Author: James Webster | Banner: Matthew Williams

Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: Nightmares of a Past Life
Chapter 2: The Dead Planet
Chapter 3: Survival of the Universe
Chapter 4: The Turning Tide
Chapter 5: A New Day

[Continued from Match 290]

Chapter 1: Nightmares of a Past Life

A fiery explosion rocked the crumbling city; its booming wrath dwarfing the pitiful cries of the Natarl people, whom were trapped beneath the burning wreckage of their once great megalopolis. Some were fleeing for their lives, while others were cowering in a stunning fear that had trapped and despoiled their will for self-survival. More scarlet fireballs bloomed to life. The flames charred the bodies of the fallen dead and scorched the flesh of the living. Hundreds of the planet’s inhabitants fell with each new budding fireborn pyre that sprang to life.

A three-clawed hand crawled its way from out of a pile of rubble. Soon a pair of arms followed, and then a head that was covered in a cracked space helmet. The Natarl known as Gurake exercised every muscle at his disposal in order to remove himself from the broken building wall that he had been trapped under. The rising smoke from the fires burned his lungs; the ash stinging his eyes. He stood in agony and semi-blindness amid the chaos around him. The taste of blood coated his tongue, further hindering his senses which were straining to understand the scope of the destruction that was being wrought upon the Natarl home world.

A warbling roar then shattered the sky. The sheer, harsh metallic-like peel eclipsed the explosions of the city. Soon it was followed by another shrieking cry of utterance. This one was different from the first. It was more wrenching and groaning-like. Even though it was different, it was just as powerful and wounded the very sky as it sliced its way through the atmosphere. Gurake’s gaze drifted up to the shattered skyline. Towering above the skeletal building remains, which looked like gnarled fingers clawing against the sky, was a pair of giant, brightly colored monsters. They were genetically engineered Terror-Beasts, sent by the Garoga empire.

Wargilar and Spyler were the culmination of the war-like insectoid aliens’ thievery of technology and resources. Like a horde of bellicose worms and maggots, the Garogas had gnawed away at the deeds and triumphs of other alien races and grown fat upon their spilled blood. The twin horrors before Gurake were set loose upon his world to gain more “resources.” Their city would be destroyed and their technology and dead would be scooped up and used to further build their growing Terror-Beast army. The next member of the Garoga’s kaiju will have its muscle and sinew be fused with steel and iron from his world. The spark of its artificial life will be brought about because of the advanced sciences of the Natarl people. The monster would be a walking conglomeration that would be built upon the back of his dying people and soon to be dead world.

Wargilar bayed once again before it sent another sheet of flame from its cackling mandibles into another building nearby, causing it to explode on impact. Spyler responded in kind with his cohort and began to trample a few smaller buildings beneath its colossal feet. The hollering screams of the Natarl whom were hiding away in those structures were cut short from the barbaric act. Gurake was paralyzed in fear. His breath was snagged in his throat like a rusty fishhook. His limbs were pillars of stone. He wanted to run, but something in the back of his mind was telling him it was a pointless endeavor. In fact, everything seemed familiar with the hellish scenario that was being played out. Almost as if he had been through it once before.

Gurake had little time to lament about those thoughts before a roar that sounded like grinding stones bellowed out to the skies. It was less shrill than the two Terror-Beasts, but somehow it felt more cold and overwhelming. The broken Natarl turned about to see what matter of new horror, to his never-ending nightmare, had been brought to his home. What he saw chilled him to his core and nearly broke what little lucidity his mind had managed to keep.

Before him was a living effigy of a chiseled god. It was another monster, one even greater in size than the Garoga’s behemoths that he saw only moments before. Its flesh was a series of thick and ropey muscles that were covered in an exoskeleton of white armored pieces. The bony growths gave the demon a ghastly appearance, looking more dead than alive. Its still form stood unfazed by the calamity that was happening around it. Only its eyes gave away that there was life within the beast. Twin blood red orbs that glowed like fiery coals were sunken within the dark, cavernous recesses of its narrow, skull-like face.

Even though Gurake was sure he had never seen this sort of demonic creature before; for one would lose their own sanity just at the mere sight of such a monster; something felt familiar about the creature. A thought, deep and buried within the ravaged penetralia of his mind was whispering something to him. It was a lingering murmur that tongued and wormed its way through the layers and layers of his memories.

X…

Suddenly the eyes of the alabaster devil before him began to glow with a bright, yellow light. Where once were tiny glowing spheres of mirth, the beast’s eyes were now more akin to blazing stars that were ignited with celestial might. Pain surged through the Natarl’s head, coiling itself around his ears. Gurake’s temples raged with deep, pounding waves and even more blood was flowing from his mouth, which resulted in a bitter iron taste. The alien drew in a voluminous breath and released the loudest cry that he could manage in his broken state. It was a roar that was both raw and savage in its birth. The rage burned through his throat like that of a flame through a sheet of paper. The choler scream, however, was lost in the burning standards of hell that Monster X was about to unleash…

The scene then went white and Gurake found himself sitting up in his cabin bed screaming at the top of his lungs, drenched in sweat. His breath was short and rapid, his heart was racing like death itself was trying to catch it. He gripped his chest, trying to stave off the throbbing organ from beating its way out of his chest.

Slowly, as the minutes passed, the Natarl alien calmed himself. It was nothing new however. He had the same dream almost every night since the day of his people’s death at the hands of both the Garoga Empire and the Xilien megalomaniac known simply as X. The dream would always play out the same. He was trapped upon his world, watching all of his people be slaughtered and die at the hands of the Garoga’s kaiju. Then Monster X would show up and his world would be rent asunder with white hot light and pain. He would wake up screaming, with flesh that was dripping in fear laced with sweat, and a heart that was on the brink of a heart attack.

Rinse and repeat.

Gurake turned and removed himself from his cramped bed. His clawed feet clanged across the metal flooring of his ship as he made his way towards his space helmet. He composed himself quickly and snapped his helmet back on. Somehow the headgear made him feel more comfortable. It gave him the mental satisfaction of being secured and closed off to the world; as if he was being held by a lost loved one. Although he knew that would never happen again. For all intents and purposes, he was the last of his kind.

He did return to his world after Monster X had left it. He searched through the rubble and remains of the great city; seeking out any form of life that might have escaped the wrath of the giants. None did however. All around him laid the marred and shattered remnants of the city. Bloodied remains of his people stained the rock and steel. Torn limbs and blood-imbrued bodies laid broken as far as the eye could see. Gurake could remember falling to his knees and weeping uncontrollably like a lost child. His past, his present, and his future, were all gone in a baptism of fire.

He lifted himself up then and proceeded to salvage what he could. He collected parts for his ship and even managed to find a still working computer terminal in a science facility that he used to work at. But that was a previous lifetime ago. He collected all the information that he could muster in the terminal and transferred it to a hard drive that he would then hook up to his ships mainframe. He wished there was more, but it would have to do. For now, he held all the history and technological achievements of the Natarl people safely in his saucer. At least, what he could muster to save.

Throughout the ordeal, a self-personal rationalization was beginning to pick at the back of his mind. Gurake had left his world in order to seek out help. To look for the elusive Xiliens, an alien race that was nearly unknown to the rest of the galaxies. He told himself he would return with help, that he would bring salvation to his race. But fate did not play out that way. The Xiliens had used the opportunity to use their newest creation, Monster X, to test itself against the two Garoga Terror-Beasts. The bone giant massacred the two bio-engineered monsters and then turned its wrath upon the surviving Natarl whom had thought that Monster X was their liberator from the stars. Death takes many forms however…

The Xilien leader had spared Gurake’s life in the end. He sarcastically said it was because Gurake was strong; that his will to live was to be rewarded for exercising such strength to endure. The black-clad leader told him that his people were nothing but cows waiting for the slaughter. Weakness had no place in the universe. Strength was the only thing that truly mattered.

The poisoning words of X had wormed their way into his mind, slithering like a serpent among the sea of self-doubt that tugged at his soul. Did he leave his home world in search for help, or was that something that he had told himself? Did he flee because of fear? Did he only want to save himself; thereby leaving everyone behind? Was he nothing more than a coward that envisioned himself as a would-be savior?

Gurake played his fingers over the gun blaster that was strapped to his side as those dark thoughts crossed his mind for the thousandth time. More than one time, the Xilien’s words had such a weight upon his soul that he had contemplated ending his life. He wanted the pain and guilt to simply end. The parlance lies of X had so much weightage that Gurake had nearly gone through with the deed. He remembered the feeling of the cold barrel against his temple; the feel of the trigger in his clawed hand. The ictus pitch of the Machiavellian’s deceit had reached a blistering fever pitch. But in the end, he couldn’t go through with it. He had dropped the blaster to the floor and began to weep again for the genocide against his people. To end it all would truly be the coward’s way out and it would give credence to the Xiliens’ lies. If Gurake would die, then so truly would the legacy of his people die with him. The lineage of his race, whatever vestige of them was left, deserved more than that. It deserved vengeance in their name.

For Gurake, the memorial of the Natarl people would be stained with the blood of the Xiliens, before he would go quietly into the night by Death’s door.

Reckoning would have to wait however. Retribution does give someone strength, but it is only momentary and fleeting at best. The insectal alien’s belly rolled. It was not the first time that it had happened. Days had passed since his last meal. His dreams of the Xiliens’ atonement would not fill his belly and keep him strong. Food at the moment was more of a pressing issue for him. Or, it was a lack of to be more specific. Gurake’s ship drifted lazily through the asteroid field of a nearby planet he had stumbled upon. Life sign readings were nonexistent on his radar, but that didn’t necessarily mean anything. The ship was far from being in peak condition. The mess of wires that sat on the floor next to his control stick that he used to fly his aircraft could attest to that. It was a jumbled and thrown together mess that was less than reliable. Thankfully the AC Telescope camera on the nose of the craft worked. The Natarl could see fields of green vegetation on the surface of the planet he was nearby. There might not be meat to feast on, but some leafy greens would be the next best thing. Grant it they were not poisonous.

Even though his ship’s sensors were not picking up any life signs on the planet, they were detecting an energy source. It was faint, barely a blip to be honest. Most likely some natural energy source of the planet. Certain crystals and heavily ionized ores would oftentimes show up in a similar manner. Gurake looked over to his energy gauge and noted how it was hovering only at around half capacity. It might be worth checking out those mysterious energy signals and seeing if they could be jury-rigged to help power his ship. The motherships of the Natarl race had a machine reactor that could self-replenish through the nearly endless supply of solar radiation from gleaming stars in nearby solar systems. It was a momentous breakthrough for their people and would, in theory, allow their few motherships to run endlessly. However the engine itself was massive and far too big to implement in their fighter saucers. Good old fashioned drives that feed off of ionized particle crystals and stones were needed in order for them to function. A fact that was slowly dawning on Gurake when he saw the quivering needle of the energy tank.

The subject of food and dwindling power to his ship were preoccupying Gurake’s mind so much that he failed to notice that he was being watched from afar by two pairs of multifaceted eyes from another ship that sat just beyond the asteroid field that he was in. The ship was flat and round in shape like many typical saucer-esque designs. Although a curved dorsal fin pulled back from the front dome of it, while a pair of short, triangular wings flanked its sides. In the face of the ship sat twin, yellow amber colored half domes. These were the vessel’s portholes. They also gave the ship an evil appearance and looked like a pair of demonic eyes. Inside the still machine was a very different pair of insect-like aliens. Unlike the Natarl, their race was known far and wide throughout the galaxies because of their ruthlessness and power. Their actions were swift and bloody and oftentimes led to entire races being wiped out of existence.

The Red Garoga alien sat in near darkness at his captain’s chair and stared silently at the dashboard camera’s monitor. The light from the display gleamed off the fenced white fangs of the monster’s perpetual grin. His ruby-like, compound eyes glistened with determination and purpose. He had hunted down the lone Natarl aircraft for the last few weeks. Keeping his ship’s power to bare minimum functions had made the task very taxing. But it was needed, so as to not tip off his prey.

“Why don’t we just blow him out of the sky and be done with it,” sneered a shrill voice behind him. The Red Garoga, General Cortan, growled in displeasure as he turned to face his very insubordinate and shortsighted shipmate. “This little game of hide and seek is beneath that of a Garoga soldier,” the voice belted out in a whinny-like tone.

The Silver Garoga, named Tokar, was like any other grunt that composed the backbone of the Garoga army. At least, on first impression. Being together in a small ship for such a long mission had allowed Cortan to see the brashness that simmered behind the cobalt-hued eyes of the Garoga youth. Cortan mused that the young Garoga would no sooner slit the commander’s throat, if it meant that he would be able to get ahead and be noticed by the King. The powerful Baron of the Garoga Empire was a leader to worship in their eyes. Thankfully, the Red Garoga’s strength far exceeded his subordinates because of their genetic breeding. The child would not dare step out of line for fear of death at Cortan’s hand. Insubordination was not tolerated in the insect race’s ranks.

“This is the only Natarl that we have found you fool,” the captain’s voice was guttural and marked with annoyance. “He might be the only one to know what happened to the Natarl homeworld. Their city and people were completely destroyed; as was Wargilgar and Spyler too. You saw for yourself that the entire planet is nothing but blood and ruins from the remains of our Terror-Beasts and the Natarl civilization.”

Tokar nodded in agreement with his commander.

“Something happened on that world that has the Baron concerned. If it was some kind of unknown weapon from the Natarl, then why are there so many of their people dead and their city smashed to bits? What could have been strong enough to not only defeat one, but two of our Terror-Beast weapons? From our scouts, those pathetic Natarl were weak and were not advanced enough in weapons tech to develop something that could turn a Terror Beast into nothing more than chunks of gore and putrid remnants. Something happened on their world that threatens the Baron and Garoga Empire. And it is our mission to find out what that is. Now get back to your station and make sure that we do not drift into one of these chunks of rock that are adrift around my ship!”

Cortan made sure his final statement had some weight and gravitas to his words. Thankfully Tokar got the hint and did not press the issue any further. Rather, the soldier took a seat at the radar controls and continued to monitor the drifting asteroids. The young Garoga had learned last time what would happen if his orders were disobeyed. The upstart had actually let his anger take control once before. Tokar lashed out and took a swing at Cortan in a blinding display of fury. Being a Red Garoga, however, had afforded the captain with genetically superior muscle and power. Add to that having years of combat experience, it had made the minor usurp a futile effort. Cortan had sidestepped the blow and returned with one of his own in kind. The steely fist landed straight into the youth’s mug and had knocked out a few of his fanged teeth. The soldier was lucky that was all that had happened. Most Captains would have torn their subordinate limb from limb for such an action. The idea did cross his mind, but Cortan was not as bloodthirsty as most of his brethren. It was a facet of his personality that had put him at odds with his superiors more than once in his military career.

The commander let a huffing gust of malice-laced hate seethe between his fenced teeth as he turned back around to the port of his ship. He sat like a looming monolith, making sure to note any movement or data transmission that the elusive Natarl would dare to make. Surely, this creature was not the last of his kind and had contact with others of his kind. Surely, he knew what happened to the open grave that was the Natarl homeworld now. He would find out the truth of what happened and relate that valuable information to his master. Then he would lead a charge against whomever or whatever dared to spill the blood of their Terror-Beast army. Their time to accomplish their task however was growing short. The Baron of the Garoga Empire was not known for patience; or failure for that matter. As much as he would hate to admit it, Tokar may be right in ending their pursuit of the Natarl craft. They had followed the spaceship for weeks and the Natarl had made no contact with any other members of his kind. If he allowed this to go on further, and the Natarl was to somehow manage to flee and escape his grasp, then the repercussions of his death would be the only thing in his future.

Inside the Natarl ship, Gurake was just about to maneuver through the floating asteroid field and land upon the small planetoid, which was still emitting the strange energy source, when the klaxon alarms in his aircraft began to go off. The Natarl had little time to understand what was happening when a massive force struck his ship from the rear. Gurake was thrown from his seat as sparks flew and smoke curled from several computer monitors. The alien, groggy from hitting his head, looked upon the control room with hazy eyes. The room was bathed in a dull red light. The air was splitting with the sirens going off. He was nowhere near any of the asteroids. It was impossible one of them had hit his ship. He could see from one of the cracked displays on his desk that his weapon systems and most of his navigational controls were offline. It was a well placed hit. Too well, the more he thought of it. Even though he was still reeling, only one word came to his mind.

Attack.

“Don’t even think about trying to run away, least you want your ship to become your coffin.” A gravelly voice boomed over the speakers in the Natarl ship. Gurake cursed to himself. He was so preoccupied with his own self-loathing thoughts and pity that he had allowed himself to be snuck up upon by another ship. He didn’t recognize the voice, but from the hefty cadence of it, it certainly belonged to a man that was used to getting what he wanted. It was dour and commanding in nature. It reminded him of the Xilien X’s articulation. It was the verbalism of a killer.

“Who are you and what right do you have to attack my ship,” the Natarl calmly spoke back to the unknown attacker.

“I am Cortan, I am a Captain in the Garoga army,” the voice broached with sinister intent.

Gurake’s eyes widened at the attacker’s declaration of identity. A Garoga ship had managed to follow him. But for how long? Why waste their time on hunting down the lone survivor to his planet’s massacre? The Garoga were space pirates and they were in the business of taking what they wanted and when they wanted it. Surely one Natarl could not mean that much to them.

Unless… That was unless they did not know what happened on Gurake’s homeworld. This Garoga probably didn’t know about X or his terrible bone-clad demon monster that slaughtered everything on the planet. He was probably seeking answers to why two of his Terror-Beasts were now dead. Well, Gurake had no intention on revealing that little bit of information to his attackers. He would take that to the grave before he let that one slip. Although, knowing what he knew about the Garoga race, they would find a way to strip him of that account. He was sure of it.

Gurake composed himself and tried to steel confidence with his next words. But the action of speaking to a man that would no sooner kill you at the press of a button had snagged his breath in his throat like an old meat hook. “Blowing me up is not going to get you the answers you seek about your two monsters that were destroyed.”

Silence. The seconds ticked by before the Garoga captain spoke again. “What makes you think that I don’t already know what happened on your little dustball of a planet?”

“If you did, you wouldn’t be out here looking for me. You would have bigger fish to fry,” Gurake said. He purposely let slip a little hint of information about the battle that ended his world in order to gauge his attacker’s response. If they did know then he would be as good as dead. But if they didn’t, like he hoped, then they were going to need him alive. He didn’t enjoy the thought of being a slave to the Garoga, but it was better than dying in space. The former option would at least give him a chance and time to think of a way out of his plight. For now he would have to try and palaver his time and figure out what would be his next course of action.

“He’s lying,” seethed Tokar. “He’s just trying to save his own skin. End this now.”

“Perhaps,” growled Cortan. “But only a fool’s patience would rush to such a decision on such a thought of action.” The commander turned in his chair to face his subordinate with a heated gaze. “He is the only survivor of his world. So that means he has some cleverness about him. I will not hedge the safety of the empire on your vacuous nature, you cretin. Now do your job and shut up, or I will make sure you lose more of your teeth the next time.”

Cortan could see the level of ire and hatred rising in the insectal eyes of the young soldier, but he didn’t care. He didn’t have time for his lackey’s oafish behavior. The leader turned back in his chair and continued his parlaying conversation with the crafty Natarl that was dead in the water before him.

“Your weapon systems are disabled, as well as your warp drive. There is no more running. You will lower your shields so you can be transported to my ship. You will be brought forth before the Baron and answer for the crimes that were done against the Garoga Empire.”

“Crimes?” The Natarl survivor almost screamed back. “Your beasts attacked my people first!”

“Establishment for resources oftentimes requires blood to be spilled unfortunately.” The reply was heartless and cold. It was laced with an air of superiority and sarcasm.

Gurake was about to scream back in frustration but caught himself in mid thought. The Garoga leader was trying to throw him off balance, trying to make him angry and blurt out the truth in vexation. He needed to buy as much time as he could, for his life depended on it. “So I can die here or die on your homeworld after you torture me to death, is that it?”

“Your bargaining posture is dubious, little Natarl.” Cortan paused briefly to consider his options. “If your wretched life is what you wish to keep, I can grant that. Tell the Baron of what happened on your world and you will be spared. You will merely spend the rest of your life on a mining colony for slaves to answer for your trespasses against the empire.”

“Garogas are liars and thieves. So you will have to excuse me if I seem hesitant to take you at your word.”

“The word of a Garoga Captain is as good as iron,” the red faced insect warrior boasted in a scintilla of chained anger that he was holding at bay.

No reply came from the Natarl. The Garoga soldier, which moments before was piqued by the cunning nature of the Natarl, was now riled up at the disrespect that was accused of him and his word. The Garoga were murderers and conquerors. They took what they wanted and when they wanted it. No one would be spared from their wrath. But at the same time, they were also truthful. Lies and deceit were looked down upon by the bipedal insect race. Truth is what measured the worth of a Garoga soldier and Cortan was among the most highly praised in the entire empire because of this. This Natarl was a coward and deceiver. Cortan could tell that by just the inflection of the alien’s voice.

