Reparation

Reparation. A science fiction short story.

By Simon Garfield Bown

Website: http://www.simongarfieldbown.com

Twitter: SimonGBown

 

Axel Fendar is compelled to repay a debt to fallen comrade and will stop at nothing to see it’s done. He hijacks a small space freighter and travels to a mysterious veiled planet only to find his quest was not what it seemed.

 

 

This was his best chance so far, well if he was honest it was the only chance he had had in six months but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a good one. He knew Captain Balucci was around here somewhere he just had to carry on looking and keep his wits together. He owed it to himself and most of all he owed it to Gary. If he had kept them where they should have been and not gone off after of an easy target they wouldn’t be in this mess. He felt a wash of sadness from the other man’s soul.

Once a month the independent ore carriers inhabited the landing bay and turned it into a bustling, congested bazaar. Traders from most of the local governments and corporations came with virtual wallets filled with virtual money to buy the precious Mallenite ore from the independents. Most of the autonomous Owner-Captains were perfectly above board in all their dealings but he was looking for a reprobate, a dubious Captain who didn’t mind taking on crew even with the most shadowy past. Axel Fendar spotted Captain Luigi Balucci by a drinks dispenser.

The Captain kicked it twice and checked the tray. There was no drink. He proceeded to swear at the machine in an impressive display of both vocabulary and profanity.

Axel introduced himself. “Hello Captain Balucci. My name is Axel Fendar I heard you are looking for crew for your ship.”

Captain Balucci looked Axel in the eye and then regarded him from head to toe. “I have no need for cleaners or labourers on board my ship.” He took his cigar from between his lips, leaned forward and spat a mouthful of dark drool at Axel’s feet.

“I have a class one pilot licence…” Captain Balucci walked away before Axel could finish his sentence. He chased after him. “I have the certificates here.” Axel offered his terminal. “You can see they are legitimate. I heard you need a navigator…”

The Captain turned and grabbed Axel by the throat. “I do not take failures onto my ship.” He replied with a gravely Italian accent obviously stained by far too many cigars. He released Axel and waited for him to leave. “What are you waiting for? Go. I do not have time to waste.”

Axel may have fallen into a dishevelled image of his former self since his discharge but he still retained some of his self-confidence. “I have money, it is all I have but I would pay for transport as well as working my way.”

Captain Balucci’s eyes sparkled at the mention of money. “Money? How much? Where would you get money from?” He gestured at Axel with a derisory wave.

“It is my discharge payment.” Axel replied.

The Captain laughed. “You were discharged? Ah now you sound more like my kind of man. They threw you out did they?”

“It was an honourable discharge.” Axel was on the defensive.

“You and I both know there is no such thing as an honourable discharge.” He put his arm around Axel’s shoulder. “Why do you want to go back into space?” He asked.

“I have a debt to repay a fallen comrade.” Axel replied. The other man’s soul shimmered at the limits of his awareness.

Captain Balucci considered for a moment. “Believe it or not I was once also a military man. I do not want to take your discharge money but I am not a rich man and bills have to be paid. It is true my navigator has left me. Did you have proper navigation training or that silly little course all pilots have to suffer just to get their licence?”

“I passed both grade two and three.” Axel offered.

“Come with me, I think I can use you.” Captain Balucci walked off in the direction of the landing bay.

The trading vessel Modest Sophia did not impress Axel in any way. Captain Balucci described the ship as his first and last wife. It was a basic loader class interstellar freighter and had seen more than its fair share of work.

Captain Balucci opened a small access flap underneath the main body of the craft and typed a code into the key pad. Nothing happened. He turned and smiled at Axel and typed again, still nothing. The flap closed as Captain Balucci uttered a few choice swear words. He pulled his terminal from his pocket and opened a link to the bridge. “Monica. Please open the door the keypad is not working again.” After a loud mechanical clunk and a worrying grinding noise the entrance gantry lowered from the fuselage.

Axel followed Captain Balucci onto the bridge. The equipment comprised of various pieces obviously taken from a large variety of different craft. Optical wiring hanging in a haphazard web from the ceiling connected apparatus all over the bridge. Several air conditioning units whined above him amongst the only partially functioning lighting. He was a little surprised to find an all-female crew.

“My fellow crew mates, I would like to introduce you to our new navigator, Ahmed Pendal.” Captain Balucci said.

“Axel Fendar.” Axel corrected.

