Emerald Legion, chapter eighteen

“It’s alive!” – there’s not a word yet, for old friends, who’ve just met




Imra knelt over the dimly glowing psi-crystal ‘listening’ intently.


~So Mari N’daere may very well be the first victim of this monster.  Her scarring is over a year and a half old.  She’s been back on Titan for over a year, and, until her attack yesterday, had no idea the scarring had resulted from anything other than a nasty fall.~ Reyu sent.


~Did her recollections include any new information?~, Imra asked.


~She was working on Luna, performing contract negotiations, at the time.  Her recovered memories include waking up in a large room, shrouded in darkness.  There was a figure standing to one side, and she was restrained.  To her other side was another figure, also reclining.  The image is very distorted, and at first she attributed it to disorientation or being drugged, but everything else in the area was clear.~


~Distorted in what way?~


~The figure next to her seemed enormous, as if she was a child next to it.  It was covered with a sheet, but she could see its chest moving.  It appeared to be humanoid, other than it’s size.  But the most important detail is that she felt nauseous, and was able to recognize that she was still under Luna gravity…~


~So she was not transported off of Earth’s moon for the procedure.  This doesn’t necessarily mean anything, it was well over a year ago, Reyu.~


~Still, whatever equipment she saw, whatever that figure was, it’s *possible* that if she was the first victim, that the attacker may have started ‘close to home,’ in the manner of old-Earth serial killers.  They often first attack someone in the local area, and only after finding such acts tantalizing, become more wary and begin going farther afield to avoid drawing attention to their home territory.~


~That’s a good theory, Reyu.  I’ll check it out.~


~I am expected to submit my report on Mari’s directed recall session in about six hours, Imra.  At that point, the authorities will have this same information, and I’m not sure that I trust them.~


~I feel the same.  I intend to see this place with my own eyes, before it is sealed off as ‘evidence.’  Thank you for giving me this advance warning Reyu.~


~You’ve seen what this monster does, Imra.  I trust you.~ Reyu finished, before ending the communication.


Psi-crystal now dark, Imra drew a deep breath and called for her friends.




“So we don’t really have any evidence that this ‘dark man’ will still be on the moon?”  Garth said, reviewing a pad of lunar facilities.


~Just Reyu’s suspicion that he would have started his work ‘close to home,’ and not moved his entire base of operations after every operation.~ Imra confirmed, but sounding doubtful.


Rokk checked the projected arrival-time, “Well, we’ve got another twenty minutes before we dock at Luna station.  Hopefully, Reyu’s suspicions are on the money.”  He also returned to viewing a pad of lunar facilities surrounding Armstrong City.


I’m liking this one.” Ayla said, tossing down a pad.  “It was a nuclear waste containment structure, so it’s got tons of shielding and it’s own power systems.”  She tapped the pad authoritatively, “If *I* was going to have a secret base, I’d want one like this.  Buried, triple-shielded and self-sufficient.”


“Is there still contamination there?” Rokk asked, dialing up the same facility on his own pad.


“Nope.  All of the waste was rendered inert centuries ago with collapse-tech.  It’s just a relic.”


“Sounds good for a first pick,” Garth agreed, shooting his sister an encouraging smile.  “But we should start compiling second and third choices, just in case.”




“Okay, we don’t want to file a tour plan, so we’re going to have to count on our Champion’s Rings to get us to the facility.”


“Which means that Jath will need a suit,” Ayla added, noting the Warrior’s ringless fingers.


~We’ve got a pressure suit and forty-five minute rebreather ready.  Are you sure you are okay with your part of the plan, Ayla?~


“Yeah.  If this is a trap, one of us should hang back.  I’ll stay in ‘City and be ready to contact the SPs if something goes wrong.”  Ayla crossed her arms, “You’ve all fought together, and I’d rather not mess up your flow.  Garth’s aim has always been pretty sloppy, I don’t want to get shot in the back…”


“Hey!”  Garth exclaimed in mock-outrage.  “I’d never shoot you in the back!  You know I’d shoot you in the face.”


Jath shot Imra a look.  “It is good to be an only child, yes?”


~Oh yes.~  Imra agreed.


