Chapter Forty-Seven – Murderous Apprenticeship
Now that the men had gone, the women and children spent the next fourteen years in the relative safety of the ship. As the children grew, Pashtek began their evil education, teaching them while they slept. During the day, they learned from their mothers about their own races, and the tragic circumstances which had brought them on board.
Meral was growing into a beautiful young woman, bossy and determined, with a sex drive, which would cause problems in the future. Naron spent most of his time learning about his ancestors’ warrior past, as he grew into a fine physical specimen. Banab withdrew more and more over the years, studying the library in the ship’s computer, absorbing all its knowledge, and growing more evil and malicious every day.
With each passing year, Pashtek’s influence over them grew. Each night as they lay asleep, he entered their fertile young minds, filling them with the combined knowledge and history of the Khaz race, its desires, and ambitions. They were the successful product of millions of years of research into hybrid development, and as such, were more precious to him than life itself. The day finally came when they would graduate from his school. The occasion was the combined twenty-first birthday party for the three young hybrids, organized by their loving mothers.
Meral sat in front of the mirror admiring herself as her mother brushed her jet black hair which mirrored the colour of her eyes. “Mother, please, ask aunts Aisha and Heqet to come with you to the school room this afternoon. Banab, Naron, and I have a small surprise for all of you. Will two o’clock be alright?”
“Of course, darling.” Dena smiled as she gave her daughter’s forehead a tender kiss, before leaving to find her two ‘sisters’. Because of their shared terrifying ordeal, the three women were now closer than natural siblings. Heqet, Dena, and Aisha walked hand in hand, giggling in anticipation over the surprise their children had organized for them, as they made their way along the corridor towards the hold. They stopped outside the door to the compartment in the ship’s hold that had served as classroom and nursery throughout their children’s lives.
“Come in, mother, come in aunts Heqet and Dena; you’re surprise awaits you inside,” Naron’s voice informed them from the speaker outside the door. Aisha opened the door and the three women entered. The schoolroom was in darkness.
“Please sit,” Banab’s soft voice invited from the darkness. Dena, Aisha, and Heqet sat smiling to themselves, squeezing each other’s hands in the darkness. The large view screen used for the children’s education, that covered one wall of the compartment, sprang to life. Meral and her two ‘brothers’ stood looking at them from the leafy confines of the hydroponics facility, surrounded by the fruits and vegetables that their mothers had lovingly tended over the years.
“Mothers dearest,” Meral began. “Banab, Naron, and I wanted to give each of you a token of some kind, in thanks for your love and devotion to us as we have grown up. But we finally decided that one present for you all to share was more appropriate.”
Dena smiled. “Thank you Meral. Thank you Naron and dear Banab. We’re all proud of you, and we love you all.”
“Close your eyes now, we want to show you your present,” Naron commanded, with a gentle smile. The three women happily obliged, still giggling and holding hands.
“Surprise, you can open your eyes!” Meral shouted. The three women’s eyes opened wide in horror. From behind one of the hydroponics units, Pashtek stepped forward between Naron’s legs, and stood in front of the three young adults. Meral bent down and tenderly kissed his grey head then looked at the three women. “Mother, this is a proud moment for us all. Say hello to our father Pashtek.” Meral knelt beside the diminutive Khaz, holding him in a tender embrace and smiling coldly.
“We have one last surprise for you,” Banab said, with a cruel smile as he nodded to Naron. The women heard the schoolroom being sealed, and its clamps released from their grip on the floor of the hold. Aisha, Heqet, and Dena screamed in terror as they rapidly became weightless, when the sealed schoolroom compartment was jettisoned into space. Pashtek was proud of his children; they had graduated with flying colours. His next phase was about to begin.
With just over a year and a half to go before the ship arrived in the solar system, Pashtek continued his children’s intensive evil education. Now that the women were no longer on board, all their time was spent by his side, learning more and more about their true heritage. At night, Meral began preying on her two brothers, seducing them to satisfy her insatiable sexual needs. Naron was the main target of her desires. She would silently enter his compartment most nights while he slept, quickly undress, and slip beneath the covers. He awoke when her amorous desires lit the fires of passion in his body. For the remainder of the night the pair would make love continually, until Meral finally fell into an exhausted satisfied sleep in Naron’s arms.
She took a different approach with Banab, content to caress and kiss him from head to toe, fulfilling her sexual needs by watching him completely lose control, as intense levels of pleasure washed over his androgynous albino form. The one thing Banab loved most, was when Meral gently massaged his delicate skin with her long hair, flooding his soul with pleasure, from the over stimulated nerve endings in the outer layers of his skin. Inevitably, Banab grew jealous of Naron, as Meral’s preference for a real man over a ‘freak’ increased.
