Looking forward

Wishing everyone a Happy Canada Day in Canada and a Happy 4th of July in the US. I am not writing a blog this weekend. Instead I am giving you a peek at the last book of the Tantalus Series. Brace yourself for a ride with this one as it is filled with action from the beginning to the very end.

CHAPTER I

The Tantalarians were naïve in many ways. They didn’t know how canny this enemy could be when cornered. Captain Fredrick was one that they couldn’t watch closely enough. He appeared to be benign, but this was far from the case. He worked from the background, directing the others that had followed him. The Humans that had contacted Earth with information about Tantalus were not easily subdued. They demanded rights. They made a point of being allowed to return to their quarters one last time, to make sure there was nothing important forgotten. They knew that they would never get a chance like this again.

The prisoners refused to cooperate with the Tantalarians. When it came time to get into their spacesuits, Captain Fredrick led them, as he had in most of the other problems they had given Kyllan during the trip. During it all, Kyllan wondered what happened to the man that had once stood beside him as they talked amicably while they watched the building of the central hub complex. Back then, he had struck him as a person who was willing to give as well as get good advice, besides acting on it. His decisions had seemed based on common sense, experience and the will to fulfill his leadership capabilities. This was no longer the case.

“You can’t force us to put those on. We aren’t going anywhere,” Captain Fredrick stated, as he faced off against the Tribunal Elder.

Kyllan crossed his arms over his chest and replied, “You have a choice. You can either put on your protective gear and agree to leave peacefully, or I will order the Guardians to fly you down to the surface of the planet dressed as you are.”

Captain Fredrick was tempted to take Kyllan up on his dare. But, one look at the grins on the faces of the Guardians convinced him it would be a poor idea. Kyllan might not like the idea of following through on his threat, but he would if he had no other choice. The Guardians wouldn’t think twice about whether or not they should do as they had been told. They might even get a little enjoyment out of it. What he was sure of was that there wasn’t enough oxygen in the Martian atmosphere to allow them to breathe properly during their descent. It was also cold enough to freeze their skin on contact.

Captain Fredrick chanced a glance behind him, to see what those supporting him were doing. Some had decided to follow his example to challenge the Tribunal Elder’s order. But most had dismissed that idea the moment it became an option. A few looked undecided, but more inclined to follow those who were quickly climbing into their suits.

With a frown and a sigh of resignation, Captain Fredrick caved in to the inevitable. It wouldn’t do him any good to fight this. All it would accomplish was to waste valuable time, which was something Kyllan didn’t seem inclined to give them much of. Why? That was what Captain Fredrick wanted to know. What was the rush? The Earth Ships were only a little over half way to Mars. That meant that they had months to wait for their arrival. As he thought about this, he had to wonder how they were going to survive?

Kyllan could sense Fredrick’s concerns and he was humane enough not to let him worry needlessly, “Where you and your people will be placed, there are a lot of fish. You will have to put a little effort into catching them, but they are there. We will also leave enough food outside of the cavern to help feed your people, in case the fishing proves to be too difficult. Some of the people from Earth have sent along fishing rods with us to give you and your people. They thought you might appreciate them,” he informed Captain Fredrick.

“What about oxygen? There isn’t enough in those suits to last until the Earth ships arrive,” Captain Fredrick replied. “What happens when that runs out?”

“The oxygen levels were brought up to the maximum in each suit. We suggest you use it wisely. There are higher oxygen levels in the caverns, so you will be able to walk around without your suits there. You will also find that it is also pleasantly warm under the surface of Mars, despite the outside conditions. It is an indication that this planet isn’t dead. I believe it will continue to show potential in the future,” Kyllan pointed out.

With a growl of frustration, Captain Fredrick went to his storage chest to retrieve his suit. The moment the outfit was removed from the case, a Guardian took the container away, and it was set onto one of the carriers that the Tantalarians used to move freight around. There were also several containers filled with food, although they knew those would be removed from the surface of the planet the moment they were emptied.

Captain Fredrick didn’t know how the Tantalarians expected to keep the Martial soils and sands from coating the food, but they didn’t seem to think that would be a problem. They had explained to everyone, how the outside casing could be boiled, to provide plantlike nourishment. The meat that had been placed inside had already been cooked, to help them save on energy. Any more than that, they would have to figure out for themselves. As far as he was concerned, this was worse than being stranded on a deserted island.

The moment the boxes were taken away, the prisoners were loaded onto the remaining transports. The rest of the food would follow, when the carriers returned. Kyllan, the Siren King, and his Queen went at the same time as the prisoners, albeit not in the same manner. The moment they landed, Captain Fredrick stalked up to them to comment on that.

“Afraid you might get infected by our malady?”

“We do not associate with felons,” The Siren Queen sniffed, and then walked into the cavern.

When Captain Fredrick moved to follow her, Kyllan stopped him, “Where do you think you are going? You have work to do.”

“What the hell do you mean by that?” Captain Fredrick grouched.

“If you want any portion of the food that was prepared for your people, the containers will have to be emptied first. A Guardian will show you the best place to store the produce,” Kyllan offered.

“You can’t expect us to do that. I refuse, and so do my people,” Captain Fredrick replied.

“Then you and your people will starve, because the Guardians have more important things to do than to cater to you. The choice is yours, and it is time limited.” Kyllan gave them the only options available. He was not prepared to give an inch on this matter either.

