By: Bull Demon "Hey..whoa! Watch it!" Harlan shouted as a Spung guard threw him into a dark cell at the far end of the Spung ship. "Shut up, you little bloat or I'll revoke your meal card," the guard snarled and left him in the dark. Harlan sighed and rubbed his arm from where the Spung had held him so tightly. He had lost track Of Radu though the last time he saw him, they had taken his jacket and thankfully released the grip on his ear. Harlan let himself feel relief for him then. Looking around, Harlan could see the barely furnished cell. It had a pile of moldy rags in the corner for a make shift bed, a large drainage grate in the middle of the floor, and a crate tossed in the far corner. "Glad they decorated for me," Harlan muttered, standing and stretching his back. He needed to think of a way out of this unexpected mess, and by the looks of things, he had all the time in the Universe to do so. * * * * * * Lights flash in front of Radu's eyes as his head met the wall. He heard jeering a praise from the Spung at the other side of the room. He had been the punching bag of 3 young warriors to be for the past several hours. His entire body hurt but the dull ache in his head now made everything else seem good. Someone stomped over to him and took up a handful of hair, yarning him to his feet. He stood there, trying to catch his breath, when something narrow and very hard hit him in the stomach. He doubled over backwards, and tried his hardest not to scream. The same object came down in the center of his back, causing him to fall flat on the floor. He groaned, not wanting to listen to Tox yelling at the boy. Next thing he knew, he was on his feet having the whole process done again, only twice as hard and as fast. This left him nearly senseless on the floor, gasping for air. "Again, as I did," Tox bellowed to the young fighter. Radu fumbled on his feet as he was plucked from the floor again. This time, the impact came higher, knocking the air clear out of his lungs. Then the blow to the back drove him hard to the floor. The Spung had been angary for being told he could do better and took it out on Radu. "Better," Tox said and the Spung pulled his shoulders up and back with Pride. A warm feeling was filling Radu's middle. It was awful and it hurt. He finally caught his breath but it was painful to breathe. He tried to open his mouth to get a better breath of air but his jaw snapped and he quickly closed it again. "Now," Tox had been saying. "Does anyone remember how to drop a person bigger then you?" All the boy's hands fly in the air. "You," Tox said, pointing to the smallest in the group. The boy stepped forward as Tox went to fetch their target. He grabbed Radu by the shirt collar and pulled him up. Dragging him over to where the boy stood, let go of his collar and moved back. "Drop him." "Yes, sir," the boy said and moved up to unstable Andromedan. Radu watched as the Spung rolled his shoulders a bit and then raised a hand. Radu watched the hand by habit and the next thing he knew, he was on the floor with a Spung's foot on his chest. "Good boy," Tox said and patted the Spung on the back. He looked down at Radu who's face was bleeding and left eye was swelling shut. "I think we'll call it a day. This filth must get ready for his next duty." The Spung children bow to their teacher and leave the room, all talking about how much fun it had been to work with a real person. Tox yanked Radu to his feet only to have him collapse to his knees. "Don't make me kill you," he whispered in the boy's ear. "You're doing food service in the royalty wing," he said, throwing a thin blanket on him. "Keep your face covered and mouth shut." Radu pulled the blanket over his body with great appreciation for the little warmth it gave. His blue shirt had holes in it and his entire body shook. Having no other choice, he followed Tox out of the training room and down to the kitchen. * * * * * * "Try this," Rosie said, handing Catalina a bottle of thick, green liquid. Cat took some out with disgust written on her face but nodded her thanks. "Cat, I'm so sorry!" "Don't worry about. It happens," Cat replied, rubbing the gel on her arm. The skin on her neck and arms were bright red. Rosie had forgot to change the shower temperature to a lower setting and Cat forgot to double check it. Now she had first degree burns to show off. The green substance cooled the burning and she sighed. "That hits the spot." "I'm glad. I got it out of the cabinet in the washroom," Rosie said. She hadn't put her thermal hat on yet and Cat smiled at her bald friend. "I'll be sure to check the water next time." "Me too," Cat replied, putting the stopped on the gel and tucking it in her pocket for later. Both look up when the comm link snapped on. "Rosie and Catalina to the Commandpost, please." "Great. Harlan gets to go play while we slave back here," Cat grumbled, tugging her vest and coat on. "I feel bad for Radu," Rosie commented, thinking about her friend. "Why? He never does anything either," Cat said. "That's not true. Harlan and Bova are much lazier then Radu," Rosie said in defense. Cat sighed. "Yeah, but Radu is easier to