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 Seven

Facing the flickering editing machine, the illustrious Eddie Lambert worked on polishing another episode of the Pure Adrenaline program for the Nil Corporation.  Well aware of the secrets bubbling under the surface, he made certain to keep the mysterious “chosen one” out of the limelight, at least for now.  An avid research expert, Eddie already managed to find out the mysterious girl’s identity: “Lieutenant Godiva”.  He still didn’t know, however, what part she would play in the emancipation of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of trapped competitors already considered missing in action.  ‘Just keep the public entertained,’ thought the weary man, recalling his most recent conversation with his immediate supervisor, the demanding Katherine Ross.  As if summoned by his mere thought, the dragon lady herself beckoned him over the intercom.

“Eddie,” bleated the tinny voice, “could you see me in my office, please?”

Being an undercover spy was certainly not Eddie’s true calling.  Every time he needed to discuss matters with the top brass, he could feel his heart racing in anticipation.  “Just give me a minute to wrap up this edit, okay? Ten minutes, tops.”

“Understood,” replied the stern-voiced lady.

Quickly wasting no time, Eddie swiftly spliced together the various angles and perspectives with ease.  The main focus of the current scene featured a mysterious villain named Plastique and a team of five lovely ladies.  Eddie was already quite familiar with the various traps that made Pure Adrenaline a top rated program.  Yet it always surprised him just how ruthless Plastique truly was, often swallowing up entire excursion teams within a matter of moments.  At first sight, Eddie worried the same occurred to this poor crew, until one motionless girl, a lovely blonde, suddenly began to move around freely, delicately studying the woeful sight of her now transformed crew.  After a few moments of somber analysis, the leggy girl gently sunk to her knees sobbing uncontrollably.  Such a tender moment was not lost on the jaded Hollywood mastermind; he soon began to feel tears welling up in his own blood-shot eyes upon seeing her gut-wrenching grief.

Once he was satisfied with his production efforts, Eddie readied his tape for delivery to the programming department.  With that obligation complete, he headed over to his waiting boss.

“Eddie!” beamed the obnoxious executive.  “Please, come in and have a seat!” With so many years in the business, Eddie quickly learned that such a warm welcome usually meant the powers that be wanted something arduous and tremendously important.  Quickly Eddie took a seat on a sprawling couch, then waited for the other shoe to drop.

After briefly rummaging through a small stack of paperwork, the slim brunette poured herself a cup of coffee.  Deliberately clearing her throat, the stalling lady finally began to speak.  “Well, I’ve been going over yesterday’s minute by minute ratings of Pure Adrenaline, and I think there are some issues that we need to go over.”

‘Here we go,’ thought Eddie as he rubbed his temples.

“As you know, we’ve been averaging over 60 million viewers during our daily show.  However, yesterday’s program seemed to be slipping slightly, dropping down below 45 million.”  Producing several graphs to prove her point, she handed them to Eddie unceremoniously.  Eddie scanned the multi-colored documents wearily, yet feigned extreme interest for the benefit of his attractive, yet tyrannical boss.  “Now, I’d like to know what we can do to bring our program back into the number one position.  We all know how important these ratings are when it comes to advertising revenues, so I want to turn this ship around before we end up sinking.”

Wincing inwardly at the poor analogy, Eddie quickly bluffed, “I thought yesterday’s program was some of my finest work yet.  The action out on the battlefield was very slow, especially when you consider how inexperienced the latest batch of recruits seem to be.”

“What does that have to do with anything,” quipped the exasperated executive.  “Our research shows that the common viewer wants to see more action, plain and simple.”

“I agree, Ms. Roth, the action draws in the audience.  However, I found that yesterday’s footage featured way too many quick captures.  Personally, I think the ratings were down because the audience didn’t see any compelling contestants that lasted for more than a few minutes out there.  I think the people are hoping for a contender.”

Katherine studied his words for a moment, almost as if she appeared to grasp what Eddie was actually saying.  Jotting down a few scribbled notes, she seemed to study Eddie’s tired face for a moment.  “What about Team #264? They were a top draw earlier in the week, yet I haven’t seen them featured recently.  Why haven’t you been tracking their progress?”