Captain Balucci continued. “Yes of course. I am sure you would all like to welcome Ahmed on board. We are leaving immediately. Prepare the ship.” He turned and left Axel facing the three women.

They looked at Axel with either distrust or suspicion.

The woman by the pilot seat walked over to Axel. “I am Olivia, I am the pilot.” Axel had to concentrate to find his way through her thick Italian accent. “This is Emily our engineer and this is Martina our systems specialist.” She pointed to each woman in turn.

Martina walked forward and shook his hand. “You are our forth navigator in two months, how did Luigi find you?”

“I found him. I need the work.” Axel looked about the bridge for the navigator station.

“Work? You‘ll get that alright.” She said.

The craft lifted off the landing bay and passed through the environment shield into vacuum. Olivia pushed the thrusters hard and accelerated out of the gravity well with little regard for the planetary speed limit. Axel noticed that at least the Captain kept the engines in perfect working order.

“Axel can I have the course plot please?” Olivia asked.

“Yes one moment, I am finishing the inputting now.” He quickly checked the numbers on his display and sent them to the pilot station. “It’s coming over now.” He said.

“Emily is the gravity generator over seventy-five percent?” Olivia called out.

“Ninety-three percent.” She replied.

Axel couldn’t understand why Olivia was shouting out these questions and not just looking at her displays. He turned in his chair and looked over her shoulder, only one of her displays was functioning. He sucked in a deep breath and wondered if he had made the right choice of ship.

“Gravity jump in ten seconds.” Olivia’s voice resonated out of the P.A. system.

There was the slight sense of movement that indicated a gravity jump.

Emily turned to face the bridge. “OK, first jump impression completed. We will need about eight hours now to recharge the inducers.”

Axel checked their position and locked the system. “Can someone show me where my cabin is?” He asked.

 

#

 

The magnificent bloom of escaping craft was only matched by the astonishing splendour of the exploding alien war ship. Each of the thousand tiny vessels moving away from the catastrophic detonation left a stunning plasma trail in its wake.

The powerful sight compelled Axel to gaze open mouthed through his window, countless energy trails filled his field of vision in an incredible firework display. “They’ve done it!” He shouted.

“We have to destroy the escape pods.” Gary Summ, Axel’s co-pilot said. He changed the calibration on the targeting computer to seek out the smaller vessels.

The Human armada leapt forward on an intercept course for the cloud of lightly armed alien craft. The tremendous acceleration pushed Axel into his seat and only served to heighten his excitement. There was little or no chance of harm coming from the encounter and if any emotion gained control of him it was happiness. The war was almost at an end and Axel was fighting in the final battle. For six years he had fought, suffered and hated but now he could finally leave all that behind. The alien Theast invasion had failed and the human race was victorious.

“They’re forming ranks and changing course for us.” Gary said.

“Bring the main weapons group online and set the secondary unit on standby, when we get close activate them both but control the main groups’ targeting yourself. Don’t let any of them get away.” Axel disengaged the auto-pilot and took control of the vehicle. His main display lit up with red warning icons as the aliens fired their weapons. Axel looked out of the window to his right and fleet.

Gary reached over the control panel and switched on the energised hull shielding. The pitiful alien barrage failed to breach the defence and dissipated into the surrounding vacuum. “I’m activating the argon energy beam.” Gary triggered the powerful weapon and sliced through an enemy craft.

The hull split in two and fell back from the battle. For the first time in his military career Axel saw an alien with his own eyes. The flailing body drifted away from the shattered craft and joined the wreckage of combat.

Gary picked out his targets and fired on them one by one as the huge number of aliens crossed the expanse and neared the wall of Human fire. He brought up the main weapons group targeting scanner and initiated a class one fire pattern. The two-man raider class battle craft rocked as the violent energy discharge exited the combustion generators. The sweep of energy had a catastrophic effect on the offensive alien vessels. “They’re suicidal. Why don’t they turn back? They must know they stand no chance.” He said.

Axel shouted as the alien menace drew near. “Here they come. Keep your eyes open its going to get pretty dense.” He tightened his grip on the joystick as the two opposing forces collided in swarm of hostile fire. The secondary weapons group fired automatically picking out alien craft with minute blasts threaded between the fast moving Human vessels. “Gary. Hold your fire until you can be sure of a target the field’s too dense for mistakes.” Adrenalin fuelled Axel’s intense concentration as he searched for a viable quarry.

