Retribution: Better The Devil You Know
Novel by David Smith
Available through Amazon and his official website.
“The strength of two connected neural pathways is thought to result in the storage of information, resulting in memory. This process of synaptic strengthening is known as long term potentiation.”
“Who can say where inside a man’s body his soul is kept? Who can pinpoint a part of his brain, or even a single synapse, and say this is or is not the essence of that person? Can one body be possessed by two souls, and if so is one equally as guilty of the crimes committed by the other?”
I have nowhere to run or hide. I’m stuck practically held rigid in the rheopectic suit. I can’t defend myself. I can’t even swing a punch.
‘Get out! You’re not allowed in here!’ shouts Jane.
‘I’m allowed anywhere I choose to go,’ he says quietly to Jane. In a few quick paces he’s by my side. He is looking closely at the skin on my face.
‘Hmmm, you were lucky,’ he says to me, ‘You had the disease but never got scarred. I’ll have to make up for that.’
Krillik pulls a knife from his pocket, a small, sharp, nasty looking blade, something you wouldn’t use as a weapon normally, but could have real good fun with, gouging out someone’s eye. He lays the blade against my left cheek. I start moving my hands up towards his throat very slowly, trying to avoid the rheopectic suit from seizing up. He sees what I’m doing straight away and slaps one of my arms down hard. The sudden sharp movement causes the suit to lock up tight. I can’t move a muscle. I’m completely at his mercy.
‘I have so many scores to settle with you Jek,’ he whispers into my ear.
He runs the edge of the blade down my cheek and a trickle of my blood follows its path. He smiles, steps away from me to admire the shallow cut he’s made on my face, and the line of blood down to my chin. Drops of my blood start to fall from my chin and spatter onto the concrete floor.
‘Hmmm,’ he says, in mock pretence of artistic appreciation of his handiwork, ‘Looks uneven to me. I need to balance things up.’
He steps back towards me and rests the blade above my right eye, then slowly drags it down over my eyebrow onto the cheek, then on down to my chin. This time he continues the cut till it runs as far as the collar of the rheopectic suit. The cut is just a little deeper than before and the blood from this cut flows thicker and faster, dripping steadily from my chin and trickling down into the suit.
‘Fuck you,’ I say as defiantly as I can in the circumstances.
‘Those scars will show in court,’ says Jane.
‘…and what would that have to do with me?’ he says smugly, moving the blade up to my forehead, ready to pull it across the length of my hairline.
‘I’m a witness,’ says Jane, but he ignores her.
‘I think I’d like to see what you’d look like red faced,’ says Krillik as he digs the blade into the top of my forehead and drags it slowly from one side to the other. A curtain of blood gushes from the wound and runs down my face, spilling into my eyes, and running down across my mouth, pouring off my chin onto the floor. I don’t cry out. I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of hearing me in pain, though it hurts like hell.
‘Stop that! Stop that now!’
The voice is commanding and authoritative, and Krillik stops pulling the blade just before it’s journey continues round to my right ear.
I can’t see clearly. My eyes are full of my blood. But I recognize the voice. It’s Tallip. Maybe he is on our side after all.
‘You have no right to be in here,’ says Tallip in a threatening tone, ‘Get out now.’
‘Who’s to say I’m here?’ says Krillik, his eyes fixed on my bloodied face, a smile of satisfaction on his.
‘I have a seed reader and I’ve recorded everything you’ve done since you entered this room,’ says Tallip, ‘You must be mad coming in here and injuring my client. It’s enough to stop the trial going ahead.’
The grip of the rheopectic suit starts to ease and I’m able to slowly move one of my hands up towards my face. I wipe as much blood as I can from my eyes then blink hard, hoping to clear my vision enough to see exactly where Tallip is, but I can’t. He’s not by the air lock or on the floor anywhere in the hangar. Jane can see what I’m trying to do.
‘There’s an observation balcony,’ she says to me, ‘It’s above and to your right. He’s there.’
