Chapter – Ten The Remains of Regulus
T’krost did not feel much like a security captain these days. It had been weeks since Space Station Regulus II’s destruction, and he’d only been able to rendezvous with a few of his crewmen. Cultural Advisor Dhanae had rushed into his escape pod with him, and she’d stuck by his side ever since. As much as her constant need for humor annoyed him, she was a valuable source of intelligence, and he did not shun her presence.
While the K’zzyrch were setting up their explosives throughout the station, T’krost had radioed as many of his agents and personnel as he could, ordering them to evacuate the station. Fellow workers, guests, those stopping by for business – everyone who could leave before the K’zzyrch put them in chains and sent them off on slave shuttles – had to flee in order to avoid being caught in the coming explosions.
Once the section there he was had been cleared and all the shuttle pods were full, T’krost had sealed the doors and locked them with his personal code. The K’zzyrch would have a much harder time following them that way. He steered his escape pod as far away from the station as he could, ordering everyone else to do the same but hating every second of it.
Behind him, K’zzyrch ships were swarming around the station, docking for a short time before leaving again. He could have saved the station from almost any other species. Hell, he could have even fought back the K’zzyrch if they’d come in smaller numbers, but these days they attacked in impossibly large numbers, and T’krost knew when to cut his losses.
They cleared out just before the station began to crack, section by section, from the detonations that ran through it. Bright orange glows lit up the æther, T’krost barely able to bear witness to it all, and large chunks of the station broke away. With subsequent explosions, smaller pieces came away, flying off with such force that the nearby ships had to raise their shields in order to prevent the ricochet from wrecking havoc on their hulls.
After that, some of the K’zzyrch vessels that weren’t busy with loads of captives started to notice the escape pods and other departing ships. They opened fire on them, forcing them to defend themselves or flee, and chased after some of those who tried to escape. T’krost took his ship up to its highest speed, and managed to eventually lose the interest of his pursuers.
Security Captain T’krost had docked with a transport ship a quarter of a light year away from where Space Station Regulus II had once stood, and sent out a warning message on all galactic radio stations. While there, he dropped off anyone who was willing to go where the transport ship planned on re-routing to, and took off again with a smaller crew, one that consisted mostly of station staff.
The problem was that the K’zzyrch could not be stopped. The accursed reptiles were as fanatical as they were hypocritical. They claimed that they were being enslaved under the tyranny and the Dark Apostates, yet they sold off as many captives as they could every time they staged a coup in the name of freedom. They usually claimed that they were raising money in order to acquire enough arms to cast off their tyrants, but there were times when they seemed more bent of dominating the galaxy than on achieving freedom.
The Dark Apostates they referred to had never actually been seen. Most other species in the galaxy figured that they were just a lie made up by the K’zzyrch, but a couple postulated that they really did exist. Perhaps they were incorporeal, something with no physical body. Or they could be hyper-dimensional, or stuck in an adjacent dimension. Some of the theories were outright strange. T’krost didn’t care. The K’zzyrch were dangerous, and the only thing predictable about them was that they caused a lot of trouble.
T’krost landed the escape pod on a nearby tropical planet and set the computer to send out honing signals so that other members of the Regulus Station II crew could find him. He and the people with him entered a local tavern to find a decent place to eat and sleep.
“I hate them!” T’krost yelled after slamming down his third mug of grog. “Those snaky bastards need to stay off my station!”
Dhanae looked to the other man at the table, then back to the security captain. “What are we going to do about them, though? The station has already been destroyed.”
“I will be lucky if I can find work on any other space station now!”
“Why?” Dhanae asked. “This wasn’t your fault. Didn’t the security report download to your tablet?”
“Yes!” T’krost looked it over again, and cursed under his breath. “That and a whole load of other data. All I can gather from it is that human fingerprints were found at the site of the security breech.”
“I keep telling you, I did nothing!” the other man with them said. He had been repeating those words for the past few days now.
“I know you didn’t, Rashard,” T’krost grumbled. “As I said before, I already spoke with the agent who was tracking you. It was for your own protection, and you are lucky that we were doing it, because it cleared your name. From what I can gather, somebody was copying human DNA and using it to pose as a human.”
“But then how did they get onto the station?” Dhanae asked. “Humans automatically require extra precautions, and our personnel always follow protocol.”
T’krost frowned and shook his head. “At some point, a DNA sample was stolen from this young man. Maybe they took his blood while he was asleep, maybe it was someone he went to bed with, I have no idea. But once he got clearance from us to come on board, they knew it!”
