Ch19: Homesick

This is the conclusion of part 1 to my short story. I will be continuing my work on part 2 as well as my other larger book series, but I will be taking a break from posting a chapter every week as things are getting busy at my end. Enjoy! 

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.
No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Nineteen: Homesick 

Thunderous clouds rolled in over the trees which sparsely canopied the ground. The weather seemed calm however as the storm’s winds had not yet started, and Arius watched the family preparing the ranch for the coming storm. He had followed the father and two children back to the ranch hours earlier after they were done playing at the shore. He was curious about them. They were aliens to him, or more he was an alien to them. This was their world, and he was merely a visitor stranded where he did not want to be. He wondered if this family posed a threat to him or not, and thus he stayed hidden until he could discern a conclusion.
Arius remained in the shadows along the edge of the ranch. He felt weary, and hopelessness began to set in. He felt alone in the world, and found himself longing for people he could call friends. Furthermore he longed to be home again with his once to be future wife, but the realization that this world could very well be his new home set in. There was no way to go back now.
Thunder crackled in the distance, and he watched as the father put away a set of lawn chairs where they would not be carried off by the wind. A woman called to the children demanding that they come in soon, and Arius guessed it to be their mother. The children were reluctant to do so as they climbed upon the wooden fence next to the barn, but a rising gust of wind encouraged them to listen to their mother. The trees began to swirl as the wind passed through them, and the family hurried inside as cold rain began to pelt the earth.
Arius looked to the mean sky where lightning licked it furiously. Already it was a downpour, and his eyes were soaked in the cold rain spilling down his face. Looking to the barn he decided to intrude upon the family’s estate and find shelter.
He hurried to the barn door which the wind slammed shut behind him, and he found a dark foyer full of hay and various kinds of tools. A small burden pulling machine sat in the center of it, and his eyes looked to the upper deck where a shuttered window beat violently.
Making his way to a stack of hay he bedded down where he could feel most comfortable. The sound of rain pelting the wooden roof and barn walls eased him into the comfort of his own mind. The hopelessness he felt before seemed to melt away, and now he felt a temporary relief. He felt neither happy nor anxious, but the kind of sadness that would carry one to slumber.
A harsh scream shattered through, and Arius shuddered as if waking from a nightmare. He glanced around the barn but found no intruder but himself, and wondered if the scream had come from the house. Another scream splintered through the storm however, and he felt it far off away from the property. It was something else in the forest at least a couple miles away.
He didn’t know what it was, but it didn’t sound human. Suddenly he felt vulnerable as if something horrific would break through the barn at any moment flashing its sharp teeth, but the screams ceased leaving nothing but the pattering rain and wind which creaked through the barn.
His nerves were tight, but soon he began to fall back into a slumber where his dreams took him back home. He was with his wife-to-be upon a lime balcony overlooking a blue forest canopy. Red and gold cliffs spired above the canopy, and a mountain range swelled up past the far lakes sparkling beneath the sun. It was his future father in law’s palace which overlooked the countryside below. He had come up in the late afternoon to spend time with his future wife, and had been discussing the conflict between the several clans vying for power at the time. Not the most romantic conversation, but it was the world they were enveloped in. Of course their entire courtship was in the midst of political conflict. His to be father in law had arranged for his daughter to marry into one of the more prestigious clans, but had absolved the contract to make her marriage to Arius possible. The man had been like a father to Arius, and he was thankful for all the kindness he had showed him, but absolving a marriage contract was not a well appreciated thing in those days. Especially when it involved some of the most powerful people at the time. His to be father in law had sacrificed much to make his marriage to his daughter possible, but the consequences were huge.
“Hey, wake up,” a voice broke through his dream.
Arius jumped as someone prodded his shoulder, and he found himself back in the barn with two men standing over him.
“What are you doing in my barn?” the man with a rifle asked.

Thanks for reading part 1 of my short story. Hopefully I will soon have part 2 running. In the meantime check out my book, "Ground of Oam" here

Ch18: Blue Ridge

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.

No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Eighteen: Blue Ridge

Arius hugged the wood keeping him afloat. He felt in a fog as the heat beat the top of his head, and his neck began to burn from exposure. He tasted salt as water breached his dry lips. His throat burned for something to drink, but all he had was miles of salt water. He wasn’t sure how long he had been adrift in the ocean, but he had long lost the crash sight the night before. He had to be miles from where the boat wrecked, and all he had was a piece of its frame to keep him afloat.
He thought he could see a blue ridge ahead of him which he thought was land, but it never grew closer, and at times it would disappear beyond the ocean. Perhaps his eyes were playing tricks on him, perhaps it was the heat.
Arius’ mind wandered, and he found himself back upon his home world. He recalled the vast forests of his homeland, the magnificent cities of the empire, and the orbiting planet Geira which would flood the lower lying continents in flood water during the night. He longed to be there again.
The cry of a bird startled him, bringing him back from his memories. It dashed over him, bringing his eyes toward a large rock sticking up from the water. The water swelled up around him, and pushed him toward the rock. Fighting to brace himself he bounced off the stone before being swept around it where a massive island awaited several miles beyond him.
Glancing around Arius found that he had floated into a shallow bay with several rocky spires coming up from the water. White birds circled the bay toward the shore, and forest stretched toward what looked like mountains farther inland.
Arius began swimming for shore while using the wood to keep himself floating. The water grew shallower the farther in, and soon he was on his feet pushing through the ocean. A beach was directly ahead of him within a narrow valley sunken into the cliffs along the ocean. A river ran through the valley and dispersed into its salty relative.
He felt like collapsing upon the sand as soon as it was under him, but he pushed forward to the tree line where he would find shade. Leaving the wood behind, he stumbled to a large oak next to the river. The water felt good in his mouth and even better down his throat.
Arius pushed himself against the tree where he let his muscles relax. He didn’t know what he was going to do now. Not only was he separated from home by a few hundred light years, but now he was separated from the only people that could get him home. He regretted his every move since day one, but pushed his negative thoughts away. He couldn’t dwell upon his regrets, but had to focus on survival.
Laughter caused him to role onto his belly behind the large tree’s roots which twisted into the ground. He spotted a young girl walking by the side of a large beast he recalled to be a horse. Another younger boy walked on the other side of the horse kicking the sand with his feet. They were mere children, but whether they were hostile he didn’t know. Perhaps they were human, the locals of the planet called Earth, or perhaps they were related to the leather bearing life forms.
Arius watched as they moved toward the water, and feared they would discover his tracks coming from the ocean. The tree provided too little shade to hide in while on his belly so he carefully stood up to stay in the shadows. Peeking around the trunk he watched some more as the boy dashed along the edge of the water splashing it into the air. The girl led the horse to the river side where it began to drink.
A tremor alerted him to something to his right, and he glanced up to see a man standing at the top of a ridge that flood waters had carved out. He was only a few feet away, and watched as the children played. A rifle was in his hand, and his clothes looked rugged. If not for the shade Arius would have been discovered.
“Dad, look at what I found,” the boy called.
Arius looked back to see the wood he had come to shore with. The boy drug it across the beach as it was too heavy for him to carry. From what he could tell, this was a human family.