Cursing himself for making Godiva’s team such a smash, he quickly responded, “Well, Katherine, there’s only two of them left, according to Nil Corporation intelligence.  I’ve been following their advancement and unfortunately, nothing of great importance occurred in yesterday’s footage.”  Feeling the wrath radiating from the impatient lady, he quickly added, “Today’s footage, however, featured an explosive battle between Sergeant Magnum and an agent named Xavier.  The scene is pure electricity, I promise.”

“It had better be great stuff, Eddie,” said the curvy vixen as she leaned back in her plush chair.  “I don’t want to see another drop in the ratings today, or else we’ll need to search for your replacement.”

‘Fickle corporate assholes,’ thought Eddie angrily, while outwardly he merely nodded his head in understanding.  “We’ll know soon enough, Ms. Roth.”

Within a sprawling forest, a pair of ladies travel slowly, methodically.  Taking tentative steps, they seem to study every possible angle and hiding place before proceeding onward.  With her stun gun drawn in anticipation, a petite woman wearing red and black jumps around every massive tree, primed for battle.  The other girl stands with her hands defiantly resting on her hips, her posture revealing the exasperation boiling under the surface.  As the wind stirs her long, chestnut hair, she rolls her eyes and waits for her partner to finish her exhaustive search.  Studying her persistently thorough commanding officer for a moment, the slim girl with superb allure breaks the lengthy silence, saying to her ally, “Commander Kari, we’ve been trudging through this miserable forest for six days now.”  Speaking with a thick Scottish accent, the fair-skinned beauty spins her distracted partner around to face her incensed countenance.  “Are you listening to me? I’m telling you, Kari, we’re never going to get anywhere if you insist on scrutinizing everything around us! We can’t bring Lady Aphrodite or Lieutenant Faith back.  Despite our best efforts, they’ve been captured, and there’s nothing we can do about that now!”

Slowly taking in the guttural pronouncements of her European friend, Commander Kari bats her eyes speedily, suddenly realizing she hasn’t blinked in nearly ten minutes.  “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, Meg,” says Kari delicately.  “You’re right about Aphrodite and Faith.  There’s no way of bringing them back, I’m afraid.  However, we still don’t know a thing about their abduction.”

“I know that,” replies Meg in disgust.  “However, if we dawdle out here for much longer, we’ll simply put ourselves at greater risk.  I don’t want us to be lame ducks out here!”  Studying her friend’s bloodshot eyes, she adds, “Besides, we’ll never win that ten million dollars unless we find that bunker!” Violently, she kicks a pile of leaves at her feet, and jumps back in surprise as she hears a low groan.  “Holy shit!” exclaims the startled beauty.  “There’s somebody in there!”

Quickly, both women dig out the howling man from under the jumbled pile of leaves and debris.  Staring back at them with a look of anguish is a muscular man wearing mostly leather.  Spying blood dripping from his tattered leg, they delicately drag him out from the moist pit.  Once fully exhumed, Kari swiftly begins to tend to his gaping wounds.  “Are you okay?” asks Commander Kari urgently, studying the wounded man’s grimy face.

“Yeah,” barks the disheveled guy with a toothy grin.  “I’ll be alright.  But if you think I look bad, you should check out the other guy!”

Just outside of the dangerous thorn field, eight statues stand in silent testimony, alabaster monuments revealing the true perils of Pure Adrenaline.  Gleaming under the hot mid-morning sun, all of the seductive hardbodies hold pained or surprised expressions on their stony faces as they wait patiently to be collected by the cleaning crew.  One active young man still wanders from sculpture to sculpture like a child in a candy store, eagerly tasting every delicious morsel with his increasingly raw tongue.

‘I can’t believe he’s still here,’ projected Niko to her frozen partner, as she felt Byron fondling her rigid curves.  Sensing a breeze against her now naked body, she cursed herself for ever agreeing to become such a vulnerable decoy.  Shivering inside at the unwelcome violation, she felt her cold flesh warming under the adoring caresses of her admirer.  Then, the statue Valentino began to plant wet kisses on her hardened lips.

‘I don’t think he ever plans on leaving, Niko,’ projected Lieutenant Godiva from her captive position, directly across from the lover and his statue.  ‘Now don’t you feel silly for being jealous of me earlier, when he was petting me like a madman?’