Leaning in closer to the ship’s microphone, Cortan made sure that his next words held their full weight to the trapped Natarl. “You have one minute to lower your shields and allow us to beam you aboard my ship. You will be brought before the Empire and answer for the destruction of the two Terror-Beasts. You will then be allowed to live out your days as a slave upon a mining facility of my choosing. If you do not comply, then we will rip your ship apart piece by piece and haul you on board and you will still answer for your crimes before the great Baron. After that, I will personally see that you will be put to death for over a period of one month. I promise you that it will be beyond any apperception of pain you may think that you know about. The time starts now.”

Unbeknownst to the members of the alien standoff, a demon was waiting in the wings on the outskirt edges of the floating asteroid field. The dark creature hovered about in the airless void of space. His shape was massive, rising against the rays of a nearby sun like a creature out of hell. His form was like that of a bat, except many times larger and more grotesque. His warped, red and pink flesh was covered in ropes of sinew and muscle. His skin was dotted with spear-like quills along the neck and shoulders. The face, in all its twisted glory, grinned like that of a goblin smile. Hungry. Predatory. The two blinking black orbs of his eyes sat like coals in the ashy red folds of flesh. From the demon’s arms rose a pair of great, black skin-laced wings. The mighty limbs waved almost effortlessly and with sensuous nature in the stream of a plasmaspheric breeze that brought the monsters to this part of the galaxy.

Bagorah, as the species of monster was known as, was an apex predator of the highest caliber as far as the universe was concerned. Their hunting grounds extended beyond any boundary that many lifeforms may have considered possible. The creatures would travel from world to world and feed until their bellies were full and then move on; making sure not to stay in any one place for very long. Their hunger was ravenous and unyielding. If Bagorah had allowed it to overtake him, like he had seen in several of his brethren, he would eat himself out of a territory and thereby cut down his hunting grounds. Life had to have a chance to replenish itself. This is something the old beast had learned throughout his centuries of life. Bagorah would only feed on what he needed to, and then move on. There was always more life out there to find and consume. One just had to be patient enough for it.

Now, the extraterrestrial member of the Chiroptera family had found a pair of unwitting prey that were so caught up in their own vices that they did not even detect his presence. The demon’s ears twitched, picking up the sounds that boomed within the silvery metal birds that sat before him. Space was a void to most, but not to Bagorah. The beast’s unfathomable sense of hearing could pick up even the most minute traces of sounds thanks to the particles of carbon, iron, and hydrogen that drifted about the galaxies. They provided enough particles to act as a medium for sound to vibrate against. No machine in the galaxy, constructed by man or alien, could do what so came naturally to the evolutionary gift that the Bagorah species was given. And the bats learned to use that gift well.

A pale green tongue, like that of a misshapen slug, licked the drooling fangs and lips of the monster. Bagorah could almost taste the prey. Whether they were metal or flesh, it didn’t matter to the beast. His belly would happily devour and metabolize the prey without a care. The monstrous bats were like garbage disposals in a way.

The red demon took one flap of his wings and immediately set out to devour the two tiny objects that had lured him to this rock-filled part of his territory.

Seconds were ticking by for both the Natarl and the two Garoga soldiers that had found them in a standoff. The time for their impasse however was slowly ticking down. Only a handful of time remained for Gurake. He could see on his ship’s displays that the Garoga vessel was powering up its weapons again. His shields would hold up for only a little bit before the low energy levels of his ship would be unable to power them anymore. At that point the warlike men would be able to begin to pick his ship apart to get to him. It would only be a matter of time.

Time. A component of sequential existence that is measured though existence that is had from events and intervals in living things. Unbeknownst to the living however, time does run out. Death comes for everyone. For the sentient aliens in their ships, death would be on the wings of black leather and tawny red flesh.

Bagorah, with his mouth agape in a toothy grin, rocketed towards the Garoga ship. With speed that belied his size, the monster was almost on top of them before the alien ship’s radar was able to detect it.

“Enemy at our port,” screamed the youthful Garoga. Panic was stricken in his face.

Cortan had a lifetime of battle worn nerves and experiences, he acted almost on instinct. When the klaxon warning hit, the captain took the helm of the ship and placed it into a nosedive. The alien vessel missed the bat’s mouth, which was laced with six foot long canines, by merely thirty feet or so. It was a small margin when compared to a monster that was over a hundred meters from snout to tail tip.

“What was that?” Tokar screamed as if he was a frightened child.

“A Bagorah,” growled Cortan as he continued to maneuver the ship from the snapping kaiju that had banked around and began to trail them. “Vicious bastards will eat whatever they can get their hands on.”

Cortan pulled the yoke downward and shot his ship straight up into a rocketing climb. Bagorah snapped shut its jaws; once again receiving only empty air as it shot past its elusive prey. Cortan knew he would never be able to outrace the monster through pure speed. Maneuvering through zigzags was going to be the only leverage that he could exploit. Thankfully in space, the feeling of G-forces on the body was far less severe than being on a terrestrial planet.

Gurake meanwhile was gripped with fear at the sight of the newly arrived monster. He was stunned beyond any point for the logical part of his brain to make sense of the monster. His heart rapped against his chest when the vile bat turned and spied his injured ship. The monster’s scaly nostrils flared and its beady eyes narrowed. Bagorah had found a new prey to attack.

The very sight of the monster turning towards his direction drove spears of icy terror into the Natarl alien. His gut and chest ached. Impulses for self-preservation were flooding his mind. They were telling his limbs to lash out and get his ship to start working again. Fear was an immensely powerful thing and oftentimes it was better than a bullet against your enemy. Or in this case; a giant, flesh eating monster. Gurake dove beneath the drive panel and began to yank and pull at several of the severed wires that had disconnected and fried from the Garoga’s sneak attack.

Fear was motivating his limbs to flail around like angry serpents. He was pulling and hitting anything to get a spark of life to return to his ship. Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, he found what he was looking for. Twisting a few select wires together brought the flight navigational computer back to life. Gurake jumped back into his chair and threw the throttle all the way to the floor. The Natarl ship zipped out of the way just as Bagorah flew by it with its ravenous jaws.

The bat scowled in frustration. His prey was small and nimble. If he wasn’t so hungry, he almost wouldn’t bother with the blasted creatures. It had been a few weeks since he last feasted on flesh however, so beggars could not be choosers. Bagorah licked the saliva from his curved, fang-like teeth and took off after his newest target.

Gurake may not have been a soldier in his previous life; science was his calling, but flying was a passion that he had. And he was not too bad behind the wheel back in the day, if he would say so himself. Although the panic in him was starting to change that idea of flying propensity he thought he had. The male Natarl concentrated and calmed himself with a long, blown out breath. He narrowed his eyes forward and kept his intent on escaping the snapping devil at his heels. He needed to gain some distance, so obstacles were going to be needed. Thankfully, he was in a field just full of them.

The alien zigzagged about, veering left and right. The erratic movement was keeping the monster at a holding distance, but Gurake needed more. He moved his ship around one of the bigger asteroids in the floating debris. He temporarily lost the creature on his rear camera. Relief washed over him for the moment. It was brief in its existence though.

The asteroid exploded outward in a shower of rubble. Teeth and wings came screaming through the rocky fulmination. Bagorah would not allow food to escape so easily. Gurake was forced to put the pedal to the floor and squeeze out any last bit of energy that he could garner from the power reserves. The surge sent the Natarl’s ship blasting through the spatial void. It was still not enough. The red demon would not give up. There was really only one option left that the Natarl could think of. He was going to have to put his ship into a steep reentry into the small planetoid’s atmosphere. The atmospheric entry on his smaller ship, with its drag and heat, might prove too much for the larger monster and his appetite. Unfortunately, such an entry might prove too much for his battered ship as well. He didn’t want to think about how many cracks may be in the ship’s hull because of the Garoga’s attack. Gurake pushed the thoughts out of his mind. The fear of ending up in the Bagorah’s belly far outweighed his fear of blowing up from reentry.

Easing the throttle down, Gurake put himself into a dive through the small planet’s atmospheric shell. Through the windows he could see flames start to lick the side of his ship. At first they were but tiny embers; brief and fleeting. Soon, however, the flames became a series of raging fires that bathed his cockpit in hues of red and yellow light. The room’s temperature climbed higher and higher. It was beginning to become very difficult to breathe. Gurake, though, pressed on. He didn’t dare look back to see if the monster was still on his tail. There would be no slowing down or coming back from his suicidal dive.

The heat continued its climb though. The Natarl’s lungs screamed where his mouth could not. There were a handful of weighty, silent seconds before relief was to be had. The battered ship broke through the upper atmosphere with a deafening boom that announced to the little world his arrival. A euphoric feeling of dumped adrenaline gripped the aliens mind. His senses were dulled and greatly impaired. But he did manage to have enough wits about him to ease down on the speed of his vessel. After doing so however he felt himself drifting away. The thinning oxygen, combined with the excitement of imminent death, had drained the poor creature of his own energy. Gurake barely had time to turn on the automatic landing program before he blacked out and collapsed in his seat. At least he manage to live another day.

It was a pendulous thought that he would soon come to realize in its falsehood.

 

Chapter 2: The Dead Planet

A clobbering strike smashed the left side of Gurake’s face and awoke the dwarfish alien in shocking fashion. The familiar taste of copper-laced blood bittered his tongue. Gurake tried to get up and face his attacker, but found himself bound by wrapped cords on his hands and feet. Laughter bellowed around him. Obviously it was directed at his dumbfounded predicament. The laughter was both pompous and evil in its vim. The cave, that Gurake now noticed he was in, magnified the braying to almost Machiavellian-like vastitudes.

“Look who finally decided to wake up,” the voice growled. It was shrewish in its mocking tone. It was fitting for a murdering, self-serving, pirate-like race.

Hatred glared from Gurake’s eyes when he looked upon the smiling visage of the Garoga soldier called Tokar. The fanged teeth of his perpetual smile accented the garish silver color of his face. Behind that grin was the soul of a killer. The Garoga was a vile race that had somehow crawled their way out of hell to plague other civilizations of the galaxies.

“You might have escaped the Bagorah, but not us.” Tokar let his frustrations out again and punched the helpless Natarl with another clubbing strike. A mirthful breath of satisfaction vented from the pirate. It felt good to let out his vexation. Even more so when his prisoner was tied down and forced to take it. The Garoga could keep this up for a while. But as he cocked back his arm for another strike, a guttural bellow stayed his hand.

“Enough!” the voice from behind the Garoga boomed. Tokar’s muscles flexed briefly, as if toying with the idea of disobeying the command. But in the end he dropped his attack and moved to lean against a wall inside the cave.

With the Garoga moved, Gurake could now see whom the deep and husky voice belonged to. It was another Garoga soldier, although this one was different. He had a larger build and his head was as red as dried blood. The soldier’s eyes were as bright as flames and his forever stitched grin seemed to be more menacing and terrible than that of even the soldier grunt that had been wailing on him only a moment ago. He didn’t know what rank this creature was, but it obviously outranked the Silver one. Even a blind Natarl could see that there was tension in that chain of command. There was festering malice from the youthful Garoga. Gurake didn’t know how it could benefit him, but it seemed like something to note and put away in the back of his mind for later. For now he had to focus on not getting killed and to find out what the two Garoga really knew about the fall of his world.

Suddenly, a banshee screech split the sky. Dust and small particles of dirt rattled free from the cavern walls. The shriek was powerful enough to quake the land beneath their very feet. A second call rung out next, however this did not have the strength of the previous one. Obviously the owner of the roar was moving away from them.

“Looks like he is finally giving up,” Cortan sneered.

The red Garoga watched Bagorah soar away and into the dawn skies that were kissed with reds, pinks, and yellow. He could see the sun peeking about a rocky horizon. Already its fiery touch was beginning to scorch the lands with its warmth. The green vegetation that sprawled outside was saturated and rich with life. The world was beautiful in a way. A beauty that only nature could achieve. Most Garoga would deride such lamination over nature, but Cortan was different. He was a proud and dedicated captain in the Garoga army. Yet, one could only see so much blood and torn bodies at their feet before that person began to long for something different.

Until his Baron was satisfied with the protection of his people and his empire, Cortan would follow through with spilling as much blood and flesh as needed in order to achieve the greatness for his people. One thing was gnawing at him though. The greenery before him was silent; save for the faint rustling of leaves against the wind. No bird chirped and no insect buzzed. It was as if the forest before them was a graveyard. It was still and lifeless, devoid of any vibrancy that should be alive on the planet. Even his foolish and irascible underling could pick up on the utter silence that gripped the land.

“Then I say we leave and get out of this backwater planet,” Tokar growled under his breath.

The red Garoga levied an icy stare at his subordinate. The young warrior’s patience was taxing to the commander. Even more so to his temper as well. Cortan was ready to be done with the mission at this point and alleviate himself from this drudgery and poor excuse for a soldier. There was a job to do though and he would not skirt his duties. Now that the prisoner was awake, his questions could be asked.

Cortan slipped from the cave entrance and moved towards the bound prisoner. He knelt to one knee, placing his terrible visage at eye level to the sitting Natarl. He sat there quietly for a moment, allowing a heated breath to seethe from between his fenced teeth. It was a tactic that would wither the hearts of other captives that he held for questioning. It was a textbook tactic of Garoga interrogations. To his surprise though, the Natarl did not wane beneath his gaze. The insect-like creature refused to flinch. It has been a very long time since another being sought to defy Cortan. The feeling was unnatural and yet exhilarating at the same time. His earlier assessment of the Natarl through their brief conversation over the ship’s communication array was proving to be incorrect.

No matter, Cortan liked challenges…

“You have a strong will to live I see,” the red Garoga softy spoke. “Perhaps it is that will that has allowed you to survive your people’s destruction at the Terror Beast’s hands.

Try as he might, Gurake tried to remain stone faced to the interrogation like he did before. The Garoga’s arrogance from thinking that his monsters were the cause of his people’s demise though was too much. A small huff and even smaller shake of his head gave away a card that he was holding close to his chest. The leaked emotions were insignificant and barely noticeable. The Silver Garoga didn’t pick up on them. But the reaction was not lost to Cortan. The red Garoga had snagged a piece of information that he, at that moment, was only guessing to be correct. The Natarl people and his Terror Beast were killed by someone… or something else. There was another demon in the shadows. Another hand was at play.

“How many of your people escaped?” The red Garoga continued on with his questioning.

“Just me.” The Natarl replied. He hated giving the pirates any real information, but at this point the Garoga knowing that Gurake was the only survivor was only a good thing. They would be less inclined to kill him on the spot if he was the only person that could answer their questions. It was the truth, and it was a truth that would keep him alive.

There was no flinch that Cortan could see. The Natarl was telling the truth. It was time to dig a little bit further. “You seem certain of that. It’s quite a bold statement. Something that is able to wipe out an entire race of people and our Terror Beasts in one fell swoop is certainly a force to be reckoned with.”

Gurake remained silent.

“What destroyed your world and my weapons?”

The Natarl sat statue-like in response.

“You can answer to me or the Baron.” Cortan leaned in closer so that his face was only a few inches away from the bound Natarl. “Either way we are going to find out what you know. However I warn you that the Baron is far more brutal than I am when someone is withholding information. You would do well to just tell me now. I promise I will find a slave mine on one of the less harsh planets for you to spend out the rest of your days.” Cortan punctuated his threat with a thrown punch that landed next to the prisoners head. The rock of the wall cracked and buckled beneath his battle enhanced strength that he had perfected over the years.

The Natarl native was a stone statue. He didn’t even flinch at the threat of his own death. He was not going to give in to the currish monster before him. The red faced Garoga was genuinely surprised. Most intelligent beings would beg in abject sorrow before him. They would weep and blubber, begging for their life, telling him everything that he wanted to know right there on the spot. This Natarl was different though. His will was indeed strong. He didn’t buckle under the hungry fangs of the Bagorah and he didn’t budge on the threat of death from him. Cortan was beginning to like this lowly being. There was a sliver, a small limelight of respect in his heart for the trapped alien. But pride and devotion to the Garoga kingdom squashed that pinprick of regard.

Cortan was about to continue with his interrogation when suddenly the bristling of bushes and tree limbs whispered to his ears. It wasn’t terribly loud, but it was certainly more than just a gust of wind that had made them move. Something was outside the cave and it was moving without care for stealth. Prey animals tended to move through rough foliage with tenderness and care. They moved so as not to be noticed by a predator. Hunters on the other hand would do the same. They would move through a forest with stealth and cunning in order to sneak up on a potential meal. However there was a third option to be had here was well. Beings or creatures that were not native to a particular place, such as a small platoon of soldiers, move about like children at play. They did not know the terrain and therefore could not conceal their existence. Perhaps the Natarl was heading to this planet on purpose. Maybe there were other Natarl here on this world and they were attempted to save him. The attack of Bagorah was perhaps an unfortunate turn of events.

“We need to leave now,” Cortan whispered quietly as he grabbed the Natarl by his cuffed hands and pulled him to his feet. “We head back to the ship and leave. Let the Baron sort out this Natarl cretin.”

The trio left the protection of the cave and quickly took flight through the forest. Cortan led the group, with Gurake behind him. Bringing up the rear was Tokar. They were walking briskly at the moment. Not too fast to give away their position, but not too slow for any potential attackers to catch up with them. Gurake was struggling to keep up with the pace of the Garoga leader. Shoving from an angry Tokar though gave him incentive to keep up. The Natarl could feel the hot breath of the insect soldier’s breath on his back. It was rank. Like fetid meat that had not been properly preserved.

As the group continued to move through the woods, the malodorous sound continued to grow. They were definitely being followed. Luckily their ship and the Natarl one was just a few hundred yards away from them. It had pained him not to leave immediately with the Natarl in hand when they touched down on the planet, but the demon Bagorah was flying about over their heads. They could not risk taking off and getting caught before they had a chance to leave the atmosphere. They were forced to seek shelter for a time being and wait out the ravaging hunter.

The red Garoga had laser point focus about him and he kept his firearm pistol trained on the trees about him. Just over the ridge was their ship now. Nothing was going to catch him by surprise.

At least, that is what he thought.

The familiar sound of lever being cranked back on a Star Class 2 Garoga shotgun was unmistakable to his battle hardened mind. He kept his cool and didn’t turn around. His attacker was nearly fifteen paces behind him. It was a shot that even a blind Garoga could make if need be.

“What do you think you are doing soldier,” he growled with discontentment.

“Just following orders… sir.” Tokar made sure that his final word of mocking address to the commander’s authority was dripping with odium.

Cortan slowly turned about, making sure not to make any fast movement that would give his traitorous soldier a jump and start firing off his weapon. He faced the silver hued Garoga with a mask of scorn. His antennae were twitching in dark enmity. The segmented blood-colored eyes of the captain were mirroring that of a pit of fire. It was a blaze that threated to spill out of control at any moment.

“Who gave you the order to do this? It certainly was not the Baron.”

Tokar smirked in silence. He was relishing the moment. He pressed the butt of his weapon against his shoulder and slowly lined up his shot. “As a matter of fact it was.” His grin was beaming like the Cheshire cat. “I will take the Natarl back to Planet Garoga and be given a full promotion. Think of it, the first Silver Garoga to attain the rank of Captain. It will be a fine day indeed.”

“You’re a fool and you speak nothing but lies,” the captain growled.

“If that thought pleases you, than you can take that to the grave.” Tokar fingered the trigger of his weapon. He inched it back, letting the pressure of his grip linger, while the laid out scenario that he had only dreamt of was blooming before him.

A wild thrashing of leaves caught the silver Garoga’s attention before he could execute his desire. Something blasted out of the forest and whished past the soldier, knocking the shotgun-like weapon out of his hand. Cortan’s military experience kicked in and he rushed to grab the Natarl and dove for cover behind a fallen over tree. Gurake ate dirt as he was thrown face down into the earth. The red faced Garoga meanwhile had pulled free his laser pistol and began to take aim at his traitorous brethren. However before he could line up a shot, he was greeted with a sight that was almost beyond his comprehension.

Tokar was standing like a statue. He was as still as slab of rock. His eyes were wide with terror. His mouth was gapped in dismay. Floating in front of him was a four foot tall ball of gelatinous mass. Its color was that of a luminous light green. Its flesh moved and throbbed. The center of the mass held a hidden light. The glow pulsed along with a sickening heartbeat-like sound. It was like some sort of misshapen heart that was detached and twisted by some unknown force. Tokar turned to flee from the ghastly horror.

He didn’t get far.

