd up my streets and waste my precious and valuable time. Does your pitiful mind remember what I said would happen should you, inevitably, err once more?”
“I think you do.”
Once again, the muscular tentacles of the overlord floated Reshauk inches above the floor.
“You can’t begin to imagine the importance of all these little twerps such as yourself. In your wildest imagination, you couldn’t even grasp the simplest explanation.”
The tentacles slowly moved Reshauk through the air, until he stopped while hanging over a circular opening in the floor.
“Hopefully, for your sake, you’ll soon grasp on ounce of intelligence.”
The tentacles let go, and Reshauk’s small body fell into the hole. Darkness blanketed him as his small frame tumbled helplessly inside the metal chute. The chute turned to the side, causing his body to collide with the walls. Small, sharp objects protruded from the wall, and Reshauk screamed in agony as bits of flesh were torn off. Finally, the chute curved upwards and ended, launching Reshauk into the air, and he landing on the cold cement floor with a thud and a bounce.
He could see nothing. From above came the same voice he had heard from the speaker on the machine. “We suggest, that if you don’t want to be fatally punctured, that you find the gap.”
“The gap?” Reshauk said, his voice cracking. He got no response. Two identical sounds started simultaneously, one coming from his left, one coming from his right. They were the sounds of a motor running intermixed with cement being pushed over top of cement. The noises were getting closer.
Reshauk stood and slowly edged toward one of the noises. He stretched his tentacles out in front of him, feeling for whatever he could. The end of one of the tentacles suddenly jumped in pain, causing Reshauk to yelp and recoil. He slowly outstretched his tentacles once again, this time feeling large spikes created from stone. The ends of these spikes were shaped to a needlepoint. He felt dozens of these spikes, which all seemed to be moving toward slowly him in unison.
‘A gap,’ he thought to himself. His tentacles felt all around the apparent wall of spikes, but he found no gap. The noise behind him grew louder. He felt a sharp pain in his back, and he knew another set of spikes was behind him. He sent his tentacles backwards, searching for a gap. The sounds were nearly deafening now. His already-moist skin poured sweat, creating a growing puddle on the dirt ground below.
There it was. A small crevice on the right side of the wall that was behind him. He turned to the side and was immediately poked by an oncoming spike from both directions. Quickly, yet carefully, he crawled into the gap, trying to push himself as far in as possible. He felt the sides of the stone spikes pushing past him, yet none pierced him. One on both sides of his tired body began pushing past, reducing the size of the gap even more. He felt his bones bending as the stone rubbed against them, ripping off flesh in some places.
Reshauk whimpered as the pain became more intense. He felt as if the very fist of the overlord squeezed his body. His lungs reached for air as the spikes continued to press further. Tears drenched his face, and he expected his skull to collapse at any moment, as it seemed the vice tested the strength and flexibility of every last one of his bones.
Finally, the movement stopped. Nothing happened for what seemed like an hour. Reshauk continued to reach for every breath in the confined space. Slowly the walls began to separate, and his limp body fell to the floor.
For ten minutes he laid there, still gasping. From above, Reshauk heard the deep voice from the speaker.
He slowly looked up at the darkness in disbelief, then placed his head back on the dirt. Once again, he heard the sounds of motors and cement, which widened Reshauk’s eyes beyond their natural borders. Five seconds later, the sounds ceased.
“If you don’t want to endure that again, get up. Now.”
He slowly climbed to his feet, tears still falling, leaving a puddle of blood on the ground and streaks of red on his face. The wall in front of him moved to one side, the sound of sliding cement making his body shake. The light shot into his eyes like razors, burning his retinas and knocking him to his knees.
“Can’t you even keep your tiny little body off the ground?” The voice of the overlord boiled Reshauk’s blood. The shadow advanced slowly, and the youngling watched as the dark outline of the overlord came closer.
“How was that for a teaching tool? Did it get through your thick and impressively bendable skull?”
Reshauk looked up with a face rank with fear. The eyes of the overlord seemed to scrape over his weakened exterior like broken glass.
“You’ve had the physical part of the training. Ready for the psychological?”
“I didn’t think so.”
The tentacles of the overlord shot forward, once again holding Reshauk’s neck captive, and lifting his feet off the dirt floor. The overlord stepped backwards, causing Reshauk to move closer to the light. As soon as he had passed by the doorway, the overlord flung Reshauk’s small body over his head, flying over a short cement wall and landing in a grassy area. Behind him he heard whispers.
Reshauk stood and turned around, seeing a huge crowd, nearly the whole population of the colony. Some of their faces expressed sorrow, some showed anger, and some dripped with sarcastic smirks, mocking the wounded.