One day Naron was outside the ship clearing the micrometeorite debris from the intake grill. It was taking longer than he had anticipated so he returned to the ship to replenish his suit’s environmental pack. When he entered the airlock, Banab was at the controls. The outer hatch closed, and Naron could hear the sound of the pressure changing in the compartment between the airlock doors. Banab signalled that it was safe to change his environment packs over. Naron disconnected the old pack and began reaching for the new one. Banab seized his chance and deliberately opened the outer hatch door, sucking Naron into the emptiness of space. Banab was inconsolable over the accidental death of his ‘beloved brother’. Nothing Meral or Pashtek did or said seemed to ease his pain. That night in the darkness of his compartment, his face contorted into a cruel smile, content that his evil plan to get rid of his rival had gone so well.
Less than six months remained before the ship would enter the outer perimeter of the solar system on route for Mars. Pashtek looked at his two remaining children with some misgivings, but also with pride. They had learned everything he had to teach them. Now Meral and Banab needed to experience one last discipline to complete their evil education, the thrill of hunting their prey and the satisfaction it would bring them. In the immediate vicinity of the ship were a few small planets capable of supporting life. Under Pashtek’s patient guidance, Banab and Meral began searching the planets with the ship’s sensors. Eventually they found what they were looking for. A small M class planet teemed with life, a mere eight hundred and sixty thousand kilometres from their present position, within the small star system they were travelling through.
The planet was populated by refugees who had escaped Shu’s rampage across the cosmos years earlier. They settled there because the ships they used to escape from their home worlds were incapable of travelling the vast intergalactic distances to join the others. In the last few years they had slowly spread across the planet, settling in fertile areas, and becoming farmers. The adults blocked the terrors of their former existence from their children by creating a safe and loving environment, adopting the peaceful way of life they all now led. Shu had never landed on the planet when she passed this way, because at the time, it had no sentient life forms.
It was late summer in the planet’s southern hemisphere, and everyone was occupied with harvesting the crops. Pashtek chose a particular farming community for its isolation from the rest of the planet’s population, deep inside a forested mountain range. He watched the community for several days, from the safety of the ship in orbit above the planet. Banab and Meral chose their targets, spending hours learning their movements and patterns of behaviour. The time to strike arrived. Banab piloted the small shuttle down to the valley, landing a kilometre away from the village in a forest glade.
Together, the pair walked the short distance to the edge of the forest, and sat down to watch their unsuspecting victims. Banab’s white face twisted into a hideous mask as his pale pink eyes concentrated on two young children, happily playing hide and seek among the hayricks in the mid-morning sun. Meral watched his face contort even further then, leaning over towards him, she whispered something in his ear. Banab smiled and nodded as Meral slipped away heading towards the children. The little boy and girl stopped their game, and began gathering flowers growing among the hayricks to make garlands. They heard someone singing a beautiful strange song, on the other side of the wooden fence surrounding the field; they looked at each other and smiled. Quickly scrambling between the rough sawn rails of the fence, they ran towards the voice somewhere ahead near the forest edge.
Meral sat cross-legged in the tall green grass, smiling sweetly at the two young children who knelt before her, giggling happily, mesmerized by her voice as she sang. She continued smiling at them as she sang, neither of the children realized that Banab was stealthily creeping towards them from behind. Banab’s hands clamped over the children’s mouths, silencing their screams of terror with a strength Meral had never seen before. His powerful mind invaded theirs, destroying them completely, before he killed them with a quick snap of their tender young necks. Meral was unnerved by Banab’s smile as he fell back into the long grass, contented by his murderous work. Now it was her turn.
Her composure quickly returned as she began her own hunt. Her unfortunate target lay fast asleep on top of a pile of hay in the loft of the community barn. Meral circled the village several times waiting for her opportunity to strike. Her eyes hardened as she concentrated on her mission, banishing everything from her mind except her quarry. The unfortunate youth lay in the warmth of the sun, away from the double doors of the barn loft. Meral began kissing him, while gently removing his clothing. Then straddling him, she allowed him to undress her. The youth was dumbfounded by his sudden reward, overcome by Meral’s nubile beauty, as she took him to heights of passion and desire he had never experienced before in his entire life. When the members of the teenager’s community eventually found him later that evening, his heart had been cut out with his own knife and placed on his stomach, partially consumed, inside a bizarre heart shaped design she had drawn with his blood. Overall, Pashtek was pleased. But he grew increasingly worried by the results of his children’s final lesson. He rewarded them by allowing them to select more targets at random, and over the next five weeks, the cruel pair wreaked havoc among the peaceful population across the length and breadth of the planet. Eventually they tired of their murderous excesses and the trio finally left.
By the time the ship entered the outer solar system, Meral realized she was pregnant. Pashtek suspected nothing, but Banab’s androgynous intuition told him otherwise. “So, my dear sister, when are you going to tell father about the bastard you carry inside you?”