The strange entity flew after the soldier and caught him within only a few steps. Tokar was shoved to the ground. The creature was latched to his back and pressing its might and pinning him against the ground. Its touch was like that of acid. It burned against his flesh. Tokar could smell the wisps of smoke from the welting of the insect exoskeleton armor of his race. The silver Garoga clawed at the dirt and roared in pain, trying to kick the creature off. It was to no avail. The beast was powerful and it was using that strength to control him. Handfuls of seconds ticked by before his chitin skeleton gave way. The creature’s amorphous, fluid-like body plunged into the soft flesh and began to feed.

Tokar screamed out like a banshee. His cries had too many competing hues in his voice to pinpoint a single resounding emotion. Hatred, pain, and frustration at the sudden turn of events was laced in his throat. The creature spread out its form and latched onto the flailing limbs of the Garoga. Using its considerable strength it began to twist and pull the limbs beyond their natural limitations.

Cortan was not going to wait around to see the traitorous soldiers end. He had seen enough killings in his life to know what was next to follow. “It’s time we move!” The captain snatched up the handcuffed Natarl and began to run full speed towards his aircraft. Behind them, the crunching of Tokar’s bones and the dissolving of his muscles was a delicious symphony played out for an audience of one.

The duo of prisoner and captive raced though the foliage as if hell itself was on their heels. The ships were not too far now. Only a hundred yards or so and they would be free from the insidious thing that has just devoured their turncoat member.

Suddenly the ground began to quake slightly. It wasn’t an earthquake, but it was certainly a sizable tremor. Neither of the fleeing aliens had time to consider what the nature of the shifting lands could mean. Hopefully it was nothing…

Cortan, being the much bigger of the two, was the first to see the outlines of the ships. Unfortunately, he saw other things as well.

“Damnit!” The red Garoga cursed between his teeth. He quickly ducked down in some thick flora and pulled the Natarl with him. Gurake attempted to fight off his jailer, but any attempt was quickly stifled from the Garoga’s powerful arms.

“Stay still, you fool,” the warrior hissed while stifling the Natarl with but a single powerful arm.

With his one free hand he pointed off into the distance. Gurake looked at what the alien was pointing towards. It was a sight that burked his heartbeat. There were over a dozen more of the floating, jelly-like creatures milling about his ship and the Garogas’. Some looked exactly like the phosphorous green one that had killed Tokar. Others, though, had different hues to their flesh. Some were ginger, and others were a deep cobalt blue. Even though they were different, they all had that same glowing light within their mass. The dull and throbbing glow must have been something akin to their heartbeat. It was slow and methodic in nature when they were motionless. But when they attacked, it raced and beat with a fervid intensity. Thankfully, they appeared to be docile at the moment. That could change, however, if they were spotted.

“Well that is going to make things a little bit difficult,”Cortan groused. Despite not being terribly overwrought at facing death head on, the condescension and disbelief he had were thick on his words.

“What are they doing?” asked Gurake.

“Nothing.”

“What do you mean nothing?”

“That’s exactly what I mean,” the Garoga snapped back as quietly as he could. “Those damn things are just milling about. They are looking for something.”

“Yeah… food,” the Natarl solemnly commented.

“Well I don’t intend to be that just yet.” Cortan checked the power supply on his weapon. It was not at full charge. He had had less power before and was able to come out on top. Although those were against opponents he was familiar with. These gelatinous things before him were completely foreign to him. Never had he seen or even heard of an animal like this before. “We are going to wait until they move on. Then we will make a run for my ship.”

Gurake had other plans. He stood up and tried to make his way to his ship, heedless of the drifting horrors that laid fifty or so yards from them. He took two steps before the Garoga’s powerful hand grabbed him by the shoulder and yanked him back behind the fallen tree in which they were hiding. The noise thankfully did not capture the attention of the strange amoeboid animals.

“What the hell is wrong with you!?” Cortan seethed spittle from between his teeth. He had the four foot tall Natarl pinned against the trunk and he was trying to hold himself back from tearing his prisoner limb from limb.

Gurake remained silent to the question. He only gave a silent and scornful look.

“Do you have some sort of death wish? Or is this some sort of penitence of survivor’s guilt?”

There were a handful of weighty, silent seconds before the Natarl’s head lowered in despondency. It was in that moment that the Red Garoga knew that the alien being in his clutches was telling the truth from before. The Natarl was indeed the last of his race. Whatever transpired on his homeworld had indeed wiped out his Terror-Beasts and Gurake’s people.

“So you were speaking the truth earlier. You are the last of your kind. And you are both sad and angered by that.”

“What if I am,” Gurake spat back. “I should have died with my people. I shouldn’t have been made a spectator to their deaths. A mere witness to that ‘things’ powers.”

“What thing?” the insect-like alien questioned.

The Natarl remained quiet to the existence of Monster X and the Xilien people. He was not going to give the Garoga any foreknowledge of the enemy that was laying quietly in wait. The Xiliens were an enemy that was hiding within the stars and darkness of a vast universe with their pet monster. They were ready to strike first at any race of beings in the name of their peace. The alien’s emotions at the loss of his people had overcome any sliver of self-preservation that he had within himself at that moment. He honestly did not care if he died right then. Perhaps in death he would find the silence from the eternal screaming of his people. Their cries of demise would no longer plague him.

Cortan was not a being that was used to asking a question more than once in his life however. He pressed his face closer to the Natarl and lowered his voice so that it was more akin to a guttural sound from grinding boulders. He sounded far less harsh than a normal sagacious captain of one of the most ruthless armies in this corner of space. “What thing attacked you?”

More handfuls of hefty seconds passed before the smaller alien replied. “What does it matter if I die here, or on one of your slave planets? I should have died with my people.”

Before he could go on, the sound of tearing metal caught both of their ears. The duo peeked from out behind their log of concealment and watched as two of the floating blobs began to tear away chunks of the Gargoa’s ship. The metal would turn red hot and then peel off like a banana that was to be devoured. One of the wings was already gone. Other parts of the hull were beginning to look like Swiss cheese.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Cortan snarled. “Are those things that damn hungry they will eat the metal hull off my ship?”

“Look around. You don’t see any animals, do you?” Gurake raised his hands to the tree tops and the surrounding jungle. “I imagine that these things have exhausted their food supply on this world. Which tells me that they are not native, and more of an invasive species.”

“How the hell does that help us?”

Gurake shrugged his shoulders. “It doesn’t now. But it does at least give us a bit of information on those things.”

“The only information I want to know is how to kill them.” Cortan looked back over to the munching creatures and noticed that they were not devouring the other spacecraft. “Why are they not eating yours huh? They are just ignoring it completely.”

Gurake glanced back at the now feeding herd of creatures. His captor was correct. The animals didn’t seem to have any concern with his saucer. If they were indeed as hungry as he had surmised, surly they would be chomping at the bit to get to his vessel. But the creatures weren’t. In fact, they seem to try and steer clear of the machine.

The Garoga harrumphed coldly and sat back down. “The plan is the same. We are just going to wait until they finish their business and bug off. We will just use your ship to get out of here then.”

“That is going to be a problem.”

The red-faced insect turned a disapproving side eye to his prisoner.

“My ship is nearly out of fuel. It’s the reason that was I was forced to land on this small planetoid to begin with.”

The Garoga was beyond incensed. If Cortan’s face wasn’t red to begin with, it certainly would be now. He had spent weeks trailing this Natarl, only then to be betrayed by one of his soldiers, and now be trapped on a planet full of flesh eating blobs. What an indignant death for a captain in the Garoga Empire. His end would not be at the end of a glorious battle for his people, but rather in the belly of colorful amoeba on a forgotten world on the backend of space!

The duo sat in silence. Each was contemplating the success and mistakes in their lives. The Garoga had more gratifications and the Natarl had far more regrets. Then, suddenly, an idea popped into Gurake’s head.

“Hey, I think I have a way we can get off this world.”

Cortan turned to the smaller alien with a look of disdain.

“Right before I was attack by the Bagorah, my ship was able to pick up an energy signature from this planet. The power was faint, but it might contain some crystals or some heavily ionized ores that I can use to power my spaceship.”

“And do you know where this fabled speck of salvation is?”

Gurake dropped his head dolefully. “No. When I entered the atmosphere I blacked out. Thankfully my ship has an auto pilot program when it needs to land and detects that the pilot is not at the wheel. A safety measure of my people of which I am grateful for that saved my life. The next thing I remember was waking up to your lackey punching me in the face.”

“Yeah, well you won’t have to worry about him any more,” Cortan dismissively replied with an air of satisfaction at the soldier’s painful death. “Can you find this energy source?”

“The signature is faint, but I do have a device that should be able to pick it up if it is within a few miles of us. We call it a Poten.”

“Great! So let’s get out of here and find it. Maybe by then, those metal munchers will be gone.”
Gurake’s shoulders slumped and he got quiet again.

“What is it,” the warrior insect softly vented in disgust.

“The device is in my ship.”

Cortan let slip a deep sigh. It honestly seemed like everything was against him at this point.

“I can get it.” Gurake silently began to creep over the fallen tree when his shoulder was grabbed by a steely grip.

“The hell you will,” the military captain snapped. “How do I know you aren’t lying about your power supply and you won’t just take off and leave me here once you get inside?”

“You don’t.”

“Exactly!” Cortan threw the Natarl to the ground, pinning him on his back. “I’ll get it. Now where is this device?”

Anger steamed through the Natarl’s helmet. A Natarl would never be so deceitful and unscrupulous. To give up one’s morals and appreciation for life would truly be the definition of being dead and dispassionate to the world and one’s soul. “My people are not as callous as your barbaric race, captain.”

“So self-righteous now are we?” Cortan mocked. “You were ready to plunge yourself into the mouth of death itself a moment ago. Now all of a sudden you have an air of pomposity to tell me how great and noble your people are? Just minutes ago you were ready to throw all of that away. You were going to throw out everything that your people were and what they stood for. All because of your frail self-pity. You may condemn the Garoga race, but at least my people know what they stand for. They know what they believe we are and what we bring to this universe.”

“You bring murder and destruction, and that is all,” Gurake said with steel in his veins.

The biped arthropod soldier slammed his fist down next the prisoner’s head, mere inches from the Natarl’s face. “I have been betrayed by my soldier and maybe my king. I do not have time for your sanctimonious attitude. Now tell me where the device is so we can get out of here. You have my word, once we are off this planet, we can go our different ways.”

Gurake pondered the truthfulness in the warrior’s words. He gazed into the blood red, multi-faceted eyes. They were unblinking and full of steadfast intensity. The Natarl could usually tell when a being was lying to him. Eyes were windows to the light or darkness that dwelled within a person’s heart. The crimson soldier’s eyes held neither of that really. They were cold and empty. Neither truth nor deception could be inferred. Gurake was going to have to be the one to take the first step in trust if they were going to make it off of the planet alive. His fleeting moment of self-doubt and guilt that nearly lead him to utter suicide had been quelled for the moment. He wanted to live just as much as the Garoga wanted to at this moment.

“Fine.”

The Garoga lifted the prisoner off the ground. He made sure not to pull away his gaze though. He wanted the Natarl to know how serious he was with both the honor of his words, and the rage in his body. He was not going to be taken a fool for twice in one day. If the little alien was going to betray him than he would be sure to make him die at his own hands, before those wretched little blobs got to Gurake.

“It’s near the control panel in the center of the ship. It should be in a compartment off to your left as you are facing and looking out of the cockpit. Third slot down.” Gurake was trying to make a crude drawing of the inside of his ship in the dirt with a stick he had found. “It’s silvery and small; rectangle in shape. It’s simple in design. Just has a dial with a screen. There should be a small bulb near the top as well.”

Cortan nodded, showing that he understood directions. “You might not think much of my race, but my word is what I live by. I promise you if we make it out of here you have nothing to fear from me. When I get back to my homeworld I will have bigger fish to fry. That little maggot Tokar is not smart enough or brave enough to do what he did without someone pulling the strings behind it. Someone set him up to betray me and I will find out who. And I will rend the flesh from their exoskeleton with great delight.”

And with that promise of retribution to his irresolute betrayers, the red-faced captain was off. He slightly hopped over the fallen trunk and slowly made his way to the yellow and silver Natarl saucer. His movements were tentative and methodical. He kept one eye on his target and the other one on the little colored blobs that were still feasting on his aircraft. It pained him to see his mighty vessel end up as a monster’s dinner, but as long as it kept them busy he could learn to get over it.

The soldier made it to the lowered ladder and stealthily made his way inside the ship. He was taken aback by the amount of wires and damaged equipment that lay strewn about. He didn’t notice it the first time when he and Tokar took Gurake out of the ship and into the nearby cave in order to hide from the still hunting Bagorah. But now the circumstances had changed and he was more aware of it. His sneak attack on the Natarl really did a number and nearly crippled the saucer. It’s amazing that the little alien had gotten it working again so quickly before Bagorah nearly had him as a snack. The dwarfish refugee was resourceful in a pinch.

He crept to the center console and played his hands along its sides. One… two… third drawer down. Opening the compartment he found what he had been looking for. The Garoga quickly snatched up the device and retraced his steps back to the safety of the fallen tree.

While it was only a few minutes for Gurake, it felt like the transpired time was infinitely longer. He was overjoyed though when the combat soldier returned with the energy sensing device. Cortan passed the Potan to the Natarl, whom was more than happy to accept it. The little creature flipped on the device and held his breath, hoping that the source of their salvation was not too far away.

Finally the Potan beeped and Gurake was overjoyed.

“It’s just two miles to the North! We should be able to just head to the right in a straight shot.”

Finally, things were starting to look up for the duo. Unfortunately, when they turned, fate would have other plans.

Their minds were screaming, whereas their mouths refused. Their lungs were full of pent up fear, refusing to exhale from their body because they worried that it might be heard from the floating horror before them. One of the little blobs, a dull yellow one, was hovering about ten yards from them. Its damp flesh jiggled and gyrated with each movement that it was making. The beast was rotating its body ever so slightly to the left and then to right, and then back again. If Cortan wasn’t mistaken, it looked as if the creature was eyeing them both and trying to decide on who to attack first. Although, without any eyes, it was guess work at best.

“Don’t move,” whispered the Garoga.

“You don’t say,” Gurake replied with a thick layer of mordancy.

The light within the monster’s body began to beat at a faster rate. It was similar to how the other one acted when it had killed Tokar. The amoeba creature was readying itself for a meal that it was desiring ever so much.

The wait, was not a long one.

The amber colored corporal horror picked its target, the larger Garoga soldier.

Thankfully, battle readiness and muscle memory reflexes that could operate without conscious effort had shaped the powerful insect warrior. Within the single stroke of a heartbeat, Cortan had withdrawn his handheld blaster and squeezed off a single shot that rang out like a bomb going off in the silent jungle. The giant cell was thrown back and smashed into the ground. Its flesh was ripped and burnt in places that the weapon had struck it. The wounds were superficial though. The creature began to quiver and move; signaling that it was still very much alive. Gurake looked around and noticed that the gunshot had attracted the unwanted attention of the rest of the blobs. They had stopped their munching on the Garoga airship and now were focused on the two living organisms that had wandered into their territory.

“We need to move now,” Cortan sneered.

Gurake agreed and immediately took off in the direction that the Potan device was sensing the energy that could be the answer to their salvation from this world of monsters. Cortan sprinted off right behind him, which was soon followed by the horde of colorful, giant cells.

The Natarl usually prided himself with his athletic build. Running on a flat and straight path, though, was far easier than the uneven and twisting undergrowth of a jungle floor. Yet the threat of impending death at your heels was motivation enough for the lone survivor to keep going no matter what.

With Cortan’s naturally bigger build, the Garoga was catching up with his prisoner with little effort. “Go faster you fool, or we are both going to die!”

The Natarl was going to argue back, but wasting energy at trying to explain why a being that is twice his size was out pacing him would be a fruitless expenditure of energy. Instead, he just lowered his head down and pressed forward even harder. He was blocking any other distractions out of his mind. He was only focused on where his device was telling him to go. Just a little over a mile and some change to go now.

While Gurake was leading the way, Cortan was doing his best to keep the giant flying amoebas off of their tails. Occasionally he would look back and squeeze off a few shots at the little beasties. At first he would nail a few of them dead on; which only stopped the pests for a minute or two before they got back up and continued their pursuit. The creatures were resilient and the firepower from his weapon was not going to be enough to kill them. Cortan cursed to himself and pressed his foot on the gas and picked up the pace.

“It’s getting a bit crowded back here!”

“It’s just a little under a mile now,” Gurake screamed back while not taking his eyes off the path that lay before him.

Cortan glanced over his shoulder and pulled the trigger on a few more of the monsters that were nipping at their backsides. The shots were perfectly aimed, but the beasts were too fast. They had learned that when the red Garoga pointed his device at them that they needed to move. The ground behind the monsters exploded as the shots went wide.

Smart little bastards, Cortan mused to himself silently. He didn’t have to check his weapon to know how low his ammunition was becoming. When in a firefight, being able to mentally keep track of yours and your opponent’s ammo count could be the deciding factor of life and death. The insect captain only had a fourth of his shots left. Less than six shells remained. And he was not about to waste them if those things were going to dodge his every attempt. Their reflexes were even faster than his honed, war built ones.

It was time to get a bit more creative with his offense.

Luckily for Cortan, the Garoga race was more than beings that could craft and wield destructive weapons. They themselves were weapons. The aliens, like most insects, were bred and built for fighting. The hive had made sure that their people were blessed with more than just raw power. Along each forearm of the Garoga were a set of 4 razor sharp, spine-like blades that were grafted into their exoskeleton armor. It was cultivated from years and years of selective breeding. These could be used to deflect handheld weapons like swords and spears, or they could be used to hack and slash a foe like how a tiger might rend meat from the bone. Cortan doubted that his evolutionarily enhanced blades could damage the multicolored blobs, but they might be helpful in putting some more distance between him and them.

Leaning to his right, the super-powered insect slashed his bladed forearm across the thick trunk of a nearby leaning tree. The chitinous spikes made short work of the topiary base. The wooden giant fell behind the sinister Garoga and managed to catch a half dozen of the murdering globs. Considering their amorphous nature, he doubted that it would kill them. But at least it would slow them down. The ones not caught by the fallen tree flew over their fallen brethren and kept up with the pursuit.

“Persistent little buggers,” he growled under his breath.

The captain slashed down two more trees in his path. Another seven or eight of the jelly beasts were crushed beneath their weight. He had cut down the pursing mob to nearly half. It was good, but not good enough. He feared if they could not find someplace to hide and fortify themselves when they reached their objective, then they were as good as dead.

Suddenly the light of the sun broke free from its prison of the canopy. Cortan and Gurake found themselves running through an open field. Ahead of them was a giant, squat gray building. Its geometry and structure was foreign to either alien. Never had they seen such bizarre and redolent designs at the same time. Unfortunately, the strange structure took Cortan’s attention away from the uneven ground before him. His next step landed in a small divot and caused the Garoga soldier to hurl himself to the ground. Legs and arms flopped around like wet noodles before he rolled to a stop. He was unconscious.

Gurake heard the commotion behind him and stopped dead in his tracks. He was waiting for the solider get to his feet and start running again; but he was as still as stone. “Dammit.”

Most beings would have left their captor to their own death, but not Gurake. Natarls were different. They valued life. Even if it was a life as loathsome as a Garoga soldier. If he continued on to save himself, then truly everything his people stood for would have died on his homeworld. Besides, having another person around would greatly increase his ability to survive in this alien world. So his decision was not completely selfless, but it would have to do though.

The small Natarl raced back and did a baseball slide alongside the fallen soldier. He smacked him a few times with no effect. The perpetual grinning alien was out like a light.

A sound broke from the jungle edge and caught Gurake’s attention. A dozen of the chromatic nightmares had just broken free from the jungle’s edge and were screaming towards them. The throbbing light within their mass was beating fiercely.

Gurake had no choice. He pulled free the Garoga’s firearm and began to line up his shots. His first shot when wide. He had pulled the trigger and messed up his aim. If he was going to hit any of these things he was going to have to squeeze it gently. That was easier said than done because the gun was made for a being that was six feet in height, not four like him. He was about to fire off another shot when he felt the weapon lift out of his grip.

“Gimmie that thing before you hurt yourself,” growled Cortan. “Why didn’t you keep on running?”

“Because you fell and knocked yourself out. I was trying to save you.”

“You’re doing a terrible job at it.” The Garoga shoved the Natarl in the direction of the mysterious structure to their north. “Go!”

Gurake took off running again. Cortan righted himself and squeezed off a few shots that managed to clip a few of the blobs and slow them down. Then he took off after his prisoner. There was still a sizeable amount of distance between the two groups, but the floating monsters were quickly closing the gap.

Suddenly, three large sections of the smooth, massive walls of the facility opened up. The sections on the left and right had a large, multi-funneled object roll out on a pair of tank treads. It was composed of a set of four exhaust funnels all arranged in the shape of square. From the back of the open ducts, Cortan could see several tubes attached to a large tank. Considering he didn’t see an open flame anywhere, he assumed that the alien devices were some sort of gas dispensing system.

