My name is Vince Dawson. The year is 7518 and the universe has remained in a state of relative peace since the combined forces of the Alliance defeated the Krion Empire a decade ago. While the Alliance won the war, we were not successful in capturing all of the enemy survivors. Now, the remaining pieces of the Krion Empire lurk in the dark spaces of uncharted galaxies, waiting for the opportune time to once again plunge the free world into a state of chaos and destruction. These days I am no longer an airstrike commander, but instead a hired gun and bounty hunter who travels the lesser known parts of the universe. My most recent assignment has left me in a precarious situation on the planet Venus21…
“Honestly guys, I had no idea that the Admiral’s daughter was spoken for.” I said as I tried to reason with the handful of guards that were accompanying me on our short ride from the Port of Helen to what the locals here simply called “the island”. Evidently, it wasn’t enough to deny me the reward I was owed after I had rescued Admiral Nupon’s daughter from the Dugg pirate ship. Now, the Admiral insisted that I be condemned to “the island” where he was certain I would meet my death; all because his daughter, Kaliss couldn’t keep her hands off me on our way back to Venus21. Not that I had minded her being all over me; the Princess Kaliss was truly a knockout. I just wished she hadn’t told her father that she no longer wished to marry the guy she was betrothed to because she had fallen in love with me.
I turned to the guard on my left as we continued towards the island on a small hovercraft. “So, uh, what kind of survival gear you gonna hook me up with?” I asked him sarcastically. He was short, maybe 5’8 in his boots, and judging by his youthful appearance I guessed he was fairly inexperienced. He looked rather nervous as he struggled within himself not to turn my direction.
“I’m a little sensitive to the cold so would you mind packing me an extra blanket?” I gave him a big toothy grin, but still nothing. Even with the restraints around my wrists and ankles, I figured I could have easily wrestled his gun away and taken out the rest of the guards. However, I was concerned that I’d have to kill most of them in the process which would have gotten me into even hotter water with Admiral Nupon. Instead, I decided to just face the island for the next 48 hours, swim back to the port and hope that the Admiral was too focused on his daughter’s wedding to notice my stealing my space ship back.
The hovercraft stopped several hundred feet short of the island’s shore and I could feel my restraints being removed by one of the guards behind me. “If you guys wouldn’t mind, could you drop me off a little closer to the beach? I’m a little worn out after having been with the Princess for all those days. I know she’s the Admiral’s daughter and that she probably hasn’t been with a lot of guys, but you’d be surprised on how many times she wanted to…”
A surprisingly powerful shove sent me flying off the hovercraft and into the sea below. The water was extremely warm, like the tropical oceans that I enjoyed during my childhood when we would visit my father’s family on Earth. My father came from a long lineage of royalty though he seldom ever spoke of them after we left the solar system. I was a teenager when the Krions first started terrorizing the weaker planets, and my father had to relocate us constantly as he was promoted through the ranks of the still forming Alliance. I shook my head as my trip down memory lane ended and quickly swam to shore before the local sea creatures discovered my presence.
Looking above at the two suns in the clear, pinkish-blue sky, I considered taking a long deserved nap under one of the palm trees. My skin was naturally on the darker side thanks to my father’s side of the family tree, but the ladies seemed to really go crazy when I had a nice tan. Despite the vacation-like scene though, I knew I couldn’t just lie out in the open with no shelter or defensible position; especially considering I didn’t have any idea what I was up against on the island. About thirty feet from the shoreline, the sandy beach turned into a dense jungle from which a rather large volcano emerged several miles within. I began my journey into the thick, green foliage in hopes of finding both fresh drinking water and a place I could disappear into for the next 48 hours.
After about two hours of hiking I had made it to the base of the volcano. There was a modestly sized lagoon with a stream running into it and a small, shallow cave that appeared to be uninhibited. “Perfect” I said to myself as I went about fortifying my surroundings with a few traps around the perimeter. I was also able to find a sharp enough rock to use for carving out a couple of spears from fallen tree branches. The guards had taken just about everything useful out of my flight vest save a few protein bars, some matches and four condoms. I was pretty sure the condoms weren’t going to be of any use on the island, but I suppose a guy never knows.
Just as I had finished my second spear I heard something approaching towards the stream. I quickly retreated behind a boulder that stood a few feet from the entrance to the cave. Whatever it was that approached was intelligent enough to avoid the traps I had set. About a minute had passed when I saw a figure rush past my hiding spot and into the cave. It was a woman!
“Hello.” I said, doing my best to keep my voice from echoing too loudly. The lagoon was partially surrounded by the side of the volcano making for rather less-than-ideal acoustics when one was trying to avoid being found by whatever it was that inhibited the island. I moved from behind the boulder, lowered my spear and stood directly in front of the cave so that whoever was in there could see me. Standing 6’5 and being built like a modern day god I knew I could come off a little intimidating so I proceeded in my most charming and gentlest tone of voice.