Meral glared at Banab. “I’m not, and neither are you, dear brother,” she said, coldly.
“When he finds out you’re pregnant, he will be furious. Perhaps an accident of some kind, a fall maybe, or something more drastic, will relieve you of your problem,” Banab snarled. “It can be so easily arranged. Then we can be together once more, my sweet!”
Meral was unnerved by Banab. She suspected that Naron’s death was no mere accident but could never prove it. Smiling, she gently put her arms around Banab’s neck, drew him close, and kissed him tenderly. The evil look on his white face vanished as he was overcome by the passion of the moment. She had silenced him for now. Her lover Naron would be avenged.
The autopilot brought the ship to a standstill in stationary orbit above the red surface of Mars. Pashtek sent both of them down to the planet one at a time on numerous missions during the weeks that followed. They each took a shopping list of items he needed, with instructions to scour the abandoned facilities scattered across the planet. Each time they returned with equipment from Pashtek’s list, he spent days designing new improved techniques, for building his hybrid nation from the frozen human DNA in the liquid nitrogen Dewars, donated by Eugene’s men. It was Banab’s turn to forage among the deserted laboratories and workshops of an abandoned settlement, directly below the ship. He landed inside the dispersal hanger of the complex, and left the shuttle to begin his search for the materials Pashtek had specifically asked him to find. Fourteen hours after he started his search, he returned to where the shuttle sat, surrounded by the boxes of instruments that Pashtek so desperately needed. He spent over two hours loading the boxes on board. Then, remembering he had left the most important item of all behind in one of the labs, he went back to the building to retrieve it.
When he returned the shuttle had gone. He was cut off from the ship with no way to communicate with it. He seethed with anger as he stood and watched the bright star in the sky leave orbit, and vanish into space. Pashtek and Meral were alone now, not because Meral wanted revenge, but because Pashtek’s fear of Banab had steadily grown over the last few months, sensing a deadly rival, more evil and more powerful than he was.
It soon became obvious, even to Pashtek, that Meral was pregnant; she had sown the final seeds in his mind, convincing him that he was indeed the father of her baby. At every opportunity, she brushed against him, stroked him, kissed him, and at night massaged his tiny grey body the way she had with Banab. Pashtek now experienced new and strange sensations for the first time in his pathetic evil existence – ecstasy and love.
Three months after departing from Mars, the ship drew near to Earth’s moon. Pashtek shut down the autopilot and placed the ship in low stationary orbit, above the cratered grey surface of Earth’s natural satellite. Somehow, he had to locate his remaining Khaz brothers, hidden somewhere down on the surface of the Earth. He needed their help to create his new hybrid Khaz species. Between them, he and Meral conducted a fruitless listening watch for signals coming from the planet, also searching the surface using the ship’s sensors for signs of life. Eventually, after a few weeks, Pashtek managed to locate the whereabouts of his Khaz brothers. They were hiding out in a system of caves in the Kabir Kuh Mountains, far to the west of old Baghdad on the outer edge of the new continent of Gilgama. (Why didn’t he manage to locate me, dear reader? Be patient, I will reveal all at the end of this tale.) Pashtek placed the ship in high orbit above the planet and tried unsuccessfully to communicate with his brothers on the surface below. Next, he sent a communications drone down to the area of the caves to try to lure them into coming to the surface. All that did was alert the savage berserker-human population into exploring the area when they saw it hovering overhead, placing Pashtek’s kin in grave danger.
By now, Meral’s pregnancy was in its final days, and she was still driving him crazy with her desire for strange items of food, and the one request that obsessed her – to be able to give birth to their son down on the planet’s surface. She pleaded with him, flying into a tearful rage, driven by her over-active hormones, sulking and cursing him. In short, she used every weapon in her female arsenal to persuade him. In the end he relented, and the shuttle descended towards the mountain range, close to where his brothers hid from the marauding berserker-humans.
Brak, Tuluk, and Lek sat in fear of their lives inside the entrance to the cave, watching the berserker-humans hunting for them in the foothills of the mountain range below. They had heard Pashtek, but were afraid to answer his call. The three Khaz were the last of our breed across the planet since the fall of Shu, or so they thought. Even they didn’t know of my presence. They had managed to survive the marauding bands of berserkers, by hiding deep inside the tunnel systems of Gilgama’s mountains. They had witnessed the battle between Hor’s army of humans, backed by Akhen and his brothers, against Shu’s army of six million savage berserkers. They were hiding in the ruins of Hor’s besieged camp when Akhen and Shu met in mortal combat, putting an end to her mindless savagery.
When Akhen’s brothers left the area, the three Khaz searched for a safe haven, finding it in the Kabir Kuh Mountains in what had once been western Iran.
