Re: Wanderers: The Vault (Part 6)
- Well, I did think it was high time somebody had a stab at explaining
that ridiculous headgear of his.
--- In Earth1AftertheCrisis@yahoogroups.com, libbylawrence
> I agree. I especially like what you've done with Elvo.
- In one of the cabins, a young woman dreamed. She was a girl again,
barely into her teens, and she was among a throng of people making
their way up a hillside to an altar erected there. Another young
woman, who bore a familial resemblance to the dreamer, stood beside
the altar, clothed all in green. Beside her stood a kindly-looking
old man in the robes of a priest.
The old man raised his hands. "Assembled faithful of Yardal Village,
welcome. We are gathered today in the tradition that we have upheld
for a thousand years, to honour the gods who have protected our world
of Dalnar for a thousand years, since our ancestors first fled here
to escape the tyranny of the Dominion, and who have this year granted
us a truly bountiful harvest."
His hands indicated the offerings of grain, fruit and other produce
upon the altar. "As is our tradition, the pyre of our offerings will
be lit by Dione, daughter of Orphos, a virtuous maid whom you have
elected this year's Queen of the Harvest."
The crowd cheered, and none louder than the dreamer, who swelled with
pride at seeing her sister up there, looking so beautiful in her
verdant costume. Some day, she would be up there, preparing to take
the torch, lit from Fire Mountain near to the site of their
ancestors' original landing on this world. And some day, as Queen of
the Harvest, she would do as Dione was doing now, and plunge the
torch deep into the heart of the kindling beneath the altar, lighting
the offering fires.
Another cheer went up from the multitude as the first flames licked
up - but then the cheering stopped as a louder noise split the air.
They looked up, to see strange objects descending - metal constructs,
more or less cylindrical in shape and trailing fire and smoke in
their wake. And, as they grew nearer, they saw that the objects were
being ridden by men as though they were horses - men clad in metal,
and with round, transparent bubbles about their heads.
The crowd began to mill in confusion, not knowing whether to flee or
to greet these newcomers. They looked to the priest, who stepped
forward, Dione at his heel, as the first of the newcomers landed. "I
greet you in the name of the people of Dalnar," he said. "However,
while it is our tradition to offer hospitality to all visitors, I
must ask you to remove those vehicles which you ride to a respectful
distance. Our ancestors eschewed the use of advanced technology, and
this is a sacred site dedicated to their memory. So..."
"Shut up," said the rider gruffly. He raised a cylindrical object and
pointed it at the priest. "You're in charge here?"
"I am High Priest of Yardal and the surrounding valleys, yes..."
"Then in the name of Roxxas you will order your people to turn over
their harvest to my men. We need provisions and you have exactly what
"Sir, we will gladly give you food if your people are going hungry,
but what do you mean - turn over the harvest? Do you mean ALL of it?"
The rider grinned evilly. "That's precisely what I mean. So come on -
gather it all up, and pronto. I haven't got all day."
"But that is outrageous! If we give you all of our crops, what will
WE do for food? We will starve."
"Tough." The rider dismounted from his metal steed and walked up to
Dione. "I'll take the girl, too. She'll fetch a good price where
"You cannot -"
"Wanna bet?" The man shoved the priest roughly to the ground. He
grabbed Dione's arm. "Now listen, you grubbers, and listen good. You
heard our demands. So get moving before we start shooting. Resistance
- "No! This is wrong!" cried Dione. She wrested free from the man's
grasp and stared at him. His expression changed suddenly to the
"Oh, my darling, forgive me," he said. "How could I have ever
threatened my dearest love? We will depart immediately, never to
bring evil to this world again."
Dione smiled. "Then go, with our -" She never spoke again. A ray-
blast lanced down from one of the other flyers and cut her in two!
"Dione!" cried the dreamer's younger self. There was sudden
pandemonium around her as panic struck the crowd as more ray-blasts
flashed among them, cutting them down one by one. Some tried to fight
back as Dione had, using their natural empathic powers to overcome
their attackers - but these were killed as the flyers realised who
Then the priest stood up and held up his arms. "Enough! We surrender!
We surrender! We will do whatever you ask!"
Another flyer landed near him. Its rider raised his hand in command
to his men. He removed his helmet and faced the priest. "If any of
you make any more attempt to use those freaky powers on us again, old
man, you all die. Is that understood?"