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Ch17: Flight Across the Waters

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.

No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Seventeen: Flight Across the Waters

The others were gone now, and only the sound of the slow whooshing of the water could be heard besides the sound of the chopper circling the warehouse several blocks back. Arius moved onto the beach and onto the docks. He glanced around warily; his senses were up to the highest sensitivity possible. The slightest movement would alert him.
He moved to the boat house with the gas can in hand. He didn't know what he would do, but he had retrieved the gas for a reason. Perhaps he would follow the others and try to convince them of his innocence and Dueson’s treachery, but all he had on his side was his own trustworthiness which was absolutely nothing. Thorim would probably try to keep things under control, but the others had already shown their lack of concern for authority. Thorim wouldn't be able to protect him from the others.
The hair on Arius’ neck stood up as he sensed something moving toward the beach. Headlights glared around a building before a land cruiser peeled around toward the beach. Arius attempted to take cover but the headlights had already exposed him.
Bullets began to fly as he dashed for the boathouse. Swinging the door open he slammed it shut before bracing it with a nearby cabinet. He could feel the hostiles approaching on foot now. Glancing to the boat he spotted the motor, and made haste to fill it with gas.
The door shuttered as they attempted to break through, but the cabinet only gave by a couple inches. It wouldn't take long for them to get in as they continued to wrestle it open. The gas guzzled into the motor slower than Arius could take. The cabinet scraped across the floor before jamming against another shelf, and the door was open enough for a soldier to squeeze through.
Arius tossed the still full gas tank aside where it splashed into the water, and riddled the door with his rifle. The soldiers were pushed back, but they returned fire reducing the door to scraps. Arius nearly tripped into the boat as he back into it, and its rocking nearly sent him over the edge.
He fired another burst toward the door before turning to the controls. The key was already in the ignition which he turned to hear the motor groan. The door to the boat house blew open, and another turn revved the engine to life.      
Pulling the throttle the boat roared forward before slamming into the exit which hung over the water. The doors flew open as the soldiers stepped into the building where they fired toward the fleeing boat. Arius crouched as the bullets hammered against the boat but they missed him as he steered it away from the building.
More guns fired from the soldiers upon the beach, and the boat splintered from the rounds. Arius turned it toward the vast ocean unwilling to let them sink the boat, and soon the gunfire became silent. His hands shook from the adrenaline in his system, and he held his limbs tight as the boat bounced against the waves.
He didn't know where he was going other than away from the island. The moon was gone behind the clouds, and there was no light upon the ocean which left him in utter darkness. His eyes were good at seeing in the dark, but an endless ocean left him with nothing to see.
Arius kept it at full throttle not knowing when it would run out of gas. The cold wind against his face at first eased his nerves but soon chilled him to the bone. Looking back he could no longer see the island. He wasn't sure how long he had been traveling. Turning his eyes forward again he glimpsed the rocky reef ahead of him, but it was too late as the boat smashed into the rock with a grind.

Half the floor ripped away from him as the rest of the boat flew into the air. Arius lost hold of the wheel and became suspended in the air before plummeting into the darkness around him. He heard the boat crash into a million pieces elsewhere before he was consumed by the ocean. 

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out my book, Ground of Oam, here.

Ch16: Truly Alone

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.
No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Sixteen: Truly Alone

Arius moved through the hall as he could feel hostiles storming the warehouse from every direction. They had them surrounded, but he still had the shadows on his side. His mind ran rampant as he didn’t know what to think. What would he tell the others?
He was back upon the second floor because of the hostiles who quickly approached from the first floor. He retraced his steps the way he had come, before finding himself in the large room where the gas container had been found.
His eyes moved to the door he needed to go through, but he spotted Brockumus’ body slumped upon the floor. A trail of blood led toward him, and Arius was convinced that he was dead. Moving forward he rolled the man over who groaned with whatever life he had left.
“Brockumus,” Arius said, cradling the man.
“You must run,” the man returned. “Dueson will kill you.”
“Why did you sabotage the ship?”
“It had to be done. It’s too late to explain, but know that you must go. The others don’t trust you. Dueson will use that to his advantage.”
“You have to tell me who you’re working for.”
“I can’t. Go.”
Brockumus’ head fell back as he breathed his last. Arius’ stomach turned hard as he watched the closest thing he had to a friend die. Suddenly he felt alone.
The hostiles were moving closer, and now he was sure the exits were blocked. Resting Brockumus’ body upon the floor he cast his eyes to the large window behind the desk. Moving forward he smashed it with the butt of his rifle, and spotted the lower wing of the warehouse below. He could see several hostiles moving about the perimeter below, and he jumped before they could cast their lights toward the shattered window.
A loud thud sounded as he bounced off of the metal roof, and he began to slide to the edge where he fell to the pavement below. Arius’ breath was knocked out of him, and his left ankle pulsed in pain. He had twisted it on his way down.
Lights past over him as he stared toward the sky. He remained concealed within the darkness, and soon the hostiles were moving in for a closer look.
Arius rolled over with a grunt and spotted the gas can by his side. Luckily the nozzle had remained secure so no gasoline was spilling out. Grabbing the can, he slipped past the soldiers unnoticed though a limp slowed him down.  
He headed toward the beach ignoring the flaring pain in his ankle. It made his travel slow, but he didn’t have much farther to go. The last building was before him, and the sandy beach was after it. Pressing his back against the building he peered around the corner toward the boat house which was only a few yards away.
Jayvolni was waiting outside along with three others. One of them was Thorim, and the other two Gruegon and Camus. Apparently they had caught up, and now Arius had to figure out a way to explain everything to them. By now they were aware of the commotion at the warehouse as the leather soldiers were in frenzy over there.
Arius began to step out, but pressed himself back against the building as soon as he spotted Dueson approaching the men. Apparently he had made it out of the warehouse alive.
“What happened?” Arius could feel Thorim’s voice in the air. “Where are the others?”
“Arius,” replied Dueson with a flare of anger in his voice. “He killed my brother, and I don’t know what he did to Brockumus. He’s a traitor.”
Arius’ hands turned clammy. How could Dueson set him up after what happened? His brother was killed at the hands of Brockumus, but yet he continued to set him up.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure! I was there, I held my brother until he died.”
“Where is Arius now?” asked Jayvolni.
“I don’t know.”
“We need to get out of here sir,” Camus said. “We don’t have gas for the boat.”
Thorim appeared uncertain. Was Arius really the culprit, he wondered. Pushing his thoughts aside he acknowledged Camus’ point and the group started back into town. Jayvolni grabbed Dueson by the shoulder and gave his regrets. The two followed Thorim into the night leaving Arius to himself.