Most eyes pinned themselves on Reshauk, but some glanced upwards behind him. He followed their gazes to the wall, where a large flat surface housed a high-detail color image of Reshauk’s bloodied body. The video image showed the entire incident with the vice, zooming in whenever it would make the image more graphic. The entire scene repeated several times, with Reshauk’s hair-ripping screams causing many to cover their ears.
The video played for the last time, and silence fell upon them so thickly that the only sound that could be heard was the pounding of Reshauk’s heart. The silence was shattered by the grumbling voice of the overlord.
“Now listen here you hive of waste, unless you want your pathetic hides to follow Reshauk’s into the vice, I better not find another scratch on any piece of equipment you work on. And just to further exemplify the consequences of Reshauk’s stupidity…”
Reshauk thought the physical pain of the day was over. He was wrong. His head felt like it was aflame. After pushing himself to his feet, he felt his head. One of his tentacles was gone, leaving only a blood-spewing gash.
“I think I might just put this on display in my palace. Reshauk will always remember what happens when you make a mistake. And so will all of you, and all future generations. At least I hope this little lesson will help you remember. Next time I will not be as forgiving.”
Five younglings sat on bricks in Gensett’s hut, four of them tending to the wounds of Reshauk. The small hut sat in a large field in front of the palace amid hundreds of others identical to it, many of them decorated with random scraps of metal, wood, and stone. Gensett’s hut had four red metal poles sticking out of the ground outside, all connected by a sheet of metal at the top, making it look like a massive table. On top sat a bronze statue of an unknown creature, standing tall.
“Why? Why would the overlord do this?” Serdor asked.
The other four shook there heads, all of them staring forward, still trying to grasp what had happened. Gensett approached Reshauk.
“What did it feel like?”
“Terrible,” Reshauk replied. “You saw it. My body was squeezed so hard, I felt as if my insides were going to rip through my scales. I felt like my bones were going to all snap at once. I never want to go through that again.”
Gensett nodded. He spoke slowly in a peculiar and sly manner, as if everything he said had an ulterior motive. “Does any of this make sense to you? I know we’ve been raised in this environment, ever since we were young. But, have you ever stepped back and looked at everything, and asked yourself why we live like this?”
“Live like what?”
“We’re slaves of the overlord. He says that we are made from his flesh, that we’re his children, but how? There are thousands of us. We barely know the basics of our own species.”
“Do we know anything about our own species?”
“What do we know?”
Reshauk smirked. “Well yeah,” he said. “I wish we could find out more about ourselves… more about the overlord.”
Gensett bit his lip and appeared to be thinking deeply.
“Oh, nothing. There’s so many questions I’d love to be able to answer. The overlord himself won’t answer them for us, as he prefers to keep us peons in the dark about everything. We’re just tools to him, easily dispensable.”
“If that was so, why wouldn’t he have killed me?”
“Not sure. There are other mysteries too. Like this planet.”
“What about it?”
“It never gets dark. Never. Yet there’s no sun in the sky, no noticeable light source. What kind of planet has that quality?”
“We don’t even know what planet we’re on, or what planet our species came from.”
“Exactly. He’s keeping us in this walled colony anyway, we’d never be able to get out to see what else is here.”
“I thought Zaerf there was the gadget master,” Reshauk said. “Shouldn’t he have something to climb walls?”
“Of course,” Zaerf said in his nasal voice. “But those walls are different. Impenetrable. No place to latch hooks on, but impossible to suction to. Not to mention they’re way too high. One fall, and you’d be dead. Air may be too thin up there. You’d pass out and wake up right before you hit ground.”
“Trapped,” Gensett said. “Trapped without the basic understanding of what or who we are.”
“Time to eat, boss?” Zaerf said.
Gensett smiled, and nodded. “Dinner always calms the worried mind.”
Zaerf pressed a button on the wall, and a circular piece of flat wood was lowered from the ceiling on four chains. Sitting on the wood were many bowls full of miscellaneous food items. Different colors and shapes, some appearing to be from plants, some still looking like the animal from which the meat was taken. To the young Gokhs, however, all was delicious.
After they had completed eating, Zaerf raised the hanging piece of wood back to the ceiling.
“I keep thinking about what happened to you, Reshauk,” Serdor said. “I wish I knew his purpose behind treating you like that, treating all of us the way he does.”
“He talked a lot about that machine,” Reshauk said. “That must play into this whole thing somehow. Its like his life revolves around it and whatever it does.”
“Well, that might be understandable,” Gensett said.
“How do you figure?”
