Monday, December 5, 2011

Imperial Odyssey - The Sarnisian Wizard

[Please be aware that this story is under the strict copywrite of The Imperial Odyssey Franchise]
(Here is the third place finisher in the Imperial Odyssey short story contest announced 12/5/11)
[If you wish to read the 2 entries that out did me they are here:
Sorry if the formatting is off I just did a quickie job of reformatting from a PDF format.
Grimbold Lesling never liked mornings. They reminded him too much of Mondays, which he hated even worse. And don’t get me started about Monday mornings, of which this was.
Grimbold hadn’t had a real job in so many years he couldn’t remember what it was like,
but Mondays remained despised.
Grim, bleary eyed, was slapping randomly at the bed stand trying to turn off the blasted alarm, which, ironically, was not ringing. Eventually he woke sufficiently to realize the ringing was all in his head and turned his head to check the time. The clock read 3:05 AM Feb 3, 2053. If there was one thing Grimbold hated more than Monday mornings it was waking early on a Monday morning with a hangover.
Grumbling at the cruel world which would allow such pain and misfortune, he pulled the covers over his head exposing his bare feet to the cold of the night. He scrunched up pulling his feet back into the comfort of the warm bedclothes and promptly fell back asleep.
In what seemed like seconds later he was rousted awake by his perimeter alarm. He bounced out of his rack slapping his bare feet on the ice cold steel floor. He hopped and twisted until he tracked down his five day old socks and slipped them on and ran up the stairs to check the periscope. A quick look showed nothing on the screen. This was more worrisome than finding something. He silenced the alarm and kept one eye on the scope screen. His hole ran at near total darkness, only the faint red glow of dials and the scope monitor illuminated his close-cropped black hair and angular, frowning, countenance and broke the total blackness only found underground. Grim’s head began pounding and the realization that he was wearing nothing but thin shorts in the sub-zero hole came to the forefront. He scurried back down the stairs and dressed his large muscular frame as quickly as possible. He popped open a bottle of pills and downed a handful, chasing it with a glass of recycled water that was left over from who knows when. He ran back up the stairs to check the scope again. One bloodshot eye caught something moving on the edge of the scope. It was like a dark ripple of wind in the air. He knew it could only be one of two things: a samurai in all black or a hallucination from the remnants of the mescal he had taken
some time ago. One was as dangerous as a psychotic Derom’Soray with a pair of AK-47s, the other an annoying leftover from a celebration. In his current mental state he couldn’t recall which was which. He sat there in the dark, immobile, trying to figure out how to differentiate the two.
It finally came to him that the chances of a hallucination setting off the perimeter alarm were pretty low and simultaneously, or maybe a few seconds before that, he couldn’t remember which, there was a momentary flash of a black clad man in the moonlight where the ripple had been.  He slapped a switch and his abode went completely black. He had momentarily broken off all Intel from the surface but, of much more importance, he had made his subterranean home virtually invisible. He secretly hoped for slightly more than
of much more importance, he had made his subterranean home virtually invisible. He secretly hoped for slightly more than virtual.
He fumbled around in the total darkness until he found his ear buds and shoved them in his ears. He risked being detected by flipping a switch turning on the area microphones. He could hear the samurai sneaking near his hole. It sounded like elephants stomping around on broken glass in his hungover head and he twisted the volume knob to a more reasonable level to accommodate his temporary sensitivity to sounds. He detected another movement uphill in the forest near his exhaust port. He wasn’t worried about it being detected as he had closed it off in a vain attempt to warm his hole. When the samurai had passed his hole and was showing a single minded interest in tracking something other than Grimbold, he yanked the plugs from his ears and powered his hole back up. He set his periscope to infrared to follow the intruders through the forest and make certain they didn’t double back. Surprisingly the samurai was not generating much of a heat signal and, in fact, appeared often to move without leaving any heat trail at all. The board clock read 6:45 Mon Feb 3. Dawn was nearing so Grim switched the scope to light enhanced mode. He was
just in time to see the samurai reach his target. He was befuddled when the man drew his sword and, using the hilt, hit the prey smack dab in the forehead causing him to drop like a rock to the soft forest floor. Grimbold  was gaining interest now. Normal samurai behavior would have caused the target to fall to the ground in two separate segments. He kept adjusting the light enhancement to maintain the best periscope view. The samurai pulled a length of rope from under something at his waist and tightly wrapped his prey. He grabbed hold of the limp body and lifted him to his shoulder like it was a five pound bag of potatoes. And began walking back toward Grim’s hole. He stopped suddenly and studied the landscape. Grim soon figured out why the man had stopped. He felt the roar of a Zintoniean APC traveling across the bare expanse he called home.
Grim, on any other day would have popped out of his hole and shot a few grenades in front of the carrier, but his headache and this unusual and intriguing situation kept him at his scope. In a blink the pair disappeared. He ran a full search of the area and there was nothing. He turned the light enhancer to full gain and still no luck. So intent was he on trying to locate the pair he nearly failed to recognize the thud behind him.