“Okay, we’re close enough to the site, I’ve logged into their datasteam.”  Ayla announced as the shuttle began docking.  “No signs of power usage at the site, and it’s marked off-limits.  That’s odd, since any residual radiation should have been cleansed with the waste-purge.  Perhaps the structure itself deemed unsound, but there’s no indication of why it’s off-limits.”


“If anything, that sounds like it’s even *more* perfect as a secret bad-guy base.” Rokk noted.  “No pesky lunar hikers or archaeological field trips traipsing through.”


With a soft shudder, the shuttled docked.




Rokk waved his hand at the security monitor, and it stopped dead in it’s panoramic sweep of the corridor.  “Sensors spoofed, we can cycle the airlock now.”


“Great,” muttered Garth, arms wrapped around himself.  “Tell me again why we couldn’t have tested the Rings ability to protect us from the lunar environment before *now?*”


~No time.~ Imra said sharply, stabbing the ‘open airlock’ button and standing impassive as her hair whipped about with the rush of the departing atmosphere.  From the other side of the pressure door, Ayla watched with a dubious expression as her brother and his friends floated out into the near-vacuum.


We should have at least thought of bringing a comm for Jath.  Rokk said, towing the Warrior woman ‘through the weightless wasteland with his Champion’s Ring.


~I’ll keep her in touch with us telepathically,~ Imra said, sailing ahead of the others, cloak billowing softly behind her.


Soaring only a meter above the lunar surface, they reached the vicinity, to find that the lunar dust had settled over the original airlock entry hatch.


There's surveillance.   Rokk broadcast, I’m trying to block it, but I might just be generating really obvious static.  We need to move quickly.  Jath dropped lightly to the lunar surface as Rokk raised both hands in front of him like a stage-magician.


A shape started to emerge from the dust, and slowly the outlines of the metal hatch appeared.  Once fully visible, Jath bounded forward and placed her hands under the edges, adding her own strength to his.


Moving into the darkened corridor, as the hatch cycled shut automatically behind them, Garth was beginning to doubt that this was the right call as dust swirled around their feet as the room pressurized.  Looks like nobody’s been here in decades, at least.


No, there’s active machinery ahead.  Lots of active machinery...  Rokk warned.


The central waste-storage chamber was large, trailing off into darkness and indifferently lit by dim emergency lighting, and the walls to the far left were cluttered with machinery of unknown function, all clearly engaged in some sort of activity.


But the most dramatic sight of all was an eight-meter tall humanoid, hard to make out in the indifferent lighting, but possessed of a bow-legged gait and an oversized head.


From speakers constructed in the walls, a mechanical voice boomed.  *Behold, Validus!* and the monstrous figure began moving towards them with menacing intent…




The enormous humanoid lumbered forward, growling wordlessly and Garth cut loose with a blast of lightning, illuminating it fully.  Clad in a white suit, armored with plates of purple metal, the creature was indeed humanoid, but possessed only three fingers on each massive hand.  It’s oversized head had a small fang-filled mouth, and was capped with an enormous dark panel.  The lightning simply played across it’s hide, striking sparks off of the armored plates, and seemed to do nothing but enrage the brute.  Moving faster than Garth would have thought possible in the low gravity, the beast lunged forward and swatted him across the room.


~Spread out!~ Imra thought as she swooped high into the air, only to discover that the chamber was not high enough to evade the beasts reach.


Rokk concentrated on the metal armored titan, only to discover that the armor itself was not ferromagnetic, and was resisting his powers.  He turned to attempt to locate other sources of metal, only to find that the machinery against the far wall was similarly treated…


Jath leapt towards the behemoth, only to spiral out of control in the low-gravity, striking it in the mid-section with her back, instead of her foot, as intended.  Validus was still staggered and flung her into the shadows, spiraling out of control as she flew.  Rokk felt her land without incident, and launched into the air to get out of the beasts way as it turned and bore down on him.


Nothing in here is affected by my magnetism, Rokk warned the others.


Imra had turned in mid-air to face the beast as she floated near the ceiling and reached out with her telepathic powers to attempt to deceive its mind.  As her mental touch made contact, she saw the dark panel atop it’s head flicker with blue sparks, shimmering in a curtain of psionic energy as enormous sheets of neural tissue sparked into life.




Imra felt pain like she had never felt before, trapped in a state of mental contact with the enormous creature.  Her mind-touch had awakened an agony like fire within it, and it was sharing it’s pain with her.  She felt the world rushing around her, a world filled with confusion, curiosity, pain, fear and the desire to lash out and hurt what was hurting her.  And then her world went black.