“It might be understandable to one who knows why he values that machine so much.”
“I don’t think anyone except the overlord knows that.”
Reshauk stared into the yellow ring of Gensett’s red eyes and blinked. “Yet?”
Gensett’s grin spread wider than his thin line of pointed teeth. “That’s right. How would you like to be among the first of the Gokhs to find that out? Don’t you want to solve the mystery?”
“I wish we knew how.”
“After all these years of knowing me, you think you’d know that I always have a plan.”
“You always have a plan, yes. But is it a good plan?”
Gensett smirked. “Not trusting me anymore?”
“Well, there was the incident with the carivore’s pit---“
“I ended up saving you, didn’t I?”
Reshauk smiled. “Yes you did. Alright, Gensett, what do you have?”
“I have what I always have: a plan. A plan to take us somewhere and show us things. A plan to know what the overlord knows.”
He leaned in closer to Reshauk. The other four leaned in closer also. Gensett lowered his voice to a whisper.
“The overlord’s palace is not as secure as he thinks.”
“You’ve broken in to the palace?”
“Not yet. But I can.”
“Yes. I’ve felt around its back side, the wall there seems rather thin. Thin enough to cut through.”
“Then what? We don’t know what we’ll find after that.”
“No we don’t. But I want to find out. Somewhere, he’s bound to have papers about the machine. Papers about something. Papers about anything.”
Reshauk sat back up, and spoke normally again. “You know, Gensett, if we got caught, we’d end up losing more than a tentacle.”
Gensett sighed. “I know. But this existence is so pointless… so futile. There must be more.”
Reshauk turned his head to the other three Gokhs. “What do you think? Serdor, Ekor, Zaerf?” He pointed to the owner of each name as he referred to them.
Serdor sat back and leaned his large body against the stone wall of a shelf. He brought his hands up and stroked his chin, and then looked directly at Gensett. “I think it would not be wise,” he paused and breathed in deeply, “to miss this opportunity.”
“Then I’m in too!” Ekor yelped in his high-pitch voice, nearly falling off his bricks.
“That’s shocking,” Zaerf said sarcastically. “You’d follow him right into the mouth of the carivore.” Zaerf was by far the smallest of the five. “I’m sure I will be able to assist in some way or another,” he said, tossing a small white ball up in the air and catching it.
“Well, Reshauk, looks like you’re the only undecided,” Gensett said. “What’ll it be, champ?”
He rubbed his eyes and breathed in deeply, then glanced at Gensett and smiled. “So how are we getting through that wall?”
The five young Gokhs huddled together in a circle with their arms over each other’s shoulders.
“You sure he’s asleep?” Reshauk whispered.
“When are we ever sure of anything?” Serdor said.
“True. At least we can hope. This is when he normally sleeps. Too bad darkness never comes. I’m a little more nervous doing this is daylight.”
“Well we don’t have a choice,” Gensett chimed. “Constant light is definitely a disadvantage. But after we get inside, we shouldn’t have to worry about it.”
The other four nodded.
“Zaerf?” Gensett said, pointing at the wall.
Zaerf nodded. He walked up to the wall and pulled a small device out of his pocket. It was black rectangular metal, with a silver pole sticking from one end. He clicked a switch and the device emitted a small, razor-thin flame from the silver ending. He placed the flame at about his eye level on the wall, moving it down to the floor. He repeated this action a step to the left, before pulling a cord from his belt and imbedding its sharp hooks into the wooden wall.
After making a vertical motion along the wall around eye level, he stepped back to tighten the cord. He made the same vertical motion closer to the ground while pulling on the cord, causing a perfectly shaped square of wall to fall cleanly on the grassy ground in front of him. Zaerf glanced at the others and smiled.
“Very slick there Zaerf,” Serdor said. “How do you always have the right gadget?”
“What, do you think I go to the junkyard to sleep?” he said, grinning.
“But won’t the overlord notice a hole in the side of his wall?”
“It goes in reverse, patches it up good as new.”
Zaerf poked his small head inside the hole. Pulling back, he reported “Quite a drop. Too high to jump. About the height of four Serdors.”
“But you have the right gadget, of course,” Serdor said.
Zaerf grinned. “Always.”
He reached into his backpack and pulled out a wide and long piece of rectangular metal, open at one end. He pointed the opening into the hole and pressed in on the opposite end. Two attached cords shot from the open end, attaching by a hook to the ceiling just barely inside. Zaerf tugged for a few moments, then turned around.
“Ready for descent?”
The other four stared at him. He smiled. “See? It’s a ladder.”
“Genious,” Reshauk said. Zaerf bowed.
