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After a mission goes wrong on Earth, Thorn, the leader of the Psychic Knights, is the only known survivor and is convinced by Torst to begin training to take advantage of his improved psychic abilities.
After thirty years Thorn discovers that the rest of the Psychic Knights could still be alive. His mission to find his brothers finds his future entangled in the fate of the universe.
He struggled to open his eyes. Fighting with consciousness, the bright surroundings forced him to squint as his eyelids slowly lifted. He tried to move his arms, but found they were restrained. No, not restrained. Just immobile. The same for his legs. He felt no pain. Just an inability to move.
Still fighting to stay conscious, his eyes finally focused on what was above him. A smooth, white ceiling. No markings. Just an ocean of white that for all he knew went on forever. He managed to move his head slightly. Softness could be felt. At least he had some feeling.
Lavender! He could smell smoky lavender filling his nostrils as his head turned. His eyes saw movement. Coming towards him.
Panic set in. He tried to move again, but couldn’t and his head started swimming until he lost consciousness again.
Nine days earlier
The inconspicuous world lay in a Solar System many light years from Earth. It was one of three habitable planets that orbited the white sun. Prius 3 was mostly baron. A chunk of rock floating around the sun with no signs of life except the thick vegetation that covered a quarter of the planet. A perfect hiding place.
Within naturally formed caves and valleys a community had formed over the last one hundred years. These innocent humans had been hunted and hounded away from their home planet by the TechPsychers. These were the lucky ones. They had been saved by the small rebel groups that had grown from the persecution. Others had been captured and taken away to an unknown destination. All because of their natural abilities.
High up in one of the caverns that overlooked a green valley a craft was coming into land. Its flashing landing lights illuminating part of the cavern. When it landed it coasted to the nearest docking point and the hatchway opened to let out fifty passengers. All a little shaken and tired from their recent ordeal. A greeting party came to meet them and ushered them to the back of the cavern where they were taken in lifts to the waiting medical staff.
On the craft the five man strong crew were making their weapons safe and running checks on the craft itself.
“Akarn, go and get that arm seen to. We’ll take care of the equipment.”
“Ok, but don’t start the celebrating until I get back. I’ve still got another good arm to hold my glass with.”
The five men grinned in unison as though they were in a synchronised grinning competition. “Don’t worry big man. We’ll wait for you.”
Akarn heaved his massive bulk out of the ship and headed for the infirmary keeping hold of his injured arm.
“Another successful mission,” said Ifor stretching out his legs after the long trip back. “Those TechPsychers are so dumb. The vegetation outside put up more resistance when we were clearing it than they did.” Ifor was checking his Vibro-Gun; his favoured weapon. He was six foot two inches tall and solidly built with receding hair that had been saying goodbye to his head since he was in his thirties. His tan skinned face was hard and he had a look that could win a fight even before a fist was raised.
“Don’t get too carried away. You know they’re never always that easy. We still need to make sure we are well prepared for the next time.” The cautionary tone came from Thorn.
“Ahhhh! Come on Thorn. The TechPsychers are pussies. We’re just too good for them and our record speaks for itself.” Yilnar slid back on the bench he was on and rested against the bulkhead. “How long have we been together? Seventy, eighty years. How many people have we rescued? Thousands! And how many fatal casualties have we suffered? None! None of the other groups can match us and neither can the TechPsychers.”
“We owe a lot to intelligence and planning. Don’t forget that.”
“Who does the planning? We do,” Ifor said.
Thorn smiled. His chiselled features softened as his teeth showed. He too was six foot two inches tall with a slender, but strong build that had formed over the many years he had trained for the numerous combat situations he and his team had been exposed to. His full head of hair had been shaved almost bald and the sweat glistened on his pale skin.
“Ok, so we are good. But don’t let it go to your heads.”
Ifor and Yilnar let out a cheer just as Roman walked in from the engine compartment.
“How is she?” Thorn had to shout to be heard.
“A little TLC and she will be fine. What’s going on?” Roman looked over at the two men cheering.
“We’re just getting in the celebratory mood,” Ifor said.
“Well boys, let’s get packed up and start that celebrating. I’ve got to go and see the old man first. I’ll meet you in the Valley bar as soon as I’ve finished.” Thorn slung his back pack over his shoulder and collected up his weapons. “And order some of those Chilli Chicken Wraps. I’m starving.”
Once again Thorn wrestled with his consciousness trying to stay alert. The white ceiling came into focus again. He turned his head to a sound. A clunking mechanical sound. He could make out two humanoid figures. Mechanical figures working at what looked like a wall of computers at the far end of the room. Flashing lights played on his eyes sending a stabbing pain to his brain. He shut his eyes tight shielding them from the source of the pain. His mind began to swim again. No! He fought to stay awake, but slipped into unconsciousness once more.
