Chapter Thirty-Two – Evil is Reborn
Returning to Kalki, Hesket went to his dark lair deep inside the bowels of the ship. Finding what he wanted, he silently searched through the ship’s interior until he came across a small laboratory. Working quickly he began to carry out a series of experiments. Hours later, he took the results of the experiments to another part of the ship. Hesket watched from the safety of the view screen as the last stage of his experiment took shape inside the chamber. When the process was complete, Hesket opened the chamber and checked for himself. Satisfied, he took the final product of his experiment with him to Kalki’s bridge. The ship scanned Pranash as Hesket searched for, and found, his target. “There!” he said.
The colour of her eyes briefly flashed from blue to dark ruby red, and just as quickly returned to their original colour, while Shu watched Akhen and his brothers make their way to where they had left the shuttle. Shu’s beautiful face twisted into a mask of pure hatred. Her eyes turned dark ruby red again as her anger grew. “There is your murderer, the one who killed you while you slept, lady,” Hesket hissed. “Kill him and his brothers!”
Shu’s eyes returned to their normal colour. “No,” she said calmly, “We leave him here to his fate. The fleet will soon arrive. Maas will show him no mercy!” Hesket’s black eyes stared at Shu as he tried to influence her, but she blocked his pathetic intrusion, turning it back to his own dark mind. My kin screamed in agony as Shu tortured him before releasing him. “You think you can control me Khaz,” Shu said quietly, as her eyes flashed. “I thank you for bringing me back and for that reason alone I will not kill you. You shall join Akhen and the others down on Janus Omega.” Shu seized Hesket by the neck and took him to the shuttle bay. After she had securely bound him, she said, “Tell Akhen that I am alive when you meet, and believe me, you will meet him.” Shu closed the door of the shuttle and sent it back to the planet. Then she took Kalki out of orbit and left Janus Omega.
The berserkers arrived soon after the shuttle landed. They drew their swords and carefully approached. Besal flung open the hatch. Sword in hand he leapt inside, returning moments later throwing Hesket to the ground at Akhen’s feet. The diminutive Khaz writhed in agony, as he lay surrounded by the berserkers. “What were you doing on board Kalki?” Khan asked, pressing the point with his sword tip between Hesket’s eyes. Hesket screamed for mercy as his body exuded the familiar foul stench.
“Well Khaz, we’re waiting,” Seti added, kicking Hesket’s head. Manesh stamped his foot on my cousin’s trussed up body, crushing his organs inside. Hesket screamed uncontrollably, his body broken beyond repair.
“Well? What were you doing on board Kalki?” Akhen enquired calmly. “Why are you tied up? Who did this to you, and why?”
Through the painful mist that now enveloped Hesket’s consciousness, he struggled to stay focused, knowing that his end was near. The sun mercilessly fried his delicate grey skin and his evil black eyes began to cloud over.
“What happened?” Max demanded.
“Tell us Khaz and we shall deliver you from your pain,” Akkad said, quietly.
“Release me from my bonds, I beg you,” Hesket murmured. Apis and Shansur untied the pitiful creature that my cousin was, and shaded him from the sun with their shields. He told the berserkers everything about his ambitions, about how he and our kin had set both sides against each other in a bid to become the dominant species throughout the cosmos, and lastly about how he had lied to convince Akhen and Hor that Shu was evil.
Akhen’s eyes filled with tears of anger. Because of Hesket’s lies, he had slain their mother. Akhen drew his sword ready to strike. “I should have killed you, not Shu!” he thundered.
“Wait, please wait. There is more,” Hesket croaked.
“What more is there? You have destroyed the most beautiful thing in the cosmos by your lies, stinking Khaz filth!”
Akhen screamed the spine chilling berserker war cry with his sword held high above his head, about to strike. “Wait!” Khan ordered, gripping Akhen’s arm. “Listen to him; let him finish.”
Akhen dropped his sword to the ground, his dark eyes flashed with anger and loathing for the broken creature. “Very well, Khaz, finish your tale if you must,” he muttered.