I slowly look up to where Jane said Tallip is standing. There’s a small metal balcony about two yards wide and a yard deep, with glass sliding doors behind it. Tallip is standing there. He is alone but he has a weapon in his hand, or more precisely on his hand. It’s a Petch. Jek knows exactly what the weapon is and what it does. Jek has used one like it many times. It looks like a red glove but it fires an electrical charge when all the user’s fingers and thumb touch together, four fingers in an arc with the thumb placed in the centre touching them all. The bolt it fires homes in on the target’s brain, the main point of electrical activity in a humanlike being. The sudden jolt of high voltage energy disrupts and confuses the brain. The effect is similar to that of electroconvulsive therapy, the electric shock treatment carried out on mentally ill subjects on Earth. It renders the recipient unconscious for about five minutes, then completely disorientated for a further fifteen, easily enough time to subdue and secure the target.
‘I have a duty to protect these two people,’ says Tallip, ‘By Grow’s own law it is neutral ground within the confines of this prison building. You are here without my permission and therefore illegally. You have ten seconds to leave. If you’re still within the building after this time I will stun you and have you arrested. I will show evidence of your assault on my client to the prosecutors and call for both of them to be released with all charges against them dropped. I’m sure your masters at Grow will deal with you appropriately should your actions here bring about their release.’
Krillik looks up at Tallip, hate in his eyes and contempt in his voice, ‘You wouldn’t dare.’
Tallip raises his arm pointing his hand towards Krillik. He forms a semi circle with his fingers but holds his thumb an inch away from them, then says, ‘Try me.’
‘I’m the only law on this base,’ says Krillik defiantly, not budging an inch.
I start to feel dizzy. The blood is flowing fast from the cuts Krillik has made in my face and they sting like hell.
‘You haven’t heard the end of this,’ says Krillik to Tallip in an evil, threatening voice. He turns towards the air lock but before he leaves he says to me, ‘This was once your knife Jek. Don’t you remember? I watched as you peeled the face off a traitor on Geraben with it. You were useful to me then, you’re nothing to me now.’
As he starts to walk away towards the air lock he suddenly turns and swings his arm hard, the knife still in his hand, burying the blade deep into my upper arm right up to the knife’s handle.
‘Here, have it back,’ he says with a malicious grin on his face.
The pain is overwhelming and I start to sink to my knees, the rheopectic suit slowly yielding to my weight as I crumple towards the ground. A wave of darkness sweeps over me, the pain fading as I lapse into unconsciousness.
I have no idea where I am or how long I’ve been unconscious but I wake suddenly. I’m in a room, some sort of medical facility, brightly lit, equipment around me. There are two other people in the room, Jane and Tallip.
‘Where am I?’
It’s Tallip that answers, ‘You’re in the medical centre on the base. You’re okay for now.’
Jane adds, ‘They’ve fixed you up. You don’t look pretty, you’ll have scars. They’ve used artificial skin to bind and repair the cuts but they were deep.’
‘Shame,’ I say, ‘I was an ornament to society.’
Not bad for someone still a little disorientated I think to myself, but I’m dreading looking in a mirror. Krillik had deliberately criss-crossed my face with his cuts so that I would carry the scars for life. I’m not vain and I’ve never been one to care overly about my looks, but I know I’ll go through the rest of my life with the social burden of having to explain what happened to my face, and with people too embarrassed to look me straight in the eyes. But I’m lucky. I’m still alive. Krillik had that look in his eyes, a look Jek had seen many times before. Jek had been there when others given this kind of attention from Krillik hadn’t been so lucky.
I notice I’m no longer wearing the rheopectic suit and neither is Jane. Instead we’re wearing a clean set of clothes each, not ours but western society typical, jeans, golf shirt and trainers for me, jeans, shirt, jumper and trainers for Jane.
‘Nice,’ I say as I look down at the clothes I’m now wearing, ‘How did you manage to get the rheopectic suit off me? Did you cut it off?’
‘It’s a liquid, dumb ass,’ says Jane in her usual friendly voice, ‘It may look like cloth but it’s not. They have a device that drains it off you if they want to remove it.’