joke about," Cat replied and both girls left for the Commandpost. * * * * * * "Why didn't o=you call me when you found this?" Goddard demanded. He was looking Rosie's console and rubbing his chin. "Because Ms Davenport told us just the other day, Spung sometimes bait asteroids to look like ships to keep vessels away from their bases," Bova explained. Goddard threw a look of contempt at Davenport who willingly gave it right back. "Well, for future notice, Mr.. Bova, if it looks like a Spung vessel, assume it to be one," Goddard told him. Bova nodded as the girls entered. "What's going on, Commander?" Rosie asked, stepping up to the small group. "We have a slight problem," he replied. "Such as...?" Cat pushed. "There's a large Spung Kill Cruiser on the other side of this planet. ID on it shows it's the Khain. Or, according to the most resent records, Warlord Shank's prize vessel," Goddard finished. The two girls looked at each other with worry. "Now, we haven't been able to reach Harlan or Radu for the past several hours.." Davenport said. "Oh no!" Rosie cried, bringing a hand to her mouth. "Don't think the worst. They could be hiding," Goddard added quickly. "How will you find out?" Cat asked, concerned. Goddard sighed. "I hate to but all we can do is wait. At least 24 hours. If we don't hear anything we can send out a search party. I don't want to endanger anymore people then I need to," Goddard explained. "Do they have food?" Bova asked. "I think they packed a field kit," Davenport replied, relieving Bova's mind. "Now, I want at least one person here and awake," Goddard said, aiming towards Bova who rolled his eyes. "To monitor the comm links and scanners. The Khain moves even a micron I want to know." "I'll take first watch," Cat volunteered. "I'll to second," Rosie put in and Goddard nodded. "Good. That will take us into late evening. Remember, if you see anything, call one of us up here, please," Goddard reminded them. "Sure," Cat said and hopped up to her post. "Why don't you two come with me? I could use some help checking the hyper drive," Goddard asked. The remaining cadets follow with Davenport not too far behind. Cat turned to the screen to look at the planet once the door closed. "Don't try to be hero, Harlan Band," she muttered. * * * * * * Elmira paced in her large quarters. Meal service was late tonight and she was Hungary. She also had another feeling about her that she couldn't shake. She felt something was terribly wrong with a close friend but she couldn't figure out who. A gentle tapping at her door drew her back to the immediate issues. The padded to the operating panel and opened the door, surprised to see a new person delivering her meal. They were cloaked in a dark blanket, only their pale, shaking hands showing. "Well, it's about time," the Female Spung snapped and snatched her tray. The feeling of a friend in distress came over her more. Did she know this person? She decided to find out. "Come in here and fetch the old dishes." The figure slowly, almost painfully walked in, stopping and shaking when she slammed the door shut. "Who are you?" "I-..I'm not a-a-aloud to s-s-say," a quiet voice replied. "Like flying Spung you're not!" Elmira exclaimed, dropping the food tray onto her table. The figure still did not make any more to reveal them self and she stepped over. Elmira snatched the blanket in one three fingered hand and tore it off. She shouted in surprise. "Radu!" He flinched at the pitch of her voice. "Whatever are you doing here?" He turned around slowly, not pulling himself up at all. "Your father found me and Harlan on the planet below us. He sent Harlan to the..." He stopped abruptly and flinched as she tried to stand a bit more. Elmira immedately saw his blood stained face and rapid breathing. "Come here. Sit," she said and gently lowered him to soft chair. She sat next to him and rested a hand on his knee. "Thanks.." he muttered, though he didn't look any more comfortable. "Harlan is in the ahh.. Dungeon and I got given t-to Tox for training." "I am so sorry.." she breathed, looking at her friend. "He then put me to work serving dinner up here. I'm sorry I-I took so long," he added. "Don't be," she told him quickly. "How bad are you hurt?" "Probably not much," he lied. Elmira moved her hand to his face and he flinched. "I think you are," she whispered. "Look.. If your father catches me here..." Radu started to say when the door flew open and Shank stepped in. "Her father has caught you here, Andromedan," Shank hissed. Radu felt his heart stop and blood run cold. A guard stepped in beside Shank and seized Radu by his sore arm. "Take him back to the training room. I have someone I'd like him to meet. And bring the Earther too." The guard nodded and tugged Radu off roughly. "No!" Elmira shouted. Shank hissed and turned to the other guard he had beside him. "She is to stay in her quarters till I give notice," he informed him. The guard nodded and posted himself outside the door. "Don't worry, my dear, dear daughter. That Andromedan will not hurt you again." Elmira picked up a vase and threw it at the door just as her father slammed it. The vase