The air in the cave stank from their combined bodily excretions. Brak signalled his kin to follow him deeper into the tunnel system, away from the cave mouth, fearful that the berserkers’ powerful sense of smell would detect them. “Curse Pashtek,” Brak said angrily. “Doesn’t he know how much danger we’re in down here on this accursed planet?”
Tuluk looked at Brak. “We’ll all be killed brother. Tell him to find somewhere else!” Lek curled up in a ball, shaking with fear.
“We’re safe enough for the moment,” Brak tried to reassure them. But deep down he knew that if Pashtek should be foolish enough to land, they would be forced to find another hiding place, far from the danger outside. When night finally fell, he sent Tuluk to keep watch at the cave entrance in case Pashtek appeared. Six hours later, Tuluk returned with Pashtek and a heavily pregnant Meral. Pashtek introduced his beloved to his kin. Reluctantly Brak and his companions helped Pashtek make her as comfortable as they could.
For the next several days and nights Meral lay in agony as her time rapidly drew near. Six hours after her labour began; she gave birth to a son who she named Merak, to please Pashtek. Baby Merak steadily grew, fed by his mother’s rich milk, watched over by his proud father Pashtek in the safety of the caves. The whole experience of witnessing Merak’s birth filled Brak and his brothers with revulsion. By the time Merak was six months old, he was happily crawling around the cave to the amusement of Meral and Pashtek, and to the annoyance of Tuluk, Lek, and Brak. “Brother, you and you’re female will have to find somewhere else to bring up that abomination you call your son!” Brak declared.
Pashtek’s black eyes flashed as he angrily replied, “You know that Merak is the first of a new breed of Khaz, dear brother. Do you feel threatened by him for some reason? My mate and my son stay here in the safety of the cave system, and you will protect them with your lives, do you understand!” Taken aback by Pashtek’s angry outburst, Brak turned and quickly left the cave, followed by Tuluk and Lek.
Merak began to take his first shaky steps. The infant’s curiosity knew no bounds when it came to the cave and the creatures it contained. He spent many innocent happy hours playing in the dirt with bats, spiders and other creatures who found sanctuary in the cave, putting them in his mouth, experiencing them through taste like all other babies, learning something new each time. Whenever he cried, Brak and his brothers felt sure their hiding place would be detected from the outside. Eventually they had had enough of the constant wanderings and wailing demands of the abhorrent creature and decided to act. When Merak finally went to sleep, and Meral and Pashtek were relaxing on their own, the three Khaz carefully removed the sleeping infant, taking him outside the cave down to the foothills, where they left him covered in a bed of leaves in the gnarled roots of an ancient tree.
Meral was grief stricken when she awoke to find her baby missing. Pashtek searched the cave system in vain. Brak and his two brothers were nowhere to be found as the search continued. By nightfall, Meral was still crying uncontrollably. Pashtek tried as best he could to comfort her. Eventually he sensed Brak spying on him, cornered him, and angrily attacked with Meral’s help. Between them, they found out the awful truth about Brak’s decision to remove the ‘abomination’ from their presence.
Meral’s anger knew no bounds. She tore the tiny Khaz apart with her bare hands. When Tuluk and Lek were eventually located, Pashtek’s anger was directed at them, destroying their minds before handing them over to Meral. (Now Pashtek and I were the only Khaz left on Earth.)
Desperate to find their son, the pair abandoned the safety of the cave, and began searching as the first light of dawn broke across the hills. They searched the vast expanse of rolling parched grasslands. Pashtek’s skin was being hideously burnt by the heat of the sun, but despite the intense pain, he and Meral continued their determined frantic search. By mid-afternoon, they were both tired and grief stricken, and were slowly making their way across the hills, back to the cave. As they approached the brow of the low hill, neither of them heard or sensed the stealthy approach of their pursuers. From all sides their escape was blocked by dozens of berserkers. Terrified, they huddled together as the berserkers closed ranks around them, prodding them with their razor sharp swords. The ranks of berserkers parted, when a powerful warrior rode towards them on a magnificent black stallion. The warrior jumped down from the horse, holding a tiny bundle in his massive arms.
“Kalma, we’ve found the brat’s parents,” Seti said, from behind the warrior. Merak gurgled happily from the warmth of the woollen blanket wrapped around him. Meral stretched out her arms, pleading for his return, as Pashtek’s pain filled black eyes watched from where he lay on the sun-baked earth, pinned under Seti’s foot.
The berserker chief held little Merak high out of Meral’s reach, laughing at the pain he was causing her. “Kill the small one, Seti; do what you will with the woman,” he said, mounting his horse, with little Merak safely tucked in his arms. As he rode away, he could hear Meral’s screams and curses. No sound came from Pashtek when his head was cleaved from his tiny sun blistered grey body by Seti’s sword. (This act made me the last of my kind in the cosmos, or so I thought…)