The theatre of battle opened up and Gary fired on a nearby alien craft. The blast wave from the resulting explosion struck the ship and sent it tumbling out of control. “We’ve lost secondary weapons.” He shouted.

Axel contained the twisting and sighted an alien out beyond the main battle. He pointed it out to Gary. “I’m going after the alien out there, fire on him as soon as you get the shot.”

The alien craft was already damaged and was twisting violently through a long arc. A hole in the hull allowed a gaseous escape that trailed behind in a haphazard spiral. Random bright flashes sparkled amongst the vapour painting a glistening trail. Thrusters around the circumference of the vessel fired in a rapid sequence as the pilot struggled to bring it under control.

Gary fired the plasma canon and missed the target. “Sorry.” He said.

He fired again and caught the alien just on the edge of its fuselage. Instead of causing any real damage to the craft it righted the twisting and the alien regained control. It accelerated at a tremendous rate and curved around behind the Human ship.

Axel pulled hard on the joystick to bring them on a pursuit course and give Gary a decent shot. As the alien came into view he realised the enemy had chosen to do the unthinkable. He hit the eject button and pushed the back of his head into the headrest as the small two-man cockpit blasted away from the main body of the ship. The shocking gee force pushed the air from his lungs and put a painful pressure on every part of his body.

The alien craft rammed into the Human ship and breached the reactor housing. A massive blast wave expanded from the collision and pummelled the ejected cockpit. The resulting strength of the explosion sent the cockpit into a violent spin. Axel lost consciousness. A slow confused awareness came to him, he was disembodied and floating through a vast darkness. The impenetrable black expanse implied a glimpse of eternity his mind could barely grasp. A light winked on. The distance between himself and the illumination was impossible to guess but it seemed as if it was growing in brightness. Several colours shimmered across the distance and connected with Axel. A hint of thought drifted through his mind as if it was trying to impart a message. It occurred to him it was getting nearer and he watched it, unable to move, unable to avoid the approaching question. It struck him at great speed and seized him in an overwhelming embrace. He was suffocating under the stress of the other more powerful mind. Axel had no strength to protest and it joined with him to become a part of his own consciousness. A sudden powerful need to give way to oblivion took hold of him and he passed into a void of dreamless sleep.

 

#

 

Axel shifted himself onto his back and gazed up at the filthy ceiling. His sore eyes caused him little irritation, similarly his sadness had now become only a foundation upon which any other emotion must sit. Tiredness was something he had become accustomed to over the last few weeks. Sleep is not easy to come by when another soul inhabits your subconscious. It’s subtle continuous background noise harassed his thoughts and kept him permanently aware he could never be alone.

Soon he must take control of the ship and direct it to Theast the veiled planet of his companion’s dreams. He owed it to the man to take him to the lake of hope and free him to its waters. A knock at the door dragged him from his thoughts. “Hello?” He shouted. The door opened and Olivia peered around to look at him.

“We are going to make the next jump in an hour or so. If you want to eat you had better come now.” she said.

Axel thought for a moment and decided he would need some energy for the coming day. The crew might not respond well when they realise he has taken them off their route. “Breakfast sounds like a good idea.” He replied.

Olivia led him to the small galley. The only food on offer was the awful frozen meals he had become familiar with in the military. He picked out a box of bacon, eggs, sausages and toast and put it in the heater. It popped out a moment later, the dreadful plastic smell of the food did not arouse his appetite. He sat at the table with rest of the crew and opened the box. “Does the Captain not eat with us?” He asked.

“You won’t see much of him, he likes his drink a little too much.” Martina said.

“Yeah and few substances he should have grown out of by his age.” Olivia added.

“So why do you stay with him?” Axel asked.

“He has great contacts and he pays big bonuses when the contracts are fulfilled. Anyway, I prefer to work without one of those Captains who is always looking over your shoulder and always telling you things could be done better.” Martina replied. “Here we can do what we like as long as we get the job done.”

Axel looked around the galley, it was the cleanest room he had seen so far.

Martina watched him and laughed. “I know the ship looks bad but it runs just fine.” She checked the time and got up from her seat. “The inducers should be charged now, we ought to make the next jump.”

Axel took his seat at the navigator’s display, closed his eyes and allowed the other man’s soul to come forward. Direct communication was never possible but he did get a sense of what the other man wanted to share. The co-ordinates for the veiled planet made themselves known through this odd connection and Axel input them into the computer. A green icon flashed indicating the location was empty and a safe area to jump into. If the planet was on the star charts he should have seen a red icon. He adjusted the co-ordinates to bring the ship’s emergence point away from the planet to a safe distance.