Nine Days Earlier
Thorn returned his weapons to stock. Although, officially the weapons were shared amongst the teams in the encampment, in reality each member of Thorn’s team had their own selection. Their own personal favourites that had been modified to their own preferences. And Gillon, the stock supervisor was the one who made the modifications.
“Another successful trip, Thorn? There are already stories of how you and your team took out a whole detail of TechPsychers. Eight ships was the last count I heard.” Gillon took the stubby Vibro-Gun and Laser Pistol, Thorn’s personal choice, and stacked them in the rack reserved for the Psychic Knights. Thorn gave a sly grin.
“Typical gossip. It was only five ships. Take a look at the Vibro-Gun for me. It seems to be lacking in power.” He turned away.
“Will do. Good to have you back.”
The old man, Tor-Pic, had an office two hundred metres below the landing bay overlooking the lush valley. Cut from the rock, it was sparsely furnished. Just a chair and the Holo-Computer that kept track of all of his teams and intelligence agents spread throughout the galaxy. The Holo-Computer, set into the floor, projected numerous displays upwards filling the space between the chair and the view out into the valley. Though Tor-Pic controlled the Holo-Computer with his mind, he preferred to view the data on screen. At two hundred and ninety and on his third and final regeneration he liked to keep his physical body in good working order.
His white hair barely covered his oversized cranium. The dark eyebrows were the only remnants of the colour his hair once was. A sullen look permanently etched on his face was the result of the fight with the TechPsychers over the last one hundred years. He wore dark leather trousers and a dark leather waistcoat over a white collarless shirt.
‘Are you free to see me now?’
The request came through to Tor-Pic’s mind.
‘Of course! Come in my boy,’ he replied.
Thorn entered the room with a big smile on his face. Tor-Pic greeted his friend as his chair elevated him upright. They both embraced for a few seconds.
“It’s good to see you back. And another successful rescue. Fifty more persecuted souls delivered from those damn TechPsychers. You played it to perfection, my boy. As always. Would you like a drink?” He made his way to a unit that was set in to the far wall.
“Sure, why not?”
Thorn gave a casual nod. Tor-Pic projected his order to the machine and two glasses materialised in the opening at the bottom filled with ice cubes and shots of Earth rum. Both men gave a quick salute with the glasses and downed the drink in one.
Thorn nodded to the displays around the room.
“How are the other teams doing?”
Tor-Pic walked towards them. “We lost half of Borren’s team on ReesEr 9,” he said pointing to one display. “Unfortunately the rescue failed.” He paused for a short moment. “We’ve had two other successes, saving a total of fourteen people.” Tor-Pic looked at Thorn. The total helplessness he felt could be seen on his face. “We’re not getting many intelligence reports through. The opportunities for rescues are few and far between. The rest of the teams are still here.” He turned back to the displays. “We may have one coming through soon. A big one, but I’ve had false hope about these before so I’m not getting too excited.”
“Any more news on why the TechPsychers are doing this?”
Tor-Pic shook his head. He went back to the dispenser and requested another two drinks.
“Other than the theory that they feel threatened by us, no. We haven’t got the resources to track them once their ships go into Hyperspace with our people on them. I find it hard to believe that they would transport them somewhere just to kill them. They must be using them for something. But until we have more bodies out in the field all we can do is rescue the ones we know about and hope we come across something that can end this nightmare.”
“We will, and make them pay for all the suffering they have caused. We have to believe we will find a weakness in their technology and bring them down.” Thorn finished his second drink.
“I’ve got two hundred people searching the entire galaxy. Half of them looking for our people and the other half keeping us up to date with the TechPsychers movements. Nowhere nearly enough. It’s getting harder and harder to keep that belief.” Tor-Pic gulped down the rest of his drink. “Enough of this defeatism. You must be eager to get back to your men to celebrate this latest victory. You head off there and I’ll pass by a little later to join you.”
They both embraced again and Thorn left.
Distant laser shots gently woke Thorn. He probed the room with his mind until he found the clock. Nine thirty Prius 3 time. A full eight hours sleep. ‘I haven’t done that in a while,’ he thought. ‘Mind you, the drinking session with the boys must have helped.’ More laser fire. ‘The idle teams must be getting some combat training in.’ The white sun shone through the cracks in the shutters of the hut leaving bright stripes on his bed. The dust in the air glittered as it danced around him.
Pulling back the cover he got out of bed scratching the back of his head. As he stepped down he felt the throb from an old wound. Walking to the fridge with a slight limp he got out a bottle of water. More laser fire fizzed outside as he took a swig from the bottle. Then an explosion. ‘Jees! Have they used enough explosives?’ The sarcastic thought disappeared as soon as he felt a gentle nudge on his mind. Someone wanted to mind talk with him. He opened up.
‘Thorn, it’s Tor. I’ve had some interesting feedback from one of our men on Earth. Come and see me when you’ve got a minute. I’ll be in the Strategy Room.’