“There’s no need to be afraid. My name is Vince Dawson, Airstrike Commander of the 15th Regiment. (The ladies always seemed to be impressed by the title.) I’m afraid I’m currently occupying this particular area, but I’m sure we can work something out.”
“This is my domain pirate. Leave now!” She said from inside the cave. Her tone wasn’t nearly as charming as mine had been. I was tempted to go into the cave and bring her out myself, but I thought I’d give her another chance.
“I’m sorry, but I saw no evidence that this cave was being used by anyone. Listen, I’m only here on the island for a couple of days so why don’t you just come out of the cave and we’ll talk this over.” There was a long pause of silence and then a very young woman, barely in her 20’s emerged from the cave. She had long brown hair that appeared it hadn’t been washed in days and eyes so green they matched the surrounding foliage. She also had a rather nice form that I probably took a little too much time to admire.
“See anything you like pirate?” She asked in a tone that I was smart enough to realize wasn’t sincere. She lunged towards me with a dagger in her right hand and I quickly disarmed her. She struggled as I held her against my chest with my powerful arms. “Let me go you bastard!” She screamed. I released her from my grip having taken her knife, and she turned towards me with fire in her eyes. “Leave now pirate or I will kill you!”
“Listen honey,” the charm in my tone was gone. “I can appreciate that you don’t trust me and that it’s probably been a little scary for you on this island all alone. However, I’m not you’re enemy and I’m not a damn pirate. I was just doing a job for the Admiral when I got detoured and ended up here.” There was a pause in the conversation and I could tell by the way she was looking at me that she was trying to decide if she could trust me.
“Admiral Nupon?” She responded. “That makes sense why you’re on the island then. The Admiral doesn’t like pirates cutting in on his business and he certainly doesn’t care for morons.” I was about to object to her insulting my intelligence, but she cut me off before I could speak. “We’re not alone you idiot!” She said as the she brushed a lock of hair from her eyes. “Ogres roam this island.”
“Ogres?” I asked, somewhat in disbelief. I knew very little about Venus21, but my understanding was outside of a few spectacular beasts that roamed the oceans the planet was void of larger life forms. The girl headed towards the lagoon, placed her cupped hands into the water and drank. She was wearing a camouflage top and grey cargo pants that complimented her athletic build. “What do these ogres look like?” I asked.
“They’re green, ugly and about twice the size of you.” She continued in between drinks. “We call them the Hidoki and they are the original inhabitants of Venus21. Humans murdered the majority of their race centuries ago when the planet was first “pioneered”. What’s left of their race lives here on the island and the Admiral fancies them as his personal executioners. Their intelligence is minimal, but they know the island’s terrain, they’re incredibly strong and they like to eat humans. Of course, the pirates that are sent to this island deserve such a fate.”
“I’ve already told you, I’m not a pirate.” I responded, quite annoyed with her repeated accusation. Being called a pirate was just about the worst insult one could receive seeing as to how they had well deserved reputations for being rapists and murderers. In an attempt to clear my name, I proceeded to tell the girl about my mission to save the princess and how it all was a misunderstanding between myself and the Admiral. I then asked what her name was and why she was here on the island.
“Myra. My name is Myra, Mr. Dawson, and my being on the island isn’t a result of my choosing the wrong fuck buddy. My parents were both banished to this island as a result of their opposing the Admiral’s reign. The Alliance may have won the war against the Krions, but in the process they made deals with hundreds of corrupt warlords in exchange for military support. I am on this island to rescue my parents and get them back to the mainland.” As Myra spoke I knew of the “deals” she referred to. The Alliance was formed out of necessity, not out of principle, and in order to amass the kind of army that could take out the Krions some arrangements and political appointments had to be given to less-than admirable individuals.
I had just asked Myra about her plans as to how she was going to escape the island when I heard the sound of several heavy steps approaching us. “We’ve been speaking too loudly.” Myra said as she jumped to her feet. She began running in the opposite direction of the footsteps, but it turned out the Hidoki had already surrounded the entire clearing. I quickly scaled up the side of the volcano under the cover of a few boulders and watched as the giant beasts scooped Myra up and placed her in a large vine sack. There were too many of them for me to attempt a rescue so instead I followed them as they made their way through the jungle and back to their village.
Both suns had set by the time we had reached the Hidoki’s village on the other side of the volcano. There were three moons that orbited around Venus21, but all were shining at a minimum tonight, making for poor visibility. Rather than risking a botched rescue attempt in the darkness, I decided to remain in the protected rock formations above the village and wait until the first sun to make my next move.