“After I was returned to the cell I escaped and hid while you beheaded Shu. When you buried her, I captured her essence in a vial and stole aboard Kalki. I put the thoughts into your mind, Manesh, about your brother Nagesh, your father Vishna, and your mother. It was the truth, I swear!” Hesket pleaded, barely able to continue as death crept closer. His skin was gradually changing to a powdery white colour. “After you had slain them both I returned to Kalki and collected Shu’s essence. I tried to manipulate it, to make her obedient to my every wish. But when she emerged from the regeneration chamber, she had become the evil creature I had lied about to you and your family. She was truly the most beautiful being before I began, but now, thanks to my meddling, she has changed forever, leaving Janus Omega and abandoning you and your brothers to your fate at the hands of general Maas.” Hesket sank into unconsciousness. His tiny body now lay at their feet completely covered in a chalky white dust. My cousin’s large eyes turned white and dimmed for the last time.
They did not have to wait long. A few hours after Shu departed, Eugene’s armada arrived, filling the skies above Pranash. Hundreds of troop carriers descended. Eugene’s marines raped, killed, and looted their way through the city, setting it on fire as they went. By nightfall, Pranash was under Eugene’s control. He left the carrier with my kin Pashtek, hitching a ride and landed close to the walled home of Vishna, and entered the garden. Lighting a cigar he studied the lifeless corpses of Nagesh and Vishna, then shrugging his shoulders, he took over the house as his centre of operations. Over the next few hours, while his marines spread across Janus Omega, wiping out the last vestiges of the Drana, and my cousin hid from the danger, his vast armada sat in orbit empty, but for a small skeleton crew on each ship.
A captured Drana was brought before Eugene. “Well lizard breath, whadda you want?”
Hasaan raised his bloody and bruised head. “General Maas, I know who killed my Dranaa and his father, sir.”
“So?” Eugene said, pretending not to be interested.
“Sir it was berserker warriors!”
“Ber- what?” Eugene spat a wad of tobacco into Hasaan’s eyes, causing them to burn intensely from the mix of tobacco juice and his salty saliva.
“Berserkers sir, followers of Shu,” Hasaan screamed in agony, as his eyes dissolved.
“Just who in hell is Shu – huh?” Eugene kicked the legs out from under Hasaan, sending him sprawling across the floor. Drawing his colt, he rammed the muzzle into Hasaan’s groin and pulled back the hammer. “Talk bastard, or I’ll blow your goddam balls off – you hear,” Eugene snarled, enjoying the moment.
His ruddy face changed colour, turning white after Hasaan finished telling him about Shu, Akhen, and Kalki. “And where is Shu now, huh; where’s her goddam ship?” Eugene demanded.
Hasaan shook his eyeless head as the salt dug further into his skull. “I don’t know general. Her berserkers disappeared once they had murdered Dranaa Nagesh and his father.”
“Goddam!” Eugene muttered after he pulled the trigger of the ancient colt, ending Hasaan’s agony by rupturing his internal organs.
The carrier’s shuttle bay was empty, illuminated by the lights in its ceiling. No one was on watch. The four members of the skeleton crew randomly surveyed the ship via the monitors in central control. The carrier’s sensors were unaware of the cloaked intruders on the shuttle bay deck. Silently, Akhen and his brothers crept through the ship to where the crew members played cards while the monitors surveyed every deck, corridor, and companionway ladder. The control of the carrier silently changed hands. Akhen and Max set to work while the others laid Semac charges throughout the hull.
When their shuttle was at a safe distance, Akhen remotely initiated the Armag array’s self-destruct sequence. The brothers watched as Eugene’s mighty armada vaporised before their eyes. Apis turned the shuttle and laid in a course for Cydon and home to the Andromedan galaxy.
Far below on Janus Omega, Eugene and my kin Pashtek were marooned on the destroyed planet after witnessing the destruction of Eugene’s fleet. Eugene flew into a blind rage killing the nearest marine to him with his bare hands. Young Michael’s face turned purple as he choked to death…
Next time – Chapter Thirty-Three