“Axel have you got the co-ordinates?” Olivia asked.

“Yes, they’re ready.” After he forwarded them to her he took a memory crystal from his pocket and loaded his stealth software into the computer.

“Emily the gravity generator level please?” Olivia called out.

“Ninety percent.” She replied.

“Gravity jump in ten seconds.” Olivia confirmed in the P.A. system.

There was the slight sense of movement that indicated a gravity jump.

Emily looked over at Axel, she appeared slightly confused. “I charged the inducers for a sixty-two light year jump. We’ve just jumped over one hundred and forty light years. The inducers are fried. Axel? What have you done?”

Olivia checked their position on her one working display.

“We’re outside the perimeter and into Theast space. Axel either you’re a terrible navigator or…” She paused as she realised he had brought them here on purpose. “You want to be here.”

Axel accessed his software and started the programme. All the displays on the bridge shut down as the software took control of the ship and locked the crew out. “I’m sorry.” He said. “But I have to get to the surface of that planet.” He pointed out of the window.

Martina stood up and glared at Axel. “You’re not going anywhere. Release the ship.” She demanded.

“When I am safely on the surface I will send you the codes and the ship will be released.” He edged toward the door.

Olivia and Martina moved to stop him, he rushed for the exit but they blocked him. He pushed forward and found their attempts to stop him weaker than expected. Emily grabbed his collar and pulled him, her strength was not great but combined with the others they managed to force him over backwards to the floor.

“Call the Captain.” Emily shouted.

Martina reached for the intercom and at that moment Axel rolled onto his front and pushed forward through the door. He struggled to his feet and ran forward as the two women came after him. He turned a corner, spun around and stopped. Emily came into sight just ahead of Olivia. Axel brought his fist up and jabbed her sharply on her nose. She stumbled and blocked Emily for a second as Axel ran away down the small passage. Olivia’s knees gave way under her and she collapsed in front of Emily.

“You son of a bitch.” Emily shouted as she stepped over Olivia.

Axel reached the small lifeboat and activated the airlock. As the door opened he turned to face Emily. He raised his fists and returned her intense stare.

Emily backed up the passageway, she had obviously lost her will to fight. Axel was much taller than her and she was no match for him. “What are you doing? This planet is not even on the charts.” She said.

Axel stepped into the airlock. “I owe a debt to a friend who died with me in the war.”

“Died with you?” She asked. Emily was exasperated.

Axel paused, he didn‘t want to leave the crew without explaining at least something of what he was doing. “We were in the final battle, an alien escape pod rammed our ship. I survived but my

Co-pilot died.” Axel checked the airlock control for a green light. “I don’t know what happened exactly but I carry his soul within me and the only way to release him is to visit this planet.” Axel perceived a sense of urgency from the soul. He closed the airlock and opened the opposite door to enter the escape pod. The straps came loose from the wall as he tried to secure himself in the pod. He looked around at the interior and with a large amount of trepidation he hit the launch control. The explosive bolts fired and the pod drifted away from the ship. The moment the pod was free the artificial gravity ceased and Axel lifted from his seat. A timer on the wall counted down to the ignition of the small rocket that would direct the pod to the planet. He grasped the ends of the straps and closed his eyes. The rocket fired and angled the pod on a course for the atmosphere. Axel was thrown against the inside of the cabin by the sudden gee force. The windows glowed a deep fluorescent red as the pod buffeted against the atmosphere, intermittent creaking noises resounded around Axel lending him an anxiety he had not felt since the morning of a battle. The pod raced headlong into an ever increasing atmospheric pressure, Axel peered out to get his first glimpse of the planet. He was racing over a large ocean and ahead of him just in view was the only land mass on the globe. The pod marked its course across the alien sky with a trail of angry plasma. The main rocket fuel ran out and the engine was automatically ejected, when it had fallen away three small rocket motors ignited below the pod and slowed its descent. Axel relaxed after the systems had all worked correctly and took hold of the small direction control. He tried to sense the other soul and gain some idea of the direction he should take, it came to him in a flash, the exact location in a perfect link more powerful and dynamic than he had experienced before. He brought the pod on a

southerly track and tried to get a view of the site through the small display, his height had decreased considerably and the continent below was now racing underneath him in a dirty green blur. He passed over a set of low, snowy peaks and reduced his speed to three hundred mph. A massive jungle was now laid out before him, the soul shimmered in the recesses of his consciousness, the lake was now close, the journey was almost over. The stunning expanse of the lake was suddenly below him, it appeared from amongst the mass of foliage as a blue haven cut out of the seemingly foul, tangled rain forest mess.

