Neegon hurried to
the table where the clones were just finishing lunch. His face full of concern as he sat down with them.
"We think Joseph’s
blood is being invaded by what is apparently some kind of anti-bodies from the native that attacked him. We believe these
anti-bodies are turning his blood into insect blood. That is why it has turned white."
The clones stared
at Neegon, then at each other. Shock showed on their faces while the three women also expressed horror. Stephanie was the
first to speak.
"Can it be reversed?"
dropped. "We don’t think so," he said sadly. "We don’t know what to do." He looked up at them and spread his hands
wide. The clones saw tears in his eyes.
"I am sorry. We have
failed you when you have done so much for us," he said. "We well know the sadness of losing a friend."
Michelle reached out
and placed a hand on Neegon’s arm. "It’s not your fault," she told him sympathetically. "We… he… should
have been more wary."
to him, we have learned from him," said Adrian. "Kill the Scuddar before it gets a chance to attack us."
"At least we can recognise
the ones that we need to kill," said Trevor. "The ones with enlarged heads. But we still need to find the original seed or
"Let’s go get
the damn thing," Charles said, standing up with his fists clenched.
"It’s got to
be around here somewhere," exclaimed Trevor. The clones stood on a slope of the extinct volcano looking around helplessly.
The natives that had previously attacked them with rocks were nowhere to be seen.
"I suggest we make
a systematic search starting from the mouth of this volcano," said Adrian.
"All in a line about twenty feet apart."
The clones, unable
to suggest anything better, agreed and spread out in a single line and began to search the slopes of the volcano. Two hours
later they were on the second sweep of the search. Charles was the furthest from the mouth when a rock landed with a thud
at his feet. He looked up just in time to see a native hurl another rock at him.
"Hey! The natives
are throwing rocks again!" he warned his companions
The clones looked
toward Charles and saw a blue aura surround him then a flash of blue light streaked from him toward a huge rock. The rock
disintegrated into hundreds of smaller pieces that scattered in all directions. Some pieces bouncing harmlessly off the aura
around Charles. Two natives, one limping badly, were hurrying away from the scene. Two further bolts of blue lightning emerged
from Charles and the natives fell to the ground.
"Wow! Did I do
that?" asked Charles; obviously awestruck at the power
he had used.
"You did it, Honey,"
if the natives are dead or alive," said Trevor scrambling
down the slope.
"Don’t get too
close!" yelled Michelle.
"I won’t!" Trevor
yelled back. He reached the first native. It was the one that had been limping. Trevor saw the outer shell of the creature’s
thigh had been shattered and a thick white fluid oozed from the wound. Another smoking wound in its abdomen also oozed with
the white fluid. Warily, he approached the giant insect and stopped when he was about six feet away. The creature turned its
head to look at him. Suddenly it’s tongue lashed out a full four feet toward him then retracted.
dead." Charles had gone to the other native.
Trevor reached into
the remaining creature’s mind and found the familiar confusion there. Probing deeper he contacted the Scuddar and sensed
a little fear.
Trevor’s statement caused the Scuddar to attempt
to mask the fear but unsuccessfully. "You have every reason to be," finished Trevor.
"We are not afraid,"
replied the Scuddar. "This creature is afraid."
"No. The fear is
yours. Why did you attack us when you knew we could destroy you?"
"Destroy me. This
creature will not live long."
"We can spare you
and help you if you tell us where your original seed is located," said Trevor.
"We cannot do that,"
replied the Scuddar defiantly.
"Then you are of
no use to us. You will die." Trevor walked away from
the possessed native.
"Destroy me! You
will not find what you seek."
Trevor continued walking
away with Charles. "We will," he projected his thought confidently. "We’re getting close." He sensed the
The other clones had
descended the slope to meet Trevor and Charles.
"It won’t live
long," he told them. "What I don’t understand is why they attack us here. They know we can destroy them."
where Stephanie was first attacked?" asked Charles. "I think it was somewhere around here."
The clones looked
around trying to remember exactly where Stephanie had been when rocks were hurled at her. There was little to distinguish
the terrain from any given point. It was Stephanie that remembered.
She pointed at a big rock several yards away. "That’s where I was having a pee."
The six clones stared
at each other. All suddenly realising the same thing at the same moment. The realisation that they were close. They were too
close for the Scuddar’s liking. The Scuddar was prepared to make sacrifices in order not to be discovered.