"It is, it is. We will offer no further resistance. But no more
"I am Roxxas," said the space-suited man. I am calling down my ship
now. You will load your harvest into its hold - every last bit of it."
"But how will we survive the winter?"
"I don't know and I don't care. You're lucky I haven't slaughtered
you all, and I swear that the next world that refuses my demands will
be left a dead world. I'll leave no-one alive at all. No-one! Now do
as I say."
He looked out over the terrified remnants of the crowd. The dreamer's
youthful self seemed to catch his eye. "And to make sure you remember
your folly in resisting me, I'll take all your children, too. I know
a slave trader or two who could make good use of them..."
"Our children? No..."
Roxxas leered at the old man. "I'd better not hear the 'N' word again
if you want any of your people to survive. Now start gathering them
The dreamer woke with a scream. "Steady, steady," said a smooth voice
from nearby. "Were you having a nightmare?"
"Yes..." she sobbed.
"Well, don't worry. You're safe now. Apollo is here." He took her
into her arms and hugged her. "Come on, we have to go."
"To a meeting. Captain Celebrand is going to tell us where we're
going and why."
"All right," she said, getting up off the couch. She slipped on her
shoes and started to put on long, black gloves.
Apollo studied her admiringly, his head on one side. "By the way, my
darling, I don't know your name yet. The boss never told me."
"M-my name? It's Psyche."
"Well, Psyche, you're a very beautiful woman. I hope we'll get to
know each other better. MUCH better!"
- --- In Earth1AftertheCrisis@yahoogroups.com, "Brian Asbury"
> Resistance is futile!"Aaack! It's the Borg! (just kidding)
- As they entered the crew lounge, they saw that everyone was now
assembled there except for the captain and his co-pilot. "Where the
hell have you been, Obrin?" growled Jall Tannuz. "I paged your
quarters ten minutes ago. It only takes thirty seconds to walk here
"Psyche, here, was tired," said Apollo smoothly. "She had been so
distraught since you brought her on board that she hadn't slept. So I
let her take a little nap."
"How kind of you," sneered the orange-skinned alien.
"Yes, wasn't it? It hardly matters, anyway, as the captain isn't here
yet. And by the way, Tannuz, my name is Apollo."
"Sure it is."
"Enough," barked a voice from the door. The heavily-built, bearded
but balding Celebrand entered. "I'll have none of you bickering among
yourselves or I'll put you off the ship - and if you're lucky I might
even do so at a planet with an atmosphere you can breathe! Now,
settle down." He moved towards a holo-projector on one side of the
room. Behind him entered a short-haired woman in purple.
"Well, hel-lo," crooned Apollo. "And who's THIS beauty?" He got up
and approached her.
"For those of you who haven't met her, this is Varnu Trala," said
Celebrand. "She's our co-pilot."
"I am soooo pleased to meet you, Varnu," Apollo beamed. "Perhaps we
can find time to become intimately acquainted later?"
Varnu said nothing. She suddenly whipped back her fist and socked
Apollo squarely in the jaw. He flew back into the arms of Dartalg,
who promptly dropped him in disgust. "What the ...?" he said,
startled. Elvo, Immorto and Jall Tannuz creased up with laughter.
"Perhaps the captain didn't explain something to you, pretty boy,"
said Varnu, looming over him with a sneer on her smooth
features. "Your overrated charms won't work on me."
"But how... why?"
"Because I'm not into men," she said. "Not on any level. My ...
tastes ... run to something much better." She sat down next to
Psyche. "Hello," she said. "So you're the mysterious package we took
delivery of. You're absolutely beautiful, do you know that?"
"Uh... thank you," said Psyche uncertainly.
"All right, enough," Celebrand said. "All of you settle down. Our
employer has asked me to brief you on our mission. Firstly, I'm to
tell you that if anyone still has doubts now, you're to say so now
and you can go back to your cabins and I'll drop you off at the
nearest inhabited world." No-one spoke. "Very well. Know that from
now on you're committed to the mission. There's no dropping out now."
He pressed a switch and a holographic representation of a planet
appeared in the centre of the lounge. "This is our destination," he
A low groan escaped from Elvo. They all turned to face the swordsman,
who had buried his face in his hands. "What's wrong with you?"
"That's Zerak," said Elvo, his voice cracking. He looked up. "That's
the planet Zerak!"