“What do we do?” Gurake yelled back to his companion.

“Keep running, that’s what!”

“But what about those things? They look like weapons?”

“They probably are!”

Gurake was befuddled by the Garoga’s logic. “Then why are we running at them to be killed?”

“I’ll take an uncertain death with them, over a certain death from those things chasing us,” Gurake yelled back, annoyed. “Besides, look at the door in the middle. There is nothing there. I say they want us to come on in.”

At the moment the Natarl could not argue with the captain’s logic; however speculative it might be at the moment. The duo kept on running to their supposed salvation. As they closed in however, their ears were able to pick up a low humming sound. It grew and grew in intensity as each second was passing.

“I think those things are ready to fire,” explained Gurake.

Cortan was trying to put the thought out of his head, because the idea would only fester fear and mistakes. If either of them fell again then there would be no chance for them to reach the open gate in time. Instead, he lowered his head and pushed on even harder. His genetically enhanced strength and stamina were almost pushed to their upmost limits. He prayed that it would be enough.

In a few dozen strides he found himself alongside the struggling Natarl. He looked over and saw the face of defeat. Each stride expelled less and less force than the step before. The dwarfish alien was not going to make the last few hundred yards.

“Oh hell,” he grunted between his grinding teeth. The powerful soldier scooped up the Natarl in one fell swoop and proceeded to carry the nearly exhausted prisoner over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Gurake was going to protest, but that would require the use of energy that he no longer possessed in his body.

Having to carry the Natarl was slowing down the Garoga. With each step, he could hear the charging sound of the cryptic sentries that stood before him. Everything was flashing by in quick heartbeats. He didn’t even have time to even think about saving the Natarl. He just did it on instinct. He didn’t know why. The creature was his prisoner. All races of aliens were beneath the Garoga. So why would he risk his life to save them both? It was a question that he was going to have to stow away and ponder later. That is assuming that there would be a later.

The throbbing pulses of the monsters at his heel were growing in both ferocity and rhythm. The ameoboids were ready to feed upon them with glorious, savoring lust. Cortan was not about to let that happened.

One hundred yards to go.

Suddenly the quad-funnel weapon system kicked on. Great billowing clouds of canary yellow smog belched forth from the standing stronghold. The swirling fog was making its way across the field, coating everything in its unknown essence. Cortan saw a gap in-between the oncoming haze, but it was quickly closing up. He had no idea what the murky fog would do to him or the Natarl, but he did not want to find out. Roped muscles and churning pistons screamed out as the Garoga pushed his running even harder.

It seemed that the floating globs didn’t know what the undulating clouds were either. That or they did not care. Hunger was their driving motivation.

Cortan screamed a beastly roar of defiance as his body just cleared the narrow gap that still remained between the separate gaseous clouds. No sooner had he did that, then the clouds merged and created a wall of nearly impenetrable smog. He didn’t quit though. He kept running until he was safely within the dark confines of the door that had opened in the middle of the gas based weapons. As soon has his booted foot hit the cold metal floor of the building, he collapsed. The Natarl spilled out of his arms and slammed into a nearby wall.

The duo looked back and thought the door was going to close right behind them. But they were shocked to see that it was still open. Cortan rose to his feet cursing up a storm. He felt along the door desperately. There had to be a knob or a switch to close it. There just had to be. Gurake sprang to his feet and joined in the frantic hide and seek that meant life or death.

The yellow tinted smog continued to pour from the guardian alien sentries. The monstrous blobs were completely obscured, but the thrumming of their hearts could still be heard, although the lights were not as candent as before. And they were far less vehement as well. The sound coming from the creatures was more lethargic. It was teetering about like a death throe of an animal.

Suddenly one of the globsters broke free from the toxic smog. It was twisting and turning, struggling to stay airborne. Like a drunk on a scooter, the creature crashed into the earth. It tried to get back up, but the movement was too laboring. Gurake watched with astonishment as the organism’s flesh began to calcify and resemble more like that of a cracked rock than its previously slimy self. The sickness washed over the creature. Its light died away, buried under the granite hard shell. The once fearsome blob was now a brightly colored stone.

Others soon followed suit, the ground looking like a tie-dyed rock quarry.

“Sure glad that stuff didn’t get on us,” Gurake panted.

Cortan nodded in agreement.

Then, like the final scene of an opera, the curtain came down. The metal gate closed shut. No thanks to anything that Gurake or Cortan had done.

The duo stood in perpetual darkness. There was no breeze or smell. The room felt sterile and cold. Then, from out of the corner of their eyes, a light gleamed in the darkness. It was a set of parallel lines that were beaming from the floor. Cortan approached the light, which caused the illumination to grow. The lights ran down a long hallway, like comets striking across the raven black skies.

“I think someone wants us to follow,” said the Natarl.

“I don’t take orders from others,” Cortan gruffed.

“Didn’t you have a King that you had to listen to?”

The Garoga sneered with annoyance and loathing. He made a move and stomped towards the prisoner with the threat of bodily harm. Shrinking away, Gurake quickly made his way down the hall, following the light into the unknown. Cortan followed closely behind with a smug satisfaction that the Natarl still had a healthy dose of fear of him.

The pair followed the road of lights throughout the complex. Occasionally, there was a bend here or a turn there, but it seemed like they would never end. On and on the duo traveled, never once being able to see much further beyond the fulgor of the pathway.

“You know I saved your life right? I could have just left you in the dirt and not come back for you,” the Natarl quipped.

“Just as I could have left you behind to die in that toxic smog.”

Gurake couldn’t argue with that. His little legs would not have carried him to the gate before the cloud overcame him. “Fair enough.”

“Shut up.”

Gurake complied.

Ten more minutes of walking passed before the twin lines of lights finally stopped. The road dimmed away as the lights of the room that they were in were turned on and grew in strength. The soldier and scientist found themselves in a massively round room. In the center was an alien mainframe system with several pedestals and screens circling a giant orb that was made of glass. There were several cracks and a large missing piece in the upper half of it. There were no keys or dials on the desks, they were more like smoothed stone altars; except these were made of an unknown metal that neither could really identify. The whole look was ancient in style, but futuristic in execution. It was an anachronism that they both had reservations about.

Along the rounded walls of the room, there were dozens of eight-foot tall, round glass tubes. They were filled with a sickly, pastel-tinted fluid. And within each of those liquid tubes, there was a nightmarish creature that floated silently. Each demon was as different to each as they could possibly be. One looked like a worm with several mouth-like tongues; another was a misshapen pink thing that looked like an oil spill. Further down the row there was a bipedal reptile with massive clawed hands, a squished up flat nose, and a fat pink tongue that hung from between its conical teeth. Further beyond that there was a white and black striped tadpole-like critter, with a massively long, whip-like tail and crescent moon-like antlers on its crown. Then there was a purple stingray beast that had spikes along its wings. And so on and so on it seemed to go as the duo stared in disbelief at the stagnate beasts that surrounded them.

The images and designs were truly otherworldly. The room looked like a private zoo of sorts. Except that all the animals were dead from what Gurake could tell. Their eyes were open and glazed over; at least the ones that had eyes. There were no bubbles moving within the liquid. There was no sign that any sort of existence was being had. No thrump of a machine or computer was near the orbs. There was no heat to be felt when Gurake touched them.

“I don’t think any of these things are alive,” the Natarl whispered quietly with a hint of fear. Subconsciously he was expressing his reverence for the newly discovered dead. “I count sixty-three of them.”

“Sixty-four.”

Gurake looked over questionably at the soldier, whom gave his answer with a soft nod to the broken glass sphere that was surrounded by the metal pedestals in the center of the room. “I guess you’re right. One of them managed to survive and get out?”

“I would say that whatever was in that one,” Cortan gestured to the center orb. “That was the focus experiment of whoever built this place. And I don’t think it liked whatever they were doing to it.”

Gurake took a few steps closer to the broken sphere in order to investigate it a bit further.

Suddenly, the room was rent with a flashing red light and blaring alarm. The klaxon sound was intense, fading in and out. The room was bathed in reds and whites. It only added to the nauseating feeling that gripped the duo. Then as quickly as it started, the clangorous system shut down. In response, several of the metal pylons in the center of the room came to life. The small, dark gray obelisks crumbled like sand to the floor.

Cortan withdrew his weapon and started to line up a shot when he felt his arms restrained and dragged to the ground. The sand, which the columns had dissolved into, had shot across the floor and retook another form. It looked like a gray robotic clamping arm. Two more took the same form beneath the Garoga and clamped down around his ankles. He was completely pinned to the floor and helpless.

Meanwhile, the rest of the alien sand that had not restrained Cortan, had taken the form of a six-foot black and white striped sphere. The enigmatic thing floated over and placed itself in front of Gurake, whom was literally shaking in his clawed boots. A thin slit opened in the front of the orb, which was followed then by a flat crimson light shooting out of it and playing itself up and down the Natarl’s body. Gurake had no idea what alien species had created such an advanced technology, but he didn’t have to be a scientist to be able to tell what was going on. He was being scanned. Why, or for what reason, he didn’t know. The creators of this abandoned facility seemed to be very inquisitive when it came to other life forms.

A metallic tentacle slithered out from beneath the orb and made its way behind Gurake. Its tip was armed with a thin needle in which it lashed out with. The barb quickly stabbed the back of the Natarl’s neck with lightning-like speed.

A wave of euphoria washed over the alien, temporarily causing a grey cloud of semi-blindness to creep across Gurake’s mind. The attack was so quick that he didn’t even have a chance to let out a cry of pain. Before he knew it, the mysterious white and black orb did the same to the shackled Cortan. The Garoga sneered with great choler, but soon he too was hit with the same billow of muddled and foggy thoughts.

As the duo attempted to regain their composure, the alien device began to let out a series of clicks and pops. The sounds were emanating from some hidden speaker within the baffling orb. The resonating tones were erratic and harsh at times; almost resembling something like that of a steel door being peeled and torn asunder.

But then something happened. It was almost as if a light has been turned on for Gurake and Cortan. The once unmelodic alien sounds the floating orb was making, were beginning to take the form of words. Within seconds the duo was able to completely understand the machine.

“Subject identified as Natarl.” The orb rambled off in an emotionless robotic voice. “Dominate lifeform of the home world known as Natarl. Species is highly intelligent and docile. No recorded wars or conflicts within the last several hundred years.”

Obviously this machine’s memory banks were not aware of the final chapter of his home planet, Gurake sadly mused to himself.

“Threat level zero.” The hovering machine disregarded the Natarl and positioned itself in front of the downed Garoga captain.

“Subject identified as Garoga. “Dominate lifeform of the planet designated as Garoga. It is a dead and lifeless world that has been stripped of nearly all natural resources. The species is highly dangerous and possesses no amount of empathy or trustworthiness ever recorded. They turned on their sister planet of Peaceland and they were the cause of its destruction and the genocide of that race.”

While Gurake was aware of the broad reputation of the Garoga people, he really wasn’t privy to any specifics of their diabolical nature. He knew that they started wars and pillaged their ill-gotten gains. Yet to think that spoils of their violence had come from a sister world of theirs, it was heinous by any standard of the imagination. The Natarl’s heart sank little by little as the alien artifact continued on with its knowledge of Cortan and his people.

“Creators of artificial lifeforms designated as Terror-Beasts. These automatons have scourged nearby worlds and galaxies and have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. Aliens species known as the Virasians, the Titanians, Ghose, Spell, and the Pairans, are but a handful of races that have been reducesd to pitiful numbers because of the Garoga’s greed.”

Gurake had heard of some of these races before. Some of them were just as sick and twisted as the Garoga themselves. Their existences were wrapped up in a guise of vile, bloody murder too. But the Pairans were not that way however. They were much like his own people. They lived in peace with each other and strived to advance their technology to a place where nothing but peace and prosperity was reality. Gurake believed that was the end goal for any sentient race of people. However, being in the presence of both the Xiliens and the Garogas, he was beginning to think otherwise.

The diminutive insect alien was expecting Cortan to bark back at the machine and try to defend the actions of his people. Yet, to his surprise, the warrior stayed silent. He had a look that was neither prideful nor sullen. It was simply the unflinching gaze of a soldier doing what he was told to do. It was a look from a soldier that never sought to question his great leader on their motives and agendas that may be hidden from the greater populace.

“Threat level is high. Immediate termination is required.”

“No!” screamed out Gurake without thinking. The alien leaped in front of the kneeling Cortan and put himself between the threatening orb and the Garoga captain. He acted so fast, he didn’t even have time to consider the ramifications of his actions. He didn’t know anything about this circular machine. It could very well tear through him to get to Cortan and kill him. He might have just thrown away his life on a gut reaction, because of the rooted altruistic beliefs of his dead race.

The hovering, striped ball stopped its advancement on the guilty Garoga. A few seconds passed in silence. The machine obviously was not prepared for Gurake’s suicidal action. “Please step aside. Termination is mandatory in order to preserve life.”

“I will not.” Gurake sucked in a breath and held it, bracing himself for whatever death the incumbent robot was going to deal out.

“The Garoga is guilty for the murder and genocide of dozens of races. Death is required in order to preserve life.”

“And he did just that!” exclaimed Gurake. “He saved my life from those floating blob things outside. They were going to kill me.”

“The Dogora cells consume carbon in any form that they can find it. It is what they feed on. They consumed the most pure forms of the elemental ore. Once that is gone, they have to resort to… other avenues in order to maintain their caloric intake in which to live.”

“What do you mean other,” the Natarl whispered with foreboding dread.

“Your body is composed of 21.7325 percent of the element carbon. It is less pure, but it provides them enough material to consume in which to continue on with their existence.”

“So that’s what happened to all the animals on this world,” Cortan asked with dismissive contempt. “Your little science experiment got out and killed your creators. Then it moved on and proceeded to wipe out all the life on this planet. That about sums it up!”

“Correct.” The reply was cold and emotionless. It had all the care in its delivery as a fact that was being read out by a bored student with a school book.

Gurake noticed that the machine was not making any more threatening moves towards the shackled captain that was pinned to the floor. It was almost as if the computer was considering their questions and replies. This thing, whatever it was, was not preprogramed to execute its directives. The machine was actually engaged. It was learning from the duo and considering their actions like how a child would try to figure out a new toy. Gurake wasn’t a toy though, and this was no time to be playing around. He had to be on his guard and make sure not to set this thing off.

“So your Creators made that thing?” the tan colored insect alien asked.

“No,” the orb succinctly replied. “The first D64 cell was found and collected. Much like how the rest of the specimens were done that you see before you. It, however, was microscopic in size when it was culled. The Creators were peaceful and benevolent. They had scoured hundreds of worlds and moons in order to expand their knowledge. They were scientists and polymaths that yearned to know the secrets of all universes. The history and biology of all races and beasts was the key, in which they believed would allow them to unlock even greater paths of knowledge that lied on the fringes of space. Unfortunately, there is an element in the universe that cannot be controlled; for it is used to bind all living and nonliving things. It is an irreversible succession from the past, which lies in wait for the future.”

Gurake was momentarily taken back by the cryptic, riddle-like nature of the machine. Then Cortan chimed in with a chilling answer. “It’s talking about time. That’s the answer right?”

“Yes,” the monotone reply answered back. “Time is a factor that limits all things in the universe. It is fair and impartial to all. It knows no favorites. That is something that my Creators thought that they could master as well. They sought to circumvent death through genetic manipulation and cloning. They began to use scientific means to not only extend their lives, but to alter their physiology as well.”

A small hole opened in the floor in front of the two insect-like aliens and poured out a strange white light. Shapes began to take form and Gurake suddenly realized that they were being shown a hologram. It depicted a small version of the room in which they found themselves in. It looked the same; save for the glass tube in the center of the room was not broken and still held a bright green Dogora cell in captivity. The thing that truly caught his eye though was the creature that was slithering around the room.

It resembled an ashen colored, gigantic brain with long tentacle-like arms beneath its bulbous weight. In the front center of what Gurake knew to be the cerebrum was a single, unblinking mammoth-sized eye. Red and purple veins ran along its head, which pulsed with sickening vim. The creature was pulling at levers and examining its prize of the Dogora cell. Even though its appearance seemed monstrous to even Gurake, he could tell what the brain creature was thinking by the look that it was giving the trapped space cell. It’s the same look that any scientist would give when looking at a specimen in a jar. He was learning and studying it.

“Unfortunately, the same knowledge that allowed the Creators to extend their lives was killing them off as a species as well. They had let knowledge consume them. So, along with extending their lives, the Creators had molded their minds to be able to contain all of the knowledge that they had ever learned. Genetic degradation unfortunately had left them sterile and unable to reproduce, and it was also causing their bodies to fail. In time, their forms would break down and the Creators would cease to exist in this world. All of the knowledge of the universe would be lost with their passing.”

“How does the space cell figure into all of this?” Gurake questioned. His voice betrayed a hint of empathy that he had for the Creators’ plight. As a scientist, he could understand how the drive to learn can be consuming. It is a feeling that can overtake a person quickly if they are not paying attention.

“The Dogora cell is unlike any lifeform that they had ever seen in their long lives,” the machine continued on with its story. Gurake, and even Cortan, was able to detect a change in the machines verbal tone. It wasn’t dry and without feeling anymore. There was a modicum of intonation in its voice. There was an inflection, which could be considered to be sadness, at the remembrance of the people that made the machine.

“Once exposed to both solar and cosmic radiation, the cell began to exhibit new and unique abilities and properties. The cell was able to withstand extreme environments. Whether it was the cold and airless void of space, or the incredible pressures of the ocean seafloor, it would survive. Even the molten heat of a volcano could not destroy it. The Dogora cell would have been a perfect specimen in which to use a base to construct a new body for the Creators, once it was appraised and put through several more experiments. It is malleable and heals its injuries; as well as growing with sufficient nutrition. As far as tests were conducted, there is no cellular breakdown with time passage as well. The animal did not age. It is not bound by the equalizer of life. The Creators sought to use the cell as a blueprint to construct new bodies that not only would be free from the shackles by time, but would grow and allow their minds and knowledge to expand indefinitely. There would be no idea or fact that the universe could hide from them and their minds.”

“For an advanced A.I., you really are naive,” blustered out Cortan as he continued to strain against his tentacle chains.

“I fail to understand your claim. I am able to calculate thousands of mathematical equations and probability scenarios in milliseconds. Due to the supramolecular chemistry based silicon nature of my nanotechnology, my database is virtually limitless.”

“Exactly!” snarled the Garoga captain. “No matter how much your little Creators messed around by trying to create longer lasting bodies for themselves that would hold those big brains of theirs; flesh can only go so far. It has limitations. Trust me, I know. We Garoga found that out a long time ago when building our Terror-Beast kaiju army. Once we went as far as we could go with blood and bone, we began to implement machines to start filling in the limitations. Your Creators knew about this, I promise you. Once they were done with their new bodies, they were going to tear you apart and use you to implement that molecular nanotech of yours into them. Then they would have the capacity to contain all that wonderful knowledge that they are ready to kill for!”

The red eye on the metal orb flashed in a momentary explosion of choler. The steel arms and tentacles around the Garoga squeezed tighter. They were disregarding the idea of mere entrapment. Now the machine appendages wanted to throttle the life out of the red faced bugman that spoke ill of the Creators.

Cortan struggled against the restraints with his genetically enhanced strength, but the effort was a losing venture. Slowly, the glowing flames in his eyes were beginning to die out.

“Please stop, he’s right!” hollered the Natarl as he threw his body onto one of the tentacles. He tried in vain to pry the bond away, but his four foot frame worth of muscle proved to be inadequate for the job.

“Liar!” The machine’s voice was now much louder than it was before. “The Creators are all knowing and peaceful. They would not harm a living creature in the pursuit of such barbaric, transitory gains.”

“Then what the hell do you call all of them around us!?”

The machine paused its momentary swell of bloodletting and loosened its shackles on the Garoga.

“Explain.” The alien orb demanded of the tiny white and tan bipedal insect.

Gurake composed himself before speaking. He couldn’t allow any emotion to creep into his voice. Sympathy was not to be had by this alien machine. It did not understand the concept of ardency and zeal. But logic, that is something that he hoped he could use in order to get out of their predicament that they were trapped in.

“Look around us,” he stated calmly as he extended his arms to the openness of the room and the beasts that lay still among them. “These animals are dead. Their lives were forfeited in the reckless ambitions of your makers.”

The machine hovered silently. It didn’t start its attack again, so Gurake thought that was a good sign that he was on the right path. Although, being dispassionate with his emotions about the Creators’ covetous desires to outlive the natural world was a bit hard to keep in check. Still though, he pressed on.