What would he do now? He had no place to go, and his only allies were now against him. He was truly alone, and he could only trust himself. 

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check Ground of Oam here

Ch15: Ulterior Motives

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.

No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Fifteen: Ulterior Motives

“Why are you doing this, Dueson?” asked Arius. “Why would you jeopardize the mission?”
“What mission,” Dueson scoffed. “We’re hunting a hundred year old legend that doesn’t concern us anymore. My mission is to the highest payer, and right now you have a large sum on your head.”
“You’re making a mistake,” Brockumus said, feeling Ruekrow’s pistol at his head.
“If it’s Waid you’re working for, then you can’t trust him,” Arius added.
Dueson barked out a laugh.
“Why, because he’s put a bounty on you? I’m not trying to marry his daughter Arius, I’m just expanding my business.”
“And you would sabotage the ship for that! We’re stranded here with no way off this planet.”
“I have faith that things will work out, and for the record, we didn’t sabotage the ship. But I’m sure I know who.”
Their senses perked as something moved outside the warehouse, and the thudding sound of a flying machine could be heard nearby. It was likely the leather clad soldiers heard the gunshot when Dueson shot Brockumus, and they were probably on their way now.
“We have to get out of here,” Brockumus hissed.
“Quiet,” Dueson’s brother barked.
“You tried to kill me Brock, why?” asked Dueson
Arius’ eyes narrowed.
“You’re the one that shot me Dueson,” returned Brockumus.
“After you came from behind me with a knife.”
“What are you talking about?” demanded Arius.
Had Brockumus really tried to kill Dueson?
“Arius, don’t listen to him.”
“Shut up!” ordered Ruekrow, pressing the pistol closer to his head.
“Your friend tried to kill me Arius,” replied Dueson. “It seems he has an ulterior motive.”
Arius looked Brockumus in the eyes whose grimace told too much. Dueson wasn’t lying, and Brockumus had tried to kill him, but why?
“They’re here to kill you Arius,” Brockumus said, realizing his exposure. “He set you up to turn the others against you.”
“But that’s not why you tried to kill me,” Dueson interrupted. “You’re the one that sabotaged the ship, which tells me you have another interest besides protecting Arius.”
“You’re stretching.”
“Am I? I read your background before arriving here, and I know a forged history when I see one. It’s prestigious enough to guarantee your acceptance on this mission, but subtle enough to avoid unnecessary attention.”
“You don’t have a clue what you’re coming against. I was sent on this mission to ensure success, and thus far you’ve done nothing but impede that success for nothing but money.”
“I guess there’s enough guilt to go around then.”    
The sound of the flying machine grew closer, and Arius knew their position would be compromised shortly.
“I’m sorry, but it’s time to end this,” said Dueson. “I’ll tell the others that you were killed by those leather wearing monsters.”
Arius grew tense and he spotted the handgun hidden behind Brockumus’ unzipped jacket. The flying machine outside passed overhead; its lights flashed through the far windows casting their shadows against the surrounding junk.
Brockumus passed through Ruekrow’s hold, grabbing his handgun from behind his jacket, and spun around to shove the muzzle into Ruekrow’s side where he fired a round into his chest. Dueson shouted as he watched his brother fall, and fired at Brockumus who fired a second shot past Arius.
Dueson cried as the round ripped past his right arm while Brockumus remained unscathed. Arius stepped to the side with his rifle passing between the two men. Dueson had dropped his weapon, and cradled his arm as he looked to his dying brother behind Brockumus. Ruekrow was still alive, but coughing up blood which flooded his lungs.
“Kill him Arius!” Brockumus demanded, keeping his gun toward Dueson.
The flying machine could still be heard outside, and Arius thought he could feel dozens of hostiles bearing toward the warehouse.
“Who are you working for?” Arius demanded, finding the muzzle of his rifle aimed toward the man alone.
“I’m not the bad guy Arius,” he returned. “Dueson and his brother were hired to kill you, and they set you up.”
“But you sabotaged the ship.”
“I don’t have time to explain my actions.”
“Ruekrow!” Dueson cried, watching his brother suffocate on the ground. “You’re going to pay for this Brockumus.”
“Arius, kill him now or I will!” demanded Brockumus.
Arius was hesitant to lower his rifle. Dueson was there to kill him, but Brockumus had sabotaged the mission. As far as he was concerned they were both dangerous.
Arius’ eyes glanced toward Ruekrow who reached for his handgun lying next to him. He grabbed the gun, finding a final source of strength, and raised it toward Brockumus who felt it. Both Dueson and Arius shouted as Brockumus stepped back and fired another round into Ruekrow’s chest finishing him for good, but several more shots fired as Dueson had retrieved his weapon.
Brockumus stumbled back, and blood spilled from the three holes in his chest. He nearly collapsed to the floor, but caught himself on a beam before disappearing around the corner where archaic looking machinery rusted away. 
Dueson hurried to his brother as more hostiles began to storm into the warehouse. They were hidden among the vast amount of junk, but soon the leather soldiers would come upon them. Arius grabbed the fallen gas tank, and looked toward Dueson who knelt by his dead brother. The man wept, and Arius felt guilt as he slipped away into the darkness.  

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Ch14: Ensnared

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.
No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Fourteen: Ensnared