One by one, they took the ladder down to the cement floor. It was nearly pitch black.
“Light, Zaerf?” Serdor asked.
“Naturally,” he said, taking a small, round white object from his backpack. He quickly threw it up into the air, where it attached to the ceiling and emitted a bright light, revealing the rest of the darkness.
Jaws dropped as the Gokhs took in what was around them. The room seemed as large as a cavern. The walls were covered with random and mostly unknown objects, including paintings, wheels, weapons and armor. The floor was cement in most places, but other spots were covered in carpets, rugs, metal, and wood. The walls were mostly painted black, but spots of red, green and other colors covered many sections in a tie-dye type design.
Half of one wall was a mural, a painting of some type of creature unknown to them. Arrows protruded from the wall in the area of the painting’s head, mostly in the creature’s eyes. From the ceiling hung the bodies of several animals and creatures, none of which they recognized.
“Over here,” Gensett said, breaking the silence. “On the table.”
Gensett walked to the table and starting pushing dust onto the floor. He picked up a pile of stiff papers, blowing more dust off of them. He motioned to the others, and the five of them sat in a circle on the ground.
“Zaerf,” he said, “more light please.”
Zaerf nodded, pulling a small red object from his pocket. He pressed a button, increasing the light on the circle they had made, but darkening the rest of the room. Gensett starting reading aloud.
“Eighth day of Velrowt, in the second of year of Haaeshkihn. I long for those old days. The days of joy. The days of completeness. The days before hell overtook my mind and soul. The days before the devils came.
“Mother and Father were wealthy, of course. I had everything I wanted, if not more. Their palace dwarfed this place. Their riches could buy the stars if they so desired. But their wealth is not why I miss them so dearly; they loved with an unknown power. A power I wish to someday have myself.
“That day is when the darkness came like a storm, declaring war on me. The ship landed while I was away. It was taking off as I arrived home, and I watched it lift into the sky. I was able to get close enough to see what type of ship it was, and to catch a glimpse of some of its markings.
“The palace was in flames. I ran to it, but needed to go no further than the front gate. The black iron fence had two large posts that stuck into the air on each side; from the left post hung Mother, from the right hung Father, both impaled by the now blood-red posts that stuck through them. Behind them, piled on top of each other in one large stack, were all ten of their servants. The corpses on the bottom were drenched with the combined blood of the others near the top of the pile.
“I didn’t know what to do. My life was thrown into a storm. I went into hiding, fearing they would come after me, even though I didn’t know if they even knew I existed, or that I had survived the blaze. After many years, I started researching the ship I had seen and its markings. I discovered what planet it was from. This is when I started my quest, really two quests in one. These abominations must be revenged for the pain they’ve caused, and I want a life again.
“Ever since the blaze, I’ve been kicked off every planet I’ve stepped on. I can’t be accepted. No planet will allow for me to live there. My home planet of Rutelor, that beautiful swamp world of the Gokhs, blamed me for the fire and death of Mother and Father. They thought I made up the ship. No other planet will accept a being of my species. I must find a planet of my own. I will make my offspring accept me, and we will live in harmony. This being said, I may need to kill off the useless ones in the meantime.”
Gensett looked up. Each of the other four stared at him, mouths dropped.
“This is crazy,” Gensett said.
“Keep reading,” Zaerf said, pointing to the light above with his eyes,“we may not have much time left.”
Gensett nodded, and continued.
“The machine will do it. It will rid my enemies of their wretched lives, and will free up their planet for me and my kin. Then I will live life as I did before. It shall be as it should be.
“Here is what I found out about the ship. It is a Filh freighter, from a planet in the Milky Way galaxy called Earth. The most prominent marking is a red, white and blue rectangle, consisting of stars and stripes. This marking belongs to a particular piece of land on that planet. I can thank the inhabitants of that piece of land for the language I am currently speaking and writing in. Soon I will take not only their language, but their—“
The light turned off, causing four of the younglings to gasp, and causing Ekor to scream. Ekor’s mouth was quickly covered by Serdor’s palm. The five of them sat their in the silence and darkness for several seconds, waiting for a sound from above. Nothing came. Reshauk sighed with relief, rubbing his eyes. The room was now completely dark, except the light shining in through the hole in the wall.
“Let’s get out of here,” Gensett said. They slowly stood up and made their way to the ladder hanging from the wall. Gensett climbed up first, followed by Zaerf, Reshauk, Serdor and Ekor. As Reshauk reached the bottom of the hole in the wall, he looked back into the room. There was something in the room, seemingly hovering in midair. He strained his eyes to make out what it was. Two yellow dots floated in the darkness. They disappeared for the smallest of moments, then reappeared. His eyes widened, and he yelled. “Go! Go!”