‘I decided you’re not at any risk of ever leaving this base, so there’s no need for the rheopectic suits. It’s more important you’re both able to defend yourselves from any further assaults,’ says Tallip.
I look at my arm where Krillik stabbed me. It’s bandaged, but the material is like skin, not weave. It’s tight on my arm but I feel no pain.
‘I’ve brought what happened to you to the attention of my opposite number, the Prosecutor, and that you’re both at risk here as long as Krillik is on the base,’ says Tallip, ‘but I’m not optimistic they’ll either move you or put an extra level of security on your prison quarters. I don’t want to show him the video of what Krillik did to you, Jek…’
‘It’s Jake,’ I snap at him, but I know it’s pointless. I’m Jek and I know soon I’ll have to face that truth. Tallip carries on as if I hadn’t spoken.
‘…that would make life very unsafe for all of us. Krillik has a long memory and not a very forgiving nature. He’s also the person in charge of all of Grow’s resources on this planet, including autonomy over everyone on this base except me.’
‘I think you should tell us exactly where we are and what this base is,’ I say, swinging my legs off the gurney I’m lying on and sitting up.
Tallip thinks for a moment before he speaks.
‘We’re on Anglesey, an island in North West Wales, a small country, part of Great Britain, which in itself is a part of Europe and…’ he says, but I cut across him.
‘I know where Wales is.’
‘…then you’ll know how remote parts of this country can be,’ he says, ‘We’re in the north west. This was once a disused air base but Grow had its agents down here set up an enterprise to buy and develop the site. Grow used the cover of this being a high tech business, building communications systems for the British air force. As long as plenty of money was paid to the right people no one batted an eye. Grow has been left alone to do whatever it wanted. Grow already had a portal here, undiscovered when the RAF base was built nearby. Grow put it here thousands of years ago. It’s one that wasn’t discovered when the portals down here were supposedly all destroyed a couple of years ago. Grow bought this part of the RAF base when it was decommissioned. It put these buildings up around and over the portal and has been moving its people and equipment down to Earth through it ever since.’
Something strikes me as he’s telling us this. We are prisoners in his charge. Under normal circumstances such information would never be shared with prisoners. It’s valuable information that could be useful if we were to escape. So why is he sharing this with us?
‘Can we speak freely?’ I ask. I watch him carefully as he replies.
‘This is a secure unit, and we are not being monitored. Feel free to say whatever you want, it won’t go outside this room.’
The flick of his eyes from side to side tells me all I want to know. He’s lying. He’s lying to protect us. We are being watched. It’s at this moment I know we’re in extreme danger. Jek knows how Krillik operates. Krillik, or more likely one of his close associates, will be nearby. A plan will already have been devised. We will be murdered soon. Krillik will make it look as if it’s an accident or caused in some way by us. Our deaths will not affect the pressure Grow is putting on the United Nations to hand me over or give up my dead body. Earth’s refusal to comply with Grow’s legitimate demands will be spun by its lawyers in the courts of The Powers to justify an attack on the human race. All this will be done ahead of Noone presenting mankind’s case for the freedom to exist as an independent species. Grow will release the modified Revelation spores in the Earth’s atmosphere and all of mankind will be wiped off the face of the planet. There would be no point in Noone pressing our case with The Powers. We would all be dead. Grow would have the legal right to exploit and make a huge profit out of whatever mankind has left behind, and would do this with impunity.
It’s at this moment I’m finally convinced Tallip is genuinely on our side. But how the hell do we escape?
‘I have to take you back to your cells now,’ says Tallip. He comes across and stands next to me, puts his arm round my shoulder and helps me off the gurney to my feet. It’s all a charade. In the process I feel him slip something into my pocket. As I stand, unsteadily at first, I nod my thanks to Tallip and follow him towards the door. As I walk I slip my hand into my pocket and feel with my fingers the outline of what Tallip had surreptitiously placed there.