Grim, employing his lightning reflexes, turned around drawing his gun in the same motion. But before he could aim it at the intruder he felt an intense pain in his shooting hand and his gun dropped harmlessly to the deck.
The man in black spoke. Either Grimbold was still under the influence of the mescal or the guy spoke in some very strange language.
“I don’t know what you’re saying but no matter, you are here uninvited and that has meant death to innumerable Zits,”
Grim stated, “Its a mystery how you got in here without going past me or setting off the alarms, but that is moot now as you are about to die at my hands.”
He rose to turn those words into actions and kill him with his bare hands.
The man in black, so quick all Grim saw was a blur, pulled a small device from somewhere, shoved an ear bud into Grimbold’s left ear and pressed the device to Grim’s chest, where it stuck fast.
“I do not come to harm you,” the black man said, “I am in need of hiding for the day. I will be gone at nightfall.”
“So, you do know English!”
“No, the device I have given you is a universal translator. It will allow you to understand thousands of languages. It is my gift to you for the inconvenience of my presence in your abode.”
Grim’s headache was abating thanks to the pills, but this man’s presence was creating a completely new one.
The man pulled at his head covering and it slipped off revealing his shiny blue face, pointed ears, and a pair of ice blue eyes. Causing Grim’s eye brows to lift of their own accord.
“Niecro Nighana at you service.”,He said with a slight bow.
“Lesling, Grimbold Lesling,” Grim stated, unknowingly imitating the introduction of a literary super agent from the past.
Through the fog Grimbold had pulled enough information with which his head could grapple.
“We’ll dispense with how you managed to thwart all of my entry defenses for the moment and I’ll ask why you are here in my hole?”
“I needed to remain non-existent to the Zintonieans.”
“Good answer,” Grim admitted, “But why this hole in particular?”
“I sensed that you would be reluctant to kill me off-hand, being the curious person you are.”
“You gathered all that in the short time you’ve been here?” Grim said, glancing down at his weapon on the floor.
Niecro reached down, picked up the gun, and handed it to Grim, “I gleaned from your thoughts that you would rather unravel a mystery than kill an unknown person before I teleported into your hole. I thought it would be better safe than sorry.”
“I’m not sure how you know that particular English phrase, or how you teleport, but I’ll go along with you for now.
Who’s the chump?”
Niecro prodded the limp figure with his boot, “I’ve been trailing him since he left our home world without authorization.”
Their conversation was interrupted by a shell bursting within a few yards of the hole. The sound was deafening, the hole rocked like a ship at sea and dust shook loose from every crevice engulfing them in a cloud.
“Seems the Zintonieans are as curious as I am. Unfortunately their curiosity is limited to what you will look like blown to bits.”
“Do you have a camouflaged jacket I could borrow?”
“Not one that would fit.”
“No matter I need a disguise.”
Grim pulled a camo jacket from his locker and handed it to the alien. It was nearly as big as he was. He slipped it on and disappeared.
“Now that is plain rude,” Grimbold rubbed his head dislodging dust from his scalp.
He heard another shell explode at some distance from him and then another even further away. Then a long period of the sound he liked best, silence.
Niecro reappeared in front of him.
“You know that is rather annoying. You might try knocking at the door.”
“I apologize. I needed to get back here without drawing the Zintonieans back with me,” he handed the jacket back to Grimbold.
He examined the dusty jacket, now with several bullet holes and a rip in it.
“Haven’t you ever heard of returning borrowed items in better shape than you received them?”
“I’m sorry for that. I had to draw fire from them in order to send them off in the wrong direction and they were either better trained or luckier than most Zintoniean soldiers.”
“Sent them on a wild goose chase, did you? Great. I will accept the jacket as is considering the favor you’ve done for me.”
“Oh, it was not a favor to you. I needed to be free of them, since I am not authorized to be on your planet and they would have made my mission more difficult to complete had they remained.”
“Well, anyway it worked out in both our favors so, as my mother always told me the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
“Your mother gave you erroneous advice. An enemy of your enemy could be antagonistic to you also.”
Grim looked down and shook his head, “It’s just a saying, my friend, just a saying.
“I suppose you arrived here in your own transportation, no?”
“Yes I did”
“How far away is it?”
“Fifteen Kilometers southwest”
Grim grasped his head in both hands trying to relieve the renewed pain and released a string of expletives, “Right in the middle of Zintoniean controlled area.”
“I can guarantee they have no way of detecting my ship.”
“Okay. How exactly do you move through ten klicks of Zintoniean space with a prisoner on your back without being noticed?”
Niecro rubbed his hand over his shiny blue chin, “I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I was so intent on capturing him.”
Grim was glad the hallucinations had past, but the headache seemed to get continually worse as he pondered strategy for this alien half-pint policeman.
