Meanwhile in Space…
Episode 62: The Ancient Engines of Deimos, Part IX: Batteries Included
Sundance, Astralyn, and Ben stood at the tunnel entrance and stared into the dark void. The idea that there were two sets of tunnels astounded Sundance. He was starting to get an idea. If his assumption that these tunnels also led to another robot was correct, his plan was going to work out great.
Ben led the way through the tunnels until they reached a dead end. This brought Sundance down from his inspired high. “Are you sure you know where you’re going?”
“Of course I do!” Ben said confidently. “Whenever I wasn’t cleaning the gears in the exhibit, I was down here exploring the tunnels.” He shined the flashlight along the wall and studied the rust on it. “Everyone thinks that there is only one set of engines, but I recently found these. I’ve been keeping it a secret ever since because I didn’t think I could trust the others with this information.”
“Well, yay for that,” Sundance replied. Ben just rolled his eyes and continued examining the wall. He was looking for something, a crack in the wall. He felt his way along the wall as he moved to the right. When he finally found it, he handed the flashlight to Sundance. “Could you shine it here, please?”
Sundance pointed the flashlight where indicated and saw the crack. He then panned upwards and saw that it went all the way up to the ceiling far above them. Ben cleared his throat and Sundance returned the light to where he needed it.
“How long do you think these tunnels have been here?” Astralyn asked. “What were these robots built for?”
“I think that these robots were built to attack Old Earth,” Ben replied. “And Old Earth would have never seen it coming.”
Ben pulled out what looked like a big metallic pen out of his robe and clicked the end of it. The ground started to shake. The wall made a loud popping sound. Sundance and Astralyn gasped as the crack in the wall started to widen. The wall was, in fact, a giant door. It opened slowly to the left with an eerie moan.
“Welcome to Chez Ben!” Ben stepped through the ever widening threshold. He held out his hand for Astralyn to step through. She gracefully accepted his hand and followed him. Sundance waited for the door to finish opening before he stepped further into the unknown.
“I haven’t fully exploded most of these tunnels because I had few moments to get away, but I’m pretty sure that this will mirror the other set of tunnels,” Ben said.
“So, if that’s true, then that means that this can turn into a giant robot as well?” Astralyn asked.
“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Sundance replied. “I have an idea.”
“Do mine ears deceive me? Could it be that the captain has a plan?” Astralyn did a mock gasp and placed her hand on her chest as if to have a heart attack.
“News at 11.” Sundance looked back and winked at her.
Ben continued to lead the way through the dark corridors. His assumption was correct. The layout of these tunnels were identical to the other exhibit. He was able to map out where they were and where they needed to go.
“Captain, you’ll want to pay attention,” Ben warned. “I’m taking you to the room where they have your friend.”
Sundance made sure to pay attention. He planned on somehow getting to the other robot. He didn’t know how, but he was jumping ahead of himself. He smirked at his cleverness.
Ben stopped in front of a door that didn’t look particularly important. Sundance studied it and wondered how he was going to recognize it from the rest when he does make it to the other robot. Ben tried to pull the handle to open the door but it refused to budge. Astralyn tried her hand at it; it remained closed.
“If you’ll allow me.” Sundance took his laser pistol out of its holster. Astralyn knew what was coming and moved out of the way. Ben was still trying to open it when Sundance fired. Astralyn pulled Ben out of the way in the last second. The red laser beam hit the door and burrowed through the ancient steel. The door unbolted just as the ceiling shook.
Ben stared at the door and saw that the lock was sizzling. He then looked at Sundance, who was posed triumphantly with his laser pistol in the air, and shook his head angrily. “You have to warn a person before you go shooting things! I suppose that’s your solution to everything!”
“Pretty much,” Astralyn said.
Ben pulled open the door and allowed the others to go inside. He made sure that the door wasn’t going to shut behind them before he entered. Sundance was already shining the flashlight in every corner of the room.
In the center of the room sat an old rusted chair, much like a throne, that was planted to the floor. There were wires all along the sides of it and along the floor behind it. Ben approached it with reverence. Astralyn and Sundance stared at it bewildered.
“This is the Heart Room,” Ben said, breaking the temporary silence. “This is where the power is supplied to the engines. This is where your friend is located. If you can get here…”
“I can free Timmy and stop the machine.” Sundance clinched his fists as if it was a vow he was making with his body. “How do we power this baby up?”
“We obviously need a power source,” Astralyn said. Ben and Sundance hummed their agreement. Ben and Sundance were looking at her, she knew it. She shook her head and held her hands up. “I don’t think so, boys!”
“Oh, I have something else planned for you,” Sundance said. He chuckled excitedly as he lowered and raised his eyebrows at her. Astralyn wasn’t sure if she liked this plan Sundance had.
Sundance walked behind the chair and saw a large black box seated nearby. He shined the light on it and saw that there were all sorts of plugins on it. He then shined the light back on the chair, and then back on the box. “What is this?”
“It’s a box,” Astralyn said sarcastically.
Ben walked over and looked at it. “It’s a battery!” He sounded excited. “They must have built this one to run on a battery instead of a human energy source! How fortuitous!”
Ben bent down to pick it up. Sundance handed the flashlight to Astralyn and he bent down to pick up the other end of the battery. They both picked up the heavy box and brought it in front of the power chair. They rested for a moment before they hefted it into the seat.
“It fits perfectly,” Ben said. “The question is why this isn’t on the first one?”
“Who cares about that?” Sundance picked up some of the cables on the ground. “The real question is, ‘Will it work?’. He chuckled. He immediately started plugging the wires into the battery. Ben and Astralyn did the same. When they were finished, they stepped back and admired their work.