Imra! Garth shouted, attempting to get to Imra as she fell slowly to the ground, only to see her jerk sideways and set down gently near the entrance to the room.  He turned to see Rokk using his powers to pull her away from the enraged brute, and pivoted to blast the creature with twin blasts of lightning, attempting to draw it away from Imra’s fallen form.


Jath had staggered out of the shadows and then suddenly turned, a blade in hand, and hurled a short-sword sized hunk of metal into the shadows.  From the darkness, the sudden flare of a plasma fire began, and Rokk could see a plasma rifle go spinning off into a far wall, where it continued to leak burning fuel in a growing pool of fire.


Leaping out of the shadows a new form appeared, human in size, but with robotic legs of metal, as well as an oversized robotic left arm, and with a head half human and half cyborg.  Having discarded it’s damaged plasma cannon, it seemed unarmed, until it’s robotic arm thrust forward and a pulsating cone of sonic energy blasted Jath back spiraling to the far end of the chamber.


The enormous brute was still attempting to grab ahold of Garth, who was evading wildly, while still futilely attempting to pepper it with lightning blasts.  The figure had leapt with mechanical grace, apparently acclimated to the low lunar gravity, and turned it’s sonic assault to Rokk.  Instead of the repulsive blast used on Jath, Rokk felt a vibrating hum pass through him, followed quickly by pain, as the sonic pulses attempted to match his resonant frequency and rupture his organs from the inside out, dropping him from the air as his concentration was shattered. 


The pain ended as quickly as it began, although he could still feel his body trembling from shock, and he staggered to his knees to see Jath had leapt from the far end of the chamber, hurling her forearm armor like a projectile to strike the cyborg.  Seizing onto the metal projectile, Rokk caused it to continue hurling the cyborg back, preventing it from getting it’s balance, directly into the spreading plasma fire…


*Validus!* came the mechanical voice from the surrounding walls again, and the beast looked up from it’s attempts to snare Garth.  Flames trailing from it’s body, the cyborg leapt out of the plasma fire and directly into the waiting grasp of the three-fingered giant.  *Protocol Seven* the voice echoed and both figured vanished with a rush of displaced air.


Shunt technology?? Rokk exclaimed in disbelief, But that’s *Coluan* tech!


Garth had already landed next to Imra, and was attempting to revive her, when the first of the explosions began against the far wall, as the unknown machinery began to self-destruct.


Sprock no, we are *not* leaving here empty-handed, Rokk declared as he sent a wave of electromagnetic energy in an attempt to disrupt the self-destruct process, but to no avail.  Making a hand-gesture to Jath, she quickly figured out what he was trying to do and snatched up a single large machine in her hands, severing it from it’s connection to the others, and hauled it away from the others.


True to form, the SPs arrived moments later, to find almost the entire laboratory in smoldering ruins.




In a space underlying traditional three-dimensional space, a dull gray vessel hangs apparently motionless, despite moving at speeds far faster than light.


Plasti-skin still smoking slightly, the Dark Man strokes the arm of his sleeping giant.  “I underestimated them.  It is time to gather the others…”




“I got them here as fast as I could,” Ayla said.


“You did fine.  That cyborg was too well prepared for this.  We’re lucky we managed to salvage the component we did.”  Rokk said encouragingly.


~I don’t feel lucky,~ Imra said, waving away the two civilian telepaths who had been called to help her stabilize from the overwhelming telepathic assault.


“Yeah, I think I liked it better when we didn’t know why he was harvesting telepathic brain-tissue…” Garth agreed, holding Imra’s hand possessively.


~It’s definitely another one of those… things?~ Imra said distastefully.


“Yeah,” Rokk confirmed glumly.  “And there were eleven more growth chambers in the machines that self-destructed.  He was growing another dozen of these ‘Validus’ creatures.”


~How long until we’ve managed to decipher the programming?~


“The techs aren’t able to make heads or tails of it.  It’s like a custom-made computer language, constructed from the ground up as some sort of rotating cipher.”  Ayla said.  Looking at the reactions from her brother and Rokk, “What?  I was looking over the tech’s shoulders.”