‘Ok, I’ll just get something to eat and I’ll come by.’
The early sun shone brightly behind the tall rocks casting long shadows over the Porta-Habs. The area below the caves in the valley had been cleared and Porta-Habs erected for the serving Team members. Further down the valley were the civilians that had been rescued and decided to stay on Prius 3. Most of the rescued were relocated on other worlds, but a small community had stayed, which numbered in the thousands. They stayed to help with the on-going struggle against the TechPsychers. Technicians, medical staff, teachers for the kids, and the usual bars and gambling places that had grown for the basic human needs. He made the short walk to the mess hall taking in his favourite views of the sloping valley that led down into the built up living area and onto the lush vegetation. As he opened the door he was greeted with a short cheer.
“You finally got out of your stinking pit then,” Ifor said. The rest of the Psychic Knights were there already.
Thorn smiled and said, “I don’t know about you guys, but I sure needed that sleep”. He grabbed a plate and began filling it up from the selection of food that had been laid out. It was so nice to have proper food again.
“We were just having a little chat about what we’re going to do next. Seeing as there doesn’t seem to be anything lined up for us and as there are so many teams here still, maybe we could have a short break for a week or so. We’ve been out in the field for the last month. I think we deserve a rest. We were just discussing about going to Nexuss. The planet’s well known for its pleasure arcades and gambling halls. At least in the southern hemisphere.” Yilnar looked around the room as everyone nodded in agreement. His lineage hailed from the Mediterranean and his dusky tan seemed to accentuate his pearl white teeth and shocking black hair. Two inches shorter than Thorn and Ifor, his broad shoulders and thick set, muscular body made him a more imposing figure.
“Want to throw away your credits, eh? Didn’t you learn anything from last night down in the valley?”
“Yeah, he learnt that not everyone wearing a dress is a woman.” Everyone burst out laughing at Akarn’s rare quip.
“You may have to put that on hold. I’ve just been summoned by the old man. He may have something for us yet,” Thorn managed to get out through his laughing.
“Well if there’s anything I like more than gambling it’s breaking a few of them TechPsychers heads.” Akarn ground his massive fist into his palm. “Any idea where we’re off to?”
“Nope. Not yet. As soon as I’ve eaten I’m going to see him, now budge over and let me fill my empty belly.”
An hour later Thorn was standing in the Strategy Room pouring over data on the displays in front of Tor-Pic’s chair. A detailed map was shown on one of them. An aerial view of the same area was displayed on another. A cluster of buildings could be seen within a clearing that had been roughly gouged out from a jungle area on Earth. No rescue attempts had ever been made on Earth before. The departure areas that held the captives before they were taken off world were too heavily guarded, even for Thorn’s team.
“This is the best chance we’ve ever had of making a rescue on Earth. And it will be the biggest rescue attempt we’ve ever tried. Up to three hundred captives are in this area. You’ve got the best team for the job, Thorn.” Tor-Pic pointed to the aerial view and singled out one of the buildings. “They’re held in this building. We’re not too sure why they are there. Our sources think it may be some sort of experimentation area. Away from the public eye. Whatever it is the same objectives apply. Rescue the captives and leave nothing and no one standing.”
Thorn looked concerned. “We’ve never attempted anything on Earth before because it’s too risky. What makes you so sure this is any safer?”
Tor-Pic glared at him. “Our sources are reliable. This is one of the best opportunities to save a lot of our people. We have all the information we need for getting on and off the planet without being detected. We have men on the inside that can disable the areas network of scanners for the time that it will take for you to set down. Every last detail has been taken care of.”
A frown crept over Thorn’s face. “Could our source have been compromised?”
The old man shook his head. “Impossible! All the checks we have in place confirm our cover is still secure.” He grabbed Thorn’s arm firmly and stared at him with an intensity that burned deep in Thorn’s soul. His voice lowered. “A rescue of this scale is very rare. Who knows what’s going on down there! We have to save these people!”
Thorn hesitated. The old man was getting emotional. He hadn’t seen him like this before and he wondered if his emotions were affecting his decisions. Finally he answered.
“It goes against my better judgement, but we’ll do it. I’ll confer with the men and we’ll come up with a plan.”
“We have a time scale for this one. Our source can disable the scanning network at 0700 hours Earth time five days from now for five minutes. And then again 0700 hours two days later for when the rescue is complete.”
Thorn’s eyes widened when he heard this.
“That’s way too soon. It’ll take us four days to get there, as long as we have no problems on the way, and it’ll be a day for us to get things ready here. I don’t like this Tor. This isn’t how we’ve survived all of this time.”
“It will be fine, Thorn. You can do your planning on the way and with enough bodies involved we can get you going in half a day.”