“Well my suggestion is to let things cool down a bit and let the Zintonieans back off of their high alert before we get you back to your ship.”
“We? I have no intention of getting you involved in all this.”
“Well popping into my hole kinda undid that plan. I know the lay of the land, where the Zits hang out, and how to get by their scouting parties. So even if you don’t want it you are going to need my expertise.”
Grimbold’s headache had finally disappeared. And he lay flat against a rock, infrared-binoculars held up to his face. He was watching a Zintoniean patrol in spread formation, their carrier in the center, as they slowly moved westward.
“Well looks like we got time for a rest. It’s going to take some time for these scouts to move out of our way.”
Grim could see the spot where Niecro claimed he had left his ship. No ship was in sight, but he figured the little blue guy had figured a way to bury his ship. He wouldn’t put anything past him at this point.
Grim, with his head clear, was scheming. He knew an engineer who was smart enough to reverse engineer the universal translator thingy. They could make a fortune on the black market. He just needed to ensure Niecro made it off-planet. Since he wasn’t supposed to be here, he would be in no position to claim patent infringement.
Niecro and his ‘package’ were dressed in all black, Grim was in dark camo from head to foot. He longed for the old days when a Gilly suit would add to one’s disguise. But the flattened glass-like terrain didn’t lend itself to being well hidden on the featureless landscape broken only by an occasional boulder.
Grim whispered, “So what’s with your friend here? What did he do so wrong that made it worth your while to follow him to a forbidden planet and risk your neck?”
Niecro sighed, “This is a secret mission. I’ve already told you too much about him.”
“All you’ve told me is you tracked him off of your home planet and down here.”
“You see? That is too much.”
“Well at least tell me your home planet.”
“That would not reveal much, I suppose. Sarnisia. It’s a long way from here and not easy to find. Even I would have difficulty finding it without knowing its coordinates.”
“Are all Sarisians ninjas like you?”
“I am not ninja. I am Eloth’Naka. There are very few of us.”
“Quite a mouthful, huh? Are you like policemen?”
“Eloth’Naka are warriors, like yourself. We do sometimes acquiesce to the requests of the ministry. But we are in no way policemen.”
“Then why didn’t you kill this guy?”
“That is not the way of the Eloth’Naka. Our powers are a gift from the Prophets. The Prophets do not approve of us killing.”
Grim let out a quiet whistle, “That’s a new one on me. I’ve never met a warrior that didn’t kill. Doesn’t sound like it would be a very effective way to engage an enemy.”
“Well I am a Virtuoso not a Master. Perhaps I could explain it better if I was a Master.”
“You’ve got me quakin’ in my boots.If you aren’t a Master I’d hate to come across one in a dark alley.”
They both fell silent, each to their own thoughts. Grimbold was biting his lower lip. Niecro could have been mistaken for a stone.
The Sarnisian broke the silence, “May I ask why you are engaged in a counter-evolutionary movement that is destined to fail?”
Grimbold remained silent for a long time before answering.
“These Zits, they act like they are the saviors of our world. Helping to create peace and harmony among our nations,” His eyes glazed over and he looked down, “I guess they did that. But, I paid a heavy personal price for that peace.”
He kicked a stone hard with one of his number 12 combat boots, “My wife, Cassandra, got in the way of one of their peace keeping missions and they shot her dead. No hesitation, like she was a piece of meat. I want these creeps to go back to where they came from and I’m gonna spend the rest of my life trying to make sure that happens.”
“I am sorry for the pain the Zintonieans have caused you.”
Grim got back on his feet and checked the lay of the land, “Looks like we can move now. We have about thirty minutes to cross this plain before the next patrol passes.”
Niecro slung his prisoner over his shoulder and started off, Grim behind him with his M-16 at the ready. The ground sounded like thin ice cracking and sometimes like breaking glass. The smell, to which Grim had mostly become immune, was the smell of the thousands of bodies that had been incinerated when the nuclear bomb had leveled the area during WWIII.
Twenty minutes later they reached their objective. Niecro closed his eyes for a moment and then reached out his hand and pressed a small object in his hand a shuttle-like craft appeared out of nowhere. Grimbold was past the point of being astonished at this little man’s tricks and took the magic in stride.
Niecro turned to Grim and clasped his hands together, “I thank you for your invaluable help. May the Prophets bring you peace.”
Grimbold Lesling answered uneasily, “Yeah, may your Prophets help you get out of here. And you better make it quick!”
He had just spotted an air patrol jetting nearby.
“They’ve spotted us! Get going. I’m outa here.”
With that Grim took off at a full run back across the plain. He heard the throaty sound of the Sarnisian craft starting its engines. He turned back, stood at attention, and saluted as the craft lifted into the air.
Seeing something out of the corner of his eye, he turned in time to witness a Zintoniean missile drive into the ground at his feet and explode.