"Spread out but keep
your eyes open for more attacks," ordered Trevor.
The clones once more
began their search, this time concentrating on the area around the rock Stephanie had indicated. They were unsure what they
might find but anything that was different from the terrain around them received careful examination. Almost another two hours
of searching passed before Adrian shouted.
"Over here! Look at
this!" The clones scrambled up the slope to where Adrian stood
peering at the base of a pile of igneous rocks.
"It looks like a tunnel,"
he said as they all took turns to peer into the dark interior of the small opening.
"Maybe it is a small
blowhole of the volcano," suggested Charles. He pointed to the ground. "This looks like a solidified lava flow."
Trevor looked up at
the pile of rocks. He noticed it was about ten feet high and, although made to look like one, it was not a natural fall. He
examined the pile carefully.
"These rocks have
been placed here deliberately," he said. "There’s none of the rubble that would have been mixed with them had they been
a fall or landslide."
"Are we just going
to stand here looking?" asked Adrian impatiently. "Let’s
see what they are hiding."
"Are you kidding?
How are we going to move this lot?" Michelle stood with arms akimbo and looking at the pile of rocks. "Those rocks will ruin
my nails!" Turning her head, she looked at Stephanie and Angela for support. They too, looked dubious that they would be able
to give much assistance.
The men realised what
a daunting task it would be to remove the rocks safely. They would have to start at the top or risk dislodging the lower rocks
and have the pile collapse on top of them. It would take many hours of hard, backbreaking work to clear the pile. They stood
contemplating how they should go about achieving their aim.
"Blast our way through!"
Charles’ sudden exclamation drew their attention. He returned their curious glances and jerked his thumb in the direction
where he had killed the two Scuddar possessed natives. "Like I blasted that rock," he explained.
"How did you do that,"
Charles thought for
a moment then replied. "I’m not sure. I just wanted to get to those bastards behind it. It just happened."
"Well, we haven’t
anything to lose," Trevor muttered. "Let’s give it a go." He told them to stand well clear in case any rocks fell or
should hit them. "We’ll all try together. Concentrate on the lower rocks around the opening."
They took shelter
behind various rocks and faced the opening and waited for Trevor’s signal. Seconds later, two searing bolts of blue
struck two rocks disintegrating them into a shower of small pieces and dust. Suddenly, the pile moved. Slowly at first then,
with a loud rumble the pile collapsed, gathering momentum and cascading down the slope, taking other rocks and rubble in its
path along with it.
"I did it!" Angela
jumped up and down excitedly. "I did it!"
"Yeah! Me too," claimed
Charles, his clenched fists held above his head triumphantly as he grinned at her. Equally excited congratulating yells came
from the other clones.
When the dust settled
they saw the entrance to the tunnel. It was roughly circular and about five feet in diameter. Resisting the urge to run, they
approached the opening warily and peered into its depths. The available light illuminating the interior revealed a downward
slope that curved out of sight several yards inside.
to get you," called Charles down the hole with a mocking, musical lilt.
"It looks dark in
there," said Trevor. "We are going to need torches to see where we are going."
"Where the hell are
we going get torches?" asked Adrian.
"We’ve got company!"
Stephanie was pointing toward a group of natives about four hundred yards away. They could see they had the enlarged heads
that identified the creatures. They were Scuddar possessed. The group, consisting of around twenty, scurried from rock to
rock as they came closer. They appeared to be spreading out. Some were edging up the slope.
to try to surround us," announced Trevor. "If you get into any real danger hit the button and get back to Neum. Don’t
take any chances." He waited for them to confirm they understood then said, "Good. Remember what happened to Joseph."
The chilling reminder
was not wasted on the clones as they kept a wary eye on the approach of the giant insects. They waited for them to get within
rock throwing distance.
The natives stopped
advancing when they were twenty yards away. Some had fist-sized rocks in their hands but did not attempt to throw them. Trevor
wondered if they were waiting for a signal to attack. Hearing a sound behind him, he spun around. A large boulder was bouncing
down from the top of the volcano toward them. He just saw three of the natives ducking down out of sight.
"Look out!" he shouted.
His warning was not needed. The other clones had also heard the thudding sound as the boulder stuck rocks as it bounced down.
It was the signal the natives were waiting for. As one they began hurling rocks, hissing and clicking in their language as
they charged. The boulder bounded past the clones and crushed one of the attacking natives.