The large warehouse loomed over them like an ancient beast standing against the ocean wind. The rolling doors were unhinged from their rollers leaving a narrow gap for Arius and Brockumus to squeeze through, but they knew not what waited upon the other side.
The interior of the warehouse was lofty. A second floor awaited several yards farther where two sets of stairs led to an upper mezzanine before several door led to other areas. Below, more doors awaited opening which left much ground to be covered. An old truck sat in the middle of the first room which Brockumus headed for. Finding the input for the fuel, he opened the cap and sniffed only to distort his face in disgust. The gas was rotten.
“Perhaps we can find better fuel elsewhere,” he said.
“I’ll take the top, you the bottom,” Arius suggested, with a wary gaze to the upper mezzanine.
He didn’t like the idea of splitting up, but they had to find fuel if they were to get off the island. They had contacted Dueson and Ruekrow through the wheel, and they were supposed to be on their way to the warehouse. Arius just didn’t want to be caught alone with them.
“I suppose so,” replied Brockumus. “But be careful.”
Arius nodded, and soon he made his way up the stairs. Old furniture and papers littered the upper mezzanine, and he found the next door hard to open. It budged with some force, and he made his way down the next hall. Windows took in the distant moonlight casting the long hall into a surreal sight.
Clearing several small rooms and closets, Arius found himself in another large room with workbenches and walls full of tools. Several doors led in and out of the room; several of them were open giving him a peep into the rest of the massive warehouse. A chill traversed his spine as he nearly expected something awful to come out of those dark rooms and halls.
To his right he caught sight of a red container with a spout. Moving toward it he examined the inner contents and found what he thought to be fuel. Sniffing it, he found it tolerable.
Something shuddered behind him, causing him to spin around with his rifle. The sights landed upon Ruekrow who had seemingly been trying to sneak up on him.
“You going to kill me too now,” Ruekrow said, with intimidation.
Arius lowered his rifle and replied, “I don’t kill my allies.”
“That’s not what I’ve heard. I hear you’ve had some questionable events in your life.”
“I don’t know what you’ve heard, but you don’t know me or my past.”
“I know you’ve managed to make some powerful people back home angry. Should we talk about that?”
 A shot fired from somewhere below, and its vibrations shuddered throughout the warehouse.
“Brockumus,” Arius said with worry.
The two of them hurried to investigate, Arius grabbing the fuel container on his way out of the room. Through several halls they came to a staircase which creaked on their way down. The place seemed to grow darker as they came to the first floor, and soon they were surveying the floor.
They came to a large room where ancient looking machinery collected dust in every corner. Pillars supported the vast ceiling overhead, and the place was like a cluttered maze. Weaving around the junk Arius spotted Brockumus against a far pillar with what appeared to be a wounded arm. Blood ran down the sleeve. 
“What happened?” Arius asked, moving to assist him.
“It’s Dueson,” he warned, before spotting Ruekrow. “Look out!”
Arius felt the coming impact moving through the air, but was too slow to turn around. The butt of Ruekrow’s rifle hit him square between the shoulders, knocking him to the ground where he dropped the container. A scuffle broke out behind him, as Brockumus tried to fight.
Arius jumped to his feet with his rifle and spun around only to find Brockumus under Ruekrow’s hold. A pistol was to his head, and Ruekrow dared him to make a move.
“What are you doing Ruekrow?” Arius asked, with his heart racing.
“Drop your weapon Arius,” Ruekrow replied. “You’re not going anywhere.”
Arius’ senses alerted him to another presence behind him, and he felt a gun pressed against the back of his head.

“Do what he tells you Arius,” Dueson’s voice came. “Your times up.” 

Be sure to check out my book, Ground of Oam, here. 


Ch13: A Way Out

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.
No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Thirteen: A Way Out

The town sat silently upon the shore of the island, where the ocean whispered the sound of its steady waves from the darkness that concealed it. There were no lights in that place as the place was dead. Only toward the center of town could light be seen, for the leather soldiers had decided to make camp there as long as they were upon the island. Arius was dismayed about the amount of hostiles that had moved to the island.
The raping of a hanging sign against a chain-link fence sounded to their right due to the wind. Arius imagined a dark creature to leap out from the darkness as soon as they passed by the ally, but all remained still. Brockumus was ahead of him, and surveyed the area for their destination. The beach was just around the corner, for he could see a sudden blackness in the distance. Docks were consumed into the abyss.
Around the building, they made way toward an old boat house sitting off of the water. Jayvolni was supposed to be inside as they had communicated through the wheel upon arrival to town. This would be tense, for he would have to work with those who thought him a traitor.
The door to the boat house creaked open, and Brockumus led the way in, glancing to the left and the right. A boat sat in the middle of the room where ocean water calmly swept back and forth bobbing the boat up and down. A large door sat in front of the boat closing it off to the vaster ocean beyond.  At first the place seemed empty, but then Arius felt someone lurking in the far shadows across the room.
“Were you followed here?” Jayvolni asked, uncloaking himself from the shadows.
“No,” replied Brockumus. “Where are Dueson and Ruekrow?”
“Gathering essential supplies. We can leave as soon as we have them.”
“So the boat is good to go?”
“I patched it up, but it needs fuel. Hopefully the brothers will be able to locate some.”
“What about everyone else,” Arius chimed in. “We won’t leave without them.”
“The others will be here,” replied Brockumus. “Thorim is shortly behind us. It’s Rie and Grem I’m unsure about.”
Brockumus had contacted Rie shortly before arriving to town in order to persuade them to meet at the docks. The two mercenaries were reluctant to cooperate however as they had decided to take matters into their own hands. Apparently their ship’s beacon had been washed ashore, but the leather clad soldiers had seized it before they could. Rie and Grem planned to steal it back, but that meant waiting upon the island even longer.
“I heard over the wheel,” said Jayvolni. “They think they can retrieve the beacon.”
“It’s dangerous, but without it I’m afraid we would be stranded here forever.”
“I must say, I doubted the reality of finding it,” said Jayvolni. “But even so, we can’t stay here for long. If they don’t make it back by morning, then I’m afraid we have no choice but to leave.”
“That’s a lot of ground for them to cover,” said Arius. “Is there any way we can pick them up.”
“I have a feeling that as soon as we get into the ocean, we’ll want to get as far away from here as possible. I don’t want to leave anyone behind, but the two decided to go on their own, and thus far don’t seem in want of aid.”
“To be fair,” began Brockumus. “It was you that first broke up the group.”
“We needed a way off of this island before things got too dangerous, and now look at where you are.”
“I suppose they will be saying the same if they get back with the beacon.”
“If,” emphasized Jayvolni.
Brockumus let out a deep sigh before asking, “what can we do to help?”
Jayvolni turned his eyes down as if perplexed by the question, but staring them back in the eyes he replied, “Find out where Dueson and Ruekrow are at, and help them bring back supplies. What we need more than anything is fuel, so that is the real chore.”
“Sounds good,” Brockumus glanced toward Arius.
The two left the boat house where Arius moved his gaze to the distant moon which now glistened over the ocean waters. Before the clouds had masked its glow, but now it was left bare. Arius gripped his rifle, and wondered how much they would sacrifice just to save their own lives. Would they leave some behind, or would they pull through as a team? These were mercenary men however, and they knew little about teams. 

Be sure to check out  my book, Ground of Oam, here.