“Make it work,” Sundance commanded.
“Yes, sir.” Ben searched the box for a switch. When he found it, it flipped it. The box shuddered in the seat for a minute before it started humming. The electricity in the cables caused them to glow. Then the whole room lit up. The battery charged and as it did, the engines started to churn to life. “There you go, sir! They’re all powering up! Though, I’m not sure for how long. These things are quite old…”
“Perfect!” Sundance patted Ben on the back. “I’m beginning to like you! Now, let’s get this thing on its feet.”
“Then the control room is where you need to be!” Ben took the flashlight from Astralyn and led the way out of the room. Based on memory alone, he was able to guide the three of them to the control room. Sundance estimated that they were nearing the head of the robot.
The three of them finally reached the control room. Ben unlocked the door and allowed them entry. “The control room, lady and gentleman!”
The room was shaped like a V. The main controls were located at the front of the room while the secondary systems were all on the sides, with the main pilot seat in the center. On the sides of the chair were several long levers. Ben looked around and marveled at it all. He looked at the pilot’s seat and then at Sundance.
“I think I know your plan now, Captain,” Ben said. “You’re going to pilot this robot and take the other one down, correct?”
“Almost,” Sundance replied. “I’m not going to pilot it, she is.”
Astralyn whipped her head and looked at Sundance in surprise. They both were looking at her. “Oh, hell no!”
“Would you rather sit in the Heart Room?” Sundance asked jokingly. Astralyn shook her head. He approached Astralyn and held her hands. “I need you and Ben to pilot the robot while I try to get close to the other robot. I know you can do it!” He gazed into her eyes and smiled. “Do it for Timmy!” He knew that Astralyn would do it now. “Benny here will help you.”
“Who cares?” Sundance replied. He never took his eyes off Astralyn. He gripped her hands softly. “You told me that your father was a pilot.”
“Is a pilot,” Astralyn corrected.
“You also told me that he taught you to pilot next to anything! You can do it!”
Astralyn was touched by this and she closed her eyes. She steeled herself and reminded herself that she could pilot close to anything. When she opened her eyes again, Sundance saw nothing but determination and pride in them. “Let’s do this!”
Meanwhile in Space…
Episode 61: The Ancient Engines of Deimos, Part VIII: Rise of the Deliverers
Sundance, Astralyn, and Caretaker Benjamin left the parking lot and passed through Dunlin City Security to get back into the city. They placed their hoods on and marched in a single file line towards the abandoned building. As they walked, they felt the ground vibrate slightly. The three of them stopped for a moment in an alley to assess what it was they were feeling. Sundance walked back to one of the main city streets and checked to see if there was a large vehicle running down the way. There was no such vehicle. By the time he got back to Astralyn and Caretaker Benjamin, the shaking had escalated to such a degree that they had to support themselves against the walls of the buildings they found themselves between.
“What’s going on?” Astralyn asked. “Caretaker Benjamin?”
“Just call me Ben,” he replied.
“I don’t care what your name is,” Sundance shouted. “What’s going on?”
Soon, a loud hum accompanied the violent shaking. People on the streets were beginning to panic. Buildings were shaking so much that they began to lose bits and pieces of mortar. It rained down on the heroic trio. Sundance led them back out to the street where chaos was beginning to get a firm grip on the people.
The hum became more of a buzz. Sundance grabbed Ben and shook him. “What the hell is going on?”
“We’re too late!” Ben said. “We’re too late! Caretaker Dave has already hooked your friend up to the engines.”
“Then we need to go and get him out! Let’s go!” Sundance said. He ran back towards the alley, but the buildings were being shaken apart. It was no longer safe to travel between them. “There’s got to be another way in besides the front door.”
“It would not be very wise to go in there,” Ben said.
The ground beneath them shook to the point that concrete was splitting apart. Large cracks in the streets threatened to swallow the people in the streets. Women and children screamed as no one knew what to do. People were beginning to fall into the cracks as they continued to grow larger.
Then a loud mechanical whir sounded. The ground shook more violently as before as things started to protrude from beneath it. Whole buildings were lifted from the ground and tossed down unto the population below.
Sundance, Astralyn, and Ben shielded themselves from the debris and watched as an enormous machine rose from the ground. It was shaped just like a human. It had a head, two arms with articulate fingers, a midsection, and two legs. The head towered high above the city, almost reaching the top of the dome.
“The war machine exists!” Ben said. He dropped to his knees and began to pray. Sundance walked over to him and pulled him to his feet.
“THAT’S the war machine?” Sundance shouted. “THAT’S THE WAR MACHINE?”
“Oh my god,” Astralyn whispered. It was easily drowned out by the sound of the people screaming.
The head of the robot looked down upon the city and its people. Even though it was generally expressionless, Sundance knew exactly what it was thinking. He watched as the robot extended its left hand. A large hole opened up and a fireball shot out of it, blowing up the buildings and the people within it.
“How do we get in there?” Sundance shouted.
“What, you got a death wish or something?” Ben asked. “There’s no way to get in there now! The engines have been activated and there’s no way to turn them off until they disconnect your friend.” Sundance looked like he was going to punch him, but Ben put up his hands. “But, I know of a way to defeat the robot! Follow me!” Ben took off running towards the panicked people.
Without a moment of hesitation, Sundance and Astralyn raced after him. They plowed right through the crowd and tried to keep an eye where Ben was heading. Sundance occasionally looked behind him and saw the robot activating another fireball.
“Must go faster!” Sundance shouted. “Must go faster!”