‘I’ll say,’ replied Niko.  ‘I hate being groped like this when I can’t even react in the slightest.  I mean, I can’t even tell him what feels good and what doesn’t!’

Godiva laughed inside as she watched her friend being manhandled.  Suddenly, a growing murmur began to vibrate the ground around them, quickly halting Byron’s sloppy touching.  Beyond their line of sight, both Lieutenant Godiva and Niko could hear voices and grunts.  Quickly, several workmen began to approach the waiting ladies on foot, followed by a bulky hovering ship.

“Who the hell are you?” asked a burly man upon spotting the shaggy boy.  Grabbing the contestant by the shirt, he picked up the lightweight, eventually pulling him into the large hovercraft littered with dozens of statues.  Meanwhile, the rest of the crew began to lower a platform to the ground in preparation.

“My n-name is Byron,” said the boy timidly.

“Byron, what are you doing here? Aren’t you afraid of what we can do to you?” asked the gruff man.  Byron studied his questioning adversary, noticing the insulated uniform and the thick gloves the man wore.  Even more threatening was the canon strapped to his powerful arm.

“I want to join you,” said the apprehensive young man eagerly.  “I want to help the Nil Corporation by making more statues of women.”  Anxiously, he waited for a response from the frowning foreman.  Byron felt butterflies dancing in his stomach as he desperately hoped this stranger could somehow make his deepest fantasy a reality.

“Did you hear that, guys,” laughed the stalwart man in front of Byron.  “This little fella wants to help us!” Roaring laughter filled the air as the other two workers smiled at each other from the ground.  “I don’t think anybody’s ever actually ASKED us to take them with us before!”

Below Byron’s position, Lieutenant Godiva felt herself being lifted suddenly, as a workman raised her into the air using a powerful levitator.  “Looks like we hit the mother load,” said the busy man to his buddy as he guided Godiva’s prone form onto the resting platform.  “It’s a good thing this is our last pick up.  I don’t think we’ve ever found this many victims before, all grouped together like this.”

Sensing his opportunity quickly slipping away, Byron suddenly realized he needed a position to bargain from.  “What if I could provide some useful information,” winked the ruthless young man as he slowly produced a brown backpack in his trembling hands.  Curiosity crept into the accusing foreman as he reached for the plain looking bag.

Barely hearing the drifting conversation, Lieutenant Godiva cursed the underhanded Byron as she was being lifted into the ship.  ‘How could you betray us?’ thought Godiva as she teetered on the shaking platform.

Byron waited patiently as the large man investigated the contents of the discarded duffel.  Finding two strange containers filled with unknown potions, the man turned his attention back to the smirking boy.  “Where did you find this!” shouted the demanding foreman.

Walking up to a pair of interlocked statues, he gently wrapped his scrawny arm around the hardened neck of a balanced statue.  She stood with one firm leg planted on the ground, and her other unbending leg was pointed behind her, firmly grasped by her kneeling partner.  “I found it on her,” he said as he kissed her delicately on the cheek.

‘You asshole,’ thought Lieutenant Godiva, now fully loaded onto the hovering craft.  Raging inside her calcified body, she instantly felt a profound sense of guilt for putting her bag onto the stranger’s stony shoulder.  ‘You were never supposed to suffer,’ thought the frenzied statue woefully.

Niko could feel the climaxing anger emanating from her friend, and instantly knew how much trouble they would be in if their hoax were ever discovered.  As she felt herself being lowered onto the awaiting platform, she called out to her friend, ‘What’s wrong, Godiva? What’s happening up there?’

‘That sick little shit found my bag,’ replied Lieutenant Godiva, seething inwardly at the young man’s overall ignorance.  ‘If the Nil Corporation tests those canisters, they’ll eventually discover just what we’re up to.’

The workman facing Byron smiled at him proudly for a moment as he tucked the incriminating backpack into a storage hold.  “Well, Byron, it looks like you’re coming with us, after all.  Head down those stairs and wait for us below.  If you stay out of our way, I’ll introduce you to Scientist Turner once we reach headquarters.  I’m sure he’ll be interested in what you have to say.”  Beaming with utter rapture, Byron did precisely as he was instructed.  Once below, he laid his spinning head down on a pillow, barely able to contain his growing excitement.