The emotion in Tor-Pic’s voice was prominent now and this new experience took Thorn by surprise. In the eighty or so years he had known Tor-Pic, he was always professional. Thorn reacted in the only way he knew how. He felt an anger welling up inside.
“Right then, I’ll send you a list of the equipment we will need and you get them all put on our ship as soon as you can. In the meantime I’ll go over all of the data you have with my men and we’ll see if we can come up with something that will help us survive this fiasco.” He turned and stormed out of the room.
Again the white ceiling came into view as Thorn’s consciousness returned. His head pounded like a disciples praying drum. The smell of lavender once again tickled his senses.
“He’s coming around again,” he heard close by.
Slowly turning his head his vision focussed on the figure that stood next to him; the source of the voice. A bipedal figure that could have passed for a naked human body apart from the lack of genitals and extra pair of arms. On closer inspection the skin looked to be made from a shiny material that resembled metal. On the shoulders sat an unusually long, slender neck attached to a humanoid head. Blue in colour with smooth velvety, hairless skin. The black eyes sat deep in their sockets and the lipless mouth formed into what looked like a smile. The face had no nose, but on the side of the long neck a series of slits formed what looked like fish gills. Two dish-like objects protruded from the side of the head that seemed to be made of the same material as the body.
“Can you hear me Thorn?”
“You’ve come round too soon. Your mind has been through a serious trauma. You need more time. Can you remember anything? Who you are?”
Thorn shook his head slowly.
“I’m Torst. You are on a planet called Riigel. I picked you up from your Home world, called Earth.” Torst looked up at a monitoring machine above where Thorn lay. “He’s going again.” A second alien came over to join him looking identical in almost every way to Torst save a few minor differences in the features on his blue face. “I’ve never seen anything like it before. His brain is repairing itself at a phenomenal rate.”
Thorn closed his eyes as the blackness enveloped him again.
Four Days Earlier
The Psychic Knights ship and the accompanying transporter made it safely onto Earth in the time frame they had. Exactly as planned. To the point where Thorn thought it was too easy.
Both ships had landed in a small clearing five miles to the east of the target area. Roman had deployed his scouting Droids. Small spherical objects that glided through the air as quiet as a whisper. They mapped the area with finite accuracy. Avoiding and marking any detection grids and plotting the best path to the intended target. Any one of the Psychic Knights could see through and control the droids with their minds, but the initial scout was unaided.
Some of the team were going through their equipment once more when the droids returned. The data was already in the ships computer and Roman sifted through it with computer like speed. He was a scrawny man compared to the others, though as fit as any of them. His styled afro hair sat on his head like a perfectly fitting hat. The boyish features of his face hid the one hundred year old man inside, although he was still only in his first regeneration. His skill was with machines. He had a small collection that he took on every mission. Though he was proficient with weapons and unarmed combat, his forte was the use of his little army. His mind wasn’t strong enough to control anything bigger than the size of a small dog, but his creations were the first line of attack, and in some cases won the battle for them.
‘How’s it looking, Roman?’ Thorn had to psychically communicate with Roman as his mind was locked into the computer.
‘I’ll be done in about ten minutes.’
‘Ok. There’ll be some food waiting for you outside when you’re finished.’
Outside the rest of the team were finishing up with their equipment and chatting with the crew of the transporter. Although their ship, the Savage Mind, was a good size, it could hold only eighty plus crew. The transporter and its crew had been on missions with the Psychic Knights before and they knew each other well. The captain, Dar-Fur, was once an active member of a rescue team until most of them got wiped out during a mission and he sustained a long-term injury. As well as being a tough fighter out in the field, he was a skilled pilot and after sustaining the injury, signed up for piloting a transporter. Now three hundred and seven, he had used the third and last of his regenerations.
He scratched the side of his head, displacing a bunch of his long grey hair. His wrinkled features creased even more as he took Ifor’s recent jibe in the manner it was given.
“You’ll be lucky to live as long as me let alone become as good looking as me.”
A roar of laughter came from the group of seven. Thorn joined them from the ship.
“Glad to see you are all in good spirits. Let’s hope we’ll be in the same mood in two day’s time.”
“You’re still not convinced about this one then, Thorn?” Dar-Fur stood up and collected some food from the table that had been set-up as he asked the question. He seemed to drag his mechanical leg as he walked. He’d never gotten used to it in all the time he’d had it.
“I just want everyone to be a bit more cautious when we make our move. It all seems too…simple.”
“The best plans usually are,” this from one of Dar-Fur’s crew.
“One of the reasons we’ve survived this long is that we’ve made our own plans from information provided. To our own time-scales. Most of that has been taken out of our hands this time.”
Dar-Fur swallowed his food before speaking.
“The old man seems pretty certain the information is ok. Looks like you’re gonna have to rely on someone this time. He really wants this one. It’ll be the biggest rescue we’ve ever made and I get the feeling he thinks it could lead to a few more on this planet.”