“Look at them closely.” Gurake walked over to the cryptic visage of a blue, fish-like creature with large fins and a needle-like nose. He had actually known of this animal. It was a baby Samekujira. He pointed to several wounds on the animal’s side. Some were charred black, while others were open surgical incisions. “These dark marks here are from electrical shocks. And these over here are surgeon-like cuts. You can even see here and there, where the wounds started to heal. This animal was alive and put through agonizing hell with your masters’ tests. There are even signs of healing within the hypodermis level of the flesh. This simple beast had been kept alive throughout their experiments.”

The alien intelligence remained quiet.

“And look at this,” Gurake said as he walked over to another test tube victim. This one was a bipedal, lizard-like creature with tubes jetting from several parts of its body. Its face had a sagittal crest and large hanging jowls. The tip of its tail was split into a fork. Its eyes were wide and lifeless, sunken deep beneath the armored brow ridge that adorned its countenance. “Look at its tongue, look at the hints of blue. That is a sign of shock from blood loss, or whatever this thing had for blood. Your creators drained the life from this thing. They took its life to keep their own.”

Gurake moved away from the tubes and approached the silent monolith that threatened to kill them both. “Does that sound like benevolence? Is that peaceful?”

“They did it in order to preserve knowledge. Knowledge is the key to understanding.” The automaton’s once stentorian voice now showed the cracks and faintness that a person would exhibit when they began to question their beliefs.

“Knowledge that is built upon death… that is constructed upon the corpses of the weak is not knowledge that is worth keeping.”

Those words did not only ring deeply within the metallic orb, but to the kneeling Garoga as well. The very concept of his people’s technology was built upon the remains of the races that they conquered. Literally and figuratively. They stole from the dead in order to strengthen their resolve that they were above other alien races. He believed that the Garoga were meant to live in wealth and feast upon the remains of the quarry that they smashed into the dirt. It was a philosophy that has been brow beaten into him ever since he was a child. It was done to every child that was brought up in the military armada of the grinning aliens as well. It was a single idea that he held onto as he moved up through the ranks to a captain’s position in the Garoga army. Had he been so wrong in that belief?

Suddenly the ground began to quake. But unlike before, this had much more zeal and power behind it.

“This again?” Gurake questioned. “This makes two times now in a short amount of time. That can’t possibly be a good sign.”

“It’s three,” the gruff Garoga throatily replied back. “There was another tremor when you were unconscious from the crash. But now the tremors seem to be coming more frequently.”

“I fear that he is done with his feeding,” the orb spoke aloud, a monotone quality returning to its voice. The machine withdrew its tentacles and shackles, releasing the bound Garoga. Cortan rose slowly with apprehension. He coupled his wrists, trying to ease the blood flow back into his extremities. Although he dared not take one eye off of the hovering orb. He was not going to lose his newfound freedom by being sloppy with hesitation again.

“What do you mean ‘he is done feeding’?” asked Gurake in suspicion.

Once again, the small hole that had opened in the floor in front of the two insectoid aliens before, poured out another series of strange white lights. Shapes took on a form within the light in order to create a holographic image of a volcano.

“This is a live image from a volcano that is approximately 5.24 miles from this facility.”

“I don’t get it. Are you saying the volcano is done feeding?” the red-faced insect growled with annoyance.

Before the orb could reply, the two aliens got their answer in the form of a long, thin tentacle extending itself from out of the erupting caldera. It was phosphorus lime green and looked to be gelatinous in texture. If Gurake wasn’t mistaken, he would have sworn it looked a bit like one of the blobby cells that had hounded them ever since they had landed. But none of those monsters had pedipalps.

Soon another several pseudopods lifted from out of the active volcano. The limbs tensed and flexed. They were pulling their owner from out of the raging earth. A weak and languid thump-thump sound, which was chilling to the bone, began to beat. Its sound was even greater than the roar of the volcano itself. Within minutes, the arms pulled a hulking, slimy green mass to the surface. It was somewhat translucent; just with a hint of glaucous color. It also resembled a mammoth-sized jellyfish. Its body had a conical funnel beneath it, as well as five tentacles that were hundreds of meters long. Two more tentacles grew from the head of the monster, but these were not nearly as long as the lower pseudopods.

“What the hell is that,” Cortan questioned as his breath was stripped from his body from fear.

“That is a mature Dogora cell.” The orb answered matter-of-factly.

“How did it get so big!?”

“The introduction of high-energy charged particles of x-rays and gamma rays caused unexpected mutations within subject D64. Before, the cell was microscopic and nearly senescent. It would only divide once in its life in order to procreate the species. After the Creators experiments, the cell not only grew in size, but it also gained the ability to divide multiple times. It is unknown how many times a particular cell can keep splitting.”

“That explains how there was so many of them out there,” Gurake whispered timorously.

“Once D64 broke free, it consumed The Creators and then left the base. As soon as it got outside, it began to divide. Before long, nearly one hundred Dogora cells were born.”

“And like all newborns, they were hungry right?” growled the Garoga.

“That is correct,” the machine continued. “Most of the cells began to hunt down any form of carbon life they could find. One, however, sought its sustenance elsewhere. It entered the caldera and began to feed on coal and organic materials that were trapped within the magmas. Diamonds that had formed over several lifetimes were also located and fed upon. These materials are carbon in their purest form and allowed the cell to mature much quicker than any of its brethren. But now it seems that the cell has consumed all of the carbon within the mountain, making it unstable. Without scanning the inside of the crater, it would be impossible to figure out how long its unrest will last before it erupts. An eruption will result in an ash cloud that will cover this planetoid and wipe out all remaining plant life. The world will be as lifeless as the asteroids that orbit around us.”

“So if the cells don’t get us, the damn planet will,” the Garoga vented his frustration.

“There is enough of the synthesised insect venom to keep the cells away from the facility. That is what the clouds were composed of when you were running from the pack of D64 cells earlier. It is the only weapon that was discovered that would stop all of the celluar activity within the subjects. So the chances of your death would be far greater with the volcano eruption, rather than the remainder of the Dogora cells getting into here.”

“That was a rhetorical statement, you bumbling mass of computer code,” the soldier snapped back.

While the AI and Garoga were exchanging quips back and forth, Gurake was staring intently at the horror that was being displayed on the holographic readout. The gargantuan Dogora was now free from the volcanic catacombs from which it gorged itself upon. The thumping heartbeat of the beast was now like small claps of thunder. Their voluminous and contralto beats could even be heard from within the protected walls of the fortress that they were in. With them being over five miles from it, Gurake could only imagine how truly gigantic the monster was in order to be heard from so far away.

The protoplasmic demon then did something truly unthinkable and terrible.

It began to take flight…

The Natarl turned to face the floating robot orb with a look of grim realization. “You said that these cells can survive in the vacuum of space right?

“Correct.”

“We can’t let that thing off this planet.” Gurake turned and faced Cortan. His face was etched with utter fright. If he could perspire, he would be drenched in sweat. “If that thing leaves this planet, it will most likely divide like how it did here.”

“And?”

“And just one of those things was able to spawn over a hundred copies of itself here. And that was in only one mitosis cycle. Who knows how many cycles one of these things can have now that they are mutated from their original form? One can become a hundred. And then once those hundred divide…”

“Over ten thousand…” The words whispered from the toothy grin of the captain as if it was a dying breath.

“Yes.” Gurake nodded solemnly. “Each one has the ability to grow to the size of that monster out there. You saw what just one of those things did to an entire planet. You saw the amount of life that it destroyed. Imagine a hundred worlds like this. No… imagine a thousand more just like this. There will be no life left in this part of the universe. Your precious little empire would be just like this world we are standing on. Cold and lifeless; just a rock in space! We are talking about genocide of incalculable proportions!”

“And what would you propose we do?” Despite being terribly overwrought, the condescension and disbelief were thick on the Garoga’s words.

“I don’t know, you’re the military expert.”

There were a handful of weighty silent seconds before Cortan finally spoke. “I’d take inventory of what we have, which is not much.” The red faced military man turned and faced the hovering AI. “How much of that venom stuff do you have on hand?”

“Several tons. The venom has been engineered into a solid form for better transportation. It was designed for sublimation as an aerosol form which could be weaponized for defense. It was the last thing the final Creator had me design and build before he passed.”

The Garoga could hear the remorse that lamented on the final words from the AI. The machine was more than just a preprogramed database. It was truly a thinking and feeling sentient intelligence.

“Well that is not going to help us if that thing leaves this planet,” the captain continued. “I would next try to call in reinforcements. Unfortunately my ship was turned into a buffet for those little bastards, so I don’t have any way to contact the empire. But the betrayal of the Baron against me would make that a moot point. And I doubt that any ships from the armada would be able to get here in time. So aid from the Garoga dominion is unfeasible. We might be able to kill it with your yellow smog, but we can’t stop the damn thing from leaving.”

“We can’t…” Gurake let the undirected statement linger in the air. The gears were turning in his head. A wild idea was starting to take shape.

“But there is something nearby that can.” Gurake once again turned and faced the metal orb. His face though was not masked in panic. Rather there was a sliver of hope. “Can you pick up nearby life signs on your scans?”

“Yes.”

“I need to know if there is something close by. It’s the Bagorah. The winged monster that chased us both to this world.”

“The beast is nearby. It’s asleep on one of the outer moons of the planet.”

“Perfect.” Gurake smiled nervously. “I need you to send out a deep space microwave pulse. The stronger the better. We have to get his attention.”

“What the hell are you trying to do? Cortan exclaimed. “We already have one monster to contend with. We don’t need a second one!”

The dwarfish Natarl turned and looked at the military soldier. His eyes were filled with pure determination. “We need him. He is the only thing around close by that might have a shot at beating that thing.”

“It’s an animal. A monster! That thing is not going to fight to save the universe. All it cares about is where its next meal will be coming from!”

“Animals don’t kill just for food,” Gurake shot back. “Territory is another huge factor. They will kill for it. I’m just hoping that Bagorah thinks that this part of space belongs to him.”

“Dogora has begun to ascend,” the AI interrupted.

The bickering duo looked at the hologram and saw that the greenish jellyfish was slowly flying away from its volcanic lair. It was nearly a mile in the air and still climbing. With its mammoth size, the beast was very sluggish in its movements. Still though, at its current rate it would be free from the upper atmosphere within the next ten or fifteen minutes.

Time was running out…

“Do it. Send it out.” The battle veteran officer ordered the AI orb.

The machine wasted no time and sent out the signal.

“Now I have to get back to my ship and see if I can’t slow down that monster for a little bit,” the tan, humanoid insect declared loudly, his voice a hot, angry growl from the realization of how close death was beckoning at their door.

He was about to make a move for the tunnel that would lead him to the outside of the base, but a steely grip stayed his advancement. The crimson soldier had his wrist clamped like a vice on his shoulder. The foolhardy Garoga probably thought that he was trying to skip town and run away, Gurake had mused. The Natarl, though, was not about to argue the ridiculousness of that notion at a time like this. But then, he remembered about his past actions on his homeworld. He told himself he ran away in order to seek help from the marauding Terror-Beasts. But in truthful earnest, he ran because he was scared. Much like how he was scared now. The same bridled dread that had gripped his heart then was doing the same at this moment. Gurake was about to back down from his course of action, when Cortan finally spoke up.

“There is no running away from this,” he whispered. His ruby red multifaceted eyes were locked onto the Natarl’s own. “Everyone has to face their demons at one point.”

The soldier didn’t have to say it. The seriousness and sincerity of his voice was enough to tell Gurake that the alien, whom was sent to capture and imprison him, was trusting him to not run and leave him behind. Even though the two had only known each other for less than a day, they had saved each other’s lives several times. Events like that have a way to dispel any sort of distrust and differences that two beings might have with one another.

Gurake gave a determined nod to the soldier. The Garoga released his grip and let the Natarl continue down the hall from which they came. He was going to have to book it if he was going to make it back to the ship. He just hoped that he could get his aircraft flying, and that he didn’t run into any of the smaller cells on the way.

Unbeknownst to the Natarl, a small black and white striped orb was close in tow.

Cortan gave a slight chuckle to himself as he watched his former prisoner dash away. Perhaps he was running to his own death. To place trust in anyone else but his Emperor was an almost inconceivable thought. As an infantry member he was taught only to have faith in himself, his fellow soldier, and above all else the Garoga lord from which they pledged their allegiances to. Everything else was a delusion for the weak. That was the idea that molded and made the Garoga armada so powerful.

A lot of things had happened since his arrival to this dead world of mutated space cells. The captain had found himself betrayed by not only his lower ranking officer, but his Lord as well. And his life was saved not once, but twice, by a diminutive being that had lost his entire race because of the military actions of his own people’s bloodlust. Trust was not the ironclad quality of character that he had envisioned the Garoga were emboldened with. Trust was a fickle thing that came when you least expected it.

“Come on. We’ve got work to do.” Cortan ordered the striped orb again. “We’re going to make a little welcome home gift for that carbon munching jellyfish.”

 

Chapter 3: Survival of the Universe

Gurake broke into full stride as his clawed feet hit the dirt when he exited from the science compound. The AI had opened the door for him, shaving off valuable minutes that could mean the difference between existence or extinction for all life in the universe. His heart was beating almost as fast as his feet were racing across the open terrain. All around him he could see the shattered remains of the Dogora cells that had threatened his life only hours before. Back then, they were a flying coterie of blobby monsters that could dissolve flesh with their mere touch. Now, they were broken colorful rocks that lay strewn about like a child’s playthings. The insect venom must have caused some sort of chemical reaction with a degranulation protein that had caused the cellular walls and nuclei to literally crystalize in seconds. His scientist mind wanted to ponder on the mystery, but now was not the time.

He wasn’t sure if Bagorah was going to be able to beat the mature cell. For all he knew, he was just luring the bat to its death. What right did he have to condemn an animal to such a horrendous and painful death in the belly of that space cell? The moral dilemma normally would weigh upon his soul, but the fate of the universe was at stake. One death over the near extinction of all life was a no brainer. He had to do whatever he could in order to stop Dogora. Even if that resulted in Bagorah’s and Cortan’s death. Even his death could not outweigh that decision.

The lone Natarl pushed on with even more determination as he made it past the forest’s edge. He was a demon possessed. Arms and legs were pumping, the wind blowing across his face. The ground was like a blur as his feet lifted and carried him forward. Never before had he moved with such speed and power. It was as if the universe itself was giving him strength in order to preserve its balance of life against the feeding tentacle monster that was trying to flee.

Up ahead he saw a familiar sight. It was the fallen log that he and Cortan had hid behind when they found their ships. Hope was not far away now.

“Duck,” a familiar monotone voice abruptly uttered.

Suddenly a dark shape shot out from some underbrush to his left and whished past him. The beige colored alien ducked and rolled. He just barely missed from being taken out by the mysterious thing from the shadows. He grabbed a large stick as he regained his footing. A familiar throbbing noise filled his ears. He knew what the shadow beast was before he even turned around to face it. One of the Dogora cells had stayed behind near the ships.

“That was close,” the AI voiced again. Gurake glanced out of the corner of his eye to see the familiar pinstriped orb; except this one was far smaller than the one that he and Cortan had run into.

“Where the hell did you come from?”

“My body is composed of silicon that I can form into nearly any shape. I simply removed a piece and had it follow you to your ship. Even in this miniature form, I still have access to all of the memory files of my databank.”

“Why did you come?” Gurake made sure not to remove his gaze from the slimy predator that was hanging back at only a few yards away.

“The Creators’ final act in this world will not be a mistake that will result in the loss of all life,” the machine lamented. “The fears of their own demise led them down a path that I know they did not want. I intend to correct that.”

There was a prideful and boastful tone to the AI that the Natarl had to admit he admired. It would seem that in the face of death, a person’s true character had a way of revealing itself. Cortan was not the mindless military lapdog that sought death, and this AI was not the remorseless machine that would be expected of any other primitive self-operative neural network. The tan insect was not about to close the book on himself either. He was going to use the last vestige of his people’s legacy, his ship, and try to fight against a nearly unstoppable monster. The long nights of dark nightmares, of hate and fear over his actions and feelings, from Monster X’s genocide were starting to subside. Those black tidal waves would no longer haunt and break him down. He was done being afraid.

“I don’t have time for you,” he growled as he swung his club as menacingly as he could at the cellular fiend. The luminous green blob had no fear, however. It merely just hovered in front of the Natarl; occasionally side stepping his attempts at trying to swat it away. Gurake doubted the thing even had a concept of thought or sentience. It was just a single-celled protozoan that lived to eat and divide, that is all. Thankfully, it looked like it was just the one Dogora cell though. He glanced over his shoulder to see that his ship was still intact. It didn’t bare any burn marks like the Garoga ship did when the cells were trying to feed on it.

Gurake’s hands were a tremulous mess, like he was looking down the barrel of a shotgun. If it had been an animal or another being, he could at least tell what it was thinking by their facial expressions. He would have an idea of when it was going to attack. But the cell was different. There was no countenance to decipher. There was no body language to infer intent. It was like a floating rock. It was still as a casted shadow, but deadly as any apex predator. The scientist was going to have only one shot to make it to his ship. There would be no second chances. It was a standoff that waited for the first move.

Here goes nothing…

Gurake spun on his heels and booked it towards the ships. The glowing cell was in hot pursuit. The insect could hear the monster’s beating heart growing louder and faster with each footstep that he was making.

Just as the proto-lifeform was about to make a final plunge, the alien Natarl zagged to his left. The Dogora cell shot past the scientist like a cannonball, colliding with a nearby bush. It was a calculated move on Gurake’s part. Through his few observations of the mutated creatures he noticed that they liked to commit and pounce at their target when close. The insect academic intended to use that to his advantage.

Gurake broke out into a run once again, making sure to keep his serpentine plan in full swing. The Dogora cell lunged again and missed. Pulling itself up from the moss covered dirt, the creature continued with its pursuit. It was like the world’s deadliest game of tag.

Gurake clenched his jaw and slung around with his club in hand when he felt that the cell was within range. The oaken staff caused a splattering noise when it struck. The monster was sent careening away about a dozen yards like a grotesque baseball. Unfortunately, the dented mass filled back out and removed any signs of damage that the flesh-eating vermin had received. The light from the inner core of Dogora flashed intensely. It was an obvious ictus sign of stress and distaste.

Hope was dashed and the Natarl was now out of breath and strength. His efforts were going to be in vain. There was no escaping this cell monster, which was now rightly pissed off.

Suddenly, the striped AI placed itself in front of the Natarl. The orb was glowing with a luminescent light blue color. The air was charged with particles that were prickling at Gurake’s flesh. Seconds ticked by and the galvanized energy kept building. The detractor cell fidgeted uncomfortably. The tingling sensation was causing distorting and mild pain. The electric forces were disrupting its membranes and causing slight conformation of its mutated biomolecular structure. If the Dogora creature was not so starved and wracked with famishment, it would have left the unknown prey alone. But the need for food outweighed any sort of safety to its simple mind.

The monad beast hurled itself at its prey. The AI replied in kind by unleashing a circular blast of electrical energy from its form. The white and blue voltaic charge slammed into the charging cell, causing it to stop dead in its tracks. Crippling electricity danced around the monster’s body. Smoke and the odor of scorched flesh permeated the air as the passage of the powerful current continued to hold the hungry cacodemon entity at bay by thermal processes.

“You could do that the whole time?” Gurake exclaimed in near exhaustion from his running.

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you do that before?”

“You didn’t ask.”

Gurake heaved out a sigh of both frustration and annoyance. His legs were weak and his heart felt like it was going to leap out of his chest. All he wanted to do was fall down and rest for a little while. He couldn’t do that though. Rest would result in the mature Dogora cell escaping and would lead to the potential death of the entire universe. He had to push on.

The scientist took a few deep breaths and recomposed himself. Then he jogged to his ship and entered. His face contorted in a mixture of disgust and dolor. He had forgotten how messed up his ship got when Cortan’s ship had sneak attacked him. There were electrical burns on panels and wires strewn about the floor.

“Can you help me get her running?” he asked the hovering orb.

“I have only limited knowledge of Natarl technology.” The machine took a pause before answering further. In its mass of silicon based nanobots, it was running an a few hundred thousand simulations of probable solutions to their predicament. “I think I can.”

Gurake was actually a little shocked. ‘Thinking’ was not a definite yes or no. A machine should never really have to ponder the outcome of its abilities. It should always be an answer of success or failure. The cyclopean brains that created the AI had truly created something that was like no other. In their delusional path for immortality; one that was paved with pain and death of who knew how many creatures; they had inadvertently created a lasting legacy that would stand the test of time. They were just too greedy and caught up in their own permanence that they failed to see what was in front of them.

This AI was like a child that idolized its parent. But those parents were taken away and now that child was left alone in the world. In the wrong hands, this AI could be a deadly weapon. It could be corrupted and twisted to have the same moral fibers as its creators. If it was taught and nurtured, then there would be no telling how far it could go. The betterment of good, or the decay of evil. There was a road there that was going to have to be faced one day.

But not today. Today there were other things that had to be done.

“If you think you can, that is good enough for me,” he feigned a smile. “Let’s get started.”