"Yes," said Celebrand. "What of it? Do you know the planet?"
Elvo nodded. "I can't go there," he said. "I can't go to Zerak."
He looked at them each in turn appealingly. "Because I'm FROM Zerak,"
he explained, "and I was exiled from there, years ago. I'm under
sentence of death if I ever return!"
- And if he'd said 'Resistance is useless!" instead, would you have
said: 'Aaack! It's the Vogons!'?
--- In Earth1AftertheCrisis@yahoogroups.com, mcmaenza <no_reply@y...>
> --- In Earth1AftertheCrisis@yahoogroups.com, "Brian Asbury"
> <bkasbury@h...> wrote:
> > Resistance is futile!"
> Aaack! It's the Borg! (just kidding)
- "I think you'd better explain yourself," said Celebrand.
In response, Elvo drew his Powersword. "The reason is this," he
said. "Tell me, Celebrand - this mission... it doesn't have something
to do with the Vault, does it?"
"It might. Why?"
"Oh, my god!"
Dartalg stood up. "What is going on here? What's this about a vault?
I thought we were supposed to be recovering something that had
been 'acquired illegally'?"
"Please sit down," Celebrand said. "All will be made clear shortly.
Elvo - you didn't STEAL that sword from the Vault, did you?"
"No ... no. It belonged to my great-grandfather. It was a trophy of
the Foundationer Wars a century ago. But they wanted to put it into
the Vault. I couldn't allow that - hell, I was the only member of my
family able to fully utilise its powers for three generations. So I
chose exile instead - but if I go back, I'm a dead man."
"I see. Well, I don't think that will be a great problem. All we have
to do is ensure you're not recognised. Otherwise, your local
knowledge should come in very handy."
"If you say so..." said Elvo uncertainly.
"Just a minute," Immorto said. "I don't understand. What is
this 'Vault' you keep talking about. What's in it?"
"Technology," Elvo said.
"Very, very dangerous technology."
"I don't -"
Celebrand waved them both to silence. "Please. I think it would be
helped if you all left the explanations to me. Thank you." He turned
back to the holographic planet. "The people of the planet Zerak are a
somewhat peculiar race... no offence, Elvo."
"None taken," said Elvo. "As a matter of fact, I happen to agree with
you. Barking mad, the whole bunch of us..."
"Yes. Anyway, a hundred years ago or thereabouts the planet was ruled
by an oppressive technocracy called the Foundationers. Basically,
they controlled all of the scientific and technological knowledge on
the planet, and viciously suppressed it from the people as a whole by
denying them anything other than the most basic education. They used
the common people as slaves to work on the most terrible weapons of
mass destruction imaginable, which they intended to use to conquer
"However, before this campaign of conquest could take place, the
people rose up in rebellion and overthrew the Foundationers. They
destroyed many of the terrible weapons they had wrought, and the
remainder they sealed up in an impregnable labyrinthine complex known
simply as The Vault.
"But the story doesn't end there. The new government of the planet
was more benevolent and set about creating a more egalitarian and
educated society - but they maintain a deep suspicion of what they
consider 'dangerous technology'."
"Tell me about it..." muttered Elvo.
"Thank you, Elvo," said Celebrand, silencing him with a glance. "To
continue ... the rulers of the planet now seem to consider it their
holy duty to rid the galaxy of ALL dangerous technology - or at
least, as much of it as they can get their hands on. It has become an
obsession with them.
"For the last hundred years, their agents have roamed the galaxy,
seeking out unique technological inventions. Once they have found
something, they evaluate whether it fits their definition
of 'dangerous'. If it does, they seize it and, to stop it being
duplicated, they seal it up in the Vault with the rest of their
"Why don't they just destroy them?" asked Immorto.
Elvo shook his head. "If they destroy something, they can't study it."
"Elvo is right," said Celebrand. "As I said, it's an obsession with
them. They want to make sure dangerous technology can't be used for
evil, but they also want to know how it works. And so a small army
of 'curators' work in the Vault, classifying, probing and analysing
the artefacts in there. Perhaps they hope to find some peaceful uses
for the stuff - who knows? But nothing placed in there ever comes out
again, I do know that."
A low whistle escaped from Jall Tannuz. "Moons of Rannapur!" he
said. "Can you imagine what must be in there? If anyone got control
of all those weapons they could conquer the galaxy! Hasn't anybody
ever tried to capture this 'Vault'?"