Blue streaks like
laser beams flashed from the clones as they retaliated. There was little time to take careful aim at the moving creatures
and some flashes missed their targets, disintegrating rocks or harmlessly striking the ground.
Trevor heard Michelle
scream as she lost her footing on the slope and rolled down toward one of the insects. It rushed toward her, its tongue stabbing
in and out of its mouth. Trevor was about to strike it down but another native got in the way, obscuring his view. He charged
the creature, hitting it with his shoulder. The surprised native fell to the ground and rolled down the slope, its arms and
legs flailing as it tried to stop rolling. Trevor leaped to help Michelle just as the creature with the stabbing tongue got
to her. Trevor couldn’t risk striking it in case he hit Michelle. It paused momentarily as it stood above her. Michelle
rolled to one side as its tongue stabbed, striking the ground where her head had been a second before. A blue flash emerged
from her eyes and the creature’s head disappeared. The headless body fell lifeless beside her.
Trevor helped Michelle
to her feet. They were now behind the natives and were able to take more time to destroy them. Stephanie and Charles were
standing side by side blasting any creature that came near them. Angela and Adrian were higher up the slope concentrating
on the natives that were at the top of the volcano. They were carefully selecting their targets and eliminating them systematically.
The battle lasted
a full ten minutes. The bodies of thirty natives lay strewn over the battlefield. The clones grouped together to survey the
"There were more of
them than I thought," said Trevor. "I wonder how many there are altogether on this world."
They heard an anguished
cry from Michelle. She was sitting on a rock staring at her hand with horror. Trevor, full of concern ran to her.
wrong?" he demanded. Woefully she lifted her hand to show him.
"I broke a nail, dammit!"
Trevor stared at Michelle,
his face a picture of bewilderment. Then he heard Angela laugh followed by the laughs of the other clones. Michelle’s
complaint about her broken nail relieved the tension of the battle they had just won.
You had me really worried then!" he admonished.
He looked around at
them and added, "We’ll get back to Neum now. We are not going in there without some form of lighting." He indicated
the tunnel. "Hit your buttons."
Returning from the
battle scene, Trevor’s first concern was for Joseph. He went with the other clones to see him. Joseph was hardly breathing
and looked near to death. Trevor attempted to contact his mind but the confusion was so great and he couldn’t get past
to die," said Stephanie speaking aloud what they were all thinking.
to Joseph’s side and put a hand on his shoulder.
you, brother," he said.
"I have to go," said
Angela. "I can’t bear to see him like this."
we can do for him," replied Trevor. "I’m going too."
One by one the clones
left the room in silence.
The first major battle
with the Scuddar, although successful, made the clones realise that they could easily have had casualties. Michelle’s
close encounter with the possessed native had shaken both her and Trevor. Trevor had instructed them to return to Neum before
continuing the search for the Scuddar seed. He had no wish to enter the tunnel without some means of seeing clearly in case
they stumbled into an ambush.
He had not seen the
Neumites using any kind of torches and assumed they would have to use torches made with combustible material. He decided to
ask Meehun if he could suggest something suitable.
"We can supply you
with torches," Meehun said. "We can use the same materials we build the interior of our homes with."
The puzzled frown
that creased Trevor’s brow changed slowly as understanding dawned upon him. The interior walls of the houses glowed
as the available light decreased thereby providing even light within the rooms. He had never understood what caused them to
glow or how the light operated. At first, when he moved into the house he lived in, he had assumed that the walls were coated
with something luminous but had rejected that theory when he found the light faded when not needed. At one time he had a desire
to just sit in a dimmed room to gaze out of a window at the stars. The walls had dimmed to just the right level. He had intended
to ask how the light worked but never got around to it. Now the opportunity had arisen, he seized it.
"Just how do those
lights know when to fade?" he asked.
"They are sensitive
to thought," replied Meehun. "Just as the mattresses are sensitive to thought to give you maximum comfort."
The mattresses. That
was another thing he had intended to ask about. When laid upon, the mattresses curled around the body, supporting it.
"They are made of
living matter," explained Meehun. "Just as everything that grows and produces seed is living. All the buildings are made of
"You mean this building
"In a sense, yes,"
replied Meehun. "But don’t worry. It is not suffering in any way. It is not sentient any more than the grass you walk
on is." Meehun smiled at the look on Trevor’s face. "I will have the torches made for you." He turned and walked away
leaving Trevor staring thoughtfully at Meehun’s retreating form.