“But it means,” Dhanae added, “that they had the clearance to get into the station without being suspected.”
“How is that even possible?” Rashard asked, fidgeting in his seat. He didn’t like having been used to do something so awful.
“It’s a complicated situation,” T’krost told him. “Unless you have an advanced degree in genetics and biochemistry, I doubt you would understand.”
T’krost looked over at Dhanae. He didn’t want to explain a single thing. She nodded to him, and he got up and walked to the bar, his long coat flowing behind him like a cape.
“Listen, Rashard,” Dhanae told him as she turned her orange eyes upon him, “It could have been any other human that this happened to. You were vulnerable because you’ve been traveling the galaxy for the past year, doing who knows what in your spare time. It has been exceedingly difficult to track down the path you took to get to Regulus Station II, and we will probably never know how the K’zzyrch or their lackeys got your DNA. Right now, your best bet is to get back to Earth and stay there.”
Rashard made a sour face and sat back. “Nothin’ for me on Earth. My country is a war zone and I don’t want to be no kind of refugee. Let me help you out here.”
Dhanae sighed. “You would need to constantly be guarded, and even then, your DNA is still out there. Once the K’zzyrch know that you are on the move, they – or any other alien species up to no good – might try to take advantage of you again.”
“And how do you know they won’t be followin’ me back to Earth?” the dark-skinned human asked as T’krost returned with another round of grog for everyone.
“They’re not interested in your planet. They just want to dominate their own.” The older man took a long drink from his mug before going on. “You won’t like the sound of this, but you were just a convenient pawn to them.”
Rashard took a gulp from his mug and shook his head. “Nobody ever warned me that this could happen. I just wanted to got outta the way of all the bullets, not get myself used so that some crazy aliens could blow up a space station.”
“Of course not!” T’krost replied. “Most life-forms out there don’t even know this secret about human DNA. Those of us in security keep it a well-guarded secret, because the fewer people who know, the better. There is nothing you could have done about it.”
They drank together a while longer, until another question came to Rashard’s mind. “Earth is a long way from here. How are you going to get me home safely without something else going wrong? And what about all the other humans who are traveling through the galaxy?”
“You have a point there,” Dhanae replied. “There were two other humans on Regulus Station II, and we still haven’t been able to figure out what happened to them.”
“Wherever they are,” T’krost added, “they’re probably together. Didn’t you say that they’re a couple?”
“They are, but the K’zzyrch are known for separating men and women” Dhanae explained. “Even if they were in the same room together when those foul reptiles showed up, they could be light years apart by now.”
“They were a couple?” Rashard asked. “Is there any way for us to track them down? We gotta help them get back together!”
“Not much of a chance of that,” T’krost told him, his voice devoid of hope. “Being sentimental doesn’t count for much out here in space.”
Dhanae refused to give in to his pessimism. “Captain, remember, they are newlyweds! Then must be terrified right now. We have to at least try to get them out of this mess.”
T’krost grumbled and finished off his mug. “I can contact the Galactic United Forces tomorrow. If we’re lucky, they have a few mercenary agents who can help find any humans who recently passed through the slave systems that the K’zzyrch use.” He sighed and stared down into the metallic emptiness of his mug, contemplating getting another one. “I will need the information on what they looked like, Dhanae.”
“I should still be able to pull it up on one of the tablets,” she said calmly, looking at him as though she worried about his downtrodden mood.
“How do you still connect to data on a station that was destroyed light years from here?” Rashard asked.
“Standard practice for when we board an escape pod is to download as much station data in to the pod’s computer as possible” she replied. “The link is maintained for as long as possible, and all upper-level station personnel have their own codes, which starts their downloads at a different place. If we were able to get back together, we might have enough pieces of the puzzle to put our database back together.”
“Does that mean they’ll rebuild the space station?”
Dhanae shrugged. “That is up to the Galactic United Forces and anyone else interested in funding the construction. More likely they will re-compile our data and keep a back-up, then investigate and do what they can to improve security on other stations.”
“We should get some rest,” T’krost said suddenly, getting to his feet. “Good night.”
T’krost didn’t wait for Dhanae to wish him sweet dreams. With heavy footsteps, he climbed the stairs of the tavern and stepped into his small room. Rashard watched him go, then looked over at the cultural advisor, who was staring after the security captain with her face resting on her hands. He wondered if her race was anything like humans, and whether the look on her face was one of longing.