Beyond the Black Part 6

Make sure you’ve caught up Here before pressing on! “Dammit Hicklepeck!” Radley slammed his fist down on the table. And regretted it as the frozen metal stung his exposed skin. The Chryl interrogator stared impassively

Make sure you’ve caught up Here before pressing on!


“Dammit Hicklepeck!” Radley slammed his fist down on the table. And regretted it as the frozen metal stung his exposed skin.

The Chryl interrogator stared impassively at him.

Radley rubbed his injured hand. This is another ploy, like the cold. How much do they really know? He wished he knew how long he’d been trapped in here. Until he had more information, he’d best stick to the story and hope the Chryl was bluffing.

Though they rarely did.

“He told you this was my fault didn’t he? That backstabbing little—”

The Chryl’s cybernetic left arm grabbed Radley’s head and forced him down onto the table.

The frozen metal burned against his face.

“I have no interest in playing further games, Mister Radley. You will tell me why you have entered Chryl space.”

“Like I said, it was an accident.”

“Hmm. While I am not familiar with your species, I calculate that this dosage should not be lethal.” The needle fingertips of the Chryl’s right hand jabbed into Radley’s neck. The previously unnoticed tubes that ran along the arm swirled with a pale liquid.

For a moment, there was nothing but numbness around the injection site. Then a prickle, a tingle, like insects crawling through his veins, spreading throughout his body.

And then came the pain.

Screeching, stabbing pain would erupt in one place only to disappear and reemerge stronger elsewhere.

Radley spasmed as jolts ran along his nerves, but the Chryl kept his face plastered to the frigid table.

“We will begin again. Yesterday, you entered Chryl space in a civilian transport.”

Yesterday?

The spurts were becoming less frequent, though no less intense.

“At which time, you and Hicklepeck launched in a planet-hopper directly toward the seventh planet.”

“I told you, our ship was damaged. We were just trying to escape with our lives.”

The needle fingers jabbed his neck again and the pain redoubled.

He wasn’t sure how much more he could take.

“During your flight you made no attempt to signal your intentions. Upon arriving, you descended into the atmosphere, below normal scanning range.”

“We were under duress and unable to accurately calculate the trajectory for a stable orbit.” Radley ground his teeth as a fresh wave of spasms washed over him.

“You were in the atmosphere long enough to deploy approximately twelve single troop vessels, or half as many proximity mines.”

“Why would anyone seed a gas giant?” Radley silently cursed himself for slipping into old military slang.

“Indeed. But when we…rescued you. You were insistent that we would want to question you.”

Radley raised a hand to point at the two cybernetic arms holding him down. “Is that not what this is?”

“Humor, a known deflection tactic.”

Radley grimaced as another spasm gripped him. “Oh no, you caught me.”

“Yes, we have. Now, you will tell me the purpose of your mission.”

“There was no mission. We were here by accident.”

“You should know that the risk of permanent damage or death increases exponentially with each subsequent injection.”

“I can’t tell you what I don’t know.”

The needles stabbed him again.

“Then perhaps another approach. You will tell me the cause of this sudden interest in the Invaders.”

“What?”

“Or are you here only to recover Danaus Pellina?”

“Who?”

“I would have expected any space-faring species to have a more developed sense of self-preservation.”

“We’re more the ‘start a war that ends with our homeworld destroyed’ type.”

The Chryl interrogator lifted Radley’s head enough to slam it back down on the metal table.

The edges of Radley’s vision darkened and a gnawing numbness radiated through his face.

Worth it.

“You will answer my questions.”

“I don’t know about any ‘Invaders’ and I’ve never heard of this Danaus Pellina. Happy?”

The hatch behind the Chryl interrogator opened and someone issued a harsh command in Chryl.

Or said “hello”, it all sounded harsh to Radley.

After a brief exchange, the hatch closed again.

The Chryl interrogator released Radley’s head. “It seems your cooperation is no longer required. You will be returned to your cell until your fate is decided.”

Radley rubbed at the pain in his face and neck. “I can’t wait.”

“You will comply.” The needle-tipped fingers rose menacingly.

Radley held up hands he couldn’t keep from trembling but kept his voice steady. “Yeah. I will comply.”

Without another word, the interrogator left the compartment. A Chryl soldier brought Radley back to the cell and tossed him in.

“Radley, is everything all right? You look terrible.” Hicklepeck rushed over to him.

“I’ve had worse.” Radley sized up the Filtonian. “Still, I can’t help but notice that you look fine.”

His scales flushed a deeper blue. “Yes, thank you. I feel much better now.”

“So no torture then? You just told them everything they wanted to know.”

“What? Of course not! I should think after all that drilling, I’d remember a simple story like yours. But they haven’t even attempted to question me.” His scales turned a pale yellow. “Is…is there going to be torture?”

“Either from them or from me.” Radley cupped his face in his hands.

It was easy enough to believe the Chryl had tracked their ship since it entered the system, but if Hicklepeck hadn’t been questioned, how had they known Radley’s name?

“Anyway, I took the liberty while you were…gone to inform Miss Pellina of our situation. Am I pronouncing that correctly?”

Her rigid wings fluttered briefly from the back of the cell. “Yes, that is very good Mister Drurary.”

“You did what?” Radley glared up at the Filtonian.

“I told her of our plight. It was only courteous after she explained her own presence here. And would you believe it? We’re all here looking for the Voyagers’ ship.”

“Dammit, Hicklepeck. I told you not to tell anyone anything.”

“I know, but I assumed that caution wouldn’t extend to a fellow captive.”

“This room must be bugged. No offense, lady.”

Pellina’s antennae twitched but she said nothing.

“They didn’t have to question you, you volunteered all the information they could want.”

“Oh, oh my.” Hicklepeck’s scales shifted first to a bright yellow, then dulled into a medium green. “Does this mean there won’t be any torture?”

“Ugh, I can’t even look at you right now.” Radley turned to the woman at the back of the room. “You must be the Danaus Pellina I was asked about.”

She folded her wings back to kneel beside him. “Just Pellina, please. Danaus is a family name.”

“Alright, Pellina. My baggage tells me you’re here for the same reason we are.”

“You are too hard on Drurary.”

“That’s my job. What about you? Why’d you end up in Chryl space?”

“Like you, I believe there is a ship at the core of the gas giant. But based on my study of the system, I think it was an intentional attempt at terraforming.”

“Why would anyone want to create a gas giant?”

“I don’t know, but perhaps the records of the ship could explain it. It was my intention to go down and look, but I was caught before I could.”

“A lot of that going around.”

“Yes, but according to Drurary, you were actually able to detect the presence of the Voyagers’ ship before you were captured. I barely made it into orbit.”

The hatch slid open and three Chryl soldiers stepped in. Behind them, a thinner, taller, but equally mechanical Chryl stood in the doorway.

Radley guessed he was an officer.

That Chryl spoke with the same hollow, mechanical voice as the others. “It has come to our attention that the three of you believe there is value hidden in a vessel trapped at the core of the seventh planet. We declare any such value the sole property of the Chryl.”

Radley shifted into a more comfortable position.

There’s a surprise.

“To that end, you have all been caught attempting to steal from the Chryl, for which the punishment is death.”

“But you didn’t even know it was down there!” Hicklepeck protested.

“However,” the Chryl continued unfazed. “I have been authorized to offer you this one opportunity to reduce your sentence.”

Radley sighed. “Great, what’s it going to take?”

“You will retrieve the data from the core of the seventh planet.”

To Be Continued…

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