The night had only lasted a few hours before the first sun peeked above the horizon with a magnificent display of orange and purple. I looked below in hopes that none of the giants would be awake yet, but I was sorely disappointed. There were already about 50-60 of the green, hairless beasts roaming about the village and unfortunately, Myra was being kept in a pit smack dab in the middle of everything. The beasts wore no clothes and spoke in a language that was primarily comprised of grunts and groans. They also had an extra eye in the back of their skulls which made sneaking up on them a rather unlikely scenario.
I searched my surroundings and discovered a large boulder several hundred feet above the Hidoki’s village wall that appeared to be unstable. I made my way over to the boulder and pushed on it until I jarred it loose. The boulder went flying down the side of the volcano heading towards the village. I wasn’t actually counting on the other 20 boulders to follow, but thankfully I was able to jump out of the way before the landslide overtook me. The Hidoki went into a state of panic as boulder after boulder crashed down upon their village and took out almost half of their outer wall. All but one of them rushed to the village’s perimeter to investigate the chaos, leaving one solo guard between myself and Myra.
The giant stood at about nine feet tall and was armed with a crudely made spear. As I made my way towards the pit I picked up a small stone, about the size of a baseball, and hurled it at the giant’s eye on the back of his head. He screamed out in agony and turned to face me. I dodged two swings of his spear, but could not avoid his left fist striking my chest which sent me flying back several feet. The giant stood over me while I was laid out on the ground and raised his spear to skewer me like a human shish-kabob. I rolled over at the last second, making the giant miss me as he plunged the spear into the dirt. While he was bent over trying to free his spear from the hardened clay, I quickly swung myself over his shoulders and slit his throat with the knife that I had obtained from Myra. The giant fell to the ground dead, oozing a purplish liquid from his neck.
I got off the beast and walked over to the pit where Myra was being kept. “I think your boyfriend underestimated me.” I teased as I cut through the thick green vines that covered the top of the pit. There was a pungent smell of death and urine coming from below and I imagined that Myra was probably not to happy that she had just spent the night marinating in it. As I helped Myra out of the pit I looked down to see if there were any other prisoners, but all I saw were the skeletal remains of humans.
“Thanks” was all that Myra could muster as we escaped from the Hidoki village. Evidently it had been quite a blow to her ego needing to be rescued by the likes of me. We forged through the jungle at a rapid pace; following a non-existent path that I was quite certain wasn’t taking us in the right direction. It appeared that Myra was almost trying to out run me as she progressively built up to a full out sprint through the jungle’s thick foliage.
“Uh, you want to slow down a little.” I said, trying not to yell too loudly in anticipation that the Hidoki had probably figured out that Myra escaped by now. She was now out of sight, though I could hear her crashing about the bushes in front of me. “Hey Myra, I don’t think you’re heading in the right…” Before I could even finish my sentence I had been whisked up into a large net about twenty feet from the ground. I couldn’t believe I had allowed myself to fall into a trap. I went to grab the knife from my vest, but it was no longer there.
“Looking for this?” Myra asked as she looked up at me and held the knife in the air. “Yeah, I couldn’t have you escaping or they might still try to track me.” Evidently, Myra must have taken the knife while I was reaching down to pull her from the pit. “See you around pirate.” She said as she ran off into the jungle leaving me hanging from a tree. Fortunately, I still had the sharp rock in my pocket from the day before. I was able to cut through the net in a matter of minutes and swung from its remains to the base of the tree.
I quickly scaled down the tree and hit the ground running. Part of me wanted to follow Myra, but she was clearly more trouble than she was worth and I needed to focus on finding shelter and getting some rest before my swim back to the port. I made it to the island’s shoreline by mid-day and this time I decided it was better to just build a make shift tent and take my chances in the open. I had taken great care in covering my tracks so that the Hidoki wouldn’t be able to find me. Besides, I was quite sure they were more interested in getting Myra back than to try and track the scent of another human they hadn’t even seen.
For a fleeting second the thought entered my mind that my own daughter would have been close to Myra’s age if she were still alive. Mariana had only just turned eleven when her life ended, but I liked to think that she would have been just as strong as someone like Myra had she lived. It wasn’t often that I allowed myself to think about such things, but the calming sound of the ocean and the tranquil scene of the low rolling tides brought a peace of mind that I seldom experienced. I spent the rest of daylight building a small tent and took to slumber at the setting of the first sun.
The next day came with the first sun filling the sky with an impressive array of orange and blue shades. I looked in the direction of Port Helen and sighed as I considered the swim ahead. Never mind the fact that I wasn’t the strongest of swimmers, I also had no idea what kind of sea life would be trying to have me for breakfast on the way.
As I removed my boots and vest I saw what appeared to be a projectile with a white tail heading for the main land. Suddenly there was a tremendous explosion and a large cloud of gray smoke formed above the port. The sky seemed to part ways as a large battleship and several smaller fighter craft rained heavy laser fire upon Admiral Nupon’s city. At first I thought it might be a Dugg retaliation, but then I saw the battleship come into full view. It was the Krions.