“That’s one of my worries. He seems to be making decisions based on emotions. That’s not how you should prepare for these rescues.”
Roman came down the Savage Minds ramp.
“All done. Some interesting detection systems out there, but they won’t pose much of a problem for my babies when the time comes. Now where’s that food?” He headed over to the table.
It was now late morning and the sun was high in the sky. The heat was uncomfortable in direct sunlight due to the poor ozone cover, but Dar-Fur and some of his crew had erected a solar shade, which also provided an air-conditioned area for the group to shelter in.
“Have you outlined the danger areas yet?” Thorn took a swig from his container of water.
“All in the ships computer.”
“Ok. Have you sent the droids out to set-up a perimeter of a thousand metres yet? I don’t want any surprises.”
“It was the first thing I did when we landed. As I always do. You know that.” Roman got a little annoyed at Thorn’s questions. He’d never needed to be reminded of his responsibilities before.
Thorn walked towards the ship.
“I’ll be inside going over the plans again.”
Ifor sensed Roman’s change in mood.
“Don’t take it to heart. He’s a bit more on edge than usual. We all are. We’re going out on a limb on this one and relying on people outside of our group more than we’d like to.”
“Maybe, but he knows us. He knows we’re as careful and cautious as he is.” Roman collected his food and sat down. The tension in the air had risen and the light hearted banter had ceased.
Suddenly the detection warning signal made Thorn’s men jump to attention. The signal was tuned to their minds so none of the transporter crew knew what was going on. Thorn came to the top of the ramp.
“We’ve got a flyer coming in overhead.”
“Have they detected us?” Ifor questioned.
“No. The cloaking device is doing its job, but I want everyone armed and ready. We all know what happened on Serina.”
The four of them dropped everything and armed themselves.
“What happened on Serina?” Dar-Fur asked Yilnar.
“A flyer nearly landed on top of us. The cloaking device works so well masking the ship and any noises coming from it that it’s as if there is a clear landing area where we are. The trouble with Serina was we camped on what was a local hunting area and there was a party looking forward to a day’s hunting. The pilot must have nearly had a heart attack when his proximity alarms went off.”
The noise of the flyer was now audible to everyone. Coming from the east it cruised just above the tree tops making them sway in the back wash. The shrill of the engines scattered the local wildlife. Both crews on the ground had retreated to the safety of their cloaked ships. Thorn and Roman both watched its progress on the Holo-Screen. As it flew almost directly over them Ifor gently squeezed on his Vibro-Cannon. The sound of the engines above started to recede.
“Any more coming in?” asked Akarn.
“Nope. That’s the only one,” replied Roman.
“Ok, panic over.” Thorn went back to his plans and the others returned to the solar shade.
“What do you think that was?” Dar-Fur asked from the doorway of his ship as he saw Roman coming out of the Savage Mind.
“Just a transporter,” said Roman.
“Carrying more prisoners?”
Roman glanced back at Ifor before replying,
“Possibly. Or it could just be supplies. There’s no way of knowing.”
“Let’s hope it is supplies. We only have enough room left for a handful of people.” The group returned to their seats and gradually eased back in to the light-hearted conversation from earlier until just after midday when they filtered back to their respective ships.
The rest of the day was spent checking arms and going over the plans for the rescue. Each member of the Psychic Knights digested the target area information and gave input on how to improve the chances of success. A ritual that they went through before every mission.
The sun began to set casting long shadows from the trees surrounding the camp. After finalising the rescue plans, Ifor and Akarn sat outside with three of the transporter crew discussing previous missions they had been on. Ifor had finished regaling everyone with the story of their last mission when Chero-Deen, a young woman in her forties, spoke.
“Is it true you can lift a transporter with your mind?” Her question was so soft Ifor could just about hear her. He gave a hearty laugh.
“Where did you hear that?” he asked.
“I heard it first in class and it’s also been repeated in taverns and eateries back on Prius 3. They say that every one of you can stop a transporter in flight and when you join your minds together you are strong enough to move a moon.”
Both Ifor and Akarn looked at each other and burst out laughing. It was a full minute before Ifor could answer. He wiped the tears from his eyes.
“My, how our reputations have grown. Even if they are borne from fantasy. No, we cannot move transporters with our minds, and as for moving moons,” he gave a little chuckle. “I dread to think how that came about. We can only move small objects, just like yourself and everyone on Prius 3. We can influence people with our minds a lot more than most and create a small field to defend ourselves and our communication with each other is a lot more advanced than anyone else, but other than that we are just like you.”
Both men could see the disappointment in the young woman’s eyes. A myth destroyed in an instant. Ifor tried to recover some sort of mythical status for the girl.
“What we lack in your expectations we more than make up for in bravery. You will see the day after tomorrow when we fight. There isn’t a man or woman that can match us.”
The girl gave a weak smile.