On a nearby moon, a colossal creature stirred from sleep. A pair of red lids opened, showing off a dyad of emerald green eyes. Wisps of stale odor from his past meal of decayed flesh seeped between a gate of needle-like teeth. Beside the giant lay the half-eaten remains of a MoonCalf. They were a particularly tasteless giant caterpillar that was roughly about the same size as the bat kaiju. But when you have had so much time pass between your meals, beggars couldn’t be choosers. The winged monster could not be finicky about it. He was just thankful that these olive green, grub-like giants were like infective lice and could be found on at least two or three moons that revolved around most planets. A nosh of last resort, to say the least.

Suddenly, Bagorah’s massive ears directed his sensitive receivers forward. They were picking up on a low pitched droning noise that sent his salivary glands to start dripping with hungering lust. Judging from the strength of the clangor, his potential prey must be sizable in girth. It was strange though. If he wasn’t mistaken, the sound was coming from a planet that he had originally investigated only a day before. He didn’t find anything worthy of a meal there before. Even if it was hiding, he should have been able to ascertain its location.

Yes, it was very strange indeed. Regardless though, the rumble in its belly told the crimson bat that he needed better sustenance. It was clamoring for it. Questions be damned then. Bagorah needed to be sated.

Standing to his nearly one-hundred meter height, the great beast spread its black wings wide and took off. He flapped his wings a handful of times before he was able to pick up on a solar wind current that he would use to carry him to his target with earnest speed. The cosmic forces would allow him to expend little to no energy in his pursuit of sustenance. It was a must-use skill for his kind to master if they were to travel vast distances between planets that lay within their territory. Sometimes food would be scarce, and the difference between life and death would boil down to the proficiency of hunting tactics of the hunter. Considering Bagorah’s age, he was consummate with his skills.

An hour passed before the winged beast found himself amongst the familiar broken asteroids that floated around the planet that he thought was previously devoid of life. In the distance, his marble black eyes could see an ethereal green entity flying away from the planet’s gravitational pull. It was enormous, even when compared to him. But the unknown animal looked very frail. Its tentacles, which were hundreds of meters long, danced and floated like leaves in the wind. They looked fragile and dainty. Hardly something to be of any worry to him.

Still though, caution against an unknown prey should be exercised. If there was one thing that Bagorah had learned in his long life, was that looks could be deceiving. Several times he had run aground against prey that had fooled him with their tenacity or power. Many years ago, there was a small band of diminutive bipedal, green creatures that wielded technology and weapons that were trying to hunt him. They were only but a fourth of his size, but they were dangerous. Luckily for him, he was better than those would be hunters. The hunter was not made to be the hunted on that day.

A peristaltic sound rumbled through the bat’s belly, snapping his thoughts back to the floating jellyfish prey at hand. Its meat didn’t look filling, but anything had to be better than a Mooncalf’s flesh. A small huff of resolve snorted through his misshapen nostrils. He was ready for the hunt and kill.

Arching his wings back, the red demon pulled out to make a wide arc around his foe. He used the floating space rocks to conceal his presence. Bagorah didn’t see any eyes on the creature, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t tell where things were. The celestial chiropteran used his ears more than his eyes after all. Bagorah never took his vigil off the verdant jellyfish as he circled around it. He would strike from the animal’s blind spot and end it quickly.

The massive space cell had no such thoughts passing through its mind; unlike the predator that was actively hunting it. The mature Dogora was a simple lifeform. At least, it was at one point in its life. Memories, like how sentient beings might have about self-reflection moments in their lives, were not things the simple monad creature was capable of. Its memory was attached to basic feelings of whatever distresses or damages its stimuli receptors or nuclear receptors received. Both of these sensor organs had experienced great pain and alteration to the DNA regulating the expression of adjacent genes. Now, the once simple organism was changed. Its body was gigantic and the expressions of certain genes were out of control. The once facile processes of homeostasis and metabolism of the organism were now cranked up to almost uncontrollable levels. Dogora felt a constant hunger. It didn’t matter how much it devoured, it still longed for more. Its body would absorb the material it ate and use that to continue with the monstrous growth of the monster. That would in turn cause it to hunger even more. It was a vicious and perpetual cycle that would never end.

Although, Dogora felt that an end was coming soon. The cell’s walls were trembling within his form. The nucleus was shuddering with anticipation. The monster was nearly ready to divide. Mitosis was on the horizon. But first, the cell needed to find a new feeding ground, one that could support the hundreds of smaller and hungry Dogora cells that its body would break down into. Perhaps the unyielding hunger would leave at that moment as well. It was a thought the cell was incapable of.

As the mountainous, jade colored monster continued to drift away, its senses began to pick up on something. Three little tentacle antennae on his crown twitched with eagerness. The nubs on the end were glowing with a dull golden light. These were part of Dogora’s sensory system. The external receptor cells were picking up on a sizeable amount of carbon near it. The cellular lifeform’s sensory perception couldn’t tell what it was exactly. All it could tell the monster was that the carbon was not as pure as the coal and diamonds that it had fed upon in the caldera of the volcano on the planet. Nevertheless, no amount of sustenance was to be overlooked. The pabulum that was near would be its for absorption.

Before Dogora could react though, the hunter leapt in for an attack. From out of the shadows the crimson gargoyle swooped in and slashed at one of the extended tentacles with his wings. Combining both his size and speed in a dazzling show of force, Bagorah had made his black, leathery appendage take on the attributes of a razor-sharp sword. The lithe feeler was severed from the jellyfish like a hot knife through butter. Pain registered though the alien’s nerves. Its body contorted and twitched in pain. It wanted to lash out at its attacker, but as soon as the winged creature had struck, he vanished. Bagorah had returned back to the cover of darkness and floating rocks of the makeshift battlefield.

Before Dogora could move in retaliation, the demon struck once more. Like earlier, the flying kaiju sprang from the void like a living shadow. Bagorah lashed out with the edge of his wings and severed another tentacle. This time however, when the monster passed the multicellular beast, the bat lashed out with his tail when he passed by. The spade-shaped bone on the tip of Bagorah’s reptilian limb slashed open a ghastly wound in the cell’s central mass. Then as before, as soon as Bagorah had attacked, he was gone in an eye blink.

Pain receptors flared again. Dogora could feel its body being chopped to pieces by the relentless hunter from the penumbra around it. Unlike most living things though, the pain was only temporary. The fleeting emotion left its memory when the cell mass that composed its body began to fill in the gaping wound to the center framework. The green flesh pressed together and sealed the injury. In seconds, it was done with such efficiency that an outsider wouldn’t even be able to tell that a wound had ever existed.

Bagorah’s brows knitted and his face was a mask of a clinched snarl. His prey was far different than anything he had ever encountered. No blood flowed from the severed limbs that he had amputated. No organs or flesh hung from the deep laceration that his bladed tail had inflicted. To be honest, there was no gore at all to speak of. The nub arms were not flailing around in pain and suffering. They were acting like nothing had been done to them at all. Add all that with the fact that the creature’s body was able to heal itself and bear no sign of damage from the fanged beast’s previous assault too.

It was very strange indeed.

What happened next, though, would shock Bagorah to the bone. The pitch black eyes of the bat widened in disbelief as the green monster longingly reached out for its severed tentacles. Dogora’s remaining arms wrapped themselves around the amputated tentacles and pulled them towards his mass. While they were being pulled closer, the limbs began to show signs of life of their own. The gelatinous mass pulsed and moved. The green surface of the limbs began to melt and merge with the space monster’s body. The bat looked on with wariness as the protoplasm matter rolled through the jellyfish’s connected limbs and made its way to the severed nubs. The pseudopods began to take shape and regrow. Meter by meter, the long and lanky limbs took on their forms again. In moments, Dogora was whole. The celestial beast was just as he was before.

Bagorah let a surge of malice rumble through his powerful vocal cords. He had never seen a prey like this before, and it vexed him. His fat tongue licked his lips while trying to stave off the feeling of thirst and hunger that piqued his gut. Others of his kind, much younger ones, would often give in to that carnal, base desire of avarice. It was like madness to a young one. Many of the brood would succumb to it. Those of them that could keep their minds sharp and bodies strong; they were bound to be the last ones standing in the nest. Those that survived would fan out their wings and leave the roost to seek out their future and purpose.

Bagorah was one of those few that had survived the rapacious mania of his nest. He had left and found fortune and food among the stars. But as the years went by, he began to see far fewer of his fellow winged brethren. In fact, it had been nearly a century since the last time he found a member of his kind. He didn’t know why that was. Perhaps they found new feeding grounds far away from the galaxy he hunted within. Or perhaps they were hunted down and killed by those bipedal green hunters and their tasteless metal weapons.

Regardless, solitude had sharpened his skills as both a hunter and survivalist. Sheer razor logic and mechanical instincts are what drove the monstrous bat to act. It wasn’t hunger. Honing his mind to not act on wanton urges had kept him alive and well fed throughout his long life. Bagorah was not about to abandon that principle in the face of such a bizarre and alien foe. The red demon’s unfettered might had struck fear in the hearts of beasts both great and small. This oozing jellyfish would be no different.

Bagorah hissed deeply and set his grizzled plan into action. He flapped his black wings a few times to gain speed. Once he had sufficient velocity, he set his flight path on a direct course with a slow moving asteroid. The monster slammed his weight into the rock feet first. The combined speed and weight of the titan was able to move the gigantic boulder from its previously undisturbed orbit. The rocky sphere was sent on a direct intercepting path with the sluggish jellyfish. With no eyes, Dogora was unable to see the incoming threat. It could only tell that it was ‘nearby.’

The grey stone slammed into the sage colored aspic beast. The soft, jelly-like flesh cushioned the asteroid’s impact so as it did not break upon hitting the kaiju. But the propulsion from the rock, which was moved by Bagorah, was more than enough to start pushing the space cell through the black void. Dogora wrapped its long arms around the rock and attempted to halt its momentum, but it was far too large for even its impressive stature to stop quickly.

Quickly, Bagorah rocketed himself into another asteroid just like before. This one, though, was behind the struggling Dogora. The blood red bat slammed his unfettered might into the rock and sent it on a direct path with the giant cell and the space rock it was still holding.

This prey, whatever it was, may be larger than Bagorah and have the ability to heal its wounds, but it was slow and lacked brawn. Those were two qualities that the Korghan Beast excelled at. No doubt a war of attrition would result in Bagorah’s defeat. The long limbed space monster had that covered. So, if the monstrous bat could not outlast his prey, then he would simply have to use sheer intelligence and unparalleled might to beat his gooey foe to death.

Dogora was still struggling to stop the first asteroid, when the second one smashed into it from behind. The cellular walls of the beast’s membrane flatted and split from the nearly three hundred-thousand tons of ancient space rock. Dogora’s body was flattened and lacerations had opened up all along its body. The wounds were so deep and near the nuclei of the monster that they began to weep small rivulets of precious intracellular fluid. The nearly transparent cytoplasm was the lifeblood of the cell. It allowed it to contract and move its limbs like a piston. Hydrostatic pressure was the key to its ability to live.

For a moment, Dogora experienced something it had never before felt. It was fleeting, but it passed. The creature was incapable of understanding what it was because it had no idea of sentience for itself. Other life forms however, would know full and well what the space monster had only momentarily felt.

Fear.

Bagorah would be grinning if only his facial muscles would allow for it. He didn’t have time to savor his prey’s agony though. Even as he sat hovering away at a distance, he could see the cell’s wounds began to heal. Its flesh was beginning to fill out from its pancaked state, and the prized cytostome fluid that was trickling out of the cell’s wounds was beginning to retreat and become reabsorbed by the blob-like flesh of the boneless adversary.

The giant bat flapped his wings and sent himself careening into the dazed Dogora. He continued to flap his wings in flight in order to build up a prodigious head of steam. The scarlet fiend pulled his legs beneath him and splayed out his clawed feet. In seconds he was on top of his foe. His massive talons tore into the soft flesh of the cell and secured a vice-like hold. The cannonball dive of Bagorah sent the latched duo hurtling through the black void. The mossy green squid monster was dazed and helpless in the grip of the devilish Desmodus creature.

A soundless screech leapt from Bagorah’s throat as he slammed his opponent into a massive asteroid that was easily several miles in girth. Dust and particles kicked up and floated away into space, but the rock held firm in its orbit.

Beady and soulless black eyes peered down at the mindless jellyfish that writhed around. Bagorah did not have time to savor the end of his hunt. He had to put an end to this fight now; before the jellyfish had time to regenerate. Opening his toothy maw, the flying kaiju ripped and tore at Dogora’s body like a famished piranha. The cell’s flesh was cold and foul. It repulsed Bagorah. The monster had been forced to eat rancid carrion before in order to stay alive, but this animal’s tissue was even more malodorous than that.

Fine then, if he wasn’t going to eat the jellyfish, then he was sure going to kill it. The desire of the predator to conquer his prey would now be his driving force. Bagorah would rend this repugnant beast apart piece by piece. The crimson bat’s wings flapped wildly, striking Dogora repeatedly with abhorrent clubbing blows. As he did that, Bagorah was using his clawed feet and toothed maw to rip and tear into the tainted meat of the space cell. With each strike, Dogora was knocked back. With each gnawing bite, another piece of the matured cell was ripped away. Bagorah would maul the giant alien to death and leave its body to rot upon the rocky gray asteroid.

Dogora had other plans, however. The unidentified fleeting feeling of fear had returned to the monster. But natural born instincts of preservation and consumption had overridden that speck of fear. The interstellar cell’s arms sprang to life like a kraken from the cold black depths. They reached up to the black skies. Like the clawing hands of drowning giants, the tentacles lashed out against the stomping Korghan Beast. The three fingered limbs scraped against the chest and face of the bat with burning might. The same alien energy that the smaller Dogora cells had demonstrated against the fallen Garoga soldier Tokar was still present in the fully matured form. By using the solar and cosmic rays that the monster had absorbed from its ventures in outer space, the cell was able to alter parts of its molecular structure in order to break down and absorb carbon material through touch.

The result of Dogora’s genetic might to Bagorah however, was a touch that felt like the burning standards of hell itself.

The massive bat screamed out in pain. The sound was deafened in the airless void of space; but the twisted shock that formed into a grimace on his face was more than enough to convey the kaiju’s true feelings. Bright, glowing red welts covered Bagorah’s chest and legs. The wounds burned with a heat that would not go away. He had underestimated his opponent. A close quarters brawl was not the way to battle this monstrous alien.

The demon barked at Dogora and released his grip. He spread his wings and took back to the skies in order to create some distance between the two once more. Bagorah, however, didn’t make it very far. He was only a few hundred feet away when he suddenly felt two of the sinewy tentacles slither around his clawed feet. Before he could do anything in response, Dogora used all of its might and brawn to pull the winged kaiju back down.

A brief cry of pain barely escaped Bagorah’s lips before he was whipped out of the sky and thrown down into the asteroid’s surface. The rocky veneer exploded from the force. The slab had cracked and gave way, making a small crater in the terrain. Inside the shallow bowl was a broken predator. Bagorah’s body ached as much as his shattered ego. This green monstrosity was stronger than he thought as well. His deprecating thoughts of his own supremacy over this space squid were going to get him killed. He had trivialized his prey too much.

But, before he could lament any more on his own misgivings of judgment, Dogora furthered its assault. The dreadnaught cell pounced on top of the would-be predator and ensnared the creature in its burning embrace. Its five main tentacles had enmeshed themselves around Bagorah’s body and legs, while its two smaller head tentacles wrapped themselves around the demon’s neck.

Bagorah’s jaws gaped widely and his chest was bursting with constricting muscles. The flying kaiju was screaming in agony at the top of his lungs. Normally, that would be a death sentence to any nearby creature or prey. The Korghan Killer’s greatest weapon was his voice. He could create soundwaves that could devastate whole cites. He could make sound blasts that blew away small mountains. All who heard his wail would fall before him. It would be the last thing they ever heard in their miserable lives. However, in the vacuum of space, his soundwaves had nothing to travel through. There was no air for his attack to use. Bagorah was crying out in unbridled suffering, and yet with his silent, cavernous mouth, he looked more like a puppet that was being made to move and dance at Dogora’s whim.

Dogora pressed forward with its alien power. Its tentacles were alive with smoldering prowess. The bat’s hide was thick and tough. After all, he was able to survive in the harsh environment of space. But Bagorah was merely a pawn of the universe. A speck that moved about its vastness. Dogora was something more, a part of the cosmos, that used its power and wielded it for its own gluttonous desires.

Black smoke began to curl and sneak its way from under the coiling tentacles. The winged monster’s flesh was beginning to burn and melt. Soon, the jellyfish would get through the hide and begin to absorb the ambrosia of muscle and blood beneath. Bagorah was continuing to trash about and silently mouth his torment. He beat his wings about Dogora’s body; trying desperately to knock the alien away. But the attempts were in vain. Every ounce of struggle and protest only made the squid tighten its grip. Bagorah’s throat was stripped and raw. The taste of iron laced blood was souring his tongue. A haze of gray clouds was beginning to creep over his vision. The fog of war was coming. The finality of death’s door was opened and ushering him in…

 

Chapter 4: The Turning Tide

Suddenly, a thin blue and white beam of energy stabbed out of the black nothingness and blasted away two of the three sensory antennas from Dogora’s crown. The green titan’s system was sent into shock. Numbness dulled its limbs and an intense burning dolor gripped its nuclei.

Bagorah wasted absolutely no time in taking advantage of the monster’s slackened grip. The red giant lashed out with gnashing teeth and clawed thumbs on his black wings. The lithe, gelatinous arms were sliced clean through and freed the great crimson beast once again. Bagorah kicked with his powerful legs and sent the pain riddled Dogora flying away. Rolling onto his belly, the kaiju heaved and regained his breath before he took off into the air with a few powerful flaps of its patagium limbs.

As Bagorah was flying away to gain some distance, his watchful eyes spied a very familiar sight. Streaking through the raven-hued battlefield was a tiny metal figure. It was flat and had a faint yellow color to it. It was the same tiny thing that he had chased here to begin with only a day and a half ago. And that little thing, which he had previously seen as food, had just saved him from a certain death.

“You were right on shooting those cranial pseudopods,” Gurake yelled out as he pulled his aircraft to port while increasing his speed. He didn’t want to be anywhere near the bat when it got free from the space cell. It was just an animal after all. He had doubts that it would be able to understand the concept that he had just saved its life.

“It won’t last long though,” the monotone voice of the AI orb read out.

The machine was correct. Even as the Natarl aircraft was beginning to bank around, the carbon sensing extremities of Dogora were already reforming and healing. The torn limbs that were cut down by the mammoth flying kaiju were already starting to wiggle their way back to rejoin the central mass of the celestial organism.

Gurake could only look on in awe and despair. The carbon eating monster truly did seem immortal. How in the world was he going to lure that thing back down to the planet so that they could use the insect venom on it?

Suddenly, a red klaxon alarm went off for a brief moment before it shorted out in a shower of sparks.

“What the hell was that!?” he exclaimed.

“That would be the plasma rod that powered the energy ray,” the AI replied. The machine had created several cords from part of its silicon matrix structure in order to connect him to the ship’s systems. It was the only way to get the vessel to fly. The alien intelligence had to do split second work arounds and computations in order to make the aircraft even handle correctly in its janky flight.

Hearing about the loss of the ship’s only weapon was beyond discouraging to the insectoid alien. Gurake wanted to slump down in his seat in defeat, but he knew he couldn’t. There was no time for that. Dogora must not be allowed to divide or leave the planet’s orbit. If he did, then the entire universe would be transformed into nothing more than a lifeless husk.

“Any ideas?” Gurake asked.

“We have no weapons and the metal that composes this ship does not have a sufficient amount of carbon that would attract specimen D64. The only thing that has the cell’s attention is the Bagorah animal.”

“That is not going to really solve anything if the monster turns tail and runs off.” Gurake was grumbling to himself and wracking his brain with some sort of solution to their problem. Bagorah was indeed the only thing that could get the gigantic cell back on the planet. The problem was that only a day ago, Bagorah was trying to eat him and his ship. Maybe the bat would chase him down again?

The Natarl yanked on the flight stick and brought his ship in closer to the hovering blood-red brute.

“I would advise not getting that close,” the AI exclaimed with a hint of fear in its automated voice. The crack of fright in the AI actually made Gurake smile a bit out of sheer nervousness. It seemed that even a machine felt fear when in the presence of the fabled Korghan Beast. He was only glad that he was not the only one on the ship afraid of the monster.

Bagorah craned his head to the left and gave a small tilt in curiosity. The docile act took Gurake back. The last time he was this close to the monster’s face was when it was trying to devour him. He remembered the drool laced teeth and flaring black eyes that smoldered like coals in a fire pit.

None of that was present at the moment.