"Indeed they have," Celebrand said. "Armies ... whole
battlefleets ... have been sent to the planet to try and wrest the
contents of the Vault from the Zeraks. None have returned."
"None. The Zeraks may have locked away all this stuff to stop anyone
else using it for evil, but they're quite happy to use terrible
weapons of destruction to protect their own planet. I've heard of
entire fleets simply dissolving to nothingness as they approached."
"And you expect US to succeed where they've failed?" cried Apollo,
his eyes wide in alarm. "Just the..." he counted heads, "eight of us,
against a planet defended by the most powerful weapons of destruction
ever built? Are you mad?"
Celebrand smiled faintly. "No... and neither is our employer. He
believes we can succeed where larger forces have failed, and I
"Why?" asked Dartalg. "And why are we doing this anyway?"
"Our employer believes that the Zeraks have for too long taken the
law into their own hands and 'confiscated' technology which does not
belong to them and which they have no right to take. They crossed the
line when they stole an item belonging to him. He wants it back, and
we're going to get it for him!"
- "Is it just me, or do you have misgivings about this, too?" asked
Elvo of Dartalg. They were sitting opposite one another in their
cabin, studying files that Celebrand had given them and ordered them
to 'read and digest'.
Dartalg transferred himself to his bunk and lay back, still perusing
through the sheaf of plastifoil pages. "It's natural that you should
have some trepidation about going back to a world where you've been
condemned. I'd feel much the same about returning to Nemral."
"Yes, my friend, but they don't want to kill you - they just want you
to work for them again."
"Which I have no intention of doing. For me, it would be the same
thing. I've had my fill of killing. I'd rather die myself than go
back to the life of an assassin." He put down the file. "This seems
to have been planned very carefully, though. I believe our employer
is right - your people expect to be assailed by large military
forces, if at all. The idea of a small band of specialists attempting
it is so audacious that it will take them by surprise."
"They're not 'my people'," said Elvo. "Not any more. I haven't
considered myself a Zerak in years."
"I stand corrected."
"Anyway, even if Celebrand's right, it isn't going to be that simple.
We've still got to get past the guards - and they change them
regularly, so we can't be sure what we're up against there. They've
hired some pretty heavy alien mercenaries in the past."
"I'm sure that between us we can defeat any guards."
"Possibly. Well - yes, OK, we probably can. But even if we get past
the guards, we've got to get through the Vault and find whatever it
is the 'boss' wants us to retrieve. That's another thing that bugs
me, my friend. We still don't know what it is!"
"Perhaps our employer's worried some of us might be inclined to help
ourselves if we knew," said Dartalg. "There are certainly one or two
in this company whom I think we're going to have to keep a very
careful watch on."
"I agree. But the point is, we don't know how to get through the
Vault. No-one does, except the Custodian."
"Ah," said Dartalg, finding a particular page. "This old man who is
in charge of the place."
"Don't let appearances deceive you," said Elvo. "The Custodian is not
what he appears. Do you honestly think the Zeraks would put the
knowledge of how to negotiate a million and one deathtraps in the
Vault into a feeble old man? He's been genetically modified, not only
to give him enhanced physical and mental faculties but also to make
him completely unbreakable. He's totally resilient to pain and immune
to all known drugs. His brain patterns have been adjusted to make him
impossible to hypnotise - and if any telepath tries to get in there
they'll get feedback which will probably scramble their synapses.
That means it's impossible to get information out of him - either by
torture, chemical means or even by ESP. Like I said - totally
"Not totally," said Elvo. "Have you read this? Our employer believes
he's found the one chink in the Custodian's armour."
Elvo picked up his own copy and read it through again. "Maybe," he
said at length. "I'm not totally convinced. It might work - but the
Custodian's will power is legendary. It might not be one hundred
"Well, we'll just have to see..."
"Yeah. Great. And if it doesn't work, and we can't get into the Vault
even if we neutralise the guards? Or if we can get in, but only so
far? Then what?"
Dartalg only grunted in reply. Elvo sighed. He had a bad feeling
about this. He also had a suspicion that there was something being
kept from them. Something OTHER than the name of their employer and
the nature of the thing they were looking for, that is.
As if that wasn't enough...
- "So," said Immorto. "That's the Vault? Not very imposing, is it?"