There are two objects and I know what each one is. The first object is a Petch, the glove that discharges an electrical bolt, probably the one Tallip had used earlier to threaten Krillik with. The other object is a piece of acrylic about an inch square and a quarter of an inch thick. I turn it over in my fingers and can’t help but smile. Jek knows precisely what it is. It’s an activator key for a shuttle portal. Jek also know precisely why Tallip has slipped it to me. Krillik will be expecting us to either sit quietly and await whatever fate he has planned for us or try to escape from the base. Krillik will have increased his security or set up a nasty, probably fatal trap for us if we attempt to run.
The message Tallip is sending is this. There is a portal shuttle platform near our cell. That’s how we got here. Once the key is placed in the machine we can use it to get ourselves to safety without ever having to make an attempt to break out. What’s more this portal will already have the original coordinates and data package for Jane and I programmed in from when we were ambushed in the back of the Reach. If we can get to the portal we can send ourselves right back to where we were in America, assuming the Reach is still kitted out with the portable shuttle pad inside it. It’s a massive risk. If the pad has been dissembled then we’re space dust, disintegrated, broken down into our component atoms and our data packet transmitted into nothingness.
As I follow behind Tallip I gradually work my fingers inside the Petch, then my thumb, then the palm of my hand. By the time we’re at the exit to the medical centre my hand is completely inside the Petch, and it’s ready for business. The door of the medical centre opens onto a long corridor, at the end of which is the airlock to our cell. Off to the right half way down the corridor is a large blue tinted glass door.
‘What’s in there?’ asks Jane.
‘Something you’ll be using when it’s time for your court appearance,’ says Tallip.
‘It’s the portal, isn’t it?’ I say.
He doesn’t answer my question but I can see in his face that he wants me to know it is. I can also see in his face he wants me to know it’s time. I pull my hand out of my pocket and point the Petch at his head. He gives me a barely perceptible nod that tells me, ‘It’s okay. I know you have to do it for all our sakes.’
If I don’t shock him to unconsciousness it will be obvious to his masters that he is complicit in our escape attempt. Having the Petch and the key to the portal shuttle could be explained away. I picked his pocket when he helped me to my feet. But to stand idly by and do nothing as we break into the portal room would give his game away. I gently touch my thumb to my four fingers and the glove fires a high voltage bolt that hits Tallip instantly in the head. He groans and slides to the floor, out like a light.
‘What?’ cries Jane, a shocked expression on her face. She’s unaware of the plan and taken aback by the brutality of what I’ve just done.
‘It’s okay,’ I say, ‘He’ll be fine in an hour or so. Just follow me.’
I decide there is nothing to be gained now in the subtle approach. What I’ve just done will be on camera. Somewhere in the depths of this base a Torp will be hunched over a screen watching our every move. Right at this moment he’ll be pressing alarm buttons and within minutes the whole base will be on lock down and a squad of Krillik’s thugs will be hunting for us with orders to kill us on sight. I’m only a few seconds ahead of the screaming alarm when I burst through the doors to the portal shuttle room.
The portal bay is quite large, about thirty yards by fifty, solid white walls and a metal floor. In the middle of the room is the green material that looks like Astroturf. This portal has a sheet that looks about five yards square. To the right of the portal sheet is a control panel. Portals are not complicated technology by comparison to something like a Jumbo Jet. The brilliance is in the nano technology of the portal sheet, and its ability to analyse, disintegrate and interpret what it has disintegrated into a packet of code that can be reconstituted into the original object, alive or dead, millions of miles away. The control panel simply identifies the packets of data, labels them and then transmits them to a given destination. The control panel may be a simple device but I have no idea how to work one. But Jek does, and I face the dilemma that has dogged me since Jek decided to hide from Krillik behind the person that is Jake Redwood. Jek wasn’t to know that his disguise would be of such a strong character it could control the emergence, and maybe even the existence of Jek himself. What I, Jake Redwood have to do is release Jek from inside me to use his skills and knowledge but control him so that I can at some time in the future re-bury him. I am Jake Redwood, a human being and I believe a good man. Jek was in the past, and probably still is a sadistic killer with a bucketful of sins to account for, sins committed at the behest of the man that is now his and my nemesis, Krillik. I know that within the next few moments I will have to make a decision, and that decision will probably be to allow Jek to take over my body. If I don’t then Krillik and his thugs will catch Jane and me. We have nowhere to hide on this base. He will undoubtedly kill us both, in my case slowly and brutally. But if I release Jek can I control him ever again? Can I once again bury him deep inside my brain? In reality it’s release Jek or die, no choice at all.