Ch12: Pressing On

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.
No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Twelve: Pressing On

Dust billowed in the air, and tree limbs cracked from their trunks before crashing to the ground. The treetops whirled overhead as the rotors of a flying machine beat the air with fury. Heated shells fell from the machine’s guns which unloaded its chambers into the trees.
Arius hunkered beneath a rocky overhang where he hoped the machine wouldn’t be able to see him. The group had been scattered in the night due to the air ambush. The leather clad soldiers must have been using infrared vision technology. Otherwise, Arius knew not how they tracked them in the dark, but if this were the case, then they would stand out like flares under the forest canopy.
Arius could feel the vibrations from the machine, and the flurry of leaves beneath it. The guns stopped their thundering, and soon the machine moved on. The dust settled, and Arius didn’t know where the others were, but he feared to move from hiding. Exposing himself could attract anything from the air, but he knew there were foot soldiers in the area. He had seen them, and even now could feel them among the surrounding trees.
Moving forward he risked it. All he had was the assault rifle he stole from the soldier in the building earlier that day. It fell cool against his clammy palms, and he swept it back and forth against the trees ahead.
His eyes were attuned to the dark, but he wondered if the darkness would conceal him from the ground troops. If they too had infrared, then his camouflage was useless. He had to find safety, but where upon the island could he go?
He felt a soldier a few yards to his right. Taking cover behind a wide oak, Arius prepared to attack if needed, but he could identify three soldiers together. He would have to attack with cunning.
“They could be anywhere,” one of them said, in a rough voice. “Stick close and we’ll fare the better.”
“They can’t hide forever,” another one said, while sweeping the perimeter with its rifle. “They have no place to run, and the commander is certain that we will scour this island until they turn up. He thinks they’re from the outside world, perhaps spies.”
“They’re not from the outside,” the first one nearly barked. “These things came out of the shadows like ghost. Whatever they are, they’re not human.”
“Then what?” asked the third.
“I don’t know, but they ghosted me before I had a chance to fight back,” the first one replied before letting out a curse. “I’ve died enough this month, and I’m not going to die again. Next time, I’ll be ready.”
Arius felt a chill down his spine. Were these soldier immune to death, only to rise again after death? It would explain their hideous appearance if it was due to death time and time again. These were soldiers who saw the horrors of battle unto death several times over. Their scars would bear testimony of the fact.
The three moved on, and Arius stepped past the tree. He could see their back’s glistening in the soft moonlight which his eyes could pick up. Surgery had changed his eyes to mimic those of the planets residence, but in the dark they reverted back to their original light sensitive state.
A tremor brought him to spin to his right where he spotted a leather soldier twenty feet off. Its infrared scope glistened under the moonlight, and its rifle aimed for him. Arius sprayed the surrounding trees with the pull of a trigger while return fire pelted the tree behind him. The soldier sought cover, but took several hits to the chest before tumbling back.
Spinning back around, Arius knew that the other three would return, and thus they were through the bushes. Spraying the area with his rifle, Arius moved for cover back behind the tree as return fire shattered the other side. He knew more would be closing in, and he had to get out before they surrounded him.
Another rifle thundered several yards up the hill from the three soldiers, and Arius identified a fourth figure. The three soldiers took cover as one of them fell wounded. It was an ally, and Arius stepped around the oak, thundering the remainder of his clip toward the enemy. They scattered further, one taking a mortal wound to the head, and the second finding himself pinned behind a tree.
Arius sought cover behind another tree to reload while the soldier fired toward the other figure. With a click Arius hurried forward to press the soldier back. The fourth figure descended the hill and planted a knife into the wounded soldier, before Arius finished off the final one.
More were coming as he could feel them bearing toward them. The fourth figure made for Arius, before grabbing him by the arm. It was Brockumus.
“We must head for the harbor,” he said.
“What of the others?”
“They will take care of themselves. We must find safety and regroup later.”
The night pressed on as did they, but Arius felt the makings of a trap. 

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Ch11: Stories Told of History's Day

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.

No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Eleven: Stories Told of History's Day

Night had encroached upon them, and the five found themselves a few meters from the Gray Tower. A starry sky seemed to move above the trees as the planet continued its rotation, and the moon had for a short time been up. No fire stirred before them, as they wished to avoid attention. Thus they ignored the cold which impinged their bodies.
Naturally the tower would have provided ideal shelter for the five, but it would have left them cornered if the enemy were to come upon them. Therefor Thorim thought it wise to keep a distance, though no one felt comfortable by it. There was a killer among them, and Arius knew that the others distrusted him. Even Thorim who was reluctant to accuse him, remained suspicious. Arius could tell by the way he behaved. Wary glances, and uncomfortable silence were a giveaway.
Gruegon and Brockumus kept watch for the night, though no one slumbered. Camus was the fifth mercenary among them, and even more than Arius, was probably the quieter of the bunch. He had over the trip developed a bond with Gruegon just as Rie with Grem, and Jayvolni with Dueson and Ruekrow. Arius supposed that Brockumus was his new friend during the trip which left Thorim as the loner. He didn’t seem to have any one friend among the mercenaries, but acted as their leader alone. Arius could only wonder what their commander was thinking.
A sharp clicking sounded in the camp, and they all reached for their wheel. A palm sized device that clicked off an encrypted message. The shape of it was a wheel, and engraved symbols ran around the rim. The top part of the wheel turned to press upon the bottom part, and a message was dialed from Jayvolni. It was their method of communications, as they had no radio or com. The wheel operated by a type of magnetism which only the corresponding devices were linked to, thus they were able to communicate no matter what their distance from each other.
“He has found a boat by the docks,” Thorim spoke aloud. “but it’s condition is in need of repair.”
“If he succeeds in repairing it,” said Camus. “Will we leave with him?”
“Our priority is the mission, but he is right to say that staying is dangerous,” replied Thorim. “We will go if we must.”
Another message clicked through the wheels, and Arius noted it as from Grem. The two had nearly made it back to the crash site, but there were many leathered savages there. It would be dangerous, but they dared to proceed in hopes of finding the ships transmitter.
Thorim replied with a warning, but they refused to take heed from their old commander. They were on their own now, and only communicated to remain informed. All became silent as soon as communication was over.
The insects upon the world had taken to their chirping for the night, and now Arius’ mind began to wonder. He thought of his future wife, and despaired for the great distance between them. Could he ever get back to her, or was his destiny there among men who did not trust him. Was all this really a ploy of his future father in law of riding him forever? Heat flashed through his body as he looked back upon his gullibility. Yawen Waid, the father of his future wife, had tricked him. Arius had trusted the man, and at one time considered him as a father he never had, but now he realized the usury.
Arius’ thoughts soon turned to the mission which Thorim thought so highly of. It was true, they were there to make history, but perhaps it was their demise they would find instead. They were hunting a man of legend, long thought dead. What would his business be there, and what was he planning?