“His tech was insane.” Rokk said, frustration evident in his voice.  “*Everything* he had was mag-shielded.  I probably didn’t even spoof his sensors on the surface.  He had shunt technology, and only the Coluans have ever been able to make that work.  And neural psi-tech?  That’s a completely alien discipline.”


The lunar SP head approached the Champions.  “I appreciate your solving this very old case regarding the kidnapped telepath, Mari N’daere.  Commissioner Rellos, from Metropolis, has asked to speak to you later, but frankly I don’t think he’s got anything useful to say, other than his usual attitude.”


~Have you managed to find out anything else?~  Imra asked, sitting up.


“At the moment of the ‘shunt’ you describe, a cloaked vessel of unknown configuration appeared just over the abandoned facility.  It was visible on scans for four seconds, but was shielded against any sort of invasive scan, so we couldn’t even tell what sort of power-source the vessel was using.  It then vanished again, and we’ve picked up tetraspatial particles from the area.  It had a jump drive, which is patently impossible for a ship of that size, unless, as you have theorized, it’s Coluan tech.  Still, it doesn’t fit any known Coluan hull design.  They’re pretty rigid about following the standardized construction paradigms.”


~Thank you Chief.  We appreciate your candor with us.~


“I understand that Commissioner Rellos doesn’t like you people.  He thinks that you’re loose cannons, and I’ll admit, if you were based in my jurisdiction, I might have some issues with that as well.  But you could have just alerted my people, and it could have been SP officers who walked into that death-trap, and I appreciate that you waited to engage what you suspected to be a superhuman opponent instead of risking my officers’ lives investigating your hunch.”  The luna SP chief smiled.  “If Rellos gives you any flak, remind him that Luna is *my* jurisdiction, and that *I* will decide what level of cooperation you are afforded.”


“Sounds like you don’t get along with him either,” Rokk noted with a grin.


“Never have.  I’d be Commissioner if not for his schmoozing with the Ambassadors.  He’s more concerned with looking good and reassuring his diplomatic friends than actually doing his job.”  The Chief said sourly.  “So if cooperating with Venegar’s ‘vigilante upstarts’ puts his nose out of joint, then it’s just one of life’s little pleasures.”  He clapped his hands together.  “Well, if that’s that, how about we get you people back to Earth, unless you want to stay a few days in historic Armstrong City and see the sights, maybe spend some money?” the Chief added with a grin.




The Queen pondered this latest report from her Champions, who were even now returning from Luna.  She had already received a curt message from Commissioner Rellos that he would like to speak with ‘her people’ at their earliest convenience.  And Ambassador Ravin was standing in front of her, smiling unctuously.  Today was looking to be a class four headache…


“Highness,” Ravin began, “I could not help but overhear the word’s ‘Coluan technology’ upon my entrance.”


“Indeed,” the Queen muttered darkly, Talokkian hearing no doubt lends itself well toward eavesdropping upon the affairs of others.”


“It does at that.”  Ravin admitted gamely.  Today he had dressed in a fairly conservative attire.  Except for face and hands, his entire body was covered, and the assorted jewelry and armor components were subdued.  His trademark sweeping cloak remained, but even it seemed to hang more sedately and not swoop out as expansively as normal.  ‘Quite well-behaved, for clothing,’ the Queen thought distantly.  “I read the report you submitted to the UP about the assault upon the Venegarian telepaths, and indeed was curious if you had extra information.  Talokk has a community of telepaths as well, and I contacted them immediately upon reviewing your document, as I am quite certain that you do not entertain fanciful notions, and would only have signed your name to that report if you regarded it as a legitimate threat.”


“And have the telepaths of Talokk VIII reported any such incidents?” The Queen asked, momentarily putting aside her dislike of the man.


“The reports have not yet returned in full, but as of yet, apparently not.”  He spread his hands, “There seems to be some delay sending messages to and from Talokk through the Carggite wormhole.  A glitch, I’m sure,” he added, the look on his face indicating otherwise.


“You do understand that I did not arbitrate in favor of Talokk VIII as a favor to you?” the Queen insisted.


“No, you made that quite clear at the hearing, Highness.  And I respect your commitment to a rational judgment, over the high theatre that such cases tend to become.”  The Ambassador put his hand in front of his mouth for a moment, as if thinking over his next statement.  “Like the Coluan, you speak your mind.  I find that refreshing.  Twenty years ago, I was known for similar directness of speech, but I’m afraid that I have been mingling with the serpents too long to remember those ways.”