The people saw the fireball coming and they started to run in terror. Sundance and Astralyn managed to stay ahead of the group, their eyes purely focused on Ben. When Ben turned, they turned. Ben ducked into another alley. Sundance and Astralyn made it just in time before a large wave of flames passed by.
Ben was already on his knees, picking up a manhole cover. He tossed it aside and it clanged loudly on the asphalt behind him. “In we go!”
Sundance didn’t ask any questions. He was the first one down the hole, then Astralyn, and then Ben himself. They were waiting for him at the bottom.
“You don’t happen to have a flashlight, would you?” Ben asked. As soon as he said the word ‘flashlight’, there was a light in his face. “Perfect! Watch your step please.” Ben took the flashlight and led them down more tunnels.
“Is this what I think it is?” Astralyn asked, noticing a pattern.
The ground shook and the surface received another attack. Astralyn and Sundance stumbled and sought to steady themselves against the walls of the tunnel.
Ben turned around and put the light to his face, creating a ghastly image. “It is what you think it is. It’s a tunnel to another set of engines.”
Meanwhile in Space…
Episode 60: The Ancient Engines of Deimos, Part VII: The Heart of Deimos
Sundance stood near the back door of the StarTango and slammed his fist against the wall. “Dammit! NO!” He was so frustrated with himself that all he wanted to do was throw things around the ship. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything that he could throw, so he was content to hit the wall again. He knew that he was frightening Astralyn and Caretaker Benjamin, but at the moment, he didn’t care. He needed some sort of release. A good primal scream would have done the trick, but he decided to rein it in. Screaming won’t help Timmy, he reasoned.
“We’ll get him back, Sundance,” Astralyn said, attempting to comfort. She entered the ship and stood behind him, wanting to reach out to him. She knew the best thing would be to give him his space. “We always do. This will be no different.”
“We had better do it soon,” Caretaker Benjamin said, looking at his watch.
“How so?” Sundance turned to the Caretaker and looked at him with pain in his eyes.
Caretaker Benjamin knew that he needed to word his next statement carefully otherwise Sundance might snap and shoot the messenger. “Your friend has the ability to resurrect mechanical components. He told us this when we were looking for you. If Caretaker Dave and his fringe group are right, the engines are really there to power a battle machine capable of destroying everything on the surface of Deimos. They need a powerful enough power source to succeed.”
“Timmy.” Sundance calmed himself and directed his focus on Timmy. “We need to get him back before they use him as a battery. To be quite honest, I’m not looking forward to going back in there. We didn’t exactly make a lot of friends.”
“Just as long as we don’t draw any unneeded attention to ourselves, we should be fine,” Caretaker Benjamin said.
“Clearly, you haven’t traveled with Sundance,” Astralyn joked. She ignored the glare that Sundance was giving her and smirked. Caretaker Benjamin didn’t understand what had just happened.
Two Caretakers carried Timmy on their shoulders down the labyrinthine hallways of the engine facility. His body weighed heavily because he was unconscious. He had put up quite a fight back on the StarTango. Three Caretakers jumped him while another in the distance shot him with a tranquilizer dart. While making a few stops, the two Caretakers that were lucky enough to escort Timmy from the ship finally found the chamber where they brought Sundance. They immediately dropped him on the torture table and strapped him down. When they were done with the task, they made room for Caretaker Dave to come in and inspect their work.
“Thank you, gentlemen,” Caretaker Dave said. He removed the hood from his robe and exposed himself to be an old man who looked ravaged by time. He grinned happily as he knelt down beside Timmy. He touched Timmy’s face lightly, like he was caressing a baby. “Wake up, son.” When Timmy didn’t wake up, he gave him a hard slap. This elicited the response he desired. “There you are. Wake up.”
Timmy’s eyes slowly opened. The first thing he saw was Caretaker Dave’s smiling face. He then tried to sit up, but found himself restrained. He struggled against his bindings in a futile effort. When he exhausted himself, he relaxed his body and turned to look at Caretaker Dave.
“Who are you?” he asked. “Where am I?”
“You are under my care, dear boy,” Caretaker Dave answered. “Caretaker Steve, could you bring this boy some water? He looks thirsty.” He placed his hands behind his back and pulled out the small music box. He placed it in the middle of his right hand and showed it to Timmy. “I need something from you, dear boy.”
“Anything to get you to stop calling me ‘dear boy’,” Timmy muttered. “I’m a grown ass man.”
“As you wish.”
Caretaker Steve returned with a glass of water. Caretaker Joe, the other Caretaker that brought Timmy in sat him up so that he could drink. Timmy looked at the glass and then at Caretaker Dave. The leader of the Caretakers saw this and smiled.
“The water isn’t drugged if that is what you are implying,” Caretaker Dave said. “We’ve already given you enough drugs to drop an elephant.” He nodded his head and Caretaker Steve fed Timmy the water. Once Timmy had taken his fill of water, they laid him back down on the table. “Now back to business. I need you to touch this music box here.”
“Why should I do anything you say?” Timmy asked defiantly. “You drugged me. You kidnapped me. You tied me down. Why should I care?”
Caretaker Dave’s jovial smile turned grim. “Because I have your friend. If you ever want to see him alive, you had better reconsider.”
Timmy sighed. The rescue attempt must have failed, he thought. He didn’t want any harm to fall on Sundance or Astralyn if he had her, too. He had no way of knowing what they’d do to them. He nodded his head and consented to Caretaker Dave’s will.
“Good.” Caretaker Dave unlocked one of Timmy’s hands and placed the music box inside. At first, nothing happened. The small lead box just sat there. Timmy felt relieved. Just as he thought that he was home free, the music box churned to life, slowly at first, but then it picked up the tempo. It played beautiful tinny music, a song heard on Old Earth ages ago.