The night brought a clear cold sky and with it the night time chorus of the living jungle. Stars blinked overhead as if trying to send a message in code, but the darkness absorbed their light, offering no reply. Thorn had a restless night until finally he gave up trying to sleep and went back over the rescue plans once again.
Early the next morning Roman’s droids were out scouting once again. This time with Roman, Yilnar and Akarn all taking a first-hand look by setting their minds in the droids. The distance the droids travelled was too far for the men to take full control, but they could experience the area by allowing their minds to become passive passengers within the droids. They got a feel for the area by experiencing the physical locations rather than relying on the viewing of three dimensional maps. The heavy undergrowth and dense population of trees clearly visible through the Optically Readjusted Vision mode of the droids and the enhanced sensors provided real-time feel for the rest of their senses.
“Where’s Thorn?” Roman asked the group sat outside having breakfast.
“He went for a walk. It looked like he didn’t have a good night’s sleep.” The reply came from Brahman, the transporters Medic. He had just sat down with his food as Roman came down the ramp.
‘Thorn, are you there?’ he sent. A few seconds went by.
‘What is it?’
‘We’ve had a communication from our agent inside. He needs to speak to you. He said he’ll try again at 11:30am.’
‘Ok. I’ll be back by then.’
The path of communication went dead as Thorn broke off. Roman returned to the command deck where Ifor was playing cards with Akarn.
“Did you find him?” Ifor asked.
“No, but I psyched him. I think he’s out there practicing again. I could feel the strain on his mind when I linked up.”
Ifor shook his head.
“It’s the wrong time to be doing that sort of thing. He needs to be in top shape for when we make our move later. Apart from the fact he’s wasting his time. How long has he been trying to strengthen his mind? Too long. I’ve told him time and time again there’s only one way to do that and it’s through surgery and I only know of two people who survived going under the laser. And they only lasted two months afterwards. It’s about time he gave up.”
Akarn showed his cards and grinned.
“Can you beat that?”
Ifor looked at them and growled with annoyance. He threw his cards down and the big man collected his winnings.
“I love playing with you,” Akarn said. “You love to donate your credits so easily.” The smile on his face almost reached his ears.
“Just deal the next hand and don’t take them credits anywhere. They’re coming straight back.”
The clearing that Thorn had found was just a twenty minute walk from the landing site. An area of flattened vegetation, it was about one hundred square metres in size. Ever since he had control over what his mind could do, something deep inside made him feel as though this was just the tip of what he was capable of. There were stories of individuals, somewhere in the galaxy in travelling circuses that could pull trees out of the ground or lift small Land Cruisers in the air with just their mind. Although no documented proof of these people existed the stories still persisted. He didn’t know what he could be capable of, but he felt there was something more that was possible. Something, maybe, that no one else had ever done.
And yet, no matter how often he practiced he had made very little progress. Whenever he found time he could spend alone he would concentrate hard. Searching within his mind for that elusive key to unlock the limits that were forced upon him by nature.
The tree branch crashed to the floor once again as it slipped from his minds grasp like a toy from a child’s hand that was too heavy. If he was one of the others, he would have given up long ago. None of them believed the mind could do more and none of them tried.
He sat down on a fallen tree trunk, dejected, but not beaten. He noticed an ant at his foot. In its grasp a leaf that was five times the size of its body. He saw it drop the leaf, then dance around a little and pick it back up, walk on a few more paces then drop it again. This cycle continued until it was gone. How determination and belief could overcome the hardest of obstacles no matter how small you were. A lesson Thorn kept in his mind as he stood up and tried again.
Later that morning Thorn was back in the Savage Mind waiting for contact from their inside man. Something else that had never had to happen before. It was coming up to 11:50am and the discomfort of the situation was beginning to gnaw at his mind until a beep from the comms speaker interrupted his train of thought. He saw it was coming in on an encrypted channel with the correct code and answered.
”Speak to me.” There was a moment’s pause.
“Thorn, it is an honour to finally speak to you. You and your teams exploits give us all hope that one day we will be able to live freely.”
Thorn was in no mood for a long conversation.
“Thank you. Now what seems to be the problem.”
“The prisoners are to be moved tonight. This has meant an increase in security personnel.”
“By how many?”
“By another sixty guards. They were brought in yesterday. I only found out about the move this morning.”
“Damn! I knew there was going to be problems.”
“From what I hear about your team another sixty personnel shouldn’t be a problem.”
“It’s not the amount, it’s the fact that an unexpected event has happened.”
The voice on the other end spoke quite casually. “Unfortunately these things happen.”
This flippant remark got Thorn’s back up and he gave a stinging reply.
“When we plan missions these unexpected events are never unexpected.” There was a pause. “Does this affect our timings?”