Reshauk jumped out of the hole, soon followed by Serdor. Movement could be heard below; things were being knocked down, and the sounds were getting closer. Ekor’s hands reached the bottom of the hole. The four looked back to see his hands ripped from the ledge. Ekor’s screams and the sounds of thrashing echoed from the room.
“Let’s go!” Gensett screamed.
“We can’t leave him!” Serdor yelped.
“We either leave him or join him!”
The four ran back around the front of the castle, heading for the huts. The screams of Ekor followed them. This time, the screams came not from a hole in the wall, but from speakers. They stopped running as they noticed a large crowd of Gokhs forming on the side of the palace.
“This way,” Gensett said, leading the four to the group. The large video image on the palace wall showed the area of the vice. Ekor’s body flew out of the chute, landing on the cement floor. He was breathing heavily, but managed to stand up as the voice of the overlord played over the speakers in the vice and outside.
“This maggot thought he could sneak into the palace. Looking for something in particular, I wonder? Different little Gokh than I thought would meet his end first, but he’ll do. All you wretches are the same to me anyway. You have pushed me as far as I can go; this time I can offer not even a shred of forgiveness for your filth.”
The spike walls started moving inward. Ekor repeated to himself, “The gap, the gap, the gap…” while searching for the elusive section where he could be relatively safe from the oncoming spikes.
“Oh no,” he said, feeling the spot where the gap had been. He felt brick instead.
The overlord’s voice continued amid Ekor’s desperate screams. “I hope, for the sakes of you other whelps that got away, that nothing was taken from the palace. If I find even a dust mite missing,” he said, pointing to the image of Ekor on the screen, “the thief will be joining this fool in his grave.”
Gensett swallowed hard, staring at the stiff papers he still held in his hand. He quickly found Zaerf and ripped open his backpack, placing the papers inside.
Ekor’s body fell to the ground, his body unrecognizable due to several large spike holes in his legs, chest, and head.
The four sat back in Gensett’s tent, silent. Red tears rolled through the contours of their scaled faces, finally dripping off their chins and onto the floor. Occasionally, a whimper could be heard, but for several minutes no words were spoken, and no glances were exchanged. Each of them sat, heads in their hands, their minds trying to grasp reality.
Serdor stood, slowly walking out of the door. A minute later, he returned, his fingers holding a single black-stemmed flower with dark purple petals. He kneeled, placing the flower in the middle of the room.
“You’ll be missed, Ekor, my friend,” he said, speaking slowing amid sniffles, staring at the flower. “You loved the kalsia, the flower of the lower fields. You always had your hut decorated in them, inside and out,” he said, smiling weakly.
“Always there, a constant companion. Without you, I wouldn’t be here. I surely would have killed myself on some adventure if you weren’t around to knock some sense into me. I know you would have followed me into the carivore’s pit,” he said, showing a weak smile again, “but you would have tried to convince me otherwise first. Always looking out for me, but always willing to follow me wherever I went. Now I wish I could follow you.”
With that, he lost it. The wrinkles on his face turned into red rivers of tears, waterfalling to the floor. Reshauk, Gensett and Zaerf stood, kneeling around Serdor, each somehow hugging him simultaneously, as rivers of red appeared on each of their faces.
Several minutes later, the sounds of sorrow diminished. Serdor reached forward and picked up the flower, tying the flexible stem around his finger in a knot. “Gone, but I will always remember.”
“Gensett,” Zaerf said, “Please tell me this isn’t what I think it is.” He sat with his backpack on his lap. He pulled out the sheets of stiff paper, drawing gasps from Reshauk and Serdor. “We weren’t going to take anything! You don’t think the overlord will notice this is gone? It’s slightly more important than a dust mite!”
“I know, I know! But it was dark, and I just wasn’t thinking!”
“Now what are we going to do?”
“Maybe he won’t notice for a while. There’s more here to read and we sho—“
A loud high-pitched static noise rang from outside, then the overlord’s voice boomed from speakers throughout the whole colony. He was yelling angrily.
“I knew you disease-infested rodents would take something! And you know exactly what it is! As soon as I put down this microphone, I’m going to rip apart every pathetic hut of yours until I find it! And the thief will beg for treatment equal to that of his late friend when he finds out his punishment!”
Gensett and Zaerf stared at each other. The sounds of the heavy palace gate opening and slamming shut vibrated through the ground. The Gokhs screamed and yelped as the overlord ripped their huts apart searching for his lost papers, which Gensett held in his hands.