The glee on Caretaker Dave’s face was unmistakeable. He gazed down at Timmy as he leaned over and kissed Timmy on the forehead. “I’ve been waiting for you for a long time, dear boy.”
“That’s touching,” Timmy said. “But where are my friends?”
Caretaker Dave took the music box from Timmy’s hand. “Take him to the Heart Room and begin preparations for Stage One.” He took one last look at Timmy before he left the room. The Caretakers Steve and Joe unchained Timmy and led him up the stairs out of the room.
Timmy tried his best to fight back, but feeling hadn’t returned to his legs. The drugs he was given were still playing tricks with his coordination. He simply allowed himself to be dragged to the next room. He prayed that Sundance and Astralyn were alright. He hoped that they weren’t really captured and would work their way to him.
They finally arrived at the Heart Room. This was a dimly lit room that had wires and conduits welded into the walls, all leading to a metallic chair that sat in the middle of the room. The Caretakers brought Timmy to this chair. They immediately strapped his hands to the orbs that sat on the end of the armrests. They, then, strapped his feet to the floor.
Caretaker Dave entered the room to behold the sight he had envisioned for years. “Finally, the Heart of Deimos has returned to us! He will usher in the new golden age of prosperity!” Caretaker Dave turned to Steve and Joe and smiled. He grabbed them by the shoulders and hugged them. “We are no longer Caretakers! We are Liberators of Deimos and we will liberate the surface from the filth that has been allowed to grow! To your stations!”
The three Caretakers left the chamber and shut the door behind them. Timmy wasn’t sure how long he had sat there before he heard the first whirring of an engine coming to life. It was long before a second one started, then a third, then several at once. Timmy let a tear fall from his eye. Deimos was going to be destroyed and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
Meanwhile in Space…
Episode 59: The Ancient Engines of Deimos, Part VI: The Crying Game
Caretaker Dave laughed over Sundance’s screams of pain. A Caretaker worked a hand crank which extended the table on both ends. The ropes pulled tightly against Sundance’s legs and arms. “Oh, I haven’t had this much fun since yesterday,” Caretaker Dave said. “How are you feeling?”
Sundance didn’t want to give the Caretakers the satisfaction of a response, but the table continued to extend, threatening to dislocate his limbs, and he screamed some more. The Caretaker winding the crank stopped for a moment to allow Sundance some reprieve. Sundance used this moment to laugh despite the pain.
“Is this the best you could do?” Sundance asked. “If you ask me, you’re stretching it a bit far.” He laughed at his joke. Caretaker Dave signaled to his subordinate to continue the torture. Sundance’s laugh once again gave way to screaming as the crank resumed to turn.
“Joke all you like, but in the end, our legacy will being tonight!” Caretaker Dave walked over to Sundance and stared into his pained eyes. “And there’s nothing you can do about it!”
Sundance thought it was a bit cliché, but he didn’t care at the moment. He gathered all the saliva he could muster and spit in Caretaker Dave’s eye. This only earned him a stronger tug on his limbs. His eyes rolled back as the sweat poured down his face.
“Caretaker Dave,” said another Caretaker in the doorway of the torture chamber. “There is a matter that requires your attention.”
“Oh, hate to be rude, but I have pressing business to attention.” Caretaker Dave wiped the spit out of his eye and left the room, leaving orders for his minion not to leave until the deed was done.
The Caretaker stopped the cranking, not because he wanted to show mercy, but because his arm was beginning to get sore from the constant cranking. He rubbed his arm and did a few arm circles to pop things back into shape.
“So, what are they paying you here?” Sundance panted. “You get good benefits? Dental?” The Caretaker only stared at him. “What’s your name? Steve? You look like a Steve! How about you stop doing this and let me go. Why do you even have a torture chamber in here anyway?”
The Caretaker only shook his head and reached for the crank.
“Whoa, whoa! Steve, can we talk about this?” Sundance pleaded.
“Caretaker Dave requires your assistance,” said a voice from the doorway. The Caretaker looked up and saw Caretaker Benjamin and Astralyn standing there.
“But he just left,” the torturing Caretaker said.
“Do you dare to question him, Caretaker John?” Caretaker Benjamin pointed in the direction Caretaker Dave went. Caretaker John left immediately. When he was gone, he turned to Astralyn and signaled to her that she should go inside the room. “I’ll keep watch.”
Astralyn ran to Sundance’s side. “Sundance, are you alright? We heard you screaming!”
“Astralyn, boy am I glad to see you!” Sundance relaxed as Astralyn untied him. He sat up and flexed his arms. “That was an extreme workout, a real scream.” He slid off the table and tried to stand. He fell back onto the table. “Need to rest a bit.”
“Well, on the plus side, I think you’ve grown an inch or two,” Astralyn said.
“Incoming!” Caretaker Benjamin said. He ran inside the room and motioned for Astralyn to put her hood back on and for Sundance to lie back down on the table.
Ten Caretakers run into the room and survey the area. Caretaker Benjamin and Astralyn were standing by the table with Sundance writhing on it. “Back away from the table,” one of them said. Astralyn and Caretake Benjamin stepped away. The lead Caretaker walked over to Sundance only to be punched in the face.
Sundance jumped up from the table and swiftly kicked the Caretaker in the stomach, causing him to fall over. Astralyn and Caretaker Benjamin began to fight the other Caretakers. Sundance ignored the soreness in his legs and continued to kick the lead Caretaker while he was down. When he was done with that one, Sundance went on to find another opponent. He pulled one Caretaker by the hood and spun him around punch him only to find it was, in fact, Astralyn. “Oh, sorry.”