Arius recalled the stories taught to him as a child. A plague that devoured worlds, turning brother against brother, son against father. The great Plaigeanic Wars led by the Lord of Plagues, as the adversary called himself.  Worlds were in peril against his corrupting hand, and plague like armies, but a deliverer came to free them from the Lord of Plagues. Archaies was his name, and by his hand the adversary was put to death, the plague done away, and peace restored. Now here they were several hundred years later, hunting the man they once adored. The man Archaies, the one they once called deliverer. 

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Ch10: Five for Now

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.

No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Ten: Five for Now

The room seemed to go dead as an uncertain silence overtook it. No one reached for their guns, though Arius could see how they prepared themselves just in case. Verbal accusations held back, at least for now, but the mercenary’s eyes did enough of the talking.
“This doesn’t look good, Arius,” Thorim said, as if Arius failed to comprehend it.
“I’m not responsible for this,” he replied.
“No one’s accusing you,” said Brockumus, who glanced around the room full of mercenaries.
“You speak alone,” replied Rie. “This looks suspicious enough.”
“Do you think I would leave my dagger behind for all to see?” Arius shot back, with more anger than intended. “I didn’t do this.”
“Wel,l someone did,” replied Rie, unappreciative of his tone.
“We know the ship was sabotaged,” added Grem. “And someone in this room is responsible for that, and whoever it is, is likely responsible for this too.”
“Let’s not rush to conclusions,” began Brockumus, but Ruekrow cut him off.
“The conclusion is obvious. We have our daggers, and I have heard the rumors. Arius’ allegiance is questionable.”
“Rumors that I am sure you started!” Brockumus barked.
“Silence!” came Thorim’s voice with a boom. The room grew dull once again.
“We must think this through,” he continued. “When could this have happened? We have been together since the crash.”
“I wouldn’t be sure of it,” Dueson replied. “The night of the crash when we sought shelter under the rock. Someone could have sneaked off then, only to return unnoticed.”
“But we had two at watch every few hours,” said Brockumus.
“It was dark,” said Dueson. “Anyone of us could have sneaked off, and besides that, the dagger is ours. It couldn’t have been here before the crash which means it has to be one of us.”
“Then someone is setting me up,” said Arius.
“We don’t need to hear it,” hissed Grem. “The evidence is clear if only we look at it plainly. What are we going to do about it, commander?”
Thorim hesitated a response.
“Setting Arius up would be easy to do,” Brockumus said, taking advantage of the pause.
“Are you volunteering?” asked Ruekrow.
Dueson grabbed his younger brother by the arm as if to ease his accusations. Jayvolni only observed in the background.
“Sir.” Arius had a dry mouth.
He could only plea for his innocence. Anger began to rage as he pondered his framer for he knew someone there was setting him up. Brockumus had warned him to be careful, but the conspiracy against him was already set in motion.
“Quiet,” Thorim nearly hissed. “There are too many possibilities. I can’t accuse you of anything, but the evidence before us is plain. Perhaps too plain.”
“Excuse me, sir,” Grem said with disbelief. “Too plain?”
“This could be a set up!”
“Or carelessness upon the culprits part!” Grem barked at his commander. “How can you dismiss the obvious? Do you wish to see us all dead?”
“No!” Thorim rebutted. “But we need further investigation.”
“We don’t have time,” Jayvolni finally spoke. His calm but stern voice effortlessly broke the heated commotion. “This island will soon be swarming with hostiles. We need an exit strategy if we wish to live.”
“So what?” asked Rie. “We should just forget about this?”
“I don’t care what you do,” replied Jayvolni, “but I’m going back toward town. Perhaps there’s a boat or something.”
“No,” said Thorim. “We need to investigate. Otherwise this mission is over.”
“This mission is already over,” replied Jayvolni. “Now it’s only a matter of survival, and the best way to do that is to get off this island.”
“We can’t,” replied Rie. “Our ship dropped a beacon before it crashed. If we leave this island then we’ll have no chance of getting home. We should find the beacon first. Perhaps it’s washed ashore by now.”
“I bid you well with that,” said Jayvolni. “I’m heading to town, and if anyone wants to come along, follow me.”
Jayvolni glanced toward Dueson and Ruekrow as if to give a special invitation before turning to leave the room.
“Jayvolni,” Thorim said. “You can’t do this.”
“I’m am, sir,” he replied. “And I suggest you figure your end out before you follow. There’s a traitor among us, and we can’t act like it’s not obvious. I’ll keep in touch through the wheel.”
Jayvolni cast a glance toward Arius before he left the room. Ruekrow and Dueson hesitantly followed, leaving the rest to make up their own minds.
“We can’t leave without the beacon,” Rie said. “I’m heading back to the crash. Anyone who wants to go home come with me, except you.”
Rie pointed his finger toward Arius with eyes that threatened harm if he were to follow. Grem went along with his friend leaving the last four of the group. Arius questioned his next move and wondered what Thorim would have done to him. Surely Brockumus would come to his aid.
“And just like that the group is no more,” Thorim said, under his breath. “That’s what I get for working with brutes.”
Looking to the other two mercenaries he asked, “What of you? Do you wish to desert your commander as well?”
“No sir,” one of them replied, Gruegon was his name. “We are vulnerable if we split up.”

“Then it’s us five for now,” Thorim said. “And we stay for the mission, if you are capable of it.” 