“No. Everything is as planned,” came back a timid voice. “The defence system will come down at 1700 hours for planned maintenance for 10 minutes. Giving you enough time to get in undetected. During this time the patrols will increase, but you’ve taken this into account. The additional personnel are stationed in the far building at the West side of the complex well away from the prisoners. All that’s left is for me to wish you well.”
Thorn mellowed a little after the last remark. He could feel the sincerity in the voice.
“Thanks. Are you sure you won’t come back with us?”
“No, I can still do more good here. My tracks are covered so I will be safe.”
“Until 1700 hours then.” Thorn ended the comms link. He turned to his men.
“Looks like we have a little extra company.”
“We’ll need a few more droids then,” Roman said. “I’d better start prepping them now.” With that he jumped up and left.
A grin spread across Ifor’s face.
“I thought they were making it too easy for us. Now at least there’s a bit of a challenge.”
“Well we’d better revise our plan of attack a little bit to account for the extra guards. We’ll meet on the Obs deck in, say, thirty minutes. That should give Roman enough time.”
An hour later and the five men began their own personal preparations. With the revised plans made, departure time was in less than an hour. Each mission afforded its own preparation time. Some longer than others, but always enough time to go through each man’s rituals. Some just going through a walkthrough in their minds of what was going to happen, others saying a small prayer or kissing the photo of their long departed families. Whichever one it was, it was done in their own personal space, away from the others.
At 1400 hours the sun shone down in a clear blue sky. The heat had opened the Prearus flower, a native of Prearus 6 in the Delta Sector which had been brought to Earth as a seed by an unsuspecting craft. The sweet aroma hung heavy in the air and attracted the local insects in its quest to spread its seed and begin its domination of yet another planet.
The Magno-Bikes silently left the landing site leaving the Savage Mind and transporter behind. Dar-Fur and his crew waited back in their ship for the signal that the captives were ready to be picked up. The Bikes travelled in single file, droids ahead and behind masking their approach from the light tracking systems that were installed three miles from the complex. The route planned through the bushes and trees was taken at a steady pace. A route that was marked the day before by one of the droids. When they reached to within a mile of the complex they split up. Each taking four droids until they had the complex surrounded. They stopped in their positions and got off the Bikes.
From this point the tracking systems were a lot more sophisticated. Holo-Pressure pads, infra-red sensing fields, magno-sensing equipment that detected magnetic displacements from the ground to two hundred feet in the air above the tree line.
‘Everyone settled?’ sent Thorn as he sat on a tree stump. Four confirmations were sent simultaneously.
‘Ok, do what you can with the droids. The less guards conscious the easier it will be later on. We have thirty minutes. And remember, the extra guards should be coming on patrol now ready for the system shutdown.’
The Psychic Knights sent their droids off towards the complex, keeping one back as a guard. Each of the men could see through all four of them simultaneously while they were under their control. This gave their initial approach invisibility. The special alloy that Roman had built them from could only be found on Creeshan; a planet that sat at the very edge of the galaxy. This alloy was virtually undetectable by known technology.
Ifor’s three droids came across the first guard about five hundred meters from the complex. They hovered fifteen metres above the ground in the cover of the trees canopy as silent as a light summer breeze. Ifor zoomed in on the guard to see what he was doing. He screwed his face up as he saw the guard urinate against a tree.
“Not something I want to be seeing,” he muttered to himself.
As soon as the guard had finished and turned to go, he fell to the ground from a burst of sonic energy from a droid that left him unconscious. A second droid quickly activated a light displacement field around the guard making him invisible.
“One down,” Ifor said.
Roman’s droids were coming up to their first guards. Three of them stood around talking in a small clearing. One of the guards was lighting three Marijuana roll ups. Not your average Marijuana roll ups. The plants that were grown were genetically altered so that when inhaled they gave enhanced aggression and stamina as well as a high tolerance of pain.
The guard handed round the lighted sticks and each man inhaled as though it was a cool drink on a hot day. One of them began to speak. On his third word he dropped to his knees and then slumped forward. Simultaneously the other two did the same as the three droids sonic energy bursts reached their bodies. The three men ended up as a pile in the thick vegetation covering the floor.
“Damn! Almost got them leaning against each other,” Roman said. The droids covered the men with the LDF and continued on cautiously.
Five minutes before the defences came down and the fifteen droids were making good progress. Twenty five men had been neutralised and they were within one hundred metres of the complex perimeter. No physical barrier to the complex existed. No concrete, steel or polymer plastic walls. The buildings inside could be clearly seen. A sparse looking place. Just a large dome building in the centre with five various sized living modules surrounding it. To the south of the site was the landing area for the transport craft.
What did protect these buildings was a deadly, invisible laser field that, as far as the droids could determine on their previous scouting mission, stretched to a height of three hundred metres and domed over the complex. Every fifty metres around the perimeter a laser cannon perched on its platform controlled by the central computer, a synthetic brain. One of a network of organs across Earth feeding information back to the C.O.C at the heart of the TechPsychers Empire.