“Behind you!” Astralyn shouted. Sundance ducked and Astralyn kicked the oncoming Caretaker in the stomach. He grabbed his stomach and fell to the floor, breathless. “That felt good!”
Sundance saw that another one was coming for Astralyn. He grabbed her arm and switched places with her. He punched the Caretaker in the face and then in the stomach. He looked back and saw that Astralyn was dealing with another Caretaker that had popped up. He was going to assist when Astralyn hand chopped him in the neck. The Caretaker gagged, grabbed his neck, and then fell to the floor. Sundance was surprised.
All of the Caretakers were unconscious on the floor. Caretaker Benjamin de-robed one of them and gave the robe to Sundance. Once they were all disguised, they put their hoods on and stepped out of the room.
“Who is this?” Sundance asked looking at Caretaker Benjamin. “Where’s Timmy? I think they’re going after him!”
“Caretaker Benjamin, at your service,” Caretaker Benjamin said.
“Timmy is waiting for us at the StarTango,” Astralyn informed. “We just have to get out of here.”
“Got it!” Caretaker Benjamin led the way through the engine chambers to the secret tunnel. They quietly made their way out of the tunnel and back into the abandoned building. From there, they ran through the cold night air to the StarTango.
Sundance opened the door and raced inside. “Timmy, let’s get the hell out of here!” He arrived at the cockpit and realized that Timmy wasn’t there. “Timmy?” He looked outside and saw that Caretaker Benjamin was holding a patch of material in his hand, it was maroon.
Meanwhile in Space
Episode 58: The Ancient Engines of Deimos, Part V: The Tunnels of Deimos
Caretaker Benjamin led Astralyn through the back streets of Dunlin. No dark alley was off limits. Astralyn knew it was to minimize the possibility of them being seen by any other Caretakers, but it was starting to get ridiculous. In the short time that she had been following him she had seen two muggings, a drug deal, and maybe witnessed someone getting stabbed. She tried her best to memorize the path that they were taking, but the directions were so random, that she couldn’t keep track. At one point, she knew that they had taken four lefts.
“Just a little bit further,” Caretaker Benjamin said, stopping at the end of another dark alley. He looked up and down the adjoining street before he made his move.
“Yeah, right,” Astralyn replied. She followed him to the end of the street where a three story building that looked old and would crumble at the slightest touch. All of the windows were either broken or boarded up. From the sight of it, no one had been there in decades. She looked for a ‘Condemned’ sign. “Are you sure that this is safe?” She figured that in this day and age, people would have taken better care of their buildings.
“Of course it’s safe.” Caretaker Benjamin motioned for her to continue to follow him. “Just whatever you do, don’t touch the walls.” He was joking, but Astralyn thought that it was a pretty good idea.
The two of them entered the building through a massive hole in the brick wall. Astralyn looked around the dark space inside and shivered. There weren’t any walls and the floor had been all torn up to reveal the lunar surface. On the ceiling above her hung a precariously placed dusty crystal chandelier.
“What was this place?” Astralyn asked.
“It used to be a five star hotel, but the glory days are gone, you know?”
The place gave her the absolute creeps. She wished she had stayed with the tourist section of the city. She wished she had stayed with the tour group. She wished that she hadn’t had the idea to come to Deimos.
Caretaker Benjamin walked around the lobby staring at the floor. Astralyn noticed that he seemed to to be looking for something. She decided that she should help look, but she wasn’t exactly sure what to look for. Just as she was about to ask, the Caretaker dropped down to his knees. She ran over to him and stared down at he found so interesting. He swept the dirt away to reveal a large grate. She knew immediately what was coming next.
“You’re not serious,” she said.
“As a heart attack,” Caretaker Benjamin said, grinning. He took satisfaction in knowing that she didn’t want to go down into the filthy underground of Dunlin. “Come on, now. Don’t be un-grate-ful.” He chuckled at his joke as he pulled the grate up from the ground. He set the heavy grate on the ground next to the opening. He didn’t waste any time in there and climbing down. When he reached the bottom, he whistled up to her. “Come on, we ain’t got all night!”
Astralyn rolled her eyes in frustration. She knew that she would have to get down there somehow. She repeated in her head that it was all for Sundance. He would do the same for her. It was time to put on her big girl pants. She got down on the ground and stuck her legs in the hole. She searched for the ladder down. As she did this, she thought about what Sundance said earlier about trouble following her everywhere. Maybe he was right.
She finally made it down to the bottom of the ladder where Caretaker Benjamin was waiting for her. “So, where are we going? Do you have a flashlight?”
“I’ve been down here so many times, I know my way around by feel. Hold my hand.” Astralyn felt him trying to find her hands. She grabbed his hand and allowed her to lead her through the dark tunnels of Deimos.
They traveled for what must have been twenty minutes before they reach a dimly lit room. The walls were covered with giant rusty cogs. Metallic boxes filled most of the floor space. Astralyn made a note to fire the interior decorator.
Caretaker Benjamin stepped into the room and took a look around just to make sure that there was no one else in it. When he was satisfied, he approached Astralyn. “Alright, I need you to stay here while I bring your friend to you.”
“You didn’t make me walk in the dark through dark and creepy tunnels just to stay behind,” Astralyn said. “I want to help you.”
“Well, you can’t very well walk around the site dressed like that,” Caretaker Benjamin said.
“Dressed like what?” Astralyn looked at her outfit: dark green dress slacks, yellow blouse, dark green open jacket, and black boots. It’s what she usually wore. “I think I am moderately dressed.”