"It's not meant to be," muttered Elvo. "It wasn't built for show. It
was built to house some of the most dangerous machines ever built."
They were sitting, accompanied by Dartalg and Varnu, at a table at a
sidewalk café, sipping a local caffeine-rich beverage which tasted
something like a cross between peppermint and coffee. The café
afforded a good view of the huge, squat, blocky building which housed
the Vault, and they could actually see some of the guards from where
they sat. Elvo had left behind his customary part-armoured costume
and helmet and was instead wearing a hooded cloak which covered his
head and kept his be-goggled eyes in shadow.
"I don't believe they actually didn't even bother to put a fence
around it!" said Varnu, with a trace of amusement in her voice. "And
by the way, this is the crappiest drink I've ever tasted. Don't they
serve alcohol here?"
"I wish," mumbled a miserable-looking Dartalg.
"Alcohol is banned in Zerak City," said Elvo. "One of the reasons I
was only too happy to leave, incidentally. As for the lack of a
fence, why bother? Fences and boundary walls would have spoilt the
aesthetic look of the place, and anyway, who cares if anybody gets
in? They'd have to negotiate the maze of death traps in there, and
without the Custodian's knowledge that's impossible."
"Aesthetic design!!!" spluttered Varnu. "You're kidding, right? It's
just a huge rectangular block sitting in the middle of the city. It's
"Celebrand did say we Zeraks were a peculiar race," said Elvo wryly.
"So..." said Immorto. "A handful of guards, and beyond that a
collection of deadly traps. And all we've got to do is get past 'em.
Piece of cake."
"Not without a sense of humour, are you?" said Dartalg.
"It comes in handy," grinned Immorto.
"Seriously, though," said the dour green-clad former assassin, "while
we have a plan for getting in, has anybody considered how we're
supposed to get out again when we've found whatever it is we're
looking for? One problem with there being no barrier between the
Vault and the outside world is that we can't attack without being
seen by half the city. We're going to have one hell of a reception
committee waiting for us when we get out - assuming, that is, that
everything goes to plan. They're likely to mobilise the whole damn
planet against us!"
"Celebrand says the boss has something up his sleeve," Varnu said.
"Which, of course, is another juicy little snippet of information
he's keeping to himself." Dartalg sighed. "And where IS our 'boss',
anyway? I assumed he'd be here waiting for us."
"He's on board the ship."
Elvo and Dartalg stared at her. "It's true," said Immorto. "He came
on board just after you did, apparently."
"Then where was he?" asked Elvo.
Immorto shrugged. "His compartment is sealed off from the rest of the
ship. You can only get in from outside."
"Likes his privacy, doesn't he, our mysterious employer?"
Before anyone could answer, a dark shape swooped down from the sky
towards the entrance to the Vault. "Ga-LAX-y!" exclaimed
Varnu. "That's a Denebian Cloudhawk, isn't it? One of the fastest and
most dangerous birds in this sector of space! What's it doing here?"
"Watch," said Elvo with a smile.
They did so. The great bird reached the threshold and its shape
shimmered and twisted. Suddenly there was no bird there, but a man -
a man clad in purple, light blue and white, and upon whose back were
a pair of slightly blue-tinged feathered wings.
"That's Ornitho," said Elvo. "They recruit from all over the galaxy
for the Vault Guards, and he's one of the best. I heard they made him
Captain, in fact."
"What is he? A Thanagarian?" asked Varnu.
"Nope. Those wings aren't artificial constructs, they're part of him.
He's said to be from the planet Pluboss II."
"I never heard of it."
"No reason why you should have," said Dartalg. "It's a long way from
here. But I know it. An inhospitable hellhole of a planet with huge
swathes of land still radioactive from a terrible war over two
thousand years ago. Half the population are mutants to one degree or
"And a very few, like Ornitho, have developed favourable mutations,"
said Elvo. "They say he can adopt the form and exact abilities of any
known bird or other avian form in the universe."
"Big deal," said Immorto. "Jall Tannuz can assume ANY shape, not just
"Yes, I know. But from what Apollo told me, his powers are like those
of a Durlan. If he becomes, say, a Zwennian Stonethrush, Jall only
takes on the semblance of stone. He's still really flesh. Ornitho, on
the other hand, becomes the real thing!"
"Heads up," said Varnu. "Here come Celebrand and the others. I think
the party's almost ready to begin!"