There are two people inside the portal shuttle room when we burst through. One is a Dreek. He’s wearing a security guard’s uniform, sitting with his feet on a desk at the far side of the room. The shocked expression on his face tells me all I need to know. He wasn’t expecting visitors, and certainly not one wearing a Petch glove. I raise my hand and point it at his head, then touch my fingers and thumbs together. The bolt of energy hits him just as he’s scrambling to get his feet back onto the floor. The force of the bolt knocks him backwards and he flies off the chair he’s sitting on and his head crashes against the white wall behind him. I see a long trace of blood from his head as he slides to the floor. He’s out of the game now, and I only need to worry about the other occupant of the room.
It’s a Torp, a woman, early thirties, slim and attractive. She’s standing beside the control panel, a technician of some sort. She stays calm but I can see she’s scared.
‘Is it operational?’ I bark at her.
‘I can’t tell you,’ she says, ‘If I do when they play the video back I’ll be judged as an accomplice in your escape.’
Her eyes are not locked onto mine but fixed on the Petch that I’m now pointing at her.
‘Don’t, please,’ she says, ‘I’m carrying a baby inside me. If you shock me it may die.’
It’s the last words I hear before the alarm is set off and the deafening din fills the room. Jane moves swiftly behind the woman and screams in her ear above the racket, ‘Lie face down, arms and legs spread and stay very still.’ She then presses her lips close to the woman’s ear and says, ‘Is it working?’
The technician gives a hardly perceptible nod. We can use the device if we only knew how.
I rush over to the control panel, a jumble of random meaningless buttons to me. I look at Jane and she shrugs her shoulders, a gesture I take to confirm she has no clue how to operate the device either. I know it’s time. I close my eyes and try to relax as the pain hits me hard inside my skull, the pain of Jek emerging from the depths where I’ve been able to contain him inside me. The pain is suddenly intense, almost debilitating and I clutch at my head with both hands. The scream I’ve been trying so hard to suppress is at last released as a long low moan of agony. The intensification of the pain is something I knew I would have to face when Jek emerged here. I know why there is that extra shock. The pain is Jek’s pulse being sent out to the world and Krillik’s immediate response. Krillik now knows exactly where we are.
I feel my facial features slightly contort as the muscles revert back to Jek’s original features. I am now Jek. I put my hand inside my pocket and pull out the clear square of acrylic that Tallip slipped to me. I know exactly what to do.
‘You,’ I bark at Jane, ‘get into the middle of the mat, NOW!’
Jane does exactly as she’s told and steps quickly onto the centre of the portal. I press the operating key into a slot in the control panel and it bursts into life. I look at the screen mounted in the centre of the control panel, flick my eyes down the list of data displayed there, a list of arrivals and their original points of departure. I recognize the code I need and press the screen to activate the portal. Immediately the portal mat springs to life. Fibrils shoot out of the matting and wrap themselves around Jane’s legs, then start to lash around her body, across her chest up to her neck, then finally completely covering her head.
She is perfectly still throughout, motionless, anaesthetized as if frozen as the fibrils deconstruct her into billions of tiny atoms, analyze her structure and convert her into a packet of information ready to be transmitted to the given destination. Slowly the fibrils begin to collapse. As they fall away I can see Jane is gone. The materials that once composed Jane Krieff have now been absorbed into the reservoirs of raw materials held beneath the matting. Her atoms, her molecules will eventually be used to reconstruct some other person, substance, piece of equipment that is transmitted to this portal in the future. I hope wherever I’ve sent her the reservoir of materials will contain the chemicals, atoms and whatever else is needed to reconstitute Jane as a living exact replica of what I’ve just seen deconstructed before my eyes.