“That’s not going to work at all. Stay here.” Caretaker Benjamin left the room, but didn’t close the door behind him.
Astralyn stepped out to close the door, but she heard Caretakers coming. She quickly retreated to the tunnel and made herself as small as possible. A few Caretakers entered the room and looked around. They wondered why the door had been left open. Nothing looked out of place so they left and shut the door behind them. She hoped that she wasn’t locked in. She stepped back out of the tunnel and stood in the center of the room. As she approached the door, it suddenly opened. It was too late to dive back into the tunnel. She would have to take on whoever was on the other side. She braced herself for a confrontation.
Caretaker Benjamin stood in the doorway carrying a spare maroon robe. He tossed it at Astralyn and smiled. “I think that you should be able to pull this look off.” He looked out into the hallway and checked for any witnesses. “Hurry up!”
Astralyn struggled to find the opening in the robe. When she finally found it, she threw the robe over her head. It fell gently down her body and collected at her feet. The robe was a little too big for her, but she was determined to make it work.
“Sorry, we don’t have a lot of women Caretakers here, so I had a hard time judging your size,” Caretaker Benjamin said.
“I don’t care, just take me to Sundance.” Astralyn picked up a section of her robes and walked out into the hallway. Caretaker Benjamin raced after her and placed the hood on her head.
“I know exactly where he is. Follow me.”
Astralyn kept her face towards the floor. She tried to make herself as inconspicuous as possible. As they passed the other Caretakers, she tried to act as if she belonged there. She tried to mimic Caretaker Benjamin’s stride in an effort to blend in. Unfortunately, he walked very fast which made her gait awkward. The other Caretakers didn’t seem to notice.
The two of them finally stopped at a steel door with a wheel lock mechanism on it. Caretaker Benjamin looked up and down the corridor to make sure that no one else was coming. When he was satisfied, he reached up and began to turn the wheel to the left. The door squeaked as the lock scraped against the metal inside. He pulled the door open and Astralyn raced inside.
There was a long table with straps on it in the center of the room with a few chairs positioned around it, but there was no one else in the room but them. Astralyn looked back at Caretaker Benjamin in confusion. “Where is he?”
“He’s not here?” Caretaker Benjamin looked into the room and saw that it was empty. “Then they must have moved him, which means we were too late.”
“Too late? What do you mean ‘too late’?”
“They must have found out that you friend isn’t the one they’re looking for,” he said. “Caretaker Dave won’t let him live; he knows too much about us. Your friend is in trouble for sure.”
“We have to find him now.” Astralyn started to feel panicked. She walked over to Caretaker Benjamin and shook him until she regained her composure. “Sorry. Where do we go from here?”
The Caretaker turned his gaze to the floor because he knew that she was not going to like his answer.
“I hope that you’re comfortable,” Caretaker Dave said as he watched his two minions tie Sundance down to a steel table. “Granted, this isn’t the best room we have in the house, but it’ll have to do.”
Sundance looked at his feet as a Caretaker attached clamps on them. He knew what this table was meant to do. It was a table designed to stretch a person in half. “Nice rack,” Sundance joked. “I’ve seen better.”
“We’ll see if you’ll be laughing when we pick up your friend and do the same,” Caretaker Dave said. He snapped his fingers and his minions began the torture. Sundance could only scream.
Meanwhile in Space…
Episode 57: The Ancient Engines of Deimos, Part IV: A Friend Indeed
Timmy stood outside of the restaurant and noncommittally stared at the people walking by. They were not aware of the mystery surrounding him and his friends. They were happy to be out of the house and exploring the history and majesty of Deimos. Timmy had been one of those happy people before the incident in the exhibit. Now, he was anxious. He supposed he should look at the people to see if Sundance was among them, but he already knew that he wouldn’t be.
“Any sign of him?” Astralyn stepped outside and joined Timmy. She rubbed her hands together in the futile attempt to warm them. She watched as Timmy shook his head. “I’ve searched all over the restaurant and I couldn’t find him. That is so strange. He wouldn’t just up and leave.”
“Do you think he went back to the exhibit?” Timmy heard the words leave his mouth, but he felt no allegiance to them. He shook his head in response to his own question. “Something is wrong.”
“I don’t know what to think at this point,” Astralyn said. “I know that he can be spontaneous at times, but this is ridiculous. Maybe he went back to the StarTango. Do you want to check the exhibit while I check the parking lot?”
“I suppose that’s a start.” Timmy was loathe to go back into the exhibit, but if Sundance was there… “I’ll call you on the communicator if I find him.”
The two of them were about to go their separate ways when a young man approached them. He was dressed in a maroon robe and he looked excited. He waved at them to get their attention. Timmy and Astralyn tried to avoid him, but he was persistant.
“You two are looking for someone, right?” he asked. “A shortish tall guy with reddish hair and pink shorts?” He saw them both stop and acknowledge him. “Finally. I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“What do you know about the captain?” Timmy asked, stepping towards the man.
“I know that he’s been kidnapped and that he is in grave danger,” the man said. He looked around him cautiously to see if he was being watched. It was rare to see a Caretaker outside of the exhibit and he was sure he was drawing attention to himself.
“Please tell us where he is,” Astralyn requested.
“Of course, but there are a few things I need to tell you first, but we can’t talk out here.” The Caretaker began to herd the two of them off of the street. “Hey, let’s go to this little restaurant. I hear the seafood is to die for!”
Astralyn tried to tell the man that they had already eaten there, but they were already pushed inside when the front door opened. She looked to Timmy and saw him just shrug. He supposed if it meant that they could find out some information on Sundance it was worth the inconvenience.