“I have compiled the additional data that my Champion’s have gathered on this threat, and am sending it to your Embassy even now.  It includes the private recollections of each of them, as well as interviews with Reyu Nataal, the first victim we identified, and the surviving Venegarian telepaths.”


“Most kind.  If possible, I would also like to be updated on the current incident on Luna.  The telepaths of Talokk VIII occupy a special position on our world, as the Priests of Memory, and a blow against them would be devastating to our people.”


“To save time, why don’t you simply remain here and receive their reports with me.”  The Queen said, on the one hand thinking to take advantage of the aging Ambassadors razor-keen mind, and on the other hand wondering how badly she was going to regret allowing him this sort of access.


The Ambassador’s eyes narrowed.  “You are wise not to trust me, but I assure you that my only agenda is the protection of my people.”  With a grin, “In this instance, at least.”




The Queen struck her hand down on the table in irritation, the reports of her Champions having raised more questions than answered.  “We must contact the Coluan ambassador.  If the date recovered is unviewable by the SP’s own code-breakers, and the technologies in use appear to be Coluan, then it seems that this is our only recourse.”


Ambassador Ravin had remained quiet, fingers steepled in front of his face throughout most of the reporting, stopping only to ask occasionally pointed questions, or to clarify specifics.  “Orin Fex is un-cooperative on the best of days, but I have been dealing with him for over a decade.  I would recommend wording a request in such a way as to suggest that the tech appeared to be *superior* to Coluan tech.  This will spur his attention, and he will feel the need to explain to you laboriously and at length why this cyborg’s technology is inferior to Coluan technology.  No doubt you will be able to glean much useful information from his detailed refutal of this position.”


The Queen nodded to the Ambassador.  “As you are in possession of the same facts as I, perhaps you would be so kind as to word the request itself, Ambassador?”


Ravin nodded agreeably and pulled over a pad to began typing his entry.




The Coluan Ambassador stood before Sarya of Venegar with a look of pronounced disdain.  Behind him, a pair of aides, one Coluan female, also bald and with sharp features, wearing severe and militarily-precise clothing, and a distracted young male with a mop of straw-colored hair and wearing a wrinkled jumpsuit, with a belt adorned with various tools, stood, one crisply at attention, the other reviewing data on a pad and possibly recording the meeting.


“Your request was transparent, Venegar.  I have no ego to arouse in these matters, although the notion that this ‘Dark Man’s’ technology was superior to that of Colu is, of course, laughable.  In fact the entire wording of the document has the stink of Ambassador Ravin about it.”  The Ambassador began haughtily.  As instructed, Sarya merely raised an eyebrow, but did not interrupt.  “In any event, I see that I must educate you in the nature of Coluan shunt technology and hyperdrive theory, so that you may see how this cyborgs inferior theorems are clearly nothing more than bastardized attempts at duplicating superior Coluan applications.”


Two hours later, grateful that she had taken the precaution of inserting an earpiece that recited energetic and lively Venegarian marching songs into her ear, Orin Fex ceased his presentation.  “And that is why it is clear that this technology is inferior.”


“And the tetraspatial particle trail?” Sarya prompted, hoping against hope that the Ambassador hadn’t already addressed that at some point when her mind was elsewhere.


“As I said, due to the folded component of hyper-string meta-theory, such events are momentary and not traceable by anyone not present at the time of shunt.  As particles flux into and out of quantum state, such associations are lost effectively instantaneously…”


At this point, the Coluan youth behind him interrupted, as if talking aloud.  “The trail leads to the Carican sector.”


“What?”  Orin Fex said shortly, snatching the pad out of the younger Coluans hand.


The female looked outraged that the male had even had the temerity to speak.  “That’s impossible.  Do not speak out of turn, Dox.”


Unperturbed by the reactions of his fellow Coluans, the young male spoke again, “And the only point of interest in the Carican sector is, of course, Takron-Galtos.”


“Outrageous.”  Fex muttered and walked out, saying over his shoulder, “This meeting is concluded.”


The female Coluan grabbed her younger peer by the shoulder and led him out in the Ambassadors wake, hissing threats the entire while.