I watch the screen in front of me. It confirms the packet of data has been sent. It’s now my turn to step onto the matting. The technician raises her head as I step into the centre of the mat. She pushes up with her arms as if to stand as I start to feel the fibrils spring into life below my feet. I daren’t risk her interrupting the process. Any jolt to the sequence could cause errors in the code. I would arrive dead, and in God knows what form. She looks at me and stops.
‘Please don’t,’ she says, pleading with her eyes for me to show mercy.
I raise my hand and point the Petch at her head. I fire a bolt of energy that hits her and rattles her brain in her skull. I see her fall backwards and hear her scream just as the tendrils whip around me freezing me solid. I feel no remorse. She is of no consequence to Jek. I see the doors to the portal shuttle room burst open just before everything goes black. The last image I see is of Krillik and his henchmen standing at the doors. Krillik has a human weapon in his hand, a pistol, a Glock 17. He raises it and aims it at me. I have no idea whether he fires. I am no longer there to see.
There is no sensation of time when you are transported through a shuttle. It could be infinite or it could be instantaneous. It’s like dreams that seem to last for hours but must take place in the fraction of a second between being asleep and being awake. All I know is I’m awake again, groggy but feeling intact. Jek is alive. I’m in a small dark room. I can see light coming from around two doors that seem to stretch from the floor of the room I’m in to the ceiling. This is the only source of light. The walls are a white sheet material, plastic of some sort. I look down at my feet. I’m still on the portal pad so I move swiftly to the edge and step off. I don’t want Krillik reversing the process on me, scooping me from the jaws of freedom back into his clutches to be tortured and killed. There’s something on the floor, a body. It’s sitting with its back against the wall and its legs splayed apart. I step over towards it. The body is covered by a clear plastic sheet and there’s a sign hung around its neck,
‘WELCOME HOME JEK!’
I know it’s the dummy, the mannequin of a female. I kick it hard in the head and it falls on its side.
The portal has sent us back to where we started, a reversal of the original code, not a new transmission. I look down at my right hand and see there is no red glove, no Petch I can use as a weapon. That wasn’t in the original code packet. So I gently run my hand across my face. No scars. The deep cuts Krillik carved into my face were not in the original data package either. I smile to myself. My face is not disfigured. The scars would have drawn attention to me, the last thing I want if I’m going to succeed in what I need to do next.
One of the doors opens and bright sunlight piles in stinging my eyes. There’s the outline of someone standing there. As my eyes adjust I can see who it is, a woman, Jane Krieff.
‘We’re back where we started, Jake,’ she says.
I already know exactly where I am. I’m in the back of the Reach where Abel and his Dreeks had set up a mobile shuttle portal, the one that trapped me earlier. I’m at the back of the van with the portal mat between me and the rear doors. The last thing I want to do is step back onto the portal mat so I jump up to one of the nearest cross bars that hold the van’s roof rigid. Then I swing hand over hand until I’m safely the other side of the mat. I drop down to the floor of the van and brush the dirt from my hands.
Jane smiles up at me and says, ‘You’re a regular monkey man, aren’t you?’
I kneel down then jump off the back of the van landing beside her in the parking lot of the picnic area where Jake killed the puppy Dreek earlier.
Jane looks at me, one of those sneering looks of hers and says, ‘What do we do now, dumb ass?’
I turn and face her and gently hold her chin between my left hand thumb and my index finger and look her in the eyes. Then I pull my right hand back and slap her hard across her left cheek. It’s a stinging blow, not enough to mark or injure her but enough to let her know she’s been chastised.
‘Don’t you ever call me dumb ass again. Is that understood?’
I can see the look of shock and surprise on her face. I can see tears welling up just before she takes control of herself and sniffs them back.
