Once Scientist Turner arrived in the preparation room, he questioned his busy staff about the contestant named Pricilla. After receiving the answers he needed from his awe-struck staff, he soon discovered the location of the stony woman that sought to ruin the Valerian’s well-laid plans. As Emperor Titus arrived, with the usual pomp and glory, Scientist Turner led his esteemed leader to the girl, saying proudly, “My lord, meet Pricilla. This is the specimen that was holding the tainted containers.”
Emperor Titus quickly pushed everyone aside as he strutted up to the glowing sculpture. Seeing not one, but two stony humans interlocked, Emperor Titus sighed impatiently. In an exasperated tone, Titus asked, “Which one of these two is Pricilla?”
“The standing one, my lord,” replied Scientist Turner with a humble bow.
Reaching out a chubby hand, Emperor Titus placed his fingers along the base of her stony skull then closed his eyes in deep concentration. Briefly, he repositioned his fat fingers as he searched for the victim’s brain pattern. Suddenly, the rotund leader’s closed eyes began to dance under his eyelids, making the king appear as if he was deep within a dream state. As a matter of fact, he was probing a subconscious, but not his own. As vivid images began to fill his brain, he focused on the plight of this captured maiden, searching for answers.
From Pricilla’s singular perspective, he could witness everything she saw out in the thorn fields. As the girl and her friend sat down on a nearby rock to eat, he could taste what she tasted, corn meal bread and beef. He licked his chops as he savored the vicarious experience, and a small string of drool briefly oozed out of the corner of his mouth. Listening intently to the relaxed conversation didn’t reveal any suspicious knowledge, yet the probing alien maintained his focus.
As Pricilla rose from her seat, Titus could feel a prick as she stepped onto a jagged thorn. He could hear her voice screaming out in pain and could see her eyes studying the sandal on her foot in dismay. Quietly, he could hear her companion delicately consoling her while she lowered herself to her knees. “Those thorns really hurt, don’t they,” said the friend warmly. “I just scraped myself a few seconds ago, and it really burns.” Feeling a hand grasping her ankle and another removing the sandal, he suddenly could sense the anguish of the young girl as she felt shooting pain in the ball of her foot. As Pricilla shifted her glance behind her standing position, the emperor could see her friend yanking out the spiky thorn, smiling tenderly as she held the thistle in her hand. Then, horrifying shock coursed through the timid contestant named Pricilla as she saw her friend slowly turning white and smooth. Even the poor girl’s terrified thoughts began to fill the emperor’s mind as she instantly understood what was happening to her dear friend. ‘Oh, God! She’s turning to stone,’ thought the maiden repeatedly, until she could feel her own supple body suddenly hardening. As the chalky stone began to pulse up her body, Emperor Titus savored the girl’s agonized fear and regret as she solidified relentlessly into unbending marble. Once fully transformed, the plump emperor snapped his eyes open in a rage.
“This one was captured by the thorns, Turner!” screamed the enraged Valerian. “She knows nothing about the strange potions you found on her.”
Stammering slightly, Scientist Turner quickly replied, “That is possible, sir. However, I have no doubt that the solutions were discovered in a duffel bag slung over her shoulder.” Quickly bowing his head meekly, he offered, “Perhaps, my lord, someone else planted the solutions on her after she had already been transformed? It is possible this human, Pricilla, may still have witnessed the exchange, even after she’d become frozen.”
Emperor Titus slowly began to cool off as his officer’s words began to sink in. Again, he closed his eyes as he reached out and grasped Pricilla’s fossilized head. Picking up where he left off, he scanned the girl’s memory until he could see a flurry of activity around her prone figure. Methodically, the emaciated alien studied every contestant around him, yet he struggled with the girl’s limited perspective. Although the captured girl could still see everything around her location, she couldn’t move her rigid body in the slightest. Within her line of sight, the emperor could see two more ladies cursing as they brushed into the many thorns around them, yet neither of these petrifying competitors ever came near Pricilla’s stationary spot.
As he searched forward, quickly skipping the null activity around the frozen girl, he saw another pair of women approach. However, this time the emperor saw someone he instantly recognized. The moment he glimpsed his blonde goddess, he could feel his blood pumping hotter and his heart leaping within his stout chest, yet he knew the sensations being experienced were his own and not Pricilla’s. Swiftly pulling his hand away from the stony contestant’s alabaster head, Emperor Titus shouted gleefully, “Is she here? I need to know! Where’s Jessie Anders?”
Scientist Turner promptly kicked the data clerk next to him, then gestured for him to hurry with an answer. The pale man winced in pain as he scanned his database. With a slight quiver in his voice, the insignificant man said in a monotone, “Contestant: Niko; Birth Name: Jessie Anders; Location: Generator Slot #647.”
Emperor Titus instantly sprang up from behind the gleaming sculpture he had been studying. Running as quickly as his portly body would allow, he turned the corner as he reached the control room. Then he gasped as he saw her, his precious Jessie. Angered by the improper placement of his beloved, he shouted menacingly, “Why has my queen been given such a lowly status, slumming with these commoners! This one should be located in a place of prominence and honor!”
Niko remained utterly oblivious to the growing activity around her. She still couldn’t focus on any outside influences since being connected to her elemental generator. However, as five workmen swiftly leapt into action, she could finally perceive the frantic commotion in front of her as she felt her helmet being removed. Instant relief washed over the ravishing beauty she found herself being lifted away from the insidious device that tortured her mind and drained her energy. The workmen promptly lowered her prone form to the ground directly in front of a large man that Niko had never met before. Yet, by the way all of these workers bowed and saluted the strange man, she knew he had to possess a great deal of power over them.
Emperor Titus could barely contain his excitement as he walked around the motionless curves of his object of desire. Reaching out a chubby finger, he traced a line down the chilly marble back of his adored queen. Once his hand reached the hardened curves of her derriere, he opened his hand fully and clenched the chalky globe of her butt cheek, reveling in the flawless sculpting of her powerful muscles. Inside her marble prison, Niko shuddered as she felt her body being caressed lovingly from behind. Emperor Titus leaned over the captured maiden delicately, whispering into the stiffened folds of her ear, “I’ve been searching the cosmos for you, my darling.” Niko felt her body becoming unusually warm as Titus continued to worship her like an ancient idol. Although his sluggish physique appalled her, she couldn’t deny the infectious quality of his confident adoration of her, even in her petrified state. However, the flattering experience quickly ended for her as she heard the man yell, “Prepare a throne for my queen this very instant.”
‘Queen?’ thought Niko in a panic. ‘Why does he think I’m royalty? I’m from Pittsburgh, not Camelot.’ As she again became raised into the air, carried above the worker’s heads like a cherished religious artifact, she pondered the unusual treatment being bestowed upon her. Carrying the weighty burden across the room, the workers made certain to steadily and carefully transport the stony monarch, knowing certain death would await them should anything dire occur to the fragile monument. With a unified grunt, the muscular men began to lower the dense sculpture as they reached the ornate pedestal next to the pulsing cylinder of energy in the center of the room. As her feet landed with a clang, Niko could see her admirer sitting in a massive chair directly to her left. Instantly, she realized her purpose in this odd little pageant. ‘Oh, God!’ she screamed inwardly, while on the outside she remained a silent statue rendered in solid stone. ‘He wants me to become his bride! That large man is Emperor Titus, and he wants to crown me as his queen!’
As she felt another wired cap placed upon her head, she braced herself in anticipation, fully expecting the horrendous trauma of becoming jacked in. Instead, she felt a wave of energy washing over her as her switch became activated. Total euphoria pulsed up and down her paralyzed body as she stood in motionless rapture. Vibrant colors exploded within her mind’s eye, yet somehow she could still focus on the activity around her. After only a few moments, Niko knew she’d never experienced this sort of overwhelming pleasure before in her life.
Turning to face his radiant fiancé, Emperor Titus smiled warmly at the luminous beauty standing to his right. “Welcome to the conduit of vitality, my love. Right now, the life force of these many subjugates is flowing through you, darling, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Over time, you will experience even greater moments of delight.” Niko could feel the emperor’s thoughts quite clearly, despite the distracting orgasmic sensations rolling over her stationary body. For a moment, she almost trusted the powerful emperor enough to reveal her blissful joy to him. However, she soon felt a warm and familiar voice within her swirling mind.
‘Jessie,’ begged the voice tenderly. ‘I can feel your strength. Please save me.’
Instantly recognizing the frail voice of her sister, Niko felt the warm force of life within suddenly drift into the background as her true purpose shined through the fuzzy delight. ‘Oh, sister,’ mourned Niko as she became racked with guilt. ‘I will not surrender to these ecstatic sensations.’
With an unexpected gleam in his eye, Emperor Titus addressed Scientist Turner warmly. “I now know what paradise means,” said the corpulent leader with a glowing smile. “I can’t focus on this investigation any longer, Turner. I’m counting on you to discover the true identity of the conspirator and resolve the situation promptly. Start by questioning your protégé, Byron.”
Bowing respectfully, Turner said meekly, “Yes, my lord. I shall continue to probe the facts until our threat is completely neutralized.”
Moving his arm in a waving gesture, Emperor Titus immediately shooed
his loyal staff away. As he beamed with vigor, he studied his future
wife attentively, slowly gliding his soft hand across her perfectly sculpted
curves. Whispering into her unbending ears, he said excitedly, “We
shall rule the universe together, my love. With your uncanny mental
powers and my ruthless efficiency, entire worlds will bow beneath our feet.
As soon as we can escape this meager planet, I will proudly prepare your
glorious coronation. Once we reach Valeria, we shall reclaim the
throne together and restore my empire in triumph.”
“I’ve never met anyone like you,” whispered Magnum to Meg as he gently caressed her face with the back of his hand. Still coated in grime and blood, the exhausted sergeant pulled out a clean napkin from his pocket, gently wiping away the muddy remnants of his slight touch until her face was free of the dirty blemish. Laughing gregariously, Sergeant Magnum said, “All of this unearthly technology, yet not a shower in sight.”
Meg giggled softly as she reached for the napkin. As she rubbed the soft cloth across Magnum’s chiseled face, she stared deep into his unblinking eyes. After finally clearing a small patch of skin on his cheek, she planted a delicate kiss. Blushing slightly, she said, “Apparently, they haven’t heard of razors either.”
“Actually, the grubby beard is all my fault, I’m afraid,” confessed the sergeant as he reached into his breast pocket. Pulling out a battery-powered device, he smiled as he handed the small electronic razor to his darling ally. “I guess I’ve been too distracted lately to maintain my boyish good looks.”
Meg grinned as she fired up the tiny contraption. “Sit back and relax, tough guy,” played the Scottish beauty as she began to slide the vibrating apparatus across his rugged chin. Using steady strokes, she continued to guide the humming razor across his jaw line, immediately impressed by the swift results of her labors. Commander Kari and Lady Hydra merely rolled their eyes as they shared their exasperation with the enamored pair. Within moments, Sergeant Magnum’s face glowed as his beard completely disappeared. Reaching into her bag, Meg produced a small mirror. Holding it in front of Magnum’s smiling face, she said playfully, “Smooth as a baby’s bottom.”
Making silly faces as he studied himself in the mirror, he replied warmly, “Thanks, Meg! Now I’m one step closer to domestication.” As Meg packed her compact back into her duffel, she patted him on the head like a good doggie. Gently scratching his chin with her fingernails, the stray puppy began to humorously tap his foot on the floor as he groaned in delight.
“Careful, Meg,” shouted Commander Kari, “I don’t think he’s been housebroken yet.”
“Very funny,” replied Magnum to the peanut gallery. As he struggled to his feet, he lifted his leg up on the railing, apparently marking his territory. Hysterical laughter quickly ensued as the ladies surrendered to Sergeant Magnum’s gritty charm.
“Stop!” begged Meg as she rolled around on the deck. “My sides are splitting!”
The jovial moment was abruptly halted as Lieutenant Tatiana called out to her teammates. As she slowed the humming craft, she yelled, “On your feet, people! I think we’ve arrived at some sort of checkpoint.” Quickly, the entire party huddled around Tatiana as they focused their attention on the distant military outpost.
From their hidden location, they could see a three-story tower encased in shimmering glass overlooking a gated entrance. On the ground they could see three armed guards patrolling the area diligently. Sergeant Magnum separated himself from the group as he studied the mounted cannon located at the stern. Even though the large weapon was completely foreign to the brash sergeant, he quickly began to count the number of rounds available.
“How are we going to get through that gate?” asked Lady Hydra quizzically. With thick posts mounted in concrete, the twelve-foot tall gateway appeared nearly impassable to the worried crew.
With a complete lack of abandon, Sergeant Magnum aimed his massive cannon directly at the distant control tower. Lifting a finger into the air, he analyzed the wind velocity, then adjusted his aim to compensate. In a determined tone, he said dryly, “Say the word, Kari, and I’ll blast our way in!”
Grabbing the steering wheel, Kari nodded her approval in an instant. Sergeant Magnum wasted no time, quickly launching a blast in the direction of the glassy tower. At first, his teammates thought the dangerous shot would soar off target, but as the wind picked up, the red fireball swiftly hooked back on track. Loud screams roared in the distance as the howling missile landed, directly impacting along the base of the tower. Completely caught off guard, the military personnel ran around frantically, trying to discover the source of the outburst.
As the tower began to lean, Magnum fired another quick volley of shots in the same proximity, steadily guiding the weapon upward in increments. This time, a series of explosions rocked the sturdy structure, each subsequent blast pulsing up the tower as they burst into flame. The immense force of the repeated cannon blasts finally proved to be too intense for the tower. With a loud creak, the tall building swayed like a reed in the wind, until the support beams eventually broke away from the foundation, sending the entire structure toppling. The two men inside the control room quickly lunged out of a shattered window as the tower collapsed, barely escaping the perilous impact.
“Those shots came from over there!” yelled a panicked voice near the gate. Still discretely stationed near the apex of a lofty hill, the hovercraft remained out of view from the ground. However, the guards sent several blind shots flying in their direction anyway, hoping to neutralize the powerful cannon tearing them to shreds.
Sergeant Magnum quickly leapt away from his big gun, instantly tackling Meg with a cradling hug. He spread his body completely over hers, hoping to shield the quivering girl from any stray gunfire. “Hit the deck, everyone!” yelled the brave sergeant to his anxious crew. As the shots rang overhead, only a few managed to seek out the vessel. Striking with tremendous force, three shots immediately embedded into the bow, and two ricocheted off of the metal railing. Commander Kari jumped up from the ground, quickly propelling the craft along the pinnacle of the hill, away from the line of fire.
Meg groaned quietly as Magnum sprang up from the deck, instantly working his way back to the mounted cannon. Without any hesitation, he aimed the device at a small square control panel located on the massive gate. Again taking into account the wind velocity, he adjusted his positioning appropriately before sending a trio of shots flying.
As he crossed his swollen fingers, Sergeant Magnum prayed diligently, hoping beyond hope that the missiles would find their target. Forcefully, three immense shock waves rang out as the shots impacted along the metal gateway. The three guards became airborne as the force of the many blasts sent their bodies flying like limp test dummies. The four ladies began to cheer as the armed officers landed with a thud on the ground.
Then, beyond everyone’s expectations, the sprawling gate began to open. Loud sirens and flashing lights sprang to life as the clanking relays began to lift the heavy barricade. Commander Kari felt her jaw drop in utter shock as she sped the hovercraft down the steep hill towards the rising gateway. Suddenly, a hidden passageway faded into view, a dark cavern that seemed to lead deep underground.
Every contestant readied their weapons worriedly as they quickly approached the rising entrance. As she studied the unmoving officers strewn along their path, Lieutenant Tatiana asked adamantly, “Shouldn’t we kill those Nil Corporation hired guns? When they wake up, I’m certain they’ll warn the others about us.”
Sergeant Magnum hobbled up to Tatiana, saying remorsefully, “Let me tell you this from personal experience. They hunted me down like a rabid dog for merely killing some bird, so I shudder to think what they’ll do to us if we kill a bunch of their agents.”
“But,” started the hotheaded lady before pausing. As she studied the helpless guards below, she began to understand what Sergeant Magnum was saying. “I guess you’re right, Magnum. It wouldn’t be very brave or noble to snuff these ones out. We don’t want to violate the warrior’s code, do we?”
“Exactly,” replied Sergeant Magnum with a proud smile. “Besides, it’s only a matter of time before someone notices all of the damage out here.” As they began to slide through the open entrance, they all gasped as they saw the shorted out control panel.
“That’s one helluva shot, Magnum,” said Lady Hydra in awe. “Remind me to never get on your bad side!” Slowly, the light around them began to fade as they traveled into the newly discovered deep cavern. Quickly, Commander Kari fired up the deck lights as they found themselves swallowed by darkness.
“If we find someone pursuing us, the first thing we’ll want to do is power down those lights,” said Magnum thoughtfully. Commander Kari nodded politely as she slammed the thrusters to maximum power.
As they propelled at immense speeds toward the mysterious Valerian stronghold, Meg reached around Magnum’s waist delicately, squeezing him with a tender embrace. “Thanks for protecting me back there,” she whispered into his ear. The gruff sergeant scooped her up in his arms and planted a soulful kiss on her silky lips.
Outside the tunnel, one lone worker starts to shake his head groggily.
As his eyes begin to focus, he lets out a shocked moan as he spies the
damage around him. Grabbing a handheld communication unit, he screams,
“Tunnel checkpoint has been destroyed! I repeat; tunnel checkpoint has
been destroyed! An unfriendly craft is heading your way!”
To be continued...
On to Part Twelve