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Ch9: Cursing in the Tongue

Chapter Nine: Cursing in the Tongue 
A caw broke out over the dark forest canopy as a black colored bird fluttered among the jagged trees. This side of the island was unlike the other. While the other side had been full of color bursting from every crevice and rock, this side was nothing more than bland grey bark and faded leaves which hung from the trees and layered the gently sloping ground.
It was dark within the forest which was good since it provided enough shade to stay cloaked, and even if they couldn’t cloak, the canopy would prevent any aircraft from spotting them. Arius kept this in mind, but still questioned the situation with skepticism. They were on a small island with hostiles soon to be combing the land for them, and yet they expected to find their contact there. Something just didn’t seem right about it.
A stone wall was ahead of them, and the mercenaries moved through the open gate which looked old and unused. The Gray Tower was just ahead of them, and seemed to be surrounded by maze like walls which kept them away from the entrance. Soon they made their way through however, and Arius wondered at the purpose of the tower. It didn’t appear to be a lighthouse of any kind, but it was tall enough to be.
Thorim led the way, taking pause at the entrance. He motioned for Jayvolni to take the door which he did. The door opened with a snarl as the bottom of it scrapped across the stone floor. The mercenaries rushed in to clear the first room which consisted of half of the bottom floor. The next room was the other half, and a rounded staircase circled up to the second floor. The place was old and clearly abandoned. Could their contact really be there, Arius wondered.
Dueson led the way up the wooden stairs which creaked under their weight. The higher they climbed the more skeptical Arius became. Their contact was like them and would surely be aware of their presence now, but no one showed.
The door at the top was open, and Dueson headed in first followed by the rest. A round table was at the center of the room and a single chair beside it. Its back was toward the door, and a figure sat upon it. They slowed when they saw it, and Dueson carefully moved around it to get a better look. Arius took to the other side and soon they were all before it.
“We have a problem, sir,” Dueson said, as Thorim entered the room.
Arius eyed the corpse which was slumped forward. A dagger was in its gut, and florescent blue veins could be seen traveling up the corpse’s neck and face where they accumulated around the eyes. A deep blue substance lingered within the figures eyes, and Arius recognized it for what it was.
“Someone got to our contact before we did,” Dueson said.
Thorim moved in for a better look, pulling the head back to see the eyes. He cursed in his own language when he saw it.
“It’s one of ours,” he said, grabbing the dagger.
Pulling it out, he examined the blue edge of the dagger. It was definitely theirs as the blue substance coating the knife was known as Suedoth. It was a poison they coated their knives with. Once the Suedoth reacted with the blade a simple cut would infect the blood stream where it would make its way toward the brain.
“How?” Grem asked, casting a glance across all of them.
“Who’s missing a dagger?” Thorim asked with regret.
Everyone began to search their bags and belts to show themselves innocent. Arius started for his bag where he had put his, but his mouth turned sour as soon as he remembered earlier that day. His dagger had been missing from his bag, except for the blue Suedoth stone which was used to line the knife. His stomach grew heavy as he watched everyone else present their daggers. Soon their eyes were upon him, empty handed.
“Arius, where is your dagger?” asked Thorim.
“I don’t know, sir,” he stuttered. “I don’t have it.”    

Thanks for reading chapter nine, and be sure to stop by next Saturday for chapter ten. I'm not sure how many chapters this story will have though I am sure it is near the halfway mark. 
Meanwhile, be sure to check out my book, Ground of Oam, here.
Also, check it out in paperback here.

Ch8: Leather Clad Soldiers

Chapter Eight: Leather Clad Soldiers

Everyone moved in as Thorim undid the mask from the figures head. Four buckles traversed down the front side of the mask which he had to undo individually before pulling away the leather flap. A lifeless face starred at them, but it lacked the familiarity of the planets traditional inhabitants. Or at least it failed to match the description of what they had been lead to believe the inhabitants looked like.
The figures face carried a resemblance to the planet’s inhabitants, but it looked mutilated and deformed. It wasn’t necessarily due to deformity at birth, but rather due to battle. This creature carried battle scars which would have left most beings Arius knew of incapable of combat. An incorrectly healed jaw, butchered nose, and plenty of scars added detail to the face.
“He’s been through a lot,” Brockumus commented.
“Is it a native?” asked Ruekrow. “Or is it the biological entity that our intel mentioned?”
“I’m going to take a guess,” replied Thorim. “It’s probably not the original inhabitants of this world. Rather, it’s the thing responsible for throwing this world into a dystopian age.”
“What do you think they are?” asked Dueson. “Where did they come from?”
“All I know is what our intel gave us,” Thorim replied. “We should find our contact. He will be able to give us more answers.”
“We’ll have to move fast,” Jayvolni said. “This place will be brimming with these things as soon as they discover them dead.”
“Then we head for Gray Tower now,” Thorim said. “Take their weapons and any ammunition you can carry.”
The group broke off and began to strip the bodies. Arius grabbed several more clips for his newly obtained rifle and placed them into his bag. Moving back to one of the bodies down the hall he grabbed a handgun from its side as well as its leg holster. He had lost all his supplies except for his bag during the crash, so he found a certain kind of relief once he was armed again.
They left through the front door and past the cruiser with only a moment’s glance. Cruiser would provide fast transportation, but it would also be easier to spot. They would continue on foot as they had been; keeping to the shadows where they could easily hide.
By noon they were following the forest line across the hills which swell up from the earth east of the building. The map they had seen earlier depicted Gray Tower toward the southeastern corner of the island which couldn't be more than a couple miles away. The island was small; the building being at its highest point had revealed the entirety of it. As soon as these unknown entities discovered their dead team, there would be hardly a place to hide. Arius realized the seriousness of the situation, and knew they would have to find a way off of the island soon.
“Sir,” Grem called, from ahead. He pointed to the building which lay far behind them.
They looked to the west where the sun now bore straight upon the house. Shadows would be short at this time of day. A distant hum began to roar across the distant hill where the building sat as a large aircraft settled past the house. Arius could see the grass under it dispersing outward as the gust from the double rotor machine neared the ground. It looked heavily armored, a rotor disk was to either side of it, and a door slid open upon its side. A dozen leather clad soldiers hit the ground and hurried to the building. It would only be a matter of time before the island was overrun by them.
Across the next hill the group found themselves in a shallow ravine. The building could no longer be seen, but over the next ridge the tip of a Gray Tower emerged from the distant trees.
“There it is,” someone announced.
“Make haste,” Thorim returned.
They started over the ridge before descending back into the trees, and only Arius halted at its edge. He peered toward the Gray Tower which was now visible. Could their contact really be there?
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Dueson said, coming up from behind him.
Arius glanced toward him before returning, “As do I.” 

Thanks for reading this weeks chapter, and be sure to stop by next Saturday for Chapter Nine. Also, check my book, Ground of Oam.

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Short Story Announcement

My weekly chapters for the short story will now be appearing on Saturdays, so tomorrow's chapter will be this Saturday instead. This is due to some changes in my marketing strategy so hopefully Saturday will be a better day for everyone.
Thanks, and have a great day!

Oam's Cry trailer

It's the weekend now, which means more writing for me! (that's a good thing too). Currently I am working on my third installment to my series within the larger Oam's Cry series while I anticipate my brothers future installment of his sub-series. Oam's Cry is developing well, and now we have a book trailer to go with it.