The Caretaker quickly took his robe off and hung it up on the coat rack, joining the other guests’. He was left with a stark white one piece pajama outfit. This brought more attention to himself than the robe ever would have, but this seemed to be the lesser of two evils.
The host picked up three menus from her podium and led them to the far left side of the restaurant where they could least offend other diners with the Caretaker’s leisurely attire. She placed the menus on the table and quickly left them to serve other incoming guests.
“I know what I’m getting!” The Caretaker quickly picked up the menu and started browsing the seafood section. “What are you getting?”
“We aren’t very hungry,” Astralyn said. “But you were saying about Sundance being kidnapped?”
“Yes, I am quite sorry. Let me introduce myself. My name is Caretaker Benjamin.” He extended his hand to Astralyn, who shook it on ceremony. He then extended his hand to Timmy, who shook it reluctantly. “I am a Caretaker and I help the others with the maintenance of the engines. We’ve been doing it for about three centuries.”
“We’re very well acquainted with the history of the engines,” Timmy said impatiently. “But what does this have to do with the captain?”
“Well, there is a group of Caretakers that believe that the Engines of Deimos were used to supply power to a massive ship while there is another group that believe the engines were used to power a war machine, a weapon.” He clasped his hands together and lowered his head as if he was praying. “They are quite displeased with the settlements on Deimos and wish nothing more than to wipe them off the face of the moon. They’ve been hoping for a chance to resurrect the engines and bring their diabolic plan to life. That’s all it’s been, a plan, until now.”
Timmy felt a knot forming in his stomach. He knew where Caretaker Benjamin was going with this and he didn’t like the implications at all.
A waitress walked by the table and Caretaken Benjamin flagged her down. “Yes, thank you. May I have a large Jupiter Iced Tea and a plate of your best seafood!” The waitress took down the order and asked if Timmy and Astralyn would like anything as well, not knowing that they had been there mere minutes ago. When they indicated that they wished for nothing, the waitress rushed off to put in the order. “Hey, could you spot me? As a Caretaker, I don’t make a whole lot. Thanks.”
“What does this have to do with Sundance? Quit stalling!” Astralyn asked again, growing frustrated with him.
“The engines have never been reactivated until tonight,” Caretaker Benjamin replied. He sensed Astralyn’s impatience. He was hoping to have stalled just a little longer until the food arrived. He was starving. “The other Caretakers saw your friend touching it and now they believe that he has the power to turn on the war machine.”
“What will they do to him when they realize that he doesn’t have that power?” Timmy sighed and lowered his gaze to his hands. “What will they do with him when they find out that they have the wrong guy?”
Astralyn and Caretaker Benjamin looked at him with puzzled expressions. Timmy could sense their confusion and said, “I touched it, too, remember?” His hands started to shake. “I… I’ve been noticing some weird things happening to me. I…” His voice started to break. “I can fix things with my hands, things that are broken. When I touch them, things come to life that were previously dead..”
“So, you’re the one who activated the generator?” Caretaker Benjamin looked at Timmy with awe in his eyes. “That is most surprising…” Then he realized that this may not be good news for their friend. “So, to answer your question about what they might do to your friend.”
“Save it,” Astralyn said. She got up and wrapped her arms around Timmy in an effort to console him.
“When the auto pilot was tampered with, I fixed it.” Timmy sighed. “When the console on the carnivorous robots’ ship didn’t work, I just touched it and it worked. It was me all along, and now…”
“We can’t worry about that right now.” Astralyn patted Timmy on the head. “We just have to focus on getting him back safely.”
“Yeah, they’re not going to be too happy when they find out that your mate’s not the one they’re looking for,” Caretaker Benjamin said. “They probably won’t keep him around for too long before they come looking for you.” Astralyn glared at the Caretaker for his carelessness. “Sorry. Alright, let’s get out of here.”
The waitress returned just in time with Caretaker Benjamin’s food. He smiled as he looked up at her and said, “Can I get that to go?”
The three allies exited the restaurant with purpose. Astralyn had a plan all worked out. “Benjamin, I need you to take me directly to Sundance. We don’t stop for lunch or a drink; you will take me directly to him or so help me God…”
“I get it! No munchies,” Caretaker Benjamin said, flinching.
“What about me?” Timmy asked.
“The last thing we need is for the Caretakers to find you,” Astralyn replied. “Get back to the StarTango and wait for us to return.” She saw the disappointment in his face. “I know you want to come with us, but it’s for your safety.”
“I know, thank you.” Timmy smiled. “Bring him back.”
Astralyn nodded her head and tapped Caretaker Benjamin on the shoulder, signaling that she was ready to be led. The two of them walked towards the exhibit site. Timmy watched them leave before he left for the parking lot. He prayed that they will find Sundance alive and well.
Meanwhile in Space…
Episode 56: The Ancient Engines of Deimos, Part III: Cold Dinner
Timmy and Astralyn sat at the dinner table and made small talk while they waited for Sundance to return from the bathroom. They both tried eating a little bit more of their dinner, but it appeared that they had reached their limit.
In the silence, Astralyn could tell that something was bothering Timmy, but she didn’t know how to go about addressing her concern. Timmy was considerably more open and forthcoming with his feelings than Sundance, so it worried her that he hadn’t brought it up himself by now.
“So, what is the deal with you and the good captain?” Astralyn asked.
“You mean this evening?” Timmy had anticipated that Astralyn would come to him to explain their actions at the exhibit. He instinctively reached for his glass of champagne and sipped it. “I told you, I don’t really know what came over me. It was as if something was calling to me…”
Astralyn smiled and shook her head. “That’s not what I meant.” She looked back towards the bathroom to make sure that Sundance wasn’t on his way out. “I mean, ever since you got back from being possessed by Laertes, you and Sundance have been spending a lot of time together… without me.” She raised a suggestive eyebrow.