Bagorah’s own blood stained his fangs. His eyes were sunken and soft. They did not bare the fires of veracity and death. They were the eyes of a creature that had realized he had a brush with death and survived only by sheer luck. Perhaps Bagorah was more than just a mindless eating machine that he had been told of by passing travelers to his homeworld.

“He doesn’t look like he is going to chase us.” The AI was a bit relieved.

“No, he’s not.” Gurake sighed a bit. “But there is a device on this ship that might get him to listen to us. Can you check if the Luxibon system is still operational?”

There was silence for a few moments as the AI searched the number of damaged systems within the spaceship. “Yes.”

”Ok then”, Gurake mused to himself. Here goes nothing.

The alien eased the yoke forward and cautiously neared himself closer to the winged beast’s face. He didn’t want to charge forward and startle Bagorah, causing him to attack. But Gurake had to be very close in order to use the Luxibon system.

“Why are we getting closer? That seems to be a very ill advised idea.”

Gurake pushed the AI’s voice from out of his mind. He had to concentrate on getting at least within a few hundred meters if his plan was going to work. The Luxibon device was once the peak of Natarl technology. It allowed a Natarl to connect his thoughts with that of another individual through an implant that would be teleported into said individual’s brain. In the wrong hands, it could be used as a form of domination and control the subject’s brain. When the Natarl race was not as peaceful and more violent, the device was used for just that. It would control the mind of important members of other alien races that held high ranks within that society’s political system or military arms.

Gurake sighed in disappointment. Even though he preached about the great benevolence and scientific aptitude of his race to the Garoga military captain only hours before, he knew deep down inside that there were dark roots to his people’s earlier years. They were not as bad as the Xiliens or Garoga. But any sort of death and control over another being’s mind had no place in a modern world. Over time, his people had seen the error of their ways and became more learned to become more self-contained and benign. They kept to their own world and became peaceful scientists.

The Luxibon was a leftover artifact that had been built into all of their ships, both great and small, although a modern day Natarl had no use for the technology. It was viewed as just a leftover byproduct of their once violent constitutions. Gurake did not let the technology die off. He had tinkered with it and experimented with the device ever since he was a child. On smaller animals he could control them like a puppeteer. However, on larger creatures, the device drove them to anger and caused them to lash out in aggressive displays of outrage. He had worked on it a little bit since then, but his studies had taken up much of his time. He just prayed he had gotten all the kinks worked out of it. Bagorah was by far, far larger than anything he had previously attempted.

His clawed hand hovered over the switch to activate the machine. Fear had a fettered chain about his wrist. If he did this and it didn’t work, Bagorah would surely devour him. But if he didn’t try, then Dogora would eventually do that same thing down the line. It seemed that either choice would result in him ending up in the belly of a space kaiju.

To hell with it….

Gurake flipped the switch. The undersides of the Natarl craft came to life and began to shine a beam of dancing lights upon the face and eyes of the still perplexed Bagorah. Swirling rivers of greens, blues, and reds danced and moved with unpredictable performance. They would fade in and out; growing from intense lights and then to vivid glows. On and on they swayed with their brilliant existence. Their lives were caught and trapped within Bagorah’s pitch black eyes. The orbs were alive with color.

With the light there also came a faint energy and sound. The power tingled with a warm mother’s touch to Bagorah’s ravaged hide. It was comforting and smooth. He had not actually ever felt warmth such as that in all his years while he prowled the voids of space. Despite there being little to no air around them, the bat’s sensitive ears were able to pick up on the dull hum coming from the tiny metal figure in front of him. It was not all unpleasant; much like the light and warmth of a fading sun.

Unbeknownst to the kaiju, a small metal transmitter was being teleported from the Natarl aircraft and being placed into the creatures frontal lobe. The receiver’s molecular structure was broken down to an energy pattern and transported through the light beam, then reconverted to its original matter form. As soon as the process was completed, Gurake started up the radio transmitter signals. This would allow him to connect his thoughts with the red kaiju.

As the light died off, the images in his mind then began to take form. There was a small, bleak voice that was coupled with the pictures. Bagorah had no idea what the faint language was saying to him. The creature was incapable of understanding language. The tone of the words struck him, however. Its pitch was soft and comforting. It reminded him of the cooing chatter of the last one of his kind that he was able to find. She had happened so very long ago though.

“You have got to get the cell monster back on the planet,” Gurake was whispering from his mind, to the monster in front of his ship. He realized that his words were probably falling on deaf ears. It was a giant monster after all, he was not going to understand his language. He just hoped that the sound of his voice, coupled with the mental picture of the cyclops alien’s science building, was enough to get through to the winged beast. He had his clawed hand held tightly onto the swirling orb on his computer counter. It is what was allowing him to connect his mind to the red brute. He closed his eyes and pressed even deeper into Bagorah’s mind. He had to make the kaiju understand the severity of the plight that awaited them if they failed here and now.

Gurake showered the vampiric beast’s mind with more imagery. They were of dead worlds and of the smaller Dogora cells. He showed the ebon-winged hunter how the tiny blob-like creatures could reach their numbers in the hundreds of thousands, and how they devoured all life within their grasp in order to obtain the precious carbon that they longed for. No ounce of blood or bit of flesh would escape their ravenous natures. They did not consume to sate a basic need. They did it because that is all that they lived for. There was no pleasure or thought in their lives. Only the need for food was there.

Bagorah’s mind reared back. The sight of such gluttonous behavior without thought brought him back to his young broodling days. The only difference there was that even younglings of his species would be full after large enough meals. They would experience sights, sounds, and bonding. These things… these horrible little green things, they were eldritch beings that cared not for anything but what they could fit in their bellies. The bat was disgusted. He was also afraid. That was a first in his century’s long life.

“He wants to run,” Gurake whispered aloud as he felt the cold panic of the monsters thoughts. “It is the first time he has ever felt genuine fear.”

“Fear in the face of such an unstoppable enemy is not an unexpected emotional response,” the AI replied.

Gurkae pressed further. He continued to lace his thoughts with images and his calm whispering voice. Instead of focusing on the destruction of Dogora, he opted to show the prodigious vermeil creature a mental image of himself sitting within his spacecraft. He wanted to put a face to the person that had momentarily saved Bagorah from the clutches of the green jellyfish.

Bagorah sneered with malcontent. Images of death from the blobby squids were now disappearing though. What had replaced it was a small bipedal creature. It slightly reminded him of the sage colored giants that had hunted his kind to near death. But it was only in a vague likeness. This creature was tiny; no bigger than one of his fangs. It had a white head and tan plated armor about its arms and legs. The most telling difference was the eyes. They were different. They did not hold the same brutal stare of the green giants. They did not burn with a hunter’s determination. No, these were soft eyes. These were eyes that had thought and kindness behind them. There was no fear like the prey he hunted. There was no battle born hatred like the foes he had fought and won against. There was only comity.

Bagorah’s entire existence had been one of survival. Moving from one kill to the next. There was no mate waiting for him. The hunters had seen to that. There was no purpose anymore. It was just lonely continuance and that was all. The monster wanted more though. Time had worn on his soul and gave him pause for thought. Here was something different now. This was the chance for a different existence. If he died in battle, then so be it. Bagorah actually had longed for death in his moments of solitude, and when he was being hunted down by the green giants and their weapons. But something always pricked at the back of his mind. It was a gnawing feeling for him to keep going on. To hope that maybe one day he would find another of his kind and experience happiness.

That wouldn’t happen if this tentacled demon was allowed to live. It would procreate and cover the universe in its wretched life-consuming spawn. And if there was another of his kind out there, then they would meet a most wretched end at their hands. Bagorah could not let that happen.

The winged leviathan screamed out in its mind and broke Gurake’s mental connection with it. Turning about, Bagorah growled at that newly reformed enemy. In order for him to win this battle, the bat was going to have to change the battlefield. The tiny white insect had instilled in his mind several images of a metal fortress on the planet. He remembered seeing it when he first scoured the world for food. If that is where the little being wanted him to go, then so be it.

Bagorah spread its black wings wide and took off for the planet. Dogora wasted no time and quickly followed suit.

“Get in touch with Cortan and your… other self.” That last part seemed very strange to Gurake. After all, the AI was in two places at once.

“The gas cannons have been made mobile. I will display the coordinates on the dashboard of where the monsters need to be.”

Gurake took a quick glance at his console. The designated battlefield was a few miles away from the alien fortress. He made a mental picture in his head and saved it for later when he needed to guide Bagorah. Then, he pressed the yoke forward and took off after the flying monsters.

The red titan swiveled his head around to make sure the immortal kaiju was still behind him. The slow moving behemoth was losing ground, so the bat had to let up on his speed. He didn’t want to gain so much ground and make the jellyfish lose interest in him and wander off. Bagorah intended to put an end to the cyclops alien’s little science experiment.

Within minutes, Bagorah found himself on the outer fringes of the small planetoid’s atmosphere. The light pull of gravity was pulling at his hairs and flesh. The planet wanted to seize anything that came near it with its gravitational embrace. The blood-red Chiroptera was ready to answer that call, but it would seem that his pursuer had other ideas. The entity known as D64 had come to a halt. Its massive head and body stood still like stone, while its empyrean arms floated about it like seaweed in an ocean’s current.

“Why the hell did it stop?!” Gurake exclaimed.

“Perhaps its receptors can detect faint traces of the lethal insect venom since it is now moved out into the open.”

“No, this couldn’t be happening,” thought the Natarl. They were so close in getting the monster back on the planet! If it wised up and left, then every living thing would be in peril.

Then, as if that idea was a metaphorical door closing on the fearful thought… the space cell did just that. Dogora’s inner core flashed a few times before it turned about and started to drift away into the black inkiness of outer space. It sensed the familiar stink of the yellow smog that the tentacle brain creatures would use on it before. Back when its world was but a test-tube. That was a world of pain that it did not want to return to. Out here in the dark void, there was more food for it to devour. An entire cosmos worth!

The fearful Gurake was about to try and connect his mind with Bagorah again in order to get him to stop the cell from leaving, but the monster was already ahead of him. The gargantuan red beast flapped his gigantic wings and went after the fleeing adversary. Extending his legs forward, Bagorah sank his nearly twenty foot long clawed feet into the soft flesh of Dogora’s body. The celestial creature lashed out and tried to swipe the bat away with its burning arms. The mammalian avian was not having it though. The crimson monster ignored the whip-like strikes and pulled the glaucous monad into the planet’s gravitational pull. Once they were there, the duo began their fiery plummet from the heavens.

Gurake looked on in awe as the two kaiju’s bodies broke through the edge of space and then began to take on a fiery golden glow. Their reentry was far too steep and starting to bathe the monsters in gaseous fires from the ether around them. The atmospheric drag had engulfed them, making the locked monsters resemble a giant fireball hurtling towards the ground.

Within the swirling heat, Dogora had changed tactics. The squid-like monster had wrapped its arms about the toothy red monster and pinned his wings to its body. Now there was no control in the duo’s descent. They were pretty much like tumbling boulders at the moment. Bagorah fought to break the space cell’s grip, but there were far too many arms wrapped about his winged limbs. Not to mention he was still suffering ill effects from their previous close quarters clash before.

Dogora pressed forward with its assault and channeled the chemical reaction of its alien power into its ensnaring arms. The thin appendages took on their familiar burning qualities and began to sear and melt into the flesh of the foolish animal that dared to attack it again. Skin was blackened and blood began to weep from the wounds. The meat and fluids contained enough carbon within their molecular structure to cause an almost euphoric wave of pleasure to cloud and dull the giant’s senses. Dogora’s prey would not survive the fall from heaven. The mutated cell would, though. It would not only prevail, but it would make sure to absorb every last scrap of meat and bone from its would-be foe.

Familiar pain began to sweep through the Korghan Beast’s mind. He was paying the price on closing the distance again in order to drag the jellyfish down to the planet. This time was different though. Dogora was a simple creature and probably didn’t realize that a change in avenues had given the demon bat back an ability that he was robbed of from their battle in space. Bagorah fenced his teeth and sucked in great gouts of beautiful fresh air. The atmosphere filled his massive lungs and reinvigorated his bruised heart and chest. The flying kaiju gave a slight sneer of both disgust and pleasure before unleashing his birthright ability.

The air shattered around the embracing monsters. The fire fed gasses that licked their bodies were knocked away as a wave of unbridled soundwaves poured from out of the fang ridden mouth of Bagorah. The space jellyfish’s body and arms shook uncontrollably. Its skin quivered like jelly in an earthquake. The monster’s flesh was engineered to withstand the heat of a volcano and the coldness of space. But sound of this strength was something that it was not created to withstand. Power such as this was almost unconceivable.

Bagorah belted out another blast of supersonic might. This time however, he chose to focus the cry. A conical wave of nearly invisible warped air marked the weapon’s visual existence. The scream was a tightly focused blast that he was aiming directly at the green octopus-like monster’s limbs. The pulsating waves tore through the fibrous membranes like tissue paper.

Bagorah, now free, spread his wings out wide to slow his descent. Dogora meanwhile, was still hurtling downward like a cannonball. The red kaiju used his jaws to pull the remaining tentacles away that were still attached to his body. He spat them out in disgust and watched with a slight grin as the cosmic single-celled foe smashed into the ground, kicking up a huge wall of dirt and rock in its wake. Bagorah clicked his teeth in utter mirth as he landed on a nearby rocky mound that was close to the cratered Dogora.

The space cell was shaken. The elastic cell walls that made up its flesh absorbed most of the impact from its fall from the dark empyrean that hung over the battling monsters now. Slowly, alien muscles and tissue puffed out and gave shape back to the monad. Dogora was whole once again. Well… it almost was. Two of its tentacles were mere nubs. They were torn away by the crimson monster’s shrill voice. The simple life form did not have the capacity for complex thought. It had no idea that the new battlefield that they were in had granted the winged monstrosity a new power. No. The only thought that was going through Dogora’s mind was the mechanical need to feed.

Slowly, the remaining tentacles of the cellular beast reached out of the hole and began to pull the massive gelatinous body out. Bagorah cocked his head slightly. He was taking notice of how sluggish his foe’s movements were. Its speed was even more laggard than before. He didn’t know if it was from the sudden change in gravity or the thing being hurt from its colossal fall. Bagorah did not care which was right. All he was focused on was taking full advantage of the situation. He was through with underestimating this vermin. He was bound to end this battle.

Meanwhile, Gurake’s spaceship came streaking out of the sky and swished past the embroiled kaiju. Bagorah took notice of the orange and silver ship, but made no attempt at an aggressive display. He could still hear the thoughts of the little white thing in the ship. They were less frantic and obtest than before. They were more focused and had an air of heartfelt feelings behind them. The little thing was telling him to move the green squid. Behind the squirming tentacle mass, about a handful of miles away, there was a line of small metal structures with conical funnels on them. The bat kaiju didn’t know what they were, but the little white thing in the ship seemed to think that they would help to end the seemingly immortal enemy that was before him.

Bagorah snorted. He had been alone for so long that the very concept of help seemed almost foreign to him. Between his struggle for food and being hunted down by the green giants, he had grown accustomed to being alone. He has seen loneliness take hold and lead to self-destruction with one’s own self-worth from other animals he had stumbled upon. Solitude to him, however, had given him a richness of his own strength and confidence. And with that power he had gained, he would use it to wipe away every last trace of this multi limbed thing.

The claret hued monster lifted his head to the skies and screeched aloud. It was time to use the element of air to his full benefit. The kaiju then soon began to beat his wings together. With each flap came a mighty gust of hurricane force winds. The black membrane wings continued to repetitively flap away. The rushing sound of air drowned out the beating, mutated heart of Dogora. The green entity felt the powerful winds as they pelted the alien monster with trees, rocks, and dirt. The cell tried to use its limbs to anchor itself to the land, but the windstorm that Bagorah’s leathery arms were able to create was too much. Dogora lost its grip and was sent sprawling across the battlefield like a pile of leaves that were carried about by a demonic cyclone. Bagorah bellowed out a cry of dominance. Now it was time to make his opponent feel every bit of pain that he did.

With his mastery of the air, the mammalian savage powered his wings with but a single mighty flap and sent his body hurtling after the now recovering squid. Dogora was trying to prop itself up when it felt the amplified force of Bagorah strike head on. The bat, which had gotten his speed up to Mach 3, slammed his full body into the groggy mutant. The result sent Dogora flying across the ground for another few miles. The cell tried to halt its momentum by clawing onto anything that was nearby. But that only resulted in further ruin to the kaiju. Several tentacles had been torn clean off when they tried to grab hold of the earth. The force of Bagorah’s hit was more than its lithe limbs could stand. Now the great Eater of Worlds only had one main tentacle left and the pair on the head. Dogora was literally being shredded to pieces by Bagorah’s adroitness use of the element of air.

“He’s doing it!” Gurake exclaimed with utter happiness.

“Yes, he is almost at the site. Only a few hundred meters left,” the AI calmly spoke.

Dogora was a maimed fragment of its former self. The ‘perfect’ organism was shattered and broken. Its cellular parts were hurriedly trying to repair the hundreds of lacerations and cuts that littered its war torn membrane. But the battle with the red demon had gone on for a long time now. Time meant energy; and that was something that Dogora felt that it was running low on. While it may have seemed immortal to others, it was like any other living creature. The mutation had its limits. Its power came from the breakdown of carbon molecules. The only way it was going to fully heal from this battle was to devour the creature that sat mockingly in front of the slimy entity.

Luckily for the tentacle beast, Bagorah was not the only hunter in the galaxy. Even during its previous life as a microscopic spore, Dogora had to hunt to feed itself. Sometimes that hunt was one of solitude. Other times… there was a group.

The great bat landed nearby the fallen sage titan; making sure to stay out of reach of its last lengthy tentacle. He paused to fully take in the pain and suffering of the foe at his feet. Never before had he fought such a creature, and never again did he hope to. Like all his battles, Bagorah would learn and move on. Tomorrow was just another day for him. But today would be the last for the wretched alien thing that had plagued him. Slowly he breathed in a great gout of air, filling his chest with the breath of life. The flying kaiju was going to end their battle with the song of death that only his species was able to vocalize.

Suddenly, a tiny voice shouted out and broke his train of thought. The small creature in the metal ship was screaming its intelligible language at him again. He had no idea what the insect was yelling out before it was too late.

A length of green flesh coiled itself around Bagorah’s throat and began to choke him. Then, another pair of thin green arms wrapped themselves around his chest and left arm. Once the burning touch began, Bagorah knew exactly what was attacking him. He just didn’t know how it was possible though.

Unbeknownst to the blood red giant, the dismembered arms of Dogora still had as much life in them as the main body of the space cell. While Bagorah was busy with his battle, he had not noticed that the tentacles still were alive. The torn appendages had taken flight after the duo and had actually waited to strike when the monster bat was the most preoccupied.

Bagorah could not scream out his frustration or even take to the air. The lengthy limbs had ensnared him like they did before on the asteroid in the earlier part of their fight. Baleful thoughts clouded his mind as his blood began to boil at his foolishness of not considering that the tentacles were still a threat. He had seen them still have life when they were ripped away before! Now his absent mindedness was going to get him killed.

The nucleus heart of the emerald killer was now throbbing away at a mile a minute. The fight was nearly over and now was the chance to feed and heal up. Even now, it could feel its flesh begin to shake and quiver a bit. Cellular fission was nearing now. But it couldn’t do so on this planet. There was not any food to feed its kind. They would be trapped there and left to starve. Dogora’s genetic programming would not allow an event like that to transpire. It had to eat and heal and get to another world that had enough life to support the hundreds of cells that would divide. They would feed and mature and then move on to another world and repeat the process. That is all Dogora knew and it is all it wanted. But it could only start with the ruination of this trapped adversary.

Weakly, Dogora picked itself up from the earth and slowly began to hover over to the trapped colossus. The bat could see the giant mass of pulsating flesh moving towards him, but he was unable to do anything but flap his one free arm around frantically. He tried to spread his left arm, but it was bound tightly by one of the tentacles. Oxygen was slowly being sapped out of him as the one around his neck coiled tighter with its searing assault. His world was once again turning dark. The gray clouds of haziness were creeping into his vision. Within a minute, the lights went out and the great hunter of the skies collapsed to the ground.

A puff of dark dirt was kicked up, obscuring the fallen titan from Gurake’s vision.

“We have got to do something,” he exclaimed.

“There is nothing we can do at present,” the AI replied back with an almost solemn intonation. “The beam cannon was only good for the one shot. The circuits overheated and burnt out. There is no other functioning weapon on the ship. My gas cannons are eighteen hundred and thirty seven meters away from Dogora at the present moment. I have already begun moving them closer, but their speed is only a maximum of five miles an hour. Bagorah would be completely assimilated before they arrive and D64 would have completely healed. The cannons would have little effect at that point. Dogora would run from gas laden venom and flee to another world. It is over. D64 was modified and designed to be the ultimate lifeform by my creators. It would seem their genius will indeed outlive the universe.”