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Ch7: Ghosted

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.
No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Seven: Ghosted 
Arius took a step back. A shelf full of canned goods was to his right, and blocked his view of the staircase. A stone wall was to his left, and the room was no more than twelve square yards. The unknown being made its way down the stairs, and stepped into view. The small basement window cast light upon the being’s face revealing a trail of dust before it. A leather mask covered the face, two holes were cut into it where the eyes were, and leather layered body armor clad the being’s form.
A snarl came from within the mask which had four buckles running down its front side. It turned toward Arius’ position; a fully automated firearm was clutched within its hands, and wavered around his position.
The being clicked on a light mounted upon the rifle to pierce the darkness which loomed at the back of the room. Arius faltered, and the light caught upon his face exposing him to the being. His shadow was cast against the back wall which he used to teleport himself away from the weapon’s fire which left a deafening ring in the room.
Arius hit the back wall and stepped to the side where the shelf covered him. The hostile turned to cut him off on the other side, but he swept around the shelf to catch the being from the back side. The muzzle of Arius’ double barreled gun aimed low, and blew through the hostile’s back. The being slammed into the wall where it fell lifeless to the floor, and Arius dropped his now empty gun for the automated rifle.
He felt something else coming down the steps behind him, and spun around to find another leather clad warrior storming down. Squeezing the trigger, Arius loaded several rounds into the figures chest. The armor held strong, but the shock would do enough damage to keep it down. The figure slid down the steps with several thuds before rolling off the side and hitting the floor. Already, Arius was cloaked within the shadows, and he hurried up the stairs to enter the hall.
“Engage!” Thorim had ordered through stealth speak.
Another leather warrior was coming down the hall toward Arius, but was brought to a halt as an invisible force plunged a dagger into its gut under the armor. The light through the window revealed it to be Dueson as he removed the knife and quickly took a kill strike at the being’s neck.
Gunfire sounded elsewhere in the building though it was probably due to panic as the leather warriors were being taken out by ghosts. Arius followed Dueson down the hall before they made it back to the main lobby where a warrior already lay dead. Something moved at the top of the stairs as a hostile backed away from the upper hall. It waved its rifle back and forth as if to guard itself from the invisible assailants, but Jayvolni moved past its defense, plunging a dagger into its gut. Within seconds the figure was disarmed and Jayvolni continued to assail it with his dagger before tipping it over the rail where it fell to the bottom floor behind the counter.
The building fell silent as only the shadowed ghosts stirred. Arius glanced out the front window where he found a cruiser parked outside. It was the only one around the premise as far as he could tell so that was all they had to deal with for now. The others came into the lobby where they exchanged curious glances.
“What happened?” asked Thorim, looking across all his men.
“One of them caught me with its light, sir,” Arius said. “I had no choice but to take him out.”
“Very well,” Thorim replied with a nod. “But now they’re going to know we’re here. Let’s figure out what we’re dealing with.”
“Do you think they were looking for us?” Grem asked, as Thorim turned the leather clad body before him onto its back.
“Probably,” Thorim replied. “I’m not sure what else would bring them to this island unless they picked up our ship on sensors.”
The group stared down at the body. The mask continued to cover its face and they did not know what lay behind it.
“Let’s take a look shall we,” Thorim said, before undoing the mask.
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Ch6: Loyalty

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.
No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Six: Loyalty

The white structure loomed over them. Its glass windows looked undisturbed, but life seemed absent from that place. Two white columns supported the roof overhead, and the group made their way to the oak colored door. The building was white in frame, but a log cabin style defined the rest of it.
Dueson opened the door which gave no hindrance. Inside was dark, and dust layered the furniture in the lobby. It looked like a fancy hotel, as a service desk sat between two large staircases ascending to the next floor. A hall went to either side at the top and the bottom, and a glass chandelier hung over the lobby.
“Certainly hasn’t been anyone here for years,” Grem said.
“Over here,” Jayvolni said, gesturing them past the front desk.
A large map of the island was painted upon the wall perhaps showing tourist attractions to the residents. The hotel was located near the center of the island, though there was much ground between it and the southern shore. However, Jayvolni directed their eyes to the eastern shore where a label read, Gray Tower.
“So Gray Tower is a place, not a description,” Dueson said.
“At least we’re on the right island,” Thorim said. “Check this place out for anything else useful.”
The group spread out to explore the halls and rooms. Arius took to the left and entered the first room. The floors in the hall were wood, but the rooms had carpet. Arius spotted a bathroom to his left before he surveyed the room ahead of him. Two beds were made but neglected, and a desk with a screen upon it sat opposite them.
Arius spotted something on the other side of the bed, and made his way over to find a corpse lifeless against the wall. It caused him pause for but a moment as this was the first sight of an inhabitant, though dead. They shared many similarities to his own kind though they were indistinguishable now because of the surgery they had gone through before setting out upon the mission.
The corpse was that of a man, and the years had consumed the body so there was actually very little identifiable about it. Within the cold grasp of its hands was a double barreled gun. Arius pried it away carefully before checking the firearm. Finding the switch he broke the front stock forward where a single round was found inside. The stock clicked back together and Arius hoped that it worked.
“Already found yourself a gun,” Brockumus said, from the doorway. “What happened?”
“Looks like he was shot,” Arius replied, eyeing the wounds in the chest. “I’m not sure what happened here.”
“Hey,” Brockumus said, to pull his attention back toward him. “Keep on your guard. You can’t be too careful now.”
“I know,” replied Arius, eyeing the gun.
He understood what Brockumus was talking about. He didn’t know who to trust, and suspected foul play from the beginning. Rumors had been started about him ever since the beginning of the mission; rumors that he lacked loyalty to the nation they claimed to serve. The others didn’t just think he was inexperienced, but they questioned his allegiance. Brockumus had seen through the lies though, and understood Arius better than the others. Arius only wondered who was responsible for the rumors, and if his future father-in-law had anything to do with it.
Brockumus left down the hall and Arius exited the room. Soon he made his way down to an old cellar where he found a stash of canned food. Light poured in from the small window on the wall leaving the rest of the room in darkness. Arius moved to a nearby pantry where he surveyed the supplies. He found nothing of use there.
“We have company,” someone’s voice trembled through the air.
Arius could feel its vibrations from the upper floor. Stealth speak they called it. A technique they learned in the academy so that they could speak to each other while in close proximity while not alerting potential hostiles. Only their extra senses could pick up the words spoken.
“Take cover,” Thorim ordered, from somewhere else in the house.
Arius felt something storm through the front door; it felt like multiple men quickly making their way through the building. A ruckus broke out upon the upper floors and he could feel everything going on within the building. Whoever it was, he was clearly searching the premises for something.
“Don’t attack unless attacked,” Thorim ordered.
By now they were all cloaked within the shadows of the house. The unknown persons would be unable to see them, and would pass on once they thought the place was clear. Arius could only wait within the cellar for the commotion to end.
The door flew open from atop the stairs, and he waited to hear the long creak as someone stepped onto the first step. Arius’ hairs stood on end as he felt it move down the stair case. He had no place to run, and only the darkness to conceal him. 
Thanks for checking in this week, and be sure to leave a comment. Also check back next week for chapter seven, or check out my book, Ground of Oam.
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