shattered and covered the fine rugged floor. "Stupid father..." she muttered, dropping down on her bed to think. * * * * * * Radu stopped himself from hitting the wall with his hands. The guard had thrown him in the training room and locked the room behind him. Radu slid to the floor and rubbed his face. He felt himself fighting back a sob that was in his throat. His body shook and middle burnt. He couldn't be on his feet anymore. "You all right?" a voice asked from the other corner. Radu jumped and gasped. "Don't worry, Curly Que. It's just me," Harlan said, walking over to him. "This is blasted nightmare..." Radu muttered and Harlan nodded. Before they could speak anymore, the locked door opened and Shank stepped in with a young Spung at his side. The boy held a whip in his hand and looked rather proud of it. "This is my adopted son, Asheada. He is the best whips man in the Empire for his age. His prize for winning the title is his weapon," Shank said. The boy held out his lash with a sneer. "It is made of the Andromedan he killed to earn the title. The handle is made of bone and wrapped in finely tanned skin. It is decorated with carved teeth that were shaped pulled from the slave's mouth while it was still alive. The lash is made of braided hair, which also, was torn from the head of the slave while alive." Harlan swallowed hard at the thought. "He has beaten over 40 of my slaves nearly to death with this prize and taken a tooth from each one. You will be next and I brought your friend in to see it." "You have to get by me first," Harlan said, an overwhelming feeling to protect coming over him. Shank snapped his bio claw and three more Spung stepped into the room. One grabbed Harlan and the other two Radu. "Done, Earther. You must remember I am ready for anything," Shank hissed. Harlan struggled against the guard but was held fast. "You may proceed." One of the guards pulled out the restraint pliers again and went for Radu's other ear. "No!" he shouted by reflex, not wanting to feel them again. The Spung kneed him in his stomach and he doubled over, allowing the other one to hook his ear and set the lock. Harlan shut his eyes when he heard the soft bone and tissue snap beneath the jaws. Radu dropped once again to his knees, his eyes watering gravely. The Spung handed the pliers to the other Spung and knelt down next to the stunned Andromedan. Harlan watched as he grabbed a handful of dirty blonde hair and yanked his head back. "You can't do that!" Harlan yelled, seeing the Spung pull out another pair of sharper pliers. "I thought you said he had to be beaten?" Asheada grew tired of Harlan's voice and flicked his whip, catching him around the wrist. As it left, Harlan watched a red welt form where it had landed. "Save your energy, my boy," Shank said, proud. By the time Harlan looked back, the Spung had somehow gotten Radu's mouth open and was searching for a specific tooth. After finding it, he slipped the dirty pliers in and began to extract it. Harlan, having forgot his pain, watched in agony for his teammate. He made no sound other then once and received a sharp tug to his ear. After a few minutes of twisting and pulling, the Spung produced a very deep rooted tooth. Shank smiled and took it. "Very well. You may release them both." The Spung unlocked the vice holding Radu's ear and the boy dropped to the floor, in immense amounts of pain. As soon as Harlan tugged free, he leaned over and tried to see if he was even alive after such an awful procedure. Now Harlan could hear a slight whimper coming from him, more of a subconscious thing he assumed. His mouth had blood streaming out of it and tears pours from his eyes. Harlan looked up at the sound of a loud crack. Asheada had snapped his whip right over his head. Harlan moved back a bit and tugged Radu over with him. "You need to get up! At least fight him!" Harlan pleaded. Another crack of the whip. Radu slowly lifted himself up and began to face the young Spung. The lash fell against his back and the Andromedan fell forward. Harlan caught him and helped to regain his balance. As soon as Radu managed to turn around, the lash flicked across his chest and then back again before he could move. "Fight him, darn it!" Harlan shouted. Radu took a shaky step forward only to have the flog twist around his neck. Asheada grinned. "Now what, you fool?" he asked, Shank worried for only a second. Radu reached out and took the boy's hand in his. Using a hidden well of strength, he squeezed it until the boy howled. "Get that imbecile off my son!" Shank screamed and Radu felt crashing blows on the back of his head. "Let go!" Harlan hollered. "Let go!" Hearing Harlan for the first time, Radu released his grip and fell to the ground, exhausted. Shank held his son close as the boy cried. "You will suffer for this, slave," Shank told Radu. "To the dungeon with both. I want him to feel his death." Harlan reached down and helped Radu to his feet. "Come on.." he said, worried he may not have the strength to get there. With a poke in the back, Harlan followed a guard back tot eh dark dungeon, his crewmate fading on his shoulder. Go to Part Three!!