“We’ve got to get these back to the palace!” Zaerf yelled.
“How?” Gensett said, shaking.
“No time for thought!”
“But there’s so much more here we want to know!”
“You’d learn what you wanted to know right before he slit your throat!”
The overlord’s voice and the accompanying noises of objects being thrown about grew louder. Serdor looked out the hut door, then looked back inside.
“Ten minutes,” he said. “His ripping through huts pretty fast.”
“We have them now! We take them back, we’ll just want to go take them again!”
“But we’ll still be alive!”
“You have a camera don’t you?”
Zaerf stared at Gensett, then sighed loudly with a grunt. “Line them up on the ground,” he said before he ran out the door, quickly returning with a camera. Quickly, Zaerf snapped pictures of each of the ten stiff sheets of paper.
“There! Done! Now let’s go!” Zaerf quickly threw the papers in his backpack.
“You guys stay,” Gensett said. “Safer for me to just go!”
Gensett bolted out the door, carrying the pack on his back. There were several lines of huts between him and the overlord. He snuck through the mass of huts, making sure not to be noticed. Using a line of trees that bordered the plain, he managed to get to the back of the palace without being noticed. He scanned the back wall for the hole they had created earlier, but found it to be boarded up.
“Well now what?” he said aloud, trying not to panic. He crept around to the front of the building, and stood behind one of the palace’s massive columns. Looking forward, he saw the overlord ripping apart a hut. There were three huts between the overlord and Gensett’s hut.
He turned around and headed to the door. He could barely open the doors enough to squeeze his body through. The cavernous entry room had a door to the left and a door to the right, and a hallway that extended to the back wall of the palace. He stood there, repeatedly turning his head between the left and right doors. He ran to the left, pulling open the old wooden door.
The room was small and round with a stone bench encircling its circumference, except the space for the door. In the middle was a tall thin table, and on top of the table stood a microphone. Gensett glanced out the window. His hut was next.
He dropped the papers on the stone bench and picked up the microphone. He clicked a small lever on the side, and held it to his mouth as he looked out the window.
“Hey!” he said, his voice cracking. The overlord was at the door to Gensett’s hut, turned around, staring at the palace.
“Your uh… stuff is back.”
The overlord growled, then started sprinting toward the palace. Gensett’s eyes widened, fear shooting through him like an arrow. There were no other doors from the room besides the one he entered through, so he ran through it, leaving the papers behind. He crossed the hallway to the other door, closing it behind him. This room was equal in size and shape, but had another door on the other side. He ran through the room, opening that door and shutting it, simultaneously with the noise of the main door to the palace slamming open.
Gensett kept running. Each room had another door, some with multiple doors. He kept going up and down stairs, choosing doors randomly, hoping the next would lead to a way out. A door to the outside, a window, anything. Gensett burst through a door, and the two yellow eyes in front of him caused him to scream. He tried to stop, but his feet slid out from under him. His legs rolled under the standing legs, the body towering over him. He covered his face with his arms, expecting some kind of great pain.
Nothing happened. He looked up. Standing high above Gensett was a statue of a Gokh, but not the overlord. He breathed in deeply, placing his small fingers on his beating chest. Gensett looked closer at the statue. The face was different than the overlord, a little older looking and with different bone structure.
Gensett crawled to his feet, and looking beyond the statue, saw a window. He grinned. He walked to the window, looking down. He was high above the ground, at the highest window in the castle. Looking forward, he could see the huts. Gokhs were walking about, rebuilding their huts.
“There he is!” Zaerf yelped to Serdor and Reshauk as he looking through a pair of binoculars. “Come! Help me get the hook launcher!”
The three ran beyond the rim of trees farthest away from the palace to the junkyard. Zaerf pointed to a large stainless steel box on wheels, with a steel tube protruding from the front.
They wheeled the device through the mass of huts, stopping it in an open area close to the edge of the huts. Zaerf stood behind it, moving the protruding tube. “Almost there…”
“Got it!” he said, jerking a lever forward. A thick cord shot forward from the tube, arcing high into the air toward the palace. Inside, Gensett’s eyes widened as he ducked into the room. Outside, he heard a loud thud, accompanied by a growl from below. “Oh no,” he said aloud. “The overlord knows where I am.”
Peering outside and up, Gensett saw a large hook imbedded into the wall. Dangling from the hook was something that looked a backpack metal box. Taped to the box was a piece of paper that read “Strap to back. Detach before hook. Hold on. After pull, count to two, press button. Let go. Hit top of box for chute.”