Meanwhile, above deck the workers quickly wrapped up their labors, finally loading the wobbly statue of Lydia into the massive cargo bay.   As the loaded hovercraft sped away from the thorn field, one muscular man asked his supervisor, “What do you think the company will do with him?”

“I dunno.  Probably give him a job.”

After a few moments of providing first aid relief to the injured stranger, Commander Kari did manage to halt the flow of blood escaping from his mangled right leg.  While Meg looked on intently, Kari wrapped a gauze bandage around the gaping wound.  Unable to restrain her peaking curiosity, Meg said to the gruff stranger, “So, enough with the mystery, mister.  What’s your name?”

Looking up from the ground at the seductive Scotswoman, the grimacing man said plainly, “My name is Sergeant Magnum, and what are your names?”

As Meg pointed to her busy companion, she replied, “This is my partner, Commander Kari, and my name is Meg.”

Sergeant Magnum tested the strength of his aching muscles.  With a wince, he said humbly, “Well, I can’t thank you ladies enough for taking care of me.  I just assumed I was gonna die out here.”

“How did this happen to you?” asked Commander Kari as she packed away her medical gear.

Magnum hobbled around a few moments, trying to limber up the terse knots in his throbbing leg.  Pointing to a spot about thirty paces away, he said plainly, “Follow me, and I’ll show you what happened.”  Still somewhat hesitant to follow the recent arrival, both Meg and Commander Kari eventually decided to lower their distrustful resistance as they chose to tag along.  When Kari scanned the ground, she could find several sprinting footsteps tracked into the muddy soil.  As they rounded a tight corner of foliage, Commander Kari let out a massive scream as she studied the gruesome sight before her.

Facing a disheveled tree, they could see a divot in the ground six feet wide and four feet deep.  Exposed tree roots were completely unearthed on one side, and the plant leaned perilously away from their position.  On the ground could be seen a pair of legs, severed through the thighbone.  Still wearing thick work boots, the disembodied legs were scorched as dark as charcoal, and they were still smoldering.  Within the tree, blasted remains were strewn like confetti across the coarse bark.  Splattered in a distinctive pattern, red particles were sprayed in almost every direction, clinging to the tree like a multitude of ladybugs.

“Good Lord,” said Meg timidly.  Blood still dripped from the overhanging branches, creating crimson pools of gore at their feet.  The rancid scent of scorched flesh and gunpowder filled their noses, slowly rising the bile in their throats.  Controlling her nausea, Meg asked loudly, “What the hell happened here?”

Sergeant Magnum turned his attention away from the mangled mess for a moment as he replayed the intense event for his new allies.  “This is what remains of an agent named Xavier.  I killed one of his creatures a few days earlier, and he tracked me down, looking for revenge.  He hunted me on foot for five hours, until he eventually wounded me in the leg.  Unable to flee, I confronted the enraged man, trying to explain my actions.  We argued violently for several minutes until something in his mind simply snapped.  He clutched his head and rolled on the ground, wailing in torturous agony.  As I tried to hobble away from him, I felt myself thrown by a blast that rattled within my chest.  I slammed into that tree you found me under, then slipped out of consciousness.”

“He did this to himself?” asked Commander Kari in disgust.  Holding a handkerchief to her trembling face, she frowned as she studied the results of Xavier’s final desperate action.  “What horrible circumstance would trigger someone to do this to themselves?”

Sergeant Magnum replied remorsefully, “I believe he was so thoroughly controlled by the Nil Corporation that he couldn’t think for himself anymore.  The moment he tried to focus on the intentions of his superiors, he seemed to visibly lose control of his mind.  I can only speculate on this, but I think the Nil Corporation must’ve implanted a device in his brain that forced him to obey them.  When his thoughts began to doubt them, the probe must’ve activated, forcing him to suffer immensely.  I think this was his only way of ending the anguish.”

As she turned her head away from their horrific discovery, Meg whispered softly, “What have we gotten ourselves into?”

To be continued...

On to Part Eight