Axel found a small area free of the dense undergrowth and suffered an untidy landing as the automatic pilot dumped the pod on the ground. He activated the communications beacon and initiated the transmission of the codes to the ship in orbit. A few seconds later he received the recognition response from his stealth software and confirmation it had disengaged. The display lit up and he found the face of Captain Balucci looking at him. Axel cut the connection as the stream of foul language commenced. Two emergency environment suits filled the small locker under the seat and Axel proceeded to test each piece of equipment and clothing in a search for a full functioning set. One of the suits was obviously built for Captain Balucci as the waist size was far too large for Axel. The other was cut for the female form but even so it fit him better than the enormous bulk of the Captain’s suit. After he had put it on and attached the one half full oxygen tank he sealed the helmet over his head and asked the pod to connect to the small processor and verify its status. A sixty-three percent operating status was the reply, Axel sighed and pressed the release catch on the small hatch.

Axel struggled to pull himself head first through the small exit and tumbled in a heap on the rocky ground. He rolled over and sat up. Dark volcanic rocks about the size of his fist made up the ground between him and the lake. Tall trees lined the edge of the small thirty metre semi-circle he had landed in. His suit gave the exterior temperature as thirty-seven degrees, humidity at one hundred and twenty-two percent and a zero on the toxic elements in the ecosphere. He asked the suit to re run the toxic analysis, once again the result was zero. If this planet is so far removed from humanity there should be thousands of elements toxic to him, he assumed the suit was malfunctioning. A communication from the other man’s soul slammed into his mind with a startling force, Axel fell forwards and put his hands to his helmet. The same thought kept repeating in his mind, ‘the lake, the lake’. Several large black bodies moved across the surface, Axel watched as the creatures emerged from the water and slip back down to disappear in the darkness. After crawling a few feet, he reached the shoreline and peered into the odd gloom. Shades of colour momentarily flashed through the depths and illuminated the lake. Each bright fleeting glimpse revealed a countless number of creatures swimming through the mystifying lake. Just ahead of Axel, only a few feet into the water, the bottom dropped away beyond sight.

Axel rolled into the water and fell over the cliff edge. The suit lacked any buoyancy and he descended quickly. Occasional flashes of vibrant colour replaced the receding light of daytime above him. His body flinched as the creatures lightly bumped and knocked against him always pushing him toward the centre of the black void below. The other man’s soul sent waves of elation and delight through Axel’s mind. Axel however suffered only a feeling dread. A creature bumped its nose into his face plate and he caught sight of some very menacing teeth. At the same time a wash pleasure saturated his already worried sensibility. He felt a grip on his ankle, a sudden pull on his leg tore his suit open and the cold water saturated his skin. Light pulses flashed brighter and the greater intensity left after images on his retina. He closed his eyes and tried to reverse his downward course but the suit weighed too much and his struggle came to nothing. Another creature ripped a hole in his suit across his torso and a further bite tore an opening out of the back. Within seconds several more creatures attacked in a frenzy and he was violently pulled and shoved in several directions in a swift attack. A blaze of vivid red light overwhelmed Axel and left him blinded in a haze of physical and mental anguish. With a flash of shocking force, the other man’s soul left his mind.

Axel awoke on the shore line of the massive lake. Despite all the violent attacks he had endured under the water he was relatively unhurt. His sore lungs laboured to pull in each breath but still he was able to relax, he found that the other man’s soul was gone and at last he was free. The sound of the water lapping at his feet reminded him of his virtually fatal venture into the deep lake and he smiled with relief at his escape. An itch presented itself, he reached down and scratched his knee, there was no suit. Axel was on his feet in a second, the suit had disappeared and he stood naked on the shoreline. He quickly looked about the area but there was no sign of it, theoretically he should be dead from toxic shock but he remained seemingly perfectly healthy if a little bruised and tired. An odd sound from the lake called for his attention, an odd black bulge had emerged from the water and was moving to the shore. Each moment brought more confusion to Axel, he did not know what to expect when the soul was released to the water but the intense cry for freedom had driven Axel here and he had fulfilled the promise he had made to his comrade. He stumbled backwards away from the lake as the strange alien form came forward. The creature reached the shoreline and stopped apparently regarding him from a distance. Axel recognised the vaguely humanoid shape of the creature immediately, it was an enemy alien, a member of the Theast race that had been so comprehensively beaten they were considered extinct. And yet one of them had come to Axel on this veiled planet and stood only a few feet away.