Ummm…. Okay, he thought to himself as he strapped the box to his back, buckling it around his chest in several places. Peering out the window, he noticed a handle sticking out of the cord right before the hook. He detached the cord from the handle, and held onto it with both hands.
From behind came a crashing noise. The overlord smashed through the door. “There you are, you little maggot!” he screamed. Gensett closed his eyes for a moment, his body shaking and his head spinning. He faced forward, expecting to be ripped from behind. Instead, he was ripped from the front. The cord pulled him cleanly out of the window. Behind him, he heard the screams of the overlord, mixing anger with surprise.
Gensett felt as if he left his lungs up in that room. The air flew past him, making his face ache. One, he said aloud, trying to breathe. Two. He pressed the button, and let go of the handle.
He felt his back twitch. Protruding from the two sides of the metal box on his back were now finely crafted wings. He floated up into the air, reaching a peak and almost stopping in midair. Gensett hit his tentacles against the top of the box, and out of it shot a parachute. He slowly drifted toward the ground, landing safely with Zaerf nearby.
Quickly, Zaerf ripped off Gensett’s backpack. “Follow!”
Gensett did so, and the four of them quickly ran into his hut. Seconds later, the palace door slammed open. The overlord ran out, screaming.
“You better hope I never catch you, whichever one you are! You’re lucky all you infections to my life look alike!”
With that, he turned around and went back into the palace.
The overlord starting working the young Gokhs much harder, giving them more difficult work, more of it, and less breaks. He eyed each one he saw, trying to find the one who had escaped. Within a week, however, work schedules were back to normal.
The four young Gokhs sat on bricks in Gensett’s hut after finishing up their evening meal.
“They’re finished,” Zaerf said, picking up his backpack from the floor.
“The pictures,” he said, grinning. He handed the pictures of the overlord’s papers to Gensett, whose expression showed Zaerf that he was impressed.
“Now where were we?” Gensett said. “Impaled parents…. I want my life back…. Killing off the useless…ah, here we go. Earth. Ready?”
The other four nodded anxiously. Gensett started reading.
“I can thank the inhabitants of that piece of land for the language I am currently speaking and writing in. Soon I will take not only their language, but their planet. Quite a nice rock they’ve got there, with plenty of space for me and my kind. Definitely an ugly species, pale or brown skin instead of green or blue scales, and no tentacles. What waste of a species. Human I believe they call themselves. I’ll be doing them a favor by killing them off.
“Physically, they tower over use twofold. Fourfold for Gokh younglings. This makes them much stronger of course. This is, however, where the mental part of it all comes in. They seem a rather stupid species. Haven’t even mastered the art of space travel. I knew more about space travel a millennia ago than all ten billion of its current habitants knows combined.
“I’ve had this plan for almost a century. The little twerps that I am currently…” Gensett stopped.
“What is it?” Reshauk asked.
Gensett breathed deeply, and continued reading.
“The little twerps that I am currently growing won’t be able to comprehend the plan. It is all so genius, so perfect, that I’m almost divine for coming up with it. They’ll be finished growing in another few weeks, then I’ll pull them out of the soil. Might as well turn their growing field into their homes, popping a little hut right up where they grew. The nicest thing I’ll do is give them names. After that, they don’t deserve anything better than a slap across the face.
“They will, however, be vital to the plan. I’ll be able to kill off some of the more inept ones, but I won’t be able to wipe out the whole colony, unless I want to wait more time to grow another batch. I’ll have them keep the machine running, and keep the colony afloat in—“
“Afloat?” Reshauk interrupted, “What does that mean?”
“—afloat in space,” Gensett said, wrinkling his forehead. “…keep the colony afloat in space. Will always be day on the ship though, limiting their excuses to stop. I suppose I’ll be gracious enough to grant them some time to sleep, and maybe a little time to rest and maybe even eat. But work will be their primary function.
“I never liked the look of a normal spaceship, far too technological. Trees, grass, this is the environment I desire. Not to mention the mighty carivore needed a more natural-type habitat. While it is there to help kill off any of the stupid little Gokhs I may have running around with over-inflated curiosities, its value to my plan is undeniable. Precious eyes they have, precious indeed.”
“Precious eyes?” Serdor said.
“That’s what it says.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know,” Gensett said, putting the papers down on the floor and rubbing his eyes. “They are important somehow to his plan. His plan is to use the machine to wipe out that whole planet. Kill everything on it. Ten billion of them… gone.”
“All for one Gokh.”
“And all of that Gokh’s little brainwashed relatives.”
“So what now? We’re pawns in his master plan. His master plan to kill off these things, these humans. What can we do?”
“Kill the carivore,” Gensett said.