Again, Captain Fredrick gave in to the inevitable. There was no choice but to do as they were told, if they wanted to survive, and that was the one thing he was determined to do. It would only be a matter of time before the Earth Ships would arrive and they would see who had the upper hand. He hadn’t noticed any signs of weapons on the Tantalarian Mother Ship, as he had examined it through his probes, and telescopes. The same wouldn’t apply to the vessels that were on their way from Earth. Those weren’t the same as the explorers they had come on. These would be interplanetary warships, and they would be outfitted with the most up to date technology Earth had to offer. There was no doubt in his mind that his was the stronger side.

Kyllan could read Captain Fredrick’s thoughts clearly, and he hoped things didn’t come down to a confrontation between his people and those from Earth. As much as Fredrick felt that the Earth Ships that were on their way to Mars were superior in every way, he knew this wasn’t the case. The people who were dwelling on Earth were only beginning to spread their wings to fly, when it came to space travel. The people from the solar system where he had originated from had progressed far beyond that stage. In a battle, the Earth Ships wouldn’t stand a chance against the defenses on the Mother ship.

As the Human prisoners emptied the Tantalarian carriers, the Sirens refilled them with their personal belongings. Between the last visit from the Mother Ship and now, they had gathered their remaining possessions into the one cavern, and there was surprisingly little of them. Sten took command of the moving, while Lineous reported to Kyllan.

“There is nothing of importance left in the caverns. The presence of the Humans in the caves will cover any signs of our existence that we didn’t have time to destroy. We are finished here. I presume these are the Humans that were banished from Tantalus by Trysuil,” Lineous indicated those who were stowing the food supplies away.

“How much of what happened on Tantalus do you know about?” Kyllan wondered.

“I doubt if I missed much. No one seemed to be keeping things quiet, at least not from anyone who wanted to know about the welfare of those that they love,” Lineous stated.

Kyllan admitted that was probably true. They had been upset enough to broadcast their anger and frustrations, as well as their anxiety. He expected there would be much more of that to come in the short term.

“These people will be living in the caverns after you leave, but before they take possession, I would ask a favor from you,” Kyllan admitted.

“If it is within my power to do so, that will be no problem,” Lineous replied.

“I don’t think it will be too difficult. The Guardians are moving a container of pearls into the inner cavern. Do you think your people can spread them throughout the inner basin area? I do not mean in piles, but more like they have been there for a long time,” Kyllan tried to explain.

“I know the perfect person for the task, and I wager he can get the job done both quickly, as well as covertly, so that no one else knows about it.” Lineous responded, then called Vikor to his side. He passed on his instructions, and within moments, Vikor left accompanied by a dozen Sirens.

The Human prisoners hadn’t even finished storing their food before Vikor returned to report that the task had been finished. Then Sten joined them, to let them know that all their possessions had been removed from the cavern. He added that the last of the Sirens scheduled to go to the Mother Ship, were waiting to be taken up with the carriers.

Kyllan turned to one of the Guardians and gave the order for everyone to return to the vessel. It was time to leave.

Captain Fredrick watched while the Tantalarian Guardians finished making sure all the Sirens on the carriers were secured. He was surprised to note that there were more of them than he had figured, and it looked like they were about to leave, including the Tribunal Elder.

“Weren’t you going to let us know that you were going?” Captain Fredrick couldn’t help but ask, as he approached Kyllan. There had been a time when he had been friendly with this alien. Granted, that had been before Kyllan had found out what he had done, but still, the least he could do was let them know that they were about to be abandoned.

“I didn’t think it necessary,” Kyllan replied.

“Maybe, one day, we will meet again,” Captain Fredrick returned.

Kyllan frowned, as he thought of what type of circumstances that would entail, as he remarked. “I sincerely hope for your sake that never happens.” He spread his wings and flew away.

Captain Fredrick’s thoughts caught up to Kyllan as he headed for the Mother Ship. “Well, I sincerely hope we do.” The tone of the message in this case was definitely hostile.

Captain Fredrick watched as the Mother Ship left Martian airspace, then helped the others finish taking their things down into the cavern. There he shut down his air supply and got out of his suit. It was time to see if they had been told the truth about the caverns. If they hadn’t, it wouldn’t take long before they all died. He wasn’t surprised to find out that the air was clean and fresh, as promised.

Captain Fredrick reflected on how, even after the way they had treated the Tantalarians, they still responded with varying degrees of kindness. It was a shame they would have to kill them, for that was what those he was dealing with were planning. For the survivors of Tantalus, they had planned a form of enslavement. It would be kinder than some things people had been suggesting. The scientists were most eager to experiment on them, but they didn’t have access to the same amount of monetary resources that the alien trafficking organization was able to get their hands on. In the back of his mind, the only one he thought worthy of that kind of fate was Kyllan, The Tribunal Elder.

“Captain Fredrick,” one of his fellow prisoners called out, as he came across the shore holding a computer in his hands. “Look at what we found in one of the boxes that the Tantalarian Guardians carried down with our possessions. The container is filled with them.”

“My computer,” Captain Fredrick cried out happily, as he reached for his laptop, to check on its condition. He had wondered where it had disappeared to after he had taken it from his apartment. He noted that the power had been drained, but otherwise it appeared to still be in good condition. That didn’t matter, not at this time. What did was that it would still work when they returned to Earth. This meant that all his secret files were still intact, and he would need those. Things were looking up.

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