The Queen’s Champions looked at each other startled, and Sarya spoke to the pad in her hand.  “Commissioner Rellos.”


And automated reply came back, *Commissioner Rellos is occupied at the moment, if you would like to leave a message…*


“Tell him that Takron-Galtos may be under attack.” Sarya interrupted before severing the connection.




Twenty minutes later, Sarya’s pad beeped.  Takron-Galtos just had an ‘incident.’  Sixteen prisoners escaped from the extreme security wing.  I’m very interested in how you knew this, Highness, as it was happening in real-time when you left your message...” the Commissioner said shortly.


“I learned it by doing your job, Commissioner, as always.  Perhaps if you were better at it, you wouldn’t have to insult the Queen of Venegar with your venomous insinuations, which, I will of course be forwarding to the Earthgov representative…”


The Commissioner could be heard furiously backpedaling, “I meant no offense, Highness.  I’m quite certain that you have no connection to the events unfolding…”


“Far too late, Rellos.  Your behavior is unacceptable, and you are hindering *my* investigation into a dozen assaults perpetrated on Venegar, which is very much *my* jurisdiction.  As for the specifics, I asked the Coluan Ambassador to backtrack the tetraspatial distortion over Luna to attempt to locate it’s destination point, and it turned out to be the Carican sector.”


“I was unaware that you were on such terms with Orin Fex,” the Commissioner sputtered, having yet to recover his composure.


“My ‘terms’ with Orin are none of your concern,” the Queen said, delicately phrasing her statement to cause maximum confusion.  “As the individual in question is wanted on outstanding warrants for assault on Venegarian citizens, and for fomenting insurrection against the monarchy, I demand cooperation on this matter.  You can give it to me know, or in front of the UP Council in formal session, it is your choice.”


The Commissioner’s face was strained.  “What do you want to know.


“Everything you do, starting with the files on the escapees.” Sarya said firmly.


“The files are downloading now.  I have to attend to other matters, please excuse me, Highness.”  He said bitterly, signing off.




A day had passed, and the Champions reviewed the files.


“So four vanished completely, two sat quietly in their cells and waited for the power to be restored, and ten more took advantage of the disruption to attempt to flee the planet, but got shut down by TiG security.”  Garth determined.


~And every escapee an individual with post-human abilities…~ Imra thought glumly.


“At least Mekt and his new ‘friends’ weren’t among them,” Ayla added.


“So we’ve got ‘Mano,’ name and species unknown, famous for disintegrating a hole in the hull of a star-cruiser and robbing the dead, ‘the Persuader,’ Nyeun Chun Ti, intersystem hit-man bonded to some sort of ‘atomic axe’ that can cut through the molecular bonds of anything, and can be teleported to his hand from anywhere, ‘the Green Dragon,’ aka Jo Nah of Rimbor, with an assortment of posthuman abilities that he can only activate one at a time and my personal favorite, Kort Grezz of Braal, famous for having attempted to win the magno-ball championships by poisoning his opposition…” Rokk said grimly.


“I have cracked the code,” announced a voice from behind the Champions, and they turned to see the young Coluan male, holding a pad in his hand.  “The Validus creature was composed of his own cells, artificially grown to enormous size, and filled with 45 kilos of cloned neural tissue harvested from the telepaths he’d assaulted.”


“Uh, hi?” said Garth, uncertain how the young Coluan had gotten past door security.


~Is there anything more?~ Imra asked, concerned only with the matter at hand.


“Little that I could explain to you,” the Coluan said indifferently, “but the files do note that the Validus process was considered a failure.  Tharok proved unable to stimulate its telepathic functions, and it was nothing more than a dumb animal…”


Tharok?” Rokk said.


“The cyborg,” the young Coluan said curtly, “Tharok theorized that a strong enough telepathic contact would stimulate the cells to react defensively, and expressed concern that the Venegarian gestalt was no longer available to serve that role.”  The Coluan looked up at Imra.  “Obviously, he found another solution.”


Having finished explaining his findings, the Coluan looked around lost for a moment, and then turned to go.


“Hey kid!” Ayla said, getting up quickly.


“My name is Dox.”


Dox, then.  We’ve got more info here, and I think we could use your help, if you’re not busy.”


The Coluan stared at her with a blank expression, and then moved to stand at the table.  “What additional data?”