A door sized hole opened in the laser field, activated by the chip lasered into the first guard’s wrist and eight guards went through. Their grey body suits, made from a synthetic material that kept them cool and gave them some laser fire protection, shimmered in the weakening sunlight. Across their heads a metal band sat secured to neural connectors surgically implanted in their temples. This was what gave the TechPsychers their powers.
Just over one hundred and fifty years ago a mining company acquired alien technology that gave the wearer the ability to control things with their mind. Not like the natural psychers. This was more powerful. Not only could they control things, but they could control people and move objects the size of humans. This gave the mining company, particularly a man called Conrad Preest, the owner, immense power. Within the space of just twenty years an army of TechPsychers, controlled by Preest, had emerged and taken control of Earth and then within another thirty years all sixteen sectors of the galaxy had at least some partial influence from the TechPsychers.
The natural psychers were immune to the mind control and so became hunted, incarcerated and taken to unknown locations off world. The fight for freedom had begun ten years into the TechPsychers domination of Earth. A fight that had led the Psychic Knights to this point in their lives.
A whining noise could be heard from where the men were sitting. The defences were down.
The five men jumped on their Magno-Bikes and sped off through the trees. With autopilot engaged in stealth mode the Psychic Knights were free to control their droids.
The guards were now fully deployed in ten groups of eight around the complex sweeping their way outwards from the perimeter. Each group couldn’t see the others, but kept in contact psychically.
‘Another exciting day out here in the middle of nowhere, Jezza. I’m looking forward to getting back to that pleasure world. The sooner we get rid of these naturals the better.’
Jezza was the team leader of Gamma team and sat on a tree stump while his men carried out their checks up ahead.
‘Are you sure you wanna be going back to that place. They didn’t take too kindly to your last visit.’
Drake cast his mind back six months. Their last break from duty. In one of the clubs he was accosted by a dancing girl, though she swore blind that he tripped her in such a way that her naked breasts smothered his face as she fell forward.
‘I’m sure they won’t remember me. Anyway there are plenty of other places to go.‘
There was a silence from both parties as Ifor’s and Thorn’s droids took them out simultaneously.
‘Impeccable timing as always, Ifor.’
Both men afforded themselves a smile as their bikes silently carried them towards their goal.
Yilnar was making slower progress due to the heavy vegetation, but was none the less dispatching the guards with deadly accuracy. His droids had rendered four more guards unconscious while he was still three quarters of a mile away. A distance just on the limits of his control.
Roman was having even better success. Fifteen men down and still not spotted. His range of control was greater than the others. He felt this was due to the amount of time he spent fine tuning each droid. Getting to know their souls. For that’s what he believed they had. Every droid, every machine had its own personality. Something that, if you spent enough time on, could be tapped into. The others couldn’t see this. They just used the droids when they needed them. They couldn’t see how bonding with them could be beneficial.
The sound of a laser shot fizzed through the trees.
‘Delta leader, report!’
‘I thought I saw something in the trees. I’m going closer to have a look.‘
The Alpha team leader turned to his second in command.
“I bet it’s just another bird he’s seen. That man is jumpier than a frog on acid.”
The second in command gave a chuckle with a knowing look.
Ifor watched the Delta leader through his droid. The man cautiously crept forward making use of the available cover. From behind him the droid slowly descended to within three metres and dropped the leader where he crouched.
‘We may have to move a little quicker, boys. They think they’ve seen something, but they don’t know what yet,’ Ifor warned.
‘Right! Let’s pick up the pace. I want all of the guards neutralised ASAP,’ Thorn replied.
Twenty two guards and four minutes remained before the defences came back online. The fifteen droids went about their tasks with speed, accuracy and as much stealth as time would allow. The bikes were now just fifty metres from the perimeter, except Yilnar who was still one hundred metres behind. The signal finally came that the last guard was taken care of and the five men started making their way to their positions inside the complex.
Thorn reached his cover just as his three droids joined him. He scanned the area. In his sight was the building with the extra guards and the transporter landing area. Something wasn’t right. A group of guards came out of the building heading for the main domed building.
The four men confirmed their presence. A crackle and a fizz told them the defences were back on.
‘I don’t like this. It’s all been too easy. Did anyone notice anything about those guards that came out of the building?’
‘They’re just as ugly as the rest of them,’ quipped Ifor.
‘They don’t have their neural bands on. When was the last time any of you saw the TechPsychers without neural bands?’
‘Never. They even keep them on when they have a haircut,’ Yilnar said.
‘So what’s so different about today?’ Akarn queried. Before anyone could formulate an answer a blinding flash engulfed them. At the time Thorn thought that it wasn’t so much a visible flash, but one that was observed only by the mind and an instant after that excruciating pain filled the inner most part of his very soul until…