Gurake turned and looked at the yellow cyclopean eye of the small stripped orb with a look of dumbfoundedness.

“Is death not the eventual point of all life?” The robot continued.

Even though the machine could act independently for itself, and had the intelligence and information of a thousand different worlds programmed into it, the AI still lacked the understanding of what it meant to be a mortal and fight on. The Creators programmed their egos and pride into their machinery. That made the aliens dependent on it by having the AI do all of their work and algorithms for them. They stood by and did what the AI told them and never developed their ability to think and improvise in the heat of the moment when things went sideways. That is what led to their deaths by their experiment from the cellular monstrosity they called Dogora.

Now that same line of thought was going to lead to the death of the AI and all life in the universe. The machine was programmed with the Creators’ train of thought. It was a string of thought that became laxed and malformed from their pronation of superiority, that they thought they knew all there was to know. The machine was meant to be an extension of their willpower and it ended up consuming that will and led to their mistake of genetically tampering with the space cell. Even though the AI understood what danger Dogora possessed, he still had a modest amount of reverence for the aliens that created him. Loss of hope led to acceptance, and if Gurake was a betting man, then he would make a wager that the intelligent AI was feeling just that. It was just another sign to him that the robot was indeed something greater than his inventors ever planned for.

“All life does die, I will give you that,” Gurake spoke. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t go out fighting. Your D64 is not the perfect lifeform. It is a mistake. Your creator’s mistake!” The Natarl’s voice was rising a bit in a prideful proclamation about mortality. “We don’t just lay out our lives for others to control like how your inventors did when they made you. We don’t stop thinking, we don’t stop fighting. The point of life is not to die. The point of life is to live!”

The amount of irony in the situation was not lost on Gurake. It was only hours before that he was ready to die when he wanted to walk out into the field of Dogora cells, when Cortan and him had first found the monsters. Death is all he wanted because of his survivor’s guilt. Contrary to then, now all he wanted to do was live and preserve as much life as he could.

The Natarl looked out of the front port to see the giant cell lower itself onto the unconscious Bagorah. The funnel-like mouth on the underside of the green giant slipped over the head and shoulders of the prone kaiju. Immediately it began to feed and absorb its hard fought meal. Gurake couldn’t waste a second. He placed his hand on the glowing orb on his console and concentrated as hard as his emotionally torn brain could muster. His mind cut through the void and reached out to the battlefield. Desperately he was searching for Bagorah’s mind, but all he could find was darkness. He could not detect the great animal at all.

Meanwhile, Dogora was continuing to feed. Its dismembered limbs had rejoined with the main body and made the demon whole once again. Now the beast resembled that of a green glowing octopus that had trapped its helpless prey in its vice-like grip. The cosmic energy of the space creature began to burn and worry though the extremely tough hide of the bat monster. The hair-like spikes on the back of his neck was being dissolved and absorbed. The tips of Bagorah’s delicate ears were beginning to cinder as well. The power of Dogora was wearing down the once great kaiju. The ravenous and ceaseless hunger was nearly over. The evolutionary desire that drove a predator to conquer its prey was now at its climax.

Gurake had his eyes pinched shut and his teeth gritting. His mind was screaming out into the ethereal void. He was calling out like a parent that had lost a child; or rather as a man that had lost his entire people. The same endless howl his mind was doing, was the same that he had done before with his own voice when his people were slaughtered before him by Monster X. He was as helpless then as he was now. He failed both Bagorah, as well as the rest of the universe. Gurake’s attempts were futile, and now he would have the weight of more death on his heart. There were lives that needed him to not fail.

Suddenly, a faint heartbeat plucked at his mind. It was soft and subtle. It was almost imperceivable. But Gurake heard it. He had felt it before. It was Bagorah!

The tan insect reached out once more and found the source of the heartbeat and began to scream and push his own will into the monster’s unconscious mind. “You have to get up now or you’re going to die!” He paused and waited for a reply.

None came…

Gurake pressed further. “I know you can’t understand a word I am saying, but you have got to understand, please! If you die then so does everyone else!” He waited again for a reply. And again none came.

Bagorah couldn’t be dead. He just couldn’t. Gurake had to think of another way to reach the dying monster. He was almost ready to give up when it suddenly hit him. It wasn’t words that reached the fanged creature before. It was only after he was silent and focused on his own feelings that he able to reach the giant space bat. That was the reason for why the device never worked on larger subjects. Their brains were simply too large and complex for his people’s thoughts. Every creature in the universe thought differently, their brains all operating on different wavelengths. But emotions didn’t. Those were the bases of all creatures’ actions. The limbic part of the mind is where he should be directing his focus to, not the neocortex. He needed to tap into Bagorah’s part of the mind that created behavior and emotions, and not the part that was responsible for abstract thought and language. He wasn’t trying to convince an enemy to turn on his own people, like how his people had used the device. He was trying to reach out to a creature with much simpler thoughts and cognition that was also too labyrinthine for his mind to understand. How could he be so stupid and not see that from years ago!

With his newfound understanding, Gurake reached out one more. This time he wasn’t screaming words at the top of his lungs. He wasn’t imploring for Bagorah to triumph over the evil that had him ensnared in order to save the galaxy. He was more focused on the faint beat of the monster’s heart and breath, which was weakening with each passing second. His mind leapt into the darkness, being pulled along by his faith in the kaiju’s ability to overcome his tentacled adversary. They both had a duty to themselves to not give up and a duty to all life to win and prevail. The Natarl slowed his thoughts so that they could match the predator’s heart. It took some time, but he managed to harmonize his mind with the massive weakened heart.

A stirring thought brushed across the psyche of Bagorah. The bat’s mind awoke and pierced through the veil of darkness that swarmed his thoughts. His physical body soon followed. His eyes opened and pushed the distracted bloom away. Instead of seeing the skies and land, he only saw dark shades of murk and greens. His face was burning; his skin was alive with pain. All around him was the overwhelming pulse of Dogora’s heart.

Thump… Thump…

The throbbing was encompassing. It didn’t take the scarlet invader but a second to piece together what was happening. He was being eaten. He was being shoved down that jellyfish monster’s funnel of a maw. Truly the predator had now become the prey. But Bagorah was not going to go quietly into the night. The eater from the stars was not some defenseless lamb that would lie down and accept his fate. This gelatinous nightmare was going to pay tenfold for the effrontery that he was put through.

The tentacle that had nearly strangled Bagorah had removed itself in order to begin shoving the rest of the bat down the giant cell’s gullet. It was a most fortuitous stroke of luck. A godsend if you would. The winged monster slowly filled his lungs to their upmost capacity that he could. Muscles popped and ribs cracked against the lengthy arms that still had wrapped themselves around his body, but he pushed past the pain and continued on. He was only going to get one shot at his attack and he had to put everything into it if he was going to survive.

As his chiseled diaphragm continued to contract and allow more power to swell up, Bagorah could feel that he was not alone. The little white thing, the creature within the metal shell was still in his mind. He was far less quiet and less demanding. Instead, he was joining his mind with his own. Bonding them together. It was an alien feeling to him. He hadn’t felt that sort of connection for the last few centuries. For a fleeting moment, he felt as if he wasn’t alone in the great black void of space.

Pushing away any attachment and feelings, Bagorah pressed forward with his final assault. The red beast’s jaws dropped open and emitted a long and piercing scream into the belly of Dogora. The sound was more powerful than he had ever emitted before in his life. The air around the celestial predator’s savoring maw was literally warping from his unsheathing strength. Distorted shockwaves slammed, one after another, into the bulbous green flesh of the jellyfish. The skin quivered and distorted. The sage gelatin mass was shaking around like it was caught in an earthquake. The sudden show of life in its prey had shocked the cosmic cell.

Bagorah continued to push on with his attack. The swells of voluminous sounds battered his meaty prison. He could see the muscles began to split. The hide was showing signs of weeping wounds. The space cell still held on though. It was not going to let go of its prey so easily. Dogora was bound to hold itself together. Its prey was going to have to tear it asunder before it would release its hold.

That was fine with Bagorah. He was more than happy to oblige with that.

The cosmic predator unleashed the rest of its breath in one last desperate attempt. The reverberations happening within Dogora finally began to turn the tables. The demon’s banshee voice broke through the flesh around Bagorah. The funnel-like mouth of the cell broke away like a catholic bell giving way to its final ring. The primal scream continued on like a bomb going off and burst through the body and limbs of Dogora. Flesh was rended and sent cascading away in all directions. The gooey meat made wet slapping sounds when it hit the ground.

High above in his ship, Gurake could only look on with both happiness and worry. The remains of Dogora were scattered around the battlefield in a gory mess. In the center of it all was a nearly collapsed Bagorah. The black winged kaiju was crouching on the sandy earth. He was desperately trying not to fall over and collapse. The monster was feeling light headed and woozy from his ordeal. It took nearly everything he had to just break the hold of the long limbed foe. He wanted to fall over and sleep, but he knew it was not over.

Even as he was recomposing himself, he could see the cold, tasteless flesh of the cell began to move. The malformed globules were twitching and showing signs of life. Some were so damaged they could not scurry about. Others were slowly crawling towards each other in a wild gambit to try and reform themselves back into the towering monstrosity that they once were. Bagorah was not about to allow that to happen.

The blood red creature sucked in a great gout of breath and exhaled once again. Rather than sending out his attack in an explosive wave of expanding sonic waves from his core, Bagorah chose to focus his weapon into a stream of focused blast waves. The column blast of sonic power smashed into one of the largest pieces of flesh that the monster had spied. The green meat quivered and split. The cell walls disintegrated, causing destability to take place. The sinew of the mass sloughed off and became a puddle of disgusting oil-like substances.

Bagorah wasted no time and pulled his head around into a large arc. The piercing tunnel of din washed over the shuddering body parts of D64 that laid about him. Each piece struck was broken down, leaving only splotches of goop in their place. Before long, Bagorah had reduced every piece of the verdant jellyfish monster into nothing more than emerald blood stains on the earth. There was no more movement from his foe that the black orbs of the Korghan Beast could see.

His throat was stripped raw and his voice was all but gone. The mighty Bagorah was a shell of his once pristine self. He tried to flap his wings, but there was no strength in his limbs. It was taking everything he had to even stand. So for the first time in his adult life, he had to walk away. Powerful tendons that roped about his piston-like legs carried the monster for a few miles toward the setting sun. He wanted to remove himself and go far from the scattered remains of his vanquished foe.

He strode past the gas emitters of The Creators, which had already started to spew their clouds of deadly insect venom. The AI that was ordering the machines into action could still detect life signs from the still bloodied stains on the ground. Dogora was still very much alive, but the monster bat had destroyed its cellular walls and taxed its energy to near depletion. There would be no reformation this time. There was no carbon for the creature to feed on; and so it would have to live out a life of idle existence upon the planetoid. The remains of the cell would go on until the last fiber in their nucleus stopped moving.

Great vomitus waves of smog crawled over the ground and began to execute a deadly chemical reaction with the cellular beast’s remains. The rivets of goo were transformed into patches of colorful rock. One by one, the AI could detect the signals of life fading away.

Gurake had landed his ship nearby Cortan and the giant AI orb, which were watching the venomous cloud from a distance. Perhaps the cloud of venom was an act of mercy, the Natarl had mused. Death was always painful, but an eternal existence of stillness and hunger had to be worse. He felt a smidgen of pity for the monstrous cell. After all, it was just an animal taken out of its home and experimented on by creatures that feared their own mortality and coveted their own life above all others. Still though, they had to make sure every last scrap of the tentacle entity was poisoned and destroyed. The safety of all life truly depended on it.

Suddenly, a thunderous crash cleaved through the cavernous skies. Cortan and Gurake turned around to see that Bagorah had collapsed from his wounds. Unfortunately, the animal had fallen on top of The Creator’s science fortress. Rubble and steel lay strewn about like a bed beneath the unconscious titan. Both the cyclops alien’s home and their insane creation were now destroyed by the vampire kaiju. All that remained of the race was the AI machine which stood side by side with them. Gurake looked over and noticed that the single red eye of the machine had dimmed ever so slightly. It reminded him of when an intelligent being would shrink down or lower their brow in sadness from a great loss. Perhaps the machine had more humanity in it than even he had thought possible. A high-tech mind with a low-tech heart. Futures had been shaped with far less to begin with.

 

Chapter 5: A New Day

The sun rose over the mountain and kissed the sky with a swirl of pinks, red, and yellows. It brought about its heat and began to warm the plants and land as it had done many times before. For the forest itself, no time had really passed. But for Gurake and Cortan, it had been almost a week since the universe was saved from near annihilation by a giant space cell. The irony of such a minuscule form of life being able to devour an entire galaxy was not lost on either of the would-be heroes.

Gurake sat on a raised rock and watched the black and white AI orb as it floated around the comatose Bagorah. Several smaller machines had joined him and were busy trying to stitch up and tend to the hundreds of wounds the kaiju had been inflicted with. They had been working around the clock with no rest. It was just unfortunate that Bagorah had collapsed on the science facility and destroyed most of The Creators’ technology and machines. Cortan and Gurake had helped the AI scrape together what they could get running in order to make sure that Bagorah did not pass away to the land of the dead.

Gurake could feel the monster’s heart though. He clinched the glowing orb that allowed him to connect his thoughts with that of Bagorah’s, thanks in part to the transmitter that was still implanted in the bat’s brain. He wanted to make sure that if the creature should die, that it would not die alone. It was the least he could do for the animal. Gurake was sure that Bagorah had no concept of what a hero was. He wasn’t even sure if the monster understood what his battle with Dogora had really accomplished. He tried to stress it to the beast before, but who really knew if it really understood what he was trying to tell it. For now, all Bagorah could do was sleep and fight back the deathly hand of the grim reaper that was knocking at his door.

“How is he doing,” a voice suddenly spoke from behind.

Gurake didn’t even bother to turn around and face Cortan. Rather he kept his eyes on Bagorah like a watchful mother hen. “He is dreaming now.”

“He can do that?”

“I guess if you have thought and can sleep, it’s possible,” Gurake smiled. “You know he is more than just an animal right?”

“Yeah yeah, you keep saying that.” Cortan sat down next to the Natarl and took a big bite out of a strange piece of yellow and red fruit that they had found growing nearby a few days back. He offered one to his former prisoner, whom gladly took it and ate along with him.

The duo sat in silence for a moment and milled over their options. Gurake’s ship was nearly out of fuel and half its wiring was fried. It was a miracle that he was even able to land it the last time. The ore that he could use to fuel it was buried beneath thousands of tons of rubble and sleeping monster flesh. Readings from the AI robot had told them that the containment shielding around it had broken. The fuel was seeping into the earth. Even if they could get around Bagorah and dig to it, the fuel would all be gone. Soaked up into the dying planet.

All they had was a savior monster that may or may not die and a ship without any fuel. The duo was trapped. Things were about as bad as they could be. Then, as if on cue, the ground began to quake again. This one was more violent than before.

Cortan rolled his eyes at the trembling ground. Gurake just lowered his head in despair. A dying monster; a ship with no fuel; and a planet that was ready to rip itself apart. Those were all the things that were stacked against them.

Gurake looked back at his ship to make sure the distress beacon was still working. He could see the detached dial laying on the ground beneath his ship. The wires were running up into the vessel and using up the last bit of power that remained. He gave it another day or two before it was completely drained.

“DADA says that it should be about another week before the whole place goes boom,” Cortan said as he mimed what an explosion looked like with his hands.

The Natarl tilted his head in confusion at his new friend. “DADA?”

“Yeah, I mean I figured if we were going to be stuck on this dust ball we might as well as give him a name. I asked him what his makers would call him and all he would say is something about… Determinancy Algorithm Diagramming Avatar, or something close to that. So I figured… you know… DADA for short.” Cortan put up his hands and shrugged at his reasoning with a bit of a grin. “He seems to like it.”

Gurake could only chuckle. “Ok, it’s good enough for me too.”

The two laughed at the ridiculousness of the name and at their situation. There was both fear and levity to their chortling. On one hand, it was good to let out all the stress that had been building since Dogora’s defeat. On the other, it was a grim reminder that they were on an volatile alien world with no one but themselves and an alien AI machine. Most creatures would have been terrified at that aspect. But Gurake was feeling comradery with the situation. He smiled at the red-faced Garoga and the black and white striped orb. He thought that he was going to die alone since the death of his people. He was glad to be wrong about that.

“Look, there is something I have to tell you just in case a ship does come along and save us.” Gurake turned and looked at his previous captor with a steely gaze.

Cortan finished off the last bite of his food and turned to listen to his partner.

“What killed your Terror Beasts on my home world was not a weapon of my people. It was a creature called Monster X. It was brought to my world by race that called themselves the Xiliens. More specifically, it was commanded by a man called X. That is the demon that destroyed your weapons.”

“Impossible,” the captain scoffed. “I’ve never even heard of a race called the Xiliens. And to think that a single monster could defeat two Terror Beasts of the Garoga Empire is utterly preposterous.”

“It’s the truth,” the Natarl shot back. “Why would I lie? That madman said he was going to save my people by using that thing. He had no intention of that. He just wanted to use your attack on my people as some sort of sick test for his weapon.” Gurake replayed the events that he witnessed of the monsters battle over in his head. “And I am going to tell you that Monster X crushed your bio weapons without so much as a breath.”

The next part was hard for the Natarl to form into words. He could picture the screaming faces of his people as they were perishing in the raging fires of the bone dragons might. “Then X turned his weapon on my people as a final test. He wanted to show his beast that mercy was not to be granted in order to preserve peace.”

The last word soured Gurake’s tongue. The Xiliens’ perversion of peace was a spoiled and twisted concept. He had defiled the very meaning of the word. What X really wanted was utter domination. Plain and simple.

Cortan contemplated the story and tried to piece it together with the information that the Garoga reconnaissance team had gathered. The Natarl were wiped out and so were Spylar and Wargilgar. There was also a trace of energy residue that was picked up that did not fit any known technology that the Natarl has possessed. As they dug through the rubble, the soldiers were able to decipher a single massive footprint from something unknown. It was buried under the rubble of a fallen building and able to survive the fires and winds that swept through the once great city. It did not match anything that they had a record of.

“Why are you telling me this?” the military alien questioned.

“If we do make it out of this alive, I want you to be able to return to your world. Use it to buy favor with your treacherous Baron. Use it so he can spare your life, because I will tell you this… X is obsessed with his idea of peace. He is not going to let anyone stand in defiance of that.” Gurake lowered his head and sighed deeply. “I just don’t want to see any more races be wiped out because of the madness of one man’s twisted mind.”

The high ranking Garoga patted his friend on the shoulder to comfort him. “We are both going to get out of this, just wait. And I promise you, your people’s killer will be dealt with.”

Suddenly, a loud boom clapped against the sky. The two aliens rose to their feet and peered off into the distance from which the sound originated from. Their mouths could only gape in response at what their eyes were seeing.

A huge alien ship, bigger than that of even the titanic bulk of the sleeping Bagorah, was moving through the sky. The clouds were parting like theater curtains. Its body was like a bulbous and rotund indigo colored torpedo with a red tip. Scarlet spiked fins jutted out from arounds its girth. At the rear was a colossal rocket engine that was spewing out flames like hell incarnate. Semicircular windows were placed all along the two sides of the ship. The hulls were glistening in the sun’s rays.

The Natarl wanted to jump up and down and cheer, but he was too captivated by the sheer scope of the vessel that was before him. Truly the aircraft looked like that of a god’s chariot than anything else. It begged to be noticed and have heaps of praise and thanks thrusted upon it. For a fleeting moment, any amount of sadness and pain was swept away from Gurake. He was truly at the pinnacle of happiness at that second.

But joy is a harsh mistress, and can be fleeting with its trickery.

The titanic ship stopped dead in its tracks, more than several hundred yards away from the two aliens. The fire from its tail had ceased as well. Gurake looked at Cortan with suspicion. “Do you know what kind of ship that is?”

“Yes. It’s a vessel from a world known as Broomark.” The answer was short and spoken with low, ominous breath. The white and tan alien was about to press further with his question when a flash of energy sparked to life before his eyes. The power took shape about thirty yards away from Gurake and Cortan. What once was an empty field, was now occupied by a beautiful, light blue skinned female alien. She wore a blue gray outfit with red pads that acted like trim around her neck and shoulders. She had blood red earrings in the shape of crescent moons and her hair, which was tied back in a ponytail, was smooth and dark forest green. She wore a smirk upon her countenance that looked like the cat that had eaten the canary.

“You boys look like you have been through a hell of a time,” she spoke with an air of superiority. “Lucky for you, I picked up your little distress signal from where I was. And it’s a good thing I did, because you look like you have something that my employer would just love to have.”

She lifted her hand outward and gestured to the unconscious Bagorah that laid just beyond them. Her brows knitted and a dark smile crossed her beauty. “How about we make a deal?”

Winner: Bagorah

K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles