Disclaimer: This is a copyrighted work of fiction.  Any similarity to any actual events or characters, living or deceased, is merely coincidental.  The author of this manuscript reserves all rights.  All illegal copying, distributing or publishing is strictly prohibited.  Only one (1) copy of this text may be downloaded to be read off-line.  ©2000 Panic Attack Productions, Author: John Hammersmith.

The Valerian Invasion
By John Hammersmith

Part Three

“Are you alright?” asked Lieutenant Godiva frantically.  “Speak to me, dammit!” Slapping the hazy sergeant several times, she pounded his chest, begging him to fight for his life.  After five minutes of pleading with him, the burly sergeant began to sputter as he came to.  Shaking his head wearily, he turned his head and saw the light dancing through Lady Petula’s hardened figure.

“Oh, God,” he said sadly, “it wasn’t just a bad dream.”  Reaching a chubby finger to Lieutenant Godiva’s flush face, he wiped away a tear gently.  “Thanks for bringing me back, Godiva.”

Lieutenant Godiva shifted her gaze away from the struggling officer.  She wasn’t used to tenderness from the normally hot-headed Sergeant Magnum and wasn’t sure how to react.  “We’ve got to stick together,” she said quietly, still diverting her pale blue eyes from him.  Lifting herself from the ground, she added nonchalantly, “You gave me quite a scare.”  Walking up to the glowing statue that Lady Petula had now become, she reached a shaking hand out and somberly pulled the identification tag from around her firm teammate’s neck.

Sergeant Magnum groaned as he steadied himself to his feet.  “That’s going to hurt tomorrow,” he joked, trying to lighten Lieutenant Godiva’s heavy heart.  Walking slowly up to his friend, he said solemnly, “I know you’re scared right now, so don’t worry about a thing.  I can be brave enough for both of us.”  Turning her attention away from the woeful statue of Lady Petula, Lieutenant Godiva kissed Sergeant Magnum’s rough, unshaved cheek.

“Thanks, Sergeant Magnum,” she said while composing herself.  “I’m shaken, but I’m not too scared to continue the fight.”  Slowly becoming more determined with every word, she pulled on a pair of insulated gloves as she continued.  “I will discover the purpose of this so-called contest and make them pay for what they’ve done to us.”  Crouching down to examine the decimated robot formally disguised as scientist Peter Grimes, Lieutenant Godiva wasted no time, diving into the remaining mechanical shell.  Throwing unwanted parts aside, she finally seemed to reach the device she had been searching for.  After yanking out the square two-inch microchip from the processor, she inserted the tiny apparatus into a slot in her own computer.  Typing swiftly, she began to hack into the brain of the spying robot.

Suddenly, a metallic voice boomed from her computer, shattering the silence.

     Unit 2509, awaiting your command.

Somewhat surprised by the swift integration of the foreign microchip, Lieutenant Godiva stammered a moment before saying, “Unit 2509, state your programming directives.”

1. Serve the Nil Corporation, and it’s leader, Emperor Titus.
2. Acquire and capture subjects suitable for harvesting.
3. Report all subversive threats to the Nil Corporation.
Puzzled, Lieutenant Godiva probed deeper into the elusive program.  “How are subjects harvested and for what purpose?”
Human subjects are first captured in mineral form using various methods of acquisition.  Then, they are collected by the Nil Corporation for use in the elemental generators.  Without the need for metabolic life-sustaining functions, the human brain can produce synaptic energy for many years.  Probes are attached to the left frontal lobe and brain stem.  Extracting energy from the amygdala and medulla oblongata, these probes use the subject’s own emotions and life force to produce an element called Auric 9.  This element is at the core of the Nil Corporation’s plan to return Emperor Titus to his home planet, Valeria, in the Pegasi star system.  With the abundance of human life on this planet, thousands of subjects can be easily acquired to produce the massive amount of energy needed.
The two remaining teammates looked at each other for a moment as the hard truth began to sink in.  “Rocket fuel?” asked Sergeant Magnum quietly.  “They want to use us as rocket fuel?”

“It seems that way, Magnum,” replied Lieutenant Godiva somberly.  Turning her attention to Lady Petula’s glowing figure, she shuddered at the thought of her friend’s energy being drained to serve an alien race’s diabolical mission.  Bowing her head, she uttered a quiet prayer for her fallen ally.  Suddenly, Godiva spun on her heels, shouting at the cold voice on her computer, “Where are these elemental generators located?”

That location is classified.
“Don’t worry, Unit 2509, I will find it,” replied Lieutenant Godiva defiantly.  Turning to Sergeant Magnum, she said, “I think we’ve found out as much as we’re going to from this thing.”  Pulling the chip from her computer, she handed the square device to Sergeant Magnum.  Smiling from ear to ear, Sergeant Magnum wasted no time in destroying the evil microchip with a grinding twist of his boot.

To Sergeant Magnum’s surprise, Lieutenant Godiva then proceeded to strip the remaining garments from Lady Petula’s rigid body.  Starting with her shoes, she worked her way up Petula’s slim body, even removing earrings from unbending earlobes.  Noticing Sergeant Magnum’s curious expression, she quickly explained, “We need to remove all of the tracking devices from her body so they don’t locate her, Magnum.  I don’t want those bastards stealing her life-force, so I’m making certain they won’t find her!” Once all items were removed from the statue that had once been the vibrant Lady Petula, they both stood in awe at the naked vision before them.  Running a finger across the dense surface of her hardened lips, Sergeant Magnum marveled at the delicate texture rendered on Lady Petula’s striking face.

“If we leave her here,” said Lieutenant Godiva woefully, “someone is bound to find her.”  Scanning the terrain map on her computer, she scowled as she tried to locate a safe place to hide the captive Lady Petula.  Suddenly, she turned to Sergeant Magnum, exclaiming, “I’ve got it! There’s a cave about a mile to the west where we could store her.”  Highlighting the location on her terrain map, she silently hoped the cave still remained unoccupied.

“That’s a possibility,” said Sergeant Magnum, “but how are we going to get her there?” He walked up to the frozen lady and tried to tip her to gauge how much she might weigh in her new condition.  Using all of his strength, he only managed to budge her stiff body a few inches from her previous spot on the table.

“I see your point,” sighed Lieutenant Godiva, recalling the failure of the levitation device to lift Esper’s gilded figure earlier.  “Hmmm,” she pondered, “maybe there’s some way to boost the levitator’s power?”  Quickly, she rummaged through Esper’s abandoned holster, extracting the stun gun.  After pulling on her insulated gloves, she stepped over to the damaged remains of the fallen robot, pulling wires and couplers from the decimated casing.  Attaching wires to the stun gun’s outputs, she proceeded to hotwire the small, yet powerful, handheld device.  Then she pulled out Commander Stealth’s discarded levitation device, attaching the other end of the wires to the small inputs on the side.  After confirming that the stun gun was fully charged, she said to Sergeant Magnum, “Well, let’s go see if this works.”

They both headed outside and looked for a suitable item to test their new, hybrid contraption on.  Spotting a massive ten-foot cactus, Lieutenant Godiva aimed the device at the spiky plant, saying, “Here goes nothing!” Pressing the trigger with one hand, Lieutenant Godiva crossed her fingers with the other.  A loud humming sound filled the air as a bright blue beam fired from the handheld tool.

At first, it seemed as if the experiment might be a failure as the large plant remained rooted to the rocky ground.  However, as Lieutenant Godiva twisted the intensity knob, the loud humming increased exponentially, followed by the grinding sound of shifting earth.  Slowly, the bulky cactus began to rise from the scorched soil, spilling sand and rocks as it climbed.  Once fully exhumed, Sergeant Magnum shouted, “Timber!” as Lieutenant Godiva released the trigger.  It toppled with a loud thud, then rolled back and forth before finally settling on its side.  Checking the LCD display, Lieutenant Godiva let out a gleeful giggle, saying, “Wow! That used up only 5% of the stun gun’s battery!”

Sergeant Magnum couldn’t contain his admiration of the resourceful officer.  “That’s incredible, Godiva!” They hugged each other excitedly for a moment in celebration.

“Now, we need to get our friend to the shelter of that cave!”

In a secret control room, a gleeful Emperor Titus watches the Nil Corporation’s most recent broadcast of his beloved “contest” with rapt interest.  Nearly drooling as he watches a beautiful blonde transforming into a solid gold statue, he claps his fat hands together with glee, genuinely impressed with Eddie Lambert’s expert editing.  Checking the real-time ratings results, he is equally satisfied with the number of people viewing, over 60 million viewers strong.  Pressing a button on his communication unit, he summons Scientist Turner.  “Good work on the gilding river, Turner.  Looks like we’ll have a first rate specimen for the rotunda on Valeria after she’s been harvested.”

“Always a pleasure to serve you, my lord.”

“Contact Rebecca Anders’ family.  Her sister, Jessie, should finally be interested in our invitation to compete now.”

“I’ve already taken care of it, Emperor Titus.  I should be receiving her acceptance within a matter of hours.”

‘Jessie Anders will be mine,’ thought Titus as he turned his attention back to the flickering holo-screen.  Nighttime would surely bring more victims, and the rotund leader didn’t want to miss a thing.

Returning to the adobe dwelling, Lieutenant Godiva and Sergeant Magnum quickly gathered as much gear as they could carry for their trek west.  Once satisfied they were properly prepared, Lieutenant Godiva aimed her hybrid levitator at the still figure of Lady Petula.  The bright beam bathed the captive in an eerie blue glow that pulsed up and down the rigid diamond statue.  Adjusting the directional controls, Lieutenant Godiva gently lifted her fallen ally up and out of the very room where she’d been transformed a few hours earlier.  ‘Don’t worry, Petula,’ thought Lieutenant Godiva somberly, ‘I won’t let them take you from us.’

With slow and steady footsteps, Lieutenant Godiva guided her precious cargo in front of her as she walked.  Sergeant Magnum proceeded to scan the horizon for any potential threats.  After travelling for about twenty minutes, the blue beam holding Lady Petula aloft began to lose its intensity, and her frozen form began to teeter within the force field.  Quickly, Lieutenant Godiva began to lower her taut friend, turning her gingerly until the statue was positioned with her back aimed towards the ground.  Releasing the trigger, she watched as her friend rocked slightly before settling on the rocky soil.

“Battery’s dead,” said Godiva somberly.  Checking their position, she added, “Only 300 yards to go until we reach the safety of that cave.”

“How long before we can get going again?” asked Sergeant Magnum.

Lieutenant Godiva contemplated the question for a moment, estimating the time it would take for the new unit to recharge.  “It shouldn’t be too long, Magnum.  Still, I think we should cover Lady Petula with camouflage, just in case somebody wanders by.”  Quickly, the two of them hacked down a few small shrubs, placing them around their friend’s helplessly still figure.  Moving in circles around the statue, Lieutenant Godiva finally seemed satisfied with their labor to disguise the valuable monument Petula had become.

Suddenly, the ground shook under the force of a blast, throwing both Godiva and Magnum to the rocky earth.  Ducking behind a massive boulder, Lieutenant Godiva grabbed a pair of binoculars, searching for the origin of the outburst.  To the east, about 200 yards away, stood a slight man with a huge weapon strapped to his scrawny arm.  The weapon hinged at the shoulder and elbow, providing the user plenty of mobility with superior firepower.  Unexpectedly, the lone figure yelled out, “I’m coming for you, Sergeant Magnum!” Two more cannon shots rang out, one striking the rock in front of them, the other striking a tree behind them, causing it to topple just next to the hidden Lady Petula.

“Damn, Sergeant Magnum!” screamed Lieutenant Godiva.  “What did you DO to this guy to make him THIS mad at you?!”

He shook his head quietly, saying defensively, “I swear, Godiva, I’ve never even SEEN this guy before!” Scowling, he plunged deeper into his memory, trying to ascertain why this madman was hunting him.

“Well, he certainly knows who you are!” replied Lieutenant Godiva harshly.  “I don’t know how many more hits we can take!”

“You’re right, as always, Godiva,” said Sergeant Magnum bravely.  “It’s me he’s after.  I’m going to divert his fire away from you and Petula.”  Turning to face Godiva, he waved goodbye somberly, then dashed away, running south.

“Trying to outrun me?” screamed the pursuer, oblivious to Lieutenant Godiva’s position.  “Well, look out, Magnum, ‘cause here I come!” Running swiftly, he chased after Sergeant Magnum wildly, firing his canon as he flew.  With the enemy still out of her weapon range, Lieutenant Godiva was helpless to do anything except watch as they both disappeared into the distance.  After a few moments, Lieutenant Godiva found herself alone, praying for the safety of her teammate, Sergeant Magnum.

“Be careful, Jimmy,” whispered Lieutenant Godiva gravely.

Eddie Lambert tossed and turned in his small hover bed.  Still somewhat shaken by his recent discovery, he now worried even more about his own safety than ever before.  The Nil Corporation kept tight grips on everything under its control, and he would be no exception, he knew that.  Even now, a small camera was humming in the corner, recording his every movement.

With only 10 hours of downtime before he’d resume his tight schedule, Eddie reached for his duffel bag, hoping to find a bottle of sleeping pills.  Suddenly, a white fog began to appear in the far corner of the room.  Shocked by the apparition, Eddie rubbed his eyes tightly, hoping the strange vision would clear from his weary eyes, but it didn’t.  In fact, it began to loom larger, slowly acquiring a shape.

“Don’t worry.  I won’t hurt you,” echoed a whispery female voice within the editor’s mind. “And don’t speak.  As you know, you are always under surveillance.”  Silently, and discretely, he nodded his head.  “You can communicate with me by using your thoughts.  Try it.”

“This is crazy,” thought the exhausted man.

“Crazy, maybe.  But desperate times call for desperate measures.”  As she floated closer to the bed, Eddie could barely see her delicate facial features in the cloud of mist.  A shocking vision to be sure.  Still, Eddie could see goodness in her radiant face somehow.

“I know what they’re doing to all the contestants.  They’re trapping them into statues for some kind of purpose,” thought Eddie somberly.

“That is why I have sought you out, Eddie.”

“How do you know my name?” asked Eddie as he laid back in his bed, pretending to sleep for the cameras.

“It’s one of my skills,” replied the mysterious lady nonchalantly. “However, my time here is limited.  As the editor of the Nil Corporation’s coverage of this event, you ultimately have the power to decide what gets shown, and what doesn’t.  Is that correct?”

Eddie thought about it for a moment, then responded.  “I have been given final cut authority by the Nil Corporation.  So far anyway.”

“And they aren’t aware of your knowledge, are they?”

“Well,” thought Eddie, “I almost blew it yesterday, but I don’t think they know anything yet.”

“Good,” replied the glowing vision.  “I have a proposition for you.  Do you want to help save these people?”

“More than anything.”

“Then protect the chosen one,” whispered the voice in his head. “Keep her out of the camera’s eye for a while.”

Baffled, Eddie replied, “Who’s the chosen one? How will I know who she is?”  Suddenly, a vision of a brown-haired woman with cool, blue eyes burned into his brain.  As the strange prophet began to fade away, Eddie asked urgently, “Who are you?”

“Merely a ghost in the machine…”

To be continued...

On to Part Four