‘What the fuck, Jake?’ she says, so I hit her again, this time harder. She’ll have a bruise from this one but she’ll learn. She’s an encumbrance to me, a dead weight. By rights I should snap her neck and be rid of her. I could do without dragging her along behind me watching my every move but I’ll need her soon. I’ll need her as a conduit to get to her friend Noone. So I bite my lip and hope she understands the pecking order a little better now.
‘It’s Jek,’ I say as I start walking away from her towards a saloon car parked by a pathway into the woods, nondescript but with a large boot, the perfect vehicle for us to start our journey to the United Nations General Assembly building in, and parked in the perfect spot right now. I look back at Jane, still holding the side of her face, her mouth wide open.
‘Get your dumb ass into gear,’ I call back to her, pointing at the saloon, ‘Torch the fucking Reach while I boost that car.’
While she’s occupied I walk briskly up to the saloon car. There’s a man, a business type, asleep behind the wheel, catching a few minutes rest on a long journey, probably. I quietly ease open the driver’s door. It’ll be nice and quiet if I suffocate him in his slumbers, no screaming, no fuss, nothing to draw attention to what I’m doing. I check over my shoulder on what Jane is up to as I slide my arm gently around the man’s neck, put my other hand across his nose and mouth then squeeze. The man in the car opens his eyes in shock as I press my hand tighter over his air passages. He writhes and wriggles desperately but he’s dead before he knows what’s happening. I drag the man’s body from the car and dump it on the ground. I move swiftly back to the car, flick the switch and the boot glides open. I check inside, big and empty.
I have to be quick now because Jane isn’t as stupid as she looks. I glance over and see she’s torn off the sleeve of her blouse and pushed it into the fuel tank. I see her climbing up into the cab. Good thinking. I know she’ll be pressing in the cigar lighter, the only source of heat she has right now that’ll ignite the fuel soaked cloth. I turn my attention back to what I need to do next.
Right beside where the saloon is parked is a picnic table. Slumped across the top of the table is the body of the dead puppy Dreek, the one whose neck Jake snapped before he got his stupid ass trapped in the Reach. He’s still there looking like a tired driver taking a short nap. Nobody’s looked more closely. Nobody’s given the guy’s shoulder a shake to check he’s alright. They’ve come and they’ve gone and all just left him alone. Perfect! Don’t you just love these people?
I check Jane can’t see what I’m doing before I pull the body off the table and drag it to the rear of the saloon. It’s a dead weight and awkward to lift over the tail gate but I manage to fold the limbs inside and snap the boot closed just as I turn to see Jane light the cloth dangling from the Reach’s fuel tank. It burns steadily for a few seconds as Jane steps away from the van. The flames soon reach the inside of the tank and the van erupts in a ball of fire.
Jane moves quickly towards the passenger side of the car and I lean across and open the door for her. She practically jumps into the seat as I fire up the engine. She doesn’t see the dead man laying on the ground my side of the car. Best she never knows.
I swing the car round in a half circle and head for the parking lot exit. We need to be long gone before the fire service and cops arrive. When they check out what’s left of the Reach they’ll realise there’s something very peculiar about that vehicle. They’ll call in experts who’ll discover it’s not a van at all. It’s an alien miracle of nano technology, a portable version of what they’re working so hard to understand over in Melville. The cat will then be out of the bag. There could be hundreds of vehicles like this across the globe. They’ll know Grow, Krillik and his thugs can launch an attack on Earth from anywhere they like at any time they want to.
Mankind on Earth is fucked and only I can save the species. But why would I? I’ve worked with Krillik for Grow on many planets. I’ve carried out Grow’s bidding, done its dirty work so it could harvest the creations of many humanlike species seeded millennia ago by Grow. The profits are unimaginably vast, but for Grow, not me. Sure, I was well paid, but now I want more. I want what’s rightfully mine. Earth is a diverse and beautiful planet, and the human species remarkably creative. Why should Grow have it? Why not me? I can work with these human creatures, work for them then with them, but they are weak compared to me. Ultimately I will subjugate them.
I will save them, yes, but at a price. My price? To be the supreme ruler of all life on this planet.
End of Part Seven