Timmy immediately blushed. He took a bigger sip of his champagne. “No! No! It’s nothing like that at all.” He avoided eye contact for fear his eyes would betray him. “I think the captain is being overprotective. It’s like he wants to be my bodyguard; he’s trying to keep me from being possessed again.” He stared at his glass. “It is starting to wear on me. But it’s not like I’m not grateful, because I am…”
He finally looked up at Astralyn and saw that she was now wearing her concerned face. He saw this as the perfect opportunity to get her back. “So, how about you and the captain? You two seem to bicker like an old married couple. Hmm?”
“Oh, please,” Astralyn said dismissively. “The man is a child.” She looked at her watch and realized that it had been fifteen minutes since Sundance had left for the bathroom. “Speaking of children, Sundance has been gone for a long time.”
Timmy looked at his watch as well and then up towards the bathrooms. “He sure has. Maybe he hasn’t been eating his bran flakes.”
“Toilet humor aside, I think you should go check on him.”
Timmy stood up and set his lap napkin on the table. He straightened his uniform and then headed to the bathroom. When he arrived, the bathroom door slid open. As he entered, he knew immediately that Sundance was not there. All of the stalls were empty. He knew this because the stalls were made of crystal, they were clear when unoccupied. It’s not until someone flicks the “Occupied” switch that the stalls turn stark black. There was no one standing at the urinals. No one was standing at the sink. He turned around and left the bathroom.
“He’s not in there,” Timmy reported when he returned to the table.
“Maybe he’s paying the bill?” Astralyn asked.
“He would have to walk by here.” Just to make sure, Timmy gazed in the direction of the front of the restaurant and didn’t see Sundance there.
Astralyn stood up from the table and sighed. “Looks like he’s not paying for dinner this time. I’ll take care of the bill. Check outside to see if maybe he’s there.” She grabbed her purse from the seat and headed towards the front.
Timmy exited the restaurant and stood in the chilly night air. Sundance didn’t appear to be out there. He started to wonder what had become of him. How did he get out of the restaurant without them seeing him? Why would he leave without them? Did he go back to the exhibit? Then that question got him thinking about the Engine Incident. What was that feeling he felt just before he touched it? Was something calling him to touch it? Did Sundance feel the same calling? Sundance… Something wasn’t right. Timmy’s stomach agreed.
Sundance felt something cold and wet run down his cheek. He went to wipe it off when he realized that his hands were chained to something. When he woke up fully, head pounding, he saw that he was in some of sort of dark chamber somewhere. He was strapped to a long metallic slab. He really needed to stop waking up this way. How he wished that his hands were free. How he wished he could wipe the drool off his face.
“Hello?” he called into the emptiness. When he didn’t receive a reply he started to think about how he had gotten there. He remembered going to the engine exhibit. He remembered leaving and going to the restaurant. He went to the bathroom, it was there that someone chloroformed him. He thought it strange that someone would use chloroform in this day and age considering how many other chemicals that existed now for people to use. At least it wasn’t a poisoned dart, he thought.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” Sundance did his best to look around the room for someone. “I just want to know whose party I have the honor of attending.” He heard footsteps coming from outside of the chamber. He looked to his right and groaned when he saw three people wearing robes, two maroon, one white, enter the room. “Oh crap, it’s another cult.”
“I am glad that I find you in good spirits,” said the man in the white robe. He had his hands behind his back. Sundance knew that he was hiding something. The man stood next to the slab and stared down at his captive. “I would like to know what you were doing there tonight.”
“Doing what where?” Sundance replied. “Who the hell are you people? What cult are you from?”
“I beg your pardon. I have been rude. My name is Caretaker Dave.” He bowed. “We are Caretakers of the Engines of Deimos. We have looked after them for centuries, waiting for you to arrive.”
“How do you people always manage to find me?” Sundance bemoaned. “Everywhere I go, crazy cultists. What do I need to do to convince you that I am not your god?”
Caretaker Dave turned to look at the other Caretakers in the room. “How much did you use on him?”
They shrugged. “Just the normal amount, sir,” one of them said. Caretaker Dave shook his head and then turned back to Sundance. He gave him an eerie smile.
“I just need you to do one thing for me before we get started,” Caretaker Dave said. He saw that Sundance was beginning to fall asleep. He took one hand out from behind his back and gave Sundance a slap on his left cheek, thus waking Sundance right up. “I need you to activate this old music box.” He pulled his other hand out from behind his back and it held a small, rusted box. Inside were ancient gears that would turn and create music. “I need you to touch it.”
“You touch it,” Sundance spat. He clinched his hands into a fist.
“I’m already touching it. I need you to touch it.”
“I’m not touching anything. You had better get me out of here! My friends will be looking for me!”
“There is no time for silly games.” Caretaker Dave took a small knife out of his robe and pressed it against Sundance’s wrist, above the fist. He slowly dug into his arm. Blood started to flow. “Just touch it or I will bleed you out!”
Sundance slowly opened his fist.
Caretaker Dave eased back on the knife. He placed the music box in Sundance’s open palm and waited. Nothing happened. Nothing moved. No music sounded. Caretaker Dave growled. “It’s not him. It’s the other one.” Caretaker Dave frowned at Sundance. “Find him and bring him to me.”
“What about this one?” One of the Caretakers asked.
“Dispose of him.” Caretaker Dave gave Sundance a wicked smile. “Let his friends look for the corpse.”