The alien was smaller than Axel but had more bulk about the body, two powerful arms reached down below the first pair of knees on its powerful double jointed legs. No facial sensory organs were apparent due to the mass of thick dark hair that totally covered the alien.

A telepathic link formed between them and Axel was able to make out the basic intention from the alien mind.

“Thank you.”

What did that mean? Thank you? Axel remained as still as the alien but his body raced with adrenalin and fear.

“You bring me here. Me now die you.”

Several questions chased through Axel’s brain. Was he the other man’s soul? Did I bring him here in the mistaken belief the soul was Gary’s? Is he going to attack? Can I beat him in a fight? Is he faster than me? The questions ceased the moment the alien leapt forward. Axel turned and rushed up the rocky beach toward the pod, the lose rocks and his bare feet combined to slow his movement to a stumble. He fell onto his hands as he heard the alien land directly behind him. A powerful hand grasped his left shoulder and pulled him around. Axel grabbed a rock in his right hand and as he turned he used the momentum to beat the alien across its face. The grip on him weakened and he turned once more to run for the pod. The alien let out a piercing, terrifying scream sending a cold wave of fear across Axel’s entire body.

“My people all die, you guilty, you die.”

Axel stopped to face his enemy, he could not allow himself to be attacked from behind again. He had been lucky to have struck the first blow but the alien would not be so easy next time. The weight of the rocks in each of his hands gave him little assurance. He watched the alien move gradually forward with great anxiety. It moved to the side and he realised it wanted to get between him and the pod. As he took his first step the alien attacked using its muscular legs to advance at a startling speed, Axel brought up both of his hands and tried to catch the alien’s head between the two rocks. He failed to bring home the attack as intended but caught the side of the foul smelling dark head with a glancing blow. A spray of blood spewed over Axel’s face when he fell backwards with the alien on top of him. He dropped the rocks and managed take hold of one of the alien’s arms as he was struck across the face. He fumbled to grab the alien’s other hand but failed and received another blow directly on his nose. Pain shot through his skull as the blood from the injury trickled into the back of his throat. Again he was struck on the nose, his eyes closed in a chaos of movement and tearful agony. Their hands moved quickly trying to find a way through the struggle to inflict pain and damage on each other. He tried to push the creature off and found it easier than he expected. Axel rolled away from the alien and picked up another rock as he moved. His enemy jumped high in a trajectory that would have brought precisely on top of Axel but he moved just in time and the alien landed wrong footed and fell on his front. Axel seized the creature’s head by the hair and brought the rock down on it in a powerful strike. Axel fell on to his backside and dropped the rock. The alien lay still either dead or unconscious. He felt a sudden tremendous guilt weigh upon him, this alien was the last of his species and even though it had been a fight for his survival Axel wished he had not struck the creature so hard. Blood seeped from the wound Axel had so easily inflicted in his blind attack. “My god. What have I done?” He said.

Axel turned the exterior handle and opened the pod door. He stepped on the one rung and reached inside through the tiny hatch into the locker to look for a medical kit. The mess and bulk of Captain Balucci’s suit caused him to lean in further and rummage through the clutter without looking. His hand came upon a cold metallic object, he pulled it out and found a plasma gun in his hand. He glanced back to view the alien creature only to find it missing, no sound had caught his ear, the alien must have moved very quietly.

Axel gripped the gun tightly as he surveyed the area around him. There was a rustling sound behind and he turned too late, a crushing blow sent him reeling onto the rocks, the gun skittered away from his hand. The alien moved to sit on Axel and deliver another attack, Axel kicked up at the creature and struck him in the centre of the chest. Axel rolled over and crawled to the gun, he picked it up, turned and aimed it at his adversary.

The alien jumped and landed with each foot on either side of his torso, it raised its hand in preparation to bring the rock down on his head. Axel found it impossible to fire, he could not be responsible for killing this creature and bringing about the extinction of its race. He dropped the gun and allowed the rock to be brought down on his skull.