September 15, 2010

Assignment to Earth Chapter Twenty-one

After what seemed like hours, Skylar finally heard heavy Klodfon footsteps coming down the hall toward the cells. Hoping they hadn't been seen on a scanner, Skylar stood and flattened himself against the wall out of sight of the opening.

The footsteps paused outside his cell and the door opened. With the swing of a green arm, an unconscious body was unceremoniously dumped in a heap just inside the door.

The door closed again and the footsteps retreated down the hall. A low whistle came from somewhere outside the cell, probably Lissanne telling him the Klodfons were gone.

Skylar opened the aidkit on his belt as he quickly stepped across the room to the Klodfons’ latest victim and began looking for injuries which needed immediate attention. Finding none, he concluded the man had been stunned or else beaten to the point where the pain itself would render him unconscious. He gave the man two injections, one a painkiller, the other a stimulant. Hopefully, the medications would work together to help him wake sooner.

He was a young man. His hair looked like it had once been a light red, but was now bleached by the sun to golden blonde. One eye was swollen nearly shut. The other eye, green in color, was bloodshot and staring unseeingly at the ceiling. His slightly crooked nose had at some time been broken and allowed to heal improperly. His arms were covered with bruises and probably the rest of him as well, although Skylar wasn’t going to undress him to find out.

Judging by the gaunt look of his large frame, he had not been fed properly and was probably dehydrated.

“They’ve really worked you over,” he said to the unconscious man. “I can’t believe the terrible shape you’re in. I wonder if this is what they did to Jenna, too.” The tattered clothing the man wore was not a Fellowship uniform and looked as if it hadn't been washed in a very long time.

Because of the way the cell doors were staggered, Skylar couldn't have the girls identify the man until he woke up unless he picked the man up and smushed his face against the door. Taking another look at the man’s face, he wasn’t sure they’d be able to identify him even if they could see him.

He stepped to the door and updated Glen and the girls on the situation, then retreated to a corner of the cell. If the man had been stunned, there was nothing to do now but wait.

Presently the man stirred. Skylar was quickly at his side, helping him to sit up. The man blinked several times, wiping at his good eye with a torn sleeve until his vision cleared. When he finally saw Skylar, a puzzled look came over his face.

"Are you Rantek?”

The man tried to answer, but his dry throat would allow no words to pass. He swallowed, then, and just nodded.

“Relax and don't try to talk. I'm Captain Skylar, from the Dragonstar Aubria. We picked up your distress call and I've been looking for you. If you can walk, we'll get you out of here. Think you can make it?"

Rantek nodded again and Skylar helped him to his feet. He swayed slightly, but managed to stay upright.

Reaching through one of the holes in the door, Skylar inserted the identicard in its slot, pulling his arm back quickly before the door took it off with its swift-opening movement.

Stepping out into the hallway Skylar was moving to release the others from their cells, when Klodfons appeared in the corridor.

Skylar only had time to push Rantek back into his cell and hand the identicard to Lissanne before the Klodfons began firing. He took what scant cover was available in the shallow depression in the wall against the now-closed door of Rantek's cell. Although the Klodfons could not hit him here, he was unable to free any others. He signaled for Lissanne to wait until he drew the Klodfons’ fire before opening her cell. She nodded her understanding.

Skylar stepped into the Klodfons’ field of vision and began shooting, diverting their attention long enough for Lissanne to get her own door opened. She also fired at the Klodfons, but the large rifle didn’t fit well in the narrow confines of the cell doorway. She had to try several times before finding a position that worked well.

Lissanne paused long enough between shots to slide the identicard across the corridor floor toward Jenna. Fortunately the Klodfons didn’t blast the card, and it skidded to a stop at the base of Jenna's door, close enough to be reached.

Snatching it up through a lower ventilation hole, Jenna soon had her door open and together the three of them blasted the remaining Klodfons.

As silence reigned, Jenna quickly let Glen out, then once again released Rantek, Skylar stepping close to help support the injured man. The group hurried toward the end of the hallway as a piercing alarm sounded.

"Blast it! Some of them must have gotten away!" Jenna muttered disgustedly as they quickly slipped through the door they'd used to enter the cell block earlier.

*     *     *     *     *

Laser fire exploded part of the wall just above them, the bolt narrowly missing Glen's head. Debris from the wall showered down on everyone. The group retreated quickly down the hall while firing behind them. It had taken him quite a few wild shots before he’d gotten the hang of the heavy laser rifle and began using it with a fair amount of accuracy, bringing down a good share of the Clod-fawns.

Upon reaching a cross-hallway, Jenna cried, "This way!" and the group turned and ran down the hall, trying to put as much distance as possible between themselves and their pursuers before they would need to turn and fight again.

Their speed was hampered somewhat by Rantek's condition, but he seemed to grow stronger with every step, now able to walk on his own, buoyed up by thoughts of freedom. Glen knew that when the adrenaline rush wore off Rantek would be totally exhausted; however, for now it meant he could move nearly as fast as the rest of them.

The Clod-fawns rounded the corner behind them, fired again, and the humans turned once more to fight. Slowly but surely they made progress against this larger group of lizards, as they moved in the direction Jenna led them.

Glen saw Skylar glance at his watch. In the middle of a fight? The man really was insane! Then he remembered they were running against a time limit; their spaceship would leave without them if they didn’t get there soon enough.

“How much time do you have left, Skylar?”

Skylar grimaced. “Not enough, unless the Charys stays a little longer to look for Lissanne. With the Klodfons this roused, if we miss our ride, we won’t live long enough to wait for the next Dragonstar.”

Turning another corner, they moved as quickly as possible. As they passed a small alcove to their right, Jenna stopped, the others skidding to a halt just behind her.

"Skylar and Glen stay in here,” she ordered. “We'll try 'divide and conquer' again."

Skylar and Glen moved into the alcove, pressing themselves against the wall in an attempt to become invisible to the Clod-fawns’ eyes. The rest of the group quickly moved off down the hall.

The Clod-fawns marched around the corner with their typical precision, firing as they advanced. Glen watched them march past, holding his breath and silently praying that none would look their way. If they did, they would certainly see him, as the alcove was neither large nor dark.

By a piece of fantastic luck, or in answer to his prayers, Glen wasn't sure which, not a single Clod-fawn spotted them. He wondered briefly how much charge was left in his rifle, and how he would know if it were running low.

As before, Skylar allowed them to get far enough down the corridor they would not be shooting at him at point-blank range, yet close enough for his aim to be deadly. He watched Skylar for the signal to go.

When it was given they stepped out into the corridor, opening fire on the lizards. This time, the Clod-fawns were quicker to figure out what was going on. The human tactics were illogical enough to confuse them temporarily, though…long enough for the Cavaliers to gain the advantage.

There were still several Clod-fawns left when Glen’s weapon sent a small electrical shock tingling through his hands. Four blasts later, it abruptly stopped firing when he pressed the trigger. He threw the useless weapon aside as the Cavaliers made quick work of the remaining menace.

Reuniting, Skylar's small group scooped up Clod-fawn guns, recharging their own weapons on the move, discarding the depleted rifles as they ran. Glen grabbed up a pair of rifles as they passed the dead lizards. He slung one over his shoulder, adjusting the strap as they moved, and kept the other in his hands ready for use. He didn’t intend to run out of ammo again. The group ran on, following Jenna’s lead.

Without warning, the power was cut, plunging them into an instant blackness, darker than night.