The other three stared at him before laughing. “You’ve got to be kidding,” Reshauk said. “Kill the carivore. How would we do that?”
“Well, maybe killing it would be too difficult. How about blinding it?”
“If we can destroy the carivore’s eyes, we can possibly severely damage the overlord’s plan.”
“Agreed,” Reshauk said, “but that’s not possible.”
“The carivore is massive. We’re tiny. It would gobble us up.”
“We don’t even know how big it is, do we? We’ve never actually seen it.”
“Never actually seen it?” said Serdor. “I thought you and Reshauk went there once. And that you saved him from the clenches of death.”
“Well, I pulled him out of the pit. We heard his growls, and felt the ground move. Felt like things all around us were moving, like we were surrounded by it. I felt its reeking breath upon me. We were definitely close enough for danger.”
“What makes this time any different?”
“We have one thing we didn’t have last time.”
The four young Gokhs sat in the dirt behind the row of trees far from the palace. Each of them carried lights, and Zaerf’s backpack was full. He also had several small devices in a belt around his waist.
“Just over that hill there is an open region with a pit in the middle,” Gensett said. “The pit drops straight down, leading to a curvy tunnel that we don’t know how long it is. Inside is a creature we’ve never seen, that may be bigger and stronger than we can imagine. Ready?”
The other three stared at him, looking uneasy.
“Just remember why we’re doing this.”
“Go on,” Reshauk said, eyeing Gensett. “What is the machine?”
“Does anyone here know its story?”
The other four shook their heads.
“Well then, have I got a tale for you.”
Gensett leaned his back against the light-colored marble wall.
“It’s a long tale, which does not get to the machine for a while. But it explains the mystery of our race, the overlord, and his purpose.”
All the eyes of the room were now pinned to Gensett. He continued.
“Many years ago, a thousand or more, the overlord was a young lad such as us, or maybe a little older. He lived on the planet Rutelor, a million miles away, at least. He had a father and a mother, very caring parents, who were also very wealthy. They lived in a palace that dwarfs his current one, both in size and in beauty. He had all his heart could yearn for, and more.
“For a hundred years they lived like this, with servants to do all their work, and with everything given to them draped in gold. There is nothing they couldn’t have, and probably nothing they didn’t have. They lived as gods.
“One day, our little overlord, whose actual name is…”
“Do you want to know?”
The four nodded simultaneously.
“Cirnor the overlord,” Reshauk said. “One day…?”
“Oh, right,” Gensett continued. “One day, Cirnor was away from his palace, doing who knows what. Several ships from space landed in the area of the palace, and some creatures got out and ran inside. They started raiding the place, taking everything of value, killing anything that got in their way. All thirteen inside were killed: eleven servants, and the two of them. The invaders took everything of value in the entire house, and then burned it.
“Evidently, Cirnor returned as they were leaving. He saw the ship and made a mental note of the type of ship it was and some of the markings on it. He then researched in depth to find the attackers and murderers, and here’s what he found. They were a completely different species. While they do stand at heights similar to us, and do have similar body shapes, they are still quite different. Us Gokhs have three long, muscular tentacles protruding from the back of the neck. They have nothing. Their outer layer is not made of scales like ours, but of a pale colored skin.
“The eyes of these creatures are what scared Cirnor the most. He was used to the normal eyes of Gokhs: all red, except the ring of yellow in the center. These creatures had whites in their eyes, with a black dot in the middle surrounded by green, blue or brown. He hated those eyes, and they gave him unmentionable nightmares.”
“How would you know all this?” Serdor rang out as he attached another bandage to the back of Reshauk’s head.
“I have my ways,” Gensett said slyly. “Alright, I’ll tell you. Or better yet, I’ll show you.”
He walked over to a brick wall in the room, placing a finger on the brick at the bottom right-hand corner of the wall. Out loud, he counted seven bricks up and two bricks over, then slowly slid the brick out of the wall. He reached his hand into what was now a hole in the wall, and pulled out a stack of several stiff pieces of paper.
“I found his notes.”
“His notes? How would you come across something like that?” Serdor asked.
“They were, umm, sitting on the table.”
“In the attic of his palace.”
“I know, I know. Bad little Gokh. But haven’t you guys ever wanted to know what he’s all about? Why he treats us the way he does?”
“If you’d been caught, you’d be dead, you know,” Serdor said.
“Yeah yeah, I know. But I had to risk it. I had to know. And now I do. You guys want to know more?”
They all nodded.
“His purpose is simple, yet twofold. First, he wants revenge. Revenge against those creatures who took everything away from him. Second, he wants his life back."