Beyond the Black Part 14

If you’re not caught up, don’t fret! You can find the rest of the crew’s adventures right Here. “Pellina, is this true?” Hicklepeck’s bulging eyes focused on the Chryl rifle gripped in the cybernetic hand

If you’re not caught up, don’t fret! You can find the rest of the crew’s adventures right Here.


“Pellina, is this true?” Hicklepeck’s bulging eyes focused on the Chryl rifle gripped in the cybernetic hand of her boxy pressure suit. “Are you…Chryl?”

“Of course she is.” Radley eased toward one side of the bridge. “How else do you explain her capture just before ours? Her knowledge of Chryl space? The fact that her ship doesn’t have a graviton drive? She’s been playing us from the beginning.” He shared the Filtonian’s indignation over her deception, but there would be time for anger after this crisis was over.

Gadwall mirrored his maneuver. “I can’t believe you let a Chryl onto my ship!”

“As I recall, I was unconscious at the time.”

“Stop it, both of you!” Pellina’s weapon wavered between them.

They froze.

Radley took a calming breath. Whatever else she was, Pellina wasn’t a killer. Otherwise at least one of them would be dead already.

Hicklepeck’s scales alternated between yellow and pale purple. “But…but what you said while we were imprisoned on that Chryl gunship? About wanting to study the Voyagers’ ship? You said you wanted to help people.”

“And I do. My people.”

Radley took another step toward the bulkhead.

Pellina didn’t react. “You don’t know what the last few years have been like for us. Billions died, including most of our central command. We’ve devolved into warring factions and bloodletting as we struggle to survive.”

Radley took another step.

Still nothing.

So, she wasn’t a soldier either.

Hicklepeck raised his hands imploringly. “Why didn’t you ask for help? There are systems in place for disaster relief. The galactic community—”

She laughed. “The galactic community? Disaster relief? Our ‘disaster’ was your ‘community.’ If you hadn’t interfered none of this would have been necessary.”

Gadwall moved away from Radley. “If you didn’t want interference, you shouldn’t have started a war.”

We didn’t start the war.” She snarled. “Your people did that.”

Radley took another step. “That’s a weird interpretation of unprovoked attacks on Halmeen Three.”

“The Halmeenans were collateral damage. We were looking for you.”

Gadwall shifted again. “I know our language must be hard for you, but I think you need to be more specific. ‘You’ can mean a lot of things you see, and—”

“Shut up!” Pellina half turned to point the rifle at him.

Radley nodded briefly. Good. Keep her distracted, off balance.

“The rest of the galactic community talks about the war as if it began with the attacks on the Halmeen system, but my people have been at war for a thousand cycles. Ever since the Invaders—your ancestors—launched their attack on our system. We have spent countless generations trying to battle an enemy no one can find.”

“Even if you’re right and it was an attack, why keep fighting after so long?” Hicklepeck glanced around the bridge. “If your war was with the Voyagers, you won without firing a shot.”

“Well, we didn’t know that at the time. How could we?” Pellina’s hands shook. “I remember growing up under the light of their weapon. Never knowing when it might activate. I dedicated my life to freeing my people from its oppression. Now I have, only to learn there are more just waiting to be launched.”

Gadwall took another step. “That’s why we have to destroy it all. Weren’t you listening earlier?”

Her antennae twitched. “Yes, that’d be very convenient for you, wouldn’t it? Burn the last link between your people and these. Then no one else would have a chance to discover what you’ve been hiding.”

Radley bumped into the bulkhead. “You’ve been with us this entire journey. You know we were as shocked as you to find all of this.”

Across from him, the captain reached the opposite wall

“Do you truly expect us to believe that you had no knowledge of your own past?” Pellina said.

“This world is a graveyard. Our long lost homeworld orbiting a black hole that our ancestors created. Everything we’ve seen since we landed paints a picture of a civilization ruined by its own arrogance. Even the survivors were left only with a choice between horrific deaths. You see what they were reduced to. We barely survived this catastrophe. Isn’t that evidence that what we say is true?” Gadwall said.

“Pellina, even if you’re right, you must realize that this technology is too dangerous to put into anyone’s hands.” Radley undid the clasp on the pouch that concealed his pulse-pistol. He covered the motion with wild gesticulation. “Haven’t your people committed enough atrocities?”

She laughed. “Atrocities? If you added up every ‘evil’ deed you accuse my people of over the last thousand cycles it would pale in comparison to the wanton destruction your people wreaked in a single day.” She wheeled to point the rifle squarely at Radley. “I heard what you said at Chryl Seven. The humans destroyed my world, just like your ancestors wanted.”

Behind her, Gadwall tensed.

Radley shook his head. “That was an accident.”

“Ha! I thought your other lie was pathetic. It’s not like my world broke apart all in a moment. If total destruction wasn’t the goal, surely someone could have figured out what was happening in time to shut it down. But no, you just watched while my people died.”

“You’re right,” Gadwall said. “We should have known better. That’s why no one should have this technology. If you don’t care about the rest of the galaxy, think of your own people. You see what it did to our ancestors.”

Pellina turned to him. “The Chryl are more methodical. We won’t—”

Radley’s shot caught her cybernetic arm, lancing it with a beam of raw energy.

Her rifle went off.

Pellina clicked and hissed.

Hicklepeck squealed.

Radley fired again.

The second blast crippled her pressure suit. The third broke through the clear shielding, exposing Pellina to what little atmospheric control the ancient ship was able to maintain.

She shrieked. Her wings beat frantically as she cowered in the wreckage of her suit.

Radley put her out of her misery.

Gadwall scooped up the Chryl rifle.

Hicklepeck’s scales paled beyond Radley’s ability to tell their color. “D-did you have to kill her? She wouldn’t have really hurt us, would she?”

Radley returned his pulse-pistol to its pouch. “Even if that were true, her Chryl friends wouldn’t have had reservations about killing us.” He flipped his comm to long-range. “Crowe, get the ship ready, we’re about to have company.”

“Too late.” Her voice sounded strained. “They’re here.”

To Be Continued…

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